Movies Ocean's Eleven (Warner Bros.). This remake of the Rat Pack ensemble casino heist picture purloins appreciative notices. Helmed by last year's Best Director Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh, "this lightweight caper doesn't take itself seriously and hardly expects the viewer to do so either" (Todd McCarthy, Variety). The all-star cast, headed by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, and Andy Garcia, is having fun and is fun to watch. The exception is Roberts, who is saddled with a humorless part. "[T]he most enjoyable thing about the actress' performance is her droll on-screen credit: 'And introducing Julia Roberts as Tess' " (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). At worst, this lark is an "entertaining, instantly forgettable remake" (David Edelstein, Slate). (Click here for information about the original, "amazingly lazy and lax" [McCarthy] Ocean's Eleven, and here to read the rest of Edelstein's review.)— B.W.
The Business of Strangers (IFC Films). Solid notices for writer-director Patrick Stettner's "potent" feature debut, starring Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone). The plot: After a female CEO rehires the underling she canned, their camaraderie is spoiled by the possibility a male headhunter date-raped the assistant's friend. Critics prize the film's steely portrait of corporate America and its attention to the psyche of an accomplished female, "a strange area of dramatic inquiry for a young male filmmaker, particularly in this male- and youth-oriented period" (Andrew Sarris, the New York Observer). Stiles' "focused intelligence" and "frightening bravado" suggest she's "the actress of her generation" (Stephen Holden, the New York Times). And with "eyes alive to every nuance of humor and heartbreak, of rage and regret, Channing reigns supreme" (Travers). (Click here to visit the official Web site.)—A.B.
Final (Cowboy). Mixed reviews for director Campbell Scott's futuristic flick starring Denis Leary as a character who awakens in a hospital "believing he is being prepared for his 'final injection' by the government" and "refusing to surrender to his doctor, as she tries to reassure him and get at the root of his madness" (Seattle Weekly). Critics call the script "a sketchy blueprint for a sci-fi short story distended into a languid day-ward romance" (Jessica Winter, the Village Voice). But Leary's "truculent realness" disarms the "fuzzy" story's "earnest sensibility" (A.O. Scott, the New York Times). In fact, some reviewers even find "the ending subtler and more emotional than one would expect" from such a "cosmically depressing premise" (Andrew Sarris, the New York Observer). (Click here to visit the official Web site.)— A.B.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro (Knopf). Fervid enthusiasm for the 10th collection of domestic rural portraits from "the doyenne of American short-story writers" (Troy Patterson, Entertainment Weekly). Reviewers even cheer its tales' inclusions in both The Best American Short Stories 2001 and Prize Stories 2001: The O. Henry Awards (for more reasons than Summary Judgment can note). Munro "draws characters with an eye for microcomplexities" in "a smooth prose style" that "occasionally bubbles with musical metaphor" (Patterson). Her words "create a world one feels, hears, and sees as natural" with "balance of an inner consciousness so subtly poetic it usually escapes our notice" (the New York Times). And while Munro's thoughts "plumb deep emotional depths," their "stone-and-mortar" interpretations stay "tough and even fierce" (Gail Caldwell, the Boston Globe). (Click here to read an excerpt.)— A.B.
The Rainbow Children, by Prince (Redline). Trigger-happy quick-wits agree this concept album's "bible-thumping sincerity doesn't suit Prince well." The album "finds him trying to work through" his "tangled belief system" via "an epic rock-musical/morality play in which God's chosen, the rainbow children of the title, are anointed to deliver the Good Word about 'The Everlasting Now' " (Marc Weingarten, Entertainment Weekly). But less cynical critics appreciate the disc's "Sgt. Pepper-style pastiche" and "fluid, jazzy vibes" (Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago Sun-Times). In fact, reasons Time's Chuck Arnold, this album's mélange of jazz and gospel flavors renders it "one of Prince's most musical works" even if its "murky lyrics and sporadic narration" sound like Darth Vader teaching Bible study." (Click here to visit Prince's NPG Music Club.)— A.B.