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Criticwatch - The Watch Never Ends

by Erik Childress

There are good movies and there are bad. There are critics that like the good and ones that like the bad. It's all subjective. To a point, of course. One could look at Armond White and consider him a well-spoken neophyte offering a differing point of view on films widely praised by his colleagues. Or he is just a disingenuous (if well-spoken) contrarian who awaits to see how his colleagues flow the tide with one movie or another and then praises or shits on them. Often in the same week. (See: The Master vs. Resident Evil Retribution or Toy Story 3 vs. Jonah Hex.) Consistency is the key to what we do at Criticwatch here in determining who is really bringing actual criticism and taste evolved by years on the job and decades of appreciation for the art to the table - and those who don't really think before they speak or think much at all about the context of the film they have just seen. Criticwatch has practically had to put a weekly disclaimer to certain readers that, while we do use aggregate scores occasionally to sell our points, the criticism offered here does not always merely come down to good vs. bad, as proof offered by this week's releases.

Trouble with the Curve is, simply defined, the anti-Moneyball; a film that knows little about baseball and is a stale argument for the old school having complete relevance over the new. Dredd is basically a paler than pale imitation of this year's The Raid: Redemption. Coincidences of their plots aside, the film may as well just advertise itself as a bloodier sequel to the Sylvester Stallone film since this one makes no effort to give us any perspective on who this popular comic book character is or ever was. And it's boring and bad. House at the End of the Street wasn't screened for critics. 'Nuff said. That brings us to the best film of the week, End of Watch. It's not a great film, but certainly a serviceable cop flick with two solid central performances. It is also the film loaded up with the worst of the worst whores this week.

"Groundbreaking. You feel every moment, every breath, every heartbeat!" - Ben Lyons

Slow down there, Don Johnson. You don't even need to go past the first word there without hearing the screeching brake sounds. Groundbreaking, Ben? If there was an Oscar given to the least groundbreaking film of the year, End of Watch is certainly one that would be in the conversation for a nomination. You can start by just rattling off any number of cops-on-the-job films including 1988's Colors if you just want to stick with uniforms on the beat. Roger Ebert describes it as "a great cop buddy film" in his 4-star review. How many buddy cop films can you name? The film utilizes a variation of the found footage concept by giving us views from the squad car camera as well as the one attached by cop/amateur filmmaker Jake Gyllenhaal. Seen any manic point-of-view films like that recently?

Forget all of that though. Even if Ben Lyons' extensive cinematic knowledge only goes back to the turn of this century, he should know that this is the specialty of David Ayer. Two men riding around in a car is to Ayer what hands-on-wheat is to Terrence Malick. In 2001 he wrote not only The Fast and the Furious but Training Day, about two cops on the job over the course of 24 hours. In 2002, he co-wrote Dark Blue involving cops on the job mixed with their home lives on the eve of the Rodney King riots. In 2005, Ayer made his directorial debut with the intense Harsh Times involving Freddy Rodriguez and Christian Bale as a volatile ex-soldier who is denied admission to the LAPD and spends the next couple days together riding around in a car getting into scrapes with less-savory types. Flash-forward to 2008 where Ayer directs Street Kings (co-written by his Dark Blue co-author, crime novelist James Ellroy) starring Keanu Reeves as another on-the-edge cop dealing with corruption in his department while dealing with drug dealers and other everyday baddies.

Which leads us to the question of 2012 - Other than End of Watch being a David Ayer film about cops who are NOT dirty, Mr. Ben Lyons, HOW IN THE SAM HELL IS THE FILM "GROUNDBREAKING???!!!" And who other than you would be dumb enough to say something so blindly ill-informed about such obvious knowledge?

"A one-of-a-kind motion picture experience." - Shawn Edwards

Jesus H. Christ, we should have known. Let's spin the Criticwatch wheel and see what turns up from Edwards.

"A mind-blowing cinematic experience." (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
"The coolest 3D experience of the year!" (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs)
"A movie experience everyone will love." (The Secret Life of Bees)
"An all out fun experience that will make you fall in love with the magic of movies." (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist)
"A breathtaking experience that shouldn't be missed." (Snow White and the Huntsman)
"A delightful, breathtaking experience that's as wonderful as The Wizard of Oz and as enchanting as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. (Peter Pan)
"It's the perfect James Bond experience for kids and teens." (Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker)
"A magical experience unlike anything you have ever seen." (Idlewild)

All of Shawn Edwards "experiences" are not hard to find. Let's ignore all the obvious elements from the David Ayer resume for the moment and see if Edwards can't help you out if you were having trouble remembering any specific cop films over the years.

"An absolute triumph. It hits hard with razor sharp intensity and powerhouse performances." (Brooklyn's Finest)
"Stylish, sexy and riveting!...More intense and entertaining than The Departed." (We Own the Night)
"An electrifying cinematic achievement! A modern-day masterpiece. One of the best films of the year!" (American Gangster)
"Sexy. The coolest movie of the summer is one of the best of the year! A seriously sexy, action-packed and completely intriguing cinematic tour de force." (Miami Vice)
"Examines the human element behind the badge." (A Man Apart)

At the very least Edwards could have at least acknowledged End of Watch's connection with Vin Diesel's A Man Apart, right? Then again, that is an easy enough film to forget.

"Riveting, exciting, emotional and unforgettable! End of Watch is one of the year's best with extraordinary award-caliber performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. This is one to see!" - Pete Hammond

Here is where we must take a moment to acknowledge the recent resurgence of Pete Hammond. A distant second again to Peter Travers this year, but still getting himself quoted only 19 times through August, which should have him on pace to receive his lowest total on record since 2005 when he first appeared on the scene and from June-to-December was quoted 31 times. This month alone, Hammond has been quoted four times (the most in a month since March) driving his total up to 23. Let's nip this in the bud right now studios - YOUR GOAL - Pete Hammond must not hit 31 quotes on the year. Got that? Trust us, you are doing yourself a favor. Allow us to refresh your memory.

"Ben Stiller's funniest film. Brace yourself for an outrageously hilarious comedy. This kid hits the comic bullseye! Scene for scene the most explosively funny movie Ben Stiller and the Farrelly Brothers have made since There's Something About Mary. It creates so many huge, and we mean humongous laughs you'll probably have to see it more than once just to catch all the dialogue…a honeymoon you won't soon forget." (The Heartbreak Kid)
"A wonderful, entertaining and unforgettable movie. Truly inspiring." (Dolphin Tale)
"Magnificent! An incredible, heartwarming and 100% thrilling action/adventure you won't forget." (Eight Below)
"Beyond spectacular! Transports you to an alternate world of jaw-dropping awe and unforgettable adventure." (The Golden Compass)
"A must see! A towering, unforgettable epic...Director Roland Joffe returns to the stirring tradition of his greatest films, The Killing Fields and The Mission." (There Be Dragons)
"Truly magnificent! An inspiring, stirring, unforgettable human drama, Visually stunning. A brilliant ensemble cast led by Christian Bale who proves again he may be the best actor of his generation." (The Flowers of War)
"Miley Cyrus shines in a breakout role. Greg Kinnear is terrific. And Liam Hemsworth is a major star in the making. An unforgettable, touching and wonderful movie." (The Last Song)
"Unforgettable…Sure to be one of the year's most controversial films." (The Stoning of Soraya M.)
"Riveting. A must-see! Packs the kind of punch-to-the-gut wallop the screen hasn't seen in years. An unforgettable experience!" (Warrior)
"Heart-stopping action! If you're looking for pure screen excitement look no further. Dives into the heart of a true hero. Stirring and exhilarating! An unforgettable motion picture experience." (The Guardian)
"A remarkably accomplished and moving film. An unforgettable experience you don't want to miss." (Fugitive Pieces)
"A vibrant, funny, moving, highly entertaining and richly rewarding movie experience! Don Cheadle soars into the highest rank of film actors with this role. Will have you talking long after leaving the theatre. Unforgettable. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Taraji P. Henson are magnificent." (Talk to Me)
"One of the year's best pictures. An unforgettable movie experience. An outstanding all-star cast shines brightly right down to the smallest part." (Bobby)
"An unforgettable cinematic experience." (Into the Wild)
"An unforgettable motion picture experience. Powerful and moving beyond words." (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas)
"One of the year's most satisfying and rewarding motion picture experiences. Clive Owen delivers a moving and unforgettable portrayal." (The Boys Are Back)

Amazing how much everyone seems to be forgetting about this week, isn't it? That certainly is Hammond's word. At least End of Watch is the "one to see," right?

"A total triumph...This is one to see! (Cemetery Junction)
Pure delight. A smart, original comedy treat. This is one to see! (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
"An exceptionally good comedy loaded with laughs, heart and wonderful performances. Renee is at her best! This is one to see!" (My One and Only)
"An exceptional film. This is one of those rare gems you must not miss." (Control)
"This is what makes you want to go to the movies!" (Inside Man)
"Remarkable. Riveting. Oscar-worthy. This is a must-see with the ability to change hearts and minds." (A Better Life)
"A true gem! A rich entertainment, the kind of smart, sophisticated adult comedy that rarely comes along these days. A must see for people who love movies." (Darling Companion)
"For people who love great movies. A compelling, beautifully acted, humane and riveting motion picture experience. This is intelligent adult filmmaking at its finest. One of the year's very best!" (People Like Us)

We won't bore you with everything Hammond says is a must-see. OK, maybe one more.

"Provocative and compelling. Don't miss it...engrossing, intelligent storytelling at its very best. The ensemble cast is superb." (The Words)

82% of critics at Rotten Tomatoes disagree with you on that one, Pete. But, hey, CBS Films, needed something positive, so why not you? Warner Bros.' Trouble with the Curve has seen its score falling like a Tatum O'Neal pitch in rehab. Currently at 53%, the studio at least has this from the anti-critic for the anti-Moneyball:

"Filled with heart, humor and fantastic acting."

Unfortunately now we must bore you with the two things that go together for Hammond like peas and carrots. Right, Gump?

"The most wondrous film of its kind since E.T. is an incredible fantasy adventure for the kid in every one of us. The perfect holiday film, a fantastic fusion of humor, heart and pure excitement." (The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep)

TIME OUT! Can we stop comparing movies to E.T.? Thank you. Carry on, Forrest Hammond.

"Awesome! Hilarious! More laughs, excitement and heart than any other comedy this year. The perfect holiday film." (Bolt)
"It's impossible to have a better time at the movies this summer. Roaringly funny, heartfelt and imaginative." (Despicable Me)
"Megamind soars! A hilarious comedy event. A mega-funny movie loaded with laughs, action and heart." (Megamind)
"An exceptionally good comedy loaded with laughs, heart and wonderful performances." (My One and Only)
"Wonderful! A movie treat full of heart and laughs." (Gnomeo & Juliet)
"Hilarious! Pure family fun: Action, laughs and heart." (G-Force)
"Big laughs with a lot of heart." (Drillbit Taylor)
"You will be standing and cheering. Real Steel is the real deal. Exciting, funny, and heartwarming...A huge winner!" (Real Steel)

"Truly Awesome. Hilarious, heartwarming entertainment for all ages." (Toy Story 3)
"Hilarious & heartwarming." (Mr. Popper's Penguins)
"Hilarious and heartwarming. Zac Efron shoots and scores!" (17 Again)
"One of this year's most unexpected comedy surprises! The Ringer gets the gold medal for genuine heart and comic inspiration. Johnny Knoxville scores a whole lotta laughs!" (The Ringer)
"This summer's freshest, raunchiest, smartest comedy surprise. A movie fully charged with huge booming laughs and a big heart. Wanna have a good time, DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE!" (The Change-Up)

This is why it is frustrating when studios look to Hammond as a reliable source to sell their movies. Just because his name is attached to a living, breathing human and not a David Manning-like amalgam doesn't make what he says anymore worthy. If all studios wanted was a particular hyperbole to plaster on a film ad, it's almost more honest at this point to just make it up. Half of these quotes are already being written for quote whores anyway. The lie is far easier to explain than the blatant laziness involved in not just searching for good, solid quotes from good, solid reviews from good, solid critics.

Hell, this very day you can find 28 reviews for House At The End of the Street on Rotten Tomatoes from Thursday night screenings and/or midnight shows. 4 of them are even positive. How hard is it for someone from the studio to then go to the site and grab the following:

"This PG-13 scare-fest is more psychological terror than blood and guts, and should satisfy-not repulse-young genre fans."

And who said that? PETE HAMMOND!!! We could tell Relativity to never mind, but our readers should again pay attention. The actual review Hammond posted at carries a rating of 2.5 stars. Out of 5. Yet he (or his editors) posted it to Rotten Tomatoes with a "Fresh" positive rating. His opening line refers to it as "A by-the-numbers suspense thriller." But it's a Fresh Tomato. His second paragraph opens with "The plot...won't win any awards for originality." But it's a Fresh Tomato. He ends by saying "House At The End Of The Street won't re-invent the genre—it is the genre—but it's an effective, forgettable diversion." Guess that's enough for a fresh tomato.

On the flipside of things, one could easily refer to End of Watch as the very same "effective, forgettable diversion" and House at the End of the Street is actually a bit more than just a "by-the-numbers thriller." It's hampered by one of the worst directorial efforts of the year, but its structured at least as a wee bit mysterious in where it's actually headed than just your ordinary supernatural or psycho thriller. Guys like Ben Lyons, Shawn Edwards and Pete Hammond don't seem to have the historical faculties or context before delivering the first thing that pops into their minds for the studios to utilize. Take this statement from Hammond:

"A film you won't forget anytime soon. A terrific coming-of-age movie with an extraordinary and talented ensemble cast of hot new stars. It reminded me of classics like The Last Picture Show and American Graffiti."

That's a great quote to describe The Perks of Being a Wallflower which opened in limited release this weekend - if it was actually a quote describing it. Actually, that was Hammond's quote for Skateland, a rather lackluster entry from Sundance in 2010 that ended up with a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and less reviews than House at the End of the Street. Here is his quote for Perks:

"Beautifully written, directed and acted - This is a film you won't forget."

In Hammond's actual review (which is also littered with spoilers you want no part of) it reads:

"This beautifully written, directed and acted gem belongs with the handful of classics in the high school genre, and that should mean it will be no wallflower at the box office."

As for the second part of his ad quote, the only thing to be found is:

"If the awkwardness of growing up and getting on with life is something we will never forget, so too is the unexpected pleasure of seeing it all played out with such freshness and verve."

Well, I guess he just forgot to include it. Now it is time for studios to forget about Pete Hammond.

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originally posted: 09/22/12 07:42:53
last updated: 12/27/12 14:29:42
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