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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Melquiades Estrada,' 'The World's Fastest Indian,' 'Something New'


Well, maybe you're planning to spend the weekend catching up on the newly nominated Oscar movies, but there are several new releases out this week as well. Slate's Mark Jordan Legan is back with Summary Judgment, our weekly digest of what the critics are saying.

Mr. MARK JORDAN LEGAN (reporter, Slate): First up in wide release we have the romantic comedy Something New. Sanaa Lathan stars as a hard working African-American career woman who goes on a blind date and might have found true love. But her date is a white guy and that becomes an issue with her and her friends. Simon Baker and Mike Epps also star.

Mr. SIMON BAKER (As Brian): I'm Brian.

Ms. ALFRE WOODARD (As Mrs. McQueen): Oh, the landscaper.

Ms. SANAA LATHAN (As Kenya McQueen): Actually Brian is my friend, Mother.

Mr. EARL BILLINGS (As Mr. McQueen): Brian, good to meet you.

Mr. BAKER (As Brian): Good to meet you too, sir.

Mr. LEGAN: Most of the nation's critics enjoy this film and commend the two lead performances even though the Charlotte Observer observes that the star's chemistry may be all that we can hope for in factory lying fluff. The Village Voice cheers, a brisk refreshingly understated romantic comedy. And the Chicago Sun Times says, Something New delivers all the usual pleasures of a love story and something more. The movie respects its subject and characters and is more complex about race than we could possibly expect.

Next up in limited release, we have The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. The modern western is about a Texas rancher who will do anything it takes to make sure his dead friend is reburied in his birth place, Mexico. Barry Pepper also stars.

Mr. TOMMY LEE JONES (As Pete Perkins): Can you get us across?

Unidentified Man: Yes, but I've never crossed people from this side to that side.

Mr. BARRY PEPPER (As Mike Norton): Okay. Take us.

Unidentified Man: What about the price?

Mr. PEPPER (As Mike Norton): What price?

Unidentified Man: One thousand a person.

Mr. PEPPER (As Mike Norton): I don't have a thousand dollars.

Unidentified Man: Three thousand dollars; a thousand for you, and a thousand for the (unintelligible), and a thousand for the dead guy.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics applaud the directorial debut of Mr. Jones. Variety calls it, outstandingly realized on all levels. The Chicago Tribune adds, a wonderful sense of place and space, and carries the bite and tang of a good short story. And the L.A. Times raves, incisive yet supple, wrenching yet deeply pleasurable, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is easily one of the year's best pictures.

And finally also in limited release is Sir Anthony Hopkins in The World's Fastest Indian. Based on a true story, Hopkins plays eccentric New Zealander Burt Munro who at the age of 68 set the motorcycle world speed record in 1967, a record that still stands today. The Indian in the title by the way is not Munro, but his legendary motorcycle.

Unidentified Kid: Aren't you scared you'll kill yourself if you crash?

Sir ANTHONY HOPKINS (As Burt Munro): No. You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in their lifetime.

Mr. LEGAN: The critics are split on this bio-pic, but almost all praise Hopkins' lead performance. U.S.A. Today growls that the movie slogs pokily along and never quite picks up speed. But the Hollywood Reporter grins, a pleasingly whimsical and slyly mischievous road movie. And the New York Post revs, Hopkins' larger-than-life performance rivets your attention for two solid hours in this most entertaining labor of love.

You know, I for one am so tired of all these New Zealanders coming here to our country, stealing all our land-speed records, winning fistfuls of Oscars for their little Lord of the Rings movies -- yes, Peter Jackson, I'm talking about you. Don't you get it? Little by little they're taking over. I've seen the enemy people, and it's New Zealand.

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

Mark Jordan Legan
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