Summary Judgment

Pretty Woman, Lame Movie


Runaway Bride (Paramount Pictures). Director Garry Marshall scored the first time he paired Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, in 1990’s Pretty Woman, but he flounders on this outing. Critics complain about the trite story line–Roberts plays a young woman who has a habit of leaving her grooms waiting at the altar–and the lack of chemistry between the stars. Maureen Dowd notes in the New York Times that Runaway Bride marks the “flatlining” of the traditional romantic comedy and the birth of a new genre: the unsympathetic heroine comedy (see also: My Best Friend’s Wedding and Four Weddings and a Funeral). A few critics come to its defense. Janet Maslin (the New York Times) serves up a remarkably bland, neither-here-nor-there review: “[Mr. Gere’s] and Mr. Marshall’s reunion with Ms. Roberts guarantees a comedy that’s easy on the eyes and dependable in the laugh department.”The New Yorker’s David Denby also pronounces the film passable: “Although the movie dawdles and repeats itself, it is often charming.” Denby even goes against the conventional wisdom, contending that “the Gere-Roberts connection is still alive.” (Click here to check out a site devoted to Roberts and here for one devoted to Gere.)

Twin Falls Idaho (Sony Pictures Classics). This David Lynch-ian film about a love triangle involving a pair of conjoined twins and a prostitute provokes a fittingly dual response from reviewers. (Ratcheting up the weirdness is the fact it was written and directed by a pair of non-conjoined identical twins.) Some find it “spellbinding,” with “a solemn eroticism [that] sometimes recalls The Elephant Man” (Joe Morgenstern, the Wall Street Journal). Others say the “slapped-on eeriness peels away to reveal little more than simplistic dramatic ploys” and that it is “neither weighty nor as weird as it would like to think” (Dennis Lim, the Village Voice). The balance tips slightly in the film’s favor: The New York Times’ Maslin writes that the film “has style, gravity and originality to spare … dwells as hauntingly in loneliness as it does on never actually being able to be alone.” (Click here to visit the film’s official site.)


Talk. Just about every possible media outlet covers the premiere of Editor Tina Brown’s new magazine. Time devotes more than a page, Newsweek just less than one, each featuring a photo of Brown and the cover of the first issue. The early response is surprisingly kind: Conventional wisdom has held that everyone was waiting to knock Brown off her cloud, but there are notably few scathing condemnations or laudatory pieces about the magazine in the news today. Instead, reports focus on the phenomenon of Brown’s buzz machine and the celeb-studded party she threw Monday night, which Madonna described as “so much fun, I loved it” in the New York Post. As for the prospects of the magazine, most agree that “if anyone could dust off the genre [of a general interest magazine], it’s probably Brown” (Margaret Carlson and Stephen Koepp, Time). (Click here to check out Talk’s official Web site. Click here to read last week’s “Summary Judgment” on early Talk hype.)


A Certain Age, by Tama Janowitz (Doubleday). The brittle, shallow, single, gold-digging, thirtysomething protagonist of Janowitz’s latest hate letter to Manhattan is pronounced so unpleasant as to make the entire novel (which follows her search for a suitably rich and connected husband) quite a drag: “A hateful heroine and a catalog of conspicuous consuming do not an amusing read make” (Elizabeth Gleick, Time). “One of the least likable characters in modern fiction history. More self-obsessed than Portnoy, more marriage crazed than Bridget Jones, this skinny blond twit is truly horrid” (A.J. Jacobs, Entertainment Weekly). The closest thing the novel gets to a positive review is a one-line mention in a National Review roundup of new books on single women: David Klinghoffer writes that the novel is “darkly funny.” (Click here to read an excerpt from the book and here to listen to an interview with the author.)

Run Catch Kiss, by Amy Sohn (Simon & Schuster). New York Press sex columnist Amy Sohn turns in a first novel about … a New York-based sex columnist and her wild shenanigans with men. Critics are more amused than impressed: “One reads … with equal parts astonished admiration and mounting horror at the calculated brazenness of it all” (Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times). Clarissa Cruz (Entertainment Weekly) finds that parts of the dialogue are “laugh out loud funny,” but overall it’s “a frivolous read that’s far more titillating than scintillating.” More biting reviews say it’s yet another in the recent rash of single-girl-in-the-city novels, just a “wobbly attempt to follow in Bridget Jones’s Manolo Blahniks” (Yahlin Chan, Newsweek). (Click here to read an interview with the author.)


Get Skintight, by the Donnas (Lookout!). This foursome of female juvenile garage rockers gets solid reviews for its third album. “These bad-ass ladies roll out rude, Ace Frehley-inspired guitar hooks at a feverish rate, capturing the rebellious, mischievous and instantly gratifying rock ’n’ roll spirit of teenage trash culture” (Glen Sansone, CMJ). As all members of the band are under legal drinking age, the lyrics touch on subjects such as driving around on the neighbor’s lawn, hanging out by the Slurpee machine, and looking at cute guys. On the downside, the band relies heavily on its predecessors, and some songs sound lifted directly from the Ramones, the Runaways, and Mötley Crüe (they also cover the Crüe’s “Too Fast For Love”). But most critics don’t sweat the album’s derivative tendencies, pointing out that this kind of music isn’t supposed to be blazingly original, it’s supposed to be fun. “A timeless burst of renegade teen spirit” (Steve Dougherty, People). (Click here to find out more about the band on its official site, and here to check out the “I have a crush on The Donnas” Web site.)

Snap Judgment


Out of Business, by EPMD (Def  Jam). Critics praise the Long Island duo’s latest offering as “their best album since 1990’s Business As Usual” (Rob Hart, CMJ). Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s music is up to their usual high standards, but even more impressive are their lyrics, which “weave together tapestries of obscure pop-culture references and rap history homages that could keep lesser rhymers in business forever” (Matt Diehl, Entertainment Weekly).