Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Munich,' 'The Matador,' 'Match Point'

Slate contributor Mark Jordan Legan surveys what film critics are saying about major movie releases this week: Steven Spielberg's controversial film Munich, The Matador with Pierce Brosnan in a comedic turn, and Woody Allen's Match Point.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya. This is DAY TO DAY.

On this last weekend of the year, movie studios get their last chance to release their films in time for Oscar consideration. Is there anything worth your consideration? Each week the online magazine Slate compiles a digest of what critics are saying. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up is a film that is getting a fair amount of Oscar buzz: Steven Spielberg's historical thriller "Munich." The film focuses on the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre and how a secret Israeli squad tried to track down the terrorists responsible. Eric Bana and Daniel Craig star.

(Soundbite of "Munich")

Unidentified Actor #1: Strange--Isn't it?--to think of oneself as an assassin.

Unidentified Actor #2: Think of yourself as something else then. A soldier in a war.

LEGAN: The nation's critics praised the film, but a few have problems with the drawn-out ending. `"Munich" can't decide where to end, so we get six or seven possible finishes, each exhausting,' points out the Denver Post. But The Boston Globe raves, `Simply stated, this is Spielberg's return to seriousness and his finest film in years.' And the Toronto Star calls it `an impressive achievement by a man in touch with his art and his soul.'

Next up is the comedy "The Matador." Pierce Brosnan stars as an aging hit man who meets traveling businessman Greg Kinnear and they change each other's lives forever. Hope Davis also stars.

(Soundbite of "The Matador")

Ms. HOPE DAVIS: Aren't we cosmopolitan, having a trained assassin stay over the night, letting heartbreaking lies just roll over us like the summer breeze.

Mr. PIERCE BROSNAN: Next we should be wife-swapping. You don't have a wife.

LEGAN: The critics applaud this dark laugher and especially Brosnan's change of pace from James Bond to hard-drinking low-life criminal. Premiere magazine roars, `Brosnan is simply sensational, funnier and more persuasively neurotic than even a devoted fan might expect.' The New York Observer cheers, `Savage, breezy, occasionally obscene and sometimes poignant mix of comedy and crime.' And Variety says, `"The Matador" is a quirky yet commercial commingling of black comedy, seriocomic psychodrama, heart-tugging sudser and buddy movie farce.'

We close with Woody Allen's latest film "Match Point." Instead of his recently lambasted comedies, Mr. Allen returns with a thriller about a one-time tennis pro who marries into a rich family and finds his world turned upside-down. Jonathan Reese Meyers and Scarlett Johansson star.

(Soundbite of "Match Point")

Ms. SCARLETT JOHANSSON: I need a drink.

Mr. JONATHAN REESE MEYERS: I like it when you drink. You get flirtatious.

Ms. JOHANSSON: Do I?

Mr. MEYERS: Yeah. Confident.

Ms. JOHANSSON: I hope that this was a good idea. You shouldn't have followed me here.

Mr. MEYERS: Do you feel guilty?

Ms. JOHANSSON: Do you?

LEGAN: Here's something we haven't heard about a Woody Allen film in a while. The critics love it. USA Today shouts, `A captivating story of class distinctions that evolves into a chilling psychological thriller.' The New York Times declares, `It is Allen's most satisfying film in more than a decade.' And Entertainment Weekly points out, `It's the most vital return to form for any director since Robert Altman made "The Player."'

So maybe Woody will learn from this and one of his New Year's resolutions will be to stop making films like "Hollywood Ending." As for my New Year's resolution, I'm going to promise that when I go to the multiplex I will stop sneaking in outside food and drink, like microwave chimichangas--unless I have enough to share with everyone. I learned that the hard way.

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

DAY TO DAY returns in a moment. I'm Farai Chideya.

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