Criticwatch - The Same Ol' Fierce, Mesmerizing Tricks
by Erik Childress
Last week, Criticwatch went out in a further effort to convince studios of the benefit to having a single embargo for critics on theatrical releases. Hardly the most pressing matter of the week once news of the Colorado tragedy broke. It's still barely a hill of beans compared to that, but in the grand scheme of things we can easily say the same thing about film criticism. What is it but just a film lovers articulating rational thought into a piece of art - or - to a much lesser degree posting spoiler-heavy "plot hole" rants on the most anticipated film of the year. Last week's piece was also a rallying cry to get back to the basics of loving movies which weren't spoiled 18 months in advance or three days after it comes out, so thanks for reading. Whether the context be Colorado, world politics or everyday living, anything can be considered trivial. Movies, sports, shopping, you name it. But no matter where your focus and passion is, all you want to know is that it is being done to an exemplary level. We have said it before and we will say it again, if film criticism is the lowest, most useless profession in the world (as some are too eager to say), if we cannot fix the problems with IT, where lies the hope for something more important?
That being said (again), Criticwatch is keeping it simple this week. No grand plans. No petty speeches. Just getting back to the basics of what we have done for years in showing you the worst of the worst. We have three, maybe four, contenders this week. You have seen most of them before and you know them well. There was actually some naivete on our part that there would be anything to report on this week. Reviews were so bad for the two big releases that there was hope the studios wouldn't even have anything they could grab until they actually bothered to look at the few positive (and real) reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. Wishful thinking for a week off turned into the rudest of awakenings Friday morning when it was discovered that not only were some of the usual suspects out in force, but that one actually managed to praise BOTH films.
The Watch and Step Up Revolution were not being met with much anticipation. Fox even held its junket for the formerly named Neighborhood Watch until the last possible moment last weekend. The Step Up series had been gaining momentum on the Tomatometer as its evolution from the serious dance film that helped further the Channing Tatum movement into a franchise that, whether it knew it or not, harkened back to the cheesy goodness of films like Breakin' and Body Rock from the 80s. 20% to 27% to 46% for its 3-D enhanced third entry has now dropped back down to 34%. It's a special kind of crap for sure with quite possibly the fastest sellout by a hero in movie history. But even with a generous passing of "so bad, its good" reviews no one probably expected it to double-up on The Watch's percentage. As low as a rare single-digit 9% at one point, Fox's Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Jonah Hill/Richard Ayoade "should we advertise it as an alien comedy or not" film, rests at a still shocking 14%. How shocking? That is low enough to rank it as the fifth worst-reviewed wide release of 2012, just ahead of (in order) Gone, The Devil Inside, One for the Money and A Thousand Words. Then consider that the even worse Men In Black III garnered a 69% rating. I can't explain that either.
Speaking of sellouts though... Wait, back up a second. To be a sellout one has to actually believe in a principle first and then betray it. Since film criticism is more on the honor system than having to fulfill an oath before taking to a blog these days, one can just give themselves over to the dark side immediately without fear of being called as such. Instead, Criticwatch is here to just call them out as a gigantic piece of shit. Yes, you Joel Amos. He that has been quoted 38 times since 2010, but only 7 times on films receiving a positive aggregate. Nice record there Joel. That means you are the go-to guy for shit. And you doubled down this weekend, didn't you boy?
"The best comic cast ever." (The Watch) "Great moves, hot music, wild fun!" (Step Up Revolution)
Naturally, we were prepared to give Joel the business for that first quote since any whore knows the intrinsic value of getting a word like “ever” noticed by a studio intern. But shockingly enough, there is actually a Joel Amos review to peruse. In it he says:
“What works the most is the comic chemistry between the leads of The Watch cast. It is close to being the best comic cast ever.”
So it is “close” to being a pretty ridiculous statement. Argue amongst yourselves if the cast alone – regardless of how they acquit themselves in the film – is “close” to being the best collection of comedic actors ever. It’s a mildly altered quote even as the film just barely gets a passing grade from the originator of that statement. Same goes for Step Up 4 which gets a 3-out-of-5 rating from Amos while the quote chosen is from his general praise about the film’s best attribute – the dancing. Of course, even an intern could have found something flashy in Amos’ average review. review
- "The result is a series of mind-blowing flash mob experiences for the audience, with each topping the last."
- "The film is flimsy on its political message, but when they start moving, it is unlike anything you’ve seen before onscreen with a group of dancers."
- "To think about the planning, talent and tenaciousness that went into staging these numbers, it is simply mind-blowing."
Yes, “mind-blowing”, Joel. Just like Rock of Ages, right? Other than Amos more or less taking the lead in the race to be the 2012 Whore of the Year, we are done with him for now. So we can move on to a truer than true quote whore who doesn’t write reviews at all and…I’m sorry, but need an aside here.
Warner Bros – are you FUCKING SERIOUS??? 87% rating for The Dark Knight Rises. One of the five best reviewed wide releases of the year and in your second weekend you are going with these titheads to promote your movie.
“This year’s best picture” - Mark S. Allen (left) "The best movie of the year" – Shawn Edwards (right)
As if the opening Olympic ceremonies wasn’t insufferable enough (mostly due to Matt Lauer & Meredith Vieira) we have to look at that. Just...why? What does that get you? What does that get us - other than confirmation that your publicity staff is too lazy to look beyond quotes you received at your junket from two mouth-breathers with hollow exclamations. Want proof? Here's Shawn Edwards for you.
(2003) "The best film of the year!" (Kill Bill Vol. 1) (2004) "The year's best film." (Ray) (2005) "Not only the must-see movie of the summer, it's the film of the year!" (Batman Begins) (2007) "The best movie of the year!" (I Am Legend)
(2006) "The best action movie of the year." (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) (2007) "The most exciting movie of the year!" (Resident Evil: Extinction) (2009) "The most exciting film of the year!" (2012) (2005) "The best horror movie of the year!" (High Tension) (2005) "Unlock the secret of the best thriller of the year." (The Skeleton Key) (2006) "The best thriller of the year." (Lucky Number Slevin) (2011) "The most thrilling movie of the year!" (Source Code) (2005) "The coolest movie of the year!" (Be Cool) (2008) "The coolest movie of the year." (Twilight) (2009) "The coolest 3D experience of the year!" (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs)
(2004) "The Surprise of the Year" (Saved!) (2007) "The most original film of the year." (Transformers) (2003) "The best family film of the year." (Peter Pan) (2006) "The best animated feature of the year!" (Monster House) (2006) "The most magical film of the year." (Charlotte’s Web) (2007) "The most magical movie of the year!" (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium) (2007) "The most delightful movie of the year!" (No Reservations) (2011) "The most inspiring movie of the year." (The Help)
(2004) "The feel-good movie of the year!" (Shall We Dance?) (2006) "The feel-good movie of the year." (Kinky Boots) (2005) "The most powerful movie of the year!" (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) (2006) "The most moving and memorable film of the year." (United 93) (2009) "The most moving film of the year." (The Soloist) (2004) "The best romantic comedy of the year!" (Little Black Book) (2006) "The best romantic comedy of the year." (A Good Year) (2009) "The most romantic movie of the year!" (The Twilight Saga: New Moon) (2004) "The best comedy of the year!" (Barbershop 2: Back In Business) (2004) "The funniest comedy of the year." (White Chicks) (2005) "The Comedy of the Year." (Hitch) (2005) "The craziest comedy of the year!" (Waiting) (2006) "The wildest, funniest, most hilarious movie of the year." (Little Man) (2007) "The funniest, craziest, wildest comedy of the year." (Are We Done Yet?) (2008) "The funniest movie of the year." (Four Christmases) (2010) "The funniest movie of the year!" (Dinner for Schmucks)
Do you see? Notice how none of this include the precursor "one of the..." It's just "THE!" No matter what time of the year, no matter how many more comedies, thrillers or potential for coolness there are, Shawn is there to label it the end-all, be-all. How soon we have forgotten just last year?
("The Funniest Movie Ever!" (Bridesmaids) "The funniest comedy of the year!" (Horrible Bosses)
It's mention here like every other goddamned week! In just two months Edwards contradicted himself. Not that it matters to a studio like Warner Bros. They only need people to see Edwards quote for that fleeting second, whether or not they notice his name or not. Except Criticwatch notices his name and makes his bullshit big enough for the world to see. But now we'll go back to the other whore on The Dark Knight Rises ads, who also happens to join Joel Amos on the Step Up Revolution ads.
"The best dance movie yet." - Mark S. Allen
Not just the best Step Up yet, but the best DANCE MOVIE yet. Anyone care to throw some titles out there aside from these in no particular order?
Hey, the quote wasn't "the best stupid throwback to the Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo dance film days." There's a bigger picture at hand when you make so non-specific and thus puts Step Up Revolution on the same dance floor with Singin' In The Rain. As always though, do you expect anything more from Mark Shithead Allen?
"The best Pirates yet!" (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) "The best Spy Kids movie yet!" (Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over) "The best Twilight film yet!" (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1) "The best Resident Evil yet!" (Resident Evil: Afterlife) "The best Underworld yet." (Underworld Awakening) "Hilary Duff's best film yet..." (Raise Your Voice)
"Like no other movie you've ever seen!" (Chicken Little) "One of the most original animated films ever." (Surf's Up) "Quite possibly the most original vampire movie you'll ever see!" (Priest) "Perhaps the best buddy picture ever!" (Soul Men)
"Even better than the original." (Iron Man 2) "Funny, action-packed and cooler than the first!" (Ice Age: The Meltdown) "Awesome! Even better than the first!" (Wrath of the Titans) "Amazing, remarkable chemistry and better than the original!" (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2) "Charming, funny and even better than the original" (Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous)
Plus, you want to talk about doubling down on the bullshit? Remember that whole Shawn Edwards Bridesmaids/Horrible Bosses we just mentioned for the 28th time? Well, here's a little more Mark Stupefyingly Stupid Allen for you:
"One of the funniest movies ever made!" (The Hangover) "Relentlessly wrong and funnier than the first." (The Hangover Part II)
"The new standard for no-holds-barred comedy!" (Horrible Bosses) "One of the funniest movies of all time. The new standard for comedy. You'll be in tears." (Ted)
Kiss all of our asses, Mark. The only positive that can said about you is that you're one of the devils we know. Who in the hell is Erin Fox then and what the hell is a Snakkle?
Doesn't answer our question. But we looked it up. Erin Fox is the managing editor of this website which, in its own words is
"a pop culture, multi-media venture focused on addictive content that explores the phenomenon of fame before and after a person achieves stardom."
Well, welcome to your first quote, Erin. Meet Criticwatch where we track infamy after someone becomes a quote whore. Stupid dance movie or not, are you telling us that the best a Summit intern could get is a quote from a non-film critic at a site that specializes in before-and-after photos of celebrities? That's ri-goddamn-diculous! Is THIS the future of film criticism?
Which brings us to our final whore of the week. It's our boy, Peter Travers. No, he didn't like The Watch or Step Up 4, but in the midst of LD Entertainment using some legitimate critics to promote William Friedkin's wonderfully nutty, Killer Joe, there's Peter Enemy #1 laying it down:
"Matthew McConaughey mesmerizes! Fierce and ferociously funny! Emile Hirsch excels!" - Rolling Stone
So it didn't say Peter Travers, but we checked out his review and found the quotes spread all about. Then we checked the Travers archives with an iron fierce
"Fiercely funny!" (Delirious) "Fiercely moving!" (Warrior) "Fierce, funny, and moving." (The Class) "Fierce and fiendishly funny." (No Country for Old Men) "Fierce & darkly funny." (Mail Order Wife) "A radically fierce & funny fireball. You'll laugh till it hurts." (Sicko)
"Fresh and fierce!" (The Squid and the Whale) "A fierce and deeply movie thriller!" (I'm Not Scared) "A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love) "A fiercely funny human comedy that manages to be both hilarious and haunting." (The Upside of Anger) "This mischievous blend of The Office and Friday the 13th keeps things fierce and funny enough to give Steve Carell ideas." (Severance) "It's been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny." (Iron Man)
"Uproarious…fiendishly funny! Jon Heder orbits past his Napoleon Dynamite character at last by getting seriously fierce!" (School for Scoundrels) "Pierce Brosnan is roaringly fierce and funny!" (The Matador) "Geoffrey Rush is (Colin Firth's) match, fiercely funny in a feast of a role." (The King's Speech) "Nicole Kidman is just astonishing - subtle, fierce, brutally funny, tender when you least expect it." (Rabbit Hole) "O'Hara deserves Oscar consideration in her funniest, fiercest role." (For Your Consideration) "Crowe continues to astonish as an actor - fierce, funny and every inch the hero." (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World) "Jamie Foxx's fierce, funny, deeply felt performance deserves to be legendary." (Ray) "A mesmerizing mind-teaser. Meryl Streep has never been this fierce, this diabolically funny - you can't take your eyes off her." (The Manchurian Candidate)
Are we sure Peter Travers isn't from Manchuria?
"Mesmerizing." (The Conspirator) "Mesmerizing..." (Detachment) "Mesmerizing." (Murderball) "Mesmerizing fun!" (The Illusionist)
The titles are merely a coincidence. Or are they?
"A mesmerizing film." (Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson) "A mesmerizing thriller." (Gone Baby Gone) "A mesmerizing, power-punch of a thriller!" (Eastern Promises) "A mesmerizing look at sex, lies and infidelity..." (Separate Lies) "A mesmerizing erotic odyssey." (Friday Night) "A mesmerizing erotic odyssey!" (Don't Move) "The effect of this mesmerizing mind teaser is spellbinding." (Match Point) "A mesmerizing mind-bender". (Unknown) "A mesmerizing mindbender! Duncan Jones pulls off sci-fi miracles. Sam Rockwell is brilliant. You don't want to miss it!" (Moon)
"A mind-bending, nonstop mesmerizer of a movie. Make no mistake, you will be hooked. Also creeped out big time." (Zodiac) "Mesmerizing! A wild, witty ride that will creep you out big time!" (Lemming) "Magnificent! Mesmerizing! A wild ride of a movie! The Motorcycle Diaries - Magnificent! Mesmerizing! A wild ride of a movie! Gael Garcia Bernal gives a breakthrough performance, playing Guevara like a gathering storm." (The Motorcycle Diaries) "A mesmerizing film that burns in the memory. Angelina Jolie plays the role like a gathering storm, moving from terror to a fierce resolve." (Changeling)
Was that as "Fresh and unexpected!" as Travers said about Searching for Sugar Man for his 33rd quote of the year? Hell no, since that is precisely what we expect from Travers. Does anybody really remember a time when he was a critic with insight and more than just a collection of adjectives? Was there a switch flipped that made him sell out faster than George "Buck" Flower in They Live? 33 quotes. That is more than double than even Pete Hammond has doled out this year. The goal for 2012 was to further convince the studios that better options are available than the biggest whore on the market; to get Travers' quote total down even further. 81 in 2010 went down to 61 in 2011. Is another reduction of 10 so much to ask? How about a compromise, studios? Keep Peter Travers off your ads until at least the Presidential election in November. We are already going to be bombarded with two people saying exactly what they want you to hear; empty promises that can't possibly be all fulfilled behind such hyperbolic rhetoric. It would nice for you not to force a third upon us.