Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Domino,' 'Elizabethtown,' 'The Squid and the Whale'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan presents a roundup what movie critics are saying about the weekend's new movie releases. Out this week: Domino, Elizabethtown and The Squid and the Whale.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

For anyone curious about what to do this weekend, Slate magazine online offers a weekly digest of what critics are saying about new movie releases. Mark Jordan Legan has this Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up in wide release, we have the action-drama "Domino." Somewhat based on the strange yet real life of Domino Harvey, the daughter of movie star Laurence Harvey, this young woman left the glamorous world of international modeling and became a bounty hunter. Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke star.

(Soundbite of "Domino")

Mr. MICKEY ROURKE: (As Ed): Why would a delicate little thing like you want to be a damn bounty hunter?

Ms. KEIRA KNIGHTLEY: (As Domino Harvey) I want to have a little fun.

LEGAN: The nation's critics pretty much refused to pay the movie's bail with many complaining of director Tony Scott's ever-moving camera work. Even though the Chicago-Sun Times says `it's fractured and maddening, but it's alive,' Newsday counters that `"Domino" is a movie that all but forces its bulky, twitchy mass down your throat.' And The Wall Street Journal adds that `"Domino" is a new definition of a snuff movie; it snuffs out every vestige of feeling.'

Next up in wide release is the romantic comedy "Elizabethtown," from writer/director Cameron Crowe of "Say Anything" and "Jerry Maguire" fame. This time out, Orlando Bloom plays a troubled young man who must head home to Kentucky after the sudden death of his father. After the funeral, he embarks on a spur-of-the-moment road trip with a young woman he just met, played by Kirsten Dunst. Susan Sarandon also stars.

(Soundbite of "Elizabethtown")

Ms. KIRSTEN DUNST: (As Clair Colburn) Louisville (pronounced Louivul), Kentucky, huh? Home misses her family.

Mr. ORLANDO BLOOM: (As Drew Baylor) My dad.

Ms. DUNST: (As Colburn) Hmm. Where does he live in Louisville (pronounced Louivul)?

Mr. BLOOM: (As Baylor) Actually, he's near Louisville (pronounced Louievil).

Ms. DUNST: (As Colburn) Louisville (pronounced Louivul).

Mr. BLOOM: (As Baylor) Louisville (pronounced Louivil).

Ms. DUNST: (As Colburn) Vul.

Mr. BLOOM: (As Baylor) Louis...

Ms. DUNST: (As Colburn) Vul.

Mr. BLOOM: (As Baylor) He's in Elizabethtown.

LEGAN: The critics are kind of split on this one. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer calls it `that rare animal, a dialogue-driven comedy and a good one at that.' But the Hollywood reporter complains `tedious humor and sentimentality bury what could've been a pretty good road picture.' And the Los Angeles Times: `It sounds like a relative that doesn't want to hurt someone's feelings by saying "Elizabethtown" is a mess of a movie, but a warm, friendly mess that's hard not to like, even when it tests your patience.'

And we close with one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, "The Squid and the Whale." Playing in limited release, this dark, semi-autobiographical comedy about a 1980s Brooklyn family dealing with a divorce is from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney star.

(Soundbite of "The Squid and the Whale")

Ms. LAURA LINNEY (Actress): (As Joan Berkman) We will be able to see you both equally.

JESS EISENBERG: (As Walt Berkman) How will that work?

Mr. JEFF DANIELS (Actor): (As Bernard Berkman) We're splitting up the week, alternating days.

Unidentified Actress: Why?

Mr. DANIELS: (As Bernard Berkman) 'Cause I love you and I want to see you as much as your mother does.

EISENBERG: (As Walt) But there's seven days.

Mr. DANIELS: (As Bernard Berkman) Right.

EISENBERG: (As Walt) So how will you split evenly with seven days?

Mr. DANIELS: (As Bernard Berkman) Oh, I've got you Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and every other Thursday.

Unidentified Actress: Every other?

Mr. DANIELS: (As Bernard Berkman) That's how we each have you equally.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Joan Berkman) That was your father's idea.

LEGAN: The critics applaud this smartly written and well-acted film. The Village Voice declares it `tender, cruel and very funny.' Time magazine shouts, `A terrific movie, exhilaratingly funny.' And Rolling Stone cheers that `"The Squid and the Whale" is fresh and fierce. All the performances are flawless, but Jeff Daniels' portrait is a tour de force.' And as for whether an actual squid should ever marry a whale, I think most marine biologists, and even Dr. Phil, will tell you a 60-foot mollusk and a large mammal have no chance at a long-term relationship. Giant squids are infamously bad listeners, and the whale just wants to kill the squid! Hmm. Sounds like a couple I know in Beverly Hills.

BRAND: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Madeleine Brand.

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