The critical buzz on Bobby and The Fountain.

The critical buzz on Bobby and The Fountain.

The critical buzz on Bobby and The Fountain.

Highlights from the week in criticism.
Nov. 22 2006 11:48 AM

Assassination Evaluation

The critical buzz on Bobby and The Fountain.

William H. Macy and Joshua Jackson star in Bobby.
William H. Macy and Joshua Jackson star in Bobby

Bobby (MGM). Some plaudits, but mostly pans, for Emilio Estevez's re-imagining of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The film, which stars a panoply of big-name actors, "is hit-and-miss as an ensemble drama, but it all comes together in a shattering climax and the Bobby footage gives it a tremendous emotional wallop," proclaims the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Newsweek is less enthused: "It's a star-studded, sentimental panorama that earnestly attempts to encapsulate that traumatic, idealistic time through its 'representative' fictional characters."Entertainment Weekly piles on, calling it "a schoolboy-earnest exercise in nostalgia and tragedy," and in The New Yorker, David Denby is unimpressed with Estevez's efforts: "His script never rises above earnest banality, and we are constantly being taught little lessons in tolerance and humanity." (Buy tickets to Bobby.)

Hugh Jackman in The Fountain
Hugh Jackman in The Fountain 

The Fountain (Warner Bros.). Darren Aronofsky's third film, which he adapted from his own graphic novel, has critics scratching their heads. "The premise is lachrymose, the sets are clammy, and the metaphysics all wet," gripes the Village Voice. The film—a time-traveling love story starring Hugh Jackman and Aronofsky's fiancee, Rachel Weisz—is set in three time periods: the 16th century, the present, and the future. Aronofsky's "commitment to conveying meaning and emotion through painstakingly constructed images also gives the movie a static, claustrophobic atmosphere," sighs the New York Times. The director of Requiem for a Dream and Pi managed to write an "underbaked, incoherent script," says the Chicago Reader, and the Los Angeles Times snipes, "A metaphysical melodrama about the quest for eternal life, it makes a pretty decent case for euthanasia; here is what it's like to long for a swift, merciful end." (Buy tickets to The Fountain.)

Michael Richards on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Michael Richards on the Late Show with David Letterman
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Michael Richards. The actor who played Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld was caught on tape spewing expletives and racist invective at a comedy show in Los Angeles last Friday, in an incident that echoed Mel Gibson's recent anti-Semitic tirade. Yesterday, he apologized on the Late Show, saying that he'd been heckled and lost his cool. Jerry Seinfeld said he was "sick over this horrible, horrible mistake," and comedian Paul Rodriguez said, "Once the word comes out of your mouth and you don't happen to be African-American, then you have a whole lot of explaining." "I think it's clear that he is contrite. His career is all but over and he's certainly worried about igniting some kind of Rodney King-esque race riot," comments the 3 O'Clock in the Morning blog. But not everyone was convinced that the incident means career suicide for Richards. "Michael Richards's vile outburst at a comedy club has done something that his acting has not done— gotten him noticed," the Angry in the Great White North blog chuckles.

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day. Pynchon's newest tome—the first since 1997's Mason & Dixon—weighs in at a hefty Pynchon-esque 1,120 pages, and thus far the critical reception has leaned negative. Michiko Kakutani huffs that it's "a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex." The Austin American-Statesman is reluctantly critical, sighing, "The novel's good bones—a revolutionary father shot down by the bosses, sons sworn to revenge him, the background of the violent West—are covered by so many layers of narrative fat that they almost disappear." One bright spot comes from Publishers Weekly, which calls Against the Day"knotty, paunchy, nutty, raunchy" and notes that readers are eventually rewarded by its complexities. (Buy Against the Day.)

O.J. Simpson's If I Did It

O.J. Simpson's If I Did It. News Corp. has canceled an interview with O.J. Simpson and an accompanying book titled If I Did It that was to have been published by ReganBooks, an imprint of the company's HarperCollins publishers, after outrage within and outside the company. "It was the public's passion to this day that News Corp. badly underestimated," notes the Chicago Tribune. Many also observed that the cancellation of the book and interview represents what the Financial Times calls "a rare response to public criticism" by News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch, and the Los Angeles Times points out that ReganBooks "had solicited orders from booksellers for If I Did It without revealing the author or subject matter to them, and many booksellers felt duped."

Jay-Z, Kingdom Come

Jay-Z, Kingdom Come (Def Jam). Critics are lukewarm about the end of Jay-Z's short-lived retirement. Muses the Los Angeles Times, "How does a former drug dealer negotiate the upper crust? If only Kingdom Come spent more time with that question." Now president of Def Jam Records, the former Shawn Carter seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis, as the New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh observes: "Back when he was merely a virtuoso, he eagerly portrayed himself as a slick executive. Now that he really is a slick executive, he wants to remind everyone that he is still a virtuoso." The problem with Kingdom Come, according to music Web site Pitchfork, is that Jigga is showing his age (he's almost 37). The album, says Pitchfork, consists of "Jay boringly rapping about boring stuff and being totally comfortable with it." There seems to be no rapper guidebook for how to age gracefully. (Buy Kingdom Come.)

Sony's PlayStation 3.
Sony's PlayStation3

PlayStation 3. Friday's release of Sony's  PlayStation 3 was the culmination of several days of line-waiting for thousands of diehard fans nationwide, marred by violence (a shooting in line in Connecticut), bad weather, and tedium. But critics are mixed on the new gaming system, which features a Blu-ray DVD player and various other bells and whistles. The New York Times grants that the PS3 is the world's most powerful game console, but says, "It falls far short, however, of providing the world's most engaging overall entertainment experience."PC World advises against purchasing the console solely for the DVD player, though it deems the movie player "reasonably agile … despite its rough navigational edges." As of now, the PS3 only has 19 games available (though it's backward-compatible with the PS2), leading the Boston Herald to gripe that the machine "promises plenty of headaches for game programmers trying to utilize the new freedom the technology provides."

Courtney Love, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love

Courtney Love, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love (Faber & Faber). The publication of Courtney Love's decades-spanning journals has critics reconsidering their assessments of the singer and former wife of Kurt Cobain. "Yes, she's been a loud, brash, drunk-and-drugged punk-rock princess, but she's also intelligent and fearless, with a lacerating wit," muses Newsweek. "A lot of it is very affecting," allows the New York Times Book Review. Critics seem almost bemused at Love's capacity for self-indulgence, though they grant that it's a rather captivating self they're forced to indulge. As the Guardian puts it: "In the end, Dirty Blonde is like Love herself and her other work: determinedly provocative, captivatingly visual, aggressively honest and ludicrously self-absorbed." (Buy Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love.)