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 umbridge 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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, 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.
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.”
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.
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?
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)