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Criticwatch - The 2012 Peter Travers Retrospective

by Erik Childress

Criticwatch did not achieve the goal we set out for itself in 2012. Though a little late inning attention from the Washington Post was nice, Peter Travers was going in the wrong direction when it came to quotes on movie ads. The studios once again paid undue attention to the Rolling Stone blurbmeister as his total rose from 61 to a final 66 this year. Still, this is a significant downturn from 2010 and the past when he flourished getting his publication into the national eye 70 or 80 times. Rolling Stone was a punchline even before the existence of Criticwatch when perhaps its most famous writer joked about its importance of recognizing cover stories that were beyond mere one-hit wonders. Watch Almost Famous again if you don’t believe us. Do you know anyone that has a subscription to Rolling Stone? Have you ever seen somebody buy one? They are known primarily as the giant logo that tends to precede Travers name as part of a critical medium that the magazine is not supposed to be primarily known for. Now it is a nearly-forgotten publication kept alive by hyperbolized quote whoring.

68 quotes in 2012. That was the Travers number. Before we break it down to the individual quotes repeated ad nauseum for the better part of a decade, here is Travers just this year alone. Let this sink in before we start going back in time.

"****. A game-changer that gets you excited about movies again." (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
"McGregor and Blunt have charm to spare and in the Dead Sea of Hollywood formula, their film is a distinct delight, brimming over with spirit and surprise." (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
"An exhilarating gift of a comedy!" (Damsels In Distress)
"An exhilarating gift of a movie." (The Sessions)
"Sometimes a movie comes out of nowhere and wins you over. Safety Not Guaranteed is that kind of unexpected gift." (Safety Not Guaranteed)
"An astonishing story! Fresh and unexpected! Let this movie work its way into your mind and heart." (Searching for Sugar Man)

"Let Anna Karenina work its marvelous spell." (Anna Karenina)
"A visual marvel" (Snow White and the Huntsman)
"Visual magic." (Brave)
"There's magic in Paranorman!" (Paranorman)
"Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper give performances that take your breath away." (Silver Linings Playbook)
"Andy Samberg shines in a grounded performance that digs deep, sharply funny and touching, a breath of fresh comic air!" (Celeste and Jesse Forever)
"It starts out outrageous and rockets on from there." (The Dictator)
"Lifts off in the wild blue of director Joe Wright's imagination." (Anna Karenina)
"Liam Neeson is tremendous. Hold on tight." (The Grey)
"Indispensable filmmaking. Hang on. You're in for a bumpy ride." (Compliance)
"An enchanted ride of a movie." (Moonrise Kingdom)

"Tom Cruise nails it. A dazzling ride." (Jack Reacher)
"Tom Cruise is phenomenal. Smashing." (Rock of Ages) [br]
"Paul Dano excels." (Being Flynn)
"Matthew McConaughey mesmerizes! Emile Hirsch excels!" (Killer Joe)
"A mesmerizing mind-bender." (Cosmopolis)
"Mesmerizing...Kaye is an enormous talent." (Detachment)
"Pixar has outdone itself!" (Brave)
"Frank Langella is a stellar actor at his magnificent best." (Robot & Frank)
"Washington's performance will be talked about for years." (Flight)
"A tour de force for Sally Field." (Lincoln)
"Marion Cotillard is a tour-de-force of unleashed emotions. She's astonishing. (Rust and Bone)
"Matthias Schoenaerts is superb." (Rust and Bone)
"Julianne Moore is ever-superb." (Being Flynn)
"The acting is aces, especially Brad Pitt mixing it up with the superb James Gandolfini." (Killing Me Softly)
"Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt are dynamite." (Your Sister's Sister)
"Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are dynamite!" (Smashed)
"Keira Knightley is glorious." (Anna Karenina)
"Rashida Jones is simply glorious." (Celeste and Jesse Forever)
"Tommy Lee Jones is simply sensational, bitingly funny and fearlessly blunt." (Lincoln)
"Flight is Zemeckis at his most emotionally open and thematically provocative." (Flight)
"Potent and provocative." (Bully)
"Hilarious and heartfelt!" (Moonrise Kingdom)
"Hilarious and heartfelt" (Hope Springs)

"Terrifically exciting." (The Grey)
"A ferociously exciting thriller." (Argo)
"Fierce and ferociously funny!" (Killer Joe)
"Hypnotic and haunting." (Miss Bala)
"A hypnotic film means to shake you, and does." (Rust and Bone)
"Detachment gets to you. It hits hard." (Detachment)
"A blockbuster that will blow away all your senses!" (The Avengers)
"It will make you laugh till it hurts." (Silver Linings Playbook)
"Hysterically, gut-bustingly funny" (Ted)
"Leaves you laughing helplessly." (The Dictator)
"Ferrell and Galifianakis will crack you up - guaranteed." (The Campaign)
"Laugh all you want...It's a blast" (21 Jump Street)

"Super smart, super cool triumph." (The Avengers)
"Crazy, killer fun!" (Seven Psychopaths)
"Hail to Daniel Day-Lewis..." (Lincoln)
"Magnificent and moving. You don't just watch this movie...you live it." (Life of Pi)

Pretty amazing, ain’t it? Catch phrases, puns, the whole works. Now it is time to catch-up on some of the Travers quotes that did not initially find their way into Criticwatch. Let's be honest

"Fiendishly funny and hellishly scary! Wicked, twisted fun! (The Cabin in the Woods)

"Fiendish fun!" (Fido)
"Fierce and fiendishly funny." (No Country for Old Men)
"Uproarious…fiendishly funny!" (School for Scoundrels)
"Hellishly hilarious!" (Religulous)
"Wicked, kinky fun." (A Dirty Shame)
"A wicked invitation for the audience to scream its head off. Go for it! The Village will haunt your dreams." (The Village)
"Fresh and funny. Inside Deep Throat is a wickedly probing documentary" (Inside Deep Throat)

"Kicks ass so hard and often it's impossible not to be thrilled by it." (Prometheus)
"Haywire kicks off the new year with a sexy action high." (Haywire)

"Kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up." (Iron Man)
"Kickass!" (Rocknrolla)
"A kissing, kick-ass cousin to Shaun of the Dead." (Hot Fuzz)

"Never fails to fascinate. A one-of-a-kind inspiration. Jack Black delivers an award-caliber performance." (Bernie)
"Exhilarating... a once-of-a-kind marvel!" (American Splendor)
"Johnny Depp is a wonder. A one-of-a-kind spellbinder that’s not afraid to shock!" (The Libertine)
"There's more killer suspense in this one-of-a-kind film than you'll find in a dozen thrillers. (Catfish)

"A buoyant comedy laced with genuine emotion. (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
"A moonbeam romance laced with startling wit and gravity." (Me and You and Everyone We Know)
"A playful comedy laced with heartbreak" (Pieces of April)
"Gritty action laced with simmering drama." (Body of Lies)

"A juicy, jolting financial thriller. An Oscar-caliber Richard Gere firing on all cylinders." (Arbitrage)
"A gripping thriller. It’s jolting, juicy stuff made juicier by the actors. State of Play keeps the twists coming." (State of Play)
"The jolts are juicy and so are the jokes." (Severance)
"A juicy, career-crowning role." (Crazy Heart)
"Magical and loaded with surprises too juicy to reveal." (Shrek 2)
"Matchstick Men springs so many juicy comic and dramatic surprises." (Matchstick Men)

And for those who missed our previous breakdowns of some of Travers’ late year quotes, allow us to refresh your memory with what we wrote earlier.

**** The best movie I've seen all year! A new American classic! (The Master)

Shockingly enough, Travers does keep his top four-star rating to a minimum. Not that you could ever tell with quotes like "epic spectacle, yearning romance and suspense that won't quit!" (The Hunger Games), "A blockbuster that will blow away all your senses!" (The Avengers) and " Pixar has outdone itself!" (Brave). But, hey, he clearly feels Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is "a new American classic!" And it's a great movie. Peter Travers occasionally likes great movies. Forget the movies though. Look at how he describes them.

"A classic for a new generation!" (Jane Eyre)
"A mind-blowing comedy classic" (Borat)
"A new Clint classic." (Mystic River)
"A new Coen Brothers classic." (True Grit)
"A total triumph! An American classic! Gus Van Sant's best film." (Milk)
"A triumph of the highest order! A new crime classic." (A Prophet)
"Triumphant! A new American crime classic from the legendary Martin Scorsese, whose talent shines here on its highest beams." (The Departed)
"This classic-in-the-making is the Coen Brothers at the peak of their powers!" (No Country for Old Men)
"Hits you like a shot in the heart. This classic in the making ranks high on the list of the year's best movies. It's a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal." (Brokeback Mountain)
"Hits you right in the heart. It's the classic American tale of the family man triumphant." (Cinderella Man)

Not a lot to argue there in terms of precisely what he's recommending. It's HOW he's doing it. Notice how he describes Martin McDonagh's terrific Seven Psychopaths.


"Crazy, killer fun!" (Seven Psychopaths)

Get it? Psychopaths. "Killer fun" Crazy, right?

"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible." (Like Crazy)
"A crazy-quilt comic thriller! It would be no country for movie lover without the Coens." (Burn After Reading)

OK, THAT is crazy. Who talks like that? Back to the whole killer thing. Travers doesn't exclusively use it on films that feature, you know, killers. But it doesn't hurt.

"A killer comedy!" (You Kill Me)
"Role Models is killer funny." (Role Models)
"A comedy cure-all. The beginning, middle and end are all killer funny. See this gut-buster before your friends do because they'll be talking about it for weeks." (The Hangover)
"Think of all the ways you can hurt yourself laughing, as in fall down, split your sides, bust a gut, blow your mind. It's also killer smart, lacing combustible action with explosive gags." (Tropic Thunder)
"Killer-funny. You'll laugh 'till it hurts! Produces more laughs than any hundred jokes you ever heard." (The Aristocrats)
"There's more killer suspense in this one-of-a-kind film than you'll find in a dozen thrillers. You'll be talking about this spellbinder for weeks. It pushes every button. Don't let anyone spoil this story." (Catfish)
"A Tarantino power punch! What's better than action, hair-trigger suspense, and a machine-gun spray of killer dialogue? If you love movies, you can't resist!" (Inglourious Basterds)
"Bennett's dialogue sparkles and skewers with killer wit." (The History Boys)
"The final chase is killer and getting there actually is half the fun. For over two hours, I couldn't wipe the big stupid grin off my face!" (Fast Five)
"Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman, oozing killer charm, handle the sexual hijinks in style! (Scoop)
"Bob Hoskins is killer-good." (Hollywoodland)
"What's not to like? Hobo lives up to its lurid title. Rutger Hauer is killer-good." (Hobo with a Shotgun)

You, Travers. You are what's not to like. It's easy to pick a word or two out of Travers three-page rolodex of hyperbolic catch phrases, but it's so much more fun (or sad) when he mixes them altogether.


"Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul are dynamite! Smashed joins the ranks of the winners. Winstead is a revelation. "(Smashed)

Jonah Hill scores a no-joke knockout. Moneyball is a baseball movie like The Social Network is a Facebook movie, meaning it isn't. Both are about how we play the game of our lives, and the excuses we make in the name of winning. Here's a major-studio movie fired up with rebel spirit. Moneyball left me ready to cheer. Dynamite stuff. (Moneyball)
A dynamite film that ranks with the year's best. No way you won't be knocked for a loop. (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead)
A dynamite movie. It will knock you sideways. (Carlos)
A dynamite thriller! (Shattered Glass)
This dynamite thriller shivers with suspense. In a word, wow! (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Explosive! Public Enemies comes at you like Dillinger did: all of a sudden. It's movie dynamite. (Public Enemies)
Grips you in a vice of suspense…A slice of celluloid dynamite! (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
Writer-director David Jacobson, who did a dynamite job with Dahmer, isn't afraid of plunging into dark, twisted places. You shouldn't be, either. (Down in the Valley)
Mark Ruffalo is dynamite. (The Kids Are All Right)
Brad Pitt is dynamite. (Burn After Reading)
Diane Lane is dynamite! (Hollywoodland)
Catherine O'Hara is dynamite! (For Your Consideration)
Gael Garcia Bernal is dynamite! (Bad Education)
Depp is comic dynamite! (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
Sean Penn is dynamite as Willie Stark. (All the King's Men)
Dynamite performances from Annette Bening and Naomi Watts ignite this strong drama. (Mother and Child)
It's a winner! The two leads are dynamite and director Alfredson knows how to pin you to your seat. See it now before a Hollywood remake ruins it. (Let the Right One In)

Not sure which quote to be hung up on. Smashed joining the ranks of winners or "the excuses we make in the name of winning."

"A winning proposition." (Your Sister's Sister)

"A winner" (Dan In Real Life)
"A winner!" (We Bought a Zoo)
"Charlie Bartlett is…a winner!" (Charlie Bartlett)
"Be on the lookout for Bottle Shock, it’s a winner." (Bottle Shock)
"Hilarious and heartfelt...a winner." (Garden State)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. What makes Prime a winner is the way writer-director Ben Younger blends raucous laughs with touching gravity." (Prime)
"It's the Pixar touch that makes Cars 2 a winner." (Cars 2)

"We have a winner! The Hunger Games has epic spectacle, yearning romance and suspense that won't quit! (The Hunger Games)
"Tremendously entertaining. The excitement doesn't quit." (Troy)
"A blast of good gory fun that just won’t quit!" (Cabin Fever)

Not quite as impressive a list as his "classics" is it? But we're not paying attention to what joins his list of "winners." Just that there's such a list to begin with cobbled together from what Peter Travers provides to studios and then sticks into his reviews. Which brings us to a true classic from Mr. Mustache Ride.

"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak. An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)

That is a collection of various quotes that have turned up in the ads for the Fox Searchlight film. They can hide Travers name behind that Rolling Stone moniker all they want, but even if they failed to put the outlet, we would know exactly who those quotes belonged to. The studio chose 44 of the 342 words in his written review (or the pre-written 44 words that he then added to 298 other words) to advertise The Sessions with. A few of them truly stand out though.



"A playful comedy laced with heartbreak…" (Pieces of April)
"An irresistible blend of humor and heartbreak." (Cemetery Junction)
"A movie rich in hilarity, heartbreak and a sense of life in all its vibrant, messy sprawl." (Friends with Money)
"Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy. He walks the high wire between humor and heartbreak with unerring skill." (The Descendants)
"Writer-Director Tod Williams catches the heartbreak and humor of the story that do John Irving proud." (The Door In The Floor)
"The magically compelling Darjeeling Limited is the fullest blossoming yet of the gifted Wes Anderson's talents as a total filmmaker. Owen Wilson skillfully blends humor and heartbreak..." (The Darjeeling Limited)
Blending humor and heartbreak in a performance that makes Is Anybody There? A richly satisfying film, "Caine truly is magic." (Is Anybody There?)
"Downey gives a blazing performance that runs the gamut from humor to heartbreak." (Zodiac)
"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy. In a multiplex crowded with formula rom-coms divorced from genuine feeling, Cyrus brims over with hilarity and heartbreak." (Cyrus)
"A lyrical masterwork. A near perfect blend of humor and heartbreak. That rare summer movie - one that matters." (Summer Hours)

Geez, what words could we have possibly been talking about? Don't worry, we'll just keep posting reminders until we get through all of it.


"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak. An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)

"An exhilarating gift." (Fish Tank)
"An exhilarating gift filled with humor and heartbreak." (The Help)
"Heartfelt and hilarious! It's more than a movie, it's a gift." (Happy-Go-Lucky)
"A gift!" (King of California)
"A gift of a movie!" (The Squid and the Whale)
"A gift of a movie absolutely worth seeing more than once." (Once)
"A gift from comedy heaven" (A Mighty Wind)
"The indispensable Jason Bateman is a gift to comedies..." (The Switch)
"Fun this smart is a gift!" (Kung Fu Hustle)

For years we thought that last quote was just a misprint in the New York Times (dated April 10, 2005), when it fact it is precisely what Travers wrote. The actual quote is "dumb fun this smart is a gift!" The dumb part I'm sure we can agree with. The studio made the quote sound dumber by removing the "dumb". Guess they didn't think it was vital. One more time for the cheap seats?


"John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give award-caliber performances that turn The Sessions into a unique film that brims over with humor and heartbreak.
An exhilarating gift of a movie. Funny, touching and vital. Hawkes does the kind of acting that awards were invented for
." (Rolling Stone) (The Sessions)


"A funny, touching and vital film. (The Boys Are Back)
"A funny, touching, vital script by Jenny Lumet." (Rachel Getting Married)
"One of the most touching and vital works I have seen in a good long time." (Canvas)
"Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco give award-caliber performances in Tamara Jenkins' funny, touching and vital film." (The Savages)
"Some kind of miracle! The perfect antidote to a synthetic, overblown movie summer. From Sondheim to the Stones, Graff creates something funny, touching and vital." (Camp)
"Sally Hawkins is irresistible in this funny, touching and vital salute to women." (Made In Dagenham)
"Snap out of it, guys, you just might learn something. Sarah Jessica Parker is funny, touching and vital." (Sex and the City)

Is it a coincidence that The Savages is a Fox Searchlight film just like The Sessions? They are practically the same quotes. Or that you could probably round up any random 1000 reviews from critics not named Peter Travers and never see the phrasing "funny, touching and vital" even once? How many times above have we seen Travers talk about some rare, unique, seasonal event of a film that is pretty disingenuous when not only does he keep saying it over and over, but also in seasons where he's praised the movies audiences are supposedly tired of? This needs to end.

But it didn’t. In November alone, Travers ended up getting quoted another 11 times, thus ensuring that he would outdo his 2011 total. How fitting. Here is what nine of those quotes looked like.

"It's a thing of beauty." (Holy Motors)

"A thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool!" (Finding Nemo)
"This movie, a true beauty, will put a spell on you." (Super 8)
"A spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd)
"A beauty of a movie. Hilarious! Heartfelt and achingly true. This is award-caliber acting. Midler is a wow and then some. Her performance here is one of her very best." (Then She Found Me)
"Eastwood's stripped down performance - as powerful as anything he's ever done - has a rugged, haunted beauty. The same goes for the movie." (Million Dollar Baby)
"Kim Basinger's haunted beauty burns in the memory - this is her finest work." (The Door In The Floor)


"Washington's performance will be talked about for years." (Flight)

"Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give performances that will be talked about for years." (Lost in Translation)
"A performance that will be talked about for years." (The Woodsman)
"A vision that will be talked about for years." (Atonement)
"Ang Lee's potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break! Newcomer Tang Wei gives a performance that will be talked about for years." (Lust, Caution)


"One of the best movies of the year! David O. Russell pours heart, soul and humor into it. It will make you laugh till it hurts. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper give performances that take your breath away.." (Silver Linings Playbook)

"George Clooney invests heart and soul in this role." (The American)
"For her stirring, soul-deep performance…Marion Cotillard goes to the front of the line for every Best Actress award out there…This movie gets it all." (La Vie en Rose)
"The Beaver, soulfully directed by Jodie Foster from a script by fearless first-time Kyle Killen, is operating on a plane far above multiplex formula. This heartfelt, often painfully funny movie has the power to sneak up and floor you." (The Beaver)
"Philip Seymour Hoffman directs like he acts, with a sharp eye for the small details that cut to the soul of a character. It's a sublimely acted movie, hilarious and heartfelt, and it stays with you." (Jack Goes Boating)
"Eastwood's achievement is something rare: He's made a film that actually is good for the soul." (Invictus)
"Morgan Spurlock makes you laugh till it hurts!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"You'll laugh till it hurts...Sweet!" (Napoleon Dynamite)
"Woody Allen is back in fighting form...Will Ferrell is a hoot and Radha Mitchell works wonders. Melinda and "Melinda is a bracing ride. You'll laugh till it hurts." (Melinda and Melinda)
"Killer-funny. You'll laugh 'till it hurts! Produces more laughs than any hundred jokes you ever heard." (The Aristocrats)
"A mind-blowing comedy classic…It will make you laugh till it hurts and you'll still beg for more." (Borat)
"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy. In a multiplex crowded with formula rom-coms divorced from genuine feeling, Cyrus brims over with hilarity and heartbreak. You'll laugh 'til it hurts." (Cyrus)
"One of the year's best. A radically fierce & funny fireball. You'll laugh till it hurts." (Sicko)
"Acutely hilarious…This film will make you laugh till it hurts! This stinging satire is easily the best and wickedest comedy of the year." (Thank You For Smoking)
"Saoirse Ronan simply takes your breath away." (Atonement)
"Historic and eye-popping in 3-D, Ghosts will take your breath away." (Ghosts of the Abyss)
"Hugo is rapturously beautiful. Martin Scorsese is breaking new ground. 3-D becomes an art in his hands. It is a spectacular adventure for film lovers of all ages. Hugo will take your breath away. It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of." (Hugo)
"Images that take your breath away. There isn't a frame of this raw and riveting movie that Coppola doesn't invest with feeling." (Tetro)


"A hypnotic film means to shake you, and does. Marion Cotillard is a tour-de-force. She's astonishing. Matthias Schoenaerts is superb." (Rust and Bone)

"Hypnotic!" (When You're Strange)
"Hypnotic!" (The Magdalene Sisters)
"Kristin Scott Thomas is exceptional in this hypnotic look at John Lennon's life..." (Nowhere Boy)
"Hypnotic and haunting." (Down in the Valley)
"Hypnotic and haunting." (Miss Bala)
"A haunting and hypnotic film." (Cairo Time)
"A haunting and hypnotic tale of love! Toni Collette burns this movie into your memory." (Japanese Story)
"Haunting and hypnotic, it's pure movie-going bliss." (The Good German)
"This is the best acting George Clooney has ever done - he's hypnotic, haunting and quietly devastating..."(Syriana)
"A powerhouse of a documentary! This one shakes you." (Crude)
"Director Kathryn Bigelow gives the film an intensity you won't shake..." (The Hurt Locker)
"Fueled by gripping suspense…it shakes you." (Dirty Pretty Things)
"Tommy Lee Jones shakes you in way you do not see coming. His movie is a powder keg." (The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada)
"A tour de force for Sally Field." (Lincoln)
"Viggo Mortensen's tour de force." (Eastern Promises)
"Vanessa Redgrave gives a tour-de-force performance." (Coriolanus)
"Norton delivers a tour de force." (Leaves of Grass)
"Anne Hathaway delivers an acting tour de force." (Rachel Getting Married)
"Julianne Moore's tour de force performance is unforgettable." (Savage Grace)
"You'll never forget Javier Bardem's tour de force." (No Country for Old Men)
"Jeff Daniels' portrait is a tour de force and his shining hour onscreen." (The Squid and the Whale)
"Frank Langella gives the performance of a lifetime as Nixon in a bone-deep tour de force." (Frost/Nixon)
"Streep's performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force." (The Devil Wears Prada)
"Cohen's total immersion in his character is a wonder to behold. His performance is a tour de force that sets off comic and cosmic explosions in your head." (Borat)
"A double tour-de-force for James Franco and Danny Boyle." (127 Hours)
"A visual and emotional tour de force." (Where the Wild Things Are)
"This tour-de-force gets you high on movies again!" (Grindhouse)
"It's a tour-de-force performance in a stylistically bold movie." (Birth)
"Benicio Del Toro is the movie's force." (Things We Lost in the Fire)
"Alfred Molina is a comic force of nature." (An Education)
"Zach Galifianakis is a comic force of nature" (It's Kind of a Funny Story)
"Charlize Theron is a comic force of nature." (Young Adult)
"Cruz, never more voluptuous or vulnerable, is a force of nature." (Volver)


"The acting is aces, especially Brad Pitt mixing it up with the superb James Gandolfini." (Killing Them Softly)

"Jolie takes on her most challenging role and aces it." (A Mighty Heart)

That's a heck of a coincidence, ain't it?


"Hopkins and Mirren are acting giants in stellar form." (Hitchcock)

"The incomparable Helen Mirren is simply astounding. Christopher Plummer is her match. The sight of these two acting giants going at each other should come under the heading of pure, rowdy pleasure." (The Last Station)

Geez, that one too. Is Travers a robot?


"Bond like you've never seen him before. In a word: Wow." (Skyfall)

"This dynamite thriller shivers with suspense. In a word, wow!" (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

So it's just happenstance that both are Daniel Craig films? Sorry, we'll continue.

"Get ready for Will Ferrell like you've never seen him!" (Everything Must Go)
"Casts a spell you won't want to break! Tony Leung goes places he's never been before as an actor." (Lust, Caution)
"See it now before a Hollywood remake ruins it." (Let the Right One In)
"It's a spellbinder. Prepare to be wowed." (Let Me In)
"Prepare to be wowed by Carey Mulligan who is sensational and incandescent. (An Education)
Midler is a wow and then some." (Then She Found Me)
"A wow of an action movie that buries the competition and sets a new gold standard for thrills and smarts." (The Bourne Ultimatum)
"Wow! One hell of a satisfying surprise." (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
"A knockout! Like nothing you've ever seen!" (Hanna)


"Let Anna Karenina work its marvelous spell. Lifts off in the wild blue of director Joe Wright's imagination. Keira Knightley is glorious." (Anna Karenina)

"…the effect of this mesmerizing mind teaser is spellbinding." (Match Point)
"Spellbinding…As timely as it is thrilling to watch." (Lady Chatterley)
"Sweeps you up on waves of ravishing romance. A potently erotic spellbinder. It speaks of what's timeless about passion, art and redemption." (Atonement)
"Spellbinding! A chillingly intense psychological thriller! Involves God, sex and murder! (Enduring Love)
"Ang Lee's potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break!" (Lust, Caution)
"This movie, a true beauty, will put a spell on you." (Super 8)
"…This film portrait casts a spell…" (Tupac Resurrection)
"It's a spellbinder. Prepare to be wowed." (Let Me In)
"What gives this spellbinder a similar raw power is the way Boyer reveals the parallels between DeLuca and Sutherland." (I Trust You to Kill Me)
"This is the bravest, riskiest role of Dench's film career. It's spellbinding to watch her blow the lid off." (Notes on a Scandal)
"Lou Pucci rides this spellbinder!" (Thumbsucker)
"A spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
"This you do not want to miss! A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story's grieving heart. A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense." (No Country for Old Men)
"A spellbinding true crime story. Potent and provocative. Gosling is terrific. Kirsten Dunst is heartbreakingly good." (All Good Things)
"There's more killer suspense in this one-of-a-kind film than you'll find in a dozen thrillers. You'll be talking about this spellbinder for weeks. It pushes every button. Don't let anyone spoil this story." (Catfish)
"A knockout! Spellbinding! It spins a web that will pull you in. A thriller that really thrills." (The Lookout)
"It pins you to your seat. A spellbinder! The stuff that dreams are made of!" (Brick)
"Holds you spellbound!" (Rachel Getting Married)
"A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love)
"A one-of-a-kind spellbinder that's not afraid to shock!" (The Libertine)
"This spellbinder will sneak up and floor you. It's that good. A supremely intelligent and deeply touching thriller." (The Secret In Their Eyes)
"Allen and Elliott perform acting miracles in this quietly devastating spellbinder. Scott has built a movie that sneaks up and knocks you flat." (Off the Map)

"This movie starts at hilarious and lifts off into the comic stratosphere." (The Hangover)
"The fall movie season achieves comic liftoff!" (Ghost Town)
"Leaves you moved like no film in years and then lifts you up in ways you don't see coming. It has a spirit that soars" (Precious)
"Soars on the imagination of its creators." (District 9)
"The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination." (The Dark Knight)
"A movie miracle! It soars! You feel privileged!" (Winged Migration)
"Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a miracle worker, a filmmaker whose soaring visuals and passionate intensity are artfully blended in this stunning film...Just sit back and behold as Jeunet takes you to hell and back with this epic love story." (A Very Long Engagement)
"Just sit back and behold. The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

See how he did that? Rise rises. Just like...


"Magnificent and moving. You don't just watch this movie...you live it" (Life of Pi)

"Savagely moving." (Savage Grace)
"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible." (Like Crazy)
"A killer comedy!" (You Kill Me)
"The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
"This movie wins you over, head and heart." (Win Win)
"A master director shining his light on the best rock band on the planet." (Shine a Light)
"A fireworks display of action, smarts and fun, plus a touch of class from actors who can really act." (X-Men: First Class)
"The best of the best at Sundance. A gift of a movie absolutely worth seeing more than once. (Once)
"Sinfully funny." (The Devil Wears Prada)
"A comedy cure-all. "(The Hangover)
"I'm buying into Morgan Spurlock!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"Helen Mirren is acting royalty. Helen Mirren's performance is a crowning achievement. (The Queen)
"Odds are you're going to like this lively spin on the true story of six MIT mathletes who broke the Vegas Bank." (21)
"You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing." (Drive)
"A tire-burning blast of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood. You can bet Cars 2 will rev your engines." (Cars 2)
"This immersive marvel of a movie sneaks up and floors you. This is a warrior's movie that prides itself on rising to the bell." (The Fighter)
"It is elemental essential viewing. This power punch to the gut is one of the best movies of any kind so far this year!" (Tyson)
"You may have doubts about which side to choose, but there's no doubt about this mind-bender." (Doubt)
"Summer just got a supershot of comic adrenaline…The hip, hot and hilarious Superbad packs in more gut-busting laughs than you'll be able to count. More good news: Superbad is superfun across the board." (Superbad)
"This summer M:i:III is the movie to beat in the race to push your pulse rate past the danger zone." (Mission: Impossible 3)
"It would be no country for movie lover without the Coens." (Burn After Reading)

And then the madness continued. By the end of November, Travers had broken the ceiling on his quote total of 2011. And with a wealth of titles premiering in the final weeks of 2012, he made sure he hit his boss' quota.

"An exhilarating rush, and outrageously entertaining." (Django Unchained)

"Exhilarating... a once-of-a-kind marvel! (American Splendor)
"Exhilarating! (The Human Stain)
"An exhilarating trip! (Shortbus)
"An exhilarating gift. (Fish Tank)
"An exhilarating gift filled with humor and heartbreak. (The Help)
"An exhilarating provocation! (A Dangerous Method)
"Isn't just hot it's incendiary. You see it with the exhilarating feeling that a movie can make a difference. (Syriana)
"It's exhilarating to watch, Hereafter is truly haunting. Eastwood is a master. (Hereafter)
"Exhilarating! Brims over with bracing humor and ravishing romance, but there are also haunting shadows. That alone makes it a keeper. (Midnight In Paris)
"Outrageously entertaining!" (Beowulf)
"Sarah Silverman is the most outrageously funny woman alive." (Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic)
"Outrageously funny." (I Love You Philip Morris)
"Outrageous, off-the-wall funny." (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
"Outrageously, gut-busting hilarious!" (Team America: World Police)
"A mind-blowing comedy classic…It will make you laugh till it hurts and you'll still beg for more. You won't know what outrageous fun is until you see Borat." (Borat)
"Bruno ist outrageous. You'll hoot and holler. The hilarity is stratospherically outrageous. A comic call to arms. Bruno defies you not to see yourself in its funhouse mirror. And then dares you to laugh it off. Make the shameless sidesplitting Bruno numero uno on your funny-time list." (Bruno)

"The film is a remarkable visual achievement, made deeply and unforgettably affecting by the depth of the actors. The go-for-broke intensity and emotional layering Watts brings to her role is an acting triumph. And McGregor matches her in a performance of ferocity and feeling. The surprise is young Holland, who shows how the terror and anger in Lucas grow into courage. He gives this powerhouse film its grieving heart." (The Impossible)
"What David Fincher does is simply extraordinary. He fuses ferocity and feeling and creates a world you want to get lost in." (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
"Directed with ferocity and feeling by Kimberly Pierce, the emotional battlefield strikes a universal chord that transcends politics and preaching; it's raw and riveting. The film takes us inside the minds and hearts of soldiers and is a powder keg with no agenda except the human one. It's the real deal." (Stop-Loss)
"Tommy Lee Jones fills every frame of his directorial debut with the ferocity and feeling of his best screen performances. Jones shakes you in way you do not see coming. His movie is a powder keg." (The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada)
"Tommy Lee Jones does the finest work of his career…Haggis goes for broke emotionally." (In the Valley of Elah)
"A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story's grieving heart." (No Country for Old Men)
"As the film follows its tragic course, Burton scores an explosive triumph. Covered in blood, Sweeney is finally engulfed by his emotions, and Depp finds the character's grieving heart."
(Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
"A powerhouse!" (Mother and Child)
"Hang on for an emotional powerhouse." (Rachel Getting Married)
"An emotional powerhouse!" (A Very Long Engagement)
"An emotional powerhouse!" (In a Better World)
"…An emotional powerhouse…" (Into the Wild)
"An emotional powerhouse." (We Own the Night)
"Stunning...A powerhouse film!" (Maria Full of Grace)
"A powerhouse of an actress!" (Sherrybaby)
"A potently acted powerhouse that sticks in the mind and the heart." (Appaloosa)
"A powerhouse of a documentary! This one shakes you." (Crude)
"David Fincher is a powerhouse filmmaker." (Zodiac)
"Director Tom Hooper breathes fresh urgent life in to every frame of this powerhouse." (The King's Speech)
"Visually the movie is a powerhouse." (Speed Racer)
"A funny-sexy-scary powerhouse!" (Better Luck Tomorrow)
"Closer is a triumph." (Closer)
"A triumph!" (Kill Bill Vol. 2)
"A triumph!" (The Road)
"A triumph!" (Look at Me)
"Triumphant and enthralling." (127 Hours)
"A triumphant success." (The Tillman Story)
"A total triumph!" (Milk)
"A triumph of the highest order! A new crime classic." (A Prophet)
"Triumphant! A new American crime classic from the legendary Martin Scorsese..." (The Departed)
"...Clooney's maverick triumph. (Good Night, And Good Luck.)
"A forceful, impassioned and unsparing triumph from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne." (l'enfant)
"(Peter Weir's) triumph, though, is in balancing action and character." (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World)
"Ralph Fiennes, as star and commander, pulls off a triumph!" (Coriolanus)
"Michael Douglas deserves serious award attention for his triumphant performance..." (Solitary Man)
"Cinderella Man hits you right in the heart. It's the classic American tale of the family man triumphant." (Cinderella Man)
"Hits you like a shot in the heart. It's a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal." (Brokeback Mountain)
"A triumph that brings lyricism, laughs and dark magic to the party. Irresistible fun!" (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
"Harry is better than ever, a triumph of visual wonder and emotional storytelling." (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
"A triumphant conclusion to a decade of Pottermania." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2)

"You're in for a hell of a ride with this high-voltage thriller. Jessica Chastain is a marvel." (Zero Dark Thirty)
"Prepare for a thrilling ride!" (The Constant Gardener)
"A bracing ride" (Melinda and Melinda)
"A raucous ride...A recipe for nutso fun." (Due Date)
"A breathtaking ride." (Up)
"A wild ride of a movie" (The Motorcycle Diaries)
"A ride that starts at wild and accelerates from there." (Source Code)
"A wild, witty ride that will creep you out big time!" (Lemming)
"We've waited all summer for a wild ride to grab us with more than jolts. Now it's here. Hang on." (The Bourne Ultimatum)
"A red hot thriller that keeps popping surprises that shouldn't be spoiled...Hang on for the ride." (Salt)
"Put on those 3D glasses and ride, baby, ride" (Beowulf)
"Lou Pucci rides this spellbinder!" (Thumbsucker)
"(Peter Weir's) triumph, though, is in balancing action and character. 'M&C' rides that road to glory." (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World)
"Matt Damon puts everything into the role and rides it to glory." (True Grit)
"Greg Kinnear takes the star spot in Flash of Genius and rides it to glory" (Flash of Genius)
"Kevin Kline gives a master class in acting. He finds every nuance of mirth and melancholy in this wonder of a role and rides it to glory. You can't take your eyes off him." (The Extra Man)
"Kevin Spacey is riveting...doing his own singing he is a marvel." (Beyond the Sea)
"Costner is a marvel, lacing the role with unforced humor and charm." (The Upside of Anger)
"Johnny Depp is a marvel as The Hatter." (Alice In Wonderland)
"Exhilarating... a once-of-a-kind marvel!" (American Splendor) [br]
"You won't believe your eyes. Spectacular - a genuine marvel." (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol)
"A marvel of swirling amorous intrigue!" (Pride and Prejudice)
"This marvel of a movie lives up to its buzz as an Oscar contender." (Big Fish)
"This immersive marvel of a movie sneaks up and floors you" (The Fighter)

"High-spirited and hilarious. Rudd and Mann are a joy to watch." (This Is 40)
"Hairspray earns knockout status for its humor, heart and high spirits." (Hairspray)
"The laughs fly higher and wilder because the characters keep it real" (The 40-Year Old Virgin)
"Emotions run high in this movie powder keg." (Paradise Now)
"The hippest, highest-octane Bond film in ages." (Casino Royale)
"A triumph of the highest order!" (A Prophet)
"Kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up" (Iron Man)
"A sizzling thriller that ends summer on a high note!" (The Constant Gardener)
"A purring, stellar Viggo Mortensen has a high old time playing a man who likes to have the last word." (A Dangerous Method)
"This tour-de-force gets you high on movies again" (Grindhouse)
"The movie is all heist, which Soderbergh carries off in high style." (Ocean's Thirteen)
"High-style adventure." (Tron: Legacy)
"...Gibson gives a high-wire performance of the highest caliber" (The Beaver)
"A high-wire act of visual daring and unquenchable spirit." (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
"Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy. He walks the high wire between humor and heartbreak with unerring skill." (The Descendants)
"Director Robert Redford walks the high wire with the defiant grace of a filmmaker who knows he's battling the odds and is still up for the game." (Lions for Lambs)
"A new American crime classic from the legendary Martin Scorsese, whose talent shines here on its highest beams." (The Departed)
"…As for Will Smith, he's on fire. There's nothing like a star shining on his highest beams. You follow him anywhere." (Hancock)

(An addendum now follows as Travers picked up two more quotes on the final weekend of the year.)

Peter Travers wrote 101 words for Rolling Stone about this movie. That is less than most critic's opening paragraphs. Or, as Jesse A. Carp from Cinema Blend put it, "most critics cut more words than that." Nevertheless, 20 of those words were plucked by Focus Features and placed in the ads, credited simply to Rolling Stone. Frack that.

"Potent and heartfelt! Director Gus Van Sant finds the human side of the face of a new America in crisis." (Promised Land)
"Stephen Gaghan is in top form, mixing potent writing with images that tear at the heart. Syriana is a tough nut that demands attention…It's the kind of give 'em-hell filmmaking that Hollywood left for dead, the kind that matters." (Syriana)
"Potent and provocative." (Page One: Inside the New York Times)
"A potent and provocative thriller." (Splice)
"A spellbinding true crime story. Potent and provocative." (All Good Things)
"A potently acted powerhouse that sticks in the mind and the heart." (Appaloosa)
"A potent frightfest that will fry your nerves and creep you out." (Paranormal Activity)
"Potent and profound! The movie grips you and won't let go. Get ready to be knocked for a loop." (Waltz with Bashir)
"Ang Lee's potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break!" (Lust, Caution)
"Provocative and potently erotic." (Black Book)
"A potently erotic spellbinder." (Atonement)
"A potent tale of sex and betrayal." (Blue Car)
"Smart and potently funny." (Extract)
"Hilarious and heartfelt! A potently witty look at Giuliani Manhattan circa 1994." (The Wackness)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. (Bridesmaids)
"Hilarious and heartfelt!" (Moonrise Kingdom)
"Hilarious and heartfelt" (Hope Springs)
"Heartfelt and hilarious!" (Happy-Go-Lucky)
"Hilarious and heartfelt." (Prime)
"Hilarious and heartfelt...a winner." (Garden State)
"A hilarious and heartfelt wonder! A new miracle in animation from Pixar…Unique and unmissable." (Ratatouille)
"A sweetheart of a comedy with a hilarious and heartfelt performance by Keri Russell." (Waitress)
"It's a sublimely acted movie, hilarious and heartfelt, and it stays with you." (Jack Goes Boating)
"A gem, hilarious and heartfelt…" (The Dukes)
"Achingly hilarious and heartfelt." (50/50)
"Hilarious and heartfelt. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore nail every nuance." (The Kids Are All Right)
"Kevin Kline gives a master class in acting. He finds every nuance of mirth and melancholy in this wonder of a role and rides it to glory." (The Extra Man)

Now please remember - we just did this. We just wrote about these very quotes a few weeks back and then repeated them here. It's as if Travers just cobbled together a review from a list of prior phrases to give Universal the following:

"The best and boldest Hollywood musical in years soars! Besides being a feast for the eyes and ears, Les Miserables overflows with humor, heartbreak, rousing action and ravishing romance. It's perfectly marvelous. One of the best films of the year." (Les Miserables)
"An unmissable movie event. A feast for the eyes and ears. Cate Blanchett's soon-to-be legendary performance is not a stunt, it's some kind of miracle." (I'm Not There)
"Leaves you moved like no film in years and then lifts you up in ways you don't see coming. It has a spirit that soars" (Precious)
"Soars on the imagination of its creators." (District 9)
"The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination." (The Dark Knight)
"A movie miracle! It soars! You feel privileged!" (Winged Migration)
"Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a miracle worker, a filmmaker whose soaring visuals and passionate intensity are artfully blended in this stunning film...Just sit back and behold as Jeunet takes you to hell and back with this epic love story." (A Very Long Engagement)
"Just sit back and behold. The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
"A playful comedy laced with heartbreak…" (Pieces of April)
"An irresistible blend of humor and heartbreak." (Cemetery Junction)
"A movie rich in hilarity, heartbreak and a sense of life in all its vibrant, messy sprawl." (Friends with Money)
"Director Alexander Payne is a master of the human comedy. He walks the high wire between humor and heartbreak with unerring skill." (The Descendants)
"Writer-Director Tod Williams catches the heartbreak and humor of the story that do John Irving proud." (The Door In The Floor)
"The magically compelling Darjeeling Limited is the fullest blossoming yet of the gifted Wes Anderson's talents as a total filmmaker. Owen Wilson skillfully blends humor and heartbreak..." (The Darjeeling Limited)
Blending humor and heartbreak in a performance that makes Is Anybody There? A richly satisfying film, "Caine truly is magic." (Is Anybody There?)
"Downey gives a blazing performance that runs the gamut from humor to heartbreak." (Zodiac)
"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy. In a multiplex crowded with formula rom-coms divorced from genuine feeling, Cyrus brims over with hilarity and heartbreak." (Cyrus)
"A lyrical masterwork. A near perfect blend of humor and heartbreak. That rare summer movie - one that matters." (Summer Hours)

(End of addendum)

We pity those who follow Travers around. Those who still cling to his positive/negative opinion while casually ignoring the accentuated hyperbole that guarantees a 2 1/2-star review feels like a 4-star review. Those at the studios who still believe he is considered in the top echelon of trustworthy critics and major publications when trying to sell their movies. That goes double for indie divisions like Sony Classics, Fox Searchlight and IFC who seem to think they are adding gravitas to a collection of praise that can be cobbled together from just about any film festival. You don't need Peter Travers. Of 128 reviews posted to Rotten Tomatoes in 2012, Travers reviewed 97 of them favorably. That's a 75.7% positivity rate. 3-of-4 movies are good-to-great. An average moviegoer could pick four movies and not get that rate of success and this is a professional critic supposedly seeing everything available to them. 19 of those 97 films were in the negative aggregate at the site. Only three times did he go negative on a film that received a positive including The Paperboy of which he said "This hot mess got booed by the snobs at Cannes, but there's no denying its profane energy." Snobs, huh? Guess this makes him the Rick Santorum of film criticism.

27 of his 97 positive reviews received a 2.5/4-star rating. 2 1/2 stars for most critics is a middle-of-the-road average reviews that tends to veer towards the negative. Four of those times, the studios still found something worth quoting:

"A visual marvel" (Snow White and the Huntsman)
"A buoyant comedy laced with genuine emotion." (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
"Ferrell and Galifianakis will crack you up - guaranteed." (The Campaign)
"Leaves you laughing helplessly. It starts out outrageous and rockets on from there." (The Dictator)


And if you wonder just how reliable Rotten Tomatoes is in culling together numbers, one of Travers' negative reviews there (cited by the green smush of its fruit) is Lawless. A 2 1/2-star review listed among the negatives there at the website with the quote:

"With a dynamite cast, an iconic screenwriter in rocker Nick Cave and an Aussie director in John Hillcoat, you assume a new classic. What you get is an ambitious try. "

But in the film ads as:

"A solid outlaw adventure."

Peter Travers, ladies and gentlemen, the anal leakage of film criticism indeed. Here's hoping that readers, moviegoers and studio marketers have learned something here today. Now prove it in 2013 and find some real critics to put on your ads.


link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=3484
originally posted: 12/27/12 13:23:37
last updated: 12/28/12 20:21:59
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