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Atlas Shrugged still isn't a hit, but at least the New York Times is going to review the new adaptation of Ayn Rand's novel. Too bad the movie's already been out for two weeks.

The Times snub bothered producer John Agliaro, who sunk $20 million of his own money into the project, more than the dismal reviews and tepid box office performance ($3.1 million in receipts since opening on 299 screens on April 15.) "The New York Times gave us the most hateful review of all," Aglialoro told the Los Angeles Times yesterday. "They didn't cover it." In a blog post earlier this week, New York Post chief film critic Lou Lumenick wondered--not unreasonably--if Rand's libertarian message was the reason a left-leaning paper that "deploys a small army of critics to handle even the most obscure releases [didn't] bother to review this particularly newsworthy movie." It's not like the movie didn't play in New York--tickets for the 7 p.m.opening night show at the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 sold out two weeks ahead of time.

Lumenick's Post colleague Kyle Smith--one of the few critics to give the film a semi-positive notice--is now reporting the Times will run a review in tomorrow's paper. "Of course," he writes, "the review will be negative and dismissive, because one of the Times' goals is to be as predictable as it possibly can be."

We're not sure about that. The way we see it, there are three approaches the Times review might take. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Perfunctory  A dry one-column dismissal--similar to the bloodless Saturday morning evisceration of movies not screened for critics that opened Friday--seems most likely. Matters of politics will give way to quips about the crummy CGI effects and cast of unknowns.
  • Meta  Address the delay. What happened? Smith says the paper was invited to a pre-release press screening but declined. True? It's the most interesting and least likely option. If the backstory does comes out, it will be on the editorial page or from the public editor. Plus, tomorrow's a Friday and there are other movies to review. New movies.
  • Venomous  A toss-up between Hey-It's-Not-That-Bad brand of gentle surprise and a full-on pan. The pan gets the nod because all the other reviews have been so lousy. Nobody's found anything to like. The problem is if the potshots seem too gleeful, it'll come across as belated grave-dancing.

If Agliaro's statement that he was scrapping the two planned sequels to the film played any role in the decision, the paper just might want to consider holding the presses. The producer is now telling The Hollywood Reporter the film's bad reviews were just a "nihilistic craze" and that the two follow-ups are back on. He goes on to thank the film's detractors for "revitalizing me with their outrageousness." We can only imagine how great he's going to feel tomorrow.

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