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Criticwatch - Gods, Monsters and The Sorcerer's Apprentice

by Erik Childress

As I watched the Tomatometer last week, eager to see how high Christopher Nolan's Inception would climb in the rankings, it was disconcerting to watch with each passing day it come closer and closer to the percentage being offered to Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. What was more disturbing is hard to say. That Inception was going down or that the latest from the makers of National Treasure had jumped from an early 11% to 40%. Never mind all that cause here is the clear-cut winner. Of the 44 critics posting positive reviews of a feature-length expansion of a Mickey Mouse short (or the 2002 Robert Davi/Kelli LeBrock film of the same name with essentially the same plot), seven of them also posted negative ones for Inception. These are the simple-minded ones. The ones to be known as morons from here on out. Disney couldn't help but use one of these simpletons in their ads and, as usual, it's one of the few names you might actually recognize.

Criticwatch tries to stay away directly from commenting on direct taste between us and the various critics we torment. It is a necessary evil that creeps into our dissection but for the most part we're concerned with language and what we perceive to be certain quote whores and junket sluts who will sign their name onto anything, whether their enthusiasm matches their studio-mandated praise or not. Today though we will look at both. For the simple reason that each case deserves to inspire anger and be mocked by any movie lover worth their salt.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice might win points for not being the worst Disney/Bruckheimer production to be released this summer. COUGH-Prince of Persia-COUGH! That doesn't stop it from being a completely generic concoction toppled backwards by a director who has never been home at shooting action or special effects. Believe it or not, there was a time when Jon Turteltaub actually showed some promise with character-driven gimmicks like While You Were Sleeping and Phenomenon. But while he's been Disney's boy for years (also responsible for Cool Runnings, The Kid with Bruce Willis and both National Treasure films) he should not be winning over any new fans, let alone any of us who have to sit through his trilogy of Bruck. Yet look at what we found on the ads:

"A blast." - Trey Alexander, Fandango
"Amazing." - Anne Moore, Science Week
"A pure delight." - Beth Beacham, Hollywood Junkets Science and Hollywood

Frankly, I don't need Science Week in any format reviewing movies for me. And I certainly don't have faith in the rest of their theories and/or facts about the natural world when their critic is calling a bunch of magicians and wizards who can bring inanimate objects to life but need to chase each other in cars, "amazing." Don't their writers normally disprove such nonsense? Good luck trying to track down any other reviews from Beth Beacham, another "critic" utilizing "science" in her outlet's title and the same words already used to describe Neil Jordan's Ondine (by Pam Grady at Box Office Magazine) and Letters To Juliet by faceless entity Jeff Craig. If Moore or Beacham could prove that Jeff Craig actually existed, they might have something worth listening to. But these names are as meaningless as those found on Fox's early ads for Ramona and Beezus:

"Heart-warming." - Emily Manthel, The Dove Foundation
"Funny." - Roy Wikoff, AFA Journal (American Family Association)
"Delightful." - Mike Parker,
"By far the best family film in a long time." - Morris and the City, NY Daily News

So while The Sorcerer's Apprentice is trying to blind you with praise from the science community, Ramona's Beezus is countering with the God crew. offers "biblical solutions for life" and even a quick link on "becoming a Christian." The Dove Foundation promises standards and criteria "based on Judeo/Christian values, free from the pressure of commercial interests." So I guess Balthazar and Horvath's pagan sorcery while destroying half of New York in the midst of a big commercial film falls under the category of forgiveness?

"We believe in a positive approach of commending high-quality, wholesome movies rather than condemning filmmakers for not meeting those standards." - The Dove Foundation

I guess that explains how your Edwin L. Carpenter recommended Furry Vengeance, the single worst-reviewed film of 2010. Wait a minute though. By those standards then, precisely how does that qualify any of your people/followers to be a movie critic? If you don't like it, you don't review it? So if we see you didn't review it, don't we automatically have to assume you didn't like it? Taking a vow of silence does not allow you to hide your disdain. Like the kind we have for The American Family Association's mantra:

"The American Family Association represents and stands for traditional family values and exists to motivate and equip citizens to reform our culture to reflect Biblical truth on which it was founded. We believe that God has communicated absolute truth to man through nature and the Bible, and that all men everywhere and at all times are subject to His authority. Therefore, a culture based on Biblical truth best serves the well-being of our country as evidenced by the vision of our forefathers as set forth in the Declaration of Independence."

There's a mouthful, huh? I guess when you live under that cloth like Roy Wikoff apparently does, you're going to find a lot of things in life "funny." I actually took to the Twitter to find out what the hell Morris and the City from the New York Daily News is. (No one responded.) I'm guessing it is an old guy with Alzheimer's to say that Ramona and Beezus is "By far the best family film in a long time." Really, Morris? Despicable Me just opened less than two weeks ago. Toy Story 3 just three weeks before that. Both Pixar's film and How To Train Your Dragon from ye olden times in March are two of the best reviewed films of the year. Like Top 5 best. And don't try to slink out of it, Morris, by saying you meant live-action family films. Even if you didn't like The Karate Kid or Diary of a Wimpy Kid we had Where the Wild Things Are just last October. At least you didn't say that about The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Just when you thought we were done with that, we've got more.

"****" - Jeff Craig
"Spellbinding." - Pete Hammond
" High-caliber action." - Kurt Loder
"The perfect summer movie." - Joel Amos
"Magical. The perfect family film." - Lisa Stanley

Take these with a silo of Salt (which Pete Hammond has already posted a positive review) and we will break it down for you right quick. Jeff Craig gave the same four stars to The Karate Kid and Letters to Juliet. So that's the league he is putting it in. Pete Hammond's use of the word "spellbinding" actually serves to downgrade his praise on three other, far superior films:

"Spellbinding!" (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
"A spellbinding, real-life suspense thriller." (Breach)
"A major motion picture achievement. Stands apart as a powerful, provocative and spellbinding film." (A Mighty Heart)

Lisa Stanley is a grade-A Disney whore who would mount a park mascot and call it "a must see" if she didn't already say that about COUGH-Prince of Persia-COUGH! Hope Morris and the City didn't hear you Lisa, because I bet he would have something to say about you calling The Sorcerer's Apprentice "The perfect family film." Come to think of it, so might The Dove Foundation who said earlier this year that Tooth Fairy was "the perfect family film!" And what about your Apprentice-lover-in-crimes-against-cinema, Joel Amos from (not a religious website, nor a science one if you believe Ron Burgundy)? He already called Marmaduke "the perfect family summer comedy" six weeks before calling Sorcerer's Apprentice "the perfect summer movie." Seriously, Joel, you need to go away now. I would say leave the movie reviews there to the "She"'s but recommendations of Sex and the City 2 (by Vicki Salemi) and The Back-Up Plan by you makes me can't tell the difference. Thankfully we still know a good movie critic when we see one.

And Kurt Loder is one of the original seven we have got to call shenanigans on. It's not enough that he dissed Inception and favored Apprentice, but that he gave Nolan's film the same one-star rating that he bestowed upon Jonah Hex, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Cop Out. (I'd suggest that Loder has some beef with Warner Bros., but he gave Splice 5 stars.) To bring everything full circle though, it's rather amazing that you could find any critic, let alone SEVEN, who would go in this direction. Ironically released in the same week, we had one film based in the science o the mind made by a higher power named Christopher Nolan who descended into our summer cinema to save it and the other, embraced by so-called writers of science was made by a bunch of charlatans. My part of the commentary is over. Feel free to bring your own now as you look upon the words of these critics hopefully for the last time.

"If the career of Christopher Nolan is any indication, we've entered an era in which movies can no longer be great. They can only be awesome, which isn't nearly the same thing." (Inception)
"The idea floating behind The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and it's a marvelous one, is that in the city, magic is both everywhere you look and everywhere you don't look."

"Meanwhile, explanations are offered, buildings collapse on themselves, DiCaprio frets moodily, henchmen fall over and that white van keeps falling off that bridge ... It's all very beautiful, and mostly very empty." (Inception)
"A breezy bit of summertime family entertainment." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

"A what's on your mind invasive sci-fi noir specializing in homo sapien interior decorating, that operates at a level way beyond viewer comprehension. Though this messing with your head nap time thriller boasts intermittent mind bending imagery."
"A bracing brew of a supernatural kid flick, stirring in all the dazzling magical ingredients optimum for casting a spell over audiences of all ages. While for a refreshing change, reading minds rather than mindlessly smashing them to bloody bits."

NICK PINKERTON (Village Voice)
"It's obvious that Nolan either can't articulate or doesn't believe in a distinction between living feelings and dreams -- and his barren Inception doesn't capture much of either." (Inception)
"Cage will likely not earn a second Oscar here, but he and director Jon Turteltaub make leftovers into fine PG malarkey with their hokey naïveté and prankish hocus-pocus." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

GARY WOLCOTT (Tri-City Herald)
"Inception is so slow and so confusing that you may actually fall asleep. Or wish you were really dreaming and could wake up and dream another movie."
"With a wave of the hand, characters conjure stuff out of thin air, move objects and sizzle with lightning. You know, normal movie magic stuff." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

KIMBERLY GADETTE (Indie Movies Online)
"Without a substantial story to support the whole, the piece is as weightless as the 'Zzzzzz team' itself, floating through the multiple levels of dreams within dreams." (Inception)
"This seventh teaming between Bruckheimer and Cage is as close to cine-magic as they've come. A Merlin tip-of-the-wizard-cone-hat to one of the most bewitching blasts of the summer." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

"Like all great kid flicks, it's too good, too fast and too funny to be confined within the "family film" ghetto." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)
"Are they handing out joints at the box office for this?" (Inception)

No Kurt, just to you. That wasn't my commentary though. Either it was a dream or divine inspiration. Now go to limbo, all of you.

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originally posted: 07/20/10 12:52:19
last updated: 07/24/10 11:27:58
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