Summary Judgment

“I See Dead Quaids”


Frequency (New Line Cinema). After griping about the plot’s inconsistencies, critics admit how much they enjoyed this Sixth Sense-ish thriller starring Dennis Quaid: “As preposterous as it is, the story sucks you in” (Michael O’Sullivan, the Washington Post). The slightly sappy time-warp tale follows a depressed New York cop (Jim Caviezel) who discovers that he can speak with his dead father (Quaid)—back in 1969—over a ham radio. Their communication sets off a chain of events that changes the future, but the heart of the movie isn’t the sci-fi element; it’s the appealing idea of “hearing the voice of a father who you thought you would never hear again” (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times). (Visit the official site.)

Where the Heart Is (20th Century Fox Film Corp.).So-so reviews for “one of the chickiest of chick flicks in ages” (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today). Adapted for the screen from the best-selling Oprah’s Book Club novel, the movie features Natalie Portman as a pregnant teen-ager recently ditched at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart by her boyfriend while on a cross-country trip. After camping out in the Wal-Mart, Portman ends up giving birth in the store and becomes the darling of the town, which seems to have more “noble poor folks than in all the books of John Steinbeck and Pearl S. Buck combined” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). Ashley Judd plays Portman’s new best friend. This sounds like a hoot, but critics say it comes off as contrived: “Beneath a schmaltzy, cutesy-precious, nakedly heart-tugging surface lurks what could have been an affecting portrait of a nearly illiterate but bright teenager with no family or material resources who discovers how to make something of her life” (Kevin Thomas, the Los Angeles Times). (Find out more about Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman.)

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (Universal Pictures). “Think of every possible pun involving stones, rocks and prehistoric times, and link them to a pea-brained story that creaks and groans on its laborious march through unspeakably obvious, labored and idiotic humor” (Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times), and you get the idea of what this second installment of live-action feature films based on the animated TV series is like. The movie is “excruciatingly lame,” and some say “it’s hard to shake the impression that some of the big-ticket f/x, such as the roller-coaster ride atop interlocked dinosaurs, are just so much product placement for upcoming rides at Universal theme parks” (Joe Leydon, Daily Variety). Here and there a critic pipes up with a line in its defense, but the consensus is clear (if overburdened with its own slightly lame dinosaur jokes): Watching Viva Rock Vegas is “like eating a second helping of underdone bronto burger and being kept awake by the resulting indigestion-induced Dali-esque nightmare” (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today). (Find out more about the original TV series here.)


The Running Mate, by Joe Klein (Dell). Iffy reviews for Klein’s follow-up to runaway bestseller and hype-magnet Primary Colors. Most peg the protagonist as a John McCain clone (straight-shooting Vietnam-vet senator), but a few suggest he’s got a little Bob Kerrey (dates celebrities) thrown in. While “by no means a failure,” this novel about dirty politics “lacks the sharp sting of reality” that made Primary Colors so irresistible (Andrew Ferguson, Time). Some say the book’s shortcomings aren’t really Klein’s fault—McCain is inherently a less rich subject for character study than Clinton was. More pessimistic critics think Klein’s “satiric sense of humor has been submerged, in this volume, in the service of a formulaic Hollywood plot, his keen eye for behavioral tics muted” (Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times). He does have his defenders: George Stephanopoulos writes in Newsweek that “Klein is still a connoisseur of political craft work. His ear is tuned to the shorthand of the Senate cloakroom and Cleveland Park dining rooms.” (Click here to read an excerpt.)


Silver & Gold, by Neil Young (Reprise). No doubt about it—this is “Neil Young at his hushed, acoustic best: simple, romantic, direct” (David Fricke, Rolling Stone). This “sweet, gentle record” is “a meditation on lasting love and growing old gracefully” (Joel Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle), and the understated, peaceful songs are on par with his best work. “All he has done on Silver & Gold is be himself—comfortably, confidently, completely—and he has come up with a low-key masterpiece, easily one of the best albums of his extraordinary 30-plus-year career” (Selvin). It doesn’t knock you over with its genius; instead “the very power of this album is in its strict, deliberate underkill” (Fricke). (Click here to find out more about Young on