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.