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Criticwatch - Whores For Elephants

By Erik Childress
Posted 04/19/11 01:58:14

Critics in the fortunate position of being nowhere near the weekly junket scene of Los Angeles can always gauge a studio's confidence in one of their pictures based on when they screen it. By now everyone is well aware of the caveat emptor that comes with hiding a film until Thursday evening before opening at the earliest. Many of the summer blockbusters will screen 3-4 days prior to their launch to protect their hundred million investments from potential bad word of mouth. (Though if the studios would actually enforce their embargo policy, they wouldn't have to worry.) Whereas Source Code was screened even weeks in advance of its opening night premiere at South by Southwest on March 11. The April 1 release is currently the best reviewed film of the year. So when you eventually get a film with such glowing praise in the Sunday papers, why would a studio decide to withhold it from the general (i.e. legitimate) press until just 48 hours before the public can see it? Probably because that glowing praise comes from the whorish leeches who would be happy to recommend films of any quality as long as you fed them.

This week's culprit is 20th Century Fox who is releasing their first live-action non-sequel of the year, an adaptation of Sara Gruen's 2006 best-seller, Water For Elephants. They are courting the Twilight crowd with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. (Hey, she was in a movie called Twilight when sparkly fang boy was only 12 years old.) For good measure they have manly man's director, Francis Lawrence, who called the shots on the equally awful Constantine and I Am Legend, a film which Criticwatch will never miss the opportunity to remind readers that Ben Lyons called "one of the greatest films ever made." (Sorry Ben, you'll never live that one down.)

Lyons Jr. is not on the ads for his boy this week, presumably still pimping how "brilliant" the remake of Arthur was. (Yes, he said that.) Instead, Fox found five other junket whores to take the reins of this baby, and we would like to go through them one-by-one for you.

"Astounding. Reese and Robert sizzle. A love story for our times." - Joel Amos, SheKnows

There are only two things you need to know about Joel Amos. In his first year of being quoted circa 2010, he shared the Pete Hammond Sloppy Seconds Award (given to the second biggest whore of the year) with his outlet, SheKnows.com. Secondly, Joel has never been quoted on a live-action film that has received a positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (Rango & Megamind, that's it.) Nine other films he pimped all fell into the ROTTEN tomato category, three of which were below the 25% positive range. Do you want to follow this guy into a Robert Pattinson/Francis Lawrence joint?

"Hilarious!" (Going the Distance)
"Moms is marvelous!" (Mars Needs Moms)
"Hysterical with a heart of gold. Hysterically funny! "(You Again)
"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll leave happy." (Life As We Know It)
"The first great romantic comedy of 2010. Jennifer Lopez is pure perfection." (The Back-Up Plan)
"The Farrelly brothers have done it again. Hall pass is a comedic explosion. Insanely funny." (Hall Pass)
"The funniest film of the year." (Due Date)
"The perfect summer movie." (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)
"The perfect family summer comedy." (Marmaduke)

"Riveting, an unforgettable experience." - Jeff Craig

The faceless Jeff Craig, whose sixty second radio "reviews" come from either pre-written ad copy or cobbled together from staff members who actually saw the movies he didn't, has now provided his 12th quote of the year. This is frightening for two reasons. First, his record since the existence of Criticwatch is 17. In a calendar year. Last calendar year. Secondly, he has as many quotes in 2011 as Peter Travers. Do you understand how rare that is? Between March and December, Travers hits his stride and pulls away from the pack as studios eagerly await his big fluffy quotes with the occasional review written around them. But J.C. is matching him suck-for-suck. With the verdict still out on Water For Elephants, 8 of his previous 11 quotes this year are for films in the negative at Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully you haven't experienced many of them. Though chances are that Jeff Craig hasn't either.

"An amazing 3-D experience!" (Alice In Wonderland)
"The perfect holiday entertainment for the whole family. A magical and fun 3-D experience." (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
"An amazing 3-D experience. Hilarious, action packed and outrageously entertaining." (The Green Hornet)
"Fierce, visceral and terrifically entertaining! The Eagle delivers authentically intense action. A riveting spectacle." (The Eagle)
"The ancient legend like you've never imagined." (Red Riding Hood)

"Genuinely moving, powerfully acted, and totally unforgettable!" - Scott Mantz

Wait. Just wait one moment.

"A beautiful and captivating film that you will never forget!" - Kevin McCarthy

Are you seeing what I'm seeing? This can't be a coincidence, right? Did the last three quotes actually go there? "Unforgettable experience," "totally unforgettable," and "you will never forget?" Just like a frickin' ELEPHANT??? Holy SHIT!!! Talk about the elephant in the room. CRAP, now I'm doing it. Kinda makes you cringe how these idiots might praise The Beaver.

Actually the biggest elephant in the room is how my respected colleague, James Rocchi, got lumped into this pile of whores. "A gorgeous romantic tale full of life, love and beauty," James called the film and there is no doubt in my mind that he believes that and can back it up with every word he writes in his review this week. It is respected praise from one of the most respected and honorable critics on the job today. Whether we believe the hyperbole from the other five idiots is neither here nor there. They may very well love the film, as they seem to do just about any average piece of crap that is put in front of them.

The point is that studios must cease in reaching out to this people first. Save them for the worst case scenario. Show the critics in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago Water For Elephants nearly three weeks before its release, as you did at the April 3 junket. Lift the embargo for anyone who wants to post a positive review early and choose your ad quotes from there. On the off chance you can't find any - THEN - show your little muffin munchers the film on the Wednesday before opening. You will already have the quotes written for them and you can just add their names to the ones you want on the commercials by Thursday. Or, to hell with them completely. Take a cue from Lions Gate's ads for the latest Tyler Perry cry-for-help, Madea's Big Happy Family, which is called "Hilarious! Extraordinary! Funny!" By nobody. No name is attached to any of those adjectives individually or collectively. Cost them nothing and could be anybody. Though if it's not Shawn Edwards, our bet would be on Jeff Craig.

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