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Criticwatch - Peter Travers Is a Worthless Piece of S***

by Erik Childress

Did the headline get your attention? To go along with The Daily Show's assertion that one needs such a hook to grab your supporters - inspired by Obama SuperPac's "Mitt Romney is giving wives Cancer" ads - this one seemed appropriate. Who cares if he has nothing to do with this week's release of The Campaign? Though he certainly could, "guaranteeing" that Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis will "crack you up." What better way to grab your attention in a review - even if it is barely a recommendation at 2 1/2 stars? That's the Travers way. Yours truly has yet to see The Campaign as I was not afforded the opportunity before taking a vacation from the sickening state of what passes as film criticism today. A shame since I like Will Ferrell a lot and have really liked the direction that Jay Roach has taken with the HBO political films, Recount and Game Change. But you know what gives me pause about it? Not that Zach Galifianakis continues to be funny in everything except movies, but how sitting in the sportsbook of Excalibur I had to see the ads for The Campaign littered with a spate of quote whores; the best that a few flights, hotels and buffets that junkets can buy. Shouldn't be much of a surprise though. That's the Warner Bros. way.

Honestly, it came as no surprise that colleagues of mine back home in Chicago described The Campaign as "weak, at best." Film criticism may be the least corrupted thing in this city and, agree or disagree, I believe my fellow critics here are coming from a place far from artistic compromise. And are, for the most part, smart. You take one look at the likes of this on the ads and you know a film is in trouble:

"Will and Zach are a comedy dream team." - Rick Florino

OK, so maybe YOU don't know that's a warning sign. Even if you can see Rick Florino's name in the ad's tiny print you might think he's just another critic. This is just the 20th time you would have seen his name on an ad. May we present you with five of his others?

"One of the funniest movies of 2010. (Lottery Ticket)
"You'll want to see it again and again." (You Again)
"The best X-Men yet." (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
"The scariest movie since The Exorcist!" (The Haunting in Connecticut)
"Best sequel ever." (The Hangover Part II)

Can you really trust anything the guy says after that? What if I said that half of his quotes were provided for Warner Bros.? Those included The Losers ("Explosive") and Sucker Punch ("Explosive.") What about this guy?

"The funniest comedy of the year" - Tony Toscano

Now there is certainly some debate over what is considered the funniest of the year.

"The funniest movie of the year." (Wanderlust) - Dan Jewel
"The funniest movie I've seen so far in 2012." (Goon) - Jonathan Kim, The Huffington Post
"The funniest film I've seen in years." (Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie) - Chris Krapek, The Huffington Post
"The funniest comedy of the year." (This Means War) - Joel Amos
"The funniest movie of the year." (Think Like A Man) - Joel Amos
"The funniest movie of the year." (Ted) - Joel Amos

Joel Amos sure as hell can't decide coming up with a new one every two or three months. Can't wait for him to tell us what's funnier than Ted in September. Back to Mr. Toscano though, the guy who also told us:

"A wild ride. 3 Times the fun." (Madagascar 3)
"Extraordinary. Rock of Ages delivers pure entertainment and fun!" (Rock of Ages)

You know what else he called "Extraordinary?"

"Extraordinary! Very, very cool! A fantastic adventure in the style of Raiders of the Lost Ark." (The League of Extraordinary Gentleman)

Anyone who puts LXG in the same (pauses to avoid pun) sentence as Raiders of the Lost Ark (I won't even use its full name) is not to be trusted. We can all agree on that, right? But between his various puns, telling you what film "delivers" and anointing something as the year's best, there is plenty of mistrust surrounding Tony Toscano:

"Delivers on its promise to entertain." (S.W.A.T.)
"Delivers a wild time at the movies!" (Hellboy)
"The best family film of the year!" (Ella Enchanted)
"The most perfect family film of the year." (Winnie the Pooh)
"The most magical movie of the year." (Bewitched)
"The must-see film of the year." (August Rush)
"The most romantic film of the year!" (Shall We Dance?)
"THE romantic comedy of the year!" (Something's Gotta Give)
"Easily the funniest film this year!" (Bad Santa)
"The funniest film of the year!" (The Last Shot)
"The funniest comedy since The Hangover. "(She's Out Of My League)
"Bernie Mac hits one over the fence!" (Mr. 3000)
"An edge-of-your-seat, non-stop adventure that will leave you breathless." (Poseidon)
"This summer's most super comedy!" (My Super Ex-Girlfriend)
"What summer movies are all about! It's bigger, better and badder!" (Bad Boys II)

Next up - the problem that we can't seem to solve.

"Knockout funny. It's laugh out loud until you cry funny." - Maria Salas

Get it? Cause Will Ferrell punches a baby in the trailer. It's KNOCKOUT funny. But Maria Salas just makes us cry.

"You can't miss this movie. Laugh-out-loud fun." (Red)
"A must see. A laugh out loud hilarious comedy. Crazy." (Hall Pass)
"Laugh-out-loud hilarious!" (Something Borrowed)
"Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny." (Rumor Has It)
"Hilarious and irreverent. The laugh-out-loud comedy of the year!" (Due Date)

Please note that those last four quotes of the "laugh-out-loud" variety were also for Warner Bros. comedies with an average of 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. Who else ya got, WB?

"Relentlessly funny. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are the new dynamic duo of comedy! Not just funny. Smart, poignant and freaking hysterical." - Mark S. Allen

Apologies, but we probably should have named this week's piece, "Mark S. Allen Is A Worthless Piece Of Shit!" No need for the asterisks there unless they are used after his name in the Professional Critics Handbook. This is Allen's 7th quote for Warner Bros. this year alone. That's out of 13 we have spotted overall. He's pretty relentless.

"Relentlessly wrong and funnier than the first." (The Hangover Part II)
"The funniest movie you'll see this summer! Funny, charming and relentlessly honest!" (You, Me and Dupree)
"Fascinating, funny and relentlessly awe-inspiring." (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
"Intense and relentlessly suspenseful!" (Firewall)
"Not since Alien has a movie held an audience in such relentless suspense and shock!" (The Cave)
"Simply hysterical! Relentlessly funny and full of surprises!" (Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star)

Surprised there was only two WB films in that mix. Feel any better that the last movie he called "relentlessly funny" like The Campaign was David Spade's Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star? That one even sounds a little bit like his new quote with the whole "simply hysterical"

"Fun and Hysterical!" (Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
"Surprisingly heartfelt and hysterical!" (Crazy Stupid Love)
"Hysterical and heartwarming" (Unaccompanied Minors)
"Hysterical, heartwarming and hugely entertaining!" (Happy Feet 2)
"Hysterical! Bernie Mac is at his absolute best! Perhaps the best buddy picture ever!" (Soul Men)

Those middle three were all WB titles. Mark would you like to come forward and throw someone from their marketing team under the bus for writing those quotes for you or do you just want to take credit yourself? For example, these are different studios, Mark, so it is unlikely that this is anyone but you.

"The new standard for no-holds-barred comedy!" (Horrible Bosses)
"One of the funniest movies of all time. The new standard for comedy." (Ted)

All Mark S. Allen. And this is him too:

"A new comedy super duo is born! Vince and Kevin are perfect." (The Dilemma)
"Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis are the new dynamic duo of comedy!" (The Campaign)

Guess turnabout is fair play. Take one statement away from Warner Bros. Give it to Universal. Now, vice versa. Let's not talk semantics over dynamic no-holds-barred adjectives, Mark S. Allen is a worthless piece of shit. He's earned that title. It's too early to tell about these next two though.

"A must see!" - Anya Zadrozny, MTV/VH1/CMT Radio
"An instant comedy classic!" - Johnnie Uzarek Jr., Fox-TV

The few links we can find associated with Anya Zadrozny seems to have wiped themselves clean of her existence save for this scintillating roundtable interview with a Bachelor contestant. And Johnnie U's Movie Reviews website hasn't been updated since Salmon Fishing In The Yemen was out. His Twitter account which lists an "interview" (his quotes, not ours) with Will & Zach reveals him to be a reporter for WSVN's Deco Drive in Miami along with Shireen Sandoval who last year was seen pimping WB's Green Lantern as "The must-see superhero movie of the summer." In other words, guilt by association. In more ways than one actually.

"An instant comedy classic. The Campaign gets my vote." - Joel Amos

Is it a coincidence that two guys going to the same junket called the same film "an instant comedy classic?" Did they compare notes? Or did a pair of publicists not compare theirs on whom they offered that quote? Do any of these "quotes" from Amos sound like anything you have heard (or read) lately?

"The Farrelly brothers have done it again. Hall pass is a comedic explosion. Insanely funny." (Hall Pass)
"Kate Hudson has never been better! The perfect date movie." (Something Borrowed)
"The most fun you'll have at the movies this year!" (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)
"The funniest film of the year." (Due Date)

We can't make this stuff up, people. Not like they can anyway. You might not believe that Joel D. (for Dickhead) Amos could call The Devil Inside "an instant horror classic," but he did. You also may not believe that such a respected (pause for laughter) publication like People Magazine would employ someone (say, Alynda Wheat) who would say that "The Campaign earns your vote" as opposed to merely just getting Joel Amos' vote, but that's the way the dogs wag.

Which brings us full circle to the biggest dog of them all. On June 8, Criticwatch published "In Any Space, No One Should Hear (Or See) Peter Travers." Apparently that didn't catch enough eyes or conversation into how worthless this guy is to film criticism. It began with Travers calling Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom "Hilarious and heartfelt." On August 8, Hope Springs opened and the following is seen on both the television and newspaper ads:

"Hilarious and heartfelt" - Peter Travers

[big]We're not even bothering to check his review or how it fits into his Where's Waldo Hyperbole brand of writing. Instead we'll just reprint part of the list from the June 8 article:

"It's a sublimely acted movie, hilarious and heartfelt, and it stays with you." (Jack Goes Boating)
"Heartfelt and hilarious! It's more than a movie, it's a gift." (Happy-Go-Lucky)
"Achingly hilarious and heartfelt." (50/50)
"...a gem, hilarious and heartfelt…" (The Dukes)
"A hilarious and heartfelt wonder!" (Ratatouille)
"A sweetheart of a comedy with a hilarious and heartfelt performance by Keri Russell." (Waitress)
"Hilarious and heartfelt." (Bridesmaids)
"Hilarious and heartfelt." (The Kids Are All Right)
"Hilarious and heartfelt." (Prime)
"Hilarious and heartfelt!" (The Wackness)
"Hilarious and heartfelt...a winner." (Garden State)
"A beauty of a movie. Hilarious! Heartfelt and achingly true." (Then She Found Me)

We could certainly leave it at that. But it is not just Sony's Columbia division using Travers this week but also Sony Classics on Celeste and Jesse Forever:

"Rashida Jones is simply glorious. Andy Samberg shines in a grounded performance that digs deep, sharply funny and touching, a breath of fresh comic air!" - Peter Travers

Sure, we can merely pick up on certain adjectives but its not really about who is glorious. Whether it be someone in Drive ("Mulligan is glorious") or Please Give ("Catherine Keener is glorious") or how many times we can find him calling something "funny AND touching," as that is relatively frequent phrase used by critics without a vocabulary or a thesaurus. But here is Travers just over a year ago:

"It's a comic knockout. Sharply funny and touching..." (Crazy Stupid Love)

The thing about Travers is it doesn't take much to spin his copycat praise in new directions. We couldn't find him calling something else "a breath of fresh comic air" - at least not in the ad quotes - but there is this substitute:

"Charlize Theron is a comic force of nature" (Young Adult)
"Alfred Molina is a comic force of nature." (An Education)
"Zach Galifianakis is a comic force of nature! He is terrific. He digs down here and delivers a beautifully nuanced performance that gets under your skin. Just like the movie." (It's Kind of a Funny Story)

So Andy Samberg "digs deep" and Zach Galifianakis "digs down." Dig your own grave, Travers.

"Bridges - a master of subtle brilliance - plays the hell out of it. Not by showing off, but by going bone-deep into a character who only thinks he's running on empty. Crazy Heart may finally win him the Oscar that's unfairly eluded him and it offers the pleasure of watching a great actor at the peak of his form." (Crazy Heart)
"For her stirring, soul-deep performance…Marion Cotillard goes to the front of the line for every Best Actress award out there…"(La Vie en Rose)
"Clooney inhabits this burnt-out case with haunting brilliance. It's a bone-deep performance that raises the bar." (Michael Clayton)
"A never-better Kate Winslet goes so deep into her character you can almost feel her nerve endings." (Little Children)
"Jim Carrey has never done anything this deeply felt." (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
"Jamie Foxx's fierce, funny, deeply felt performance deserves to be legendary." (Ray)
"Ewan McGregor goes bone-deep in a performance of shining subtlety." (Beginners)

Nothing subtle about that, Travers. We won't keep this subtle either. It is time people let their names known and approve this message: Warner Bros. - STOP! The quote whores listed here - Go to Hell! And Peter Travers - you are a worthless piece of shit!

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originally posted: 08/12/12 00:59:01
last updated: 08/12/12 01:19:49
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