The Ascent of Mann

The Ascent of Mann

The Ascent of Mann

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Nov. 10 1999 3:30 AM

The Ascent of Mann

Movies

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The Insider (Buena Vista Pictures). The critics are shocked: They actually like director Michael Mann's film about the 60 Minutes interview with a tobacco industry whistle-blower, which was canned when CBS caved to corporate pressure. "The Insider shouldn't be the edge-of-your-seat, gut-churning thriller that it is. … Mann could probably make a movie about needlepoint riveting" (David Ansen, Newsweek). Russell Crowe shines as Jeffrey Wigand (the whistle-blower); Al Pacino hams it up as a moralizing 60 Minutes producer; and Christopher Plummer does a mean Mike Wallace. Slate's David Edelstein writes, "It's a terrific muckraking melodrama--it will get people fuming." (Click here to read the rest of Edelstein's review.)

Dogma (Lions Gate Films Inc.). Despite protests from the Catholic League, reviewers agree that writer-director Kevin Smith's latest is "a tortured testament from a true believer" (Richard Corliss, Time). What's more, this "obviously devout, enlightened parable" about a pair of rebellious angels (played by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) is "mercilessly funny" and "gratifyingly cynicism free" (Janet Maslin, the New York Times). Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, and Alan Rickman round out the cast as the 13th apostle, a muse, and a messenger from God. (Click here to check out the film's official site and here to see what the Catholic League has to say about it.)

The Bone Collector (Universal Pictures). So-so reviews for this Seven rip-off starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Washington plays a recently paralyzed forensics expert who uses Jolie, a rookie cop, as his proxy to investigate a series of exceptionally grisly murders. Roger Ebert (the Chicago Sun-Times) pans the film, saying it has "one of those plots where a depraved serial killer leads everyone in a find-the-corpse version of 'Where's Waldo?' " Most everyone agrees, calling the film formulaic and the gore overly mannered. The one positive comment: Washington and Jolie have surprisingly good chemistry. (Visit the official site.)

Music

The Battle of Los Angeles, by Rage Against the Machine (Epic). Has Rage Against the Machine finally struck a balance between political preaching and guitar-heavy rap-rock fusion? Most critics say yes, praising the "resonant, body-slamming riffs that will leave you shuddering" (Amy Sciaretto, CMJ) and the fact that the band's lyrics "make a case that there are still some things worth fighting for" (Will Hermes, Entertainment Weekly). A few are not impressed: Jim Derogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times calls lead singer Zack de la Rocha "insufferable" and his lyrics "addlepated," and compares his contributions to the band's otherwise excellent music to "rodent droppings at a gourmet dinner." (Click here to read Rolling Stone's cover story on the band.)

Eliza Truitt, a former editor at Slate, now works as a wedding photographer in Seattle.