One of the seemingly lost attributes of film criticism these days is perspective. I was tempted to call it an "art" signifying it as some rare gift possessed by only the most elite of snob-tastic film scholars, but why add to the War On Intelligence that is occurring in this country. Truth is, perspective is not a hard art to grasp. It should actually be a rather common trait in your average film critic, lest they be too quick on the draw to declare something fresh in their mind as an equal to something that has taken up over a decade of space in the comparative gland of their cranium. More and more though, whether it be someone on the festival circuit or another just trying to draw hits to their website the need to hyperbolize the latest and presumed greatest, this practice has bled into the mainstream. By even critics who normally do not even earn the title of quote whore here at Criticwatch. And they can do with a little bit of perspective as well, looking no further than the latest film by a once-revered director that, sadly, also lacks its own perspective.
We will get to Dark Shadows in a moment, though it will be a part of this latest statistic. In 2012, we are counting 46 wide releases (sans 3-D re-releases.) What would be your guess as to how many of them have hit the vaunted 60% positivity threshold at Rotten Tomatoes? (Hint: Less than half of this year's releases have even reached 50% at the website.) The answer is 14. Only 30% of 2012's major releases through the weekend of May 11 have received enough positive reviews to pass through Congress.
The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, The Cabin in the Woods, The Pirates: Band of Misfits, 21 Jump Street, Chronicle, The Hunger Games, Haywire, The Grey, Chimpanzee, Big Miracle, The Woman in Black, The Five-Year Engagement, Wanderlust
"The best action movie in decades!" (The Raid: Redemption) - Twitchfilm "Not only the best nature film ever made, it's simply one of the best movies of the year." (Chimpanzee) - Tara McNamara, Fandango "The best superhero movie of all time." (The Avengers) - Chuck Walton, Fandango
"The best-looking 3-D sci-fi adventure since Avatar." (John Carter) - James Verniere, Boston Herald "The best use of 3-D since Avatar." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mike Sargent
"The best slice of pie yet!" (American Reunion) - Jake Hamilton FOX-TV "Spurlock's best film yet!" (Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope) - Ryland Aldrich "It's Jason Statham's best movie." (Safe) - Jeffrey Lyons "Statham at his best." (Safe) - James Oster, JoBlo.com "Greg Kinnear is at his best." (Thin Ice) - Owen Gleiberman "Mark Wahlberg is at his best." ((Contraband) - Lee Thomas, WJBK-TV/Fox "Denzel Washington at his best!" ((Safe House) - Lee Thomas, WJBK-TV/Fox
Yes, that's the same Lee Thomas and this is just what we have heard from this year alone. Of the 11 films listed above, only four rank in the positive at Rotten Tomatoes and two of those are of the limited release variety. Even some of those quotes though should be taken with a grain of salt though, should they not? There may be a plausible disconnect between the reviewers at Fandango and the business side of their box office model, but saying that a film is the best of its kind of all time certainly might sell a few extra advance tickets. (And wouldn't Tara's quote make more sense the other way around?) While there is little dispute that The Raid: Redemption is one helluva kick-ass action flick, it may have been best to hear that from someone other than the website run by one of the executive producers of the film.
Look at how depressingly simplistic the rest of that list is too. American Reunion was the worst reviewed film in that series. I imagine fans of The Bank Job and the Crank films will have something to say about branding Safe as Jason Statham's best film. And its safe to assume that in the long Oscar-nominated careers of Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg and Greg Kinnear that none of those films will be the first one thought of (nor second, third or fourth) when historians or Joe Blow on the street are compiling their best work. There are actually two more films to add to that list, but we'll get to that idiot in a minute.
It took less than an hour to get home Monday night from a screening of Warner Bros.' Dark Shadows before the first ad appeared with the magical quotes from the junket screenings.
"Hilarious. Stunning." - Scott Mantz "Astounding." - Kylie Erica Mar, Made In Hollywood "Johnny Depp is devilishly dapper." - Sam Hallenbeck, NBC-TV "Pure fun." - Chris Parente "Totally entertaining." - Jim Ferguson
Those are the standard adjectives and accentuated adjectives that could be pulled even from mediocre responses to the film. At least I'm sure that is what Jim Ferguson would tell you. Last year's Bag O'Douche Award Winner is apparently still on WB's good side despite blaming them for misquoting him on a recommendation of the 14% approved Yogi Bear from 2010. Oh, I'm sorry Jim, were you misquoted again?
"Wonderful! Thoroughly entertaining." - Jim Ferguson
It went from "totally" entertaining in the commercials to "thoroughly" entertaining in the newspaper. That's an example of a studio advising one of their junket whores to change their words and said whore not having a problem with it since their words (or the studio's) mean nothing anyway. The point is that Jim Ferguson is an old school whore that should give everyone immediate pause as to whether or not to spend their money on Dark Shadows or a wiser fifth time at The Avengers. Chris Parente and Kylie Erica Mar are making quiet moves to earn a place on the Whore Watch list though. Parente was quoted five times last year including on WB's Arthur remake, three times for Disney and the classic Real Steel which he said "will steal your heart." Kylie Erica Mar pimping the unscreened Amanda Seyfried howler, Gone, as something that "will keep you guessing to the end" should be enough of a red flag for anyone. Stay away from reviewing films, Kylie.
We have been saying the same thing about Mose Persico ever since we saw him on the sole critic calling Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo "Insanely funny." You can hear Chicago radio host Jonathon Brandmeier talk to him about this very incident here. Notice how cohort Buzz Kilman says how you know the film is garbage or not based on who recommends it. Anyway, Mose calls Dark Shadows:
"Funny and sexy!" - Mose Persico
It's his fourth quote for Warner Bros. since 2011, a list that also includes Wrath of the Titans ("Epic!") and The Hangover Part II ("Hilarious!") So two words is actually a step up for this guy. We can actually come up with two words for this guy too.
"A wildly whimsical world" - Andrew Freund, MySpace
One of the most frequent questions to come into Criticwatch in the past year is why in the hell is there someone from MySpace being quoted on movie ads. MySpace is the least of the issues with this guy being behind the times. First off, beware any quote whore that has representation. Secondly, beware anyone who says they bring "unique perspective" to their interviews because they once worked within the industry. This is known as the Ben Lyons defense. In Andrew's case he worked in "feature film development for Universal and Paramount." Thirdly, be sure to watch the highlights of a guy who says they ask "thought provoking questions." When confronted with Brad Pitt on the red carpet for Inglourious Basterds, he asked not about the radical notions of propaganda and the changing of known history in the film, but this gem:
"What was it like to kick some Nazi ass?"
Bravo, Andrew. It was a thought and provoking enough to add an addendum to this week's piece once your name popped up on the Dark Shadows ads. It's your third quote in 2012 and your eighth since you hit the scene last year. Seven of those quotes, including Dark Shadows, were for films not making it to the fresh side of the tomato. Here are the other six with their current Rotten Tomatoes ratings"
"Thrilling" (John Carter) - (52%) "Daringly original. Thrilling. "(In Time) - (36%) "Visually stunning." (The Three Musketeers) - (26%) "Suspenseful. "(Gone) - (11%) "One of the funniest comedies of the year!" (What's Your Number?) - (24%) "The best romantic comedy of the year!" (Something Borrowed) - (15%)
Convinced to avoid Dark Shadows yet? No. Then let the quote parade continue. First, WB took as many fish-out-of-water jokes to advertise the movie as possible to make it look like a return to Beetlejuice-like comedy for Tim Burton. And why not? It's also about an undead entity returning to his beloved home now resided by a dysfunctional family with a withdrawn daughter. Except Dark Shadows is certainly no comedy, even with its flashes of humor. Much like watching the Monday episode of a weekly soap opera with its 4-5 storylines all competing for dominance and then realizing that the mess of a screenplay by Hard Times of R.J. Berger creator and upcoming Tim Burton-produced Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter adapter, Seth Grahame-Smith, is not going to give us the Tuesday-Friday wrap-ups. (Take breath.) Secondly, if it was not obvious that the studio did not know what to make of Tim Burton's lazy vision they are signaling the surrender flag with their use of one unknown junketeer after another. Quote whores that can either admit they were supplied their words by the studio or have to own up to their lack of perspective.
"An instant classic." - Nancy Jay, Daybreak USA
Really, Nancy? An instant classic to whom? Tim Burton fans? Most film critics with perspective are Tim Burton fans. Or, at least, they were. Dark Shadows currently ranks in the universe with his Alice In Wonderland, Planet of the Apes and Mars Attacks, his weakest-reviewed films. (Though I take issue with Mars Attacks being on that list and would replace it with Sweeney Todd, but to each his/her own.) No film at the bottom of a director's resume should ever be referred to as a "classic" let alone an "instant" one. Let a film breathe before coating it as an all-timer.
"A masterpiece." - Viviana Vigil, Reelz Channel
And that was just the TV ad. She doubled down for the papers.
"A Tim Burton classic." - Viviana Vigil, Reelz Channel
From the network who hosts another forthcoming idiot on this list. I suppose it's just a coincidence that Viviana's resume as an actress most recently lists the 2011 film, Hollywood Whores? We couldn't make that up. I'm sure it's a masterpiece and a classic too.
"Wildly original." - Andrea Feczko, The University Network
This has to be my favorite on the list. First, let's watch Andrea in action and realize that this is what is happening to film criticism.
Now that you are as versed as you ever need to be about Miss Feczko, let's get back to her quote. We know better than to ask a woman her age, so we'll just assume she is as young as she looks. Is that any excuse for her not to know that Dark Shadows was a television show that ran from 1966-1971? Too old? Surely she came across the Ben Cross version in 1991. OK, not many people did. Still, that is no excuse for someone in this business not to know that the term "original" can, in no way, be applied to this film. Did she not get press notes? Did she not pay attention to the opening credits? Was she too busy wondering who did that haunting new theme song, Nights In White Satin? C'mon Andrea, get in the game. Dark Shadows is "wildly original" the same way that Mitt Romney is "wildly Hispanic." Same goes for you, Elisa "Wildly Entertaining" Osegueda from ticket-seller Fandango and Steve Samblis (host of ICplaces Hollywood "instant movie review",) calling it "a wildly entertaining gothic tale." Movie reviews on the street. That is what the studios are using these days.
Critics not even trying to make comparisons to the Dan Curtis series or not versed in its universe are describing the film as Burton-esque. It's not even "original" for the very director who has spent the back half of his career updating The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Alice In Wonderland, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd. Did you think all of those were originals too? Same advice we gave Kylie, Andrea. Stop reviewing movies.
It is the same advice we have been giving one of Criticwatch's least favorite whores for years. Mark S. Allen, host of Reelz Channel's Mark at the Movies, is the epitome of being Warner Bros.' little bitch. In 2011, 7 of his 16 quotes were for the studio (including The Rite, The Hangover Part II and Red Riding Hood.) In 2012, 5 of his 8 quotes have gone to the WB. What did he have to say about Dark Shadows?
"Wickedly funny. Johnny Depp is at his absolute best." - Mark S. Allen
His ABSOLUTE best. Three time Oscar-nominated actor. The lead voice in last year's Best Animated Feature Oscar winner. A guy killing it in films like What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood and Donnie Brasco before he became one of the biggest moviestars in the world. And you, Mark, want to crown Dark Shadows as his Pièce de résistance. You are an idiot. You are a moron. You are nothing but a worthless whore exploiting the meaning of words for your own benefit with no hindsight and no follow-up to back-up your claims. How are you not running for office? Probably because you wouldn't want to face the scrutiny of owning up to these past soundbites:
"The best Underworld yet." (Underworld Awakening) "Awesome! Even better than the first!" (Wrath of the Titans) "The best Nicholas Sparks film since The Notebook." (The Lucky One)
And that's just 2012. There's a pattern here.
"The best Pirates yet!" (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) "The best Resident Evil yet!" (Resident Evil: Afterlife) "The best Twilight film yet!" ((The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1) "The best Spy Kids movie yet!" (Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over) "Hilary Duff's best film yet..." (Raise Your Voice)
"The best family film of the season!" (Because of Winn-Dixie) "This season's best comedy." (The Girl Next Door) "...the best date movie of the season." (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) "The best date movie of the season!" (He's Just Not That Into You) "The best date movie of the summer!" (Sex and the City)
"Damon at his best!" (Green Zone) "Robin Williams is at his best." (The Night Listener) "Eddie Murphy at his best!" (The Haunted Mansion) "Harrison Ford is at his best" (Hollywood Homicide) "Harrison Ford at his best." (Firewall) "Bernie Mac is at his absolute best! Perhaps the best buddy picture ever!" (Soul Men)
I once knew someone who declared that Ghostbusters II was even better than the first one. That was immediately after seeing the film. And they were 13 years old. You know how long it took to reverse that position? Going home immediately after to watch their pan-and-scan VHS copy of the original. It took until about the library scene. In the moment, our excitement (or anger) can cause us to say all kinds of stupid things we wish we could take back. This is why most film critics allow some time for reflection before writing their reviews. Most would actually like to see the film again. In the case of Dark Shadows, I have heard from more than a few real critics that their somewhat mixed reaction to the film got downright negative the more they put their thoughts together. Quote Whores do not have these so-called thoughts. They are automotons spitting out the same pre-programmed hyperbole that the studios yearn for. And as 2012 goes on, Criticwatch continues to stand by the suggestion - no, the fact - to consumers that a list of these whores and unknowns on a film ad makes the film an instantaneous miss. The 42% rating at Rotten Tomatoes is another indication, but seeing as how Warner Bros. would rather avoid the written reviews of 50+ real critics to draw their praise from, the quote whores on the ads will serve as your warning. If the marketers there can't be bothered to do the work, why should you?