Summary Judgment: 'Apocalypto,' 'Diamond,' 'Holiday'

Mayan priests in a scene from Apocalypto

hide captionMayan priests in a scene from Mel Gibson's 'Apocalypto.'

Touchstone

What are movie critics saying about the most recent releases? This week's "Summary Judgment" focuses on Blood Diamond, Mel Gibson's Apocalypto and The Holiday.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now let's hear what the critics are saying about this week's grown-up movies. It's our weekly digest of film reviews compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here is Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Slate): One can only holiday shop so much before wanting to escape the crowded malls and relax at the movies. And what better way to do this than by seeing a gritty drama about the violent diamond trade in 1990s war-torn Sierra Leone. "Blood Diamond" stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.

(Soundbite of movie "Blood Diamond")

Mr. LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Danny Archer) You sell blood diamonds, too.

Ms. JENNIFER CONNELLY: (As Maddy Bowen) Really?

Mr. DICAPRIO: (As Archer) Yeah.

Ms. CONNELLY: (As Bowen) Tell me. How is that?

Mr. DICAPRIO: (As Archer) Who do you think buys the stones that I bring out? Dreamy American girls all want a storybook wedding and a big shiny rock. In fact, the ones they see in the advertisements of your politically correct magazine. So please, don't come here and make judgments on me, all right?

Mr. LEGAN: The nation's critics generally applaud the action drama. Even though the New York Times says there's an insolvable disconnect between the serious story and the frivolous way it has been told. But the Chicago Tribune cheers a visually sumptuous bullet train-paced thriller with a really provocative theme. And The New Yorker raves, Exciting and stunningly well made.

Next up is the highly anticipated Mel Gibson film, "Apocalypto," the follow up to his hugely successful and controversial "The Passion of Christ." This action adventure is set during the end of the Mayan civilization and the dialogue is spoken in their native language with subtitles.

(Soundbite of movie "Apocalypto")

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As character) (Speaking in foreign language)

Mr. LEGAN: This basic chase film is getting much better reviews than, well, Gibson's recent encounter with the Malibu sheriff. But be warned, it is called one of the most violent movies in recent memory. Apparently, the Aztecs and the Mayans weren't as polite as the Jets and the Sharks when it came time to rumble.

USA Today dismisses it as simply meso-American Rambo. But Variety calls it remarkable and full of vividness and power. And the Washington Post says Gibson is a heck of a storyteller. It's something entirely unexpected, a sinewy, taut poem of action.

And for something a little bit lighter than African civil wars and savage Mayans, there's the wide release romantic comedy, "The Holiday." Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet trade homes during the Christmas season and hilarity and romance ensue. Jack Black and Jude Law also star.

(Soundbite of movie "The Holiday")

Unidentified Man: In the movies, we have the leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are leading lady. But for some reason, you're behaving like the best friend.

Ms. KATE WINSLET: (As Iris Simpkins) You're so right. You're supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God's sake.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics are split on this one. The Christian Science Monitor warns it's much more silly than romantic. Variety compares it to a lavishly overstuffed gift basket of a movie. And TV Guide advises "The Holiday" is enjoyable in a mushy, easily digested sort of way. That's good to hear. I like my holiday movies easily digested. Like mashed potatoes with gravy. Now, I'm craving mashed potatoes with gravy.

Mike, Madeleine, anyone here at NPR? If you guys were wondering what to buy me for Christmas, well you can all chip in and get me a large bucket of mashed potatoes with gravy. Don't ever say I'm not easy to shop for. Did I mention I want it with gravy?

BRAND: How about one of those big barrels of popcorn? Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles.

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