Criticwatch - Three Whores And A Lesson For Studios & People Like Us
by Erik Childress
Criticwatch is probably beginning to sound like a broken record lately. Can we help it if the same studios and the same non-critics are using the same bullshit to sell their bullshit product? The pecking order is very simple. Unless a film plays at a festival, a junket is usually held to premiere it to a specially-selected gathering of easy-to-please entertainment "reporters." The studio gets a lot of easily digestible interviews for the masses and pages of phrases and adjectives either given to them by said reporters or selected by these whores from a pre-determined, third-porridge melange of just the right words to put onto a commercial or newspaper ad. When that's all said and done, the studio will begin their next, more legitimate phase of the marketing by showing it to critics who actually write reviews and have insight into the greatness or flaws of a piece of art, populist or otherwise. If enough of their reviews are pleasing to the eye, they will later replace their precious junketeers and their tramp stamps of approval with someone from a newspaper or, God forbid to them, an online writer. Here is the rub though that truly rubs Criticwatch the wrong way. Good movies that are whored up that don't need to be. From potential award winners to films like Toy Story 3 and The Avengers that have received praise nearly across the board, quote whores are still utilized and put an unnecessary red flag on our perceptions. Such again, is the case with this week's new openers.
"The problem here is you've become the Fox who cries wolf. Your outrage repertoire has been so overused as to render justified outrage meaningless." - Jon Stewart, The Daily Show (June 26, 2012)
That is in reference to Fox News crying Watergate whenever any hint of scandal is perceived from the Obama administration. One might even consider it worthy of Criticwatch itself, repeating ourselves over every seemingly meaningless bit of frustration we have with the system that is currently in place. Our followers have heard the message loud and clear. Fans on Twitter have echoed that outrage before we even get a chance to see the next Shawn Edwards quote. But the studios have not received that message - or - simply choose not to acknowledge it. We have warned them several times that a lead with a quote whore is a warning to moviegoers everywhere who know the score that this film may be a real dog. Criticwatch will be examining that further over the next few months, but for now we ask you to look at Stewart's quote again. Now, just as he replaced certain words in Chris Christie's marijuana-vs.-gambling debate on the June 27 show, consider how closely it resembles the original Criticwatch mantra going back a decade now. If you hyperbolize and praise every film out there, when something really worthy of that praise comes along, you have rendered those words meaningless.
So now comes the fun part of this week's piece. A game everyone can play along with. Namely a little ditty we like to call:
WHO IS THE WORST WHORE?
We can certainly make up our own minds here and we will not pretend we aren't leading the witness a little, but let's see where this week's quotes take your anger quotient. We'll start with one of our least favorites - Pete Hammond. He's a whore that actually writes reviews full of the catch phrases that studios love. He may dearly love everything he sees. But so what? 21 of the 24 films he has reviewed in 2012 all got positive reviews. So what? Maybe he just reviews the movies he likes and leaves the negativity to all of us bitter, jealous critics. If you want to take him up on his positive reviews of The Three Stooges, What To Expect When You're Expecting and Rock of Ages, be our guest. But how about this week's People Like Us?
"People Like Us is for people who love great movies. A compelling, beautifully acted, humane and riveting motion picture experience. This is intelligent adult filmmaking at its finest. One of the year's very best!" - Pete Hammond
Do you love great movies, people? Pete Hammond apparently has one for you.
"A true gem! A rich entertainment, the kind of smart, sophisticated adult comedy that rarely comes along these days. A must see for people who love movies. Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline and the sterling ensemble cast are superb." (Darling Companion)
Sorry, we meant two. How wonderful of a surprise it must have been for Hammond that only two months after seeing such a rare film for adults and "people who love movies" - "a true gem" as he calls it - that along would come another piece of even better "intelligent adult filmmaking" that is not just those idiot "people who love movies," but for those "people who love GREAT movies." We should lay off on Hammond though, right? It's not like he's counting his positive reviews of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Friends with Kids, Monsieur Lazhar or Moonrise Kingdom as anything worthy of adults. Six films of such a category are still a pretty rare thing this year, let alone any year.
"Really funny…with great dialogue and actors to make it sing. Reminded me of the kind of filmmaking Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick have done in the past. Recalls movies Dr. Strangelove and Wag the Dog. I love this kind of cynical, acerbic moviemaking and seeing it reminds me just how much this kind of thing is missing today." (War, Inc.) "An outrageously funny film that goes for big laughs and nails them every time! American Dreamz is the kind of dead-on, politically incorrect satire Hollywood movies rarely attempt anymore." (American Dreamz) "A rare original. A truly inventive and totally wacky tale of love. A real find." (Eagle vs. Shark) "An exceptional film. This is one of those rare gems you must not miss." (Control) "Exciting! It’s the kind of big, beautiful widescreen action adventure we don’t get to see much anymore." (Seraphim Falls) "Beyond intense! It will make you sweat. Hard Candy takes us to a place most films don’t dare go…It’s Fatal Attraction for a new generation." (Hard Candy) "A haunting and remarkable emotional journey that takes us places movies rarely dare to go. This is a film guaranteed to be unlike any other you will see this year. Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his career." (The Fountain) "Don't dare miss it! This year's best reason for celebration. It's that rare achievement moviegoers around the world should be deeply thankful for." (Joyeux Noel) "Riveting. A must-see! Warrior packs the kind of punch-to-the-gut wallop the screen hasn't seen in years." (Warrior) "The adult comedy surprise of the year. Smart and riotously funny with DeNiro's best screen work in years." (What Just Happened?) "Piercing, intelligent and literate high style adult entertainment from the filmmakers who brought us Howard's End and A Room With A View among many others." (The City of Your Final Destination)
If only, huh? Such rarity. Where else are people of a certain age who love movies going to find such an experience?
"A beautifully directed and acted film experience." (The City of Your Final Destination) "A must-see! A rich, romantic and captivating movie experience." (Princess Kaiulani) "A remarkable motion picture experience." (Sharkwater) "A stunning motion picture experience in the grand tradition! Director Rob Marshall vividly brings Arthur Golden’s best seller to life with an irresistible cast of women who will have your eyes glued to the screen." (Memoirs of a Geisha) "A truly memorable movie experience like no other." (Paris, je Ta’ime) "Chilling. A unique and surprising movie experience! Kevin Costner is at the top of his game!" (Mr. Brooks) "The twists and turns will send chills down your spine. A truly frightening movie experience with a 100% certified shocked of an ending." (The Uninvited) From its supercharged action-packed opening...Running Scared winds you up and doesn't let go." "Paul Walker's best performance. A mind-bending, extreme movie experience." (Running Scared) "Gripping and fascinating…A pulse-pounding experience that is bound to create waves of controversy." (September Dawn) "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 will remind you why Kevin Costner became a star. A breakthrough performance from Ashton Kutcher." (The Guardian) "One of the year’s best pictures. An unforgettable movie experience. An outstanding all-star cast shines brightly right down to the smallest part." (Bobby) "An unforgettable cinematic experience." (Into the Wild) "An unforgettable experience!" (Warrior) "A remarkably accomplished and moving film. An unforgettable experience you don’t want to miss." (Fugitive Pieces) "An unforgettable motion picture experience. Powerful and moving beyond words." (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) "One of the most deeply moving film experiences of the year." (Home of the Brave) "**** 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 vibrant, funny, moving, highly entertaining and richly rewarding movie experience! Don Cheadle soars into the highest rank of film actors with this role. Will have you talking long after leaving the theatre. Unforgettable. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Taraji P. Henson are magnificent." (Talk to Me) "Soars, taking the 3D experience to brand new heights." (Fly Me To The Moon) "A 3-D experience like we've never seen onscreen before." (Step Up 3-D)
Yeah, never ever, Pete Hammond. As in never ever trust Pete Hammond to offer any true critical perspective. He is little more than the worst writer in the history of Consumer Reports telling you that each successive competitor is just as good or not better than the original. iPad, Amazon Fire, Honda, Ford, Xfinity, DirecTV - all the same in the eyes of a guy like Hammond. So who cares?
The next whore on our list is likely a little preview. A couple of weeks back we showed you how Warner Bros. is more fonder of what their junketeers have to say (or choose to based off a list of quotes) than any other major studio out there. So we hate to think what they have in store for Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike this weekend. They have certainly kicked it off with a doozy.
No, the quote isn't in there. But you did notice the whole routine with the umbrellas set to the song "It's Raining Men," right? OK, so imagine you are seeing that television spot and in the middle of that routine you see the following quote:
"The forecast calls for magic." - Mark S. Allen
Really, Mark? S-for-Shithead Allen, really? Did you come up with that shit during the scene in the movie and had to write it down? Not even something shitty like "the forecast calls for man-tastic fun" or "Cockdrops are falling on my head." Seriously, who mushroom slapped your face so hard that you went straight for the title of the movie? Has the "S" always stood for Shalit?
"You’ll fall for Chicken Little!" (Chicken Little) "This is The Alamo to remember!" (The Alamo) "This is the Cinderella to remember." (A Cinderella Story) "Royally entertaining!" (The Princess Diaries 2) "One hell of a good time!" (Constantine) "Zoinks, this movie is awesome!" (Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed) "Will Ferrellicious! You’ll laugh so hard you’ll dribble." (Semi-Pro) "Bark out loud funny" (Hotel For Dogs) "Tim Allen shows his comedic pedigree!" (The Shaggy Dog) "See this movie, do not fail! You will leave with a wagging tail!" (Underdog)
The relationship between Warner Bros. and Mark S. Allen is pretty sickening. Is that really the best you can do, gang? This week they are not the only studio to dip into the Mark S. Allen well. Universal has added onto his tally by giving him the standout quote on Seth MacFarlane's Ted.
"One of the funniest movies of all time. The new standard for comedy. You'll be in tears." - Mark S. Allen
Of all time, folks. No pressure there, huh Seth? Anyone want to check the AFI's 100 Years...100 Comedies list and check off which might be funnier. Heck, even Seth MacFarlane would probably do that. It's one thing for someone with a sense of perspective to say that it is indeed one of the funniest films of the year. (Personally, I was scream laughing at times.) But when you have Mark S. Allen making the assertion, this is the company you find yourself in.
"Hilarious." (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) "Comic genius!!" (Dinner for Schmucks) "A new comedy super duo is born!" (The Dilemma) "The rare blend of hilarious and hot." (Made of Honor) "The funniest movie you'll see this summer! Funny, charming and relentlessly honest!" (You, Me and Dupree) "Simply hysterical! Relentlessly funny and full of surprises!" (Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star) "Off-the-hook laughs…A comedic masterpiece that touches the heart." (Barbershop 2: Back In Business) "Funny, Sexy, and Smart - a triple threat! You will laugh out loud, VERY LOUD!" (Fired Up) "Awesome fun for thy whole family! Elephant sized laughs! Divine! Thou shalt laugh a lot!"
Congratulations, Seth. Universal has just helped put your debut film in the same territory as Evan Almighty. That's a real shame, Mr. MacFarlane, as your film deserves a better comparison. Again, personally, I don't think the next film here holds a candle to Ted but I am in the vocal minority of it so maybe you will agree with Mark S. Allen.
"One of the funniest movies ever made!" (The Hangover)
Granted, I couldn't disagree more, Seth, since you showed a more focused approach to arrested male development in one film than Todd Phillips has done in seven "comedic" narratives. Everyone else loves The Hangover though. Mark S. Allen just happens to like another even more.
"Relentlessly wrong and funnier than the first." (The Hangover Part II)
Even those who would agree with the first statement wouldn't possibly agree with the second. Ted now lives in the Mark S. Allen world where the universally reviled Hangover sequel is better than the loved original. This is also not the first time that Shithead Allen has elevated the status of a Warner Bros. sequel either.
"Awesome! Even better than the first!" (Wrath of the Titans) "Charming, funny and even better than the original" (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous)
And this is just comparing a singular film to another. Remember, Ted is one of the funniest movies "EVER!" It's a whole history of comedies of which only a select few should belong to a very small list. Even if that list is 100. And shithead is not confined to a single genre either.
"Breathtaking and mind-blowing. One of the greatest graphic novel adaptations of all time!" (Watchmen) "One of the most original animated films ever." (Surf's Up) "Brilliant, engaging, and quite possibly the most original vampire movie you'll ever see!" (Priest) "Hysterical! Bernie Mac is at his absolute best! Perhaps the best buddy picture ever!" (Soul Men)
That last quote led to one of our biggest Mark S. Allen exposes to date entitled "Don't You Have A Soul?" That was back in 2008 and it clearly needs to be amended with all the shit that has come out of Allen's mouth since. Let us remind you again at what he said about Ted.
"One of the funniest movies of all time. The new standard for comedy. You'll be in tears." - Mark S. Allen
Got that? That's from June of 2012. Anyone remember what he said back in July of 2011?
"The new standard for no-holds-barred comedy!" (Horrible Bosses)
One year later. Just a single year later and he has already upped the gold standard for comedy. (Actually the "gold standard" has been apparently raised by Box Office Magazine on the newspaper ads for Ted, which uses no names.) How long will it be before Allen raises it again? Will he even remember that he raised it in the first place. Horrible Bosses, as funny as it was, is not exactly the kind of film one remembers for taking things to the next level. It couldn't even get Jennifer Aniston naked for God's sake. But I guess half-throating a banana is on par with getting cum in the hair or simply raising the bar as Judd Apatow and his repertoire have done. Seth MacFarlane has been pushing boundaries on Family Guy for years and even if one were to admit that Ted was as funny as the best of those episodes, the standard has already been set. It just made a lateral move into a medium with less boundaries.
Is Mark S. Allen the worst this week though considering we still have one whore to go? It's another biggie. More of a newbie, but still a big fish considering how noticeable he has been on films that can't even hit the "fresh" 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. Including the pair of quotes this week (Joel also called People Like Us "A triumph" and "A must-see") Amos has been quoted 35 times since 2010. 28 times the overall consensus on those films have been "rotten." That's 80% of the time that Joel Amos is quoted on a film that most fair-minded critics think is below the standard of good. Imagine how those other seven films must have felt. "Oh crap, Amos liked us. Everyone is going to think we suck." Is that how Ted feels this week? Sad to think that's the case with praise like this.
"The funniest movie of the year." - Joel Amos
If you ignore the unconscionable fact that 21 Jump Street is actually the best reviewed comedy of the year with its record-setting number of dick jokes, it is not that far a leap to believe Ted to be the next best reviewed. If we are just looking at Rotten Tomatoes, not counting animated films and pretending that critics really didn't give Men In Black 3 a pass. One might also make the case for other Universal comedies, Wanderlust and The Five-Year Engagement. While I find the latter to be a better overall film, I am more than fine with saying that Ted made me laugh harder than any film this year. Maybe this time Joel Amos is worth agreeing with. This time.
"The funniest comedy of the year." (This Means War) - Joel Amos
That was back in February. A declaration when the only film that could be declared a comedy was Katherine Heigl's One for the Money. Two months later...
"The funniest movie of the year." (Think Like A Man) - Joel Amos
And then two months later, Amos is offering the title to Ted. This is absolutely pathetic. Seriously, go to hell from whence you came, Joel! How many more times in 2012 is Joel going to make this pledge? It was only three months before This Means War that he said...
"The funniest film of the year." (Due Date)
Granted, it was another year and at least he waited until November to take that stand, but DUE DATE???!!!! Somewhere hopefully Seth MacFarlane is reading this and loading up a pile of criticism for the next season of Family Guy. For avid watchers, how often has the show taken shots at any of these films or the stars of them? This is Joel Amos' idea of comedy:
"Hilarious!" (Going the Distance) "Hysterical. Awesome." (Megamind) "Hysterical with a heart of gold. Hysterically funny!" (You Again) "You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll leave happy." (Life As We Know It) "Moving, funny and epic." (Chimpanzee) "The Farrelly brothers have done it again. A comedic explosion. Insanely funny." (Hall Pass) "The first great romantic comedy of 2010. Jennifer Lopez is pure perfection." (The Back-Up Plan) "Kate Hudson has never been better! The perfect date movie." (Something Borrowed]/b]) "The perfect family summer comedy." (Marmaduke) "The perfect family holiday comedy." (Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked) "Finally a comedy that's romantic and funny!" (What's Your Number?) "Finally, a smart, witty comedy for adults." (The Big Year)
We remind you once again that What's Your Number and The Big Year opened a full one week apart from each other. As no one but Amos said at the time, FINALLY!!! It's the word Criticwatch plans to fly around with an air sign the day movie studio marketers stop using these worthless junket whores. And Universal, frankly, should take a page from their own playbook. Notice this recent television ad for their upcoming Oliver Stone thriller, Savages.
Obviously, they have chosen to forget all about U-Turn much like the rest of us - even if that is probably a more appropriate comparison to Savages. But the point is made. No quotation marks. No tiny print to hide the shame of who they were using. Just their own words like the old days.
"Not since Natural Born Killers...has Oliver Stone been this...explosive...sexy...scary...dangerous...and wildly entertaining."
Now, that doesn't mean that these aren't the very pre-written quotes that eventually one of the junket whores will claim as their own, but hopefully this is a cue for the future. If the studios continue not to invite real critics to their advance preview weekends, why even use the whores at all? Many of whom that I have talked to have admitted that they would rather have a quote from Roger Ebert, the New York Times or some other respected outlet and would ditch these whores in the ads the second those became available. So why not just go the Savages route. If you really want to plant some They Live-like marketing into our brains with capitalized lettering, just do it. Forget the junket leeches. Write the copy yourself - like you do already for the junket tramps. Then when the words come down from a writer worthy enough to be called a critic, grab the best ones to your liking and voila, you have a film we may end up disagreeing over with the critics you have chosen, but not one that will instantly give us pause about whether or not to spend our money on.