Criticwatch 2009 (UPDATED December 30 - The Whores of The Year!)

By Erik Childress
Posted 01/31/09 05:31:24

When Criticwatch started up again for the new year in 2008, it was with the pleasant revelation that Pete Hammond would no longer be contributing reviews for Maxim magazine. It took less than two months for that dream to die and another four months after when we realized we weren’t sleeping and that the true nightmare of Ben Lyons taking over for Roger Ebert had come to fruition. Can Hammond reclaim the most quotes of the year from Peter Travers? Will the producers of At the Movies finally wise up to their dwindling ratings and find actual movie critics to breathe some life and intelligence into that show? Will studio marketers finally get the message and realize that these quote whores and sluts are not worth their time or money and are wasting ours? Get all the answers here in 2009.


Find out who are The Whores of the Year for 2008.

Become a friend of Criticwatch at Facebook.

Find Out What's The Ben Lyons Quote of the Week.

Read Criticwatch's War, Peace and Every Man In Between.



November 6 – A King-Sized Dumbass Quote

Last week Criticwatch jumped on the advertisers of A Serious Man for using a friggin' TWEET from Larry King on his Twitter page - advertising it as a "full review" nevertheless - to promote the film on its website. This week we're going right to the source. Ever since we saw the quote on the TV ads, it's pretty much blown away the competition for dumbest blurb of the year. At least in close proximity to Scott Foundas' claim that he'd take the films of Henry Jaglom over Jonathan Demme anyday of the week which is strait-jacket worthy. King's quote is a doozy though:

"A remarkable movie that boggles the mind and changes you opinion about UFOs. This is Close Encounters of The Fourth Kind."

The movie: The Fourth Kind

Really, Larry? You don't think they chose that title to fool people did ya? Did moviegoers really need your explanation of the title? Christ, I was aware of that going back to the inside flap of my paperback edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Maybe Larry never had that book or never bothered to look up what the title of Spielberg's film actually meant. He probably thinks he's being clever, one-upping that science-fiction masterpiece by increasing the number of its title. Like saying "THIS is Assault on Precinct 14" or "And you thought United 92 was terrifying." The guy can barely get through an interview and we're being asked to listen to his thoughts on film? Don't be surprised if you hear the following from Larry King in the future:

2012: "A Space Odyssey and The Year We Made Contact can't compare to this."

Precious: "We wants it. We needs it. We will swear on the precious. Because I'm not racist, I swear."

For that new concert documentary: "Never has there been a more terrifying portrayal of Pennywise than there is by Michael Jackson. THIS is It!"

October 30 – You Want Lazy Advertisers? We Got 'Em!

For weeks now we've been talking about the general laziness of advertisers. The whole junket culture came under scrutiny recently when Universal flew several journalists out to Bora Bora to do interviews for Couples Retreat. Unfortunately for them they also showed them the film and it resulted in not a single blurb on the ads. Maybe it was a sign of restraint on their part, but it's always fascinating when a major film can't pick up a single piece of positivity. They could have just gone to Rotten Tomatoes. There were 16 positive reviews there (out of 141). In the future, Criticwatch will begin keeping track of the RT critics who give it up for films that go blurbless.

Today though we want to show you a couple of extreme examples of absolute laziness on the advertising departments. Whomever dropped the ball on these need to be sacked immediately. Let's play a little game though. See if you can spot what's wrong with this ad. There are two of them that stand out. One is obvious. The other a little more subtle. Go!

Did you see it? Want a clue? Go look up the movie critic on the Chicago Times website. Haha, that's just a trick. Unless you have jumped back to the 19th century, there is no Chicago Times. And unless the writer of Solar Design: A Handbook for Solar Homebuilders is now reviewing movies, I think they meant to credit one ROGER Ebert from the Chicago SUN-Times for his praise of Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles. So there's your obvious error. Did you spot the other? Look again. We're not going anywhere.

Owen Gliberman, anyone? Should actually be Owen GLEIBERMAN, aka one of the 16 who gave Couples Retreat a positive review. That's actually not the one worthy of attention though. Look at his quote.

"great...performances as Welles."

I would love to believe that's how it reads in his review, oh lover of Made of Honor and What Happens In Vegas but hater of Amelie, but we'll put the blame on whomever put it up on the ad. Still not seeing it? Try "performanceS." I saw the film in September 2008 at Toronto fest. Unless Linklater has decided to split the role of Orson Welles into more than one actor, how many performances can one actor give? Granted, Christian McKay's work is so fantastic it almost makes you forgive the film for making Welles a supporting character. If he's not nominated this year, voters didn't see the film.

Somehow none of this is as comical or as infuriating as the website for the Coen Bros.' A Serious Man though. There you can find a plethora of positive reviews, including those of Mr. ROGER Ebert and Mr. Owen GLEIBERMAN, but there's also a Mr. Larry King.

Yep, it's happened people. Studios are now using people's Twitter accounts to blurb their films. I've been saying it for months. Before any kind of perspective can set in and critics can give a think about the film they just saw, they are tweeting away with "awesomes" and "masterpieces" so they can be the first ones on record with their praise. There's nothing a film critic (whore-or-not) loves more than being the one that gets to tell the world about their latest discovery. Except Larry King is not a film critic. He's barely an interviewer anymore. For a studio to use his Twitter blurb is bad enough. To then actually provide a link for people to "READ FULL REVIEW" is tantamount to a deserved punch in the eye. There's no such thing as a full review on Twitter. Then again, studios have been using less than 140 characters from the quote whores for years, so welcome to the new evolution!

October 23 – The Advantages Of Screening Early
Earlier this year, Paramount dropped the idea of screening G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra for critics in a pattern well-versed for big-budget summer blockbusters. In Chicago, a Tuesday night screening the week of opening was canceled and no further option was offered. Instead they went straight to select junket press and various geek sites in hopes of generating some positive buzz after months of negative speculation. Guess what? It worked.

According to reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes at least two days before opening (and a day before any national Thursday night previews were offered), 12 of the 16 critics offered positive reviews to the film. Since then 85 of the next 124 reviews were not as kind. Devin Faraci from, who has the earliest review listed at RT, suggested that those critics who were slamming the film were somehow spiteful that they weren't given the same special access. Maybe. After all, it's a little kept secret in this industry that when a studio doesn't screen a film for critics, they have on good authority that it's a turd-in-waiting. Is that our fault though? Possibly, if you're one that allows any sort of pre-ordained knowledge like that detract from any possible enjoyment of films like Gamer, Dragonball Evolution or the latest Tyler Perry flick. But it goes both ways. The studios are waving the white flags by announcing we're not seeing the film before it opens and if they have no confidence, why should we? Which makes Faraci's commentary on the G.I. Joe backlash an equal amount of bullshit since if one side is going to be accused of going hard, shouldn't the other face the same criticism of allegedly going soft because they were deemed special? [br]

Colleagues I know and respect did like G.I. Joe. About twice as many, like me, thought it was incredibly lame and retarded. Were the reviews of (500) Days of Summer skewered one way in July because they didn't get to see it at Sundance in January? Does it become a matter of the subconscious though? Are critics swayed into giving a film a pass when they haven't been influenced by any negative thoughts from colleagues? Is it a one hand washes the other kind of deal? Or are they suffering from a complete lack of critical thought? You be the judge.

Case in point: Fox Searchlight's Amelia. Perhaps not thought of as an extreme Oscar contender, but as an historical biopic with a two-time Oscar winner in a year where female directors like Kathryn Bigelow and Lone Scherfig have received some of the best reviews of the year, you couldn't count it out. That was until the screening invites started coming in from around the country. Wednesday evening. Two nights before - does not an Oscar candidate make. Pretty much everywhere critics were being asked to quickly turn around their reviews in a day. Never a good idea to get on their good side - even if negative reviews are easier to write.

"The airless Amelia is missing practically everything." - Joe Neumaier

"Better luck trying to find out what truly happened to the real Earhart than trying to diagnose all that's wrong with this hapless film." - Shawn Levy

"With any luck this biopic of Amelia Earhart will also vanish without a trace." - J. R. Jones

Ouch! That's just a sampling of the negativity at Rotten Tomatoes this morning. Just three of the 55 negative reviews (out of 66) that the film is receiving on one of the worst movie weekends of the year with Astro Boy (45%), Cirque Du Freak (35%) and Saw VI (22%). Didn't seem to bother the horror reviewers that Saw VI wasn't screened for critics. Then again, when are they bothered by anything? Percentage-wise that makes Amelia the worst reviewed opener of the week. You want more?

"Amelia leaves you wondering how its abundantly gifted director, Mira Nair, and its Oscar-winning star, Hilary Swank, could have been complicit in such clumsiness." - Joe Morgenstern

"So forgettable that I'm almost happy Fox Searchlight held the film back for week-of-release screenings because if I saw this awhile ago, I wouldn't remember enough about it to write a review." - Brian Tallerico

"In the running for the dullest, most lifeless biopic of the decade." - Eric D. Snider

So is that just spite? Overcompensating because they weren't part of the chosen few to see the film a few days or a few hours earlier? Both David Germain from the Associated Press and Amy Nicholson from BoxOffice Magazine had reviews posted prior to the general Oct. 21 screenings and each went negative. Nicholson is hardly a curmudgeon either, only going negative on 15 of her last 50 posted reviews. That's almost as many bad movies that have opened just this month. Oh, but wait. Who saw the film on the Fox lot? With enough lead time to get himself quoted on the ads last Sunday, three days before about 90% of the critics in the country even saw it?

"Amelia simply soars. Director Mira Nair has crafted a big, beautiful and sweeping motion picture biography about a true American legend. Hilary Swank is outstanding. She transforms herself into the complex public - and private - Amelia Earnart with humanity and heart. Amelia is grand entertainment in the best tradition of the movies."

Did you stop reading after "Amelia simply soars?" That's Pete Hammond for you. Give her a flower and she'll follow you anywhere. What about the trades? Variety and The Hollywood Reporter don't have to worry about embargoes and are free to praise or bash a film at their will. Variety's Justin Chang trashed it on the same day that Hammond's ad ran. Ray Bennett at The Hollywood Reporter had a different take though:

"Hilary Swank's depiction of aviator Amelia Earhart is of a high order. It ranks with recent real-life portrayals of Ray Charles by Jamie Foxx and Truman Capote by Philip Seymour Hoffman."

What about Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart in Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian? Shoot, I guess she hasn't won an Oscar yet and comparing Swank's portrayal to an Oscar nominee giving her all for a children's flick that may or may not have been more historically accurate than Mira Nair's film is not the best way to go. Can we get a second opinion though?

"[Swank is] so constrained by mannerisms that she never gets beyond the character’s surface -- although to be fair, trying to import feeling into the movie’s stilted dialogue is like trying to fly a plane blindfolded." - Sam Adams

"Earhart must have been more interesting than the film makes her out to be, and more magnetic than the airhead as Swank interprets her." - Phil Villarreal

Too bad they didn't get to see the film a day earlier, huh? That would have really changed their opinion on the matter. Honestly, can you really think of a critic who would, in good conscience, give a film as bad as Amelia a pass simply because they got to see it before others?

"Amelia earns a pass, corny as it sometimes is. The lady earned her wings, and Swank, especially, more than does right by both the woman and the legend." - Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

Oh right, that guy. Benefit of the doubt, it's a bit of a leap to wholeheartedly suggest that Mr. Moore was kind to the film simply because the Fox Searchlight reps in Florida allowed him to see it before basically all the other journalists in town. Before the evening screening even took place at Universal Studios - Moore already had his review posted on the Sentinel website in his traditional "I have no embargo, I can post on Wednesday" manner. Maybe Universal wanted the guy nowhere near their lot after he posted a rant on his blog against the studio for not getting him 15 minutes with the stars of Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. After the studio reps changed their mind, the rant was taken down and another semi-positive review posted two days before the film's opening - good enough for another fresh tomato.

"You folks telling me Orlando is a "terciery market" and "You're nobody" and "get over yourself" can stick it. Your comments disappear when the actual posting you're commenting on comes down." - Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel

Yeah, but we don't give a damn about your opinion anyway. Whenever you saw the film.

October 16 – Speaking Of Padded Cells

When I wrote the following words yesterday in my review for this week's Law Abiding Citizen - currently rocking a 15% (39-of-46 negative reviews) at Rotten Tomaotes - I had no idea who would be the sole quote used on the ads. My quote:

"Anyone who enjoys this film and feels that the 'point' had been made must sit in their own padded cell with nothing but a copy of the documentary Dear Zachary to see what a true miscarriage of justice looks like."

The ad quote

"Exciting and entertaining." - Ben Lyons

'Nuff said.

Actually, scratch that. This is Benny Tums Stomach we're talking about here. The guy whose life is too short for horror films. The guy who grimaced his face at the idea of a guy's tongue being cut off in Next Day Air. Do you know what happens in Law Abiding Citizen? For starters, Gerard Butler takes a saw to the limbs of the guy who killed his family. We may not see the actual cutting, but we certainly see the aftermath in graphic detail - after Butler has told us what tools he's going to use on the various parts of his body - including his penis. That's in the first 25 minutes. Butler also takes a Porterhouse bone to his cellmate where we see each consecutive stab and blood spurt. Do I need to go on? All of a sudden this was "entertaining" to Benny? When in doubt go to the Twitter.

"About 2 interview 1 of my favorite directors @f_gary_gray Got questions? Why do I feel like we're going to talk about FRIDAY the whole time?"

When you run across a guy who considers the director of Be Cool one of their favorite directors, you pretty much dismiss his opinion forever, don't you?

"Your passion for movies shines on screen," says the Ben.

Yes, that's precisely what I think when watching the auteur of A Man Apart and Set It Off.

October 11 – Will It Take Herpes For Them To Stop?

For weeks now Criticwatch has been writing about a particular studio's insistence on using a who's-who list of junketeers to promote films where the collective leans heavily to the positive. We know someone there has been watching too since they threatened to pull advertising from UGO if we didn't disassociate their company with the word "whore" - as in "quote whore." Or, at least, that's what UGO told us. So, while this unnamed company spits blood at the mere thought of criticizing their less-than-stellar marketing efforts - the same company getting praised for a film called The Informant and in preparation to release a film entitled A Couple of Dicks - they nevertheless continue to shoot themselves in the foot. You cannot legitimize these people, so stop!

Remember the Seinfeld episode where the gang takes a weekend in the Hamptons? Jerry and Elaine see the ugliest baby of all time, but she takes a shine to the family doctor. When commenting on Elaine's appearance, he calls her "breathtaking." When asked for another comment on the baby itself, he also describes it as "breathtaking." Even Costanza is the recipient of the word "breathtaking" to describe his eggs-and-lobster breakfast. This week on the long-awaited release of Where The Wild Things Are, 2007's Whore of the Year and six-year running Top 5 Whore, Shawn Edwards is quoted as such:

"A true masterpiece. One of the most creative, original and visionary movies ever made."

Do I disagree? Not necessarily. It's certainly one of the best films of the year. Since 2003, this is the 12th time Criticwatch has noted Edwards' use of the word "masterpiece."

A masterpiece! (Crash)
A masterpiece! (The Manchurian Candidate (2004))
An ultra-cool masterpiece! The best film of the year! (Kill Bill Vol. 1)
A 100% certified masterpiece. (Sin City)
An undeniable masterpiece! (Grindhouse)

An electrifying cinematic achievement! A modern-day masterpiece. (American Gangster)
**** Brilliant! A contemporary masterpiece. (Stranger Than Fiction)

A masterpiece, absolutely brilliant. One of the most powerful and moving films I've ever seen. A must-see. (Tsotsi)
An explosive masterpiece tailor-made for those who love ultra-cool high energy action (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)

The year's best film. Jamie Foxx is brilliant. A stunning masterpiece that is destined to become a timeless classic. (Ray)
A masterpiece destined to become a timeless classic. (Cinderella Man)

Wild Things could certainly be in worse company. Like some of Edwards' other family recommendations.

The funniest, craziest, wildest comedy of the year. Perfect family entertainment. (Are We Done Yet?)
A heavenly comedy that’s perfect for the entire family! (Evan Almighty)
The most magical movie of the year! (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium)
****! Excellent! The most charming and wonderful movie you'll see all year. (The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants)
A family holiday classic. (Unaccompanied Minors)

What's interesting about those last two films is that they were both released by the same studio putting out Wild Things. The same studio whose marketing gurus apparently love Mr. Edwards. Although maybe not as much as he loves them.

The most delightful movie of the year! (No Reservations)
Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson are this generation's most engaging on-screen couple. (Fool’s Gold)
Funniest movie of the summer! (Get Smart)
One of the funniest comedies of the year. (Fred Claus)
The funniest movie of the year. Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon are terrific. The perfect holiday treat. (Four Christmases)
Refreshingly funny, super hip and the coolest flick you’ll see all year! DYN-O-MITE! (Starsky & Hutch)

A sure-fire hit. (16 Blocks)
Thrilling! DMX and Jet Li are electrifying in this fact paced nonstop action flick (Cradle 2 the Grave)
Hotter than July! ATL is an instant classic. A totally off-the-hook crowd pleaser. (ATL)
A hip-hop comedy classic for everyone from the ‘burbs to the block. (Malibu’s Most Wanted)

****! Remarkable. The Matrix Revolutions is a mesmerizing conclusion to the best trilogy in cinematic history. (The Matrix Revolutions)
Original. Classic. Action-packed and mind-blowing. (Constantine)
A terrific thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat! (The Reaping)
Phenomenal! A first-rate edge-of-your-seat thriller loaded with suspense, whiz-bang action and creepy excitement (Dreamcatcher)
**** A first-rate thriller. Hitchcock would be proud. An erotic, suspenseful and chillingly scary film. (Taking Lives)
A terror-drenched thrill-ride full of action and suspense. (Poseidon)
Dynamic. Exhilarating. Exciting. Entertaining. The best movie of the year! One of the most entertaining, exciting and intense movies ever made. (I Am Legend)

And there's more where that came from. Now most of those films didn't exactly get the kind of critical support they may have hoped for. So it's par for the course to use easy lays like Edwards, Mark S. Allen and Mike Sargent when nobody else is giving it up. But when you have the new and improved At the Movies running an early review of your film and it leaves Michael Phillips literally speechless in describing how perfect the ending is - why are you even bothering with guys like Edwards? Speaking of lame - we saw the following on the ads for next week's New York, I Love You.

"New York, I Love You is an inspiring celebration of love that's full of hope, romance and precious moments." - Ben Lyons
"Heartwarming, poignant and absorbing." - Jeffrey Lyons

It's been so nice not having to write about Ben on At the Movies every week - reminding us that he grew up in New York - but we promised to keep up on any meaningless statements that find their way into our homes. (We don't watch the E!) Precious moments? Evidently, Ben left the TV show to his true calling at Hallmark while Jeffrey "The Absorbent" Lyons just added to his ever-growing list.

Superb! Deeply absorbing. (Crossing Over)
Intense and absorbing! (Shrink)
I loved it. Compelling and absorbing. (The Burning Plain)
Enormously touching and genuinely poignant. (My Sister’s Keeper)

Powerful and engrossing. (Fifty Dead Men Walking)
Powerful, heartfelt and nostalgic, a very absorbing film. (Local Color)

I suppose if you're going to hype up the least racially diverse film ever made about the biggest melting pot in the world you may as well use the two most vanilla critics on the planet. The only segment in the film involving African-Americans has them being beaten in basketball by Hayden Christensen. Hey Ben - what happened to all your wishes for great representation of the homies?

Oct. 3 – How To Ruin A Great Movie
I feel terrible that it's been nearly a month since the last Criticwatch posting. On the bright side, maybe that's a signal that the stars are aligning and there's less to write up in this forum. Ben Lyons is gone from network and the break has been heavenly. Sure, I could just nitpick and invent angles on stories to look like I'm stirring up something. I considered writing something up last week about how Peter Travers might have an outside shot at busting Pete Hammond's record year of 88 quotes. Currently with 53 to his credit (15 more than Mr. Hammond and his ever-shifting outlets still printing his crap), Travers would have to work extra-hard to pass him, but with three months left is certainly in prime position to break his personal best of 74. But there ya go. That's the story and there's not more to it. September was a pretty quote-free month, whore-wise anyway. With films like Gamer, Sorority Row, Pandorum and the latest Tyler Perry turd to enter the marketplace without screenings and stuff like All About Steve and Fame to have not a single positive quote on the ads between them, what's to report on?

Well, there's an even more disturbing trend that's coming to light, one that has been the inadvertent subject of the last few Criticwatch write-ups. And the question needs to continue to be asked.


You want 'em so bad? Use them on the All About Steve's and the G.I. Joe's. That's what they're their for. You pay for them. But precisely how lazy are the people handling your marketing departments that you need to rely on their useless words to sell your superior product as well when you can save that money and grab something far more interesting from an actual written review or just the ready-made quotes off of Rotten Tomatoes? Case in point this weekend - two of the year's best and most entertaining films have fallen victim to the soft sell from crap reviewers.

Sony this weekend has Zombieland. I haven't seen such giddiness from a theater full of colleagues since maybe 2007's Hot Fuzz. Several of them last week even talked about going back to a second screening the very next night. Clearly a positive buzz was happening. Plenty of time to look into collecting reviews behind the scenes from actual film journalists with a critical thought in their head. 93 out of 104 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes are positive as of today. That's an 89% approval rate. And who do they use on the ads? MIKE SARGENT

"Brilliant! An instant classic. So much fun you won't want it to end."

Yeah that's right. And I'm sure most of us in support of the film wouldn't disagree. Somehow though it just doesn't carry the same weight from the guy who said the following about He's Just Not That Into You.

"An instant classic. Every character is someone you know."

And we know what a character Mr. Sargent is too. He was one of the Warner Bros. Three we commented on in August as being a part of the ads for the aforementioned book adaptation along with Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and Shorts. He's also the one caught on Inside Edition pretty much admitting that he has given quotes for films he hasn't even seen. 93 and then some reviews out there and you go with Mike Sargent. Good choice, Sony.

The other film in question this week is Warner Bros' The Invention of Lying, a film which I'm conveyed much love for since seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival last month. Frankly I'm shocked so many colleagues have gone mixed on it and dragged a film on the Tomatometer from a perfect score to the high '80s to a slightly rotten 58% as of today. A shame. And they're all on the pipe. Still we're talking 56 positives compared to 40 negatives as of this writing, but Warner Bros. has gone to the anonymous whore well and plastered the commercials and newspapers with the likes of the following.

"Brilliant" - Jim Ferguson
"Laugh-out-loud funny!" - Rahsan-Rahsan Lindsay, Made In Hollywood
"Funny, poignant and very clever." - Sandie Newton

C'mon, Warners. Just because you had the junket in Toronto on Sept. 10 at the beginning of the festival, you couldn't wait a few days to hear what actual press had to say about the film? Are we truly that terrifying? There was a 100% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes by the end of the festival. Plenty of time to throw out whatever eleven quotes you asked Jim Ferguson to attach his name to and played stop the presses with the commercials. You've just recently added Michael Phillips' "see it" to the latest ones, so why not others? Whomever Rahsan-Rahsan Lindsay is, they just popped up on the Criticwatch window. Sandie Newton has split her time between WB and Universal this year (on ads for Harry Potter, Duplicity and Fighting) and is completely dismissable. And if you don't know how worthless Jim Ferguson is as a critic, well, welcome to your first Criticwatch article.

There has been a fourth name on The Invention of Lying ads though and he's having a helluva year whoring. And all for Warner Bros. Meet Gerrad Hall from Reelz Channel, the entertainment site that posted the following on their MySpace page.

"Maybe if the IOC had just watched this, Chicago would have gotten the 2016 Olympic Games"

Yeah and maybe if they watched Philadelphia they would have got AIDS. Morons. Back to Hall though, looking like the love child of Bill Hader and Mark Ruffalo, Gerrad is another part of the junket-brained, red carpet posse that doesn't write anything and thus barely has an interesting thought on the world of film. Doubt me? Check out his interview of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox for the first Transformers film. Do any of these people even prepare questions? You might have a few for Gerrad after you peruse his output for 2009:

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - McConaughey and Garner have perfect chemistry.
Whiteout - Will keep you guessing right up until the end.
The Invention of Lying - One of the most original comedies this year.

The Invention of Lying is more than just an original comedy. It's the best film that Albert Brooks never made. It's also the best film Gerrad Hall has attached his name to all year. Seriously, of the many things that Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is lacking in, the top of that list has to be the chemistry between the two leads. Nothing against Jennifer Garner, whom I actually believe deserves Oscar consideration for her work with Gervais, but that earlier WB effort was just not good. Far worse on the WB docket is Whiteout. Apparently not for Gerrad though, who apparently was the only one in any audience anywhere who went and saw that movie and didn't spot the killer by the appearance of the first corpse. Not very observant this one, who in true wanna-be-quoted fashion, insists you will still be guessing right up until the end of the film. Again, even if you aren't savvy enough to pick out the killer by the 30-minute mark - they are still unmasked with several minutes to go left in the film. Therefore if you are still guessing by the time the credits roll, you either fell asleep or are a fucking moron.

Speaking of which, the big surprise in this week's Zombieland was ruined by a number of reviewers this week including Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere who basically called me a crybaby for demanding he take out the reveal from the FIRST PARAGRAPH of his write-up of the film. (I'm not linking to it now in case you haven't seen the film yet.) His reasoning (or anyone's for that matter) that the big cameo has been bandied about in early write-ups about the film and at Comicon is still a crap one for ruining it for moviegoers who go out of their way to avoid such coverage. God forbid we still want a surprise or two left for us at the movies. But hey, Global Warming is already happening too so why try to bottle that up too, right? Yeah, that's a tall order. Especially for some people who haven't grasped the simple concept of a spoiler warning.

September 4 – Extracting Shit From Shinola

Critics of Criticwatch have often accused this author as using this forum as my own brand of petty jealousy over not being quoted on ads. They include mainstay quote sluts, Pete Hammond and Jeffrey Lyons, so in all fairness, maybe it’s not right to call them actual critics. More like overgrown children using a pathetic playground defense mechanism over why we call them out for being soft cinema examiners who use repetitive, stand-out hyperbole in their reviews. I HAVE been quoted before. A few times. Even once from a review that was taken completely out-of-context. Mostly they have been a surprise. Someone saw my first quote in a theater on a trailer for Garden State and told me about it. I had one a few weeks ago for the documentary, The Way We Get By, from a feature on 10 Films To See from this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. All from reviews or features though. Not just something I’ve walked out of and said off the top of my head to the publicists waiting for me. But for a film this week, I was actually given a heads up that the studio was interested in quoting me.

Three weeks ago I saw Mike Judge’s very funny, Extract. The next morning I wrote my review and sent a copy to the local publicists as they frequently are interested in our reactions to the movie. Voila, here’s my review to be published on Sept. 4, in accordance to the review embargo we’re always provided. Opening date. The next week I was informed that Miramax wanted approval for a quote from my review.

"'Extract' is hilarious. The film's performances and perfectly timed comic conversations are individually better than anything seen in this year's big comedy hits, 'The Hangover' or 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop.' Jason Bateman is perfect. Earns a top five spot on Ben Affleck's resume and, arguably, his best performance since Chasing Amy."

It’s a bit pick-and-choose from the final paragraph of my review. I said “Jason Bateman is the perfect straight man,” but that’s hardly anything to get into a twist about. I was fine with that quote. Better than just seeing that they wanted “Jason Bateman is perfect.” I liked the idea that they were subtly playing up the idea that Mike Judge’s films have had some box office struggles in the past and tuned into the perception that I was saying – “Hey folks, The Hangover and Paul Blart sucked. Why not go see a real comedy?” So I waited around watching the commercials that were beginning to dominate, ironically seeing one where Miramax was actually advertising it like The Hangover. The movie is NOT about a guy who is shown the wildest night of his life by his best friend. Then a week before, the quotes began. And who was on it?

Bryan Erdy. Paul Fischer. Jim Ferguson.

Why would the marketers hired by Miramax do this to their film? There’s no quicker message to moviegoers that you have nobody to say anything good about your film than to use the whores from the junkets. Again, this is not about jealousy. If those names were Manohla Dargis, Roger Ebert and A.O. Scott I would applaud. These others are whores. They are worthless. You are doing a disservice to your film by plastering their meaningless words all over the ads. I let another week pass though, figuring this might be a standard case of using the junketeers on the early ads and then the real critics appear on the opening week ones. Who did they add to it though?

Heather Newgen from and Pete Friggin’ Hammond!

Newgen calls the film, “A definite must-see. Mike Judge at his best.” This is the same chick who was quoted on the ads for one of the worst films of the year, Push, which she called “The first real action film of 2009! Mind-blowing! A must-see!

Hammond calls the film “Flat-out hilarious. A terrific, smart and really funny comedy.” Do these words carry any weight when he’s already been quoted with the following:

The Answer Man - A sparkling, wickedly funny comedy.
My One and Only - An exceptionally good comedy.
Confessions of a Shopaholic - Hilarious! Confessions is a nonstop laughing spree.
Monsters vs. Aliens - The year’s funniest comedy.
Up - The funniest movie of the summer.
The Proposal - Riotously funny! The Proposal is without question the year’s best comedy.

Let’s look at the others on the ads too. Jim Ferguson says “Jason Bateman is hilarious.” Not quite “perfect” though. He also said that Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was “hilarious” so good company there, right? Ferguson is also the idiot who stated in the pre-release ads for Bandslam that it was “Destined to be the surprise hit of the summer!

- 2,121 screens on opening weekend
- More screens than The Goods and Ponyo (opening the same weekend)
- More screens than (500) Days of Summer on its 5th week of release
- Finished in 13th Place opening weekend with $2.2 million dollars
- As of Sept. 2, 2009 – Total Box Office Gross: $4,957,088
- Only Battle For Terra and X-Games: The Movie 3-D grossed less this summer for movies opening on more than 1,000 screens. Neither had more than 1,400.

Good call there Ferguson. How about Bryan Erdy? He’s been a Disney whore for years until only recently getting into ads for Paramount Vantage and Focus this summer. Congratulations on branching away from direct-to-video Disney sequels, Bryan! Erdy has been the primary quote in most of the Extract commercials And between them and the newspapers you may have seen any of the following lines from him.

"Insanely funny."
"If you liked Office space, you’ll really love Extract."
"Mike Judge has done it again."
"The funniest movie of the year!"

Write those yourself, did ya Bryan? Pretty quick to change your tune there considering that just two weeks ago the commercials for the Jeremy Piven car salesman film, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard featured the following quote from you.

“The funniest movie of the year.”

You have certainly traded up in quality, Mr. Erdy. But with films like I Love You Man, Up and Funny People available for your ranking, how much salt are we to take your recommendation of Extract when you have already labeled THE GOODS: LIVE HARD, SELL HARD, a film that 3 out of 4 critics at Rotten Tomatoes panned, with the exact same words?

On the bright side though, Miramax did go with a couple of Chicagoans including Ben Kenigsberg from Time Out Chicago whom I know. At least well enough to know he does write actual reviews. Weird that all he can get quoted for are his stars.

Adventureland - ****! - Ben Kenigsberg
In the Loop - ****! - Ben Kenigsberg
Extract - **** - Ben Kenigsberg

More notably though, Miramax went with Michael Phillips who will be making a most welcome debut as one of the new co-hosts of At the Movies this weekend. Totally makes sense. Works into my theory of legit critics getting opening week ink. And his quote stands out.

“It has more laughs than any other American comedy this summer. One of the funniest movies of the year.”

A worthy replacement perhaps. It may not single other particular comedies nor make reference to “hits” but it’s basically my quote in condensed form. Plus it comes from Michael Phillips, so of course you use it. Wouldn’t make much sense to use two quotes that sound identical now, right?

“My favorite comedy of 2009. Mike Judge continues to be one of the most unique voices in American comedy.” – Ain’t It Cool News
“Wickedly funny. Mike Judge remains one of cinema’s original voices.” – Paul Fischer

Or maybe not. Again, this is not about not getting quoted. It’s a reminder to studios that it’s not particular what was said, but who said it. You want people who can be trusted. Sure you can trust Bryan Erdy and Jim Ferguson to give you a positive blurb whenever you need one, but moviegoers can’t trust anything that’s extracted from their lips. Just remember the following words in the future:

“Serious reviews. Serious journalists. Real critics. Real reviews.”

August 14 – Guess Which Studio Needs Some New Whores

I think the headline pretty much speaks for itself. But this is not just another write-up to call attention to Mark S. Allen’s allegiance to his dark WB masters. 6 of his 10 quotes this year have come from WB films. It’s easy to spot one name in an ad though. With the upcoming Aug. 21 release of Shorts which received a full ad in the New York Times on Aug. 9 – 12 days before its release and at least 6 days before most mainstream film critics see the film for themselves – we were able to spot another trend.

Hilarious from start to finish. – Stuart Lee
The most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer! – Mike Sargent
A Wonderful and imaginative family adventure. – Jeanne Wolf

Hmmm…now where have we seen those names before?

Deliciously witty and laugh-out-loud funny. – Stuart Lee
An instant classic. Every character is someone you know. – Mike Sargent
Hilarious! The all-star cast is at the top of their game. – Jeanne Wolf

Funny and charming…a must-see film! – Stuart Lee
Laugh-out-loud funny and refreshingly smart. The perfect way to start the summer! – Mike Sargent
The most winning date movie of the year. – Jeanne Wolf

We can neither confirm nor deny whether or not Mike Sargent actually saw the movies he’s pimping. You may remember him as the guy who basically pleaded the Fifth on Inside Edition when asked if he’s ever given a blurb for a film he hasn’t seen. Hopefully for his sake he did though, because I really hope he started the summer in the perfect way with a Matthew McConaughey rom-com and had more fun with Shorts than anything else all summer. You know WB released Harry Potter this summer too, right Mike? Jeanne Wolf was also helping WB with a blurb for My Sister’s Keeper and Stuart Lee (while not for WB) called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh “One of the best ‘coming of age’ movies ever made” when I’ve heard from more than one serious critic that its one of the most botched adaptations they’ve ever seen. It looks like WB did find some new love for this week’s release of The Time Traveler’s Wife though, a film that was initially shelved from its Fall 2008 release.

A romance for the ages. – Todd Hill, Newhouse Syndicate
A rare gem. – Maria Salas
A magnificent love story. – Jim Ferguson
A timeless classic. – Joe Mauceri, WBAI Radio
The year’s most romantic movie. – Dan Jewel

Rare gem. For the ages. Timeless. The most romantic film of the year? Jeanne Wolf might challenge you on that with Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past.

Figures that this would happen while I'm on vacation. Now I know what Jon Stewart and Bill Maher must have felt like being off the week Sarah Palin announced her resignation. Rest assured I will be writing about this more extensively in next week's posting. The Ben Lyons Quote of the Week will continue through the final days of Lyons' tenure on At the Movies until Sept. 5 when A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips happily take over hosting duties.

July 31 – There Can Be Only One

Today, Criticwatch is catching up on a few one-off quotes. You know, films that apparently could only grab a single positive notice for their ads amidst all the reigning negativity that surrounds it. Just last week I put out a challenge to Sony to use a positive quote from Rotten Tomatoes for The Ugly Truth, which came out with a bare ad on Friday. At the time there were 7 to choose from. The 15%-rated rom-com now has a grand total of 15 positive reviews (out of 99). Alas, they went with Matt Sullivan from In Touch Weekly, the poor girl’s US Weekly.

The battle of the sexes is fought by two tough foes in this sassy, sexy screwball comedy! It’s wicked fun.”

Grown men of any persuasion should be banned from using the word “sassy” in any capacity. And Mike Szymanski from should be banned entirely for calling Blood: The Last Vampire:

A world-class action film! Turning the vampire genre on its ear!

Really? World-class? On its ear, Mike? What precisely is the genre turning? There’s never been a vampire film where a vampire fights its own kung-fu style? Wesley Snipes made a trilogy out of that concept for Christ’s sake. If Kate Beckinsale didn’t opt of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, she would have had one. That’s two trilogies right there. As much as I’d love to say that Blood: The Last Vampire (which, mind you, is a live-action adaptation of an already existing anime flick) trumps the likes of BloodRayne, Ultraviolet and Rise: Blood Hunter, I can’t. It’s a big piece of crap.

Speaking of which, how’s everyone feeling about G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra? First we had the rumors that Stephen Sommers had been fired off the project. Then a screening was announced in Chicago for the Tuesday night before only to be recinded less than 24 hours later. Now most markets are reporting that there won’t be any screenings available to critics until the Thursday night before its Aug. 7 opening. Doesn’t exactly bode well. It did receive a private screening for one guy in Austin though and the film now has a champion.

A wild ride. Awesome. So much fun.” - Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News

Now I haven’t seen the film yet. I have no interest or disinterest in G.I. Joe aside from a single action figure and a rather cool toy jet I had as a kid. I even like Stephen Sommers’ Mummy films. So I’ll reserve judgment until I see it. I’m still damaged from when Harry introduced Jet Li’s Unleashed at South by Southwest some years back as being “fucking awesome.” So, caveat emptor everyone.

It doesn’t count if it’s only shown to a specified select group of people - aka this week’s The Collector (a film which Chicago wasn’t even aware of who was handling it) which boasts positive quotes from, and Ain’t It Cool News. If G.I. Joe does open up unscreened for the press, it will be the 15th wide release this year to do so. (The Unborn, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Push, Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, Echelon Conspiracy, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, Miss March, 12 Rounds, Dragonball: Evolution, Crank: High Voltage, Obsessed, The Collector) Oh, that’s only 14? Don’t forget about Fox’s Aliens In The Attic, another film which I haven’t seen but feel more comfortable about giving a little grief to The Dove Foundation for their quote on the ads today.

A family comedy with heart!” – Edwin Carpenter, The Dove Foundation

Awww, that’s nice. What the hell is The Dove Foundation, you ask? They can speak for themselves.

“If only there was assistance enabling families to make intelligent choices concerning the entertainment they allow their children to view. If only moviegoers could identify the true content of a film before plunking down their hard earned dollars. If only Hollywood would recognize that there is a need and market for quality entertainment free from offensive material. Thanks to The Dove Foundation, these desires are becoming a reality.”

Funny, I’d think they’d be against desires of any kind. But it is nice to have some watchguards out there looking out for parents’ best interest. Might I recommend They give you the full skinny on what the MPAA can only identify as “mature themes” but also, get this, give you an objective take on the film that they are reviewing.

“We maintain that the number of PG-13 and R rated films, with their increasingly salacious material, are not representative of the desires of millions of movie goers.”

There’s that “desires” word again. It’s a shame there’s not a rating system out there to help parents make up their mind before seeing the film for themselves. I seem to recall their being some difference between “PG” and “PG-13”. If you desire the occasional butt, boob or a “fuck” then the latter rating might just be for you. You won’t find anything as “salacious” in the new Harry Potter film, which even took a step back in the ratings to a “PG” after the previous two installments garnered a “PG-13” while stepping up in quality to be, arguably, the best film in the series to date. But, nevertheless, it failed to be Dove-approved. Why? You can read their whole reasoning here. But it was this passage that was so hilariously asinine that it needed to be reprinted.

There are dark themes explored in the film, as with previous installments of the "Potter" series, which includes a witch in full costume along with a black hat, characters riding on broomsticks, potions being used and wands used as weapons.“

Those are the dark themes? And they lead their list with “a witch in full costume?” Honestly, I was going to take my friend’s kid to see the Half-Blood Prince even with that warning, but once they mentioned the black hat, all bets were off. No way I’m taking them to see a movie where people are pointing their wands at one another. Seriously, what did they have to say about The Wizard of Oz? By all means go see Aliens in the Attic though, a film that doesn’t even have enough reviews to garner a tomato of any kind. (They require at least 5. It currently has 2. Positive reviews = ZERO.) Yeah, that’s a Dove that definitely needs to be shot down.

July 24 – The Ugly Truth About Getting Quotes

This summer has been surprisingly whore-lite. Other than the regular Pete-combo of Travers and Hammond (combined for 34 quotes since May 1), the list is pretty scarce. After Jeffrey Lyons getting quoted 8 times, the next on the list are Jeff Craig (6), Mark S. Allen (5), Paul Fischer (4), Scott Mantz & Maria Salas (3). Jim Ferguson & Mose Persico have only gotten two a piece, but notice the names we haven’t mentioned yet? Earl Dittman, Ben Lyons, Steve Oldfield and even Manny “The Movie Guy” de la Rosa have failed to get their name mentioned once in the ads. Poor Shawn Edwards has only found a way to get his name out their once. Granted it was for the worst film of the summer (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), but this is a guy who has been getting a third of his quotes during the summer months. Last year he probably lost his shot at repeating as Whore of the Year by only getting three quotes during this period, but every other year he has flourished and there’s something beautiful about only seeing his name once. Keep it up studios!

Unless you’re headed to the indie side of cinema this weekend, it’s not in your best interest to see the new flicks this week. One film is a romantic comedy that is more like a horror show and the other is a horror film that works better as a comedy. Yes, I recommended Orphan on those merits. It’s too poorly directed to be taken seriously, unless you’re one of these people:

An electrifying movie, see it twice! – Mose Persico
Horror has a new name, and it’s Esther. – Carrie Keagan
Not since Fatal Attraction has a movie delivered such surprising moments. – Mark S. Allen
If you thought Damien was evil, wait until you meet Esther. – Bonnie Laufer
More shocking than The Sixth Sense. – Paul Christensen,
Bone-chillingly scary. – Ron Jacobsohn,

Interesting that reigning Whore of the Year, Mark S. Allen, reached back a whole 22 years to find a film worth comparing Orphan to. He could have easily gone with Joshua or The Omen or Paul Christensen’s choice of The Sixth Sense (still one of the least shocking endings of all-time), but Allen went with Fatal Attraction. It couldn’t have been because of the scene where Esther flicks a light on and off in a catatonic moment of plotting and despair, right? Yeah, I wrote it down in my notes too and just couldn’t find a place to put it into my review. Allen is doubling up this weekend too, joining PeteHilarious!Hammond in pimping for Disney’s G-Force, a film that wasn’t screened in Chicago until Wednesday night and - according to Russ Leatherman (aka Mr. Moviefone) on the Jonathon Brandmeier show here – wasn’t even screened in Los Angeles. Which I actually find hard to believe and suspect he just didn’t go. Allen calls it:

“Fun, funny and entertaining for everyone!”

Apparently not everyone considering its currently at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty darn low for a family flick of its type. Hell even the widely dismissed Ice Age 3 is at 45%. Over at the indie side of things, Hammond is also at the top of the quotes for The Answer Man, a film originally called Arlen Faber at Sundance and was considered by myself and many of my esteemed colleagues to be one of the 2 or 3 worst films we saw at the festival this year. It was not “A sparkling, wickedly funny comedy” as Hammond contends, but a film that inspired a parade of us outside the screening room to lament on just how humorless and confused the entire endeavor was. Relax Magnolia, you’ve got Humpday and In The Loop also opening and expanding in markets today and those were two of the BEST films at Sundance in January.

The one film not getting any love on the ads this week is the horrendous Robert Luketic “romantic comedy”, The Ugly Truth. This seemed like prime fodder for a Jim Ferguson or even a Shawn Edwards to swoop in with some Sony love. Worry not though, Sony. There are positive reviews out there. As of 10:25 AM Central time on Friday, July 24, The Ugly Truth is only scoring a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. But that 12% positive has to come from somewhere, right? Ignore the 53 negative reviews leading amounting to the other 88%. Look at the 7 positive ones staring right at you.

And we’re offering a challenge to you, Sony. This is your moment to tell the junketeers that you don’t need them anymore. We’ll do our interviews city-to-city with real film journalists and pluck our quotes from actual reviews. Not ones that we make up and ask you to attach your names too. Say we’re tired of writing our own quotes and using these guys and gals who we fly out on our dime and put up in hotels and feed and provide 15 minutes of starhumping to. We’re going to do a tiny bit of research and grab something positive from Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe some of these internet folk really are our friends. And we don’t have to give them anything but early enough access in their city to see our films. What a concept!!!

So here it is. For next week – or as quick as you can get the ad copy out there – use any of the following quotes on the commercials or in the papers or even in online ads:

“A crass, simple-minded and highly contrived R-rated comedy that's nonetheless outrageously funny and irresistibly entertaining. “ - Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru

“This must-see date movie provides valuable insights into the mysteries of what makes men and women tick.” - Keith Cohen, Entertainment Spectrum

“Daring and dirty, making it so delicious.” - Jolene Mendez, Entertainment Spectrum

“The script is crude and obvious, but there is a good idea here -- inverting the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story with a gender switch.” - Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News

"Butler almost made me forget a naked Leonidas. Here is the benchmark for charisma and chemistry with a co-star." - Victoria Alexander,

"Despite the ages of the leads, plays to younger audiences, goes for the Judd Apatow crowd. It's unapologetically brash, crass, and ugly in its truth, but still funny." - Ross Anthony, Hollywood Report Card

"Laugh out loud funny; every guy should drag his girlfriend to this movie. Women may laugh at what Butler says, but they should take notes." Tony Medley - Tolucan Times

Just look at that variety, Sony. You can have an “outrageously funny and irresistibly entertaining” from Avi Offer. Tony Medley serves up a “laugh out loud funny.” There’s a “must-see date movie” from Keith Cohen. If you don’t like that, you can go with another from Entertainment Spectrum in Jolene Mendez. “Daring,” “Dirty,” “So delicious.” Oh give it to us Jolene! C’mon Sony. Victoria Alexander has been trying for years to give you the quotes you want. She called Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend ExperienceCRAP!” but is giving you gold here. See what I’m talking about, Sony. You don’t need the junket whores. Cut them off. All you need is Rotten Tomatoes and a few people with some really bad taste. Voila! An instant ad. Think of the money you can save in this economy.

July 10 – Straight-To-Video Meets A Quote Whore

The name Stuart Alson is not one that you have ever seen on Criticwatch. Unless he popped up on an ad we missed or maybe one here or there that didn’t raise enough attention in our eyes to call him out, you may have never seen him in-between Pete Hammond and Shawn Edwards anywhere. Chances are unless you’ve picked up a copy of Video Business or Home Media Magazine you probably went right by Alson’s name on your local DVD shelves. Does anyone still go to a Blockbuster? I doubt they would carry the films that featured his name anyway. But the biggest question remains – who is Stuart Alson?

Well, Mr. Alson is the founder of the New York Independent Film and Video Festival, now in its 16th year. He’s also the publisher and editor-in-chief of Independent Film Quarterly. He’s also the guy that has been quoted as many times as Shawn Edwards this year. The only difference is that Shawn at least has been pimping for films that actually get a theatrical release. Pete Hammond has been known to give it up for the occasional straight-to-video American Pie sequel, but there is something unprecedented about Alson’s output this year. Take a look.

Bone-chilling serpentine terror ensues in this classic that outdoes the Anaconda series from the get-go. (Carnivorous)
Rachael Leigh Cook’s best film since She’s All That! (Bob Funk)
The producers of Twilight bring you this true supernatural horror that will leave you trembling. (Sam’s Lake)
Kellan Lutz outshines his performances from Twilight and Prom Night. (Ghosts of Goldfield)
In the tradition of High Noon and Dances with Wolves comes another soon to be classic. (The Showdown)
High Noon Meets Unforgiven in this soon to be classic tale of guns, revenge and redemption. (Redemption)
Goodfellas meets Chinatown in this modern gangster masterpiece. (The Perfect Sleep)
In the vein of Broken Trail with the shoot em up action of 3:10 To Yuma. (Come Hell or High Water)
High Plains Drifter meets Young Guns in this shoot em up tale of revenge. (Bounty)
The Grudge meets Haunting In Connecticut in this terrifying supernatural shocker! (Ghost Month)
The best horror film of 2009! (Simon Says)

Heard of any of those? Bob Funk and The Perfect Sleep are two Magnolia titles that actually got an ultra-limited release a few months before hitting DVD. Sam’s Lake and Simon Says are being distributed by Lions Gate Home Entertainment. The other seven titles belong to a fresh new company called North American Motion Pictures. According to their website they have nine titles on their docket. (We've even done some promotions for them.) Alson is quoted on seven of them. Festival organizers have a tendency to oversell the films they’re showing. Obviously you’ll never see a bad write-up in a festival program book and no one is going to introduce a film to their audience with anything but praise. Occasionally it makes you wonder if some of them actually saw the films or if they’re just towing the line and following the copy. But I think Alson could have at least found some better comparisons than The Grudge, Haunting In Connecticut and Young Guns, right? Look, we understand that independent films need their champions – but a giant snake film with DMX? A film Bill Gibron stated that “a day in the life of DMX would have been a lot scarier than this attempted frightmare.”

Alson I’m sure has his hands full with his festival. That’s a year-round ordeal. But as editor-in-chief for Independent Film Quarterly, the magazine that is listed next to his name on every one of those quotes, perhaps he might want to have a website that featured some actual current reviews. I don’t know precisely where their quarters begin and end, but the only films from 2009 that have any coverage on their theatrical page are Gigantic, Rudo y Cursi and The Girlfriend Experience (which is also listed under the CineVegas Film Festival where it never played.) I’ve written nearly as many reviews THIS YEAR as they have TOTAL on that page. On their DVD page they have separated what reviews they have into their respective studios. One that’s not on the page – North American Motion Pictures. No reviews for them. Guilt? Laziness? No matter. We’ll just keep scanning their ads since I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Independent Film Quarterly or Stuart Alson.

July 4 – Who Are You Kidding, Claudia?

Claudia Puig has been making a reputation over the last few years as the female Peter Travers. From 2003-05 Criticwatch registered her with 18, 25 & 25 quotes for each respective year; a reasonable output for a critic from a national paper like USA Today. In 2006, Claudia must have started juicing because she all of a sudden jumped to 46 quotes. In 2007 she had 56, another 49 last year and she already registered 22 through the first six months of ‘09. Those numbers put her in the vicinity of the Big Three – namely Pete Hammond, Peter Travers and the recently jobless Jeffrey Lyons. Since most of her quotes registered on films generally in the positive from critics we’ve more or less left her alone. But a critic of her stature doesn’t just jump in appeal to make her along the likes of an Ebert or the NY Times crew, so it was only a matter of time before she said something stupid enough to put her on notice. This week she said the following about Michael Mann’s Public Enemies:

“An action film that feels like an epic. A welcome adult alternative to summer’s sophomoric blockbusters.”

This is an atypical critical staple that we all look forward to using during a summer season designed around expensive flash and the occasional low common denominator. The summer of 2009 has been, I think inarguably, the worst we may have ever seen when it comes to just pure quality. And I was looking forward to Public Enemies to be just that kind of movie to break us out of that funk. Unfortunately, like most films this summer, it didn’t deliver. If it had though, I wouldn’t have felt too guilty about whipping out a quote similar to Puig’s – even if I felt there was already a superior adult alternative released last month (and slowly finding an audience.) Claudia hasn’t earned that right though. Not after leading off the summer with this:

“Exhilarating. Wolverine is well-acted, with spectacular action and witty one-liners. Although it’s a quintessential popcorn movie, Wolverine is not mindless. Director Gavin Hood and Hugh Jackman bring depth to a comic-book tale of anti-heroes with anger issues. Jackman invests his fierce character with…clear-eyed intelligence and inherent decency, compelling viewers to care about his metamorphosis.”

If X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn't the worst film to be released this summer, it was certainly the lamest. Look at all those adjectives though. Spectacular. Witty. Not mindless? I again invoke the initial question, who are you kidding, Claudia? Even the fanboys chose not to engage in that battle. Most of them knew it was crap since the best thing they could say about it was that it was better than Brett Ratner’s entry. Praise that was more instinctual reaction to all things Ratner than something they could really believe in. Nevertheless, they saved their vitriol for those of us who cut into Star Trek’s chances to score 100% at Rotten Tomatoes. Claudia was in the 95th percentile.

“Star Trek delivers. Energetic. Spectacular action.”

Excuse me, Claudia, but you said the same thing about Wolverine a week earlier. Couldn’t you have just gone with “energetic action?” One thing I’ve come to notice about all the positivity for Star Trek is that few described it with the kind of intelligence factor that Puig is railing against in her Public Enemies quote. Maybe everyone just liked the pretty colors and backlighting. Regardless I’m not exactly sure how “adult” J.J. Abrams film really was. It certainly had more brains than The Hangover which Claudia also liked:

“Absurdly funny. A side-splitting adventure you’ll still be laughing about the morning after.”

And with a Puig Pun to boot. Granted, I’m aware I’m in the minority when it comes to both Star Trek and The Hangover, but this isn’t about subjective opinions. It’s about making stupid-ass statements that add nothing to the discussion about film and exist only to make that person (and their outlet) stand out. Just based on Claudia’s quotes, if these three films come closest to mining the “sophomoric blockbuster” territory she speaks of with such vigor in her Public Enemies statement then what about all the other films released this summer? The ones known as counter-programming or “adult alternatives.”?

An undeniably entertaining rags-to-riches comedy! (Rudo y Cursi)
Has it all: charming romance, jaunty adventure story, witty dialogue, gorgeous cinematography and superb performances. (The Brothers Bloom)
A pleasure to watch! Firth is excellent! Thomas plays the imperious matriarch to perfection! (Easy Virtue)
Witty, sharply observed and emotionally satisfying! John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph have terrific chemistry – they are one of the most appealing and believable screen couples to star in a romantic comedy. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney give hilarious performances. (Away We Go)
Intelligent! Evocative! (Moon)
A decadent comedy of manners. A feather-light confection that flouts the rules, pushes sexual boundaries and stumbles onto something of substance under all the flirtation and fun. (Cheri)
Emotionally explosive…Profoundly compelling. Oscar nominee Aghdashloo is terrific. (The Stoning of Soraya M.)
Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva are terrific. (My Sister’s Keeper)

So let’s see here. We’ve got five “R”-rated titles, one based on a Noel Coward play, two period pieces, a one-man show set in the future, a film about a woman being stoned to death and a girl dying of cancer. Doesn’t matter whether they are good or not. Although Claudia certainly thinks so. But that’s a LOT of adult alternatives this summer. And just think of all the films she HASN’T been quoted on (as hard as that might be.) The Girlfriend Experience, The Hurt Locker, Whatever Works, Foreign film Oscar-winner Departures, or even documentaries like Outrage and Food, Inc. Public Enemies has not exactly cut out a niche for itself. Unless she’s simply referring to wide release adult entertainment. At which case, disregard everything I’ve just written and we’ll check in with Claudia again at the end of the sophomoric, adult-challenged summer.

July 3 – Revenge of the Fallen Fanboys

In a piece in today’s Chicago Daily Herald, Dann Gire (president of the Chicago Film Critics Association) has a brief response to all the fanboys and studio honchos who have dismissed all of the nation’s film critics over their response to one of the certified worst films of the year, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The fanboy syndrome is really starting to get out of control as they tend to bash any early criticism without having seen the film for themselves. The next person who comes up to me and talk about something being “just mindless entertainment” is going to draw back a stump. I’m sorry, is Drag Me To Hell not one of three wide summer releases to score over 90% at Rotten Tomatoes? Some may not consider Star Trek mindless. I didn’t particularly find a brain in its head, but it’s also in the 90th percentile. OK, bad examples as far as my own reviews are concerned as I gave mixed and negative to both. Don’t even get me started on The Hangover. But as most critics around my age, I grew up on the summer movie season. I love solid popcorn entertainment. When it delivers. You really want to compare the summer of 1984 (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ghostbusters, Gremlins) with 2009 (Terminator Salvation, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Transformers 2)? I have no prejudice over gigantic box office success. With the exceptions of Spider-Man 3 and Mission: Impossible II this decade, I’ve given positive reviews to the every top grossing summer movie coming into this year. Three of them even made my Top 10 list that year. It’s not about the money. It’s not about checking my brain at the door. There is quality and there is crap – and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen wouldn’t be touched by a dead fly. Let’s look at the bottom of the Tomatometer for the wide releases this summer – at last count.

45% - Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian
43% - Imagine That
38% - Angels & Demons
37% - X-Men Origins: Wolverine
33% - Terminator Salvation
31% - Dance Flick
28% - Land of the Lost
27% - Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
20% - Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
17% - Year One

That’s right. Only Year One ranks below Transformers on the list of the worst reviewed films of the year. Harold Ramis’ comedy currently has 124 reviews with only 21 positive. Michael Bay’s “mindless entertainment” has 208 reviews with only 41 positive. So percentage-wise, Transformers has a narrow lead. But if this was a baseball pennant race, Year One would be ahead in the division by 22 games. Don’t worry there, fanboys. You can cuddle up to those 41 positive reviews if you wish. You can even take a look at the quotes Paramount is using on the ads.

“Astonishing.” - Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman

Wait a minute though. This isn’t just a mere whore quote. There’s an actual review behind this. A 7-paragraph one no less to which you can find the following line: “The effects really are astonishing.” Here’s his summation though:

“Bay may have the skills to deliver thrills, and he certainly has the audacity to spend hundreds of millions of dollars providing audiences with megawatt instant gratification. But he doesn't have the smarts to make something that sticks in the memory past the end credits.” - Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman

Hardly a positive review, wouldn’t you say? Next on the list is Orlando Parfitt from IGN. His review is even longer than Harkness’ and you have to search a little harder to find where he calls the film “thrilling.” There it is though in black-and-white.

“Indeed the film reaches its pinnacle with one such action set-piece that takes place in a forest - a brilliantly crafted sequence that is kinetic, emotional and genuinely thrilling.”

So Paramount now has one adjective from a description of the special effects and one involving a reaction to a single set piece in the 140+-minute film. Parfitt is a little more positive than Harkness was, but his ultimate rating was still only 3 out of 5 stars. Decidedly mixed.

Now the latest ads for Transformers have added one quote right in the middle from Todd Gilchrist from Cinematical who calls the film “a masterpiece.” We will not even bother to look for a review from him since the word pretty much speaks for itself and anyone who would casually use it to describe this gigantic turd has instantly lost all cred in our book. Of course, the best is saved for last.

“Better than the original.” - Shawn Edwards

For a guy that has been unafraid to use the race card in the past, it’s funny to see him support a film that features two Transformers that make Jar Jar Binks look like Brooke Shields. A couple weeks back I received a text message from a colleague who saw ol’ Shawny at a junket and asked, “Do we hate Shawn Edwards?” I responded with a qualified “Yes!” and this is Exhibit AA why. So I ask you fanboys – do you really want to cozy up in the warm embrace of Shawn Edwards? That’s your bed to lie in. Meanwhile, we’ll be over here with our brains.

June 10 – How Can Anything Be Funnier Than Pete Hammond?

Disney is sneaking the Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds comedy, The Proposal, this Saturday night. That means you can see it a full six days before your friends. I’ll be at the CineVegas film festival through this weekend so I’ll have to catch up with it when I get back. Someone has seen it even earlier though. Oh yes, Pete Hammond has seen it. And on the TV ads seen on June 8 he has called it – wait for it -

“The year’s best comedy!”

You might have a fight on your hands with Mark S. Allen over that one, Pete. He said last week’s The Hangover was “One of the funniest movies ever made!” Guess it brought up pleasant memories of his DUI arrest in 2006. (Normally I don’t dig into the personal lives of these whores, but that’s a matter I take very seriously.) Back to Hammond though. Not the boldest statement this year since the list of superior comedies (or at least slash/comedies) includes the likes of Up, Away We Go, I Love You Man and Observe and Report. It’s not very funny out there. Hammond sure has been laughing though. He was quoted as calling Up “funny!” And who could argue, really? Well, maybe Hammond himself.

One comedy will have you begging for more! (Hotel for Dogs)
Hilarious! It’s a blast! The comic force is with Fanboys. (Fanboys)
Hilarious and heartwarming. Zac Efron shoots and scores! (17 Again)
Hilarious! Confessions is a nonstop laughing spree. (Confessions of a Shopaholic)
The year’s funniest comedy. Monstrous laughs! (Monsters vs. Aliens)

So for those keeping track on their FlickCharts, in Pete Hammond’s world The Proposal has just jumped over Monsters vs. Aliens as the best comedy of 2009. Having not seen the film yet, I can’t in good conscience argue. Maybe it is indeed. It would have to be one helluva funny movie though to make me laugh more than Up (which could get the best “family” or “animated” crown if you’re playing the genre game) or Away We Go (which could be classified as a “drama” or “dramedy”) Really though? Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds make a better comic team than Paul Rudd and Jason Segal? I’ll have to see it to believe it. Then again, with a list like that you can’t believe anything Hammond has to say anyway. Here's a proposal for Hammond - stop reviewing movies!

June 9 – New Whore Alert – Rick Florino!

Critics jokingly ask me all the time what they need to do to become a part of Criticwatch. How many quotes does it take? The answer is very simple: Three. Actually that’s just an arbitrary number I came up with on the spot, but I bet if you search over time it’s usually three quotes that will catch our attention. Get that trifecta in a calendar year, particularly on really bad movies nobody else are lauding and from an outlet nobody seems to have heard of and you can almost guarantee you’ll be singled out for a little scorn.

This week’s trifecta winner is Rick Florino, listed on two of his quotes from and a third for LAX Magazine. He jumped out at us this week as a part of the Sunday ads for Eddie Murphy’s new family comedy, Imagine That, which he calls:

“Hilarious. The best way to kick off the summer! Fun for the whole family.”

Not sure which kick off he’s referring to. If he’s talking about the summer movie season he’s six weeks late. If he’s talking about the actual seasonal change, there’s still at least one more movie weekend to go after this one. We will assume the latter though since he was there at the start of the summer movie season when he called X-Men Origins: Wolverinethe best X-Men yet.” I thought Florino’s name sounded familiar and sure enough he was the guy we named in the column earlier this year as the fortunate individual who has somehow avoided every horror movie that’s opened since 1973. What else are we to deduce when he said The Haunting In Connecticut is “the scariest movie since The Exorcist!

Florino’s name may not be so familiar to others though. Doing a search for his name finds it associated more with music than movies. In fact the first movie review that comes up is one for Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes To Jail – which he also liked. Doing a search for his name at ArtistDirect proves to be a no-show and he’s not a part of Rotten Tomatoes either. We did find his X-Men review. It’s certainly positive but nowhere in it does he call it “the best X-Men yet.” His Haunting In Connecticut review is also nowhere to be found, but you can find two interviews of us with Kyle Gallner and Elias Koteas, neither of which contains the proclamation that the film is the scariest since The Exorcist. That means ol’ Ricky either tossed those quotes to the reps on the junkets or they were written for him and he gladly attached his name to them. Congratulations, Rick, you might be the scariest whore since the introduction of Manny “The Movie Guy” De La Rosa.

May 30 – Jeffrey Lyons Fired!

While I certainly delighted in the brief termination of Pete Hammond from Maxim last year, I’m always hesitant to trounce on the firing of anyone (wait for it) in these economic times. I also probably shouldn’t express any happiness in any critic being let go, especially one from television as it certainly decreases the hope that a smart, educated (or dare I say, fun) film discussion show would find its way to the airwaves. Funny isn’t it, considering how often I rail against so many of them and usually preach some form of deinstitutionalizing their contribution to hyperbole? I’m not totally heartless. But today it does glow with a momentary sense of good riddance to someone who has probably done more damage to the world of film criticism than all the Dittmans, Fischers and Edwards’ combined. For you see, he spawned.

Jeffrey Lyons and his show Reel Talk was canceled by NBC this week. Admittedly this was a show that I watched occasionally in hopes of winning my colleague’s “Guess Jeffrey Lyons’ Top 10 List.” #1 Tip – Anything of the heartwarming, inspiring drama variety that opened in the final three months was an even money favorite. The last couple of years though, even my Tivo stopped bothering to find the thing and even started ignoring it when it wasn’t up against a bowling pre-show on ESPN. It was a toss-up between Reel Talk and Leonard Maltin’s Hot Ticket as to which was a lamer and more uninformative show. The edge actually went to Reel Talk since Alison Bailes was far more tolerable than Maltin’s Joyce Kulhawik. We come here not to bury the show though, but Mr. Lyons himself who has proven to be more douche than mensch over the years.

As a frequent contributor of usable quotes to Criticwatch more than the moviegoing public, Lyons was quick to deny any knowledge that he was on the Watch list or that it even existed. He did this during an unexpected co-booking with my colleague, Peter Sobczynski, on Mancow Muller’s show, even though he’s been known to ask those with laptops in his screening room to see what we’ve been saying about him lately. Jeffrey also denied having any hand in his son getting the At the Movies gig, denying all charges of nepotism. He must have forgot that he had Ben on Reel Talk frequently as a guest correspondent. In response to Lyons’ firing, critic Glenn Kenny (currently seen as a wonderfully sleazy sex reviewer in Soderbergh’s great, The Girlfriend Experience) reminisced on another blog blog of his first meeting with Jeffrey. Kenny was an associate editor at Video Review and Lyons’ contributions as a freelancer were, in Glenn’s words “uniformly sub-literate.” The “high-handed prick” (again, Glenn’s words) is also the guy who said nobody wanted to watch “two geeky guys” on a show called At the Movies. In the same rant he also called Roger Ebertan old putz” that was lucky to still have his print column. The classic thing about this rant is that it was reported during a matinee performance. No, I don’t mean an early screening. According to a source, he heard this rant later that evening right around the time the initial Defamer article had posted. That means Lyons was doing an encore for those who didn’t hear how upset he was with Roger posting his “Don’t Be Ben Lyons” column.

So what’s left to say about a family legacy that will always be about following in the groundwork of Roger Ebert? Somehow I imagine Jeffrey will find a gig somewhere. If I were Ben Mankiewicz I’d be more than a little worried that some dipshit bigwig somewhere is thinking about replacing him with Jeffrey so we can all revel (or is it, revile?) a Lyons father/son debate each week on the shiny robots of Terminator and Transformers. God help us all. In the meantime, Ben Lyons has sixteen jobs and dad has none. Too bad he’s already burned that Ebert bridge, huh? If Kenny’s comments are any indication there’s little hope of ever following Roger as the lead Sun-Times print critic. Who’s the unlucky, old, sub-literate, high-handed, prick putz now?

May 22 – Target These For Termination

Film Title: Terminator Salvation
Released by: Warner Bros.
Tomatometer: 33% (as of May 22, 2009)

Seen On The Ads:
"Out of this world action." - Mitch English, The Daily Buzz
"Explosive!." - Whitney Kennett, FOX-TV
"The summer’s biggest thrill ride!." - Mark S. Allen
"Intense…Terminator Salvation will blow you away.." - Kelli Gillespie
"Jaw-dropping, eye-popping - The perfect summer film!." - Zorianna Kit, Fandango

Respected Critics Say:
"With awful dialogue, a ridiculous plot, and mostly uninspired performances, the interesting human element has been drained from the franchise. The machines have won..." - Brian Tallerico,
"Suffers from pedestrian dialogue and a surfeit of bad plot devices ranging from the merely too-convenient to the laugh-out-loud preposterous.." - Eric D. Snider
"After scrutinizing the film, I offer you my summary of the story: Guy dies, finds himself resurrected, meets others, fights. That lasts for almost two hours. " - Roger Ebert
"[T]he hugest of the movie's many problems: [it's] sentimental... It's damn near close to character rape, what McG, Brancato, and Ferris force Christian Bale's Connor to do...." - MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher

What I Said:
"By the time it looks like Richard Dawson's Running Man crew created another stunt body double to get audiences all riled up, all the nostaglia has been sucked out thanks to a script unworthy of a direct-to-video sequel." – Erik Childress,

We should have known this film was doomed once perennial Warner Bros. whore, Mark S. Allen (2008’s Whore of the Year), was singled out on the film’s newspaper ads last Sunday. It was his sixth quote of 2009 and his fourth for the WB. Last summer Allen was on the hook for three WB summer films including Get Smart, Sex and the City and Speed Racer which he said “will blow your mind.” In 2006, Poseidon was “Awesome!” and had “the most amazing images you’ll see on the big screen this summer!” only to be followed by Superman Returns which was “undoubtedly one of the best movies you’ll see this summer!” Allen’s outpouring for Warner Bros. over the year is pretty astounding. How’s this for a list of recommendations:

Fool’s Gold
A Cinderella Story
The Phantom of the Opera
Unaccompanied Minors
The Dukes of Hazzard
Alex & Emma
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2
Scooby-Doo 2
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

He sure loves those WB sequels doesn’t he? He was on board with the far superior Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003 (“Leaves you gasping for more! See this one again and again!”) And less than a week earlier that year he called a film “The perfect mix of sexy-funny-rock-the-house action!” and said “You will see this again and again!” That film’s name? Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Yes, the McG joint that our own Peter Sobczynski proudly announces as the worst film he’s ever seen. (Yes, even worse than Bad Boys II.) Not Mark S. Allen though. He loves his WB, he loves his Terminator and he loves his McG. So why wouldn’t Terminator Salvation be “the summer’s biggest thrill ride?

How about these other gushers on the list? Kelli Gillespie said the film “will blow you away.” She also said Will Smith was “Oscar-worthy” for WB’s I Am Legend. This Mitch English (pictured left) is on something called The Daily Buzz and is a weatherman That’s right, a weatherman is being used to promote Terminator Salvation. At least he didn’t say that a storm was coming in - even if judgment day is here for him. We could not find any listing for a Whitney Kennett from FOX-TV, a sure sign of whoredom. Zorianna Kit calls it “the perfect summer film” but needs Anton Yelchin to explain why Kyle Reese is a teenager in this one. I can’t believe this broad was ever allowed to sit on the set of Ebert & Roeper.

And if you want a little preview of what The Ben Lyons Quote of the Week might look like on Monday, Fox is using the Bens on their ads for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. We’ll await their full comments on the show tomorrow night, which is more than we can say for Jeff Craig whom no one seems to ever hear.

“Better than the original.” – Ben Mankiewicz
“I loved it. I had so much fun. It’s got such a wonderful, magical quality. Audiences young and old are going to love it.” – Ben Lyons
“Hilarious. Comic genius.” – Lee Thomas, WJBK Fox 2, Detroit
“A summer smash. Fun for the whole family. You won’t have a better time at the movies. ****.” – Jeff Craig

May 9 – Angels & Hammonds

Sony had a screening of Angels and Demons in Chicago on Thursday (and a number of other markets last week), but most of Chicago’s press were deemed unworthy to see the film this early. Who knows which of us wildcats might ignore the review embargo and get up a quickie before the weekend like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter already have. Normally you have to wait until the Sunday ads to see which early reviews the studio chooses to use, but we already spotted one in the commercials as early as Friday, May 8.

“Tom Hanks and Ron Howard have topped The Da Vinci Code in every way imaginable. Movies don't get more exciting than this.” - Pete Hammond

Oh Petey, you scamp. Getting your whore-leading 19th quote a full week before the film comes out. You’re so trustworthy too. The masses should follow you with such bold praise. The way you say it’s better than a previous movie and prop up its excitement as the best of the bunch. Don’t get more exciting than this, Pete? What about these other movies you’ve praised over the years?

King Kong rules over all the others. As big, breathtakingly exciting and relentlessly thrilling as any epic adventure the screen has seen in many years! If you think you’ve seen Kong, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The Bourne Ultimatum is the best action film in decades. A two hour high-tech chase around the world that surpasses everything that’s come before it, including Oscar-winning classics like The French Connection and Bullitt.”

“A relentless suspense thriller with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave you on the edge of your seat. This year’s Bourne Ultimatum.” (Traitor)

“The best action movie since The Bourne Ultimatum. Get ready for the ride of your life. Move over Bourne.” (Taken)

So Traitor was last year’s Bourne and Taken is the best action movie SINCE Bourne and actually better since you’re telling it to move over. And Bourne trumped the Oscar-winning French Connection? King Kong ruled over all the others until they came along, but it doesn’t matter since none come as exciting as this Angels and Demons. In every way too, right?

“Remarkable in every way, even better than March of the Penguins.” (Earth)

“Tops Sex and the City in every way.” (The Women)

“Sensationally entertaining in every way.” (The Devil Wears Prada)

“Undeniably fascinating in every way!” (Hollywoodland)

“Super great in every way.” (Superbad)

“…blissfully over the top in every way.” (Beerfest)

“An absolute shocker in every way imaginable.” (Hannibal Rising)

Way to bank your faith on Pete Hammond, Sony, a whore in every way imaginable that rules over all others. Move over, Peter Travers.

May 8 – Star Whores

Trekkers or Trekkies or whatever they want to be called need a stiff dose of reality. Currently at Rotten Tomatoes there are over 170 reviews of J.J. Abrams’ new reboot of the franchise. You know how many are negative? EIGHT. That’s a pretty impressive record. We’re into Iron Man and Dark Knight territory though as far as critical consensus goes. Only unlike those two films, I am not in the minority. That’s right, folks, I’m one of the eight . As much as I hate to be part of a minute group that includes perpetual film grouches, Armond White and Anthony Lane, I stand by every one of the 2000+ words in my review; not influenced in any way by other critics, fanboys, a desire to be different or to simply attract attention to our website here. As I wrote amongst the negative comments to my review, the day I write something negative (or positive) just to be contrarian or for mere attention is the day I declare Ben Lyons as the greatest critic who has ever lived.

Which brings us to now where, Star Trek fans may not understand, but I’m actually looking out for them. Just as I felt screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman completely betrayed the nature of Kirk and Spock’s relationship and wrote a screenplay barely worthy of the surname “Insurrection” or “Nemesis”, the Trekkies are being represented by some of the lamest “critics” imaginable. Paramount has over 160 positive reviews to choose from (and probably more) and this is what we’re seeing on the ads.

"A burst of pure filmmaking exhilaration. Star Trek is an irresistible invitation for fun! What more could you ask of a summer movie?" – Peter Travers
"It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen Star Trek…It’s so rousing you may hardly be able to contain yourself." – Gene Shalit
"This year’s Iron Man" – Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times
"The perfect film" - Nancy Jay, EX-TV

Gene Shalit, huh? That’s the best the marketers could come up with? What more could you ask of a summer movie, Peter Travers? Can we flashback to 2008?

“…kicks off summer on a blazing high note and practically dares the competition to measure up. It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. You can feel the exhilaration.” (Iron Man)

“A thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. Just hang on for a shock to the system.” (The Dark Knight)

That’s pretty much what I expect. From summer movies (AND Travers.) And what did you think of Mr. Abrams’ last film, Pete?

“This summer M:i:III is the movie to beat in the race to push your pulse rate past the danger zone.”

I would like to know precisely what Geoff Boucher from the Los Angeles Times is trying to say by calling Star Trekthis year’s Iron Man.” Certainly it’s not a superhero movie, but it does have a huge following. Is he referring to it as the big movie to take the summer by storm (or, at least, the first big Paramount movie?) Star Trek arrived one week later than Iron Man, but no one is stupid enough to call Wolverine this year’s Iron Man just because they shared the same opening weekend. Or is Boucher suggesting that Star Trek is going to be a $300 million dollar smash hit? Let’s hope not since its not a critic’s job to incorporate dollar signs into their review of a film unless you're a trade magazine with no embargo. I don’t care how he meant it. It’s a dumb quote and there are far better ones to choose from. I suppose though when you are given a quote like “the perfect film” though you sure as hell are going to use it. One question though – WHO IN THE HELL IS NANCY JAY?

Well, let me tell ya. Nancy Jay is the Celebrity Spotlight host for AAFES-EXTV. AAFES stands for the Army & Air Force Exchange. They have a YouTube channel which helps document the military community and their families – and I applaud them for providing such a service. Although not to the film loving community. Entertainment reporters such as Nancy Jay are the bane of film critics everywhere. Think you’ll ever see one of them ask a tough question or break bad on a film while interviewing the celebrities How often have you ever seen a perfect film? I bet if you asked every legitimate film critic about their choice for the best film of 2008, every one of them could point out one little flaw, one slight error or one little nitpick. By definition then – NOT perfect! You want a little sampling of “perfect” from the nutsack (I mean, peanut) gallery in 2009?

"Inkheart is the perfect family fantasy film." (Inkheart) – Mark S. Allen
"The perfect way to start the summer!" (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) – Mike Sargent
"Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard are perfect!" (Fighting) – Sandie Newton

Now, Nancy Jay can join that list. Speaking of which, Nancy Jay was recently nominated for an Los Angeles Press Club Award. You remember them, don’t ya? The group that requires nominees to send in $40 and submit themselves for awards? Yeah, well, Nancy was nominated in the Best Critic (Television) category and she was in some pretty prestigious company. George Pennacchio from KABC-TV, another “entertainment reporter” that just goes to show anytime you see call letters and then “TV” after a critic’s name, they have usually been flown somewhere to see a film, get free food and hang with the celebrities. Also on the list is Manny “The Movie Guy” De La Rosa (whose last name wasn’t even mentioned on the ballot), the aforementioned Sandie Newton (who thought Channing Tatum was “perfect” in Fighting) and the duo of Russ Simmons and SHAWN EDWARDS! Great company there, Nancy. Wear that nomination proud. Maybe next we’ll see your name on Next Day Air, the anti-Star Trek of this weekend which has half as many positive reviews as Star Trek has negative and still managed to get some support from the following whores:

“Lethal and explosive...Full of laughs!” - Maria Salas
“Next Day Air delivers.” -
“Action, comedy and excitement...all in one package.” - Greg Russell

Get it? Cause the film is about delivery people. Criticwatch is currently working on a screenplay called Two Acres. It’s 90 pages of quote whores like Greg Russell getting kicked right in the package. Maybe I’ve taken the wrong route to deliver my message though. Star Trek fans, listen up. Stop worrying about the eight people who didn’t like your precious movie and start thinking about those being used to represent your best interests. I guarantee you don’t want it to be this guy ---------------->

May 1 – The Tri-Annual Whore Report

We’re one-third through 2009 and trying to determining if whoring is up or down is a trying effort. Amongst the top whores, the numbers are nearly identical. But this year they are spread more thin thanks to Pete Hammond having a regular gig again. You’ll recall last January when Hammond was fired from Maxim Magazine; one of the few firings that never seems to get a mention when people post the increasing casualty rate amongst actual critics. Hammond did get a spot writing for and as a result is getting all the ad space. By the end of April last year, Hammond was just getting his feet wet over there and had only 3 quotes. It was Xanadu! Sure he kicked it into high gear and wound up with 49 quotes, but man was that a glorious time for Criticwatch not to see his name everywhere. 2009 is a different story though. Hammond is making up for lost time, already nabbing 18 quotes and leading his rival Pete (Travers) who has 16 (compared to last year’s total of 12). Exponentially, compared with last year’s numbers Hammond would end up with 294 quotes this year. Obviously that’s unrealistic as that would be three times Hammond’s record-breaking haul of 88 quotes back in 2007 just before he was fired. Does this make for an acceptable tradeoff though? One Pete Hammond quote replacing your Dittmans and Oldfields? Whatever, a whore’s a whore.

Like Shawn Edwards who has matched his total of 10 from last year. Ben Lyons has 6 (a quote up from ’08) thanks to a four-pack of quotes from the weekend of March 20. Jim Ferguson also up a quote from 3 to 4, as is Jeff Craig (2-to-3). Maria Salas, after having a light ’08 has grabbed 3 mentions so far. Reigning Whore of the Year, Mark S. Allen, only had 2 by May last year and this year he has 5, including one of the worst films of 2009 (Fired Up).[br]

As always we like to offer a little bit of hope out there and show where the numbers are down. Our #9 Whore of 2008, Carrie Keagan (who appeared as herself in THE worst film of the year to date – Miss March) only has a single quote after having three by this point last year. The mysterioso James Thomas, the #5 whore who emerged early in 2008 has all but disappeared from the quote list. #8 Steve Oldfield already had 6 of his 7 quotes by May 1, 2008 but as of May 1, 2009 only has 2. And one of the original faces of whoredom himself, Earl Dittman, who ranked sixth last year, had five quotes at this point. This year, just a single one for Knowing. The summer season is about to kick into full gear though and this is a big section for the whores. We should find time this year to give you a complete recap of the summer whoredom, but in the meantime we can provide you with the first group of the season.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
McConaughey and Garner have perfect chemistry. – Gerrad Hall, Reelzchannel
Hilarious! McConaughey and Garner deliver. – Jim Ferguson
Laugh-out-loud funny and refreshingly smart. The perfect way to start the summer! – Mike Sargent
Funny and charming…a must-see film! – Stuart Lee
The most winning date movie of the year. – Jeanne Wolf

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Wolverine is action-packed adrenaline-charged entertainment. Hugh Jackman is electrifying, devliering a star-turning performance. The first great summer movie of the season! – Paul Fischer

Apr. 17 – Speaking Of Guys Who Need To Take High School Over

It’s bad enough that I can’t get that damn Bowling for Soup song from the trailers out of my head (“oh Oh OH Oh!!!”) but I have to see whore after whore after whore get their name into the ads for the Zac Efron vehicle, 17 Again. It all started last Sunday when the New York Times featured the following quotes:

Hilarious and heartwarming. Zac Efron shoots and scores! – Pete Hammond
Wildly entertaining. – Shawn Edwards
The feel-good movie of the year. – Bonnie Laufer
A fun, wonderful film! – Jim Ferguson

You see, because Zac Efron plays basketball in the movie. That’s why Pete Hammond said he “shoots and scores.” What Captain Dipshit doesn’t seem to realize is that’s an exclamation of exuberation associated with either hockey or occasionally, soccer. When was the last time you heard a basketball announcer call one of the hundred shots in a game with that particular expression? Nice try, Pete. “The feel-good movie of the year?” Sorry, Bonnie, but Bryan “Disney Whore” Erdy already told us that Confessions of a Shopaholic was the “feel-GREAT movie of the year.” I don’t want to downsize and frankly I feel great that I have yet to see either movie. Not so great that even more whores appeared in the commercials throughout the week including:

Laugh out loud funny. – Greg Ellson
Make you feel young again. - Greg Russell
Zac Efron is brilliant. - Troy Alexander, Fandango
A funny comedy with a big heart. - Manny the Movie Guy

17 Again actually seems a bit too sophisticated for the likes of Manny "the Movie Guy" de la Rosa and I say again, if you’re laughing but not doing it “out loud” you are an insane person. Of course, all of this may be true. I have yet to see the 20th Anniversary Edition of Like Father Like Son, Vice Versa, Big and 18 Again! Remember Charlie Schlatter, everyone?

The point being that 17 Again is actually getting more than a few warm embraces. A 70% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes is not too shabby for a concept film we were tired of in 1988. Heck, even Peter Travers said “If you can't figure out what happens, you've never seen a movie. And if you haven't, please, God, don't start with this one.” Forget Travers though. Please. You’re telling me with that many positive notices that Warner Bros./New Line couldn’t find happy-go-lucky snippets from actual written reviews from critics who didn’t get a free junket ride? Like Shawn Edwards who is making a serious play to get all up in the Hammond/Travers/Jeff Lyons trifecta of yearly quotes. Between 17 Again, State of Play (“Sophisticated, intelligent, powerful.”) and The Soloist (“Inspiring.”), Edwards is up to 8 quotes for 2009, tied with Jeffrey Lyons for third on the list behind Travers’ 13 and Hammond’s 15. Paramount won’t even screen The Soloist for Chicago critics until this Tuesday night just a few days before it opens, but Edwards is singing its praises nearly two weeks in advance. Why can’t all these guys become 17 again, go back to high school and choose another profession? The world needs ditchdiggers (and fluffers) too.

Apr. 10 – Giving New Meaning To Rubenesque

Sam Rubin is not a name that has appeared much on Criticwatch and yet he was probably one of the inspirations for it. I don’t know if he still makes appearances because the TV is off in the morning as I write and listen to Jonathon Brandmeier on WLUP, but the WGN morning news here in Chicago would summon this Rubin to do an entertainment report from Los Angeles on the tail end of their telecast. I never responded well to basic gossip reports even in the pre-TMZ era and there was just something about this dude that rubbed me the wrong way. He actually appears as himself as one of the junket reporters in the failed Billy Crystal satire, America’s Sweethearts, which should tell you all you need to know. Except you haven’t heard nothing yet.

We’re only into the second week of April and 2009 has already shaped itself as one of the worst years for American film in sometime. That doesn’t stop the whores though from slapping their names on any “of the year” comment the studio marketers write for them. Don’t deny it people. There’s actually a shred of dignity to be taken back by the honesty that you actually had nothing to do with coming up with these quotes on your end. So far this year we’ve already had:

One of the best films of the year. (Yonkers Joe) – Brian Hughes,
The sexiest, most shocking thriller of the year. (Donkey Punch) – Empire
The most exciting surprise of the year. (Race To Witch Mountain) - Bryan Erdy


The best new film of 2009! (Crossing Over) - Clear Channel Q104.3, Shelli Sonstein

Sonstein was certainly ahead in the running for a potential new Criticwatch award for the worst film taste on the planet. But on this Friday, April 10, 2009 a brand new candidate has emerged.

That’s right. So far, BY FAR, the best movie of 2009 according to KTLA-TV’s Sam Rubin is Hannah Montana: The Movie; a film that has to remind us what it is in the actual title. Look, there are a lot of critics at Rotten Tomatoes giving it the family pass (i.e. “I didn’t really get it but the kids will love it.”). So much so that it has a 41% approval rating (up from 38% just as I was writing this paragraph.) Not a huge number in any universe but it’s higher than other recent box office successes including The Haunting In Connecticut (20%), Fast & Furious (26%) and Knowing (34%). But which part of Rubin’s quote is more infuriating? “The best movie of the year” part or the “BY FAR” part?

The list of greatness (or even plain ol’ goodness) certainly isn’t long this year. So I suppose if you really like the Hannah Montana movie it’s not that big a leap to actually include “by far” to show the disparity between seriously made films and ones targeted for a quick tween cash grab. It’s also not a huge leap of faith between calling someone a quote whore and recognizing that they are outright retarded. You want a great movie for families? There was Coraline. You want the best action film of the year? Go see Taken again. You want a great comedy? Choose between I Love You, Man and Observe and Report. Indie dramas more your thing? Seek out Two Lovers or the recently released baseball film, Sugar. Hell, even Lyons & Mankiewicz called Sin Nombre the best film they’ve seen all year. Granted, I haven’t heard their Hannah Montana review yet but I have even enough faith in THEM to not just blindly recommend it – even as a favor for the Disney company paying their checks.

From now on, Criticwatch will adopt the term "Rubinesque" to describe morbidly thickheaded quote whores who can't fit into anything but the studio-packaged verbage puked up for them. Sam Rubin, ladies and gentlemen, just another representative of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. If you want a little taste of Sam Rubin, all you need to watch is his red carpet hosting duties for last year’s Critic’s Choice awards. It doesn’t get more painful than this. You can also watch Rubin’s probing interview with Miley Cyrus where the best film of the year (by far) is barely discussed aside from where it was filmed.

(UPDATE: Saturday, April 11) The Hannah Montana ads filled out a little more today with perpetual Disney whore, Lisa Stanley, getting her first quote since 2007's Dan In Real Life calling it "Fun for the whole family!" It was also called "A ton of fun!" by Scott "Look Ma, I rhymed just like the movie" Mantz from Access Hollywood and Mary McNamara from the Los Angeles Times called the film "Miley Cyrus' next big step." Really? She's gone from playing Hannah Montana on television to singing as Hannah Montana in a concert film to playing Hannah Montana in a film called Hannah Montana. Lending her voice to Disney's Bolt was a bigger step for Miley than this. Her next "big step" would to be in a film that was rated PG-13 or played the festival circuit or one that could attract the appreciation of some actual critics.

Apr. 3 – Less ‘The’, More ‘Duh’

Film Title: Fast & Furious
Released by: Universal
Tomatometer: 21% (as of Apr. 3, 2009)

Seen On The Ads:
"Turbo-Charged." - Shawn Edwards
"Pure adrenaline.." - Carlos Alberto, Laconexion TV
"The best of the Fast & Furious movies.." - Maria Salas

Respected Critics Say:
"Oh yeah, there are also lots and lots of car crashes--so many, in fact, that it feels at times like a big-screen version of an auto industry bailout plan.." - Peter Sobczynski,
"'The cast was available' is no reason to make a sequel.." - Matt Pais,
"There's not even much car-racing in it -- and why would anyone want to watch this movie if it doesn't have a lot of car-racing in it?." - Eric D. Snider, Cinematical

What I Said:
"It seems deftly appropriate that they would decide to remove the two 'the's from the title, the most replaceable word in the English language and compensate their absence with two of the most transparent ciphers to ever get above-title billing." – Erik Childress,

2009 started out so promising. Not for movies, really, which have been pretty bad week-to-week, but for the lack of whores attaching their names to the pre-written quotes provided to them by the studio marketing departments, a practice that’s becoming more rampant and more apparent. We went almost three months without seeing Earl Dittman’s name, until he grabbed three or four adjectives on the ads for Knowing, which has the biggest collections of whore quotes so far this year. Yes, Pete Hammond, Peter Travers and Jeffrey Lyons continued to lead the pace. And last year’s whore of the year, Mark S. Allen, was already making a play to repeat with five quotes, including for the abominable Fired Up. The Haunting in Connecticut managed to find a taker this week for its “The scariest movie since The Exorcist!” quote. Congratulations Rick Florino from LAX Magazine on managing to avoid horror films altogether since 1973.

But for the first 11 weekends of the year, the riff-raff was pretty much at bay. Crap like The Unborn, Friday the 13th and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li with this year’s best worst supporting actor, Chris Klein, couldn’t even find a whore to say something nice about them. This all began to change on March 20.

The Knowing whores were in full force for the 31% approved film at Rotten Tomatoes. Despite a good portion of positive reviews, Disney couldn’t find anyone better than Hammond, Jeff Craig and Scott Mantz to hype Monsters vs. Aliens. Just a few weeks after saying in an Associated Press article that he doesn’t get quoted as often as other critics, Ben Lyons was quoted no less than FOUR TIMES on that very weekend for Duplicity, The Great Buck Howard, I Love You Man and Sin Nombre. It’s not like those are bad movies either. All well-reviewed. 65%, 72%, 80% and 88%, respectively. You’re telling me that the marketing departments are so brain-dead that they would use Ben Lyons name for anything. He’s received more noticeably negative write-ups within the industry in just the last six months than any of the others probably have since the existence of Criticwatch. Even this week’s 86% approved Adventureland found room for Shawn Edwards’ ****. This is the third Edwards mention in a row where he hasn’t been quoted in words, only in stars. Which maybe is a plus.

Edwards did speak up this week for Universal’s Fast & Furious though. He called it “Turbo-Charged.” Is this much of a surprise after he called the last film in the series, 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Driftthe best action movie of the year?” What a dipshit! Everybody knows that the only sequel in history worthy of the label, “Turbo-Charged” is Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Edwards isn’t alone in his idiocy though. There’s also Maria Salas who says it’s “The best of the Fast & Furious movies.” (Feel free to make your own joke about shiny turds here.) The critics at Rotten Tomatoes don’t seem to think so with The Fast and the Furious getting a 53% approval, 2 Fast 2 Furious getting 35% and Tokyo Drift getting 34%. Fast & Furious’ numbers have nowhere to go but down and I’d be disappointed if they didn’t slip below 20% by the end of the weekend. The third name on the list came out of nowhere. No seriously, out of nowhere. Carlos Alberto of something called Laconexion TV calls says Fast & Furious is “pure adrenaline.” Not 100% pure adrenaline like Point Break was, but just plain pure adrenaline. Try Googling Laconexion TV or Carlos Alberto and see what you find. I guess Manny de la Rosa wasn’t available to call Vin Diesel “Hollywood’s new action star” the way he did for Jason Statham and Universal’s Death Race last August.

Speaking of both Manny and Shawn, congratulations are in order. For the second year in a row, Shawn Edwards (and his partner, Russ Simmons) were named the Best TV Critics by the Los Angeles Press Club Awards. Ol’ Manny de la Rosa finished second this year. Now, before you begin condemning the L.A. Press Club for bestowing such an honor on the guy who was Criticwatch’s 2007 Whore of the Year and is a Top 5 candidate for that very award every year since its inception, please understand that to be in consideration for the Press Club award, you have to pay $40 to submit an entry for it. OK, NOW you can begin condemning them.

These awards mean nothing. You don’t need me to tell you that. Seriously, imagine the ego you must have to enter yourself in a competition like this. Christ, even grade school Student Council elections require that a fellow classmate stand up to nominate you. The Press Club gets some cash and you have the opportunity to be honored as a result of not work that anyone would have noticed or appreciated, but of your ability to send in a check. Maybe as a gag for next year’s 3rd Annual Awards, people can take up a collection and submit Criticwatch or The Ben Lyons Quote of the Week for the Best Online Feature category. Just don’t tell me about it. Then, if I win, I can go accept my award in person and blast these awards and everyone who self-submitted their work as the most shameless of all self-promoting whorejobs in the business. In honor of this week's crap pile that is Fast & Furious, I'll paraphrase a question from the film. Do you know what the difference is between a quote whore and a legitimate critic? Start with a picture of Shawn Edwards and the rest will fall into place.

Apr. 1 - Did Ben Mankiewicz really storm off the set of At the Movies?
Read the Associated Press release.

Feb. 28 - "In the past, it might have hurt the show a bit that (reviewers) were isolated in Chicago. I enjoy the fact that I’m out here in L.A. and I know writers and directors and actors. I’m young and I’m going to be out and social and to meet people and develop genuine friendships with them and understand the (artistic) choices they’ve made.”

That's a bit from this week's Associated Press article on the criticism of Lyons and Mankiewicz. Read their mind-boggling defense in At the Movies: Ben There, Done With That

Feb. 27 - Jeffrey Lyons Now Deeper And More Absorbing

Jeffrey Lyons is one of the few critics heaping some praise on this week's disasterous Crossing Over, opening in limited release to a 13% approval at Rotten Tomatoes. Only FOUR out of 31 critics have listed positive reviews including Peter Travers. Along with Pete Hammond, Lyons is on the Friday ads for the film though in New York calling it "Superb! Deeply absorbing." I think the following quotes from Jeffrey Lyons' past say all that needs to be.

Spanglish - A warm and absorbing story...
Madison - Madison is Warm and absorbing.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Perfume is eerie and absorbing...
Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself - Absorbing! Tender and touching!
Finding Home - Absorbing…Will touch you deeply.
Henry Poole Is Here - An absorbing, deeply moving film.
The Guitar - Amazing, deeply absorbing.
Kinsey - Intense, intelligent and deeply absorbing...Laura Linney may just be the best American actress of her generation.
Ask the Dust - Ask the Dust is a deeply moving, absorbing, fiery romantic story! Salma Hayek heats up a screen more than just about any actress of her generation!

December Boys - A wonderful dreamlike story with nostalgia, poignancy and deeply absorbing performances.
The Legend of Simon Conjurer - The interplay between the young actors is absorbing and Jon Voight shows another facet of his great range.
Don’t Come Knocking - A very absorbing, engrossing saga. Sam Shepard and Jessica Lange are electrifying together!
The Constant Gardener - An absorbing, provocative, intelligent, wonderful film! Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are superb.

The Children of Huang Shi - A remarkable, sweeping, deeply-absorbing epic.
American Gangster - A brilliant, incredibly absorbing historical drama with Washington and Crowe at the top of their game.
Out of Time – A first-rate, absorbing thriller. This is the way they used to make movies when they made them right! Denzel Washington is at the top of his game

Feb. 22 - The Sunday Hammond Wrap-Up

Saying this hasn’t been a good year for movies when we’re only in February, frankly, is to be expected. Of the roughly 20 films that have gone into wide release in 2009, only five of them have managed to get over the 50% approval hump at Rotten Tomatoes – Coraline (87%), My Bloody Valentine (59%), Taken (58%), Notorious (53%) and The International (52%). If we go by the tomatometer’s idea of what a positively approved film is, it has to hit 60%. Which means that Coraline is the only wide release to have a positive critical consensus this year. 19 out of 20 films haven’t registered “fresh” this year and the truly rotten to the core, Pete Hammond, has been quoted on four of them.

Along with Coraline and Taken, easily the two best films of this year’s batch of wide releases, Hammond has been quoted for Hotel for Dogs (45%), The Uninvited (36%) and Confessions of a Shopaholic (22%). And while more of a dump by the Weinsteins than a full-fledged release, you can add Fanboys (28%) to his list of recommendations. Speaking of the Weinsteins, they can’t be happy that their long-delayed (is there any other kind?) Harrison Ford-headlined immigration drama, Crossing Over already has five negative reviews up at Rotten Tomatoes (out of six.) Pete Hammond to the rescue. In Sunday’s ads for the film, opening in limited release on Friday, Hammond says “Harrison Ford is terrific. An engrossing, thoroughly entertaining movie with great performances from a first-rate ensemble cast.” That’s his 7th quote of the year. More than twice as many as anyone else this year, including his rival quote slut, Peter Travers. Kinda makes you wonder just what else Hammond is recommending this year.

He's Just Not That Into You - "The title and cast are sure to lure women in by the droves - but surprisingly there's something to like here for the guys, too."

The International - "A globe-hopping suspense thriller with bankers as the villains."

Fired Up - "F.U. stands for funny. An outrageous sex-obsessed teen comedy that's something to cheer about - especially if you're 16."

Those are a few of Hammond’s quotes from Rotten Tomatoes, ones that didn’t make it into the studio marketing. I guess the best thing you can say is that he doesn’t hold any grudges towards Maxim and is man enough to recommend their film even if it is the worst film of 2009. (You can’t really count Tyler Perry’s efforts as actual films.) Yes, as I stated on Friday about Fired Up, it was clearing a path to actually be called the best reviewed comedy of the year so far. At the time it had 11 positive reviews out of 36. Today, it has 19 positive out of 60. Still 4% higher than Paul Blart: Mall Cop. As for Hammond’s Rotten Tomatoes statistics for 2009 – he has posted 17 reviews, 11 of which are positive. 9 of which aren’t Coraline or Taken. In the Criticwatch world, F.U. is reserved for Pete Hammond.

Feb. 20 - Another F.U. To Moviegoers

Film Title: Fired Up
Released by: Screen Gems
Tomatometer: 31% (as of Feb. 20, 2009)

Seen On The Ads:
"Hilarious!." - Jeffrey Lyons
"The movie never ceases to hit joke after joke. There’s a definite cleverness to it – I couldn’t stop laughing!." - Ain’t It Cool News
"Superbad meets Bring It On.." - Robin Milling, Milling About, WENN

Respected Critics Say:
"This is a film so scuzzy and creepy in tone that you keep getting the sense that if there was any possible that it could slip a roofie into your soda while you weren't looking, it would.." - Peter Sobczynski,
"Like a grotesque hybrid between the straight-to-DVD American Pie and Bring It On sequels, Fired Up asks the audience to root for a skirt-chasing Seacrest-and-Dunkleman pair who operate like a hive-minded Van Wilder.." - Scott Tobias, The Onion A.V. Club
"Oh, is this movie bad." - Roger Ebert

What I Said:
"The Maxim revolution kicks off with Fired Up and the fact that even the now Hammond-less skin mag's name is nowhere to be found on the title, should tell you that even they are trying to maintain some dignity." – Erik Childress,

If you would have said that less than one week after seeing the unnerving monstrosity that was the Friday the 13th that I would see a collection of characters more obnoxious, hateful and worthy of a butcher knife up their anuses, I would have said you were drunk. Actually the characters in F-13-2 really did have their puncture wounds coming to them. The gang in Fired Up I would just like to see subject to a series of severe beatings. Soul Men was the last film that was supposed to be a comedy where I sat there stonefaced. Disaster Movie the one before that. Looks like I’m on a quad-annual plan to be completely appalled at the utter lack of wit and humor of American film.

As we’ve seen though, where there’s an opinion there’s an asshole. And you can get just about any asshole to recommend a really bad movie. Can you remember the last wide release with over, say, 30 reviews that had a zero percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic? Normally a studio has to go to the well of “who da WHAT?” to find some no-name with no-scruples to give them a quote they can slap on the ads. Like Robin Milling from WENN’s Milling About. Yeah, try plugging that name into Yahoo or Google and see if you can find an actual radio show amidst some more one-off quotes or an interview with Keith Carradine from him/her. I’m going to assume the Ain’t It Cool review came from one of their “spies” and not from one of their regular reviewers. I sure hope not. I know my man, Capone, hated it. OK, he laughed once according to his review which is far from Jeffrey Lyons calling it “HILARIOUS!” for his 4th quote of the year. Of course he liked Sex Drive too so maybe he’s just trying to be the cool dad. Hey Benny, wasn’t that Fired Up the dopeness? Nope, Jeff, you’re just a big fat dope.

But he’s not the only one. The ads may not reflect a cornucopia of critical support but I was shocked just how many were punching the fresh button over at Rotten Tomatoes. Again, not a HUGE showing of support (of course, three would be too many), but no less than 11 critics (so far as of this writing) have weighed in with positive reviews. And not just some online hackjobs, but names like Marshall Fine and OwenI liked Made of Honor and What Happens In VegasGleiberman. Keep going and you’ll see Roger Moore from the Orlando Sentinel weighing in with what looks like a half-hearted recommendation. Click on the review though and he actually refers to Fired Up as Juno-snappy. Moore has continually called me out for my own “aesthetic” in recommending such fare as Clerks II, Knocked Up and Art School Confidential (instead of Stardust and Transformers) and yet here he is comparing what is guaranteed to be one of the worst films of 2009 with one of the best of 2007. Amazing.

But not quite as amazing as numbers. It’s still early on opening day. Who knows how many critics actually bothered to see it? But Fired Up is currently rockin’ a 31% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 25 out of 36 reviews are still in the negative. So let’s look at the other films in its league this year.

Confessions of a Shopaholic, the Pete Hammond-approved tale of mental illness: Only 27 out of 122 posted reviews positive – or 22% approval.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the Film Advisory Board-approved top grossing film of the year so far: 24 out of 87 positive – or 28%

New In Town, the Roger Moore-approved-haven’t-seen-chemistry-like-this Renee Zellweger/Harry Connick Jr. vehicle: 20 out of 109 positive – or 18%

Fanboys, the barely released non-Weinstein cut: 17 out of 62 positive – or 27%

Bride Wars, the horror film disguised as comedy: 14 out of 121 positive – or 12%

The Pink Panther 2, Jeffrey Lyons approved for your displeasure: 12 out of 115 positive – or 10%

Fired Up is only one positive review behind Pink Panther Deux-dy with nearly 80 reviews less in the bank. So yes you’re reading this right. If Screen Gems was so inclined they could actually make the case that Fired Up is “the best reviewed comedy of the year.” If that isn’t the biggest F.U. to movie audiences, I don’t know what is.

Feb. 8 - Sunday Tidbits

- Paul Fischer got his first quote of 2009 for The Pink Panther 2 which he calls “A comic gem.” Fischer’s first quote of 2008 didn’t come until April for the film, Smart People. His quote? “Pitch-perfect. A comic gem.”

- After seeing Push Friday night, I announced that anyone who gave a positive recommendation to that boring, ridiculous mess of a subpar Heroes episode (or these days - a Heroes episode) is an idiot. Welcome to the non-savant club HeatherFirst real action movie of 2009Newgen and CarrieRocks from beginning to endKeagan.

- In his 2007 record-breaking stretch of 88 quotes, Pete Hammond already had 7 quotes by the second weekend in February. In 2009 he already has 6 including his third pun-tastic soundbite of the year with next week’s Confessions of a Shopaholic (“a nonstop laughing spree.”) His others include Hotel for Dogs (“One comedy will have you begging for more!”) and Fanboys (“The comic force is with Fanboys.”) How many pigs were slaughtered for that much Hamm?

Feb. 6 - If You See One Movie First This Year…

We’re into our fifth weekend of 2009 and even in these trying economic times people are flocking to the cinema. And why not? Avoid the concessions, go Dutch and you have some relatively cheap entertainment for the evening. OK, so ticket prices are higher than ever but no one budgets for the movies. They just go. Hey, that looks good, let’s go. Or: Hey, I’m bored and our Netflix DVDs didn’t arrive today, let’s go to the movies. That’s why Paul Blart: Mall Cop is headed towards $100 million. It has to be, right? By the end of Valentine’s Day weekend we’re likely to have twice as many films that have reached $50 million in grosses (Blart, Bride Wars, Hotel for Dogs, My Bloody Valentine, Taken and He’s Just Not That Into You) than in 2008 (when we had Cloverfield, 27 Dresses and the Hannah Montana concert). Sure there have been some great arthouse fare like California Dreamin’, Medicine for Melancholy and Memorial Day. Good luck finding them. As far as I’m concerned there’s only one wide release worth your ten bucks (plus concessions) and that’s Taken. But there are others out to convince you that THEY have been the ones privileged enough to see that one special film this year.

The first gotta-see movie of 2009. (Notorious) – Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
The first genuinely funny movie of 2009. (New In Town) - Roger Moore
The first great comedy of 2009. (Fanboys) – Robert Sanchez,
The first real action film of 2009! (Push) – Heather Newgen,
The first feel-great movie of the year. (Confessions of a Shopaholic) – Bryan Erdy

You would think as a professional critic you may want to hold that whole “first” shtick until at least sometime in March. That way you have a full two months you can dismiss as unworthy of your attention. How Heather Newgen could say that about Push while Taken is out there kicking ass is beyond me – unless, you know, someone wrote those words for her and got her to attach her name to them. I suppose we can look forward to hearing more reliable statements this month like “The first genuine horror remake of the year” for Friday the 13th and “The first Tyler Perry insult of 2009” for Madea Goes To Jail. Maybe we can gather all the critics telling us this is the “first” this and the “first” truly that. Or we can sit back and watch Roger Moore and Clay Smith argue the following merits:

This is what romantic chemistry looks like. (New In Town) - Roger Moore
This is what a funny, sexy romantic comedy should be! (He’s Just Not That Into You) – Clay Smith

Ooooh, down boys.

Feb. 1 - Sunday Ad Wrap-Up

It’s a shame that we have to associate such loveliness as Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore and Ginnifer Goodwin with whores, but that’s what happens when a studio uses quotes for such irreparable reviewers as the ones New Line/WB does for this week’s He’s Just Not That Into You. You have Patrick Stoner calling it “The most honest romantic comedy since When Harry Met Sally.” 20 years and he can’t think of one? Not Love Actually or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or even the Apatow duo of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up? Jeanne Wolf uses some old standards saying it’s “Hilarious!” and “The all-star cast is at the top of their game,” a phrase that is going to the top of the list of phrases that need to be retired in 2009. Mike Sargent calls it “An instant classic. Every character is someone you know.” This from the guy who basically admitted on Inside Edition that he’s given quotes for films he hasn’t even seen. And then you have 2008’s Whore of the Year, Mark S. Allen, saying it’s “The best date movie of the season!

First of all, what precisely are the other options for date movies this season? And don’t give me the horror shtick. No critic or whore describes My Bloody Valentine or The Unborn as date movies unless At the Movies has just hired Drew Petersen. Allen probably has never heard of Medicine for Melancholy which basically leaves He’s Just Not That Into You to compete with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. in New In Town for that distinct title. Wow, what an epic struggle. For those keeping track, his choice of the best date movie of last summer was Sex and the City (I assume he meant gay men) and the best date movie of last Fall’s season was Zack and Miri Make a Porno. While I have no problem with the latter, I don’t think the moviegoing public wants to be taking recommendations from a guy whose idea of the “perfect date movie” includes Trust the Man and Alex & Emma. To everyone at Warner Bros., stop enabling Mark S. Allen. He’s well on his way to repeating his crown as Whore of the Year for 2009.

Closing out the Sunday papers we have an actual name attributed to the ads for the sci-fi actioner, Push. If you seen the TV commercials for the film at any point the last few weeks you may have noticed a lot of big words like “this is one you have to see in a theater.” Except no critic’s name was ever attached suggesting that the studio was just making crap up. The ad this week doesn’t reflect what television stated, but it does have Heather Newgen from calling it “The first real action film of 2009! Mind-blowing! A must-see!” More crap that needs to be retired this year. We’re just going to assume that Heather didn’t see the 85 minutes of kick-ass that was Taken this week. It’s the only way you can possibly accept her praise of a film that Summit is withholding from most critics until this Wednesday evening.

Jan. 30 - New In Town, But Same Old Whores

Film Title: New In Town
Released by: Lions Gate
Tomatometer: 13% (as of Jan. 9, 2009)

Respected Critics Say:
“It is a romantic comedy so condescending, so stupid and so utterly devoid of laughs, charm or recognizable entertainment value that I kept waiting for Kate Hudson to show up at some point to take over the lead role.” – Peter Sobczynski,
“Serious competition for Bride Wars and Paul Blart: Mall Cop in the already heated race for worst movie of 2009.” – Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly
“The kind of movie someone would make if they put off their weekend movie-making homework until Sunday night.” – Eric D. Snider
“If Frank Capra were to make a movie today, it would probably look a lot like New in Town.Of course, Frank Capra is dead. Then again, so is this movie.” – Marshall Fine

Seen On Newspaper & TV Ads:
“The first genuinely funny movie of 2009. This is what romantic chemistry looks like.” – Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
“Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. have great chemistry.” – Jim Ferguson
“Legally Blonde meets Sweet Home Alabama.” – Maria Salas
“Bridget Jones moves to Fargo.” – Renee Shapiro

So we’re escaping the doldrums of January and thanks to films like The Unborn, My Bloody Valentine and Paul Blart: Mall Cop we’ve been free of the likes of Shawn Edwards, Earl Dittman and Ben Lyons (who has had two weeks off from the show thanks to reruns.) That’s a pretty good month. Can we make it TWO? Come on, February, you can do it. And come on, studios, stop being enablers. Like in the case of New In Town. Lions Gate don’t have anything from respected critics. If they did they would have used them. It certainly didn’t hurt the box office of those previously mentioned titles. All the horror geeks creamed themselves over the 3-D miner and (until people get with the program on Taken) it’s actually the best reviewed mainstream title of 2009; the film Lions Gate chose NOT to screen for critics. They did show New In Town though and riding atop those ads for the past two weeks has been our old friend, Roger Moore from the Orlando Sentinel You recall him, right? We called him a “Whore to watch” for 2008 and he’s had a vendetta against Criticwatch ever since. After the L.A. Times called out Ben Lyons for possibly being the worst critic in America, Mr. Moore suggested that my name should be thrown into the mix. Nothing like holding a grudge, hey Roger? Anyone interested in nominating him though for saying that THIS is what romantic chemistry looks like? Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr., a pairing that my colleague Peter Sobczynski writes:

"Almost as disastrous as the lack of humor on display in “New in Town” is the complete lack of romantic chemistry between Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. I may not know very much about romance but I do know that if you are trying to make a movie whose success depends to a large degree on one’s desire to see the two stars living happily ever after, it doesn’t help matters much when you are convinced in virtually every scene in which they appear together that the guy is about to cut the girl’s throat with a broken bottle just for kicks."

Yes, THIS is what romantic chemistry looks like. And I would argue that Mr. Sobczynski knows a lot more about romance than the guy who also recommended Twilight and Australia as well. And yes, Mr. Moore, I still think The Kite Runner is a bad film. Roger is joined on the television spots by Jim Ferguson, fresh from his #3 ranking on last year’s whore list. The only way Maria Salas could have made the film sound less appealing is if she substituted Legally Blonde with Just Like Heaven. And does it get any more base and press note-ish than Renee Shapiro’s “Bridget Jones moves to Fargo?” You may as well describe the kick-ass Taken opening this weekend as “Oskar Schindler Goes To France To Stop Guys From Seeing His Daughter’s Underpants.”

Speaking of panty-wastes, Pete Hammond is back in full swing this year. After getting a little time off thanks to Maxim wising up and firing him, he become acquainted with but those couple months probably cost him a shot to outdo Peter Travers for 2008. He was still the first runner-up to Whore of the Year, Mark S. Allen (who called last week’s Inkheartthe perfect family film”, just one month after calling Marley & Methe perfect family film.”) Hammond is making a play though to reclaim the ultimate prize in whoring though getting quoted three times this month. He said Hotel for Dogs will “leave you begging for more” and now has these choice words for The Uninvited.

“The twists and turns will send chills down your spine. A truly frightening movie experience with a 100% certified shocker of an ending.”

100% certified huh? I saw that percentage go out the window at Chicago’s screening the other night with my own eyes and my own ears, as my colleague next to me saw the film’s big twist coming a mile away. I even wrote in my review: “Original or not though, the Brothers and their writers make some key tactical errors along the way that even those unaware of the film’s secrets are likely to pick up on unless they’re dead.” It’s no shocker that Hammond’s statement is 100% ludicrous and probably no surprise that he’s never seen Ji-Woon Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters, of which The Uninvited is a remake of. Any horror fan who has seen the original knows the film’s first big reveal, conservatively maybe a third of the audience seeing the remake and I’d bet at least half of the remaining 66% know what’s going on before the final act.

“It may sound familiar and indeed is a remake of the Korean hit Changhwa, Hongryon, but The Uninvited still manages to be a truly frightening experience with a 100 percent certified shocker of an ending.”

That’s from Hammond’s “review”. Sounds familiar. Indeed a remake. But a 100% certified shocker of an ending? How stupid do you have to be say that? Pete-Hammond-Stupid.

Jan. 9 - Bride Whores

Film Title: Bride Wars
Released by: 20th Century Fox
Tomatometer: 11% (as of Jan. 9, 2009)

Respected Critics Say:
“After last year's "27 Dresses," 20th Century Fox has decided to once again make another bridal-themed movie aimed at female audiences who are in the mood to see a movie but have no apparent desire to see a good one.” – Peter Sobczynski,
“Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, who play the would-be brides, are good actors and quick-witted women, here playing characters at a level of intelligence approximating HAL 9000 after he has had his chips pulled. ” – Roger Ebert
“Hathaway should be embarrassed, and Hudson should ask Hathaway what it's like to still be capable of feeling embarrassment..” – Eric D. Snider

Seen On Newspaper Ads:
“Grab all your girlfriends and go see this movie! Hilarious and heartwarming.” – Kelli Gillespie, CW-TV/San Diego
“Loved it!” – Nadine Rajabi, National Lampoon TV and Comedy Radio XM
“Take your BFF, Take your frenemies.” – Manny de la Rosa, NBC-TV/Palm Springs

And here…we…go. 2009 has begun. That means January. That means crappy movies dumped from the bowels of the studios. And at least one that will make $60 million from either the women or the teenagers not interested in seeing all those award-worthy films finally opening up in their area. This year begins with Bride Wars. And, as always, the only thing more embarrassing than the film itself and all the women associated with constructing it are the soulless junket whores. Christ, you know the film is bad when its panned by Pete Hammond and Victoria Alexander for God’s sake. But who needs them when you have Manny de la Rosa, 2008’s Ben Lyons New Generation Award Winner from Criticwatch? Determined to show that he’s not just going to be just another bridesmaid, Manny has jumped to the top of the race for Whore of the Year. Yes it’s only January, but at this rate he’ll be quadrupling his quote total from ’08 and since he’s as close to a guaranteed lock to recommend nothing but ass, the Vegas odds on him finding a spot in the Top 10 for ’09 are going up considerably. You can see the typically uninspired interviews he does with Anne Hathaway and
Kate Hudson as well as check out his not-so-glowing review where he found himself "laughing with the audience in some scenes, especially the middle part." BFF? Frenemies? Are you a film critic or a 12 year-old girl held back a year?

Leave that talk to an actual woman like Kelli Gillespie, whose name pops up out of the blue now and again. This is only her 7th quote on our watch list (4 in ’06, 2 in ’07). Fox seems to appreciate her there after raves about Live Free or Die Hard and Horton Hears a Who. She also thought Will Smith was “Oscar-worthy” for I Am Legend so maybe her BFF is Ben Lyons. Finally, if you still need any convincing that the words “National Lampoon” in front of something means less than an endorsement from Shawn Edwards, along comes Nadine Rajabi to show she can put the words behind something like this and pitch audiences on this garbage while ol’ Manny has no problem being the catcher.

Read Criticwatch's take on the new incarnation of the old Siskel & Ebert/Ebert & Roeper show.

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