The critical buzz on Next and Dogs That Changed the World.

Highlights from the week in criticism.
April 27 2007 1:48 PM

What's Next?

The critical buzz on Next and Dogs That Changed the World.

Next (Revolution Studios). Will Nicolas Cage ever find another project worthy of his talents? That's the question on critics' lips after watching his latest, a thriller based on a Philip K. Dick story. In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis sighs, "Mr. Cage remains an insistently watchable screen presence, as even this dopey movie proves." The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris gives Next the benefit of the doubt, noting that Cage is "back with a watchably absurd popcorn flick about a man who can see two minutes into the future." But most critics seem to agree that the movie "comes across like a standard clock-puncher for almost everyone involved," as the Los Angeles Times' Carina Chocano yawns. (Buy tickets for Next.)—D.S., April 27

Dogs That Changed the World (PBS). This Sunday's installment of the two-part Nature series "celebrates the domesticated dog in all its diversity—'hairy, bald, cute, wrinkled, massive, tiny'—and deplores the meddling that has made that diversity possible," notes the New York Times approvingly. The Houston Chronicle raves, "The show is full of intriguing, smart science. ... But the biggest draw is the solid hour of dog charisma." And regarding the show's educational value, the Los Angeles Times muses, "I don't know where my mutt's from, but I will never yank him away from garbage again; instead, I will acknowledge his destiny and DNA and ask him politely to remove his snout from that little pile of God-knows-what."—D.S., April 27

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Zoo (THINKFilm). The consensus on this semidocumentary about a man who died while having sex with a horse is surprisingly open-minded. New York's David Edelstein "quite like[s]" the film—and writes of the zoophiles profiled: "While I find their view problematic … [b]y all means, let them make their case." Variety praises the movie for "investigating the subjective nature of morality," and Slate's Dana Stevens labels it a "lyrical reflection on nature and longing." And although the New York Times' Manohla Dargis criticizes the filmmakers for overselling the case for tolerance, she shrugs off bestiality in the end, asking: "[I]f you eat and wear animals and agree that it's O.K. to torture them in the name of science and beauty, what's the big deal?" Critics also agree, however, that Zoo's artiness is mixed blessing. The New York Post sums it up (in an otherwise disdainful review): "[B]eautifully photographed and very slowly paced."—B.W., April 26

Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show.

Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show (Sony Pictures). Garry Shandling's satirical talk show never gained much audience traction during its six years on HBO in the 1990s—but, as this DVD release shows, critical accolades are another story. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker calls the collection of 23 episodes from the show's second through fifth seasons "one of the most remarkable DVD sets ever released," and notes that in the era preceding The Office and reality television, Shandling's show "made an artistic virtue of playing off what we knew about celebrities on and off camera—how plugged-in we'd become about how the television industry works." In the Boston Globe, Mark Feeney considers the program's lasting impact: "In a sense, Larry Sanders never really went off HBO. The show's spirit— restless, knowing, aggressive —has defined the channel ever since, in drama no less than in comedy." And the Philadelphia Inquirer praises the DVD extras, "in which Shandling chats at length, awkwardly and revealingly, with some of the stars who appeared as slightly skewed versions of themselves on the fake talk show within the show, and as truly skewed versions of themselves in the fake behind-the-scenes comedy." (Buy Not Just the Best of the Larry Sanders Show.)—D.S., April 25

David Halberstam. Click image to expand.
David Halberstam

David Halberstam, RIP. The press mourns the legendary journalist and author, who died yesterday in a car accident at age 73. The Chicago Tribune's Julia Keller writes of Halberstam, "[t]he intensity is what you remember. The passion, the righteous indignation, the savage sense of purpose." Halberstam made his name covering the civil rights movement and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Vietnam War, where the Washington Post recalls that he angered the White House by "sending back dispatches that often varied sharply from the optimistic versions dispensed by the government." Neil Sheehan, a reporter who worked alongside Halberstam in Saigon, told NPR that he remembers a man who was "an original," who balanced personal integrity with a professional mantra: "One has to go for the jugular." He continued, "I never thought I'd lose him and I'll miss him all the days of my life." Summing up his own career in a 2005 commencement address to students at Columbia Journalism School, Halberstam said, "I cannot tell you how rich and privileged a life it has been, and I hope you will each have a comparable one."—P.F., April 24

Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.
Frank Langella as Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.

Frost/Nixon (Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, N.Y.). Critics applaud this play about the 1977 television interviews during which British talk-show host David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) elicited an apology from Richard Nixon. The New York Times' Ben Brantley effuses that, as Nixon, Frank Langella manages "one of those made-for-the-stage studies in controlled excess in which larger-than-life seems truer-to-life than merely life-size ever could." Playwright Peter Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for The Queen, also comes in for praise by the Washington Post's Peter Marks, who notes that Morgan "takes a potent political event and turns it into personality-driven psychodrama. It's an attempt to gin up real events, yes, but as with his portrait of Queen Elizabeth, his rendering of Nixon radiates empathy." Still, the Los Angeles Times cautions that potential audience members shouldn't arrive at the theater with outsized expectations: "It's an impressively complex character study that's superlatively enacted by the leads. Don't expect a neo-Shakespearean history play." (Buy tickets to Frost/Nixon.)—D.S., April 23

Paige Ferrari is a freelance writer and former Slate intern.

Doree Shafrir is the executive editor at Buzzfeed.

Blake Wilson is a Slate contributor and former Slate editor.

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