A Bomb of a Blockbuster  

A Bomb of a Blockbuster  

A Bomb of a Blockbuster  

Highlights from the week in criticism.
May 26 2001 12:00 AM

A Bomb of a Blockbuster  

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Movies
Pearl Harbor (Buena Vista). Sheepish critics say this long WW II love story is a bomb of a blockbuster. Biggest criticisms: It seems unreal and done in shorthand—an epic trailer, played with 1940s characters, '01 effects, a straight face, and no sense of history. "[I]t's hard to believe an hour and a half can go by in a peacetime military setting without anything funny happening" (Mike Clark, USA Today); "partially informed by a real event referred to as Pearl Harbor, the movie is actually based on the movies Top Gun, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan" (Desson Howe, the Washington Post). Critics pan all but the attack scenes (producer Jerry Bruckheimer's and director Michael Bay's specialty)—which, thankfully, overpower everything else, like the terrible dialogue ("I'm gonna give Danny my whole heart, but I don't think I'll ever look at another sunset without thinking of you"). Will the movie's flag-waving fly in Tokyo? Critics say the Japanese are not portrayed as fiends but as big losers who "seem to have been melancholy even at the time about the regrettable need to play such a negative role in such a positive Hollywood film" (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). (Click here to compare the American and Japanese trailers.)

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Moulin Rouge (20th Century Fox). Reviewers say this rock musical set in a 1899 Paris nightclub is flashy, choppy, and clownish. The plot: Ewen McGregor writes the "Spectacular Spectacular" play within the movie and falls for consumptive courtesan Nicole Kidman. The weird numbers: "Patti LaBelle's sweaty 'Lady Marmalade' morphs into the snarling grunge melancholy of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' a combination that would be lost on even D.J. Qbert and the Columbia Record Club" (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times); "[d]warves in spangled costumes dance to 'Rhythm of the Night'; a sultry chorus line coos, 'Moulin Rouge-ez avec moi ce soir?' and performs a tantric cancan" (Richard Corliss, Time). Reviewers say you might want to down some drugs with your popcorn—Dramamine to quell sea sickness (John Simon, National Review), aspirin for the "cinematic migraine" (Mike Clark, USA Today), and insulin for the eye candy (Corliss); a couple of critics think director Baz Luhrmann could use some Ritalin. The problem? Some say he just tried too hard, but others are nasty, calling him "a madman with a palm buzzer" (Owen Glieberman, Entertainment Weekly), and "king of the Miracles Are Cheap genre" (David Edelstein, Slate). (Click here for Edelstein's full review.)

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Music
Lateralus, by Tool (Volcano). More creepy, distorted, long tracks with trademark "whisper-to-a-scream" singing (Tom Keilty, the Boston Globe) from the prog-metal rock band fans call "thinking headbangers" (Edna Gunderson, USA Today). Many critics say their self-loathing lyrics and hard '90s sound don't fit the current rap-metal and pop climate; a few say they sound a bit less Goth than before; some say they just sound old. But most critics buy into their mystique; a Los Angeles Times interviewer compliments the band's media shyness and anonymity, pointing to their obscured cover photo on this month's Spin. What do they sound like? "In 'Parabol,' Keenan's voice is bathed in wet, gray echo and crawls like a wounded man through the implied devastation of Carey's hissing cymbals and Chancellor's gaunt bass lines" (David Fricke, Rolling Stone); they "[s]tart each song with a creepy rumble, whip it into a frenetic rage, slow it down for a gentler interlude, then rev it back up for the finale. It's the sound of a giant beast slowly rousing from a slumber, raising havoc, and then settling back in again" (David Browne, Entertainment Weekly). (Click here to listen; here for an interview with guitarist Adam Jones.)