Six Picks for the Week of May 23-29

  • Publish Date: May 22, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 11 user comments

The Tree of Life Read Reviews
In theaters Friday

Though reaction at the film's Cannes premiere last week was surprisingly mixed, American critics have been unequivocal in their praise so far for the latest film from director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line). In development for many years (and post-production alone for three), the meditative, elliptical, and challenging Tree of Life centers in part on a troubled 1950s-era Texas family headed by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, and their son, played as a grown man by Sean Penn. We don't want to spoil too many details for those of you who are planning to see the film (not that plot is its major emphasis), but let's just say that the scope of this ambitious drama, while narrow in the number of characters to whom it devotes much of its running time, is broad enough to encompass the creation of the entire universe.

There are two ways through life; experience them both at the official website.

Born This Way by Lady Gaga Read Reviews
New album in stores Monday

What makes pop star Lady Gaga's many achievements -- including five Grammy Awards and sales of more than 15 million units -- especially impressive is that, up until this week, she had just one album to her name. (Technically, 2009's The Fame Monster 77 is just an EP.) Not anymore. Arriving Monday, her second studio album Born This Way already looks like a sure hit; the title track became iTunes' fastest-selling single in history when it was released earlier this year (and also has earned the ultimate mark of success: a Weird Al parody). Though a few critics are complaining about a lack of focus -- not unexpected for a lengthy record that veers from techno and pop to Springsteen and Queen -- reviews for the new album so far are generally positive.

Get a glimpse of Gaga's poker face at her official website, or watch her recent "3-Way" with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg.

The Hangover Part II Read Reviews
In theaters Thursday

While Warner Bros. hopes for a repeat of the original film's record-setting $467 million take, comedy fans are simply hoping that it isn't too much of the same thing. Getting an early jump on Memorial Day weekend with a Thursday release, The Hangover Part II sends returning stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis to Bangkok, Thailand, where they once again wake up unable to remember the details of a night of debauchery. Ken Jeong and Mike Tyson also return for director Todd Phillips, though a cameo role once intended for Mel Gibson (and then Liam Neeson) is now filled by Nick Cassavetes.

The wolfpack is back at the official site.

Oprah's final episodes
Monday through Wednesday; consult your local listings

After 25 years, Oprah Winfrey is wrapping up her eponymous talk show with three truly star-studded episodes, concluding with Wednesday's grand finale. Monday's and Tuesday's installments were taped at Chicago's United Center last week in front of 20,000 fans, who were treated to appearances by the likes of Michael Jordan, Beyonce, Tom Hanks, Madonna, and Tom Cruise. What will happen on Wednesday's series-ender is still anyone's guess; we're still holding out hope that she gives everyone in America a car.

Celebrate Oprah's long goodbye at her official website.

Demolished Thoughts by Thurston Moore Read Reviews
New album in stores Tuesday

Ever-prolific Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore has a great deal of solo work to his name, but hasn't released a true solo LP since 2007's Trees Outside the Academy 77. That changes with the arrival of his fourth solo album Demolished Thoughts, which was produced by Beck and recorded mostly in the latter's California studio. Don't expect Sonic Youth-style feedback excursions, though; the music here is mellow, largely acoustic, and often folky, and many tracks include strings.

Stream the entire album at NPR prior to its Tuesday release, or listen to the song "Circulation" below:

Too Big to Fail Read Reviews
Made-for-television movie debuts Monday at 9pm on HBO

HBO has assembled an impressive cast for this dramatized look at the recent financial meltdown, based on the nonfiction book by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin. Premiering Monday, Too Big to Fail features William Hurt as treasury secretary Henry Paulson, Paul Giamatti as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, and Edward Asner as billionaire and Dunder Mifflin applicant Warren Buffett, while Bill Pullman, Billy Crudup, Topher Grace, James Woods, Cynthia Nixon, and Tony Shalhoub also star. The film is directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), and reviews are generally strong so far, though not quite at the level of recent financial crisis documentary Inside Job.

Get bailed out at the official HBO site.

Closing the book on last week

#1 Movie Weekend Box Office Champion (Estimated, U.S. only; source:
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 46 $90.1 million; 1st week at #1
#1 Album #1 Album on Billboard 200 (Source: SoundScan)
Adele: 21 76 8th week at #1 (4th consecutive)
Top-Rated TV Show Top-Rated Primetime Broadcast Show (Source: Nielsen)
American Idol [Wed] (Fox) 23.0 million viewers; week of 5/9-5/15

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Comments (11)

  • Drayke  

    Oh good, the names contained within the carrots got deleted. Hopefully that quote can still be deciphered. He's first talking about Gaga, then comparing her to Rihanna and Katy Perry, then back to Gaga again.

  • Drayke  

    I could cherry pick several quotes from that same review that would paint a very different picture. I thought the same thing as you though Lin when I first read the review. Then I reread it and started to doubt whether or not the author was being sarcastic. I acknowledge that if the author is serious, he is being extremely over-the-top about his praise. I'm not trying to imply that Gaga's album release deserves to be called "the single most important event which I have had to chronicle on this website" (and that certainly doe sound like sarcasm) but there does seem to be a lot of genuine praise contained in the review. The author seems to be attempting to take some sort of intentionally paradoxical approach to the reviewing the album as a way of representing Gaga's paradoxical approach to music and pop culture. At times it sounds like mocking, and at other times it sounds like very high praise. For example (this is long, sorry), "The attitude of these audiences is different, toward <>, from what it is toward any other of their favorites, and this difference represents the difference in her art. Her audiences are invariably sympathetic, and it is through this sympathy that she controls them. The voice of <> might strike the nerves and thus set the public in motion, but it is no more than a momentary figure or shape, to which the national body conforms. <>, too, makes some immediate claim on our culture, or at least proves a distraction or amusement within it, but only by way of her spectacular gimmicks. Each of these is a kind of grotesque, and their acts are an inconceivable orgy of parody of the human race. If they amuse their audiences as much and sometimes more than <>, no one succeeds so well in giving expression to the life of that audience, in raising it to a kind of art. It is, I think, this capacity for expressing the soul of the people that makes the latter so unique and that makes her audiences, even when they join in the chorus, not so much aroused as happy."

    What the heck is that? It really doesn't sound like sarcasm there. What he's saying there is true about Gaga having the most invariably sympathetic fans. I think just about everyone knows by now how devoted and obsessed the "little monsters" are. Why would he include something like that in a review that's meant purely as sarcasm? Again, I'm not trying to imply that Gaga's album actually deserves to be considered beyond the scope of a 5-star system, but I am implying that the author may actually believe that and, for this reason, this review should count as a special case. It's not exactly of critical importance, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

  • Lin  

    Uhm lol, the Tiny Mixtapes review in not positive by any means. Unless you believe that parts such as "it is not only an inherently democratic work, but also a truly polyglot one, and its linguistic fragmentation reflects the immense panorama of anarchy and futility that is contemporary history" are not sarcasm in all its glory. If you seriously thought it was genuine then wow I don't have anything to say about that, you must really really really REALLY love Gaga.

    The Tiny Mixtapes review is a (seemingly not so) clear, big, fat zero. I'm not saying BTW deserves it, but that's how it is.

  • J.  

    I agree with Drake...but more generally think Metacritics rating system is unnecessarily obtuse. Why not throw out the top 1 or 2 reviews and just average the rest? Or just average them all? The complex system leads to weird and unusable scores where 22 of 28 reviews are over 70 but the Metacritic score is 62? How is that user friendly?

  • Drayke  

    I just wanted to point out the bizarre case of tinymixtape's review of Born This Way. The review gave the album a glowing review (the most resoundingly positive review I've ever read for just about anything, to the point of it being a bit silly) and yet he gave the album zero stars out of five based on the logic that the album is somehow beyond a points system.

    I love Born This Way and think it's a great album, but the tinymixtapes review is quite strange. Is the positive review supposed to be sarcasm or is the reviewer being sincere in saying that Born This Way is too unique to be given a grade? Despite the fact that his extreme praise of the album is so over-the-top, it really does sound like he's being genuine.

    Assuming he is being genuine, I don't think his review deserves to be recorded on metacritic as a negative review, despite its zero score. The review itself is a paradox within the system of metacritic and, as such, I feel it should either be excluded from the album's metascore, or a special note should be made indicating that the review is in fact positive despite the zero stars awarded to the album.

  • Snarkfest  

    Man, the intellectual banter on these articles never gets old! You guys could make snide remarks all day, it's pretty impressive actually! Anyways I'm pretty excited for most Tree of Life.

  • Mayhem  

    Wait, you want them to include Kung Fu Panda 2, because The Hangover Part II might be a simple retread? Did you read your post before you clicked 'Send', The Dude?

  • John  

    how dare Metacritic not cater their article directly to an individual commenter "The Dude"! LOL. Clearly, the reason they are choosing these items as "picks" are because they're making more waves than an animated sequel. I think interest in KFP2 isn't door busting.

  • The dude  

    to Sean: But can't they include it instead of some other stuff; I mean Too Big to Fail seems unimportant to me, and The Hangover might be just a simple retread.

  • Sean  

    >Hey! Where’s Kung Fu Panda?

    Not here... because it's not a pick. You realize more than 6 things are released this week, right?

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