Criticwatch - Warner Brothers: The Rock of Quote Whores
by Erik Childress
Rock of Ages, the new big screen Warner Bros. musical that bears little resemblance to the broadway sensation it is adapted from. Adam Shankman, who understands comedy as much as Sarah Palin understands satire, directs the film without a knowing wink to its own cheesiness and ends up producing uncomfortable laughter and an insultingly straight-faced narrative. In-between the melange of '80s cover tunes, it is as if the writers tossed off everything they learned from Almost Famous and instead went with the subtle empowerment message of Coyote Ugly. That's right folks, if you are a woman appearing in Rock of Ages chances are you a big ol' whore. If it's not the fresh-faced groupie heroine forced into a life of stripping (under the empowering suggestion of Mary J. Blige, mind you) or the conservative morality-spewing antagonist with an skeleton in her closet, there's also the serious, glasses-wearing Rolling Stone reporter who instantly drops her clothes so the big rock star can sing into her ass. As things are sometimes changed to protect, the interviewer's name has been changed from Peter Travers to Constance Sack. Synonymous, really.
All that being said, it didn't take long after the press screening weeks ago to realize that another kind of whore was going to be all up in this film's face rubbing their hyperbolic junk all over it. Honestly, it didn't even take a screening at all. For if there is one thing Criticwatch has come to realize it is that no film studio loves their prized cheek-spreading junketeers more than Warner Bros. Rock of Ages could have been the best or the worst film of 2012 and it wouldn't matter because the first ads would be plastered with the adjective-spewing non-critics that flock to offer praise like a five year-old littering "I love you's" at their mommy who is holding a lollipop just out of reach. Every studio uses them, of course, but none with the exuberance and frequency that Warner Bros. does. Therefore this week, while the quote whores can definitely share their part of the blame, the focus will be on the studio itself and what they are trying to sell to the paying moviegoer.
First, a little background on the year that Warner Bros. is having. Dark Shadows and Wrath of the Titans have not exactly done nice things for their bottom line, each with their $150 million budgets and disappointing domestic tallies. They certainly are not as far in the red as Universal is (over $400 million budgets-to-grosses) but if money is the great equalizer in the business model compared to the perceived quality of the product, it is worth reminding that they are not doing well in either department. In their seven wide releases in 2012, Warner Bros. has not produced a single one in the positive at Rotten Tomatoes where red and black have very different meanings.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (42%), Dark Shadows (40%), Joyful Noise (34%), Project X (26%), Wrath of the Titans (23%), Chernobyl Diaries (22%), The Lucky One (21%)
That is your Warner Bros. lineup right there. Their latest, Rock of Ages, is currently hovering around 43%. Congratulations, Adam Shankman, you have the best lounge band in Vegas. But when the scores are low, the whores get even lower. Sometimes even when the scores are high though, WB continues to use these people. Last year, only 8 of their 21 releases hit the positive mark critically. Their best reviewed film also happened to be the biggest hit of the year (Harry Potter); a trick that they hope to replicate with The Dark Knight Rises. For our purposes here today though, we are just going to take into account the films of 2011 that couldn't even hit 50% on the Tomatometer. 12 films total from 47% down to 7% - all of which had some form of praise from WB's little pets. For perspective, we offer you the quotes from this week's Rock of Ages which you can see right here:
Shockingly enough, that is not all of them. There is more in the newspaper and on further commercials, one of which we must get to later. In the meantime though, we offer you a closer look at Warner Bros.' marketing techniques. The Rock of Ages quotes are underlined
"Extraordinary." - Tony Toscano "Extraordinary. An emotional powerhouse." (Extremely Loud & Incredible Close) - Pete Hammond
"Mind-blowing." - Joel Amos "Explosive. It will blow your mind." (Sucker Punch) - Rick Florino
"Stunning." - Shelli Sonstein "Stunning." (Green Lantern) - Maria Salas "Visually stunning. Reynolds soars!" (Green Lantern) - George Pennacchio(KABC-TV)
"Awesome." - Alfonso De Elias, Galatview.com "Awesome! Even better than the first!" (Wrath of the Titans) - Mark S. Allen "Awesome." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) - Maria Salas
"Amazing" - Joanna Langfield "Amazing" - Alfonso De Elias, Galatview.com "Amazing." (Green Lantern) - D.L. ALEMORU (Wave Publications) "Amazing. "((Wrath of the Titans) - Jeff Craig "Amazing" (Red Riding Hood) - Mark S. Allen
"Hilarious." - Teresa Garz, Checalamovie.net "Hilarious!" (Arthur) - Cindy Pearlman "Hilarious!" (The Hangover Part II) - Mose Persico "A laugh out loud hilarious comedy." (Hall Pass) - Maria Salas "Laugh-out-loud hilarious!" (Something Borrowed) - Maria Salas
"The party film of the summer." - Cindy Pearlman, Chicago Sun-Times "A fun, star-studded way to ring in the new year." (New Year's Eve) - Bonnie Laufer "The year's first great adventure." ((Journey 2 The Mysterious Island)) - Joel Amos "The feel-good movie of the Spring." (Arthur) - Kevin Steincross "The must-see superhero movie of the summer." (Green Lantern) - SHIREEN SANDOVAL (FOX-TV) "The most action packed fun you'll have at the movies all summer." (Green Lantern) - Maria Salas "One of the best films of the year!" (J. Edgar) - Cindy Pearlman "The funniest movie of the year." (Hall Pass) - Carrie Keagan "Grab your girlfriends and see the most romantic movie of the year." (The Lucky One) - Kylie Erica Mar, Made In Hollywood "The best romantic comedy of the year!" (Something Borrowed) - Andrew Freund "The best romantic comedy of the year!" (New Year's Eve) - Sheila Roberts (Moviesonline.ca)
"A rockin' good time!"- Staci Layne Wilson, Yahoo! Movies "Rocking. Wild. Pure fun." - Chris Parente, FOX-TV "Rock of Ages delivers pure entertainment and fun!" - Tony Toscano "Pure fun." (Dark Shadows) - Chris Parente "Pure fun." (Hall Pass) - Jeff Craig "Pure adventure." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) - Maria Salas "Pure comedic genius." (The Hangover Part II) - PAUL PERRELLO (Metro Networks) "The Wolfpack delivers again!" (The Hangover Part II) - Shawn Edwards "Wild." (The Hangover Part II) - MIA GRADNEY (The CW) "A wild ride." (Green Lantern) - Maria Salas "A witty and wild ride." (Green Lantern) - Bonnie Laufer "A wildly entertaining gothic tale" (Dark Shadows) - Steve Samblis, ICplaces Hollywood "A wildly whimsical world" (Dark Shadows) - Andrew Freund "Wildly original." (Dark Shadows) - Andrea Feczko, The University Network
For more on the idiocy of Andrea Feczko calling a film based on a decadees-old televsion show "wildly original", enjoy. For more on general, faceless idiocy - read the next line.
"Exhilarating. Electrifying. Irresistible. A total blast. The coolest movie musical in decades." - Jeff Craig
Seriously, Jeff Craig, fuck you. This will continue to be your picture at the right until you prove that you actually exist. In the meantime, is this next thing a casual joke or an admission of guilt?
"To amp up Stacee's last show, an interview is arranged with Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman), who is soon having a sexual duet with her subject on a pool table (a shocking breach for RS correspondents – the table, I mean)."
That is from Peter Travers' review of Rock of Ages. Though the prospect of Travers standing up, bent over a couch or taking it missionary-style is a ghastly image at least we know no tables were harmed in the creation of his hyperbolic gifts to the studios. Warner Bros. has even crafted a commercial around his quote with the characters then discussing the Rolling Stone credentials sullied into whoredom circa 1987 in the film. If you look through his review you will even see the basis for that particular quote where he says that "Tom Cruise is phenomenal." But nowhere in his written review is the world "Smashing" ever used. Perhaps Warner Bros. mistakenly just grabbed his quote from another star-studded Broadway-adapted musical from a few years ago.
"Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and Fergie are smashing!" (Nine) - Peter Travers
Funny enough though, that is not even the ad we were teasing earlier. And here is where it gets fun. Because we want you, the reader, to do your own detective work here. This is strictly novice material so no heavy lifting required. Nothing but your undivided attention. First, watch the commercial below and notice the second-to-last quote on it.
Get that? No? Approximately at the 22-second mark. If you hit Cindy Pearlman's "party film of the summer" nonsense you have gone too far. Watch it again if you need to.
Now that you have that in your head, take a look at the poster below. Remember the words and look at the poster again.
Did you see it? DO YOU SEE IT???
Bryan Erdy, the notorious, almost exclusive Disney whore who had no problem giving lavish quote to their direct-to-video animated sequels, used the goddamned TAGLINE for the freakin' movie as his quote! Was that a subconscious faux pas or did someone in the Warner Bros. marketing department actually think it was a good idea to put that quote on the list offered to these shameless entities? Is this going to become the new trend? Getting junket whores to say the tagline out loud? Are the publicists having fun with this by placing bets on which one they can get to actually say the word and pick their nose like Spalding in Caddyshack?
C'mon Mark S. Allen, say "Change your fate and see this movie." Hey Joel Amos, did you know that "the untold story begins?" It's "Amazing." Over here, Maria Salas, can you say "The legend ends." Watch my lips Maria, "Da La-g-end." You have to speak slow to these people. And no sudden movements otherwise you may break their train of thought.
"It's a celebration! Jump start your holidays. (New Year's Eve) - Shawn Edwards "Joyful Noise is a reason to celebrate! It will have you dancing in the aisles." (Joyful Noise) - Pete Hammond "Dance in the aisles." (Joyful Noise) - Holly McClure, Parables Television Network "Stomp your feet" (Joyful Noise) - Debra Wallace, PopCultureMadness.com
"Eye-popping 3-D." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) - Maria Salas "Eye-popping." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mike Sargent
"Brilliant." (Sucker Punch) - Carrie Keagan "Brilliant." (The Hangover Part II) - NIK THE WEB CHICK (Q102, Philadelphia) "Arthur is brilliant!" (Arthur) - Ben Lyons
"Epic." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mike Sargent "Epic." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mose Persico "Epic. Outrageous." (The Hangover Part II) - Fred Topel "Epic. A thrill for the whole family!" (Journey 2 The Mysterious Island) - Jeremy Parsons, Reelz Channel "Something to inspire everyone!" (Joyful Noise) - Mark S. Allen "An epic 'Journey' for everyone." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) - Mark S. Allen
"Take this journey!" (Journey 2 The Mysterious Island) - Cindy Pearlman "Summer fun goes green." (Green Lantern) - PATRICK STINSON (Reelz Channel) "A double-shot of hilarity." (The Hangover Part II) - SAM HALLENBECK (NBC-TV) "Something Borrowed is something terrific." (Something Borrowed) - Pete Hammond "Something good! Something fun! Something sweet! Something smart!" (Something Borrowed) - Manny De La Rosa "Dolly Parton is back on the big screen and better than ever in a fresh, funny and truly joyful film! Queen Latifah is fantastic! She delivers a wonderfully joyful performance." (Joyful Noise) - Shawn Edwards
"Kill Bill meets Inception." (Sucker Punch) - Stuart Lee "Star Wars meets Iron Man." - (Green Lantern) Carrie Keagan "It's Dear John meets The Vow." (The Lucky One) - Maria Salas
"It's highly entertaining from start to finish." (Arthur) - Ben Lyons "Laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish." (Hall Pass) - MARK REARDON (CBS-TV) "Laugh out Loud" (Joyful Noise) - Dawn Henderson, The Mungle Show "Bright and charming, this is laugh-out-loud funny." (Arthur) - Jeff Craig "A laugh-out-loud romp." (Arthur) - Thelma Adams "A laugh out loud hilarious comedy. Crazy." (Hall Pass) - Maria Salas "Lots of laughs." (Something Borrowed) - Kelli Gillespie
"A must see." (Hall Pass) - Maria Salas "A must-see." (Green Lantern) - LAUREN SANCHEZ "A must-see" (Wrath of the Titans) - Stephanie Frederic "A must-see for the holidays." (New Year's Eve) - MAURIE SHERMAN (Rogers Radio Kiss 92.5)
"The perfect date movie." (The Lucky One) - Maria Salas "The perfect date movie." (Something Borrowed) - Joel Amos "Ryan Reynolds is the perfect Green Lantern!" (Green Lantern) - Rossiter Drake (San Francisco Examiner) "Ryan Reynolds is the perfect superhero." (Green Lantern) - Dean Richards "Russell Brand and Helen Mirren are the perfect comedy duo." (Arthur) - Russ Simmons "Russell Brand and Helen Mirren are the perfect combination." (Arthur) - Chris Parente
"An instant classic." (The Rite) - Carrie Keagan "An instant classic." (Dark Shadows) - Nancy Jay, Daybreak USA "A Tim Burton classic." (Dark Shadows) - Viviana Vigil, Reelz Channel "A masterpiece." (Dark Shadows) - Viviana Vigil, Reelz Channel "A bone-chilling masterpiece." (The Rite) - JOHN CAMPEA (AMC Script-to-screen) "Hopkins' most bone-chilling performance since The Silence of the Lambs." (The Rite) - MIKE ANDROSKY (Entertainers) "Chilling." (The Rite) - Mark S. Allen "Nail-biting to the bone chills." (Chernobyl Diaries) - Steve Barton, Dread Central
"You'll believe the devil is real." (The Rite) - DR. MARC NEWMAN (The Christian Post) "Johnny Depp is devilishly dapper." (Dark Shadows) - Sam Hallenbeck
"The best Nicholas Sparks film since The Notebook." (The Lucky One) - Mark S. Allen "The best use of 3-D since Avatar." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mike Sargent "The best Farrelly Brothers movie since There's Something About Mary." (Hall Pass) - Manny De La Rosa "Even better than the first!" (Wrath of the Titans) - Mark S. Allen "Relentlessly wrong and funnier than the first." (The Hangover Part II) - Mark S. Allen "Johnny Depp at his absolute best." (Dark Shadows) - Mark S. Allen "Hopkins is at his best." (The Rite) - AMY BIANCOLLI (San Francisco Chronicle / The Houston Chronicle) "Kate Hudson has never been better!" (Something Borrowed) - Joel Amos "The ancient legend like you've never imagined." (Red Riding Hood) - Jeff Craig "Best sequel ever. Raucous." (The Hangover Part II) - Rick Florino
They can practically make a guest segment on Sesame Street teaching kids the A-to-Z of being a one-word reviewer.
"Astounding." (Dark Shadows) - Kylie Erica Mar, Made In Hollywood "Bold." (Red Riding Hood) - Cindy Pearlman "Compelling." (Green Lantern) - Tim Wassberg, Inside Reel "Dynamic." (Green Lantern) - David Sheehan, Hollywood Close-ups) "Explosive." (Sucker Punch) - Rick Florino "Hysterical." (The Hangover Part II) - Bonnie Laufer "Intense." (The Rite) - Lisa Germain, TV Guide Network "Kick-Ass!" (Sucker Punch) - Mary Diaz "Mind-blowing." (Rock of Ages) - Joel Amos "Naughty." (Hall Pass) - Manny De La Rosa "Outrageous." (Hall Pass) - Shawn Edwards "Provocative." (The Rite) - Mark S. Allen "Stunning. "(Rock of Ages) - Shelli Sonstein "Twisted." (Hall Pass) - Ashley Williams, CBS-TV "Unpredictable." (Hall Pass) - Shawn Edwards "Wild." (The Hangover Part II) - Mia Gradney, The CW
Again, these are all quotes just from 2011-12. Not all of the quotes, mind you. Remember we left off the ones that Warner Bros. was using even on films like Harry Potter, Contagion and Crazy Stupid Love that had a vast majority of critical support outside of the junkets. One really sad statistic is just how many of these anonymous radio personalities and non-writing bandwagon jumpers are actually never heard from again. Not by Warner Bros. Not by any other studio. Some of these quotes are the only ones we have even seen from them in the calendar year. But then it gets even sadder.
We counted 21 of these junketeers that Warner Bros. DID use more than once in 2011. Some of them are even very loyal to their WB gift horse.
Of Carrie Keagan's 11 quotes in 2011, 7 of them were for WB. So were 7 of Maria Salas' 9 quotes. 4 of Bonnie Laufer's 6. 5 of Manny De la Rosa's 6. Going 100% for Warner Bros. were Mia Gradney (2), Sam Hallenbeck (2), Sheila Roberts (2), Rossiter Drake (3) and Cindy Pearlman (6). Jeff Craig was used the most with eight times. Keagan and Salas joined Mark S. Allen with seven. Shawn Edwards saw 20% of his quotes go to WB alongside Cindy Pearlman's 100%. If we take mega-whore Pete Hammond out of the equation (who had 5-of-44 quotes for WB) and we just look at the pile that the studio at least doubled down on, we are looking at 20 junketeers with 180 quotes in 2011 between them. 80 of which were enabled by Warner Bros. making them responsible for 44.4% on the quote whore intake. That is a stunning number. Even if we added Hammond back in (37.9%) and equally divided the rest of the whoring amongst the other studios the number would be more than three times their use by any of them. Two times their use would still be a significant number and it's a stigma that Warner Bros. needs to change if they really want to convince moviegoers that they are putting out a product worthy of their money. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises will likely change the studio money books come next month. Let us hope as the presumptive inevitable praise pours in for it though that its release will also wipe out all the other red it has in their ledger.