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Summary Judgment: 'Marie Antoinette,' 'The Prestige, 'Flags of Our Fathers'


Many new choices at movie theaters this weekend. Writer Mark Jordan Legan offers a sample of critics' reviews of the week's new films. Here he is with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: First up in wide release is the latest directorial effort form Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers. This World War II epic tells the story of the battle that led up to the famous image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima. Jesse Bradford and Ryan Phillippe star.

(Soundbite of film "Flags of Our Fathers")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Unintelligible), Guam, (unintelligible) or Saipan. This is Japanese soil, sacred ground. Twelve thousand Japanese defenders in eight square miles. They will not leave politely, gentlemen. It's up to us to convince them.

LEGAN: The nation's critics salute this war film. Rolling Stone finds it a film of awesome power and blistering production; The Hollywood Reporter reports: a complex, fascinating take on the concept of heroism and war; and USA Today raves: Flags of Our Fathers is one of the year's best films.

Next up, also in wide release, is the historical romp, Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola, who brought us Lost in Translation, now delivers her hip take on the life of France's legendary queen. Kirsten Dunst plays Marie, and Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis and Rip Torn round out the stellar cast.

(Soundbite of film "Marie Antoinette")

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Madame Du Barry would like to offer you some diamonds.

Ms. KIRSTEN DUNST (Actress): (As Marie Antoinette) I have enough diamonds.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Snubbing the king's favorite is publicly criticizing the king's behavior. All you need do is say a few words to her. Because of rank, she is not allowed to speak to you first.

Ms. DUNST: (As Marie Antoinette) Well, I certainly have nothing to say to her. And why should I approve of his cavorting with a harlot?

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) Your royal highness.

Ms. DUNST: (As Marie Antoinette) Well, that's what she is.

LEGAN: Even though this film had a very chilly reception at the Cannes Film Festival, the majority of the critics admire the film, and they all praise the style and look. The BBC offers: this mightn't be food for the soul, but it is a pleasurable sugar rush. The Wall Street Journal complains: it looks absolutely sumptuous, but it is ultimately as substantial as a bon-bon. And yet the LA Times sweetly shouts: an original and beautiful pop reverie that comes very close to being transcendent.

And we close with the wide release drama thriller The Prestige. From the writer-director of Momento comes the mysterious story of two turn-of-the-century magicians locked in an intense rivalry. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star.

(Soundbite of film "The Prestige")

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) We magicians have a circle of trust.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) You have a circle of trust with someone whose diary you stole?

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) Maybe I bought it.

Unidentified Man #4: (As character) And you're hoping to find a great secret in there?

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) I've already found it. That's why I'm here.

LEGAN: Overall, the nation's critics applaud these magicians, even though a few feel it drags in the second half. An oddly lopsided yet compulsively absorbing movie, says the LA Weekly. The New York Times finds The Prestige entertaining, spirited and shamelessly gimmicky. And the Minneapolis Star Tribune calls it a twisty, tense thriller.

Wow, first The Illusionist and now The Prestige. Who would've thought magicians would be such rich material for romance and drama? Maybe we can start using magicians as the leads in action movies. See Dwayne The Rock Johnson make the bad guys disappear as he stars in Pick a Card, Any Card. Watch me pull an AK-47 out of my hat.

(Soundbite of machine-gun fire)

LEGAN: Why, it practically writes itself.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan
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