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Criticwatch - Lionsgate Must Tap Out The Petes

by Erik Childress

Back in March of this year, Lionsgate got the train rolling on getting the word out there for their magnificent film, Warrior. It was at the Las Vegas Cinemacon (formerly ShoWest) where theater owners and attending journalists & critics got their first look at one of the year's very best films. That very night I wrote over at Cinematical that "the way it cobbles together the multiple storylines and relationships makes 'Warrior' a more emotionally satisfying film than 'The Fighter.' Lionsgate may want to get the train going on an Oscar campaign for Nolte." I said just as much on WGN Radio that weekend, adding how the film made me well up four different times. That just doesn't happen every day - and I am currently writing this as my sister awaits to give birth to her first child in the hospital. For five months I wondered if my colleagues would feel the same. Then as the film began screening early and often, those feelings were reciprocated. Lionsgate clearly was listening too as they did something unprecedented in the studio relations with critics - they lifted the embargo a full month early and gave us carte blanche to post as soon as possible. Imagine the reviews they would have to choose from. No need to rely on the point-and-choose junket whores or the hyperbole machines frequently spotlighted at Criticwatch. For the most part, Lionsgate succeeded too. But for some reason, they still must believe that the two Petes - Travers and Hammond - continue to mean something on a film ad. When it is just the opposite.

Let us quickly take a look at what else the studio came up with for their potential hit and Oscar-contender.

"Brilliant!" - Dan Jolin, Empire
"Riveting! Draws you in from the first scene." - Krista Smith, Vanity Fair
"Thrilling! One of the year's most rousing pieces of emotional entertainment. Expert, beautifully nuanced filmmaking." - Drew McWeeny, Hitfix
"As unforgettable as Rocky. A powerful, emotional story for everyone." - Ed Douglas, Comingsoon.net
"An incredible stand-on-your-feet crowd pleaser! The first movie since Field of Dreams that will have the men in the audience in tears." - Kevin Taft, Edge Boston
"Incredible! Better than The Fighter!" - Alex Billington, Firstshowing.net


A pretty decent mix of quotes there. At first glance, it might seem like hyperbole but there is a major difference between a critic who knows how to wield it and those who just know no better. My pal, Scott Weinberg, wondered on Twitter who was going to be the first to compare the film to Rocky. The winner then is our festival pal, Ed Douglas, who may be the first to be credited publicly but most certainly will not be the last. Rocky is an easy, natural comparison to make. Hell, someone at Ain't-It-Cool-News once called Air Guitar Nation, "Rocky with air guitars." We were far more impressed with the Field of Dreams call back. Argue as you will about what films since then have squeezed a few tears out of guys (i.e. Saving Private Ryan, Lord of the Rings, etc...) but to go back to 1989 is at least someone thinking out of the box. Yes, I did make The Fighter comparison, but that was back in March with the film still being overpraised as an average film with some great performances. When all is said and done, I guess they preferred "better than The Fighter" to "more emotionally satisfying than The Fighter," but hey this is never about sour grapes. In fact, I am just as happy that two of my local Chicago pals were also included in the mix.

"Truly one of the best films I've seen all year. Powerful, brutal, thunderous, intimate filmmaking at its best." - Steve Prokopy (Capone), AICN
"One of the best films of 2011!" - Brian Tallerico, HollywoodChicago.com


It's always great to see critics who write for a living get a chance to see their carefully chosen words used to entice audiences to share the experience they had. It is less thrilling to see their names mixed in with such names of ill-respect like Travers and Hammond.

The Criticwatch model over the years has been to help bring some perspective back to film criticism. The studios have every right to use the best tools at their disposal to sell their movies. Problem is they are frequently using tools with mouths to do it. And worst of all, it is entirely unnecessary in a world where seemingly everyone truly is a critic. The good news is that Lionsgate has avoided the true mouth breathers from the junket scene. Screenings were set up in major markets before the official Warrior junket even took place. Word-of-mouth reactions turned into written reviews and - voila! - the studio has the quotes they need. Imagine that. No need for Shawn Edwards or Mark S. Allen. Go back up and look what Lionsgate had to work with compared to what Warner Bros. is using on their ads for Contagion, also opening this weekend.

"Mesmerizing." - Scott Mantz
"Compelling." - Leonard Maltin
"Sensational "- Pete Hammond
"Chilling" - Sasha Perl-Raver, NBC-TV
"Gripping and powerful." - Pete Hammond
"Pulse-pounding." - Cindy Pearlman
"Terrifying." - Stephen Rebello
"A must see." - Jeremy Parsons, Reelz Channel
"The year's most intense thriller." - Carrie Keagan


Wonder if Carrie had to whip out the ol' diaper again just as she did for 30 Minutes or Less. "Wear a diaper, it's that good," she said! So assuming she peed herself laughing, it's safe to assume that she shit her pants during Contagion. What else do you want from a shitty junket whore? And yes, that is Pete Hammond mentioned twice in the Contagion ads above. Do the adjectives come first and then the review, Pete? We pose that question to both Hammond and Travers as we now examine the quotes they provided Lionsgate for Warrior.

"Fiercely moving!" - Peter Travers

How can I argue with a quote like that when I've already told you that I was on the verge of tears at four different times during my first viewing of Warrior? Perspective. It's not whether we actually agree with the sentiment, it is all about who said it and how they said it. Observe.

"Savagely moving." (Savage Grace)
"Powerfully moving" (The Passion of the Christ)
"A powerfully moving film that is unmissable and unforgettable." (Vera Drake)
"An extraordinary film. Fierce, funny, and moving. Truly unmissable." (The Class)
"One of the year’s best. A radically fierce & funny fireball. You’ll laugh till it hurts." (Sicko)
"The electrifying result will blow you away. A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love)
"A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story’s grieving heart. "Fierce and fiendishly funny." (No Country for Old Men)
"Fierce & darkly funny." (Mail Order Wife)
"Fiercely funny!" (Delirious)
"A fiercely funny human comedy that manages to be both hilarious and haunting." (The Upside of Anger)
"Pierce Brosnan is roaringly fierce and funny! (The Matador)
"O’Hara deserves Oscar consideration in her funniest, fiercest role." (For Your Consideration)
"Colin Firth gives a towering performance that deserves a shower of awards. Geoffrey Rush is his match, fiercely funny in a feast of a role." (The King's Speech)
"Jamie Foxx's fierce, funny, deeply felt performance deserves to be legendary." (Ray)
"Nicole Kidman is just astonishing - subtle, fierce, brutally funny, tender when you least expect it." (Rabbit Hole)
"Meryl Streep has never been this fierce, this diabolically funny - you can't take your eyes off her." (The Manchurian Candidate)
"Crowe continues to astonish as an actor - fierce, funny and every inch the hero." (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World)
"It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny." (Iron Man)[br]


See what we mean, Lionsgate? Who cares if Peter Travers thinks the film is "fiercely moving." Everything is fierce to him and there's nothing funny about subjecting such a great movie to such empty praise. Speaking of which:

"A must-see! Warrior packs the kind of punch-to-the-gut wallop the screen hasn't seen in years. An unforgettable experience!" - Pete Hammond

In years like Rocky, Field of Dreams or perhaps even Miracle, the last underdog sports film that Gavin O'Connor directed? Hammond probably couldn't even tell you what year those films came out, so how the hell can he ever make a comparison? Nobody in the world of film criticism has less perspective than Pete Hammond. Take his opening line there. Tracking his quotes since he arrived on the scene in June of 2004, Hammond has made some variation on what movies are a "must-see" or "not to be missed" 30 times. How many movies would you have called "must-sees" in that time? Hell, Hammond has said that now 7 times in 2011 alone! To go along with Warrior, he includes Trust, In a Better World, A Better Life, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, The Whistleblower and The Guard as must-see experiences. Granted, 23 of those 30 instances occurred on film's that critics were generally in favor of, though certainly not in an unanimous capacity. While such darlings like Inception, Little Miss Sunshine, The Social Network and Zodiac are among them, when you get to the bottom of the list you have Pete Hammond labeling the following as "must-sees:"

Creation (47%), Yes Man (44%), The Bucket List (40%), The Burning Plain (34%), Trade (28%), Princess Kaiulani (18%), The Number 23 (8%)

Nothing takes the piss out of one's recommendation of a great movie than providing the same sort of recommendation to a really bad one. The next red flag on Hammond's glowstick is calling Warrior "an unforgettable experience!" Damn, that sounds like one helluva movie, huh? But, remember this...

"A film you won't forget anytime soon." (Skateland)
"Unforgettable…Sure to be one of the year’s most controversial films." (The Stoning of Soraya M.)
"An unforgettable, touching and wonderful movie." (The Last Song)
"An unforgettable cinematic experience." (Into the Wild)
"An unforgettable motion picture experience. Powerful and moving beyond words." (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)
"**** One of the year's most satisfying and rewarding motion picture experiences. Clive Owen delivers a moving and unforgettable portrayal." (The Boys Are Back)
"A remarkably accomplished and moving film. An unforgettable experience you don’t want to miss." (Fugitive Pieces)
"A vibrant, funny, moving, highly entertaining and richly rewarding movie experience! Will have you talking long after leaving the theatre. Unforgettable." (Talk to Me)
"One of the year’s best pictures. An unforgettable movie experience." (Bobby)
"Beyond spectacular! Transports you to an alternate world of jaw-dropping awe and unforgettable adventure." (The Golden Compass)
"Heart-stopping action! If you’re looking for pure screen excitement look no further. Dives into the heart of a true hero. Stirring and exhilarating! An unforgettable motion picture experience." (The Guardian)


It's pretty amazing that Hammond can manage to use that term almost exclusively on films over the years even the most astute of film critics have forgotten about already, let alone the public. Thankfully he didn't compare Warrior to any of those films. People wouldn't know what precisely they haven't seen in years.

"A winning combination of sex, mystery, brilliant writing and first-rate acting that all adds up to one of the most erotic and exhilarating movies in years." (Match Point)
"One of the most powerful films in years. Exhilarating. A movie you must see." (Reign Over Me)
"DeNiro’s best screen work in years." (What Just Happened?)
"One of the best American comedies in years. (The Break-Up)
"The best action film in years!" (The A-Team)
"A hard driving adrenaline pumping blast that leaves everything else in its dust. The most spectacular and exhilarating action sequences the screen has seen in years." (Fast Five)
"It packs enough red-hot fiery action for six movies." (The Condemned)
"Rips into you like a hurricane! Suspenseful, emotional and completely engrossing throughout! A powerful human drama that packs a strong punch." (Reservation Road)


"A must-see! Warrior packs the kind of punch-to-the-gut wallop the screen hasn't seen in years. An unforgettable experience!" - Pete Hammond

The quote was worth seeing one more time. And hopefully it will be the last time the public has to see or hear it. Warrior is too great a film to be mired down in the useless hyperbole of a grandstanding idiot like Pete Hammond - or Travers. But you are on the right track, Lionsgate. Critics - real film critics - are happy to help spread the word on your movies when we love them. Even when we just like them. We have no interest in pre-trashing your non-festival films before they arrive in theaters. I was certainly able to keep a lid on my thoughts about Sony's Zookeeper when they showed THAT at Cinemacon in March as well. Do not let junkets lead the way. Or if you insist on keeping them, invite the critics who don't invite instant scorn upon their name being attached to quotation marks. Even better, show critics in each market your films before all junkets. We're talking to all studios now. Yes, we have said it before, but now Lionsgate has provided real market research on the matter. If we love or like the movie, we'll write it up for you. If we don't, we'll shut up until its time. Like in that whole embargo scenario that is constantly looked the other way on. Criticwatch certainly hopes that moviegoers will discover Warrior on their own despite having Pete Hammond putting it in the same league as films starring Miley Cyrus and directed by Emilio Estevez. Lionsgate and all studios can certainly avoid such unnecessary comparisons in the future by "fiercely" keeping the two Petes off of their promotional materials.


link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3292
originally posted: 09/07/11 02:14:06
last updated: 09/30/18 01:03:55
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