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Criticwatch - Slaying the Giants (and the little people, too.)

by Erik Childress

We are two months into 2013 and Criticwatch is both optimistic and pessimistic about the state of the quote whore phenomenon. January and February tends to be a feeding frenzy for junketeers and those without a critical thought in their brain and boy has this year gotten off to a bad start. Movie-wise. Out of 23 wide releases up to this weekend, 20 of them have failed to hit 60% approval at Rotten Tomatoes. Yikes. That includes all four March 1 releases. We can just assume that The Last Exorcism Part II (the 8th film not to screen for press this year) is going to be in the negative. The optimism comes in that we have not seen a lot of repeat offenders piling up their numbers. The pessimism comes from seeing that studios have found some new quote whores to replace the usual suspects. And we know that March is normally when the giant himself, Peter Travers, comes out of hibernation.

There is nothing to offer quote-wise on 21 & Over, Last Exorcism or Phantom, the submarine film concocted of spare submarine movie parts so barely advertised that it lives up to its name. But we all know who put out Jack the Giant Slayer didn't we? Quote whore junket machine itself, Warner Bros. No other studio really comes close to matching the pure joy they get in screening their films early for "entertainment reporters", asking them what they think and then basically telling them what they think. Business-wise one might consider giving them a break. After all, they have a huge $190 million investment in Bryan Singer's nine-month-delayed fantasy film given six days to make its money before Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great & Powerful opens. The person who made that decision should already be looking for packing boxes. WB needs nearly half-a-billion in grosses worldwide just to break even on this thing and they need every good word they can find, even if it's their own words. The infamous words "John Carter" have been getting whispered around this enterprise. I don't believe it will be that big a bomb (even though the local numbers may not hit nine digits) but critically its currently a couple percentage points behind Carter's 51%. At 49% Jack the Giant Slayer ends up with:

"Jack rocks." (Jack the Giant Slayer) - Mark Reardon

Wonderful, right? Direct from the lips of another member memberof the Broadcast Film Critics Association. The last time we heard that a film "rocks" in its advertisement, it was 2012 Quote Whore of the Year Joel Amos saying it about the remake of RED DAWN. Nice company, huh? Who's next?

"Spectacular. Thrilling." - Shawn Edwards

Oh great, this guy. This is only Shawn's second quote of 2013. Hopefully it will be his last. Seriously, can we stop studios? Shawn Edwards is a punchline. Everybody is aware by now. $190 million on the line, Warner Bros., and you want to use a joke to convince people they should go see it? You want to know the last three films he was quoted as saying were "thrilling?"

The most consistent of the quote whores this year so far has to be Maria Salas. She now has one quote per month including Marlon Wayans' A Haunted House, a film that went unscreened for press and used quotes from Twitter to hopefully deflect that it's the second-worst reviewed film of the year. Why Open Road felt the need to use her on Side Effects, the best-reviewed film of 2013, is anyone's guess? Ours is pure laziness from their marketing department. Look at Maria here play the whole pun game while we give you a little of her history on "thrill rides" and fantasy films.

"The first giant adventure of the year. A giant 3-D thrill ride" - Maria Salas
"An amazing thrill ride filled with twists and turns and a great cast!" (16 Blocks)
"Awesome. Eye-popping 3-D. Pure adventure." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island)
"One of the best sci-fi fantasy adventures since E.T." (The Last Mimzy)
"The next big fantasy action adventure." (Eragon)

A couple of weeks ago we saw our first quote of the year from Ben Lyons and wondered why anyone continues to dig up his opinion. Maybe because Safe Haven is precisely the kind of film for people who like dumb stories about pretty people - aka the audience for Extra. This week his dad, Jeffrey, is on the hook for the Giant Slayer. Funny how that moniker could apply to Ben for starting the downfall of At the Movies. Delightful, huh?

"A delight for the family and fans of adventure." (Jack the Giant Slayer) - Jeffrey Lyons

"Delightful! Anne Hathaway is enchanting! Ella Enchanted is often hilarious!" (Ella Enchanted)
"A hilarious honey of a movie! A delight for both kids and parents!" (Bee Movie)
"The best animated film so far this year. Brilliant…that rare film which delights children while entertaining their parents." (Flushed Away)
"Sure to be this summer's family delight! It's warm, brilliantly animated, with a witty script sure to have children and especially parents in stitches." (Madagascar)
"A delight. One of the best family films of the year…as engaging as the original, and with one of the funniest screenplays of the year…" (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian)

Jeffrey, like Miss Salas has a history in recommending adventures to families. Not good ones, but...

"A fast-moving action adventure." (Inkheart)
"It's about as good as a summer action, thrill-a-minute adventure movie gets." (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor)
"The most entertaining adventure of the season." (National Treasure: Book of Secrets)
"This is one terrific movie! Sahara is the most enjoyable, thrilling and entertaining action-adventure since the heyday of Indiana Jones." (Sahara)
"Astonishing! Brilliant special effects, thrilling adventure, and some of the best, most amazing battle sequences you will ever see." (The Chronicles of Narnia)
"Amazing! Prince Caspian is a thrilling adventure." (The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian)
"A superb family adventure!" (Journey to the Center of the Earth)
"A delightful adventure for the whole family!" (Nancy Drew)

Delightful, right? Now you have seen us make a couple references already to Warner Bros. likely writing their own copy for these quotes. We have seen the memos. We have the heard the stories. This happens all the time people. Whether Criticwatch can make a case-by-case basis for it is another deal. We're not in the room. We're not in these people's heads. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... When you see the word "epic" used to describe last year's WB efforts The Dark Knight Rises and Cloud Atlas, that makes sense. The scope of the story and filmmaking without question falls into that territory, no matter who might be saying it. But consider the following quotes and think again.

"Epic fun for everyone." (Jack the Giant Slayer) - Carlos Bustamonte, YTV
"An epic 'Journey' for everyone." (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) - Mark S. Allen
"Epic. A thrill for the whole family!" (Journey 2 The Mysterious Island) - Jeremy Parsons, Reelz Channel
"Epic" (Wrath of the Titans) - Mose Persico
"The best use of 3-D since Avatar. Eye-popping. Epic." (Wrath of the Titans) - Mike Sargent
"Epic. Outrageous." (The Hangover Part II) - Fred Topel

See what we're getting at? It's possible that "epic" is just a money word on the tip of every junketeers tongue. Or maybe it's just a sign that the whole critical world needs to get just a little more creative and a little less obvious as seen just by the quotes chosen by those who still write reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

"Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Slayer" is a gentle giant, a short and sweet climb that's fun all the way up the bean stalk." - Justin Craig,
"Fee-fi-fo-fun! Singer has cleverly re-interpreted the fairy tale saving Jack's reputation." - Victoria Alexander, Film Festival Today
"Paraphrasing the giant: Fee fi ho hum." - Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
"Fee Fie Ho-Hum." - Laura Clifford,Reeling Reviews
"Fee-fi-fo-fum, this fairy-tale retread is pretty dumb." - Justin Chang, Variety
"Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! I smell a hit with the little ones!" - Kam Williams,
"Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the stink of a horrible bomb!" - Willie Waffle,

We can all understand and appreciation the temptation to write that stuff, but we all hate ourselves afterwards don't we? Maybe just a little. If we're going to demand that studios look to reviews written by those other than their own marketing departments, then we all have to do better than that. Otherwise we are going to be stuck with this for the rest of our natural-reviewing lives:

"If you think you know this tale then you don't know Jack." (Jack the Giant Slayer) - Adam Pockross, Yahoo! Movies

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originally posted: 03/02/13 02:59:22
last updated: 03/02/13 03:10:16
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