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Slate's Summary Judgment: 'Lord of War,' 'Proof,' 'Just Like Heaven'

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Finally today, our weekly digest of what the critics are saying about this week's movie releases, compiled by the online magazine Slate. Here's Mark Jordan Legan with Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN reporting:

First up in wide release, we have the action-adventure satire "Lord of War."

Nicolas Cage stars as a globe-trotting arms dealer trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities. Ethan Hawke and Ian Holm also star.

(Soundbite of "Lord of War")

Mr. NICOLAS CAGE (Actor): (As Yuri Orlov) How many car salesmen talk about their work, huh? How many cigarette salesmen? Both their products kill more people every year than mine. At least mine has a safety switch. If those guys can leave their work at the office, so can I.

LEGAN: The nation's critics are mixed on this one. Several compared in tone and scope, although not execution, to the mob classic "GoodFellas." The Hollywood Reporter enjoys it, calling it `an oddly satisfying mesh of an international action-adventure with an extremely dark satire about the global arms trade.' USA Today shrugs, `Intelligent, but not particularly involving.' But Entertainment Weekly echoes the complaints of other critics that it gets bogged down in the details of the arms trade. EW calls it `a dead pile of information in search of a movie.'

Next up in limited release, we have "Proof." Based on the hit Broadway play of the same name, the director of "Shakespeare in Love," John Madden, teams up with Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins to present this family tug of war about a troubled daughter and her brilliant, eccentric mathematician father.

(Soundbite of "Proof")

Mr. ANTHONY HOPKINS (Actor): (As Robert) Crazy people don't sit down wondering if they're nuts.

Ms. GWYNETH PALTROW (Actress): (As Catherine) They don't?

Mr. HOPKINS: (As Robert) Of course not. They've got better things to do. Take it from me. A very good sign that you're crazy is an inability to ask the question: Am I crazy?

Ms. PALTROW: (As Catherine) Even if the answer is `Yes'?

Mr. HOPKINS: (As Robert) Crazy people don't ask, you see?

Ms. PALTROW: (As Catherine) Huh.

LEGAN: Some critics complained of the stage-bound feel of the film, like Rolling Stone, which blames the director, saying `Madden drains the movie of life and urgency. "Proof" hasn't been filmed at all. It's been embalmed.' Most of the other critics, though, feel just the opposite. USA Today cheers, `"Proof" proves undeniably that the intimacy of a stage play can be recreated powerfully on screen.' And Variety raves, `An elegant, intelligent drama of a breed increasingly rare in mainstream American movies.' Hey, I totally relate to any movie that shows how tortured and maddening math can be. I think most of this country's mental illness can be traced to junior year high school geometry, especially if you had Ms. Gilkie(ph), third period. Ew-ew-ew. `A parallelogram is any quadrilateral'--aaagh! (Makes humming sound).

And we close with the wide-release comedy "Just Like Heaven." From Mark Waters, the director of "Freaky Friday" and "Mean Girls," Mark Ruffalo moves into a new apartment and falls in love with the spirit of a girl who lived there before him. Reese Witherspoon stars as the beautiful ghost.

(Soundbite of "Just Like Heaven")

Mr. MARK RUFFALO (Actor): (As David Abbott) I'm ignoring you.

Ms. REESE WITHERSPOON (Actress): (As Elizabeth Masterson) I'm ignoring you!

Mr. RUFFALO: (As David) She won't accept that she's dead. I told her to walk to the light. She wouldn't do it.

Ms. WITHERSPOON: (As Elizabeth) That's because there is no light. God, you're infuriating!

LEGAN: The critics held a seance and the spirits moved them to like this movie. Even though it has its detractors, like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which sniffs, `a forgettable, patched-together clone of other ghostly romances,' the Hollywood Reporter shouts, `Ruffalo and Witherspoon are a winning pair in this smart and tender comedy!' And The New York Times smiles, `Given its somewhat morbid premise, this metaphysical second-chance comedy is impressively nimble and cheery.' Oh, poor guy. His place is haunted by a cute, blond ghost with great teeth. Hey, if it's a rent-controlled apartment with direct sunlight, I'd shack up with the Blair Witch!

CHADWICK: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer looking for a new place in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. Our theme music was composed by Greg Smith.

I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.