Criticwatch - Whores with Benefits Representing America
by Erik Childress
Paramount and Screen Gems had a face-off this week in more ways than one. Each have films opening at the box office for people to choose on Friday, but earlier in the week the studios were asking a large portion of film critics to make the same choice. At least, initially. You see, Paramount in their ultimate wisdom began scheduling their screenings of their last big prequel of sorts to the 2012 Avengers movie. So confident they were in Joe Johnston's treatment of the character that they were not about to show the film to the majority of press until Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before unveiling it to fans at the San Diego Comicon and a mere 29 hours before the general public could get a peek. The pattern for such a tactic we covered just a month ago when Warner Bros. employed the same strategy for Green Lantern (and a summer earlier with Jonah Hex.) How were those two films received? Sony this year has waited until Wednesday to screen nearly all of their features this year (Bad Teacher, Battle: Los Angeles, Just Go With It, Zookeeper.) So what was Paramount so afraid of?
For many critics, Paramount has had a rather good summer (Transformers aside) and a decent year. Rango, Thor and Super 8 were screened, at least, almost a full week in advance for most. Some even earlier than that to build buzz, eventually translating to three of the top 11 reviewed wide releases of 2011. So why were they hiding Captain America? Both No Strings Attached and their little Bieber propaganda piece were screened just as late and opened to more than decent reviews. Maybe a little mixed, but hardly the kind of numbers given to other Wednesday screeners like Sucker Punch (22%) and Season of the Witch (5%). But there it was. Captain America scheduled to screen in multiple markets on Wednesday, the same evening that Screen Gems had already established screenings for Friends with Benefits. The Utah Film Critics Association threatened to boycott any and all opportunities for reviews and features associated with Screen Gems while in the Windy City, the Chicago Film Critics Association recommended their members choose the studio that already staked a claim to that date/time a full two weeks before Paramount tried to move in. Screen Gems saved all the fuss though by adding an additional screening of their film to the night before in both cities while Paramount could not be bothered to comment.
All for naught appears to be as good a label as any for this unnecessary fiasco as both films have opened in the red at Rotten Tomatoes. Friends with Benefits at 70% (with 87 reviews) and Captain America at 73% (with 133 reviews). Maybe not the highest scores imaginable, until you take into account they are in the top third of wide releases this year and only the 10th and 11th films this summer to be rated positive fresh. (13 films are in the negative this season.) Maybe if the studios had not waited so long to show us their movies, they could have received some better quotes. The Friends with Benefits ads look as such:
"Must see comedy of the summer." - Eric Paquette, Salut Bonjour! - TVA "A hilarious and sexy film." - Heather Catlin, WSB-TV (ABC) "Crazy, sexy fun." - Victor Diaz, Your News Now "Outrageous fun." - Kevin Steincross "Justin and Mila have incredible chemistry." - Scott Mantz "It's this generation's When Harry Met sally. You'll love this movie." - Shawn Edwards
The last time we saw Victor Diaz he was calling Extraordinary Measures "a triumph of heart, passion and joy." And if Criticwatch is none too familiar with the likes of Heather Catlin and Eric Paquette, why should you be? We do know those bottom three though and we know the score of Shawn Edwards by now, don't we?
"Audiences are going to love this movie." (Last Holiday) "Audiences are gonna love this movie." (13 Going On 30) "A cool sports movie for todayís generation". (Crossover) "****! A definite must-see. Itís the rare film that transcends generations." (Bobby) "Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are this generation's most engaging on-screen couple." (Foolís Gold)
The words "sad," "pathetic," and "douchebag" immediately spring to mind where Edwards' name is brought up. What words would you apply to Kevin Steincross?
"The feel-good movie of the Spring." (Arthur (2011)) "The perfect date movie Ė it will suck you in and rock you to the core. Killer movie!" (Twilight) "The best Twilight yet." (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) "A must-see!" (Remember Me) "Thrilling from start to finish!" (Clash of the Titans) "Thrilling and chilling. Sandra Bullock is terrific." (Premonition) "A sexy thriller that keeps you guessing every step of the way. The ending will blow you away." (Perfect Stranger) "Get ready for a good scare." (The Roommate) "Hysterical" (The Love Guru)
Evidently, Screen Gems likes Kevin Steincross as one of the few people to say anything positive about their film, The Roommate, currently the second worst reviewed film of the year, just ahead of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Ladies and gentlemen of Sony/Screen Gems huddle up for a moment. Serious question. If you had a choice of restaurants to go to, even if it was just Applebee's vs. Chili's, would you take the word of a guy who couldn't leave the location without going diarrhea at Applebee's? Even if you didn't know he was given a weekly free meal? Or the guy at Chili's who paid his dues and could make you believe he didn't leave with the same ailment that afflicted the gals from Bridesmaids in the dress shop? Steincross isn't just the Applebee's guy, he is the diarrhea. As is Edwards and the whole lot of junket whores. Plus, another piece of advice. Always beware when the word "sexy" is used on a film ad:
"Sexy." (Sucker Punch) - Carrie Keegan "Sexy cool." -(Red Riding Hood) Shawn Edwards "A fun and sexy thriller." (The Roommate) - Joe Hui, JoBlo "Harry is charming, sexy and fun!" (When Harry Tries to Marry) - TrustMovies.com "Smart, sexy and funny." (Something Borrowed) - Pete Hammond "An erotic blast of sinful flesh, fun and fantasy that you don't want to stop." (Kaboom) - Peter Travers
You have no idea where their idea of "sexy" has been? Maybe Carrie Keegan can get away with it cause she possesses many traits prized by the superficial male (as Seinfeld might say.) But do you really want to take "sexy" advice from Shawn Edwards or the two Petes? You think it's bad enough imagining your mother appear into your Freudian fantasies? Try to imagine where Hammond and Travers are going when they start ogling Kate Hudson or Juno Temple on screen. Yeah, you have been warned.
Paramount does not have much sexy to offer in their praise in Captain America. While certain exuberance of the film being called "how superhero movies SHOULD be made" is hyperbolic at best and embarrassing at worst, those statements by critics who write for a living are not the ones being used. Instead, you are seeing the following on the TV ads:
"Pure excitement. Pure action. Pure fun." - Bryan Erdy, CBS-TV/Movie Planet
That's a lot of purity for a guy so drenched in the sticky aftermath of being a junket whore. To get away from the "sexy" end of the spectrum, one must search to be "pure." And yet it is still a word you should look out for if you're searching for recommendations through ad quotes.
"Pure magic." (Super 8) - Joel D. Amos, SheKnows "Pure awesomeness. ****" (Kung Fu Panda 2) - Angie Errigo, Empire Magazine "Pure solid-gold entertainment!" (Larry Crowne) - Pete Hammond "Pure fun." (Hall Pass) - Jeff Craig "Pure adrenaline." (Battle: Los Angeles) - Shawn Edwards "Pure genius." (Scream 4) - Richard Roeper "Pure comedic genius." (The Hangover Part II) - Paul Perrello, Metro Networks "Pure classic cinema that makes the most of new technology." (Sanctum) - Jordan Hoffman, UGO
The word can be used for a great movie or a gigantic piece of crap. Hell, Jeff "The Faceless" Craig last year used it to describe both Cats & Dogs 2ANDMachete. So don't get confused. And do not get taken in by Bryan Erdy just because he finally gave a quote to somebody other than Disney.
"Hilarious and totally fun!" (Beverly Hills Chihuahua) "Hysterically funny!" (Bedtime Stories) "Hysterically funny! This is the perfect family movie." (College Road Trip) "Irresistibly entertaining! Magnificent and outrageously funny! One of the yearís very best!" (Taking Woodstock) "Insanely funny. If you liked Office space, youíll really love Extract. Mike Judge has done it again. The funniest movie of the year!" (Extract) "The funniest movie of the year." (The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard) "Flat-out hilarious! You'll fall in love with When In Rome!" (When In Rome) "The first feel-great movie of the year. Laugh-out-loud funny! You will fall in love with Isla Fisher! Sweet, clever and endlessly funny!" (Confessions of a Shopaholic)
"Riveting! One of the most fascinating stories of all time. A classic American tale of fame, scandal and a country that ate it up." (The Hoax) "Provocative. A Wake-up call for America!" (Stop-Loss) "Daniel Craig proves he's the best Bond ever!" (Quantum of Solace) "Dwayne Johnson scores again. The most exciting surprise of the year. Itís an exciting thrill ride!" (Race To Witch Mountain) "Breathtaking! An exciting, moving family adventure that will stay with you forever!" (Bridge to Terabithia) "Spectacular, exciting fun!" (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) "Even better than the first. Astonishing in the every way. Extraordinary! Destined to join the original as a classic!" (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) "Beyond incredible. Youíve never seen anything like it." (Speed Racer) "A stunningly original animated masterpiece!" (9) "Pure Disney entertainment. A winner. One of the funniest movies in years. Itís hilarious and full of heart." (The Game Plan)
Feeling pure, now? That's 18 quotes from Erdy over the years. 20 if you include his from Kung Fu Panda 2 and Captain America this year. 12 of them are from Disney-owned products. His next biggest supporter? Paramount allowing him to pimp four of their films, none of them really good and at least one that really sucks. (Hint: It's the one he called "the funniest movie of the year" and it wasn't made by Mike Judge.)
My thoughts aside on Captain America (first hour good, second half bad), fanboys and legit critics have come out in favor of the film. Maybe Paramount would have realized that had they bothered to screen the film like one they were actually proud of. So we come full shield to the original question. What exactly were you hiding, Paramount? Cause it certainly wasn't your insecurity about what you really thought about Captain America.