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TraversWatch - It's Time To End This!: Part 2

by Erik Childress

Pardon the hypocrisy or drawn out finale of the title. Until studios stop releasing TV series with the titles "Gypsy Duck Calls: The Complete Final Season - Vol. 1" I believe that can be forgiven. What cannot is the continued use of Rolling Stone's Peter Travers as a viable source of film criticism or consumer advocacy. Criticwatch's argument flies in the face of precisely what studios want - which is any critic they can find, occasionally with a notable reputation, to splash their positivity all over their ads. Except our argument continues to prove that those paying attention to ads know that a quote from Travers is its own joke. Any more that looks exciting or half-way interesting immediately takes a step away from a potential viewer when they see his hacky prose copied from his limited vocabulary.

To answer the critics of the case FOR Travers as a word-hack that still manages to recommend the best and decry the worst that Hollywood and independent cinema has to offer, we shall go to the numbers. In 2012, it is true that 94 of Travers' reviews are directly in line with the positive/negative line in the sand drawn by the nation's critics at Rotten Tomatoes. 68 of them positive vs. 26 negative. Overall, Travers positive-to-negative ratio this year through November has been 85-29. That's a nearly 3-to-1 recommendation rate. In the overall scheme of things, there have been 131 wide releases on the year and only 52 of them have registered a positive. That puts the overall critical aggregate on major releases in 2012 at 39.6% vs. Travers' 74.5%.

Part of that disparity one can argue is that Travers is also reviewing independent films with limited runs. Fair enough, let's look at that. 36 of Travers' 114 reviews indeed were for limited releases. 33 of them were given positive reviews. That puts Travers' total on the more accessible films for the public at 52-26 or 66.6%; a disturbing arrangement of numbers indeed. Of those 114 reviews, Travers only disagreed with the Tomatometer 20 times. Only three times was it in the negative (The Expendables 2, Lawless and Magic Mike) compared to 17 where he bucked the trend and went positive. The biggest disparities from best-to-worst on that list included recommending American Reunion, Rock of Ages, The Paperboy, Dark Shadows and Project X.)

When we planned this follow-up feature it was of the understanding that we were giving one final plead to the studios in 2012 to keep Travers' total down. Show some restraint. Help weed him out with less quotes than the previous year for the second straight calendar. Travers was headed into the final month with 60, just one less quote than 2011's tally of 61 which tied for his lowest total in Criticwatch's 10-year history. Then the Weinstein Co. had to go and give him a quote on the ads for Killing Them Softly today. Wasn't Anthony Quinn and Jack Rico enough? Oh, I see you needed a name people knew or a name people can trust. Let us know when you find either.

Bottom line, we're not going to talk much more here. Travers has reached 61 quotes. Unless he gets the itch to make sure Rolling Stone's name is out there on the Playing For Keeps ads next week we probably have until at least The Hobbit before he outdoes his total. But the studios can stop the madness. One month to go clean and sober on Peter Travers. One month to find yourself a few rebound critics that you can alternate between and that moviegoers can look at without snickering. In order to do that, once again we are just going to throw Travers' own words back at you. We'll keep the commentary to a minimum.

"***1/2! It's a thing of beauty." (Holy Motors)

"A thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool!" (Finding Nemo)
"This movie, a true beauty, will put a spell on you." (Super 8)
"A spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd)
"A beauty of a movie. Hilarious! Heartfelt and achingly true. This is award-caliber acting. Midler is a wow and then some. Her performance here is one of her very best." (Then She Found Me)
"Eastwood's stripped down performance - as powerful as anything he's ever done - has a rugged, haunted beauty. The same goes for the movie." (Million Dollar Baby)
"Kim Basinger's haunted beauty burns in the memory - this is her finest work." (The Door In The Floor)

"Washington's performance will be talked about for years." (Flight)

"Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give performances that will be talked about for years." (Lost in Translation)
"A performance that will be talked about for years." (The Woodsman)
"A vision that will be talked about for years." (Atonement)
"Ang Lee's potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break! Newcomer Tang Wei gives a performance that will be talked about for years." (Lust, Caution)

"One of the best movies of the year! It will make you laugh till it hurts. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper give performances that take your breath away." (Silver Linings Playbook)

"(Morgan Spurlock) makes you laugh till it hurts!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"You'll laugh till it hurts...Sweet!" (Napoleon Dynamite)
"Woody Allen is back in fighting form...Will Ferrell is a hoot and Radha Mitchell works wonders. Melinda and "Melinda is a bracing ride. You'll laugh till it hurts." (Melinda and Melinda)
"Killer-funny. You'll laugh 'till it hurts! Produces more laughs than any hundred jokes you ever heard." (The Aristocrats)
"A mind-blowing comedy classic…It will make you laugh till it hurts and you'll still beg for more." (Borat)
"The summer's best, most original and crazily inventive comedy. In a multiplex crowded with formula rom-coms divorced from genuine feeling, Cyrus brims over with hilarity and heartbreak. You'll laugh 'til it hurts." (Cyrus)
"One of the year's best. A radically fierce & funny fireball. You'll laugh till it hurts." (Sicko)
"Acutely hilarious…This film will make you laugh till it hurts! This stinging satire is easily the best and wickedest comedy of the year." (Thank You For Smoking)
"Saoirse Ronan simply takes your breath away." (Atonement)
"Historic and eye-popping in 3-D, Ghosts will take your breath away." (Ghosts of the Abyss)
"Hugo is rapturously beautiful. Martin Scorsese is breaking new ground. 3-D becomes an art in his hands. It is a spectacular adventure for film lovers of all ages. Hugo will take your breath away. It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of." (Hugo)
"Images that take your breath away. There isn't a frame of this raw and riveting movie that Coppola doesn't invest with feeling." (Tetro)

"A hypnotic film means to shake you, and does. Marion Cotillard is a tour-de-force. She's astonishing. Matthias Schoenaerts is superb." (Rust and Bone)

"Hypnotic!" (When You're Strange)
"Hypnotic!" (The Magdalene Sisters)
"Kristin Scott Thomas is exceptional in this hypnotic look at John Lennon's life..." (Nowhere Boy)
"Hypnotic and haunting." (Down in the Valley)
"Hypnotic and haunting." (Miss Bala)
"A haunting and hypnotic film." (Cairo Time)
"A haunting and hypnotic tale of love! Toni Collette burns this movie into your memory." (Japanese Story)
"Haunting and hypnotic, it's pure movie-going bliss." (The Good German)
"This is the best acting George Clooney has ever done - he's hypnotic, haunting and quietly devastating..."(Syriana)
"A powerhouse of a documentary! This one shakes you." (Crude)
"Director Kathryn Bigelow gives the film an intensity you won't shake..." (The Hurt Locker)
"Fueled by gripping suspense…it shakes you." (Dirty Pretty Things)
"Tommy Lee Jones shakes you in way you do not see coming. His movie is a powder keg." (The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada)
"A tour de force for Sally Field." (Lincoln)
"Viggo Mortensen's tour de force." (Eastern Promises)
"Vanessa Redgrave gives a tour-de-force performance." (Coriolanus)
"Norton delivers a tour de force." (Leaves of Grass)
"Anne Hathaway delivers an acting tour de force." (Rachel Getting Married)
"Julianne Moore's tour de force performance is unforgettable." (Savage Grace)
"You'll never forget Javier Bardem's tour de force." (No Country for Old Men)
"Jeff Daniels' portrait is a tour de force and his shining hour onscreen." (The Squid and the Whale)
"Frank Langella gives the performance of a lifetime as Nixon in a bone-deep tour de force." (Frost/Nixon)
"Streep's performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force." (The Devil Wears Prada)
"Cohen's total immersion in his character is a wonder to behold. His performance is a tour de force that sets off comic and cosmic explosions in your head." (Borat)
"A double tour-de-force for James Franco and Danny Boyle." (127 Hours)

"A visual and emotional tour de force." (Where the Wild Things Are)
"This tour-de-force gets you high on movies again!" (Grindhouse)
"It's a tour-de-force performance in a stylistically bold movie." (Birth)
"Benicio Del Toro is the movie's force." (Things We Lost in the Fire)
"Alfred Molina is a comic force of nature." (An Education)
"Zach Galifianakis is a comic force of nature" (It's Kind of a Funny Story)
"Charlize Theron is a comic force of nature." (Young Adult)
"Cruz, never more voluptuous or vulnerable, is a force of nature." (Volver)

"The acting is aces, especially Brad Pitt mixing it up with the superb James Gandolfini." (Killing Them Softly)

"Jolie takes on her most challenging role and aces it." (A Mighty Heart)

That's a heck of a coincidence, ain't it?

"Hopkins and Mirren are acting giants in stellar form." (Hitchcock)

"The incomparable Helen Mirren is simply astounding. Christopher Plummer is her match. The sight of these two acting giants going at each other should come under the heading of pure, rowdy pleasure." (The Last Station)

Geez, that one too. Is Travers a robot?

"Bond like you've never seen him before. In a word: Wow." (Skyfall)

"This dynamite thriller shivers with suspense. In a word, wow!" (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)

So its just happenstance that both are Daniel Craig films? Sorry, we'll continue.

"Get ready for Will Ferrell like you've never seen him!" (Everything Must Go)
"Casts a spell you won't want to break! Tony Leung goes places he's never been before as an actor." (Lust, Caution)
"See it now before a Hollywood remake ruins it." (Let the Right One In)
"It's a spellbinder. Prepare to be wowed." (Let Me In)
"Prepare to be wowed by Carey Mulligan who is sensational and incandescent. (An Education)
Midler is a wow and then some." (Then She Found Me)
"A wow of an action movie that buries the competition and sets a new gold standard for thrills and smarts." (The Bourne Ultimatum)
"Wow! One hell of a satisfying surprise." (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
"A knockout! Like nothing you've ever seen!" (Hanna)

"Let Anna Karenina work its marvelous spell. Lifts off in the wild blue of director Joe Wright's imagination. Keira Knightley is glorious." (Anna Karenina)

"…the effect of this mesmerizing mind teaser is spellbinding." (Match Point)
"Spellbinding…As timely as it is thrilling to watch." (Lady Chatterley)
"Sweeps you up on waves of ravishing romance. A potently erotic spellbinder. It speaks of what's timeless about passion, art and redemption." (Atonement)
"Spellbinding! A chillingly intense psychological thriller! Involves God, sex and murder! (Enduring Love)
"Ang Lee's potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break!" (Lust, Caution)
"This movie, a true beauty, will put a spell on you." (Super 8)
"…This film portrait casts a spell…" (Tupac Resurrection)
"It's a spellbinder. Prepare to be wowed." (Let Me In)
"What gives this spellbinder a similar raw power is the way Boyer reveals the parallels between DeLuca and Sutherland." (I Trust You to Kill Me)
"This is the bravest, riskiest role of Dench's film career. It's spellbinding to watch her blow the lid off." (Notes on a Scandal)
"Lou Pucci rides this spellbinder!" (Thumbsucker)
"A spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
"This you do not want to miss! A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story's grieving heart. A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense." (No Country for Old Men)
"A spellbinding true crime story. Potent and provocative. Gosling is terrific. Kirsten Dunst is heartbreakingly good." (All Good Things)
"There's more killer suspense in this one-of-a-kind film than you'll find in a dozen thrillers. You'll be talking about this spellbinder for weeks. It pushes every button. Don't let anyone spoil this story." (Catfish)
"A knockout! Spellbinding! It spins a web that will pull you in. A thriller that really thrills." (The Lookout)
"It pins you to your seat. A spellbinder! The stuff that dreams are made of!" (Brick)
"Holds you spellbound!" (Rachel Getting Married)
"A shockingly fierce and funny spell-binder that leaves your head spinning." (Crazy Love)
"A one-of-a-kind spellbinder that's not afraid to shock!" (The Libertine)
"This spellbinder will sneak up and floor you. It's that good. A supremely intelligent and deeply touching thriller." (The Secret In Their Eyes)
"Allen and Elliott perform acting miracles in this quietly devastating spellbinder. Scott has built a movie that sneaks up and knocks you flat." (Off the Map)

"This movie starts at hilarious and lifts off into the comic stratosphere." (The Hangover)
"The fall movie season achieves comic liftoff!" (Ghost Town)
"Leaves you moved like no film in years and then lifts you up in ways you don't see coming. It has a spirit that soars" (Precious)
"Soars on the imagination of its creators." (District 9)
"The haunting and visionary Dark Knight soars on the wings of untamed imagination." (The Dark Knight)
"A movie miracle! It soars! You feel privileged!" (Winged Migration)
"Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a miracle worker, a filmmaker whose soaring visuals and passionate intensity are artfully blended in this stunning film...Just sit back and behold as Jeunet takes you to hell and back with this epic love story." (A Very Long Engagement)
"Just sit back and behold. The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

See how he did that? Rise rises. Just like...

"Magnificent and moving. You don't just watch this live it" (Life of Pi)

"Savagely moving." (Savage Grace)
"Crazily inventive and totally irresistible." (Like Crazy)
"A killer comedy!" (You Kill Me)
"The movie rises and, at times, even soars." (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)
"This movie wins you over, head and heart." (Win Win)
"A master director shining his light on the best rock band on the planet." (Shine a Light)
"A fireworks display of action, smarts and fun, plus a touch of class from actors who can really act." (X-Men: First Class)
"The best of the best at Sundance. A gift of a movie absolutely worth seeing more than once. (Once)
"Sinfully funny." (The Devil Wears Prada)
"A comedy cure-all. "(The Hangover)
"I'm buying into Morgan Spurlock!" (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold)
"Helen Mirren is acting royalty. Helen Mirren's performance is a crowning achievement. (The Queen)
"Odds are you're going to like this lively spin on the true story of six MIT mathletes who broke the Vegas Bank." (21)
"You can get buzzed just from the fumes coming off this wild thing." (Drive)
"A tire-burning blast of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood. You can bet Cars 2 will rev your engines." (Cars 2)
"This immersive marvel of a movie sneaks up and floors you. This is a warrior's movie that prides itself on rising to the bell." (The Fighter)
"It is elemental essential viewing. This power punch to the gut is one of the best movies of any kind so far this year!" (Tyson)
"You may have doubts about which side to choose, but there's no doubt about this mind-bender." (Doubt)
"Summer just got a supershot of comic adrenaline…The hip, hot and hilarious Superbad packs in more gut-busting laughs than you'll be able to count. More good news: Superbad is superfun across the board." (Superbad)
"This summer M:i:III is the movie to beat in the race to push your pulse rate past the danger zone." (Mission: Impossible 3)
"It would be no country for movie lover without the Coens." (Burn After Reading)

THAT'S IT!!! Ring the bell and call Tyson over. We can't take it anymore. To all the studios out there, end this madness. Stop tainting your films with the stench of Travers' repetitive catch phrases. We all deserve better. Moviegoers, the films and even you. Tell your marketing teams to stop being so damn lazy and find better, more trustworthy sources of praise.

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 12/01/12 16:29:53
last updated: 12/01/12 17:02:17
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