Summary Judgment

X-Men­ Axed


X-Men (20th Century Fox). From director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) comes a movie adaptation of the popular futuristic Marvel Comics series about a race of mutants who coexist with humans. The consensus is glum: It’s “the most disappointing movie in a summer season full of disappointments” (Andy Selier, USA Today). Reviews complain that there are too many mutants to keep track of and that the film is “[c]lumsy when it should be light on its feet … [it] takes itself even more seriously than the comic book and its fans do, which is a superheroic achievement” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). The Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter writes one of his sourest reviews to date, complaining that “the ‘mutations,’ ” such as Storm’s ability to control the weather, “simply defy all known laws … how would she get a ‘mutation’ like that? That would be a miracle, not a mutation.” No, actually it would be a comic book character. Ever heard of Batman and Spiderman? (Click here to visit the official site.)

But I’m a Cheerleader (Lions Gate Films). Despite some kind words for stars Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall, no critic gets fired up about this campy flick about a teen-ager shuttled off to a ludicrous deprogramming camp intended to rid her of her homosexuality. Those who go easy on it think that “with its crushingly obvious idea” it “belongs to that growing category of film best described as ‘It Would Have Made a Great Sketch on Saturday Night Live’ ” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). Those who body-slam the movie call it a “poisonously smug, one-joke indie comedy” and a “jejune fantasy of prison-camp homogenization” (Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly). Or as David Edelstein writes in Slate, “The notion of drilling befuddled homosexual kids in senseless heterosexual rituals should be a sure-fire hoot,” but instead the movie ends up as “a kind of Moral Majority minstrel show, a high-camp gay revue sketch, and the point of view is so sniggeringly one-sided that the picture has no tension. But I’m a Cheerleader is lazy counterpropaganda.” (Click here to read the rest of Edelstein’s review.)

Praise (Strand Releasing). Excellent reviews for this small festival-circuit film that has been getting major media attention. There’s almost no plot; the movie simply follows a pair of mismatched lovers through the trajectory of their relationship. The “slow, intimate” film “turns out to be a dissection of vacuousness—a stunningly rich one” (David Edelstein, Slate). The acting is “refreshingly bold” and the movie “projects a confessional frankness about human relationships that has the messy feel of truth” (J. Hoberman, the Village Voice). It’s “so vivid you can smell the anxiety pouring off the lovers’ flesh. … It’s Tennessee Williams with the ragged heedlessness of post-punk. … [I]t has the apparently aimless feel of a bad love affair of youth. … Pungent, poignant and full of honest sentiment” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). (Read David Edelstein’s review in Slate.) 


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic). With one exception, early reviews for the fourth installment of the Harry Potter series say the book lives up to the hype preceding its arrival. Almost twice as long as its predecessors, the novel showcases Rowling’s “astonishing inventiveness in describing new wizardly wonders” (Paul Gray, Time) and deals with increasingly grown-up themes as Harry gets older. This novel includes the death of one character (though no reviewer reveals which one) and a date for Harry. Adding layers of wonder to “the already witty, madly colorful portrait of Hogwarts life,” the author “achieves her most lucid, well-plotted and exciting conclusion, complete with a spectacular wand-on-wand confrontation” (Janet Maslin, the New York Times). One critic dissents, saying the book feels sloppy and rushed: “This installment has the telltale loping pace and paper-chewing verbosity that best-selling authors develop when they try to write a book a year. … Rowling seems to be getting more like a Gothic Dean Koontz and less like C.S. Lewis with every book.” The worst insult? The novel is just “Sweet Valley High with wizard wands” (Deirdre Donahue, USA Today). (Click here to read Judith Shulevitz and Jodi Kantor discuss the book, and here to read A.O. Scott and Polly Shulman on why grown-ups love Harry Potter.)


Notorious K.I.M., by Lil’ Kim (Atlantic). Wildly diverse reviews for the hotly anticipated sophomore album from the Queen Bee of hip-hop. Some think the album is “infectious, and will have clubs to from New York to Los Angeles rocking all night” (Rashaun Hall, Billboard); this camp thinks it’s an improvement over Hardcore (1996), even without the help of her late mentor, the Notorious B.I.G. While still aggressively sexual, on this album “Kim tones down the lyrical orgasms just enough to display her vastly improved emcee chops” (Ron Hart, CMJ). But others pan the album outright: Time’s Christopher John Farley calls it “a bomb. It’s the Battlefield Earth of this summer’s rap albums.” (Click here to read a profile of Lil’ Kim in Vibe.)