|by Erik Childress
Pete Hammond has been fired from Maxim, but like the cockroaches that they are – there’s a quote whore just waiting out there in the wings to step up and take his place. Who are the quote whores? They are unscrupulous little maggots who wiggle across the junkets and free screenings of America and come up with the most hyperbole-laden praise to ensure their place amongst the by-lines of film ads and commercials. You see, a true quote whore doesn’t write anything but this brand of copy. Most of them you can barely find any info on through a web search. And in this day and age, that’s a pretty rare feat. Of course, not all of the critics at Criticwatch are whores. Some of them are just rampant sluts, giving it up for free with little regard for good taste or the disease they spread through a critical community trying to honestly do their jobs and inform the public with a less-biased opinion through intelligent speech and an eye for what makes a good film. Each year Criticwatch tracks the whores and the sluts, while also trying to offer a counterpoint with actual critics and real writers whom you can trust, if not always agree with. We've named our awards appropriately over the years (“The Peter Travers Whore of the Year Award”, “The Kevin Thomas Sloppy Seconds” and "The Michael Medved Bag of Douche Award")
Find out who are The Whores of the Year for 2008.
Become a friend of Criticwatch at Facebook.
Find Out What'sThe Ben Lyons Quote of the Week.
Read Criticwatch'sWar, Peace and Every Man In Between.
CRITICWATCH NOTES THIS WEEK
Film Title: Bride Wars
Released by: 20th Century Fox
Tomatometer: 11% (as of Jan. 9, 2009)
Respected Critics Say:
“After last year's "27 Dresses," 20th Century Fox has decided to once again make another bridal-themed movie aimed at female audiences who are in the mood to see a movie but have no apparent desire to see a good one.” – Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com
“Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, who play the would-be brides, are good actors and quick-witted women, here playing characters at a level of intelligence approximating HAL 9000 after he has had his chips pulled. ” – Roger Ebert
“Hathaway should be embarrassed, and Hudson should ask Hathaway what it's like to still be capable of feeling embarrassment..” – Eric D. Snider
Seen On Newspaper Ads:
“Grab all your girlfriends and go see this movie! Hilarious and heartwarming.” – Kelli Gillespie, CW-TV/San Diego
“Loved it!” – Nadine Rajabi, National Lampoon TV and Comedy Radio XM
“Take your BFF, Take your frenemies.” – Manny de la Rosa, NBC-TV/Palm Springs
And here…we…go. 2009 has begun. That means January. That means crappy movies dumped from the bowels of the studios. And at least one that will make $60 million from either the women or the teenagers not interested in seeing all those award-worthy films finally opening up in their area. This year begins with Bride Wars. And, as always, the only thing more embarrassing than the film itself and all the women associated with constructing it are the soulless junket whores. Christ, you know the film is bad when its panned by Pete Hammond and Victoria Alexander for God’s sake. But who needs them when you have Manny de la Rosa, 2008’s Ben Lyons New Generation Award Winner from Criticwatch? Determined to show that he’s not just going to be just another bridesmaid, Manny has jumped to the top of the race for Whore of the Year. Yes it’s only January, but at this rate he’ll be quadrupling his quote total from ’08 and since he’s as close to a guaranteed lock to recommend nothing but ass, the Vegas odds on him finding a spot in the Top 10 for ’09 are going up considerably. You can see the typically uninspired interviews he does with Anne Hathaway and
Kate Hudson as well as check out his not-so-glowing review where he found himself "laughing with the audience in some scenes, especially the middle part." BFF? Frenemies? Are you a film critic or a 12 year-old girl held back a year?
Leave that talk to an actual woman like Kelli Gillespie, whose name pops up out of the blue now and again. This is only her 7th quote on our watch list (4 in ’06, 2 in ’07). Fox seems to appreciate her there after raves about Live Free or Die Hard and Horton Hears a Who. She also thought Will Smith was “Oscar-worthy” for I Am Legend so maybe her BFF is Ben Lyons. Finally, if you still need any convincing that the words “National Lampoon” in front of something means less than an endorsement from Shawn Edwards, along comes Nadine Rajabi to show she can put the words behind something like this and pitch audiences on this garbage while ol’ Manny has no problem being the catcher.
CRITICWATCH GOES AT THE MOVIES WITH THE TWO BENS
Read Criticwatch's take on the new incarnation of the old Siskel & Ebert/Ebert & Roeper show.
2008 Quote Totals (Whores & Sluts)
67 - Peter Travers
56 - Jeffrey Lyons
49 - Pete Hammond
23 - Shawn Edwards
22 - Ben Lyons
15 - Mark S. Allen
13 - Paul Fischer
10 - Jeff Craig & Jim Ferguson
9 - Earl Dittman & Harry Knowles
8 - Bill Bregoli
7 - Bryan Erdy, Carrie Keagan, Scott Mantz, Prairie Miller & Steve Oldfield
6 - Sandy Kenyon, Mose Persico & Rachel Smith
5 - Ted Baehr, Jeffrey K. Howard, Sandie Newton, James Thomas & Jeanne Wolf
4 - Pat Collins, Greg Russell & Janet Stokes
3 - Manny "The Movie Guy" dela Rosa, Guy Farris, Roger Friedman, Mike Sargent, Kevin Steincross & Chuck Thomas
2 - Kelli Gillespie, Julie Harkness, Bonnie Laufer, Ross King, Renee Shapiro & Tony Toscano
1 - Steven Chupnick, Bill Diehl, Stuart Lee, Maria Salas & Clay Smith
2008 Quote Totals (Caveat Emptor)
49 - Claudia Puig
44 - Variety
35 - Owen Gleiberman
30 - David Edelstein & Rex Reed
24 - The Hollywood Reporter
22 - Lou Lumenick
21 - Ain’t It Cool News
17 - Leonard Maltin
16 - Thelma Adams, Rafer Guzman & Gene Shalit
14 - Dennis Dermody
13 - Mick LaSalle
12 - Elizabeth Weitzman
11 - Leah Rozen
10 - Jeannette Catsoulis
9 - Joe Neumaier
8 - Larry King, Nathan Lee, Dean Richards & Bob Strauss
7 - Dan Jewel & Carrie Rickey
6 - Bloody-Disgusting, Avi Offer, Kyle Smith & Bill Zwecker
5 - Jason Lynch, Roger Moore & James Verniere
4 - Christy Lemire, Michael Sragow, Ella Taylor, Sara Vilkomerson, Jan Wahl & Matt Zoller Seitz
3 - Scott Hoffman
2 - Karen Berg, Alex Billington, Stephen Hunter, Ben Mankiewicz, Clint O'Connor & Stephen Schaefer
1 - Michael Medved
2008 Quote Totals (Critics You Can Trust)
57 - Roger Ebert
43 - A.O. Scott
34 - Manohla Dargis & Richard Roeper
32 - Richard Corliss
28 - Kenneth Turan
27 - David Ansen & Joe Morgenstern
26 - Stephen Holden
24 - Andrew Sarris
22 - Lisa Schwarzbaum
21 - Karen Durbin, Marshall Fine & Michael Phillips
19 - John Anderson
16 - David Denby
15 - Cinematical
11 - Ann Hornaday & Film Threat
10 - Ty Burr, J. Hoberman & Andrew O'Hehir
9 - Scott Foundas & John Powers
7 - Carina Chocano, Jim Ridley & Joshua Rothkopf
6 - Troy Patterson
5 - Film Comment
4 - Rossiter Drake, Bruce Handy & Ruthe Stein
3 - Edward Douglas, John Hartl & Peter Hartlaub
2 - Stephen Rebello & Robert Wilonsky
1 - eFilmCritic
READ THE LATEST IN CRITICWATCH
Criticwatch 2007 - The Whores of the Year and the Axing of Pete Hammond
Criticwatch 2007 - Know Your Shit, Period!
- The Vindication of Awards?
- 2006 Whores of the Year
- The Whores of Summer and the Embargoes They Break
- Critics vs. Whores: Where Is The Sky Falling?
Read All The Articles In The Criticwatch Series - HERE
THE BIG 2 (& OUR AWARD NAMES)
Peter Travers (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Kevin Thomas (Los Angeles Times) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006)
Mark S. Allen (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Bill Bregoli (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Steven Chupnick (2007)
Pat Collins (2007)
Jeff Craig (2003) (2007)
Manny "The Movie Guy" dela Rosa
Bill Diehl (2005) (2006) (2007)
Earl Dittman (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Shawn Edwards (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Bryan Erdy (2007)
Guy Farris (2005) (2006)
Paul Fischer (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Jim Ferguson (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Roger Friedman (2006) (2007)
Jeffrey K. Howard (2003) (2006) (2007)
Harry Knowles (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Bonnie Laufer (2007)
Stuart Lee (2007)
Scott Mantz (2005) (2006) (2007)
Melanie Moon (2007)
Steve Oldfield (2005) (2006) (2007)
Mose Persico (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Greg Russell (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Maria Salas (2005) (2006) (2007)
Mike Sargent (2003) (2005) (2007)
J.P. Sarni (Sirius Satellite Radio)
Fred Saxon (2003) (2004)
Todd David Schwartz (CBS Radio)
David Sheehan (2003) (2004) (2006)
Clay Smith (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Lisa Stanley (2006) (2007)
Kevin Steincross (2007)
Jim Svejda (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Chuck “The Movie Guy” Thomas (2005) (2006) (2007)
Tony Toscano (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Jeanne Wolf (2003) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Alison Bailes (Reel Talk)
Paul Clinton (CNN) (2003)
Roger Ebert (Ebert & Roeper) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Sara Edwards (CN8 – The Comcast Network) (2005)
Tim Estiloz (CN8 – The Comcast Network)
Kelli Gillespie (XETV-TV San Diego) (2007)
Sam Hallenbeck (NBC-TV/Tampa)
Julie Harkness (Made In Hollywood)
Larry King (Larry King Live) (2003) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Ross King (KTLA)
Joyce Kulhawik (Hot Ticket!) (2003)
Ben Lyons (E!) (2006) (2007)
Jeffrey Lyons (WNBC-TV) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Leonard Maltin (Entertainment Tonight) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Ben Mankiewicz (At the Movies)
Jim O'Brien (News Channel 5)
Richard Roeper (Ebert & Roeper) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Neil Rosen (NY-1) (2006)
Gene Shalit (The Today Show) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Joel Siegel (Good Morning America) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006)
Rachel Smith (KVVU Las Vegas) (2007)
Patrick Stoner ("Flicks" PBS)
"Two Thumbs Up" (Ebert & Roeper) (2003)
Sarah Zapp (The Comcast Network)
Bill Zwecker (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Thelma Adams (US Weekly) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
John Anderson (Newsday) (2006) (2007)
David Ansen (Newsweek) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Karen Berg (OK!) (2007)
Jess Cagle (People) (2005)
Richard Corliss (Time) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Julia Dahl (Marie Claire)
David Denby (The New Yorker) (2006) (2007)
Dennis Dermody (Paper) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Karen Durbin (Elle) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
David Edelstein (Slate / New York Magazine) (2006) (2007)
Stephen Farber (Movieline / Hollywood Life) (2006)
David Fear (Time Out New York) (2006)
Marshall Fine (Star) (2006) (2007)
Aaron Gell ("O")
Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Rafer Guzman (Newsday)
Pete Hammond (Maxim) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Bruce Handy (Vanity Fair) (2007)
Logan Hill (New York Magazine) (2006)
The Hollywood Reporter (2007)
In Touch Magazine (2006)
Dan Jewel (Life & Style Weekly) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Glenn Kenny (Premiere) (2003) (2005) (2006)
Jason Lynch (People)
Andrew O'Hehir (Salon) (2007)
Troy Patterson (Spin) (2007)
John Powers (Vogue) (2007)
Stephen Rebello (Playboy) (2007)
Rebecca Rothbaum (O)
Leah Rozen (People) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Richard Schickel (Time) (2003)
Gene Seymour (Newsday)
Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Jan Stuart (Newsday) (2005)
Ken Tucker (New York Magazine)
Jami Bernard (New York Daily News)
John Black (Boston Metro)
Ty Burr (The Boston Globe) (2007)
Jeannette Catsoulis (The New York Times) (2007)
Carina Chocano (Los Angeles Times) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Mike Clark (USA Today)
Kevin Crust (Los Angeles Times)
Manohla Dargis (Los Angeles Times) (2003) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Rossiter Drake (San Francisco Examiner)
Scott Foundas (L.A. Weekly) (2007)
John Hartl (Seattle Times)
Peter Hartlaub (San Francisco Chronicle)
J. Hoberman (Village Voice) (2007)
Stephen Holden (The New York Times) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Ann Hornaday (The Washington Post)
Stephen Hunter (The Washington Post) (2007)
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) (2006) (2007)
Nathan Lee (The New York Times) (2006) (2007)
Lou Lumenick (New York Post) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Jack Mathews (NY Daily News) (2005)
Elvis Mitchell (The New York Times) (2003)
Roger Moore (The Orlando Sentinel) (2007)
Joe Morgenstern (The Wall Street Journal) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Rob Nelson (The Village Voice)
Joe Neumaier (New York Daily News)
Clint O'Connor (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune) (2007)
Claudia Puig (USA Today) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Rex Reed (The New York Observer) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Carrie Rickey (The Philadelphia Inquirer) (2007)
Jim Ridley (The Village Voice) (2007)
Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) (2007)
Andrew Sarris (The New York Observer) (2003) (2007)
Stephen Schaefer (Boston Herald) (2007)
A.O. Scott (The New York Times) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Liz Smith (New York Post)
Ella Taylor (L.A. Weekly) (2007)
Sara Vilkomerson (New York Observer)
Matt Zoller Seitz (The New York Times) (2007)
Kyle Smith (The New York Post) (2006) (2007)
Michael Sragow (Baltimore Sun)
Ruthe Stein (San Francisco Chronicle) (2007)
David Sterritt (The Christian Science Monitor)
Bob Strauss (Los Angeles Daily News) (2005) (2007)
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
James Verniere (Boston Herald)
Elizabeth Weitzman (NY Daily News) (2007)
Armond White (NY Press)
Stephen Whitty (The Star Ledger)
Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2006) (2007)
Robert Wilonsky (Dallas Observer) (2007)
David Germain (2005)
Christy Lemire (2005) (2006) (2007)
Michael Medved (2007)
Prairie Miller (2007)
Dean Richards (WGN Radio Chicago) (2003) (2004) (2005) (2007)
Jan Wahl (2007)
Ain’t It Cool News
Ted Baehr (Movieguide) (2007)
Alex Billington (FirstShowing.net)
Chris Carle (IGN.com)
Edward Douglas (ComingSoon.net)
eFilmCritic.com (2006) (2007)
Film Threat (2006) (2007)
Scott Hoffman (MoviePictureFilm.com)
Avi Offer (The NYC Movie Guru) (2007)
Janet Stokes (Film Advisory Board) (2006) (2007)
Since 2003, eFilmCritic’s Criticwatch has kept a watchful eye on the film reviewer community. And in that time, we’ve been called a lot of names.
Angry. Boring. Jealous. Scum.
So why do we scour movie ads every day and call out the biggest whorebags in entertainment journalism?
Heck. We do it for the kids.
Often, people will ask what it takes to be called a ‘quotewhore’ by our panel of blurb snoops. In that respect, the Criticwatch Credo is fairly simple; yes, it’s okay to have poor taste once in a while. Yes, it’s okay to get quoted in movie ads. Yes, it’s okay to be a little generous about the movies you’re reviewing.
Where things go skewiff is when you’re ALWAYS being quoted in the ads for movies that are flat out awful - films that nobody else will touch. Or if you’re writing for some obscure radio station in Oshkosh Wisconsin, yet your name is all over the trailers for the biggest releases every week. Or if you just happen to have a great blurb for a movie that is so bad that it isn’t being shown to critics.
From the beginning, Criticwatch has always been about who you can trust.
Some of the critics on our list are junketeers. They get flown out to LA and New York by the Hollywood studios and treated like royalty, in return for five minutes with a celebrity and a favorable review.
Others are Scoop Sluts. They sneak into word of mouth screenings and rush off to the computer when they get home so they can be the first to tell everyone how "AWESOME!" [sic] the latest big budget action piece of ridiculousness is.
But the ones that really yank our chain are the Quote Whores.
These guys just don’t care about the art of cinema, nor film journalism. To them, it doesn’t matter if their words convince you and your family to waste $60 on a terrible movie, just as long as they get a little mention in the trailer. To these douchebags, everything is a "masterwork" and an "instant classic" and the "most hilarious comedy of the year". Nothing is ever bad to a quotewhore.
To immortalize the worst offenders, we’ve named our annual awards after the absolute bottom end of the industry; namely “The Peter Travers Whore of the Year Award”, “The Kevin Thomas Sloppy Seconds Award” and "The Michael Medved Bag of Douche Award".
Finally, it must be said that not everyone who offers a positive blurb for a terrible movie makes our list. Roger Ebert liked Garfield… Bad taste hits everyone, once in a while. It’s okay to get one wrong - or even a few.
But if a film critic sells out the general public on anything close to a consistent basis, we will call them out publicly.
Please, before you pay money to watch a movie, check back here and make sure that the guy telling you I Am Legend is the "One of the Greatest Movies Ever Made" knows what the hell he’s talking about.
2008 CRITICWATCH ARCHIVE
11/28/08 - One of the Worst Whores EVER!
Criticwatch has been focusing a lot of its time on the weekly scourge that is Ben Lyons on network television. And we did find room to offer a retrospective on Mark S. Allen after he called Soul Men “one of the best buddy movies EVER!” Allen is back this week in ads calling Australia “Epic. Glorious. Unforgettable.” But we’ve been waiting to get around to one of our most hated whores and 2007’s Whore of the Year, Shawn Edwards.
A full week before Twilight arrived in theaters, Edwards joined in on the ads along with such Captain Obvious quotes from Gina McIntyre of the Los Angeles Times (“A full-blown pop culture phenomenon.”) and Tony Toscano (“See what everybody’s talking about!”) Thanks for telling us YOUR feelings about the movie. Oh, but ol’ Shawny sure did. “****!” and “Epic!” You know, just like a David Lean film. But here’s precisely how you get your whore ass into a film’s ad.
“One of the best vampire movies ever.”
EVER! All-time. Top Ten. However you want to slice it, the verbage is unmistakable. There was already one jackass who said this about 30 Days of Freakin’ Night! Equally moronic. Just doing a google search using Shawn’s own words, I came across lists that included:
Nosferatu, Dracula (1932), Horror of Dracula, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Near Dark, Martin, The Hunger, Interview with the Vampire, Fright Night, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Brides of Dracula, Vampire Circus, Vampyr, Daughters of Darkness, Shadow of the Vampire
Hell, you can throw in the Blade films, From Dusk Til Dawn, The Lost Boys, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Embrace of the Vampire with Alyssa Milano (for purely educational purposes) and Twilight couldn’t hold their reflection without the mirror breaking and slashing its bloodless throat. How many of those films do you think Shawn Edwards has seen? It doesn’t matter. Because the word “ever” is basically a clear path to get your name in the paper and a red flag to how little you know. Twilight isn’t even the best vampire film IN THEATERS right now. That distinction belongs to the beautiful and haunting Swedish film, Let the Right One In, a film which Emmett Williams from the Washington Examiner is calling the “Best vampire movie ever.” At least he’s hyping a film worthy to share space with some of those other films. You want an example of Shawn Edwards’ idea of “EVER?”
One of the most powerful and moving films I've ever seen. (Tsotsi)
A magical experience unlike anything you have ever seen. (Idlewild)
One of the coolest movies you’ll ever see! (Stomp the Yard)
One of the most entertaining, exciting and intense movies ever made. (I Am Legend)
The most dazzling animated feature ever made. (Robots)
Catching up to this week’s new releases, Shawn Edwards has also given has endorsement to Four Christmases, the worst reviewed feature of the week (26% at Rotten Tomatoes trailing even Transporter 3’s 35%). A film that Chicago critics Michael Phillips says “may well be part of the war on Christmas Bill O'Reilly's always fog-horning about. Christmas and Christianity will survive it. But barely” and Peter Sobczynski warns “If you liked McCain-Palin 2008, you'll love "Four Christmases."
Shawn Edwards on the other hand calls it both “The perfect holiday treat” and “THE FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!”
Not Forgetting Sarah Marshall or Tropic Thunder or Step Brothers or Pineapple Express or Role Models or The Grand or Ghost Town or Zack and Miri Make a Porno or Son of Rambow or Religulous to name just a few…or TEN.
Edwards already called Get Smart the “Funniest movie of the summer!” and just three months earlier “the freshest and funniest comedy in a long time” was none other than Drillbit Taylor. Just this time last year there was another Vince Vaughn Christmas comedy released by Warner Bros. called Fred Claus. (21% approval at Rotten Tomatoes for those keeping count.) I guess that’s why Edwards only called it “ONE of the funniest comedies of the year.” That extra 5% on Four Christmases goes a long way to justifying his choice, doesn’t it? But Edwards couldn’t have given Fred Claus #1 status in 2007 because he had already committed to one. All the way back in January. That’s some foresight, isn’t it? Well, in the spirit of such, Criticwatch would like to give you some foresight when you’re choosing between Four Christmases or Role Models or even Bolt for your perfect holiday chuckle treat. Here is the company that Four Christmases joins according to the ever-whore-worthy wisdom of Shawn Edwards:
(2007) The funniest, craziest, wildest comedy of the year. Perfect family entertainment. (Are We Done Yet?)
(2006) The wildest, funniest, most hilarious movie of the year. (Little Man)
(2004) The funniest comedy of the year. The Wayans brothers have delivered another comedy classic. (White Chicks)
Happy Holidays everyone. Be sure to deliver Shawn Edwards a lump of coal for every penny you spend on Four Christmases.
11/14/08 - Mark S. Allen - Do You Have a Soul?
Good Day Sacramento's Mark S. Allen says that Soul Men may be the best buddy film EVER! Funny, we think he's one of the biggest WHORES ever. Read Mark - in his own words - here
11/12/08 - Leave the Oscars To The Professionals
Criticwatch takes a leap over to The Oscar Eye this week to examine how untrustworthy awards hype are from those using the easy "in" to getting quoted. Read all about it.
10/22/08 - Will We Be Written Up As Tardy?
This week sports the theatrical release of Disney’s second sequel to a television movie. Leaving no $50 million weekend unturned, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, is guaranteed to be number one this weekend simply on the basis of parents getting their children to shut up about taking them already. The kids aren’t the only ones being asked to keep quiet though. In some effort to shut up the nation’s film critics and keep early reviews to a minimum, Disney has the majority of them seeing the film Wednesday evening. Even Beverly Hills Chihuahua was screened earlier. Of course, the tactic is meaningless since we know and they (should) know that nothing we say is going to affect the opening weekend and it’s (at least) $135 million domestic gross. Hip teenagers are not going to be taking in this G-rated fluff when they can see how Saw V ends so they “won’t believe” it. But someone at Disney is taking this fluff a little too seriously as critics are all but being asked to submit blood and urine in order to attend screenings. In various markets, publicists are asking them when and how reviews are going to run, RSVP’s are at a premium and some are being sent stickers to bring to screenings. But, most importantly, the one overriding factor (that we’re always reminded about here in Chicago) is that by attending this screening, we agree to abide by the studio’s review embargo policy. No reviews can appear in print, on air or online (including blogs) until the film’s opening day – Friday, October 24, 2008. Oh really? Then why in the hell are we seeing television ads with the following quotes:
“Disney has done it again.” - Zain Maghji, E-Talk Canada
“The biggest and best of the series.” - Pete Hammond
“It's the feel-great film of the year.” - Guy Farris
Before you answer with the usual – oh they are junket folk and these policies don’t apply to them bullshit – can we flat-out ask the Mousehouse and all their co-conspirators as to why? Why are these morons exempt while the lot of hard-working legitimate film journalists are treated like tourists who pissed in the Magic Kingdom’s moat? I’ve been to Disneyland and Disneyworld. Isn’t there some explicit rule about line jumpers being ejected from the park? Instead these jackasses are being given free fast passes while all of us are waiting until near closing time to ride the Efron Express. It hasn't stopped the Disney marketing department sending us e-mails about posting a widget to advertise the film's soundtrack. "We'd absolutely love if you could share this with your audience." Funny how I learned that sharing was a two-way street well before high school.
The only thing surprising about the early whore quotes is that they don’t include the names of Jim Svejda, Lisa Stanley or Bryan Erdy (although Pete Hammond is doing just fine for them quoting up Narnia, WALL-E, Swing Vote and Miracle at St. Anna) but it's continually shocking that these embargo rules are being forced down the throat of legitimate critics (most of whom have a clean track record in such regards) while those who do break them go unpunished. The hypocrisy is astounding.
Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have their reviews up on Rotten Tomatoes already (one positive, one negative) as does MSNBC’S Alonso Duralde and perpetual “me me first” Emmanuel Levy. Roger Moore has his review up on the Orlando Sentinel website already while his colleagues are still waiting to see it. (UPDATE: The review vanished almost immediately after it was linked here.) Do their invites include the contract-like threats warning them when they can post a review? Many critics plead “hey, nobody told me I can’t post early to my face” which is as blissfully ignorant as George Costanza saying he didn’t know he couldn’t have sex with the cleaning woman on the desk in his office, but not nearly as funny. Just once I would like to have a studio rep explain this all to my face without me laughing up a storm, getting angry or suspending disbelief in being told that their hands are tied and they’re just following orders instead of knowing who follows the rules and who doesn’t. Then I’d remind them that if anyone should be kept away from high school movies and children its Pete Hammond. We’ve got enough of an education problem in this country as it is and he’s as tard-y as they come.
10/17/08 - Meet Your New Fox Whores
27 Dresses, Meet the Spartans, Jumper, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who, Shutter, Nim's Island, Deception, What Happens in Vegas, The Happening, Meet Dave, Space Chimps, The X-Files: I Want To Believe, Mirrors, The Rocker, City of Ember
That’s what this year has brought from Fox. 15 films. 3 of them not screened for critics. Only one of them (Horton Hears a Who) getting a Fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes. Six of the other 14 failed to even crack a 25% approval rating. They’re desperate over there for some positivity. And with Max Payne this week they must have been hoping to shake things up with fresh whorin’. Therefore it’s about time for another round of Meeting Your Whores.
Meet Max Rosenhaus from WJLB-FM/Detroit. He looks like the token white boy on the staff of the Coco, Foolish & Mr. Chase in the Morning Show (and its so nice to see the white man get a fair shake these days.) According to his bio, he grew up in Farmington Hills, where he “quickly learned that he never wanted to work a normal job.” After a few months of interning for WJLB, Clear Channel hired them for the team. He’s got a MySpace page and he thinks Max Payne is “EXPLOSIVE!”
Say hi to Danni Starr from KTTB-FM, B96 Minneapolis. We don’t know much about Danni other than she blogs for the Tone E. Fly Morning Show, but she sure does love that Mark Wahlberg – as she writes in an extensive blog post called “I love Mark Wahlberg” (with this picture featured.) She thinks Max Payne is “SEXY!”
Meet one Eddie Francis from KUBL-FM 03 Radio/Seattle and you NEVER know what's going to happen on the air from 7-12 midnight cause Eddie is delivering that party vibe cause he’s “your boy.” Last weekend he was headed to Los Angeles to see Max Payne. “It looks good,” he said. Eddie also just got him some Iron Man on Blu-Ray and decided to throw out some random thoughts like “Why is every dudes worse enemy his girls best friend?”, “When did MTV start sucking?” and he wonders if he is the only one that thinks Mike Myers isn’t funny. And he adds Dane Cook to that sentiment. No, Eddie you’re not. Looks like you might have some good taste after all. Then you went ahead and called Max Payne “STUNNING!”
Max Payne is currently rockin’ a 17%. That puts it somewhere above Deception and Jumper and just below The Happening on Fox’s release schedule for 2008, ranking it 12th out of their 16 films this year. Stunning, indeed.
10/10/08 - Whores Are Bloody Disgusting
Last weekend, An American Carol became the 25th wide release of the year not to screen for critics. Sixteen of those came in the first four months and it wasn’t until August that we had another four, including three in its final weekend (Babylon A.D., College, Disaster Movie). It’s always a delight to put this in perspective by reminding people that they even screened Zombie Strippers for us. That’s right, an above-title-billed Jenna Jameson horror film was shown to us here in Chicago four days in advance while films headlined with Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel and Nicolas Cage were not. They were more confident with Zombie Strippers than they were with Righteous Kill and The X-Files, folks. But I’m here to show studios that there is some hope for your crappy movies out there. You can hold back your films all you want from the critics voting for your awards, doing interviews and receiving the modicum of respect from people who pay attention to reviews, but as long as you show it to Brad Miska from Bloody-Disgusting.com, you can get yourself an easily printable blurb.
Back in April, Stephen Schaefer of the Boston Herald called out the website for getting blurbed in a TV ad for The Ruins (one of the pre-May sixteen.) “So where did they get these quotes from - a seance?” Miska defended his position, not only by being an avid fan of the film but accusing Schaefer of not knowing how the film industry works. “Studios occasionally test films, they aren't even hard to get into (you just have to know where to look). If we like a movie there, and review it, they can pull quotes from that review,” Miska said. Of course, there’s a big difference between a “test” screening and a “promo” screening and its made pretty clear in his post that he’s referring to “test” screenings (i.e. films that aren’t exactly finished yet.)
“Beyond that, occasionally the studio will invite a select few journalists to check out their films (such the case with RUINS). If these journalists like the film they'll ask to see the review for the film, so they can use quotes. BUT they ask we don't post until the day before release. If the studio is afraid of reviews (PROM NGIHT) or doesnt think it will help the film any (INDIANA JONES, IRON MAN), it won't be screened for the mass of critics.”
Not exactly helping his argument since both Iron Man AND Indiana Jones both had basically nationwide screenings at the same day and time to which the mass of critics were invited to. They may not NEED the reviews to make them a hit, but critics are invited since most of the moviegoing population is hip to the fact that a “no screen” means a piece of crap. And both those Paramount flicks were pretty good. (94% & 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, on last look.) This was poor speculation on his part. Even poorer judgment is not wondering why he’s included in such a select group of people in the first place. I’m sure Brad will agree that the horror genre is a niche group and both studios and horror fans alike have this pre-ordained opinion that critics are automatically against them. To which any self-respecting critic should yell “BULLSHIT” at the top of their lungs. Like any genre whether it be romantic comedy, teen sex farce or bloody, disgusting horror – we like the good ones. Look up reviews for Cloverfield, Diary of the Dead or Stuck this year. Hell, I even liked The Signal and The Strangers. But horror fans are fierce. Sometimes so fierce to prove how relevant an art form it is, that they will recommend any piece of crap to come down the pike to prove us all wrong.
So we come back to the whole point of today’s post. Oct. 10, 2008 saw the 26th film not screened for critics (Quarantine) hit theaters and open with yet another blurb from Brad Miska and Bloody-Disgusting.com.
“Quite possibly the best horror film this year. It’s terrifying and frightening!"
Holy SHIT! Terrifying AND frightening! No one can be scared at such two distinct speeds at the same time. How will we survive? Just reading it you’ll end up like Gael Garcia Bernal in Blindness. (No, not in a bad movie.) I have to admit though, I haven’t seen Quarantine yet. (You know why, because they DIDN’T SCREEN IT FOR CRITICS!!!) But I will sometime this week. Do I really need to though? I’ve already seen [Rec], the (somewhat overrated) Spanish horror flick that the film is a straight remake of. Considering they seem to be using many of the exact same shots in the trailer, including (unforgivably) seemingly giving away the ending, what could they have possibly done with the new version that would make it the best horror film this year? I highly doubt that Mr. Miska, horror aficionado that he is hadn’t seen the original. Of course he has. Here’s his review. “One of the best Spanish horror films in recent memory.” Back to the seemingly shot-for-shot remake though, it’s funny that Miska actually dissed The Strangers earlier this year by saying "The real problem is that there's absolutely nothing original here and it's obvious they tried to take what works and recycle it." Isn’t that what Quarantine does? Or is it just a little easier to stand out with praise when you’re one of the select few being invited?
Rambo is back with a vengeance! (Rambo) – Bloody-Disgusting.com
Intense, Disturbing, and gut-wrenching. (The Ruins) – Brad Miska
A fun-filled ride! Destined to become a cult classic! (Pathology) – Brad Miska
That makes four quotes from Bloody-Disgusting.com (and three from Miska) this year on films not screened for critics. Even Earl Dittman never gave it up that often under the same circumstances in any calendar year. Can’t wait to hear what they have to say about Max Payne and Saw V the next two weeks.
10/9/08 - My New Favorite Quote Whore!
Doing Criticwatch offers me up few pleasures. It’s often depressing and always infuriating to know that film criticism has been infected with such whore spores, substituting actual thought for the same ol’ blurbs often written directly by studio publicists and handed down for these empty craniums to plaster their names all over. Back in August though, the name of Manny dela Rosa popped up on our radar, delivering this quote on Death Race:
“Jason Statham is Hollywood’s new action hero.”
Yeah, the man who debuted as an action hero with The Transporter back in 2002 was now “new” with Death Race. It wasn’t even his first action movie of 2008 (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, The Bank Job) but it did turn out to be Manny’s first quote of the year. There he was again popping up on Nights in Rodanthe calling it “a timeless triumph of love.” But it was the next week that caught my interest when someone was telling us that we will “howl with laughter” at Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Now, on the radio I’ve had the moniker of Erik the Movieman. My colleague, Peter Sobczynski, is known on the air as Pete the Movie Guy. In the whore world there’s already Chuck Thomas who refers to himself as “The Movie Guy”. So who in the hell, pray tell, is this MANNY THE MOVIE GUY?
Could it be? Is it possible? There aren’t two guys named Manny sullying up the world of criticism, right? Didn’t take much research to find out, either. You see, unlike a lot of quote whores who fly under the radar, maybe (MAYBE) seen on a local news outlet but usually hiding out with the kind of anonymity that doesn’t mesh with their insistence on getting their name on a movie ad, Manny “The Movie Guy” dela Rosa has his own website. And if you don’t fall in love with this guy immediately, you have no soul.
Not literally. I don’t expect you to go to this guy for your movie info. I’m talking love in the way that political comics love Dubya or Sarah Palin and the moron-speak they project when making their points. Every moronic syllable out of their mouths is comic gold and Manny the Movie Guy is no exception. “It’s about two unhappy people brought together by a STORM!” He doesn’t give out stars. He gives out kisses. You want your Ed Wood/Orson Welles moment? Check out his priceless interview with Tommy Lee Jones over the ending of No Country for Old Men and how TLJ looks like he just wants to slap him at the end.
“I think this ending will be one of the most debatable ending this year at least in cinema history.”
Do you have hope after watching that for the state of film criticism? The contingent of Criticwatch readers who still don’t understand the difference between a whore and someone who just had poor taste in film, all you need to do is go back to Manny’s review of Death Race. Apart from him just discovering Jason Statham, he called it “a thrill-a-minute action adventure.” While a separate investigation needs to be done on what constitutes “action-packed” as that would imply (or Todd McCarthy from Variety contending that this weekend’s Body of Lies features “a shootout, chase or big explosion every 10 minutes or so”, which it most certainly does not after the first half-hour – or so), Manny’s words are quite clear. A…THRILL…A…MINUTE. Now before we begin contemplating Manny getting all excited for the expository scenes or Joan Allen swearing, all you have to do is watch his video review of Death Race to see how full of shit this guy really is.
“The first half of this movie is BORING and predictable.”
You don’t have to be a second grade level of mathematics to piece that together, but allow me to craft a formula for the next SAT test. If you have a 105-minute movie traveling along at 24 frames per second and the first 52 minutes and 30 seconds are boring AND predictable, then how in the shit do you qualify it as “A THRILL A MINUTE!!!” Manny needs to jump on that train running the other direction into the Clint Eastwood ravine. Got anything to say, Mr. Kisses?
“I give studios quotes right after watching an upcoming film. Some of my quotes are half-hearted but they're all coming from my heart -- I stand by each and everyone of them!...I was proud EVEN THOUGH Universal used my real name, and not my affable moniker, Manny the Movie Guy! Oh well, at least my name's out there, and it made my mommy happy. I said, "Death Race" is a thrill-a-minute action adventure, and Jason Statham is Hollywood's new action hero. And guess what? I truly meant those words, and oh yeah, they were not half-heartedly written”
Except they were, Manny. Maybe not the half that was boring and predictable, but half-hearted to say the least. You want to like crap like Death Race, be our guest. But make sure you qualify your words. You can’t be like Toni Senecal on this week’s At the Movies Critic's Round-Up and say you “really, really liked” Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and then give it a “Rent It.” If you want us to believe that you really did “write” those words about Death Race and didn’t have a studio publicist do it for you, then be a little more careful about what you say in your video reviews. Or better yet, just shut up completely and kiss off. I'm sure your mother is really proud.
9/27/08 - Pete Hammond Jumpstarts His October
Jeffrey Lyons continues to lead the quote parade for 2008. Quite impressive to be leading Peter Travers so late in the game and he’s only 15 quotes away from his personal Criticwatch best of 56 from just last year. This is Travers’ season though. A lot of movies. A lot of potential Oscar wannabes. Even the ones that fail Travers tends to love so be prepared for that surge. Senior Lyons only got quoted twice in September. Travers, who one year received four quotes in a single week has gone the entire month with that amount; still doubling up Daddy Lyons and coming within 5 quotes of his lead. Both Shawn Edwards and Ben, The Spawn of Lyons also received four quotes this month. You know how many quotes Pete Hammond got? Go ahead. Count ‘em up.
Everybody Wants to Be Italian - A real charmer! In the tradition of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Burn After Reading - Insanely funny! The Coen Brothers have done it again. The dream cast is to die for. George Clooney and Brad Pitt get big laughs. John Malkovich is outrageous. A delightful, devilish and delightfully funny movie.
The Women - Gorgeously entertaining! Tops Sex and the City in every way. Hilarious flat-out fun…see it!
Appaloosa - A masterful triumph! Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are a dynamite screen pairing.
Lakeview Terrace - Lakeview Terrace burns up the screen…The incomparable Samuel L. Jackson is riveting to watch!
Igor - Igor is monstrously funny and clever…genuine fun for the whole family.
The Duchess - A role of a lifetime for Keira Knightley. She gets to be funny, strong, gorgeous – and ultimately a woman of power and dignity.
Miracle at St. Anna - Exciting and powerful. The entire cast is superb.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, EIGHT! Not bad for a guy who was literally kicked when he was down back in January, fired by Maxim after he got their name into movie ads 88 times last year. Find an article or a statement that’s positive about Hammond. I dare you. In fact, I challenge anyone from the industry out there to e-mail me with some praise (and I don’t want to hear just that he’s a nice guy) so I can post it here and show the guy there’s some love out there in the world for him. Because there’s none here. Since being let go though, Hammond has hooked up with Hollywood.com and has been letting loose in the home stretch to try and catch the other Pete and the elder Lyons, whom he now finds himself less than 10 quotes behind. He’s like the ’69 Mets, so now I really hate him. (GO CUBS!) Will we now have to call him Mr. October though? Already on the ads for Flash of Genius:
“A remarkable and inspiring true story about a man with unbelievable grit, determination and heart. You'll be rooting for him all the way.”
You make the call – is he talking about Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper or himself, the founder of the non-stop, sure-grip suck quote machine?
9/15/08 - I’M FUCKIN’ LOU. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?
After spending eight days in Toronto for the annual film festival, I don’t know which was odder. The fact that New York Post Lou Lumenick took to whacking Roger Ebert in the middle of a press screening or that it took most of us some five days to hear about it. I had a lot of close colleagues at the festival. Some of them were AT that screening. Surely, by even some six degrees of separation someone would have said something to someone and I wouldn’t have had to hear about it through Rush & Molloy. But it did happen and in case YOU didn’t hear, let me give you a quick refresher.
At a screening for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Mr. Lumenick felt a tap-tap-tappin’ on his shoulder to which he responded “Don’t touch me!” Along came another tappity-tap-tap followed by a stern “I said – don’t touch me!” When a third tap was administered, Lumenick apparently jumped up from his aisle seat and smacked the perpetrator on the knee in retaliation. As I’ve already spoiled the surprise ending as to who the tapper was, there are probably still any number of thoughts leaping to your mind. Why was Ebert bothering this poor critic just trying to do his job? Why didn’t Lumenick just punch Ebert in his surgically-repaired jaw instead of giving him a lovetap on the knee?
Or maybe you’re contemplating what you would have done had you been in the vicinity? If you knew all the facts and saw it all go down would you have leapt up from your own seat, acted as Roger’s voice and started beating Lumenick the Chicago way? Roger has his own voice though, as he always has, with the written word and doesn’t need our help to administer justice on some inconsiderate East Coaster. Ebert has gone the Obama route on the whole matter, trying to defuse the situation before a bigger deal is made of it. You can read his response HERE. If you’re looking for Lumenick’s, you’re not going to find one. At least not yet. But maybe never. You see, not-so-sweet Lou is what we call a damned position. If he do, if he don’t, the window has passed for a public apology. We know why Roger was tapping him, as he had more reason than most to be bothered by an obstructed view of a film subtitled for at least two-thirds of its running time. But there’s a greater question that speaks to Lumenick’s sense of general decency of humanistic qualities then why he would hit a respected colleague, no matter the condition he was in. With the spirit of Danny Boyle’s brilliant film in mind, I’ll pose the question to you now
When you are tapped on the shoulder, wherever it may be, your first instinct is to:
A) Say “Don’t touch me!”
B) Ignore the tapper completely.
C) Break their finger like Alec Baldwin in Miami Blues
D) Turn around to see why you are being tapped.
If you answered “A”, “B” or “C” then you are a major asshole. If you correctly answered “D” then congratulations, you are in line with 99.99999999999999% of the world’s population. Maybe Lumenick was the victim of one too many tap-switcheroos in his time. (You know the game. Playfully tap someone on one shoulder, move out of their sightline until they realize the tapper is now on their other side.) Or maybe Lumenick is the kind of asshole many of us critics encounter on the festival circuit. Sense of entitlement. Inconsiderate to others whether it be through constant checking of their bright mobile devices, talking out loud during the movie or leaning so far over to one’s side that its impossible for the person behind you to see a damn thing. “Don’t touch me” is what a child might say. Anyone familiar with Bill Cosby’s standup knows this. And anyone familiar with Criticwatch knows that we started handing out Bag O’Douche awards for a reason. It may only be September, but Lumenick is well out in front. Nothing short of Pete Hammond setting fire to a puppy factory or Shawn Edwards pissing on Pauline Kael’s grave will be able to save him. Of course I guess it all depends on how many episodes the new incarnation of At the Movies airs.
8/29/08 - Critique 101 with Pete Hammond
It’s exasperating picking on Pete Hammond week in and week out. But that’s what you do with scabs. The scars are already inevitable for what he’s been doing to criticism over the last few years. Now it seems as if he fashioning his quotes in the same manner that South Park exposed Family Guy with groups of manitees pushing giant balls across a tank to form a complete sentence. On the TV ads for this week’s sole major release screened for critics (Traitor), you may have seen or heard this line:
“A relentless suspense thriller with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave you on the edge of your seat. This year’s Bourne Ultimatum.”
Taking away the opinionated critical assessment that Traitor is not (or ever will) be in the same league of any of the Bourne films. (At least not the Greengrass entries.) I don’t care if Pete has Steve Oldfield to agree with him. It’s an average film at best. Watchable, not really that suspenseful. 51% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Bourne’s 93%. Give me Casino Royale, David Mamet’s Spartan or hell, even Hot Fuzz was a better action film. Whatever, that’s opinion. But read the other part of the quote. This is as asinine as when whores give you that shtick about “having you guessing until the very last frame.” Aside from Basic Instinct, how many films can you think of where the last frame was essential in figuring out the mystery? Typically, the killer is revealed somewhere in the third act in time for a confrontation, a resolution and maybe an epilogue. If you are STILL guessing the identity of the bad guy until the very last frame then you are an epic moron and should change your name to Pete Hammond.
So back to Easy Petey’s quote. “A jaw-dropping twist that will leave you on the edge of your seat.” The implication of this line is that said twist turns Traitor on its ear and subjects the viewer towards a finality that is going to be very suspenseful. Why else would you be on the edge of your seat? Without dreaming of giving anything away to you, the only real twist I can think of that would set Pete all a dither is more of a punchline, even an applaud moment if you’re really into the movie. Nothing that happens after that moment has you on the edge of your seat. If anything, it’s a moment of relief that should have you sitting back catching your breath. Again, just spitballing, but Kenneth Branagh’s Dead Again – there’s a twist that puts you on the edge of your seat. Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This isn’t even critiquing 101, Pete. That’s just basic common viewership. So stop overselling. Or better yet, just stop.
8/22/08 - Who Let the Whores Out?
The answer to that question would be the studios. Yes, welcome once again to the dregs of summer where films go to die just as the kids are going back to school and the count of films not getting screened goes up exponentially. Next week alone we’ll be treated to zero reviews of MGM’s College , Lions Gate's Disaster Movie and Fox's Babylon A.D. (which Variety managed to snag a European review of.) No wonder Fox is suing Warners for some of that impending Watchmen cash. Even Star Wars bailed on Fox this summer, although that may be one for the Fox column. Who will be the first to blurb on those shitpiles-in-waiting? We’ll check in soon as we recap the best and worst quotes of the summer season. In the meantime, let’s start cleaning a little house.
Sony’s The House Bunny, which withheld screenings from the Chicagoland market until Wednesday evening, has dusted off Shawn Edwards (absent from quoting since June's Get Smart; his longest stretch since November-January 2005-06). “Fabulous, fun and fresh! Anna Faris’ charm is infectious,” says Edwards in perhaps the only time you’ll see the words “fresh” and “infectious” uttered in the same breath. Speaking of big, gaping sores, there’s also Paul Fischer calling it “A deliciously funny film. A completely adorable and satisfying gem of a comedy.” Obviously Paul forgot to eat again before the screening and I’m sorry to make any implication between Paul eating while viewing a cast that includes Anna Faris, Emma Stone and Katharine McPhee. Sorry, gals. Just avoid the sweaty guy in the front row.
Speaking of sweaty dudes, Jason Statham clearly has no shame in being featured in films by Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson in the same calendar year. And while no one with any shame or a working critical brain could possibly like Death Race, Universal has trucked out some of the fringe players including Shawn Edwards’ TV partner, Russ Simmons (no relation to any Def Jam) who lets us know that “Death Race is an action-packed thriller!” More of a description than any due praise. No one could argue that it isn’t action-packed. Clearly there were guns and explosions enducing a constant headache of overedited shakycam shots. Although if you can’t tell what’s happening, does it really count? Really overselling it is Tim Estiloz from The Comcast Network. “Takes the action film genre to new heights of excitement. A high-octane, adrenaline fueled thrill ride.” New heights of excitement? He does realize he’s talking about a Paul W.S. Anderson film, right? Seriously, off the top of your head – what are the best action films or spectacles of the past decade? Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy? James Cameron’s Titanic? Peter Greengrass’ Bourne entries? Pretty damn fine heights to top. Do you think there will ever be a discussion in the future that includes any single moment or sequence from Death Race on this list?
But my favorite on the Death Race whore list comes from newbie, Manny dela Rosa from NBC-TV. Welcome to the suck, Manny! Calling it “a thrill-a-minute action adventure” is nothing special. But you follow it up with this gem:
“Jason Statham is Hollywood’s new action hero.”
Is this your first movie, Manny? Have you been paying attention or did you just truck on over from the planet Shithead? Hollywood’s NEW action hero? This guy hasn’t been “NEW” since he headlined The Transporter back in 2002. That’s six years worth of new action heroes to consider. Christ, The Rock is a newer action hero and he got anointed by the Last Action Hero himself in The Rundown. In 2003! Transporter 2 in ’05, Crank in ’06, War in ’07, both In the Name of the King and The Bank Job already in 2008. You’re way past the opportunity to call him Hollywood’s new action hero, a guy who still hasn’t hit $44 million with his name above the title. That may change with Death Race, but a $50 million gross won’t exactly crown him a hero in Hollywood, no matter what the preceding adjective. The only thing that’s new this weekend is you, Manny. You want to praise a new action hero from Universal this week, try blurbing Randy Couture for The Scorpion King 2: Rock Free this week.
Oh wait, you’ve been beat to the punch. Easy Petey Hammond has run out of straight-to-video American Pie sequels to whore for, so he’s shifting gears to Universal’s direct-to-DVD Scorpion King Deux. The man literally has no shame to speak of. Especially when you consider that there is no review to be found on Hollywood.com. One of the first rules of spotting a quote whore. Providing verbage directly for the ads without it first appearing in a review of any sort. Hell, I’d feel bad if I just called Pete Hammond a boneheaded, non-stop, blow-you-in-the-back-of-the-theater-or-wherever-he-can-get-his-name-shouted-out hack of a slut whore toolbag. You know, without any context. But I believe I’ve backed up that statement on Criticwatch time and time again through essays, features and flat-out lists proving that with pure scientific know-how. He can’t back up “bone-crushing excitement” because I believe first you have to have a backbone of your own.
8/8/08 - Peter Travers Ruins Pineapple Express For Everyone
So did I ever tell you the story of how Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers ruined Pineapple Express for me? No? Well it was just this last Monday when the Chicago media was finally allowed to see the film. Despite two, three and up to eight screenings in other markets like Orlando, Austin, D.C. Kansas City and parts of Ohio, Sony and their local Allied representation decided to only provide a single option for most of Chicago’s critics. This despite being at least a half-dozen confirmed screenings prior to the Monday before the Wednesday opening. As a colleague remarked, “it’s not like critics have any interest in a David Gordon Green film or anything.” Any one of those earlier screenings could have prevented the unfortunate moment where I was taken out of the film within the first 10 minutes. And that’s all due to Peter Travers.
You see, he’s got this big fat quote plastered all over the newspaper ads. Not to mention his “hot box of crazy” that’s running on television as if anyone cares. Have you seen the other quote though?
“This is like if Superbad met Midnight Run and they had a baby, and then Pulp Fiction and True Romance met Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared and they had a ababy, and by some miracle those babies met – this would be the funny movie they birthed.”
Now, that might be a clever little Southern-fried by way of Idiocracy’s prologue way of describing the movie to your friends. Except its nothing more than a play on the very mini-speech that James Franco delivers to Seth Rogen in order to sell him on the excellence of Pineapple Express (the weed, not the movie.) For the next several minutes, I could do nothing but think of what an unimaginative hack d-bag that Travers is. Kinda makes you wonder if the extension of his quote “You’ll go limp from laughing!” is something he said during a pants party weekend with Pete Hammond.
Speaking of pants parties, there’s a certain Sisterhood movie opening this week as well. Warner Bros. whore du jour, Mark S. Allen is up for it calling it “better than the original!” But his quote isn’t nearly as disturbing as the one from In Touch magazine:
“The fiercest female foursome since Sex and the City.”
I’m sure parents the world over are happy that this young female cast is being compared to the most loathsome, materialistic whore bitches this side of a Kardashian/Hilton get together. But it also had me thinking what other freakin’ fierce female foursome there has been since that scourge on cinema hit in May? Kung Fu Panda only had one cougar (actually tigress) in their crew. There was only one Mother of Tears. Only one Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron kicking ass in each of their films. Mamma Mia had a threesome of bad singers. What about television? There’s only three whoo-wers on Lipstick Jungle. Help me out. How many are there on Cashmere Mafia? Army Wives? Footballer’s Wives? Desperate Housewives? Gossip Girl? Grey’s Anatomy? Private Practice? Is Sisterhood Deux supposed to be associated with such riff-raff? Maybe I’m not as in touch as I’m supposed to be.
8/1/08 - Ben Lyons Agrees With ME?
So I haven’t had much to say about the “revamping” of the Siskel & Ebert/Ebert & Roeper program with aspiring quote whore, Ben Lyons. Mostly because, as a result, I’ve found myself with the rare case of vomit spewing from my fingertips as well as my mouth and bowels making it unable for me to type, let alone speak or enjoy the written word of a good book; something I recommend Ben look into. Both the written word and the bout of Montezuma.
This morning I was forwarded a piece from Rush & Malloy that quotes not only the Jeffrey/Ben tandem of Lyons, but also yours truly (taken not from a direct interview, but previously published pieces.) In it, the elder Lyons (who once took over for Sneak Previews when Siskel & Ebert got their names big enough for the marquee) blasts people for daring to suggest that nepotism was involved in getting little Ben Fontelroy his new gig.
“[My son] Ben and I are on two separate networks and different coasts. If anything, I'd have less pull getting him on."
OK, maybe not directly. But let’s not forget that aside from donating sperm to a toilet seat, Ben was a semi-regular addition to Jeffrey’s ultra-lame Reel Talk show. (Who got him that job?) Next thing you know he’s on E! and then at age 26, taking over for, without argument, two of the most influential professional film critics who ever lived. Everyone knows by now how I feel about last year’s #7 ranking quote whore and I’m actually the only one directly quoted in the piece entitled “Jeffrey Lyons pans son’s critics.” As if I’m the only one.
A source close to the Lyons’ has told me that:
“Ben Lyons is the worst kind of studio kiss-up, even more than his father. His pieces on E! are pure fluff and I honestly don't believe he has a serious critical bone in his body, even when compared to his father. No one under 30 watches that show, maybe no one under 40, and I don't think putting Ben Lyons on the show will change that.”
There you have it. I’d like to think a serious (yet fun and engaging) show can be crafted on film criticism, similar to ESPN’s Around the Horn or Pardon the Interruption (the latter a direct descendant of Siskel & Ebert) taking on all sorts of topics to merge all ages and not the “inside information” that Ben Lyons has said would bring something to the new bastardization. I’m not an unfair guy though. I’m actually willing to take in the new show and see how it plays out. It could take all of one episode for the word vomit to begin flowing again, but I’ll lay off for now. Besides, ol’ Ben said he did agree with me on one point. “My dad is on the box for Juwanna Mann.”
Could any pseudo-homoerotic, sex-changing statement sum up Jeffrey Lyons better? How would you like to have a dad who liked Juwanna Mann? How would you like to have a dad who knew what the hell Juwanna Mann was? You know what else Jeffrey liked? The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor!
“It’s about as good as a summer action, thrill-a-minute adventure movie gets.”
From the guy who already called Iron Man “A thrill-a-minute blockbuster!”, Narnia’s Prince Caspian as “a thrilling adventure” and Journey to the Center of the Earth “a superb family adventure!” This latest quote puts Jeff in the 13% of critics (per Rotten Tomatoes) that approve of the third Mummy entry, a film that a pair of colleagues called “the worst film of the summer” (2008 being the summer of The Happening and The Love Guru) and another who said it’s bad “even by Rob Cohen standards.” Rob Cohen, of xXx and Stealth infamy. Even Pete Hammond slammed the film. You would have to go all the way down to Uwe Boll’s Postal to find a film that was reviewed worse this summer and even that’s pushing it in terms of high-profile. Unless it can find a way to crack the twentieth percentile, The Mummy Tres will rank below both the aforementioned The Happening and The Love Guru on the Tomatometer. Do everyone a favor, Jeff. Just stop helping. Whatever or whomever it may be.
7/21/08 - Taking Another Swing At Hammond
Ads have been running for weeks now on Disney’s upcoming political comedy, Swing Vote. So much so that you may be tired of them by now. Let’s just see the damn movie already. Many of us would like to except Disney is holding most of its press screenings until the week of its release. We know one guy that’s seen it though. He’s even plastered all over the ads:
“Swing Vote is a landslide comedy winner. It's smart, witty and a non-stop laugh machine. Kevin Costner is pitch-perfect in the one movie that is so inspiring you'll stand up and cheer.” - Pete Hammond
How many frickin’ quote whore clichés did Hammond work into that one? He puns the title, goes with the pitch-perfect and caps it off with the classic stand up and cheer line. I don’t even want to see it after that. I’ll be on vacation when it screens in Chicago anyway. But how pathetic. Try playing Mad-Libs with Hammond. I guarantee he fills in the blank with the same verbs and adjectives every time. Just like his brain. In related braindead news, Ben Lyons is out saying that American Teen is “A modern day Breakfast Club that will make you stand up and cheer.” Jeez, wonder where he got that idea?
7/13/08 - WHO IS TRAVERS KIDDING?
A few weeks back we commented on Peter Travers’ nearly full month early rave of The Dark Knight. While the rest of us sit on our embargoed praise, Travers is out there throwing adjectives around to guarantee his little Rolling Stone rag will have top placement come the first ads; a fact confirmed as he has received the sole quote in Sunday’s New York Times:
“A thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. FEVERISH ACTION? Check. DAZZLING SPECTACLE? Check. DEVILISH FUN? Check. Just hang on for a shock to the system. Every actor brings his “A” game to show the lure of the dark side. The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination.”
Whether or not I agree with him is immaterial. You can read my review at the site on Thursday when most professionals get to unleash their Oscar-bait praise. But it’s the first part of Travers’ quote that I take umbrage with. The blanket of bland that we call summer movies? If Travers was some high-falutin’ critic on the arthouse beat who looked at the blockbuster season with the same pretense of those who claim not to own televisions, that would be some pretty hefty praise for The Dark Knight. Except he’s not a high-falutin’ critic. He’s Peter Travers. And reading his quotes would hardly leave you with the impression that he’s been bored with the same shit, different week of this summer. Just on quotes alone, in eleven weeks of the summer season we’ve had so far, Travers has jerked it seven times for major releases.
Iron Man - Spectacular…Iron Man kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up. It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. You can feel the exhilaration.
Speed Racer - Visually the movie is a powerhouse.
Sex and the City - Snap out of it, guys, you just might learn something. Sarah Jessica Parker is funny, touching and vital.
Get Smart - Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway spark off of each other.
Wanted - I love it. Sexy, built to thrill.
Hancock - Hugely entertaining! Jason Bateman never makes a false move and a stellar Charlize Theron springs her own bolts from the blue…As for Will Smith, he’s on fire. There’s nothing like a star shining on his highest beams. You follow him anywhere.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Hellboy II is a surprise package of fun and untamed imagination.
OK, so that’s not every major release of the ’08 summer. Where’s WALL-E, Journey to the Center of the Earth or The Incredible Hulk? Oh wait, found them.
The Incredible Hulk - "The latest spin on the Marvel comic-book hero delivers the popcorn goods."
WALL-E - "No movie can be a downer that fills you with pure exhilaration. You leave WALL-E with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you've just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic."
Journey to the Center of the Earth - "I don't know if 3-D could improve all movies (nothing could make The Love Guru funny) but it sure works here."
So he didn’t like The Love Guru. What a stretch! If you check out his reviews from May until this weekend at Rotten Tomatoes, he’s gone positive on 19 of the 25 films. He also panned Meet Dave (which Jeffrey Lyons said reminded him of Being There), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Narnia Deux and, of all things, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. That’s still not a whole lot of bland, Pete. It’s been nearly two months since you panned the kind of slam-bang, blow your ass through the back of the theater powerhouse that is synonymous with the summer season. Of course, if you chose your words more carefully you wouldn’t be you. A giant hemorrhoid on the ass-end of criticism.
7/4/08 - ”Teach Me Read” – Pete Hammond
So it looks like Pete Hammond is back full-time. Thanks a lot, Hollywood.com. We can’t go off so much on the movies he’s being quoted on (no matter how drunk I feel everyone is about Wanted), but we can at least go off on his quotes. Simply put, Hammond doesn’t quite have the grasp on the English language. That and the marketers and/or editors of the paper aren’t quite picking up on it. Granted, you go through a lot of writers’ stuff (including mine) and you’ll find the occasional missed edit or twisty sentence. But look at his quote on the very enjoyable Diminished Capacity and play English teacher for a moment.
“This is the sleeper surprise discovery of the summer. Smart, witty and genuinely human comedy…The entire cast is wonderful.” – Pete Hammond
Catch that? Did you see it? Better yet, did you hear it? Read it out loud again. Smart. Witty. And GenuineLY human comedy. Like Hammond’s recommendations, that’s one more LY the world could go without. But the coup de grace was this catch by our own Rob Gonsalves last week on Hammond’s quote for Wanted:
“The most visually inventive, trailblazing film of its kind in light years. The heart-stopping, extreme summer action movie of your dreams.” – Pete Hammond
“Light years measure distance, not time, you fucking clown shoe.” – Rob Gonsalves
6/26/08 - Travers, The Dark Whore
Warner Bros. has been a joy to work with over the years. At least since the fine people over at Terry Hines took over the account here in Chicago. Which is why I hate to call them out for their rampant use of whores. Guys like Mark S. Allen are a regular staple. Look at whom they’re quoting on their Get Smart ads right now. This one takes the cake though. And its not so much a criticism of anyone at the studio. At least not up front. Everyone knows here at Criticwatch that we named our top whoring award after Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers for writing up more positives than Deepak Chopra at an integer seminar and doing so with enough hyperbolic superlatives to guarantee his less-relevant-than-ever magazine appears in the ads.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight doesn’t open in theaters until July 18. Windy City natives are getting to see it a full 10 days early; a tactic that studios like Universal, Paramount, Sony and Disney might want to utilize to give critics time to give them better coverage. Peter Travers didn’t have to wait until after the July 4 holiday. He’s already had his screening and he’s bringing out the fireworks too. With a review over THREE WEEKS EARLY, I am going to laugh my ass off the next time a studio threatens one of our CFCA members with releasing their review before the release date.
Now, Warner Bros. may run wild with Travers review. But, ironically, to savvy observers of the industry, they are actually drawing negative attention to themselves. And not just here. Check out some of the comments over at Hollywood Elsewhere
"Knight may be a good or even great film, or at least a wild slam-banger, but there's no trusting Travers. About anything. Especially when he's the first one out of the gate." - Jeffrey Wells
"He's like the Doug Henning of movie criticism - you wonder how he keeps from keeling over, he gets so giddy." - 115thdreamer
"I think I stopped taking him seriously when in his review of Mulholland Dr. he described "colors that pop like a whore's lip gloss". Whatever, dude." - Lazarus
"Early bird reviews like this always smack of opportunism on the behalf of the reviewer. Like that kid who's the first on the block to play with the hot new toy and can't hold back his exhileration at doing so. Then the rest of us play with it and we find out it's just another damn toy." - Undercover Brother
"As a rule of thumb, I don't trust any review that's written in a way that's begging to be quoted in the ad campaign." - Joel
There you have it. Now, WB may not have granted Travers their blessing to print anything - but they knew what they were getting into when they granted him such early access. However, they could make a statement to this douchebag and to all embargo busters by (A) not using a single word of his review in any of the ads and (B) banning him from all early screenings. I'm sure there are a few trusted online writers out there who can hold out a little longer and still satisfy their readers.
6/24/08 - Criticwatch hasn't had much to report recently and that's probably a good thing. Pete Hammond and Shawn Edwards have popped up a couple times. (Disney honestly couldn't find anyone to go early on the masterpiece WALL-E better than Easy Petey?) But nothing too crazy. WB used a bunch of whores on the ads for the decently reviewed Get Smart. But if you haven't already, check out the latest piece on the recent glut of whore interviews and the continued (and unnecessary) war between print and online critics.
Criticwatch 2008: War, Peace and Every Man In Between
5/25/08 - Six Whores and their Mother?
The whores are out for Sex and the City. And the critics are raving too. I haven't seen the film yet myself but who could resist that line after seeing the parade of quotes in Sunday's papers. Maybe the 145-minute film, the longest of the summer to date (longer than Indiana Jones, Iron Man, Speed Racer or even Narnia) is also the best. I'll just leave you with final query until my review on Friday. What's with all the dudes loving this film?
****! A great night out with friends. – Colin Bertram, Daily News
Sarah Jessica Parker couldn’t be better. The four female stars are the most appealing ensemble of the year. – Roger Friedman
Sex and the City sizzles! – Liam Mayclem, CBS-TV
The best date movie of the summer! – Mark S. Allen
Sexational!...Sex and the City is back, beautiful, and better than ever. – Neil Rosen
Sex and the City is wickedly funny…Definitely worth the wait! – Bill Bregoli
Run – don’t walk – and bring a friend! Sex and the City is absolute perfection. – Sandie Newton
5/23/08 - Kingdom of the Thick & Useless Skulls
Nineteen years ago this week, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade debuted to audiences. Chapter four of the Indiana Jones series opened this Thursday. He may be older but the reviews are still fresh, flirting with an 80% approval rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, currently making it the 4th best reviewed film of the year (minimum of 100 reviews) behind Iron Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Counterfeiters have 2007 roots so they haven't been included.)
Surprisingly enough though, one critic who is on that negative side is none other than quote whore du jour, Peter Travers. The man who liked Charlie Bartlett, 21, and Speed freakin' Racer is invoking the term of "silliness" to describe Indiana Jones. And he's not alone.
The reigning Peter Travers Whore of the Year, Shawn Edwards, blasts Indiana Jones as being neither "fun or adventurous." Edwards says, "it's silly and annoying" and "the worst and most anti-climactic ever in the history of the movies." Shawn, you ignorant slutwhore. You would rather sit through Fool's Gold ("Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are this generation's most engaging on-screen couple") than Crystal Skull? You liked Semi-Pro, Drillbit Taylor AND Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins? Did poor Shawny get denied an interview from Spielberg and Lucas? (And if anyone saw Access Hollywood's "exclusive" interview from Cannes, more sympathetic I could not be. "Who's better with the whip?" was one of their questions.) And here I was going to use this space to celebrate the impending two-month anniversary of our movie ads being Shawn Edwards free. He's been absent since Leatherheads, the culmination of a period from Feb. 8 - Apr. 4 where he amassed 10 quotes with some of the gems listed above. He had 11 going into the summer season in 2007 where he picked up another 9 quotes from May-to-August. Let's keep the streak going. I don't know what more to say about these two idiots. Their reviews, as always, are suspect. Talk amongst yourselves.
Meanwhile, speaking of talk - feel free to tune into Nick Digilio's show this Sunday night (May 25). At Midnight (Central time), myself and Collin Souter will be in-studio to discuss all things Indiana Jones and the resurgence of the elder action franchises. Just click below to listen online, go to www.wgnradio.com or tune into 720 AM in Chicago for what should be an entertaining and informative discussion. Maybe Travers and Edwards can call in.
The President of the Chicago Film Critics Association (not the picture you see before you) received a fax this week regarding Prince Caspian, the adaptation of the second Narnia book (albeit chronologically the fourth of the seven stories.) This fax informed him that the chairman of the Christian Film & TV Commission (and the editor of Movieguide.org) hails it as “a fantastic epic adventure” and “a very exciting, fantastic epic that re-imagines the book’s story.” I think we all know what “book” he means has been “re-imagined.” And that “he” is Ted Baehr (yes, HIS picture right), whom you may have seen here and there on movie ads or more notably as a subject of ridicule here at Criticwatch. Back in 1988 he was at the forefront of the protests on Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ but now advocates the series where Father Christmas hands over weapons to children to do battle for the kingdom. Solid Christian message, all around, don’t you think?
While the CFCA board is receiving this fax to tell us what others think of the movie, the majority of the membership will not have a chance to see the film until the Wednesday evening (May 14). Christ, even Jesus was given three days to rest before the resurrection. The Sun-Times and Tribune got a look more than a full week earlier. So “hear me now Israel…Aren’t your ways unequal?” (Exekiel 18:25)
Bryan Erdy, after a brief separation from the Disney teat, is back calling Prince Caspian “Even better than the first. Astonishing in the every way.” And that’s just on the TV spots. In the New York Times Sunday he also called it “Extraordinary! Destined to join the original as a classic!” This from the guy who never met a straight-to-video Disney animated sequel he couldn’t blurb (Bambi II, Brother Bear 2, Cinderella III & The Fox and the Hound 2.) Last year National Treasure 2 was “spectacular, exciting fun.” Believe in Jesus or the Lord, our Father, or a talking lion all you want, but by believing in Erdy you’re putting your faith in the guy who said The Game Plan was “one of the funniest movies in years” and that College Road Trip was “the perfect family movie.” Here are some more false Gods put before the nation’s critics singing Narnia’s praises:
“****” Gorman Woodfin, CNN
“Triumphant.” Stephen McGarvey, crosswalk.com
“Brilliant! A captivating adventure that’s thrilling from start to finish. – Mose Persico
“Wildly exciting! Bigger and better, Prince Caspian hits the mark! – Bonnie Laufer
“The must-see film of 2008.” S. Choi - TLN
Psalms says that scorn is for the proud. And I’m damn proud not to be any of these people.
Film Title: Speed Racer
Released by: Warner Bros,
Tomatometer: 34% (as of May 9, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
"135 minutes of noisy, infantile and shockingly boring mind rot that will inspire only partial epilepsy in viewers whose ages remain in the single digits and complete ennui in those who have passed the big 1-0.." - Peter Sobczynski, eFilmCritic.com
" It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the entire movie was paid for by the makers of Tylenol.." - Scott Weinberg, Cinematical
"At an exceedingly long 135 minutes, the film needs more than what might result from the explosion of a Crayola factory, and Speed Racer has nothing extra to offer -- no heart, no excitement, no moments to cherish." - James Berardinelli, ReelViews
What I Said:
"Speed Racer devolves into one of the most painfully ill-conceived borefests to ever grace a summer movie season and an easy candidate of one of 2008's worst films." – Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
That’s what the negative reviews of Speed Racer look like. Critics who don’t like it, REALLY don’t like it. And more sympathetic – I could not be. 34% actually seems high at Rotten Tomatoes with 81 reviews clocked in Friday morning, but the number has been going down day-by-day and will probably be somewhere between 25-30% by Sunday. Possibly, unfathomably, lower than What Happens In Vegas. Warner Bros. is not using any of that 33% though. They have trotted out a lineup of whores like a menu at the Chicken Ranch. Starting with last Sunday’s ads, it seems new ones kept popping up on the TV spots and even more for this weekend’s ads.
"The creators of the Matrix trilogy have revolutionized moviemaking." - Earl Dittman
"Spectacular! Visually stunning. It will blow your mind." – Mark S. Allen
"A spectacular adventure for all ages." – Dean Richards
"A visual masterpiece. Great entertainment." – Janet Stokes
"Beyond incredible. You’ve never seen anything like it." - Bryan Erdy
"One of the most exhilarating movies you’ll ever see." – Jim Ferguson
"It's the coolest thing I've seen." - Carrie Keagan
Bryan Erdy must have been given the Jedi mind trick into thinking he was seeing a Disney film. Dittman has given us some seriously old news and you can read below to find out who Carrie Keagan is. David Poland at MovieCityNews has been pimpin’ this movie since late April. And has been giving them some gem quotes that don’t sound like the crap just above. Now, like anyone who likes this movie I think he was either drunk or a recipient of the McMurphy treatment when seeing it, but why not use someone willing to write thousands of words about your film and continue to defend it then these 15 words-or-less jokers?
Revoking Critical And Man Cards
Last week, the unbearably generic Made of Honor didn’t have anyone in its ads to recommend the film. It’s a rare occurrence but sometimes a film is just so bad that even the whores smartly disassociate themselves from it. (See ads for: Deception, The Hottie and the Nottie, etc…) More commonly it’s on the films that don’t screen for critics (i.e. Meet the Spartans, The Eye), unless you write for Bloody-Disgusting and happily provide positive thoughts for test screenings of The Ruins and Pathology.
This week though, Paul Fischer has made my job all the more easier when he got his name as the solo voice of unreason on the 13% RT approved, Made of Honor. (“…Deliciously romantic, a wonderfully funny date movie that is both irresistible and charming.”) He’s also one of two, as mentioned last week, on the ads for this week’s romantic comedy disaster, What Happens In Vegas, which is, by and large, the worst film of 2008 not named Prom Night. Fischer calls it “Hilarious!” though. Why does this make my job easier? Well, it just provides a nice little parallel to a demotion we’re giving on Criticwatch.
“Made of Honor is a nice cookie-cutter comedy, no more and no less, but Dempsey, with his relaxed charm, and Monaghan, with her soft and peachy sensual spark, rise to the challenge of making friendship look like the wellspring of true love.”
“Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz hate on each other with dynamite verve in What Happens in Vegas.”
Those words belong to Entertainment Weekly critic, Owen Gleiberman. So be sure to give a nice, hearty “thank you” to him when your lady drags you to both pieces of crap. Trust me, guys. No promise of repeat viewings of Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight while getting oral homage in the back of the theater is enough to make you enjoy one of these films, let alone both. These are break-up material movies. And recommending them both not only forfeits your man card but grants you a one-way trip from the “trustworthy” to the “caveat emptor” section of our Criticwatch list. You earned this one, Owen, and you’re in the penalty box without parole for a while.
Top Critics Agree: Peter Travers is "Fierce and Funny"
Film Title: Iron Man
Released by: Paramount
Tomatometer: 94% (as of May 3, 2008)
So, Paramount, you have this film cranking a whopping 94% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. They could be mostly 3-star/solid “B” ratings, but no matter – the positive reviews are flowing. 144-to-9 positive-to-negative by this writing. Those are Pixar-like numbers. It currently is the FIFTH-best reviewed film of the year and SECOND-best (behind only 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) with films sporting over 100 reviews at the site. And, yet, these are the people you choose to hype your product in the ads:
“Spectacular…Iron Man kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up. It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny.” – Peter Travers
“A thrill-a-minute blockbuster!” – Jeffrey Lyons
“It’s a blast!” – Gene Shalit
“One of the best superhero movies ever!” – Scott Mantz
Couldn’t find anyone better than that, Paramount, seriously? You may not wanted to associate your superhero flick with the online geek sites, but at least some of them write more than just dumb-dumb phrases like Lyons and Shalit. I suppose that’s why Saturday you prefaced the ad with the big “TOP CRITICS AGREE” and replaced them with A.O. Scott (“An unusually good superhero picture”), Joe Morgenstern (“Hugely entertaining!”) and the Saturday ad’s best friend, Claudia Puig (“Entertaining and fun!”). Last week you attributed “A lot of fun” to one Mr. Roeper, but now it’s been given to his current partner, Michael Phillips and Richard was left with “Robert Downey Jr. gives a blazing performance!” Thank you for not saying “iron-clad”, Richard. But still in that “top critic” list remains Peter Travers, which remains one of the few negatives associated with Iron Man this weekend. It may have been "years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny," according to Travers. But just one year ago Travers said:
"This mischievous blend of The Office and Friday the 13th keeps things fierce and funny enough to give Steve Carell ideas." (Severance)
"Michael Moore isn’t the only filmmaker packing enough heat to bust out of the documentary ghetto. A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love)
"A radically fierce & funny fireball. "(Sicko)
"Fierce and fiendishly funny." (No Country for Old Men)
"Fiercely funny!" (Delirious)
STOP USING PETER TRAVERS, STUDIOS!!!!
Vegas and Zombie Strippers
This weekend 20th Century Fox, the creators of Meet the Spartans, Jumper, Shutter and Deception is sneaking the latest film from the writer of The Wedding Date. At 10 PM Saturday night you can choose to catch What Happens In Vegas so you can say that you saw it even before the critics; most of whom haven’t been invited until Tuesday morning. (Chicago is even further behind the times with a Tuesday evening screening.) No matter what city you’re in though, there’s no way you can be the first or even the second one in line for the Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutcher marriage-off. Sorry, Paul Fischer and Sara Edwards have already beat you to the punch. “Hilarious!” says Fischer, getting only his second quote of the year (after Smart People). Edwards is getting her first quote of the year, whipping out a whore’s greatest hits calling it “Laugh-out-loud funny!” and “Sweet, smart, sexy.” Apparently, it “Works on every level.” Wow, Sara! And, of course, we believe you because in the past you recommended we see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Unaccompanied Minors, Home of the Brave, Stick It and Monster-In-Law. What Happens In Vegas, Sara, stays shut in your unqualified mouth!
Catching up on something I missed in last week’s Chicago papers was the ads for the Robert Englund/Jenna Jameson breastfest, Zombie Strippers. The film got a one-theater engagement in the Windy City and, much to our most pleasant surprise, was actually screened for critics. A pretty hefty accomplishment considering how many already haven’t been this year including the recent Prom Night and Pathology. It’s actually a better film than either of them. But better does not equal good. Certainly not “so hot, it hurts,” as said by No Good TV’s (NGTV) Carrie Keagan (seen right) who also said that 10,000 B.C. “rocks!!” and 27 Dresses gave us “27 more reasons to love Katherine Heigl!” But despite some really horrible taste in film, I’ll at least give her a pass as being the kind of galpal who may force you to go see chick flicks in January but will gladly get it on for a film called Zombie Strippers.
I’m not going to say the same for one Luke Yelasdi Thompson. The L.A. Weekly critic has gone on record in the ad as saying, now stay with me here, that Zombie Strippers is “Easily the best movie of the year, so far. Really.” He even added the “really” before we had a chance to question him. Granted, the film may be rocking more positive reviews (15) at Rotten Tomatoes than 88 Minutes, Deal (still mired in an 0-for-26 slump) and this week’s Made of Honor combined but I’m afraid it’s come to this. Luke, I know we're facebook friends and I wish you all the best - but you have to give up your credentials. I’m sorry. It may sound rash, but we can’t have a critic saying this. It’s not helping our argument. That’s officially your last review outside the pages of AVN. Carrie, on the other hand, call me sometime. We can go see Sex and the City and then to make it up to me I’m sure Luke can recommend something juicy from Vivid.
It Isn't Just The Name of the Movie
Film Title: Deception
Released by: 20th Century Fox
Tomatometer: 11% (as of Apr. 26, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
"Can a movie title be so unthinkably bad that it single-handedly ruins the viewing experience? As it turns out, yes.." - Dustin Putman, TheMovieBoy.com
"A would-be erotic thriller with no heat and zero chills, Deception has the kind of glassy, glossy sheen and risible story that mean to suggest Basic Instinct but instead invoke lesser laughers like Jade and Sliver.." - Manohla Dargis
"If the filmmakers were expecting to dupe their audience with Hitchcock-like twists, then they severely underestimated the intelligence of the average moviegoer." - David Kaplan
What I Said:
"Wolverines and Cougars aside, there are more than one strokes responsible for violating their own rules and putting a name on the film that is only an introduction to what's wrong with it.." – Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
While I continued to monitor Rotten Tomatoes to see who would be the first critic to post something positive about the poker film, Deal, currently in an 0-for-25 slump (0% RT rating) I saw that the initial numbers for Fox’s Deception had risen from 6% to 11%. Despite having gone to “the next level” as Howie would say on Deal or No Deal, I didn’t give it much thought. Fox still wasn’t running any positive quotes on the ads and I wasn’t going to trouble myself worrying about some internet whackjob with really bad taste. Saturday morning when a colleague clued me that this wasn’t just any whackjob, the link to his review said it all.
Yep, Pete Hammond, posting reviews for whomever would have him at this point gave a positive review to Deception. In all fairness, Hammond isn’t the only critic to like it. (And he did contributed to Deal’s 0-for-25.) There are six other positive reviews (including Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore) at Rotten Tomatoes for Deception – if you can find them buried within the other 55 negative ones. His quote at the site reads:
“THe kind of edge-of-your-seat sexual thriller that grabs you and doesn't let go.”
The director’s cut extended quote over at Hollywood.com says, “Deception is the kind of state-of-the-art, edge-of-your-seat sexual thriller that grabs you and doesn’t let go. It’s actually the kind of movie Hitchcock might have made.”
That’s true. Hitchcock might have made a film like Deception. Only it wouldn’t have sucked. At least not if he made it in the ‘50s or ‘60s. But that’s the kind of pull quote that grabs you doesn’t it? Like these from Hammond over the years.
Akeelah and the Bee - Grabs you by the heart in unexpected and wonderful ways.
Jet Li’s Fearless - Fearless grabs you with its epic scope and richly human story.
Apocalypto - Once again, Mel Gibson proves why he is one of the best filmmakers around. Clearly a fearless director who knows how to grab an audience and not let go for even a minute.
Fracture - A sleek, surprising and surefire thriller that will grab you by the throat.
Dark Water - The year's first genuinely frightening edge-of-your-seat chiller. Even Hitchcock could not have done better.
No, only Pete Hammond could not have done better.
Despite some surprisingly positive reviews for last week’s The Forbidden Kingdom (which has garnered the necessary 60%+ rating at Rotten Tomatoes for a fresh rating), Lions Gate used none of the reviews in the ads. That all changed this week as they managed to get some heavy hitters like A.O. Scott (“Dazzling!”), David Edelstein (“Great fun!”) and Richard Roeper (“Great humor!”). But stuck right there at the end is Mike Sargent; infamous last year for basically getting caught admitting on Inside Edition that he sometimes has provided quotes for films he hasn’t even seen.
The radio host, known in his circles as “Mr. No Show”, has provided a pair for the martial arts un-extravaganza, one for the papers (“Forbidden Kingdom is pure entertainment!”) and my favorite for the television spots (“Jackie Chan and Jet Li are at the top of their game!”) Chan is 54 and the Jet is 45. Now I don’t like calling attention to age, particularly when Jackie, arguably, made the most awe-dropping film of his entire career when he was nearly 40 (Drunken Master II), but c’mon. Saying that these two legends are at “the top of their game” in a film barely worthy of Jackie’s English skills let alone his moves, is like saying Kathleen Turner today has never been more doable.
And as my current favorite mini-story of the week, the poker film Deal, directed by Gil Cates Jr. (yes, the son of the Oscar’s producer) is hitting the big doughnut at Rotten Tomatoes. Less than Prom Night’s 9% and the 6% shared by 88 Minutes and Fox’s latest stinker, Deception. ZERO PERCENT. That’s with 16 critics accounted for by 8:40 AM Friday; 6 of whom I’m happy to say are colleagues of mine in Chicago. With my review and you’ve got the Chicago 7 telling you how crappy Deal is. Who is going to be the first critic to post something positive about Deal? And a statement from the World Poker Tour (extensively promoted in the film’s final act) used on the radio spots (“An edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. Deal is the poker film for poker fans”) does not count by a longshot. We will be watching, so prepare to be outed right here on Criticwatch if you are the one to break Deal’s perfect shit streak at R.T.
"That Baby Mama Is A Ho!”
Universal this month pulled a very dirty trick on members of the Chicago Film Critics Association and, from what I’m told, some other markets as well. Early reports from colleagues that the studio was going to withhold their latest film, Baby Mama, from online critics until the last possible moment seemed, in a word, silly. Since we know the old-fashioned consciousness about the internet critic are mama’s fanboys in their basements with Jolt Cola I.V.’s connected to their crotches - you can understand their trepidation. After all, why would they be interested in a leading lady MILF who makes constant science-fiction references on one of the funniest shows on television? Silly. (NOTE: Earlier in the week the Rotten Tomatoes score for Baby Mama was at 90% - 9 out of 10 of those "early reviews" that Universal hoped to avoid by inviting the onliners were positive. Since then, as we get closer to print, the score has dipped to 57% with 8 of the last 11 posted reviews negative. Good call, Universal.)
So, despite having (at least) three confirmed screenings in the Chicagoland area in public theaters with more than enough space to accommodate the membership, more than half of the CFCA were relegated to a screening the night before. And not just online critics. Print and radio were also reduced to this treatment while only a handful of select media were invited as early as April 8 and some were invited to all three (including the 10th & the 17th.) 60 members of the CFCA and, give or take, a third were invited to anything allowing a review before their deadlines. This is the same studio that screened Forgetting Sarah Marshall at least three times before its opening in the city as well and no one, to my knowledge, was left on the chopping block; a film which got Universal its best reviews of the year - including multiple CFCA members who said it was the funniest movie they had seen so far this year. (I don't know if its the funniest ever, Mr. Roeper, so let's scale it back a little - but very funny nevertheless.)
Speaking of chopping blocks, the reason for this lengthy introduction is so we can congratulate Universal for getting precisely what they wanted. Few CFCA members would be so bold as to speak out loud such ostentatious prose for a studio to plaster on the film ads. But WGN Radio’s Dean Richards has let it all hang out and called Baby Mama:
"The freshest, funniest comedy of the year."
WOW! Fresh AND funny? That combo has never been utilized together in film before; and certainly never mentioned here on Criticwatch as the mark of the unintelligible blurb whore. I’m sorry, but this is more embarrassment than anything else. One of Windy City’s own who has done little, if anything, to support the organization, when asked, stays in Universal’s favor by either speaking or e-mailing those words to one of their representatives looking for a reaction to the screening that about two-thirds of his colleagues were denied. How does one sit down to write those words? Is that an honest reaction? Having not seen the film, I cannot attest to how funny it may very well be. But exactly how fresh is it, four months removed from a year known frequently referred to as the “year of the pregnancy.” Does Knocked Up, Waitress and Juno ring a bell? Baby Mama is about as “fresh” as a Maury Povich episode. But maybe it IS the funniest comedy of the year, but how would I know as I stand with my CFCA brothers and sisters who weren’t invited. Besides, I have it on good authority from Shawn Edwards that Drillbit Taylor was “the freshest and funniest comedy in a long time.” Good company, Dean.
Much of the time from the mainstream media we hear of interviewees complaining how their comments were taken out of context and didn’t reflect their true thoughts. Sometimes its true. Other times its just a smokescreen to cover up a huge gaffe while misplaced outrage travels the airwaves for three days or so. With film critics it’s a little different. Roger Ebert, more than most critics, frequently found a negative review of his translated into positive adjectives by the studio trying to sell their movies in ads. Remember when the single word “Funny” was taken out of his Little Nicky review? In an interview with Shawn Edwards recently, the 2007 Whore of the Year alluded that some of the things he said would be condensed in just the same way. Like when I said “I think Shawn Edwards is a critic…” Sure I said it, but my full quote would actually have been “I think Shawn Edwards is a critic who should be flushed through the shit-stormed sewers of Kansas City and see how his taste is then.”
The frequent bridge between the professional, trusted film critic and those of the junket whore media is in their ability to write. The whores don’t do it. They speak in adjectives and frequently don’t think before they do. Something to do with brains being needed. So when someone like Shawn Edwards complains that he’s taken out of context, he’s no better than the guy with a dick in your woman saying “this is not what it looks like.” I am someone who does his best to keep up on the written side of criticism, including covering film festivals like last year’s CineVegas where I saw a film called Careless. Now, I didn’t like the film but if you saw the magazine ad for the film’s forthcoming DVD release this June you would see the following quote:
That’s rather positive for a film I couldn’t even remember saying anything positive about. You can see the entire review here but I’ll save you some time and just expand on the quotes that Image and Thinkfilm chose for the ads. “A three-movie-in-one experience…” it begins, just as it did my review which read “Peter Spears’ Careless is a three movie-in-one experience with the one never developing a dominant presence.” Did it seem like I was TRYING to get quoted with that sentence? Because of whores like Shawn Edwards, Earl Dittman and dopes like Peter Travers I’ve consciously found myself ignoring uses of the various adjectives they wield like the first model of the Terminator. How about the second part? “Blanchard is cute and sweet.” OK, I flat out said that. In the context of the film, “Blanchard is cute and sweet. Hanks is insecure and aloof. Shalhoub is indifferent but caring,” referencing how simplistic the characterizations are. Maybe if Miss Blanchard was taken enough with my words to extend a dinner invitation it’d be worth it. Otherwise I hope readers will find my full review instead of just reading the ads. Hopefully they will do the same and look for reviews by Edwards and Dittman and James Thomas to match what they say on the ads. When they don’t find them, they’ll begin to understand what I’m trying to do here at Criticwatch.
"Sony Has A New Tag Team”
They weren't in the Sunday papers, but I was tipped off that two-time Whore of the Year recipient, Earl Dittman, was out pimping for 88 Minutes in the television ads. It took a few days, but sure enough there he was calling it "sensational" and a "must see" giving it 4 stars. Oh, but what's this? He's not alone. There's 2008's rookie whore of the year, James Thomas, saying that "Al Pacino is electrifying." So here you have a movie completed way back in 2005 with an electrifying moviestar, released a full year ago overseas and widely found for download over the internet. Variety's review called it the worst film of Pacino's career (yes, even Revolution) and seven of the nine current reviews at Rotten Tomatoes are negative. (One of the positives belongs to one of last year's "whores to watch", Prairie Miller.) But here are Dittman and Thomas up front and personal giving it their full recommendation (each their fifth of 2008.)
Here's the intriguing thing though. While Dittman has put his stamp of Penelope and Never Back Down and Thomas' lineup includes Over Her Dead Body and 10,000 B.C. (13% & 9% RT approved, respectively), their other three recommendations are I-dentical. And they are all for the specialty divisions of Sony Pictures. Both are down for Screen Gems' First Sunday and Untraceable and they are now showing their love for Tri-Star. Does anyone imagine seeing Dittman and Thomas arrive at these screenings joined at the hip Requiem for a Dream-style?
DITTMAN: "It's hip...and...hilarious..."
THOMAS: "The first laugh-out-loud comedy of the new year."
DITTMAN: "An electrifying, cat-and-mouse thriller."
THOMAS: "Untraceable is the Silence of the Lambs for the internet age."
DITTMAN: Sensational...****...A must see.
THOMAS: "Al Pacino is electrifying."
"Whore Kings of the Street”
Film Title: Street Kings
Released by: Fox Searchlight
Tomatometer: 30% (as of Apr. 11, 2008)
Seen On Newspaper Ads:
“An intense, riveting thriller! Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker give powerhouse performances.” – Steve Oldfield, FOX-TV
“The best cop movie since Training Day.” – Jeffrey K. Howard, KCLV-TV
“A full-throttle thrill ride.” – Chloe Houser, KPOX-TV
What I Said:
"Despite only sharing credit as a co-writer, the story has Ellroy's fingerprints all over it and those familiar smudges become a detriment to an otherwise well-made film by director David Ayer." – Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
I was half-expecting not to add an update to Criticwatch today. Prom Night went unscreened for critics (and Bloody-Disgusting) so nothing to pull from that. Smart People got a nod from Paul Fischer this week ("Pitch-perfect. A comic gem") but so what? And if I was playing the game that Mr. Scott Weinberg and I frequently guess about on the Rotten Tomatoes percentages I would have dumped a low 60s number on Street Kings. Wow - was I off. 30% at the time of this writing. That's less than The Ruins and the latest Tyler Perry film. Truth is I probably wouldn't argue with most of the criticism of the film, but I suppose I'm as guilty as the next person who liked Street Kings this week. It's a tempered recommendation for sure and at least I can say I wrote something to explain my position. More than I can for Steve Oldfield, Jeffrey K. Howard and Chloe Houser.
Oldfield is becoming a fast riser in the quote game. I ranked him #10 last year. He's now nearly midway to 2007's total and recycling his quick-lipped prose in-between throat gags. "An intense, riveting thriller! Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker give powerhouse performances," says Oldfield about Street Kings. Here's a taste from last year:
"An intense captivating film. Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe give powerhouse performances." (Breach)
"…a smart, compelling film with powerhouse performances." (Black Snake Moan)
"An intense…riveting…adventure." (28 Weeks Later)
"Powerhouse performances!" (Georgia Rule)
"A powerful film! A riveting story, expertly directed by Peter Berg." (The Kingdom)
How DO you wash that taste out of your mouth, Steve? Does Universal give you a special cocktail of Listerine, salt and vinegar you douchebag?!!! We won't pick on Chloe Houser too much. She's a first-timer, admittedly using some whorish cliches, but hey sister I like the film too. But Jeffrey K. Howard - you couldn't come up with a better quote than that? This is the phenomenon known as Memento Whory where a "critic" needs to make a comparison to make his point but only does so with his limited memory. The classic example is saying that Fierce Creatures is the "funniest comedy since A Fish Called Wanda." I don't need to explain this to the cheap seats further, do I? David Ayer, director of Street Kings, wrote Training Day. Howard had many choices for his Memento Whory including L.A. Confidential, which is way back in that time known as 1997. What about Dark Blue? James Ellroy (co-writer of Street Kings) also penned that film. Have you ever heard of these films?
Hell, the Denzel Washington connection alone could have led you to TWO of those films. Maybe Howard really does believe Training Day to be the end-all, be-all of cop films - better than any of those five films - but that would also mean that he believes Street Kings to be better than The Departed. Do you really want to stand by that statement, Jeff? Or do you want to tap your memory a bit further? Go ahead, we'll give you some time. Go hit your head really hard and get back to us.
"Another Film Left To Die”
Film Title: The Ruins
Released by: Paramount
Tomatometer: 36% (as of Apr. 5, 2008)
The Ruins is the 12th film this year that the studios withheld from the press in 2008. The other ten are: In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Meet the Spartans, Rambo, The Eye, Strange Wilderness, Step Up 2 the Streets, Witless Protection, Doomsday, Shutter, Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns and Superhero Movie. Chances are if you were invited, it was to a 10 PM screening on Thursday night. While reviews haven't been stellar, Paramount/Dreamworks may have dropped the ball on letting critics see this. Oh wait, they did let a few. At least horror sites Bloody-Disgusting and Shocktilyoudrop got previews early enough to have quotes in the film's ads as early as this past Tuesday.
"Intense, Disturbing, and gut-wrenching." – Brad Miska, Bloody-Disgusting
"A nightmarish spectacle. It’s a true original." – Ryan Rotten, Shocktilyoudrop.com
Granted, The Ruins is hitting 36% currently at Rotten Tomatoes (higher than ANY of the previous 10 non-screened titles this year) - but that's still only with 25 reviews while Clooney's Leatherheads is pulling a 54% with 105 reviews. I love a good horror film as much as the next guy, but I tend not to take the advice of the hardcore (and sometimes exclusive) horror geeks. Many believe they have some further insight into the genre they love so much, when mostly it's just overt enthusiasm in hoping to prop up the films that generally get nothing but scorn from the critics at large. A bad film is still a bad film though and us perceived snooty critics will support horror when it works. (May I remind everyone that Slither got an 84% RT rating - and I recently sent out an e-mail telling colleagues how much I actually enjoyed the straight-to-video Wrong Turn 2.)
The Ruins is ultimately a failure and a disappointment considering how relentless the book was. (What's the point of rationing stuff if you're not going to play it out to its dwindling necessity?) It has its moments but Carter Smith was NOT the right director for the project and The Ruins is a story that absolutely depended on a director who could deliver a 90-minute B-picture that would beat the audience into submission once it got going. Never really happens. But that doesn't mean that the studio should have held the film from us. As colleague Brian Tallerico told me last evening, "A horror film with a 30%+ rating at Rotten Tomatoes gets me excited." Rambo will probably in the long run win the dubious title of highest critic percentage on non-screened titles for the year, but The Ruins is going to be up there. The studios usually tend to know when they have a crapburger on their hands, but considering they screened First Sunday, Untraceable, Over Her Dead Body, College Road Trip and 10,000 B.C. in enough time for Friday opening reviews (all films that haven't hit 20% at RT), The Ruins deserved more of a chance than it got. It's certainly better than the shit set to top the box office for the second straight weekend. And you can double down on that!
"These Whores Need Helmets”
Film Title: Leatherheads
Released by: Universal
Tomatometer: 54% (as of Apr. 4, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“Leatherheads is laid-back, amiable and terminally tepid.” – David Ansen, Newsweek
“Leatherheads labors so strenuously to approximate some of the old screwball spirit of the ’30s and ’40s that it winds up in traction.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times
“There's a flatness about the whole enterprise -- like drinking champagne, but from an old house slipper.” – John Anderson, Washington Post
What I said:
“It seems as if the MPAA unfairly upped a clear "PG" movie into a "PG-13". But adding numbers can't even the score on the edge that Leatherheads lacks in the sharpness of its humor delivery and the hits on the field.” - Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
Seen On Newspaper Ads:
"Clooney throws us a rowdy party of a movie." – Peter Travers
"Smart!" – Sandie Newton
"Charming!" – Andrea Vecchio, NBC-TV (WKYC)
"A real treat." – Jim O’Brien, ABC-TV
"Witty!" – Rusty Gatenby, ABC-TV
"Original. Pure fun!" – Rachel Smith
"Funny! A winner!" – Mose Persico
Leatherheads certainly isn't getting horribly reviewed. It's pretty close to split right down the middle. Just not enough to hit the "fresh" mark on Rotten Tomatoes (which is 60%.) Universal clearly had a tough time getting the cream of the crop to say anything nice about the film though and they had to go into their daisy chain of whoredom to throw out such insightful comments on the ads today.
There's ol' Travers on his two-quote-a-week minimum (he's also the solo performer on Shine a Light Friday). I don't know how a film that purports to be "screwball" and yet is so lethargically passive can be described as a "rowdy party." But I guess "lethargically passive" wouldn't really get your name in the papers. There's Sandie Newton & Andrea Vecchio, who among their brief appearances in 2007 dropped their panties for Universal's Evan Almighty. Welcome to the 2008 party Mose Persico! It's your first quote of the year!!! Took you longer than it did last year when you whored up for Universal in January for Smokin' Aces. The last film Mose called "a winner" by the way - The Game Plan.
UPDATE 4/6/08 - Universal added three more names to their list of softheads for Sunday.
"Hilarious!" – Christina Vandre, NBC-TV (KARE)
"A sure hit!" – Jim Ferguson
"Classy." – Shawn Edwards
The definitively unclassy Shawn Edwards gets his 10th quote of the year. And don't you love when whores go all Variety/Hollywood Reporter and insert box office predictions into their review? A sure hit, Jimmy Ferg? Leatherheads couldn't even beat that shit 21 this weekend. More like a sure fold. Now excuse me while I go choke myself for saying that.
"Dumbest Quotes Ever?”
The latest in a six-week string of films that are coming out without any screenings for critics is Dimension's Superhero Movie. For those keeping track, dating back to March 14 we've had Doomsday, Shutter and Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns and upcoming we have The Ruins, Prom Night and Pathology. When I opened up the papers on Friday and saw that there were actually quotes for the latest spoof I thought one of two things - either (1) the studio went the lazy, unfunny route with a group of gag quotes from superheroes saying how much they loved the film or (2) Earl Dittman had struck again with another piece of his soul going to the Weinsteins on a film they wouldn't dare show to legitimate critics.
Turns out I was wrong on both counts. This week's soul seller got two of the three quotes on the ads. We'll briefly embarrass Sheila Roberts from Moviesonline.ca for using the ol' stand-by "Laugh-out-loud funny!" But the other two quotes belong to Steven Chupnick, a whore we spotted last year on Reign Over Me ("Incredible!"), The Condemned ("Non-stop mayhem!"), Hannibal Rising ("An edge-of-your-seat thriller!"), and Mr. Brooks ("Brilliant! Awesome! You’ll be on the edge of your seat!"). Chupnick now is credited with (no joke) JewReview.net which turns out to be neither a joke nor a service for shiksas looking to drive maternal wedges. Billed as the entertainment website for the chosen people, Chupnick's quotes make it the equivalent of the lineup at the Chicken Ranch. And we're pointing at you, Steve. Your money is on the night table.
But this week's "who the hell said that?" quote comes courtesy of no specific voice. Just some idiot who spoke on KOSI 101, Denver (the lite?) I'd like to say that the quote speaks for itself, but can we take a moment to just let that settle in. "Shaun of the Dead meets Wedding Crashers???" I sure hope people aren't going to be expecting zombies and overrated comedy. Seriously, is this just about the dumbest thing ever said about a movie? Someone figures they have the star of Shaun and the film begins with a shattered wedding (when the groom panics and runs.) There are no flesh-eaters and no one is showing up uninvited to anything. I'd like to offer KOSI 101 a few quotes for some upcoming blockbusters that they may like to use. After all, we don't want them thinking too much now would we?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - "Masterpiece Theatre meets Die Hard."
Speed Racer - "The Matrix meets Into the Wild."
Baby Mama - "30 Rock meets Welfare."
Sex and the City - "Whore Meets Cocoon."
The Incredible Hulk - "Hulk Meets Shit"
"A Whore Returns To The Tables”
Film Title: 21
Released by: Sony
Tomatometer: 37% (as of Mar. 28, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“It has some decent eye candy, but overall this film is bluffing if they think it's a great, intelligent blackjack film. I know I just used a poker term, but I doubt 21 would have noticed.” – Jeff Bayer, Daily Herald (IL)
“None of the main stars is remotely convincing as a smart person..” – Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
“For high-stakes drama, stick with The Price is Right.” – Matt Pais, Metromix.com
What I Said:
"You have a director so inept that he doesn't even understand what genre he's working within and he's helped destroy potentially one of the most riveting and important social statements about Las Vegas the movies could have seen." – Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
What Peter Travers Said:
“Odds are you’re going to like this lively spin on the true story of six MIT mathletes who broke the Vegas Bank. It’s a kick to watch Kevin Spacey and a gifted young cast use smarts to deal audiences a winning hand.” - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
And thus begins the annual Travers surge into Spring, where his seemingly dormant self that's provided hope we won't see his name plastered on every major release, awakens to push himself into the national consciousness as a film critic that matters. If you can find five reviews for the movie 21 that doesn't feature some sort of blackjack lingo in the positive or negative, your luck suggests you should maybe be headed to Vegas this weekend. (And I'm as guilty of it as the next.) But can you really take that quote from him as enticement to see one of the worst films of the year? In the spirit of his hamminess, trust me on this one and take the insurance. Don't double down and if someone suggests 21 at the theater this weekend, HIT them hard and split.
Travers is also touting Stop-Loss (currently 58% at RT) this weekend as "the first major movie of the year that touches greatness." That despite calling Charlie Bartlett "a winner", George Romero "a master" and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days "a masterwork." He is joined on the ads by reigning whore of the year Shawn Edwards calling it "honest and brave" and a huge surprise appearance by none other than Bryan Erdy. If you don't remember his name, then you haven't been paying much attention to Disney ads because they have been his lock stock for years. No other studio has had the services of Erdy under our watch. Until now. "Provocative. A Wake-up call for America!" says Erdy. And what a self-statement that is. If you go back a few weeks to when Disney was touting its Martin Lawrence/Raven Symone auteur piece, College Road Trip, you would have seen the following words plastered across the screen:
"One fun ride." "Hilarious." "Heartwarming." "The first must see comedy of 2008."
Just those words. Who knows where they came from? No names were there to claim them. It's almost as if someone at the studio just made those up for our expense. I suppose if David Manning is shouting praise in a forest and no one hears him then he doesn't exist. Or something like that. But wait a moment, HERE COMES BRYAN ERDY TO SAVE THE DAY!!! "Hysterically funny! This is the perfect family movie." Not quite what the Disney folk had hoped for in their ads, but those words will do. And Erdy was happy to have his name. If you would like to drop Bryan a note and give him a wake-up call to what an inauthentic douchetool he is, check out his MySpace page and tell him how hysterically funny you think his career is.
Film Title: Drillbit Taylor
Released by: Paramount
Tomatometer: 24% (as of Mar. 22, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“Because the filmmakers plant their laugh-generating derrick over the same comic well that's been pumped out twice before, Drillbit Taylor hits a dry hole.” – Larry Ratliff, San Antonio Express-News
“With 'Drillbit Taylor,' however, Apatow hands the reins over to his protégés and replaces his delicate balancing act with a steep, sudden fall.” – Dan Lybarger, eFilmCritic
“I'd call it a pointless endeavor, except now we might finally be able to pinpoint the source of Wilson's recent depression.” – Pete Vonder Haar, Film Threat
What Roger Moore said at Rotten Tomatoes:
“Movies such as this remind us that Owen Wilson is nothing less than a national treasure.” - Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
But we're not here to talk about Roger Moore. Although that quote at RT was too precious to ignore from that tool. It actually began with seeing Shawn Edwards as the sole quote provider on Friday's newspaper ads for Drillbit. "Awesome! The freshest and funniest comedy in a long time," said 2007's Whore of the Year taking in his 8th quote of the year. (His 9th is right around the corner with next week's Stop-Loss which he calls "honest and brave." Currently 76% of quoted critics are in direct opposition with the guy who called another Owen Wilson film "refreshingly funny." (That would be 2004's Starsky & Hutch.) But there was something far more disturbing in store for us on Saturday's ads.
"Big laughs with a lot of heart." – Pete Hammond, Boxoffice.com
PETE HAMMOND IS BACK??? You can almost here Harry Potter saying those words at the end of the Goblet of Fire. Sure, he's already been quoted on two other ads this year. One, for Charlie Bartlett, could be attributed to that film being screened for him when he was pimped out by Maxim last August when it was originally supposed to open. But forget all that. Boxoffice.com? Most websites would want to up their profile as opposed to inviting national scorn from respected critics and net-savvy bloggers. Why in Sam Hell would you want to invite this guy to be writing film reviews for you? From what I can tell you have a pretty decent set of critics over there. Certainly a lot more objective than the cash prospective reviews of Variety, which Hammond already blogs for. A quick look at the films of March you have reviewed on your front page and Hammond already has two four-star (out of five) reviews for Drillbit and Horton Hears a Who? but also a three-star review for the unscreened Doomsday (which I will also admit a certain guilty pleasure for.) But one guilty pleasure doesn't make up for three-and-a-half years of fluffer quotes for all films good and bad. To the editors of BoxOffice.com - save yourself now before Hammond grows out of control again. We've had a good thing for the first three months of 2008 with only three Easy Petey sightings. We need to get our focus back on Shawn Edwards and shame him out of existence.
Jumping To Whorish Conclusions”
Film Title: Jumper
Released by: 20th Century Fox
Tomatometer: 16% (as of 15 Feb 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
“A herky-jerky mess of a movie, Jumper leaps about so erratically you get the feeling bent pogo sticks were employed in the editing room.” – Tom Long, Detroit News
“This movie is paced for an audience that grew up multi-tasking and its aesthetic sensibility and depth of story-telling is equivalent to a beer commercial.” – Nell Minow
“Expect critics to make a lot of 'we wish we could have teleported right out of cinemas showing it' remarks . . .” – James O’Ehley, Sci-Fi Movie Page
What I said:
“A lethargic, incomprehensible event picture that is the action film equivalent of Phil Collins' Take Me Home video.” - Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com
Seen On Newspaper Ads:
“It’s Bourne meets The Matrix" – Total Film!
“This movie rocks!” – Stephen King
“Like nothing you’ve seen before!” – Anne Craig, Good Day NY
This can't be the same Stephen King who called No Country for Old Men the best film of 2007, can it? Was he hit by another car? As for Anne Craig saying we've never seen anything like it before...that kind of runs counter to Total Film's quote naming precisely two films it reminds them of, doesn't it? How about Star Trek, The Fly, Stargate? OK, that's just a partial teleportation list. Didn't the aliens in They Live have some jumper watches? Actually, we've seen a lot of bad films released by Fox over the last few years, so Anne we have seen such crap before. And often.
The More Foolish? The Fool Or The Fool Who Follows Him To “Fool’s Gold”
Film Title: Fool’s Gold
Released by: Warner Bros.
Tomatometer: 10% (as of Feb. 11, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
"It was co-written by the authors of "Anaconda 2" and the director of "Hitch" and the Drew Barrymore version of the Amy Fisher story and even by those less-than-robust standards, they are playing well below their respective high-water marks" - Peter Sobczynski
"There’s more continuity in an episode of Teletubbies." - Phil Villarreal, Arizona Daily Star
"I can’t imagine why on Earth anyone would want a movie to fail so spectacularly on every level — perhaps there’s some sort of tax shelter thing involved, or a Springtime for Hitler scam scenario — but here it is." - MaryAnn Johanson
Definite Quotewhore Sightings:
"Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are this generation’s most engaging on-screen couple." – Shawn Edwards
"Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey light up the big screen in the first great romantic comedy of the year." – Heather Newgen, Comingsoon.net
"Everything a romantic comedy should be!" – Mark S. Allen
"The adventure comedy is back!" - Mark Seman, Sirius Satellite Radio
"Solid gold fun! Fool’s Gold will make you feel like you’re on vacation!" – Mark Hyman, FOX-TV
Shawn Edwards is on two ads this week, getting in on all the milky-white fun with two of the whitest people in America to counter his love of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. If this is what Mark S. Allen believes is "everything a romantic comedy should be" then I’d love to see him in a symposium putting Fool’s Gold up there with the likes of The Apartment, Jerry Maguire, and His Girl Friday.
And are the Warner Bros. marketing people really serious in trying to sell us a film by using critics named Hyman and Seman? Mr. Mark Seman, you may remember from being the standout critic on the ads for last year’s glorious romantic comedy, Good Luck Chuck, with Dane Cook and Jessica Alba - certainly a pair that should be in the running for this generation’s most engaging on-screen couple if McConaughey and Hudson are (and they aren’t).
Poster blurbs from Seman and Hyman? I guess Philip K. Dick was busy.
I’d Rather Welcome Leroy Jenkins
Film Title: Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
Released by: Universal
Tomatometer: 29% (as of Feb. 11, 2008)
Respected Critics Say:
"A rancid, unfunny disaster full of embarrassing performances and shamefully simple-minded comic notions." - Eric D. Snider
"If the idea of watching Martin Lawrence getting used and abused appeals to you, then Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is the movie for you." - James Berardinelli
"One of the absolute worst movies ever produced by the hands of humans…." - MaryAnn Johanson
Definite Quotewhore Sightings:
"Totally hilarious! Martin Lawrence has never been funnier." - Shawn Edwards
"Hilarious. Laugh out loud funny." - Steve Oldfield
"A family affair." - Greg Russell
Geez, whaddya know; Shawn Edwards liked a film with an entirely African-American cast. Ice Cube, Tyler Perry, The Wayans Bros. - don’t matter, Edwards is there to lend his support. I don’t even know what the hell his one-time co-host, Greg Russell, is saying with his quote that’s splashed on the commercials. Does Universal really think that "a family affair" is going to see people rush out for a ticket?
"Oh my god! It’s a family affair! No, seriously Cindy, the guy in the paper said it’s a family affair! I’m not going to miss THAT on a big screen!"
Steve Oldfield becomes the token white guy at the party, reminding us that laughter is an audible occasion and not the kind of event shared by Seinfeld’s wannabe menage-a-trois partner and Mandy Moore’s guest appearance on Scrubs.
Memo to Shawn Edwards… does having your name on this ad make you proud? When people come out of it saying, "that sucked ASS!", and they walk past the poster and see your name there next to "Totally hilarious!", do you feel honored that they’ll think you a giant douchebag and blame you for their wasted $11?
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originally posted: 02/12/08 09:43:54
last updated: 01/09/09 11:19:32