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Criticwatch - Thanks For Nothing Holiday Edition

by Erik Childress

Criticwatch is back and it has been gone too long. We wish we could say it is because the studios have wised up and stopped using a lot of useless reviewers and hack entertainment reporters on their ads, but it was just life interceding. Life that needed to be reevaluated and reassured that this wasn't a world where someone in a professional capacity would call Life As We Know It, "The best romantic comedy of the year!" That Greg Russell is one dumb son-of-a-bitch. But it is the world we live in - in a year that has been an absolutely abhorrent display of the cinema and the whores who can't tell awesome from shit. The annual recap of the year's quotes and the rundown of the whores of the year are coming. Only a month away in fact. So we won't bore you with everything that has been said since we last called out Peter Travers for saying The Social Network was the first film to be graced with his top rating all year when he was glazing the landscape with his hyperbolic man sauce for nine months prior. Yeah, this is what comes out when it's been nearly two months since our last piece.

Thanksgiving week used to be a wonderful time for movies. Maybe I am still projecting back to the glorious 1995 when both Toy Story and Casino opened and I was picking up my giant mega laserdisc package of Tron. Ah, the salad days. 14 years later, our choices for the holiday were between Ninja Assassin and Old Dogs. Sad, sad times. This year there are four new releases rolling into theaters; only one of which is getting some consistency in the positive review department. Which brings us to our first lesson for the studios. If you have a really good film, do not damn it with faint praise.

Last week the seventh Harry Potter film opened to record numbers. That was inevitable. It did not need any positive coverage from the critics to gross over $125 million. Nevertheless, four out of five critics according to the Rotten Tomato numbers were on board for it. And yet look who Warner Bros. used in the ads.

"**** One of the best movies of the year." - Shawn Edwards
"Grade-A Storytelling at its best. The bar has once again been raised in the world of Harry Potter." - Ben Lyons

One of the leading candidates for 2010's Whore of the Year and the guy who almost single-handedly destroyed the legacy of televised film criticism as we know it. Why go that route? What are you saying to an audience? 18 of Edwards' 23 quotes this year have been for films that got rotten tomatoes. Ben Lyons was a punchline on Community, for God's sake. (Thank you, Dan Harmon!) You can do so much better, Warner Bros. And so can you Disney. Tangled is hitting around 90% approval at the moment. You don't want Kelli Gillespie as your go-to gal on telling people what to see. Her idea of a "great summer movie" is one about a teenager who talks to his dead kid brother and screws ghosts in the graveyard he tenders.

"A great love story for any age." (Letters To Juliet)
"A great summer movie. Zac Efron's charm, wit and range really shine." (Charlie St. Cloud)
"Go see this movie." (Red)
"A must-see!" (Fair Game)
"A must-see!" (Tangled)

You get what you pay for, I guess. Though for the money the studios spend on those junkets they might want to think about inviting some real critics and some real interviewers; the kind that Christian Bale can actually respect for a change. Great movies are done no service when you get the same ol' crap from the same ol' crap critic.

"One of the best movies of the year. Colin Firth gives a towering performance that deserves a shower of awards. Geoffrey Rush is his match, fiercely funny in a feast of a role. Helena Bonham carter is superb. Director Tom Hooper breathes fresh urgent life in to every frame of this powerhouse." (The King's Speech) - Peter Travers

The King's Speech is indeed one of the year's best films. As is The Social Network. Why the Weinsteins and Sony would choose to lead with this mustached rolodex of hyperbole is a sad statement on how easy it is to get a quote out of some people. Then again, Travers' rolodex is not exactly overflowing with fresh ink. Read his above quote again and then take a look at the following. Remember, this is all Peter Travers:

The incomparable Helen Mirren is simply astounding. Christopher Plummer is her match. (The Last Station)
A towering achievement. (Babel) Depp’s towering performance, Dillinger still has blood in his veins, his dreams as vivid as the crimes that debased them. (Public Enemies)
Tom Wilkinson gives a towering performance of grace and grit that deserves to put him on Oscar's shortlist (Separate Lies)
Michael Douglas deserves serious award attention for his triumphant performance... (Solitary Man)
Diane Lane gives another performances that deserves to put her at the top of the Best Actress list. (Secretariat)
O’Hara deserves Oscar consideration in her funniest, fiercest role. (For Your Consideration)
Pierce Brosnan is roaringly fierce and funny! (The Matador)
Meryl Streep has never been this fierce, this diabolically funny... (The Manchurian Candidate)
Crowe continues to astonish as an actor - fierce, funny and every inch the hero. (Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World)
Jamie Foxx's fierce, funny, deeply felt performance deserves to be legendary. (Ray)
It’s been years since a movie superhero was this fierce and this funny. (Iron Man)
This mischievous blend of The Office and Friday the 13th keeps things fierce and funny enough to give Steve Carell ideas. (Severance)
Fierce & darkly funny. (Mail Order Wife)
Fierce and fiendishly funny. (No Country for Old Men)
Fierce, funny, and moving. (The Class)
A fiercely funny human comedy (The Upside of Anger)
A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning. (Crazy Love)
Fiercely funny! (Delirious)
A radically fierce & funny fireball. (Sicko)
A powerhouse! Dynamite performances from Annette Bening and Naomi Watts ignite this strong drama. Bening is at her blistering best. (Mother and Child)
David Fincher is a powerhouse filmmaker. (Zodiac)
A powerhouse of an actress! (Sherrybaby)
A potently acted powerhouse... (Appaloosa)
A powerhouse film! (Maria Full of Grace)
A powerhouse of a documentary! (Crude)
Visually the movie is a powerhouse. (Speed Racer)
A funny-sexy-scary powerhouse! (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Hang on for an emotional powerhouse. (Rachel Getting Married)
An emotional powerhouse! (A Very Long Engagement)
An emotional powerhouse (Into the Wild)
An emotional powerhouse. (We Own the Night)

Can the incomparable really have a match? Isn't that what makes them incomparable? There are a number of whores that can be compared though; often to their own overhyped praise of mediocrity. Take Edward Zwick's confused Love and Other Drugs, the Thank You For Smoking + Love Story = Doc Hollywood film opening this week.

"One of the best films of the year! You will laugh. You will cry. You will fall in love. Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his career." - Kevin McCarthy, CBS/CBS-Radio
"Anne Hathaway & Jake Gyllenhaal simply sizzle together on screen." - Traci Melchor, eTalk
"It will go down as a classic. One of the most endearing films in years." - Avi Offer

Up top you have Kevin McCarthy, who faster than you can say "THEY'RE HERE ALREADY!" he has likely already provided another fresh tomato to his resume. 39 of his last 50 reviews have proven fresh enough for a recommendation and he has finally found his words spilling over into the quote game with Megamind being "One of the best animated films of the year!" and now this for Love and Other Drugs, taking a cue from Joel "" Amos and his words for the abhorrent Life As We Know It. Amongst others.

"You will laugh. You will cry. You will fall in love." (Love and Other Drugs) - Kevin McCarthy
"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll leave happy." (Life As We Know It) - Joel Amos
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stand up and cheer. (Radio) - Shawn Edwards

Traci Melchor told us that Hathaway & Gyllenhaal sizzle together. You know who else sizzled this year?

"Aniston and Butler sizzle." (The Bounty Hunter) - Steve Oldfield
"Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel sizzle in a comedy that's sure to win your heart." (Life As We Know It) - Jeanne Wolf

The biggest F.U. to moviegoers this week comes courtesy of anyone who dares tell you to go see Burlesque. Holy crapballs on a popsicle stick is this one of the worst things on God's green Earth. A Showgirls-for-Tweens that not only makes Coyote Ugly appear to be a legitimately heartfelt and important statement for women everywhere, but actually had colleagues agreeing with me that Britney Spears' Crossroads was actually a better, more thought-out and honest film. The movie is an affront to all things screenwriting; a package of empty envelopes at the cliche factory that actually should have every cliche filing a class action lawsuit to stop the film from using their likeness. Still, that didn't stop a parade of whores from offering their own cliches:

"Sensational." - Mark S. Allen
"A must see" - Jim Ferguson
"Awesome A high energy party!" - Fred Topel
"The most fun you'll have this holiday!" - Lauren Sanchez, Extra
"Cher's back and brilliant in Burlesque!" - Krista Smith, Vanity Fair
"Christina can sing. She can dance. She can act. And she'll blow you away." - Shawn Edwards
"Fun. Sexy. Entertaining. Cher & Christina make a phenomenal team. Christina was born to play this role. It is official...The musical is back!" -- Jami Philbrick

Mark S. Allen is another leading candidate for biggest whore of 2010 with 13 of his 19 quotes for films getting a rotten tomato. Jim Ferguson is a perfect 8-for-8 in that same category, recommending the likes of Leap Year, When In Rome and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. You want him telling you what "a must-see" is? Skip down to Jami Philbrick, who almost seems to be trying to get on the whore list after Movieweb (somewhat with a loving wink) went after Criticwatch for not giving their critics more credit for their whoring. Clearly we disagree on what constitutes quality as Philbrick has gone to the mat with the following in 2010:

Totally awesome! Stunning. (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Exciting. (Clash of the Titans)
Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan are a comedy dream team! (Death at a Funeral)
The perfect date movie. (The Back-Up Plan)
Purr-fect! A 3-D spectacular for the whole family! (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore)
High-flying family fun! (The Spy Next Door)
Bullet-blazing action and demon-killing satisfaction. (Legion)

Agree or disagree on Scott Pilgrim (maybe the biggest disappointment of the year for me), the rest of the films on that list range from mediocre (Death at a Funeral) to all-out crap (the rest). Maybe none bigger than Burlesque, though The Back-Up Plan is pretty close. Get any of these people into a room with you and see if they can mount a defense that would hold water in any criticism class or public debate. There are "fun" movies and then there are movies that barely even try to be a movie - like Burlesque. Would these whores be nearly as generous with their flaunted praise if they had to throw ten bucks out of their own pocket, rather than seeing the movie for free and given all the benefits of a junket package?

Criticwatch reminds its readers that while some level is judged on personal taste and the collective taste of a national critical score, it is more about a pattern of behavior. The same ol' whores getting in the same ol' quotes on the same ol' bad movies. If the studios need these jackasses to pimp their bad movies, by all means they should go for it. That is why they have any existence whatsoever. But then don't go to the same well when you have an overwhelming critical response. Stop giving Peter Travers and Pete Hammond first dibs on a screening that a hundred other critics are going to like. Use him the same way you use guys like Shawn Edwards and Mark S. Allen - as a last resort. And on this holiday, instead of taking the first step to rehab on the three-pronged schedule of wagon-falling celebrations, we must say thanks for nothing. Cause that is what a quote whore is. Nothing.

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originally posted: 11/26/10 01:02:46
last updated: 10/11/18 00:08:38
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