The Bachelor (ABC). "'Jackass' for women," trend-brands the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley. "The guy made the wrong choice," moans Jessica Shaw on Entertainment Weekly. On Television Without Pity, the aptly named Queasy deadpans, "Oh, good. Asshat and Asspants, happy at last." And stranded on her moody blog, former Real World: New York- er Lori becomes paralyzed with envy and contempt: "Hate everything I'm watching, but can't turn off the TV."
Die Another Day (MGM). The New York Times' A.O. Scott goes thumbs up for this "big, noisy blend of globe-trotting, coy sexuality and cartoonish political intrigue, solidly in the Bond tradition."Slate's David Edelstein praises the best Bonds as "cold,"Salon's Stephanie Zacharek as "dirty"—and all three loved this one up till the lame last half-hour. Others are less enchanted, including the Washington Post's sarcastic Christy Lemire—" Explosions! Chicks! Heh, heh-heh," she Beavises—and Newsday's John Anderson, who clucks over how far once-was-an-indie-director Lee Tamahori has fallen. (Buy tickets for Die Another Day.)
Personal Velocity (United Artists). Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman labels director Rebecca Miller's triptych "delicate and humane"; the Onion's Scott Tobias snorts that it's a"watershed of feminist clichés." Still, both loved Parker Posey's performance, and in the Village Voice, Laura Sinagra concurs that only in Posey's "breezy, urbane" segment is "something personal rather than sociological at stake." (Buy tickets for Personal Velocity.)
Friday After Next (New Line). The Onion despairingly compares " the ugliness" of this third Friday sequel to the warm-hearted Barbershop; Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman snarks at its "drab, been-there-smoked-that feeling." But hey, the New York Times' Elvis Mitchell laughed, contextualizing it as "chitlin circuit comedy." And on Africana.com, Bomani Jones likes it OK, shrugging that the series' "last drops are worth sampling, but not enough to make anyone want to pour another cup." (Buy tickets for Friday After Next.)
Scarlet's Walk, by Tori Amos (Sony). This concept album features both "teeth-gnashingly twee flights of fancy" and "bracing catharsis," writes Stephen Thompson in the Onion. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker detects too much of the former, arguing that Amos "conflates Native American oppression, anti-homophobia, the 9/11 attacks, and motherhood with appalling hubris."Blender's critic is more generous, describing her music as "uncommonly rich and unfashionably gynocentric" while "Mrs. Giggles" calls it "a great album from a nobody, but a lousy Tori Amos album." ( Scarlet's Walk.)
Seek My Face, by John Updike (Knopf). The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani continues her spree of hard-core pans, labeling Updike's art-historical novel "a trompe l'oeil that's bogus in every respect." The Observer's Adam Begley complains that Kakutani slights Updike's playfulness and his vivid central character, but most critics shrug, calling the book "a fascinating but not entirely successful hybrid" that "doesn't fly; it sputters." (Seek My Face.)
The Cave, by José Saramago (Harcourt). "[T]he most deeply affecting critique of consumer culture since 'Brave New World,' " raves Ron Charles in the Christian Science Monitor, praising prose that is "fantastically agile, irrepressibly funny, sympathetic, cerebral, and sometimes even corny." In the Los Angeles Times, Benjamin Kunkel touts Saramago's godlike gifts: "generously sententious, warm and wicked, royal in his tone, democratic in his affections." And in the Mexican cultural supplement Arena, Pablo Gámez goes straight for the Kafka ref, calling Saramago's anti-globalism novel "an ax that breaks through the frozen ocean of our consciousness." (The Cave.)