Summary Judgment: 'Kill,' 'Burn,' 'The Women'

What are critics saying about these three movie releases: Righteous Kill, which teams Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino; the new Coen Brothers comedy Burn After Reading; and the remake of 1939's The Women, starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett Smith.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day from NPR News. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Action and comedy at the cineplex this weekend, or we hope so, anyway. Here to tell us about what the critics are saying of the new movies is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: Two powerhouse actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, team up for the first time since 1995's crime saga "Heat." This time around, they both play cops hot on the trail of the serial killer who seems to be targeting criminals in the drama, "Righteous Kill."

(Soundbite of movie "Righteous Kill")

Mr. AL PACINO: (As Rooster) What, you don't believe in miracles?

Mr. ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Turk) When you pick up a check one day, one day, then I'll believe in miracles.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PACINO: (As Rooster) Let's go, I'm buying.

Mr. DE NIRO: (As Turk) Yeah, that's a miracle.

LEGAN: Most of the critics say the real crime here is that these great actors agreed to be in this mess. The Philadelphia Inquirer shrugs, "a twisty, turny and ultimately silly thriller." Variety yawns, "groaningly predictable and needlessly convoluted." And USA Today warns, "an overwrought thriller that feels like a second rate episode of 'Law & Order.'"

The Coen Brothers' first film since their Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Man" is returned to their comedy roots with "Burn After Reading." Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt play two dim health-club workers who find a computer disk in one of the gym lockers. Once they realize it's full of CIA secrets, they try and blackmail the spy. John Malkovich and George Clooney also star.

(Soundbite of movie "Burn After Reading")

Mr. BRAD PITT: (As Chad Feldheimer) And it's these files, man.

Mr. RICHARD JENKINS: (As Ted Treffon) I'm not comfortable with this.

Mr. RAUL ARANAS: (As Manolo) It was just lying there.

Ms. FRANCES MCDORMAND: (As Linda Litzke) You should put up a note in the ladies' locker room.

Mr. PITT: (As Chad Feldheimer) Put up a note? Hello, did anybody lose a secret CIA stuff? I don't think so.

(Soundbite of music)

LEGAN: The critics are split, but those that embrace the film's silliness really like it. Newsweek chuckles, "It feels as if everyone involved is having a high old time, and their enthusiasm is contagious." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cheers, "put together with such perfection that you can't help but be won over." But New York Magazine complains, "a little tired, the first Coen brothers picture on autopilot."

And with women moviegoers turning "Sex and the City" and "Mamma Mia" into recent smash hits, there's hope that women will go see "The Women," a remake of a classic 1939 comedy. This time, Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett Smith head up the all-female cast about a group of friends dealing with careers, lovers and infidelity.

(Soundbite of movie "The Women")

Ms. ANNETTE BENING: (As Sylvia Fowler) This is in the vault, right? Steven is having an affair.

Ms. DEBRA MESSING: (As Edie Cohen) Oh, my God.

Ms. CLORIS LEACHMAN: (As Maggie) Get out of here.

Ms. BENING: (As Sylvia Fowler) He's fooling around with someone who works behind the perfume counter.

(Soundbite of beat)

Ms. MESSING: (As Edie Cohen) The spritzer girl?

Ms. BENING: (As Sylvia Fowler) Yeah, can you believe that?

JORDAN LEGAN: Men and women critics don't seem to like "The Women." Even though the Chicago Sun-Times finds it "well-crafted, well-written and well-acted," the majority agree with the Village Voice, which snaps, "hopelessly tamed and muddled," and The Onion, which offers, "the original was a tart dipped in acid. This one's a biscuit sprinkled with Splenda." And by the way, we want to put to rest the rumor that, at one time, every member of the cast of "The Women" was approached by John McCain to be his running mate. Now, yes, it's true, Meg Ryan has met more foreign heads of state, but come on, she's clearly not qualified.

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer, voting in Los Angeles.

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