Shrek the Third (DreamWorks). Critics guffaw at the latest vehicle for the goofy green ogre (and Mike Myers' voice), though some complain that it's ultimately just empty entertainment. In the New York Times, A.O. Scott reflects that Shrek the Third"feels less like a children's movie than either of its predecessors. (This may be why I liked it better than the others. But then again, so did my kids.)"Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum thinks the film is serviceable as a popcorn flick, noting that it "sticks to the swamp it knows best, in a mild climate of palatable jokes about fatherhood, high school, girl power, and a drug-education program for teens that advises 'Just Say Nay.' " But the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter is not impressed, sighing, "It contains two theoretically self-canceling polarities. It's (a) quite funny and (b) quite bad." (Buy tickets to Shrek the Third.)—D.S., May 18
Brooklyn Rules (ThinkFilm). Alec Baldwin's turn as a Mafia tough guy is, most critics agree, the high point in an otherwise predictable Italian-American mob tale. "Baldwin is so good in the coming-of-age gangster drama Brooklyn Rules that it's like watching a voodoo priest," remarks New York Magazine's David Edelstein. "[But] scene by scene, beat by beat, it offers absolutely nothing new—even that title is a snooze." Indeed, the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Crust says the film "falls into that niche of warmed-over Scorsesean mobster dramas that seems to have become a staple of independent film." Meanwhile, the Boston Globe's Ty Burr gripes that Brooklyn Rules"manages to be both personal and generic." (Buy tickets to Brooklyn Rules.)—D.S., May 18
Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (Nonesuch). Critics grumble that this sixth studio album from the indie A-listers is insufficiently experimental—but they love it anyway. Rolling Stone notes that "the Chicago boys have done another scandalous about-face, retreating to the light, sweetly zonked country rock we all thought they got out of their system years ago." And the New York Times asks, "Where did all the weird noises go?" A rave review in Entertainment Weekly proclaims, "This may be the best Eagles album the Eagles never made." The haters at Pitchfork seem to agree, scoffing, "Sky Blue Sky nakedly exposes the dad-rock gene Wilco has always carried but courageously attempted to disguise." But the PopMatters' reviewer's confession is more telling: "[D]espite my initial misgivings, I've listened to the album more than any other released in 2007 thus far, and there's no stopping in sight." (Buy Sky Blue Sky)—B.W., May 17
Release the Stars, Rufus Wainwright (Geffen). The introspective singer-songwriter—who last year famously re-created Judy Garland's 1961 Carnegie Hall concert—seems to have overwhelmed critics with his fifth studio album. Entertainment Weekly's Gregory Kirschling cautions: "[Wainwright's] ambitions, it seems, are increasingly outsize, and … it feels like a mere pop album can't contain him," and the Boston Globe grumbles, "In place of songcraft and subtlety, there's grandeur and bombast." But the New York Times' Nate Chinen notes that Wainwright "has the uncanny ability to write songs that feel simultaneously forthright and evasive, urgent as well as coy." And the Guardian's Alexis Petridis comments, not disapprovingly, "Every time Wainwright seems on the verge of making a straightforward appeal for the mainstream, he throws a glittery spanner in the works." (Buy Release the Stars.)—D.S., May 16
Law & Order. In a surprise move, NBC renewed all three versions of Dick Wolf's long-running police procedural— Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent—meaning the original series will soon embark on its 18th season. One change: New episodes of Criminal Intent will now air on the NBC-owned USA Network, with reruns showing on NBC. The Los Angeles Times comments that Wolf and NBC execs "cast the move as an inventive solution that would allow them to extract the most value out of the franchise, a network mainstay that has lost some of its pull in the last year." Still, as the New York Times' Bill Carter observes, "The extension of the original Law & Order was especially important to Mr. Wolf because it keeps alive his long-held hope of eclipsing the record of Gunsmoke, television's longest-running drama, which was on the air for 20 seasons." And in the Washington Post, Lisa de Moraes notes that Wolf's insistence that viewers would not see any of the cost-cutting on screen "lend[s] credence to the Wolf-took-a-pay-cut notion, though it was intended to convey the sense that Wolf would not now begin wholesale whacking on CI and the mothership."— D.S., May 14
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