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Criticwatch 2006 – Critics vs. Whores: Where Is The Sky Falling?

by Erik Childress

We’re turning up the heat here over at eFilmCritic and Criticwatch. Thanks to Jim Emerson over at RogerEbert.com, Jim Hill at JimHillMedia.com and other assorted Jims in the media who have taken up the fight themselves or brought more light to our research, we have more watchers than ever. Chalk up some “anonymous” e-mails from those on the list who think they’re fooling us with their freshly made Yahoo accounts and we know someone is listening. You may remember an extensive interview we did last Spring with a film trailer editor who exposed the duplicitous practice of inventing quotes for whores like Earl Dittman and the pages of hyperbole written specifically in the aftermath of the gift-basket junkets. I say “remember” because if you’ve tried to find it the past two months you would have found nada. The reason is that our anonymous source lost his anonymity (nine months after the original publication) and then lost his job. We did our best to protect him by temporarily taking the article down but the damage was done and a family was left without part of their income so an advertising agency can protect the secrets of quote whores and capsule reviewers everywhere. But if we’ve learned anything from Star Wars we know that those who are struck down become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. The cat is out on the bag, so hopefully someone is already taking a chance on an experienced editor only looking to improve the industry through example. But as one man falls, another must be taken down the Chicago way. After all, “fair is fair” as Billie Jean once said.

The first order of business is to reissue the article which has remained in limbo while our source got back up to speed. This way you can catch up on the controversy of revealing not the inside memos about the junketeers, but the tricks of the trade to preview editing that any movie fan worth his salt already has a workmanlike knowledge of anyway. (According to those who let go our source, that is.) Read it HERE. You will notice that Earl Dittman is cast as a chief villain on Whore Island. When this article found new audiences back in December, Dittman was on his way to winning his second consecutive “Whore of the Year” trophy from our site. The first quarter of every year in the wake of the big Oscar season has traditionally become the landfill for studio garbage and, in turn, becomes a breeding ground for the Dittmans and Shawn Edwards’ of Junketworld to really flex their key soundbites for ads across America. Something was very curious about this year’s early months though – Dittman wasn’t seen as much.

At least not in the ads. Last year, through February, Dittman had already compiled 11 fluffy quotes for films as cherished as Cursed and Son of the Mask. As of March 2006, Dittman had only grabbed a mere three. Still three more than he should, but down a significant number. Not to disappear into complete obscurity, the marketers for the Weinstein Co. placated Dittman with a pair of quotes for Lucky Number Slevin and Scary Movie 4, a film which the freshman studio in its infinite wisdom put out a nationwide decree to its local agencies not to allow online critics access to its late Wednesday night screenings. Yet that didn’t stop them from getting easy-to-use quotes for the Sunday papers five days before opening courtesy of a group of people who on the critic food chain (Print, TV/Radio, Online, etc…) rank somewhere well below David Manning who had the good courtesy to never exist.

IS THE SKY FALLING?
It’s hard for studios to ethically justify the barring of any brand of critic when they continue on with junkets that buy off these whores with free trips or at least bet on the sure thing of their graciousness and questionable cinematic tastes. This year has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of films being withheld from critics – and not just onliners. The number has already doubled from the total caveat emptor category of 2005 and a nation of hard-working, well-respected critics have been justifiably concerned. But, alas, anyone paying attention and doing their research will come to realize that the sky isn’t falling on their bread and butter. The studios are just in a stretch of releasing some horrifically crappy features.

Ironically, studios have given an advantage to the various online critics they have for years disrespected and kept at the back of the line. By keeping films from critics usually with a Wednesday deadline for their Friday papers, onliners are granted the opportunity to scoop them by getting something up on their websites by Friday afternoons while the dailies have no choice but to run a (normally) truncated review by one of their flunkies or pick up one by the Associated Press for Saturday. Some have suggested that this is the strategy associated with holding back Silent Hill from the press, a film for the video game and horror junkies who get their news from their favorite websites first. Kind of a bone throw to the internet press if there was really any gravity to that theory. Honestly, if they really wanted our specific support, they would just shitcan the embargoes permanently and just let us post whenever we want. Roger Ebert, a longtime supporter of the internet and many of its critics, showed the power and value of the medium by posting his review of Silent Hill on his website Friday morning, less than 12 hours after seeing the film and a full day ahead of the review being printed in the Saturday Sun-Times.

Bottom line is that if the studios thought their film was any good they would let critics see it. It’s not brain surgery, even if most will tell you most studio employees wouldn’t know a good movie if it didn’t open #1 at the box office. Universal was rumored as believing that critics “wouldn’t get” Slither, so despite an advanced preview at Chicago’s Fangoria convention and a premiere at this year’s South by Southwest film festival, the decision supposedly went down to the wire to give it a press birth. It may not have helped it at the box office, but out of 101 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, 85 have turned up positive for an 84%, 9th-place ranking of all 2006 releases (as of April 19) ahead of even V for Vendetta, Foreign Oscar nominee, Joyeux Noel and 2005 Palme D’Or winner, L’Enfant.

That’s not been the mood out there in the Temple of Dagon though as journalists have feebly tried to make sense of why they are being ignored. In a recent article from the Christian Science Monitor, Stephen Humphries first states the obvious:

The prescreenings are part of a symbiotic relationship between writers and studios that has lasted for almost a century. By showing its latest fare to reviewers, the industry stands to benefit from publicity, especially if critics offer the sort of kudos that can be blurbed for TV and print ads. For critics, the previews are essential if their critiques are to coincide with a film's opening.”

In the same piece, lead Variety columnist, Peter Bart, who over the years has frequently downplayed the role of critics, spoke with the advertising guys and says “The media world is changing, and the people they want to reach are the kids who are looking at MySpace.com and exchanging instant messages about pictures aimed at them. Conventional critics don't matter."

Wow, did Bart see a 20/20 piece about MySpace or something? Maybe by “conventional” he means the more traditional print outlets and is backhandedly suggesting that these instant messagers are getting their info from online review outlets. If so, why do the studios continue to give them the cold shoulder? In Humphries piece, Anne Thompson (deputy film editor at The Hollywood Reporter) plays up the publicity angle of critics being valuable to the studios. "When it's youth movies, studios really don't want their weaknesses highlighted and would rather the critics ignore them. That's going to continue."

Hockey poop,” cries Dann Gire, President of the Chicago Film Critics Association. “Let’s be honest. By ‘youth-oriented,’ we don’t really mean movies designed for the under-25 crowd, do we? No, we really mean ineptly made movies destined to enjoy the shelf-life of unrefrigerated fresh fish,” said Gire who names examples like 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s the Man and the American Pie trilogy as such films that were screened for critics. “The target audience for these films - mostly horror tales and sex comedies - isn’t the issue. It never has been. Quality, or to be more specific, the lack of quality, has always been behind studio attempts to hide their wares from critics.”

Correctamundo Mr. Gire! And we’ve got the stats to back it up. Without counting Scary Movie 4 and its dubious Wednesday evening screenings, here are the stats of the 14 wide releases not screened for critics in order of their respectability on the Tomatometer.

Stats as of 4/26/06
Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (4%) - $15,266,343 (Lions Gate)
Doogal (5%) - $7,410,149 (Weinstein Co. )
Stay Alive (6%) - $22,567,129 (Buena Vista)
Big Momma's House 2 (6%) - $69,920,458 (Fox)
Bloodrayne (7%) - $2,405,420 (Romar)
Date Movie (8%) - $48,368,604 (Fox)
Ultraviolet (9%) - $18,500,966 (Sony/Screen Gems)
When a Stranger Calls (10%) - $47,860,214 (Sony/Screen Gems)
The Benchwarmers (13%) - $48,054,731 (Sony)
Underworld Evolution (16%) - $62,318,875 (Sony/Screen Gems)
Grandma's Boy (17%) - $6,090,172 (Fox)
Silent Hill (23%) - $23,854,873 (Sony)
Madea's Family Reunion (29%) - $63,237,855 (Lions Gate)
Phat Girlz (30%) - $6,447,979 (Fox Searchlight)

(NOTE: Lions Gate’s See No Evil, a horror film with WWE wrestler, Kane, opening May 19 is reportedly not going to be screened in advance for critics.)

HERE ARE THE ONLY QUOTES THESE FILMS GOT
“Bigger, better, funnier than the first one.” (Big Momma’s House 2) – Pat Collins, UPN News
“Better than the original.” (Underworld: Evolution) – Chris Carle, IGN.com
“Explosive entertainment!.” (Underworld: Evolution) – Shawn Edwards
“Genuinely terrifying” (When a Stranger Calls) – Keith Breese, Filmcritic.com
“Hilarious!” (Date Movie) – In Touch Magazine
“Laugh-out-loud funny! An adventure that both kids and adults will love!” (Doogal) – Janet Stokes, Film Advisory Board
“A visual treat from start to finish.” (Ultraviolet) – Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com
“A rousing comedy.” (Phat Girlz) – Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle
“Truly haunting. It takes fear and terror to a whole new level.” (Silent Hill) - Earl Dittman

This is the third time in the last 15 months that Dittman has been quoted as praising a film which was hidden from legitimate critics. His name on the television ad was so small it took five rewinds of the Tivo to catch it.

Now, how bad is it when the friggin' Tyler Perry is nearly the BEST reviewed out of the previous 14 and even THAT didn't crack the 30% barrier - which is half to RT's standard "fresh" recommended territory. Only Phat Girlz managed that feat and director Nnegest Likké has called the film’s box office “simply a disgrace” citing that the black community doesn’t come out to support positively reinforced films about African-Americans. (We shall see when the far superior Akeelah and the Bee opens.) But maybe nobody went to see Likké’s film because few people realized it existed, something that critics can certainly help with. Then again, maybe nobody wanted to see a film about fat chicks.

But, back to the Chicken Littles in the press corps who speculate that as long as these films open to #1 at the box office without the benefit of reviews, their whole lot in life is in jeopardy. After all, that’s already double the amount of films which were hidden from us in 2005. But they should really relax. Only half of those 14 films went on to make any real cash for their studios. THREE of those were sequels to hits. A fourth was a remake with a tag line everyone knows. The fifth was a parody of various hits. The sixth was riding a Napoleon Dynamite wave with a semi-high concept and the seventh was based on a popular video game. Only one of the other seven managed to hit $20 million. These are all facts to our advantage that the sky is not necessarily falling. The studios are just making some incredibly shitty movies - and more often than usual.

And with shitty movies come shitty critics. But it’s just their nature to accept the free stuff. Wouldn’t you? Ethics go out the window for some people at a fairly early stage and for every quote whore who goes by the wayside, there’s another one lurking out there waiting for the opportunity to take their place. So its time to start holding the studios at least partially responsible for giving weight to the junketeers and duping the public with less-than-honorable verbage.

Looking exclusively at the usual suspects on our lists (we’re not about to label anyone a full-on, legs-wide-open, verbal diarrhea whore scum without a pattern of crotch spread), 2005 saw Buena Vista as the studio with the most widely invited whore quotes. It’s all the more impressive considering not one of those 44 quotes were attributed to Earl Dittman or Shawn Edwards. 8 went to Clay Smith, whose sole quote for 2006 is on The Shaggy Dog. Another 7 went to perpetual Buena Vista whore, Jim Svejda, recently the subject of an article at JimHillMedia frequently citing our research about Svejda’s lips pressed firmly on Minnie’s minge.

The second biggest culprit on the list should come as no surprise and probably with some relief to those worried about their recent hide-and-seek practices. Sony (Columbia/Tri-Star/Screen Gems), forever linked to the David Manning scandal, coughed up 39 quotes from the whoo-res in ’05 and they shot right from the top. Dittman, Edwards and PaulunsexableFischer were responsible for 27 of those quotes on films such as Guess Who, Stealth and The Cave. If you noticed, five of the fourteen films not screened in advance for critics this year have come from the Sony library, and I’d be remised if I didn’t divulge that one of the few quotes they used on those particular films came from our own, Peter Sobczynski, on Ultraviolet (“A visual treat from start to finish”) Of course, anyone who has bothered to read Mr. Sobczynski’s prose (who writes more in depth in just one review than Dittman or Maxim’s Pete Hammond do in an entire monthly issue) and still wants to call us the pot to their kettle, is clearly on the pot.

Of the remaining studios, Warner Bros. came in third with 37 quotes, spread quite liberally throughout our entire list. Mark S. Allen is credited the most from them with 5. Paramount was next with 30. Chuck “The Movie Guy” Thomas lead with 5 and Shawn Edwards barely missing the top dog with 4. From there the dropoff really starts. Fox had 22 making Dittman their favorite whore with 5 quotes. Dreamworks had 14 with a full 8 going to Bubbly Bill Bregoli. New Line managed 12, again Dittman being their favorite with 3 quotes, including one for King’s Ransom which was not screened for critics and a full year later is still waiting for a single critic to post the first positive review at Rotten Tomatoes. That’s right, a whopping 0% out of 42 critics who braved the film to warn others to stay away. After that the list goes: Universal (10), MGM/UA (9), Focus (6) and Lions Gate (6; five of which were from Shawn Edwards).

The most interesting anomaly comes from the companies of your Weinstein Bros. During their waning days with Miramax last year, they marketed their films with 19 quotes from the hooker crix. Dittman and Edwards combined for 13 of those. Then with their freshman debuts from the newly formed Weinstein Co. (Derailed, Wolf Creek, Mrs. Henderson Presents and Transamerica), 8 more quotes from the whores; another 3 contributed by the Dittman/Edwards pairing. This year, Dittman only had a mere 3 quotes to his critic until the back-to-back releases of Lucky Number Slevin and Scary Movie 4, boosting his total to 5. Both Weinstein releases featured hyperbole from Dittman and Edwards and both of them were quoted as calling Slevin “the best thriller of the year.” In the first week of April, with V for Vendetta and Inside Man already in theaters and United 93 just around the corner.

These numbers are only tuned into the junket crowd and don’t include regulars such as Peter Travers, Jumpin’ Jeffrey Lyons, Pete “Happy” Hammond and the two S’s of the morning shows, Joel Siegel and Gene Shalit. It’s sad that critical thinking and snappy writing from print-to-online media have to look up at these smiling bags o’ douche while also fighting off the nagging feeling from those less-researched outlets writing pieces that critics are being marginalized. This is a feature that our website has usually waited until June to publish, but like I said we’re turning up the heat and will be publishing a second article at the end of August when a hyperbolic renaissance is imminent and then announce our annual Whores of the Year in December. As you’ve seen though the horses are already out of the gates, so let’s take a look at the leaders.

PETE HAMMOND (Whore of the Year Odds: 3/5)
I don’t know when Hammond started with Maxim magazine as I don’t go there for my movie reviews, just pretty pictures. But we do know he started getting quoted regularly towards the end of June in 2005 and wound up with a whopping 31 quotes in a mere six months, good enough for a fourth place ranking behind Earl Dittman, Shawn Edwards and Jeffrey Lyons. We’re only through April in 2006 and he’s already been quoted 20 times (in 17 weeks.) Currently ahead of even Roger Ebert and Peter Travers, Hammond is on pace for over 60 – a number only reached by those two. That’s exclusive company. Ebert is the most recognized critic in the world and Travers already has our Whore Award named after him. What is Hammond’s excuse?

“A startling original film! One surprise after another!” (Brick)
“Clever & original. So many twists & turns you may need to see it more than once.” (Lucky Number Slevin)

“Night Watch is unlike anything you’ve ever seen!” (Nightwatch)
“You have never seen a movie quite like Brick.” (Brick)

“Paul Walker's best performance.” (Running Scared)
“Vin Diesel is a complete revelation!” (Find Me Guilty)

“This is what makes you want to go to the movies!” (Inside Man)
“Definitely worth leaving home for!” (Failure To Launch)
“A doggone hilarious treat!” (The Shaggy Dog)

“Thank You For Smoking just might make you laugh your head off.” (Thank You For Smoking)

…and just weeks later

“American Dreamz is the kind of dead-on, politically incorrect satire Hollywood movies rarely attempt anymore.” (American Dreamz)

I’m sorry – wasn’t Thank You For Smoking also a politically incorrect satire? Or, maybe Hammond was just commenting that American Dreamz was released through Universal and Smoking was distributed by Fox Searchlight. Nah, I don’t buy he made that leap in logic. Although logic dictates that for some reason the studios are in love with this guy, despite writing reviews in Maxim that are no longer than the work of Earl Dittman’s. In fact, none of his reviews in April make it to 200 words. CHECK 'EM OUT! But here is where we at Criticwatch raise three eyebrows.

The majority of the films that Hammond has been quoted for just this year are for films that he only gave an average or marginal recommendation to if his 5-star rating system is any indication.

Thank You For Smoking just might make you laugh your head off.” (3 stars out of 5).
Hostel will challenge everything you know about horror films.” (3 stars)
Beyond intense! It will make you sweat. Hard Candy takes us to a place most films don’t dare go…It’s Fatal Attraction for a new generation.” (2.5 stars)
Loaded with laughter - a great date movie! Definitely worth leaving home for!” (2 stars)

That final quote was for Failure to Launch, a film “loaded with laughter that’s DEFINITELY worth leaving home for” nevertheless only gets a meager TWO STARS??? This means either one of two things: (1) The studios are simply pulling out the one positive thing he says about the films and using them in the ads or (2) Hammond is inserting easily identifiable bits of hyperbole to ensure his name and his outlet get top billing along with the movies. The first option, surprising though it may sound, is rarely used by the studios, especially after Mr. Ebert made strong objections to getting quoted for films he gave the thumbs down to. If we consider 3/5 to be just average (as we do at this website), then Hammond has been quoted three times for films he gave a below-average rating to (Failure To Launch, Hard Candy & The Shaggy Dog) and, at least, another SIX times on films that were right-down-the-middle wholly average. If you look at his review for Failure To Launch, you will notice that the words “a great date movie” or “definitely worth leaving home for” are nowhere to be found. This suggests that either the studio (Paramount) is making up quotes for Hammond themselves (which he would have to approve) or he’s giving them extra quotes on the side specifically to use for the ads. Either way, not even the sight of a character named Peter Hammond getting the crap kicked out of him by Clive Owen during Inside Man is enough retribution to satisfy us.

JEFFREY LYONS (Whore of the Year Odds: EVEN)
Jumpin’ Jeffrey was Pete Hammond before even he was, and his power has been growing. I don’t know if he’ll have enough in the tank to out-whore Hammond, but with 16 quotes already there’s no reason to believe he won’t hit 50 again. Lyons, like Dittman we believe, is utterly convinced that his carefree recommendations are just snazzy. Ever see his Top Ten list of 2005?

10. The Constant Gardener
9. March of the Penguins
8. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
7. Grizzly Man
6. The World's Fastest Indian
5. Millions
4. King Kong
3. Good Night and Good Luck
2. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
1. Mrs. Henderson Presents


How’s that for a 1-2 punch? Does Lyons just resign himself to being the voice of old ladies everywhere? Maybe that’s why he’s become accustomed to repeating himself so they can finally hear him.

(2006) “You will be totally engrossed.” (Tsotsi)
(2006) “A very absorbing, engrossing saga.” (Don’t Come Knocking)
(2004) “A warm and absorbing story” (Spanglish)
(2004) “Intense, intelligent and deeply absorbing...” (Kinsey)
(2006) “A deeply moving version of one of the most legendary love stories of them all.” (Tristan & Isolde)
(2006) “A deeply moving, absorbing, fiery romantic story!” (Ask the Dust)
(2005) “The performances are so powerful that they will touch you deeply.” (The Notebook)
(2004) “A wonderful, heartfelt, intelligent, deeply touching movie.” (The Sea Inside)

(2006) “Flat-out hilarious.” (Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World)
(2006) “Flat-out amazing.” (The Wild)

(2006) “A wonderfully funny surprise” (Hoodwinked) (Released January 13)
(2006) “One of the first big surprises of the year.“ (End of the Spear) (Released January 20)

(2006) “Enticing, exhilarating and enormously entertaining..” (Take the Lead)
(2005) “An enormously entertaining thriller.” (The Island)
(2005) “An enormously entertaining film.” (Nola)
(2004) “…inventive and enormously entertaining.” (Shark Tale)
(2003) “It’s enormous fun.” (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
(2003) “Enormously funny.” (Elf)
(2003) “Enormously funny!” (The Cat in the Hat)

(2006) “Superbly acted and intensely moving.” (Don’t Tell)
(2006) “Superb! An incredibly touching, passionate family saga.” (The Lost City)
(2006) “A superb performance by Queen Latifah.” (Last Holiday)

You know, he surely loves that word “superb.”

“The best family film of the year. Superb.” (Two Brothers)
“A brilliant meshing of animation, live action and superb computer effects…” (Looney Tunes: Back In Action)
“...superb, brilliantly conceived...” (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow)
“Absolutely superb!” (Ned Kelly)

“A superb film noir-type thriller” (Spartan)
“A stunning and superb thriller!” (I'm Not Scared)
“An intelligent and effective sequel to a superb horror film.” (The Ring Two)

“Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are superb.” (The Constant Gardener)
“Stunning, shocking, superbly acted…” (Thirteen)
“Extremely powerful & superbly acted.” (Conspiracy of Silence)
“Full of atmosphere, superb performances and an aura of darkness at every turn.” (City of Ghosts)
“Kevin Spacey gives a superb performance” (Beyond the Sea)
“Kevin Kline gives a superb performance as usual.” (De-Lovely)

To quote Beautiful Girls - “It really was superb, Tracy.” YOU HEAR THAT, GRANNY???!!!


SHAWN EDWARDS (Whore of the Year Odds: 2-1)
The whore that won’t go away is in many ways far more nauseating than Earl Dittman. The boys over at FilmSnobs.com justifiably go after Edwards the way we have the Ditt and recently awarded him their 4th Annual Jay Sherman Award. Yes, the man who once nominated DMX for Best Actor in the Kansas City Film Critics Circle quit last year citing them as “clubby” and “unprofessional.” If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, it’s certainly beyond screaming “Uncle Tom.” You want to know how much of a self-promoting anal slut Edwards is? Fox affiliate WDAF does not pay him for anything he does for them. Allow me to repeat that as it’s pretty telling. EDWARDS DOES TELEVISION ON THE OLDEST STATION IN KANSAS CITY AND GETS NOTHING EXCEPT THE SELF-PROMOTING EXPOSURE!!! Why would anyone offer their services on TV (where I’m told “the real money” is) and not barter for a paycheck? That’s because no one would pay to have his smilin’, suck-(for-a-buck)-up-to-celebs whorin’. Kinda funny considering Edwards has equated himself to Roger Ebert. Surely, his price should be skyrocketing since studios put so much weight in what he has to say. Even CBS News pays Bill Zwecker for his gossip report and reviews in Chicago. I think.

(2006) “Audiences are going to love this movie.” (Last Holiday)
(2004) “Audiences are gonna love this movie.” (13 Going On 30)

(2006) “Perfect family entertainment!” (Nanny McPhee)
(2005 – May) “This comedy is perfect for the entire family!” (Kicking and Screaming)
(2005 – January) “A family film that's perfect for everyone.” (Are We There Yet? )

(2006) “A totally off-the-hook crowd pleaser.” (ATL)
(2003) “Totally off the hook!” (Dysfunktional Family)

(2006) “The best Scary Movie yet!” (Scary Movie 4)
(2003) “The best slice of pie yet!” (American Wedding)

(2006 – April) “The best thriller of the year.” (Lucky Number Slevin)
(2005 – August) “The best thriller of the year.” (The Skeleton Key)

GET READY TO BE MOVED…BY SHAWN EDWARDS
(2006) “Moving and gripping!” (Freedomland)
(2006) “One of the most powerful and moving films I've ever seen.” (Tsotsi)

THEN – LESS THAN TWO MONTHS LATER
(2006) “The feel-good movie of the year.” (Kinky Boots)

AND A FEW WEEKS LATER
(2006) “The most moving and memorable film of the year.” (United 93)

WATCH OUT WHEN HE CALLS SOMETHING EXPLOSIVE – ESPECIALLY FROM SONY
(2006) “Explosive entertainment!” (Underworld: Evolution)
(2005) “A deliciously explosive thrill seeker's delight!” (XXX: State of the Union)
(2004) “An explosive masterpiece tailor-made for those who love ultra-cool high energy action!” (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)

AND JUST BECAUSE IT’S MY FAVORITE
“A stunning masterpiece that is destined to become a timeless classic.” (Ray)

…EIGHT UNIVERSAL STUDIO RELEASES LATER…
“A masterpiece destined to become a timeless classic.” (Cinderella Man)


EARL DITTMAN (Whore of the Year Odds: 3-1)
Truthfully, the odds should probably be lower (or higher, depending on your racetrack vocabulary) – but a two-years running Whore of the Year recipient counts for something. He had only three quotes through March, but thanks to the Weinsteins and Sony, he managed another four in April. Still well below his average (he had 16 during the same period in ’05), with the denial of a large chunk of whore-worthy flicks out there, Dittman has been given a pipe shot to his legs but has yet to be kneecapped. Here is what the studios have been paying for.

(2006) “Hysterical” (Last Holiday)
(2006) “Hysterically outrageous!” (Scary Movie 4)
(2006) “RV is absolutely hysterical.” (RV)

(2006) “The best thriller of the year.” (Lucky Number Slevin)
(2005) “The best thriller since Seven!” (Mindhunters)

(2006) “RV is wildly original.” (RV)
(2003) “A daringly original film” (Beyond Borders)

(2006) “Heart-pounding!” (16 Blocks)
(2006) “A shocking psychological thriller. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant. He will leave you breathless.” (Freedomland)
(2005) “A shocking nail-biting thriller! It will leave you breathless. ****! A film for movie-goers in search of an intelligent and emotional thriller.” (Derailed)
(2005) “A heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat thriller. It will leave you breathless.” (Into the Blue)
(2003) “Strap yourself in for the ride of a lifetime. A breathtaking, white-knuckle voyage to the center of pure, unadulterated action and excitement. An electrifying, jaw-dropping action film that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.” (The Core)
(2004) “…filled with one shocking, jaw-dropping plot twist after another! An expertly-conceived psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat...” (Suspect Zero)
(2002) “Electrifying! Jaw-Dropping! It will knock you out of your seat! It’s unforgettable!” (Undisputed)
(2003) “Fasten your seat belt for an unforgettable thrill-ride! A breathtaking, hi-tech cliffhanger with unstoppable excitement” (Timeline)
(2002) “A flawless, breathtaking, terror-filled thriller…A must see!” (Wes Craven Presents: They)
(2002) “The Four Feathers is an exquisite, breathtaking epic! ****! An astounding, unforgettable motion picture...” (The Four Feathers)
(2004) “Tom Hanks is absolutely stunning...It's a remarkable, jaw-dropping acting achievement.” (The Polar Express)

(2004) “A chilling, haunting, nail-biting whodunit...” (Suspect Zero)
(2004) “A haunting supernatural thriller.” (The Forgotten)
(2006) “Truly haunting. It takes fear and terror to a whole new level.” (Silent Hill)


The rest of the junketeering clan you can pretty much serve up as “the field” odds-wise as to who may end up on the Top Ten list. All in all, either the studios are relying less on these people or the 14 unscreened films through April have contributed to whore quotes being down a solid 31% from 2005. Or imagine the third option that the films are just so bad in 2006 that even the whores won’t touch them. Unscreened for whatever reason they may shuffle up, the studios could have got something positive out of these guys and gals. The idea that those within the studio truly know when they have a steaming hot crap taco on their hands gets questioned when they choose to go ahead with screening something like R.V. (currently at 28% on R.T. and the recipient of a Dittman quote.) The next true test will be how well the whores do this summer, a period of expensive studio fare that last year saw a near 9% rise in whorish activities. We’ll be back in September with a full report on The Whores of Summer. It should give Timothy Gray at Variety enough time to put together another shoddy article based on all our research and time. (#1 - #2) But until then enjoy.


THE MUST-SEES OF 2006!
Other than United 93 which is nearly unanimous in it’s “must-see” praise, including this reporter, here are the other must-sees according to the critics.

“A must-see.” (Tsotsi) – Rebecca Rothbaum, O, The Oprah Magazine
“A must-see.” (Tsotsi) - Shawn Edwards
“A must-see.” (Kinky Boots) – Glamour
“A must-see!” (Manderlay) – V.A. Musetto, New York Post
“A must-see film for all ages!” (Eight Below) – Roseann Rogers, NBC-TV/Houston
“An absolute must-see!” (Bubble) – Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
“For anyone worried about what we’re up to in Iraq, this is a must see.” (Why We Fight) – Karen Durbin

“One of the first must-see films of 2006!” (Unknown White Male) – Ethan Alter, Film Journal International
“The year’s first must see movie!” (The Notorious Bettie Page) – Bill Bregoli
“This year’s must-see thriller”(Lucky Number Slevin) – Sam Mann, The Mirror
“…the first truly must-see, laugh-out-loud comedy of the year.” (Thank You For Smoking) – Christy Lemire, Associated Press Canada

FRESH & ORIGINAL

“A work so original that all the usual labels slide right off.” (CSA Confederate States of America) - Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Press
“One of the most radically original comedies in years.” (Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story) – Aaron Mills, Premiere
“An original, engaging comedy!” (When Do We Eat?) – Jess Cagle, People

“A true American original.” (Don’t Come Knocking) – Stephen Farber, Movieline
“A startling original film!” (Brick) - Pete Hammond
“Provocative and captivatingly original.” (V For Vendetta) - Claudia Puig, USA Today
“Clever & original.” (Lucky Number Slevin) - Pete Hammond
“Snazzy and original” (Nightwatch) - Stephen Holden
“Witty, inventive, original.” (Hoodwinked) - Jeffrey Lyons
“RV is wildly original.” (RV) – Earl Dittman

“Fresh and funny. (Failure To Launch) - Kyle Smith, New York Post
“Fresh and unexpected.” (ATL) – Jami Bernard
“Fresh and unpredictable.” (Stoned) - MTV
“A truly refreshing romantic comedy.” (Imagine Me & You) – Cosmopolitan
“On a Clear Day has genuine freshness!” (On a Clear Day) – David Germain


SHORT TRIPS
Dean Richards said on Chicago radio how he hates reviewers who compare one film to another in their reviews. Guess he forgot he called Duplex “Part Meet the Parents and part There’s Something About Mary!” or calling Lucky Number Slevin “this year’s Sin City.” Why? Cause it has Bruce Willis and Josh Hartnett in it?

“Soderbergh’s return to form – the first high-grade wow thing he’s done since Traffic.” (Bubble) – Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
“Sidney Lumet’s best film since Q & A and Prince of the City.” (Find Me Guilty) – Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
"Picks up where Memento and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind leave off." (Unknown White Male) – Ethan Alter, Film Journal International

“Think Being John Malkvovich meets Adaptation as a period piece, and you’re nearly there.” (Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story) – Aaron Mills, Premiere
"…like Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones combined with a vintage Woody Allen movie" (Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story) – Rick Roddick, London Evening Standard
"A blend of Night of the Living Dead and Cronenberg’s The Fly." (Slither) – Matt Singer, The Village Voice
"A cross between In the Line of Fire and The Fugitive." (The Sentinel) – John Devore, The New York Sun
“Think a youthful Tootsie with a dash of Freaky Friday.” (She’s the Man) – Claudia Puig
"Invoking everything from The Godfather to Casablanca…" (The Lost City) – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

"A live-action Little Mermaid..." (Aquamarine) - Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times
"The new Mary Poppins!" (Nanny McPhee) – Melanie Moon
“…It’s Fatal Attraction for a new generation.” (Hard Candy) - Pete Hammond

“The sweetest treat since Princess Diaries!” (Aquamarine) - Nell Minow
“Hoodwinked is the funniest animated feature since the Shrek movies.” (Hoodwinked) - Shawn Edwards
"It’s been a while since we’ve had a director’s name to put next to the likes of Romero, Argento, Carpenter and Craven…but now is the time to make room on that list for Eli Roth." (Hostel) – Horrorchannel.com

"David Zucker’s funniest since Airplane!" (Scary Movie 4) – Anthony Oh, Inside Reel
“The best American comedy since The 40 Year-Old Virgin.” (Thank You For Smoking) – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“The best comedy since I don’t know when!” (Failure To Launch) – Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post


YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’…YET
“The best performances yet by Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek!” (Ask the Dust) – Alex Simon, Venice Magazine
“Soderbergh’s most radical and invigorating experiment yet.” (Bubble) - Richard Corliss
“This is Harron’s most virtuoso film yet.” (The Notorious Bettie Page) - Karen Durbin

“Bigger, better, funnier than the first one.” (Big Momma’s House 2) – Pat Collins, UPN News
“The rare sequel that is better than the original.” (Ice Age: The Meltdown) – Lou Lumenick
“Better than the original.” (Underworld: Evolution) - Chris Carle
“The best Final Destination yet!” (Final Destination 3) - Chris Carle
“The best Scary Movie yet!” (Scary Movie 4) – Shawn Edwards
Tim Allen’s funniest movie yet. (The Shaggy Dog) - Jim Svejda

UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THE BEST OF 2006…WITH 8 MONTHS TO GO!
“The first great American film of the year!” (CSA Confederate States of America) - Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Press
"The first great film of 2006" (V For Vendetta) – David Poland
"The first truly great film of 2006." (V For Vendetta) – Scott Mantz
“One of the first big surprises of the year.” (End of the Spear) - Jeffrey Lyons
“The year is still young but it’s hard to imagine we will see another film that is more important, more urgent and more disturbing.” (Why We Fight) - Pete Hammond

“It’s clearly one of the best movies of the year.” (Tsotsi)– Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
“Easily among the best films of the year so far!” (Find Me Guilty)– Jeffrey Wells
(Thank You For Smoking)
“This stinging satire is easily the best and wickedest comedy of the year.” (Thank You For Smoking) - Peter Travers
"Hands down one of the best cinematic stories told this year." (Lady Vengeance) – Harry Knowles

“Already a leading contender for the year’s best animated film. (The Wild) – Jim Svejda
“The animated surprise of the year!” (Hoodwinked) - Pete Hammond
“The feel-good movie of the year.” (Kinky Boots) - Shawn Edwards
“The first great action film of the year. (The Sentinel) – Renee Shapiro, ABC-TV, Little Rock
“The year's best family film.” (RV) - Earl Dittman
“The best thriller of the year.” (Lucky Number Slevin) - Earl Dittman
“The best thriller of the year.” (Lucky Number Slevin) - Shawn Edwards
"The best family film ever!" (Akeelah and the Bee) – Greta Van Susteren, Fox News Channel

MY FINAL THOUGHT
Do you think Time magazine, Richard Corliss and Universal could have come up with a more tactful way to express their enthusiasm over United 93 than using the single word “unmissable” on the ads?

While you ponder that, I will leave you with the words of Dann Gire: “As entertainment consumers trip and stumble through the media maze of the 21st century, critics - the honest and ethical ones who know what they’re talking about - will be in greater demand than ever before. They can provide guidance to movie-goers, all of whom are free to accept it or completely ignore it. (Such is the nature of advice.)"


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=1812
originally posted: 04/28/06 10:53:38
last updated: 06/10/06 16:16:53
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