'Juno' and 'Atonement' Top Weekend Movie List

Get prepped for the cineplex with reviews of Juno, Atonement.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

So speaking of movies…

LUKE BURBANK, host:

What a segue way.

MARTIN: You know, there's a lot of good stuff out right now. Why, you might ask? Because it's a time of year - it's that whole award season coming up. And I know you've probably been holding your breath, keeping you up at night, thinking who's going to be nominated for the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards? I can't stop thinking about it.

BURBANK: Yeah, I know. I've got a couple of bets in Vegas on that one.

George Clooney got best actor from "Michael Clayton," Julie Christie scored best actress for "Away From Her," and the big prize went to the Coen brothers for their flick "No Country for Old Men," which, if you haven't seen…

MARTIN: So good.

BURBANK: …just stop whatever you're doing and go see it.

MARTIN: Right now.

Two more movies in the National Board of Reviews' top 10 opened this week. "Atonement" is one of them and the other one is called "Juno," but the NPR is hardly the last word - NBR rather. NPR is the last word on movies.

BURBANK: Absolutely.

MARTIN: But the NBR is hardly the last word. And so for that we go to NPR's film critic Bob Mandello. Hey, Bob.

BOB MANDELLO: Hey, Rachel. How are you?

MARTIN: Great, how are you doing?

MANDELLO: Oh, I'm just fine today.

BURBANK: I'm good too, Bob. Thanks for asking.

MONDELLO: Well, I'm sorry, Luke. Please forgive me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay, there's a lot…

MONDELLO: I'm still trying to get over the idea of Ben Affleck bigger. Oh, my god.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: He's so big, anyway. We saw him.

MONDELLO: Yeah, kind of.

MARTIN: He came into our studios; he's huge.

Okay, so let's talk first about "Atonement" because I'm already interested in this flick. This is…

MONDELLO: It's really good, I didn't read the novel but I - and for that reason, it kept surprising me. It's basically about a little girl who tells this terrible lie and affects everybody around her especially her older sister and a guy who's living on their - the housekeeper's son on their estate. This is in the 1930s, and it goes into World War II, and it's freaking gorgeous.

MARTIN: And does it - I mean, do they make those transitions okay? That's a lot of time to cover in a couple of hours.

MONDELLO: Yeah, I guess that's true. But I got to say the roughest transition is the one where they go into World War II. All the stuff at the estate is just captivating and gorgeous and emotionally wrenching and just kind of wonderful.

And then they go into World War II, which you think would be emotionally wrenching and all those things and, instead, it's grand; it's huge.

MARTIN: Hmm.

MONDELLO: It's enormous. But it's so beautiful that it's almost - I mean, it's really weird. There's a tracking shot that everybody's talking about on the beach at Dankirk that is so awesome. I mean, you look at this thing and it's just beautiful filmmaking. It does sort of pull you out of the movie a little bit to be thinking about how gorgeous the filmmaking is.

MARTIN: Yeah.

MONDELLO: But it's really - I mean, I think the picture is really impressive. And it - the - I won't say anything about the last, say, oh, 20 minutes except that they surprised me. I wasn't prepared for where it was going, so I think it's kind of great.

MARTIN: We actually have a clip of the young girl in the film - the character, Briony. She's a little older, writing a story that suggests a little more perspective on her actions. Let's listen.

MONDELLO: Okay.

(Soundbite of movie clip, "Atonement")

Unidentified Woman: (As character) Can I look?

Ms. VANESSA REDGRAVE (Actress): (As Briony Tallis) I'd rather you didn't. It's private.

Unidentified Woman: What's the point of writing a story, if you're not going to let anyone read it.

Ms. REDGRAVE: (As Briony Tallis) It's not ready yet. It's unfinished.

Unidentified Woman: What's it about?

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. REDGRAVE: (As Briony Tallis) It's called "Catered". Yes. It's just - it's about a young girl, a young and foolish girl who sees something from her bedroom window which she doesn't understand but she thinks she does.

MARTIN: Bob, explain this.

Ms. REDGRAVE: (As Briony Tallis) I probably won't ever finish it.

MONDELLO: Basically what we're hearing right there is she's talking about a story that she started writing that becomes this novel, basically. And the thing that she saw was her sister and the son of the housekeeper in what looked like a sort of compromising situation and she didn't understand what was going on. And when you find out what was going on, it's like, oh, man, she just blew it.

MONTAGNE: Hmm. Okay, we'll have to go and see it to check it out to understand.

MONDELLO: In that clip she's 18 and she's talking about what she did when she was 13; that's a rough period of growing up as I recall.

MARTIN: Yeah, indeed.

Speaking of which, we move from one young girl dealing with a follow-up from her actions to yet another. Let's talk about "Juno." I'm really excited about this one; so is Luke.…

MONDELLO: No, no, no. "Juno" is fantastic. What a great picture.

MARTIN: Right. Let's set it up. Let's listen first to the clip.

MONDELLO: Great.

(Soundbite of movie clip, "Juno")

Ms. ELLEN PAGE (Actress): (As Juno MacGuff) I'm pregnant.

Ms. ALLISON JANNEY (As Bren) Oh, god.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno MacGuff) But I'm gonna give it up for adoption, and I already found the perfect couple. They're gonna pay for the medical expenses and everything. And with 30 year odd weeks, we can just pretend that this never happened.

Mr. J.K. Simmons (Actor): (As Mac MacGuff) You're pregnant?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno MacGuff) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And if it is any consolation, I have heart burn that is radiating to my kneecaps and…

Ms. JANNEY: (As Bren) I don't even know you were sexually active.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac MacGuff) Who is the kid?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno MacGuff) The baby - I don't really know much about it other than - I mean, it has fingernails allegedly.

Ms. JANNEY: (As Bren) Nails, really?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno MacGuff) Yeah.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac MacGuff) No, I don't - I mean, the - who is the father, Juno?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: (unintelligible) is right after that I think they say that the kid's name played by Michael Cera and the dad says, I didn't think he had it in him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: Which is wonderful. This movie is so funny, and she is - she's a real smart aleck, I mean…

MARTIN: Ellen Page.

MONDELLO: Yeah, she's just great. I like her. Her movie is that - was it "Hard Candy"?

BURBANK: Yeah, "Hard Candy."

MARTIN: Yup.

MONDELLO: She's a really wonderful actress. And in this, she's so appealing. And she's - Michael Cera is hysterical.

Jason Bateman, who played his father in "Arrested Development" is the potential adoptive father and he's about a year older mentally when (unintelligible). It's just a - it's a really smart picture. It's really terrific and kind of whimsical and caustic at the same time, which is nice.

MARTIN: Let's move on to a film that getting a little bit of controversy. The - I'm forgetting the name.

MONDELLO: "Golden Compass."

BURBANK: "Golden Compass."

MARTIN: "Golden Compass." Thanks everyone. The "Golden Compass" - what's up with this? This film is getting a little bit of backlash from religious conservatives who say that there's some atheistic overtones.

MONDELLO: Well, the books - there is. But, I mean - I read the books over the summer. They are really compelling they get progressively more about religion as they go on. The first one has been sort of denuded of any religious content as a movie.

In the book, the Magisterium, this awful group is constantly being referred to as the church, but you're in another ear and alternate world. This is not, you know, us. This is the place where children have shape-shifting demons, little animal creatures that wander around with them, and then, later when you get older and you sort of firm up who you are that the animal solidifies into a specific animal.

MARTIN: Sounds complicated.

MONDELLO: Yeah, it is complicated. And there are armored bears, for heaven's sakes. I mean, this is…

BURBANK: Sure.

MONDELLO: This is not…

MARTIN: (Unintelligible)

MONDELLO: They looked like they were Coca-Cola bears.

MARTIN: And Nicole Kidman is in this and Daniel Craig - some big names.

MONDELLO: Well, Daniel Craig's in it for all of about 30 seconds.

MARTIN: Oh, shoot, then I'm not going.

MONDELLO: Nicole Kidman's in it a lot. He'll show up and then in the next two. I - here's the thing - the - if this becomes a big hit - and I - frankly, I think it's going to. I don't think the - that anything in it is going to challenge anybody's faith, and so people are not going to be uncomfortable with this. It's a terrific adventure story.

MARTIN: Okay.

MONDELLO: Slightly complicated.

MARTIN: I'm only cutting you off because I want to give you a chance to talk about the movie that I've heard rumors that you don't really like this film.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: It's called "The Walker." Explain.

MONDELLO: It's so bad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: It's about Washington and everything…

MARTIN: It sounds like - it sound - it don't sound good from the title.

MONDELLO: Well…

BURBANK: Is Wilford Brimley in it? Does he use a walker?

MONDELLO: That would work. No, a walker is someone who takes Senate wives to things that their husbands don't want to go to, okay?

MARTIN: Professional escort.

MONDELLO: The term was coined for Nancy Reagan. And it's somebody who took Nancy Reagan to a lot of things. In this case, the walker is a gay guy and he's a gossip and he plays canasta, and he sounds like he came out of the 1950s. And he's played by Woody Harrelson, and you just want to kill him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: He is drawing with this really - draw. Apparently, their filmmaker, Paul Schrader, thinks that Virginia is right next to Alabama. And…

MARTIN: It's not.

MONDELLO: Oh, man. You can't - I mean, it's as if…

MARTIN: Okay.

MONDELLO: …(unintelligible) were never around. I mean, it's…

MARTIN: I know. Well, make up your own mind, we say.

NPR film critic, Bob Mondello. Thanks so much, Bob.

MONDELLO: It's a - it was lot of fun as always.

BURBANK: Thank you, Bob.

MONDELLO: Take care.

BURBANK: Take care, yourself.

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