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Summary Judgment: 'The Departed,' 'Employee of the Month,' 'The Queen'


Well, you might want to get offline and go outside, and then back inside, to the movies. There are a few good ones out this weekend, and here with our weekly digest of the latest film reviews is Mark Jordan Legan with Slate's Summary Judgment.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: First up is the wide-release crime drama The Departed. Based on a popular 2002 Hong Kong film, Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon as they battle Boston crime boss Jack Nicholson.

(Soundbite of movie "The Departed")

Mr. JACK NICHOLSON (Actor): (As Frank Costello) When I was your age, they would say we could become cops or criminals. What I'm saying to you is this. When you're facing a loaded gun...

(Soundbite of gunfire)

Mr. NICHOLSON: (As Costello) ...what's the difference?

LEGAN: This is easily one of the best-reviewed films of the year. A fast-paced, visually slick, psychologically fascinating cops-and-crooks saga, raves the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Newsweek calls it Scorsese's most purely enjoyable movie in years. And Variety shouts, The Departed pulses with energy, tangy dialogue and crackling performances from a fine cast.

Next up, also in wide release, is the comedy Employee of the Month. A sexy new female cashier at one of those huge discount retail stores sets off a fierce competition between two male clerks. Popular comedian Dane Cook and popular celebrity Jessica Simpson star.

(Soundbite of movie "Employee of the Month")

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) I'm going to obliterate the employee of the month record.

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) Obliterate it, huh?

Unidentified Man #3 (Actor): (As character) You're a dink. You will not stand in my way.

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (As character) Bring it.

Unidentified Man #3: (As character) I'll bring it, 'cause game is on, and someone's gonna get hurt, but the someone is not going to be me.

Unidentified Man #2: (As character) That means you, man.

LEGAN: The critics felt like they were left wandering the store looking for help. Even though the Hollywood Reporter finds it manages to retain a certain goofy appeal, thanks to the stand-up effort of its comically adept cast members, the New York Times thought Employee of the Month was more tired than a Wal-Mart greeter at the end of a Saturday shift. And many agreed with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which complains, mostly the films just rattles annoyingly along like a shopping cart with a jiggly wheel.

And we close with the limited-release drama The Queen. From director Stephen Frears, who has given us everything from The Grifters to High Fidelity, Helen Mirren stars as the modern Queen Elizabeth trying to deal with the tragic death of Princess Diana back in 1997. James Cromwell also stars.

(Soundbite of movie "The Queen")

Ms. HELEN MIRREN (Actress): (As Queen Elizabeth) No member of the royal family will speak positively about her.

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (As character) Diana is no longer a member of the royal family.

ALEX JENNINGS (Actor): (As Prince Charles) What are you talking about?

Ms. MIRREN: (As Elizabeth) This is a private matter.

We do things in this country quietly, with dignity.

Mr. MICHAEL SHEEN: (As Tony Blair) Will someone please save these people from themselves?

LEGAN: The nation's critics applaud the film and especially Mirren's performance. Thought provoking, well written and savvy, cheers USA Today. L.A. Weekly calls The Queen politically shrewd, unexpectedly funny, yet immaculately tasteful. And the New York Post trumpets, All hail the great Helen Mirren, who delivers the performance of a lifetime in Frears' witty, touching and engrossing film.

So last week, Forest Whitaker got raves as Idi Amin, and now Helen Mirren for Queen Elizabeth. Hmm, I smell a hit comedy. What happens when two wacky leaders are forced to share an apartment together? It's a laugh a minute on Idi and Liz.

Idi, I have guests coming over any minute. Please torture that political prisoner somewhere else. Maybe I would, if someone would stop drinking my grapefruit juice. How dare you insinuate I touched your precious grapefruit juice?

Hollywood, call me. We'll talk.

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

Mark Jordan Legan