Tucker'd Out?  

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Aug. 3 2001 11:30 PM

Tucker'd Out?  

Movies

113000_113057_rushhour_cn12830

Rush Hour 2 (New Line). This "ramshackle sequel" (A.O. Scott, the New York Times) pairs Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker again as mismatched, bickering cops, this time in Hong Kong. While faulting the film for its "anemic, haphazard" plot (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times) critics praise the stars' chemistry; they are "a non-musical Hope and Crosby" (Kevin Maynard, Mr. Showbiz). The de rigueur outtakes at the end are "much funnier than the movie itself" (Mike Clark, USA Today). Also starring diminutive Zhang Ziyi, of Crouching Tiger fame, this movie is worth seeing for a few belly laughs and what Scott calls "the virtue of honest B-movie unpretentiousness." (Here's the official site.)—S.G.

113000_113058_origsin_osin_8_big

Original Sin (MGM). It oughta be a sin to make a movie this bad. Set in 19th-century Cuba, this "corny potboiler" (Rita Kempley, the Washington Post) tells the story of a plantation owner (Antonio Banderas) who meets with mayhem when his supposedly plain-Jane mail-order bride ends up being a knockout (Angelina Jolie). After some steamy romps in the hay, the new wife skips town with all his money, and the plot "plunges into protracted, tedious ludicrousness" (Kevin Thomas, the Los Angeles Times). "[E]verything in this film is forgettable, right down to bongos pounding on the soundtrack to indicate a quickening of the pulse, or characters closing the doors before the camera" (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). (Click here for the sexed-up official site.)— L.S

Television
MTV Turns 20. As the network leaves its own teen-age-dom behind, critics point out that its programming today is "more adolescent than ever" (Phil Kloer, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution). Predictably, there is much musing over MTV's transforming effects on both pop music and our culture at large, and whether video really did kill the radio star. (No, it just helped her sell more records.) Out in force, the culture critics tell us that MTV has made us shallower and shortened our attention span, but it also made television "more focused, exciting and pop-culture savvy than ever before" (Eric Deggans, St. Petersburg Times).  A few note that the network's celebration of its own birthday—a party and 12-hour special—was relatively muted. Perhaps, they suggest, MTV realized the un-hipness of its own nostalgia. (Relive the festivities here.)—J.F.

113000_113059_neildiamond

Music
Three Chord Opera, by Neil Diamond (Columbia). Critics say fans of the 60-year-old Tin Pan Alley vet will love his first all-original album in 27 years. The uninitiated, however, may be turned off. Those reviewers who seem to be longtime admirers claim Diamond has lost none of his power in these "heroic, shirt-rending pop anthems" (Steve Dougherty, People). Though everyone adores his gravelly voice, the less-enamored critics find some songs ham-handed and say, "strained attempts at rock, doo-wop pop, and a peppy God song make you wish he'd stuck to depression" (David Browne, Entertainment Weekly). (Check out the official Neil Diamond site.)— J.F.

102000_102005_shoppingbag_24x30

To purchase this CD from amazon.com, click here.  

112000_112856_next

Books
Next: The Future Just Happened, by Michael Lewis (W.W. Norton). Mostly admiration for this pop-sociology account of the Internet's democratizing shift in power away from authoritative experts and toward the individual. Reviewers say Lewis is at his best when painting vivid portraits of the teen-agers leading this revolutionary inversion of hierarchies. But not everyone swoons over his broad analytic conclusions. A few say he merely "clumsily braids together a half-dozen magazine stories" (Christopher Caldwell, the New York Observer). The harshest review comes from Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times, who calls the book "a thoroughly slapdash production—meandering in structure, discursive in tone and highly cursory in its assessments." Overall though, most critics think this is a smart, and probably important, book. (Read an excerpt.)— J.F.

102000_102005_shoppingbag_24x30

To purchase this book from barnesandnoble.com, click here

112000_112855_bluediary

Blue Diary, by Alice Hoffman (Putnam). The biggest bone critics pick with Hoffman's latest novel is the overabundance of intricate horticultural descriptions that "actually choke the novel" (Janet Maslin, the New York Times). A "warm and fuzzy account of a sociopathic murderer" (Laurie Stone, the Washington Post), the tale could have potential: Jorie Ford's perfect marriage in a picturesque small town crumbles when she learns of her husband's past rape and murder of a young girl. But Jorie doesn't learn much in figuring out whether she can forgive her husband; she simply arrives at "the earth-shattering realization that rape and murder are very bad things," and the dramatic potential is wasted (Erik Tarloff, Slate). (To read Slate's "Book Club" discussion of Blue Diary, click here.)— M.C.

102000_102005_shoppingbag_24x30

To purchase this book from barnesandnoble.com, click here

112000_112854_coldcase

A Cold Case, by Philip Gourevitch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Tempered praise for this true-crime tale of a detective who refuses to let an unsolved murder case die. Most critics commend the author for his restrained tone and his focus on character and context over narrative tension. They say the "details dazzle" (Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly). Everyone points out that the book is physically lean, and a few suggest it reads like a "slightly expanded magazine feature" (Luc Sante, the New York Times). Though many reviewers believe a reflective Gourevitch "manages to raise some large, uneasy questions" (Charles Taylor, Salon), a couple of detractors think he makes only "vague, halfhearted stabs at psychological explication" (Sante). (Read an excerpt.)— J.F.

102000_102005_shoppingbag_24x30

To purchase this book from barnesandnoble.com, click here.

In addition to being the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, Joshua Foer is the author of Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which grew out of a story he wrote for Slate.

Laurie Snyder is Slate's copy chief.

Maureen Sullivan is a Slatecopy editor.

Siân Gibby assists in editing the Faith-Based column. She copy-edits for Slate.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.