Fracture (New Line). The acting’s the thing in this sometimes-clichéd thriller about an aeronautical engineer (Anthony Hopkins) and the young assistant district attorney (Ryan Gosling) prosecuting him for murdering his wife. The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis muses, “Each actor is playing a pulp type rather than a fully formed individual, but both fill in the blanks with an alchemical mix of professional and personal charisma.” In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers comments that Hopkins and Gosling “go at each other with relish. They’re slumming in this Hollywood hoo-ha, but you can tell they’re loving it.” And writing in Slate, Dana Stevens concurs: “Gosling and Hopkins don’t disappoint, even if the movie does. … [S]omewhere along the way I gave up on following the ostensibly mind-boggling plot and just thrilled to the visible electricity between the two male leads.” (Buy tickets to Fracture.)— D.S.
Hot Fuzz (Rogue Pictures). The British comedy masterminds behind the horror spoof Shaun of the Dead are back with a buddy-cop parody, and critics are guffawing. L.A. Weekly notes that the film “harbors an affectionate (rather than cynical) attitude toward its blockbuster forefathers that sets it miles apart from the recent spate of wan Hollywood parody movies.”Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum praises its sense of fun, writing that screenwriters Edgar Wright (who also directs) and Simon Pegg “just love mucking around in the pond of temperamental differences that separates the U.K. and the States.” And in New York, David Edelstein reflects, “The English have a wellspring of comedy that will never be exhausted: the combination of bestial urges and excellent manners.” (Buy tickets to Hot Fuzz.)— D.S.
America at a Crossroads (PBS). Some critics praise this 11-part documentary series about the social and political repercussions of 9/11, but all seem to find it tedious. Variety boosts PBS for “fulfilling its mandate to broadcast in the public’s interest, at a time when that is too-often blithely associated with whatever interests the public.” But others criticize the network. Slate’s Troy Patterson notes a “deep streak of pomposity,” and the New York Times’ Virginia Heffernan thinks the series plays it far too safe. She writes of one particularly bloodless episode, “[H]ad ‘The Muslim Americans’ put on display the complex warp and woof of Islamic life in the United States, it would not have been the public-service announcement that PBS … was determined to produce.” Meanwhile, Salon labels another episode “a virtual infomercial for Richard Perle” and explains the right-wing roots of the project.—B.W.
The Best Damn Thing, Avril Lavigne (RCA). The Canadian princess of pop-punk gets back to her peppy roots with her third album, following a detour into a mopier realm on 2004’s Under My Skin. The Toronto Star * remarks that Lavigne is “shrewd enough and sufficiently cognizant of her strengths to return to playing the saucy teenager.” The New York Times’ Jon Pareles notes the move as well but complains that the album is “too relentless to be heard end to end”—probably because most of the songs “are up-tempo, with punk power chords atop pep-rally beats and rhymes that are more like cheerleader chants than hip-hop.” But other critics are more forgiving. Entertainment Weekly muses, not disapprovingly, “If the girls of Heathers formed a Runaways tribute band, it would sound exactly like this.” And the Los Angeles Times shrugs, “This isn’t groundbreaking work, but it’s great fun.” (Buy The Best Damn Thing.)— D.S.
Condé Nast Portfolio. The new business magazine hit newsstands Monday, boasting more than 300 glossy, ad-packed pages and a cover image of a gilded Manhattan. Critics mostly like it, though New York notes a lot of industry resentment for what is “possibly the last brand-new, big-time journalistically ambitious magazine ever.” The Financial Times’Alphaville blog find the inaugural issue “rather entertaining,” even if “sometimes the mix seems more Heat magazine does finance, than Vogue meets business.” And the New York Times’ Dealbook praises Tom Wolfe’s 7,400-word rant about hedge-fund managers, loving the “ New Jerkiness” of Wolfe’s targets—and only complaining that he “never fully explicates what all this might mean for American business.” Gawker’s Alex Balk, on the other hand, thinks the magazine has something in common with “those people” Wolfe describes, writing that Portfolio “ reeks of overclass success: fat, healthy, holding up a glass of high-end vodka with a $15,000 watch weighing down each wrist.”—P.F.
Disturbia (Paramount). Director D.J. Caruso reworks Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window into a tale about bored suburban teens, and most critics appreciate the schlocky suspense flick. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott reflects that “[i]nstead of manufacturing elaborate, ridiculous plot twists or imposing overwrought psychological melodrama on a basically absurd premise,” Caruso and his screenwriters “opt for efficient, clever B-movie execution.” And in New York, David Edelstein praises Caruso for “ scar[ing] you silly with a minimum of violence and a few smears of blood.” But others roll their eyes. Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman notes that “unlike Hitchcock’s masterpiece of urban-courtyard fishbowl voyeurism, [Disturbia] is a Rear Window that never bothers to peer into more than one window.” And the Los Angeles Times’ Dennis Lim snipes, “The problem with Disturbia is that for most of the film you’ll wish you weren’t watching at all.” ( Buy tickets to Disturbia.)