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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Okay, so there are no big cat/bird battles at the movies this weekend, but gee, that sounds like a good idea for a screenplay.

Anyway, here is Mark Jordan Legan with our weekly digest of what the critics think of the new movies: Slate's Summary Judgment.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (Slate): Moviegoers, prepare yourself, because the last weekend of November is famously slow at the box office as holiday shopping kicks into high gear. So it's usually slim pickings at the Cineplex. In fact, the only wide release is the horror thriller "Awake," starring Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen. Christensen plays a hospital patient who unexpectedly stays awake during his operation.

(Soundbite of movie, "Awake")

Mr. TERRENCE HOWARD (Actor): (As Dr. Jack Harper) Everyone ready to get started here?

Mr. HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN (Actor): I can still hear you.

Unidentified Man: (As Character) Ready as I'll ever be.

Mr. CHRISTENSEN: (As Clay) Wait, something's wrong. Am I supposed to be able to still hear you?

Mr. LEGAN: Wow, you're a heart surgery patient, you overhear your own murder plot? Man, health care is bad in this country. And guess what? There are no advance reviews because the studio didn't make "Awake" available to the critics. So like many hospitals, enter the theater at your own risk, and possibly with anesthesia.

A very popular memoir, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," has been adapted for the screen by Academy Award-winning writing Ronald Harwood and painter-filmmaker Julian Schnabel. It is the remarkable true story of a French editor who suffers a stroke and with debilitating physical challenges attempts to communicate anyway he can to write his book. The film is in French with English subtitles.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")

Mr. LEGAN: The nation's critics have high praise for "Diving Bell." New York magazine calls it a masterpiece. Rolling Stone cheers: A high-wire act of visual daring and unquenchable spirit. And the New York Observer declares: Astonishingly lyrical and profoundly moving.

And in limited release is the dark comedy "The Savages," where Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play self-centered siblings who have to deal with caring for their estranged elderly father.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Savages")

Mr. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (Actor): (As Jon Savage) I need you to spend Thanksgiving with dad.

Ms. LAURA LINNEY (Actor): (As Wendy Savage) We're not doing it together?

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) It's the only time I can get away for research.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Well, I have things to do too.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) Like what?

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Like my life, for instance, in New York City.

Mr. HOFFMAN: (As Jon Savage) I've got to get this thing finished, Wendy. My editor thinks it's a good time for it.

Ms. LINNEY: (As Wendy Savage) Yeah, I've heard everyone's really itching for a book about Bertolt Brecht this holiday season.

Mr. LEGAN: "The Savages" is getting raves. Entertainment Weekly shouts: compassionate, unsentimental and terrific. The New York Post finds it darkly hilarious. And the Los Angeles Times proclaims it one of the best movies of the year.

And come on, as you just heard in the audio clip, there's Bertolt Brecht jokes in it. If NPR's listening audience isn't the perfect demographic for that, then I don't know who is. In fact, here you go: How many Bertolt Brechts does it take to screw in a light bulb? Light bulb? Brecht prefers it dark.

(Soundbite of drums)

Mr. LEGAN: Thank you. Thank you. I'm here all week. Don't forget to tip your German theater professors.

(Soundbite of music)

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

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