The critics' take on Impostor, Genesis, etc.

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Jan. 4 2002 1:41 PM

Impossible Impostor

Movie
Impostor (Dimension). Lousy reviews for this sci-fi thriller starring Gary Sinise. "Unless there are zoning ordinances to protect your community from the dullest science fiction, Impostor is opening today at a theater near you," says USA Today. Several critics comment that the film, about Sinise's quest to prove he is not an alien-manufactured cyborg bomb, is of "straight-to-video sci-fi rental shelf" quality (Desson Howe, the Washington Post). Particular complaints include the implausible plot, difficult-to-follow action scenes, and even shoddy camera work. "Impostor offers a dark view of the future—a badly lighted one, that is," zings the New York Times' A.O. Scott. The film's lone defender is, of course, Uber-blurbmeister Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times. Writes Thomas in his trademark borderline-incoherent style: "Director Gary Fleder, his writers and crew persuasively project a world in which much of the planet is guarded by electromagnetic force-field domes to protect it from a decade-long attack by aliens. …Ultimately, [the movie] evokes a pervasive feeling of uncertainty that lies at the heart of the human condition." (Click here for information on Philip K. Dick, whose short story was the basis for this movie.)—B.M.L.

CD cover

Music Bright Flight, by the Silver Jews (Drag City). Measured optimism for this latest opus from the inspired indie-rockers. Missing former front man and Pavement vocalist Steve Malkmus, Bright Flight lets shine the talent of leader David Berman, an "indispensable writer for this irony-drenched generation" (Martin Edlund, the New Republic Online). Berman "serves up more of what we've come to expect from him: unvarnished prairie licks and poetic lyrics that marry provincial and spiritual themes to incidental ones" (Raymond Cummings, Baltimore City Paper). "Recorded in Nashville, this 10-song set leans toward that city's gold sounds, as evidenced by a number of countrified tracks" (John D. Luerssen, Bllboard). But critics say the songs reach further than Nashville, remaining "devastating and reviving in their ability to transcend time and place" (Kathleen Wilson, the Stranger). (Read an excerpt from Berman's "Diary of a New York Art Museum Security Guard," published in Baffler #6.)— A.B.

CD cover

Genesis, by Busta Rhymes (J Records). "You'd have to go way back to Screamin' Jay Hawkins to find another performer with Busta Rhymes' macabre mix of Godzilla-size theatrics, playfully demonic persona and volatile intensity," says Rolling Stone's Barry Walters. And that seems to be the general consensus on the rapper-cum-actor's fifth album, with only a few detractors, including Neil Drumming of the Washington Post, who calls it "sonically calculating." Most disagree, though: "Rehashing hip-hop cliches in almost gothic, lean-yet-tricky soundscapes sculpted by Dr. Dre, the Neptunes, et al," Rhymes still seems "tough, profane and sometimes OutKast-goofy, as when spoofing TV psychic Miss Cleo" (Natalie Nichols, the Los Angeles Times). Busta's main critiques: 1) "a few monotonous moments"; 2) "vocal calisthenics that verge on trendy" (Malcom Veneable, Entertainment Weekly); and 3) an inability to sustain a high level of energy for the entire album (Renee Graham, the Boston Globe). (Click here for the lyrics to Busta's hits.)—A.B.

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

Adam Baer is a culture critic for the New York Sun and contributor to the New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, and Slate, among other publications.

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