Summary Judgment

Groupies “R” Us

Goldie Hawn’s “bona fide dingaling charm,’ plus the other best lines from this week’s reviews.

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Secretary (Lions Gate). “For all the dolorous trim, Secretary is a genial romance that maintains a surprisingly buoyant tone throughout,” writes Manohla Dargis in the Los Angeles Times. A few reviewers slam the kinky poster, but everyone gets hot over Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance as a quirky submissive: “There’s a word for an actress who can go from nervous to winsome to raunchy to romantic in a heartbeat and get you to adore her the whole time. The word is star” (Entertainment Weekly). (Buy tickets for Secretary.)

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The Banger Sisters (Fox Searchlight). A “Lifetime TV movie with superior casting” (People) garners reviews peppered with raves for Goldie Hawn’s “bona fide dingaling charm” (Rex Reed, the New York Observer). Enthusiastically defending the film’s spirit of groupie liberation, Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek snarks at “men who have never actually partaken of their favors (some film critics, say)”—perhaps a dig at The New Yorker’s David Denby, who spends his lede deriding such women as “parasites whom no one wanted to see in the morning.” (Buy tickets for The Banger Sisters.)

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The Four Feathers (Paramount). First Oscar buzz, then buzz-kill reviews for this “stiff-upper-lip rouser” suffering from “wheezing fussiness” (Elvis Mitchell, the New York Times). Weirdly, some reviewers view the remake as offensively imperialist, others as politically correct. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Eleanor Ringel Gillespie suggests that viewers “just take it for what it is— action-filled, saber-rattling escapism.” (Buy tickets for The Four Feathers.)

Fastlane (Fox). “A tacky sampler of current clichés inspired mostly by the high-speed movie The Fast and the Furious” (Tom Shales in the Washington Post)—or a “a thrilling triumph of style over substance“? One thread on Television Without Pity asks simply, ” Why are you watching Fastlane? Why?!” (Sample answer: “I knew the ending before it began, and everyone had very nice skin.”)

Firefly (Fox). “In a new season largely bereft of innovative ideas or daring concepts, ‘Firefly’ stands out like a supermodel at a bus stop,” writes Barry Garron in the Hollywood Reporter. Other critics think Buffy creator Joss Whedon’s sci-fi/Western missed the bus entirely—although some of them make factual errors in the process of snarking on the show; the first episode is not an edited version of the original two-hour pilot, as Tom Shales suggests. (For my take, read this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.)

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Sea Change, Beck (Geffen Records). Critics lose their religion over Beck’s post-heartbreak conversion to sincerity: “an impeccable album of truth and light from the end of love. This is his Blood on the Tracks,” writes David Fricke in Rolling Stone. Eye-melting metaphor of the week, via R.J. Smith in Blender: “This is folk gone perverse, like a harmonica dipped in Vaseline.” (Sea Change, or listen to clips from the album on MSN.)

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Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday). “There are writers who have a signature mood. What Palahniuk has is a signature posture: recoil,” writes Time’s Richard Lacayo. A few admire this satirical thriller’s “dark comic wallop” (Lance Gould, the New York Daily News), but non-fans are downright cranky: “No matter what eclectic, gritty backgrounds Palahniuk ascribes to them, his characters share the markings of prep school boys gone bad: a sense of entitlement mixed with an almost constant urge to put one over on the world …” (Heather Havrilesky, the Washington Post). (Buy Lullaby.)

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The Birthday of the World: And Other Stories, by Ursula K. Le Guin (HarperCollins). In March, the Boston Globe’s Sarah Smith hailed Ursula K. Le Guin as “one of the great humane fabulists of our day” while the San Francisco Chronicle’s Alan Cheuse said she “sizzles with intelligence, deep anthropology and sex.” In this month’s New York Review of Books, literary big gun Margaret Atwood champions Le Guin and the ghettoized genres she works with: “Within the frequently messy sandbox of sci-fi fantasy, some of the most accomplished and suggestive intellectual play of the last century has taken place.” (The Birthday of the World.)