The critic critic

If you only read one movie review this summer, make it Roger Ebert's nightmarishly beautiful "Fantastic Four."

Two thumbs up! Way up!

No. Seriously.

This stunning masterpiece not only radiates refinement from every pica, but evokes a series of astonishing hammer blows to your funny bone. Reading it once is enlightening; reading it twice is an existential tour de force. Mark it "Exhibit A" and close the case file.

Um ... What?

OK, so I have a slight problem with movie critics and their cobble of crit-speak. Hey, one of my best friends is a critic, but it's always seemed like a racket to me - a contest of snarky one-upmanship among a community who vaguely, but ultimately really, really would just as soon see each other dead.

Spelled out as a formula - you love 5 percent, like 10, begrudgingly accept 15, and spend most of your waking hours concentrating on the remaining 70 percent of flicks, coming up with uniquely witty and inventive ways to say just how bad they suck. It's just a lot of sitting in the back of class and picking on the slow kid.

So I like the idea of becoming a critic critic, someone to cut through the swathe. But then again, I wretch at the idea of wading through dozens of film school-style exegeses on why "Wedding Crashers" is a better film than say, "Cannonball Run II," or some thousand-word think-piece on Jude Law as subtextual icon for the fall of the British Empire.

On the national level, I get nervous when I see any sentence that ends with "(insert adverb here) entertaining - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone."

Locally, my head hurts when I try to decipher the Reno News & Review's clearly debauched popcorn bucket icon or read the RGJ's Forrest Hartman telling me that Lindsay Lohan is "cute as a bug" in "Herbie: Fully Loaded," which is exactly what I'd have to be (fully loaded) to sit through the movie in the first place.

Somewhere along the way, movie criticism became more about the critic than the movie. That's fine. There are some great critics out there - Sam Adams of the City Paper in Philadelphia is one.

I'm not saying Johnny Depp and Tim Burton don't deserve public scorn for the silver screen O-ring failure that is the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" remake, it's just that I feel confident enough to know what I'm getting into by going to see "Bewitched" or "The Bad News Bears." I think I can steer clear of "Miss Congeniality 2" on DVD without the benefit of critical consensus.

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There will be plenty of opportunities to listen to music and dance this weekend.

• The Carson City Active 20-30 Club will host a street party from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday on Curry Street behind Mo and Sluggo's. It will feature a live band, barbecue and vendors. For more information, call (530) 545-2639.

• Just down the street, music by Fast Forward will be playing for Fridays @ Third Street's Rock Night. Food and more will be available at 7 p.m. Call 884-4411.

• If you'd rather be inside, Decades Bar and Grille presents '70s Night, 8 p.m. Friday at 1475 Hot Springs Road. It will feature music, dancing, food and drink, prizes for disco king and diva, grooviest dude and chick contest and more. Call 883-8889.

• For a more laid-back, country feel, an Evening of Cowboy Classics and Range Poetry with Dennis Golden and Texas Tom Weatherby will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bowers Mansion on Old Highway 395, Washoe Valley. It's free. Call 849-1825.

• Mix it up with "Opera in Blue Jeans," a free, informal concert from 7-9 p.m. Friday at Bartley Ranch amphitheater, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road, Reno. Call 786-4046.

• And don't miss Bluegrass and Old Time Music on The Comstock at Virginia City's Town Park going on all weekend. Call (800) 889-1240.


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