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Criticwatch - Headed Into Oblivion

by Erik Childress

We are just two weeks from the official launch of the summer movie season. Good or bad, there is a lot of anticipation for films this summer but certainly not a lot to inspire any long term hope. Summer is all about the kids anyway, right? Particularly those that still reside inside the souls of movie lovers, fanboys and film critics alike. Perhaps our expectations are adjusted as we give in to a few more movies than we normally would if they were released in the first four months of the year. The second third of the film year also opens it up to the unformed brains of junket whores everywhere. Not to mention those two Petes - Travers & Hammond. Hell, Warner Bros. has eight films opening between May and August so the marketplace is guaranteed to be flooded with whores like the opening night of the Olympics in Vegas. As we brace ourselves for the onslaught, let us take a look at where we stand in 2013 in trying to take back criticism from those who don't write reviews or have anything meaningful to say that wasn't pre-written for them. The results may actually surprise you.

As with any film year recap, we must first examine the collective. There have been roughly 39 wide releases in 2013. Using Rotten Tomatoes, as we do, to see how posted written reviews have swung the pendulum towards "thumbs up" or "thumbs down", it is amazing just how few have failed to hit the 60% margin to garner a "fresh" rating. Only nine:

Side Effects, The Place Beyond The Pines, Warm Bodies, 42, Spring Breakers, The Croods, Mama, Evil Dead and Oz: The Great and Powerful

Those last three are just barely over the threshold too. That's 30 wide releases given the "rotten" rating this year. The next nine films on the chart are between 40-59%, the next ten between 20-39% and eleven films overall with under a 20% rating (seven of which were not screened for press.) As for the names on the watch list:

10 - Peter Travers
7 - Pete Hammond
5 - Joel Amos & Shawn Edwards
4 - Jeffrey Lyons, Avi Offer, Cindy Pearlman & Maria Salas
3 - Mark S. Allen, Jeff Craig, Rusty Gatenby & Greg Russell

Those are your leaders. It's a lot of names, but the numbers are actually low. More on that in a second, but the most striking number of them all is your leader. Peter Travers, the most notorious blurb whore of them all, sits atop the list with a mere nine quotes. To put that in perspective, by the end of April the past two years Travers had been out front with 16 quotes. 2010 & 2011 were two of his lower tallies at Criticwatch as well. The Rolling Stone "critic" personifies the "chicken or the egg" mentality of capsule reviewing. What came first - the blurb or the review? Sometimes the blurb doesn't even appear in the review making that question a lot easier to answer. But we ask a similar question to the studios today. Are you using Travers less or is he making it harder for you to do so.

For some reason there are still people who cling to Travers as a somewhat worthy opinion, despite having enough hyperbole in a 2.5-star review to guarantee a quote even though he's really not that high on a film's overall quality. His positive-to-negative ratio at Rolling Stone & Rotten Tomatoes has always been sky high and a positive review almost always equaled a little something extra for the marketing department. Where has Travers been in 2013 though?

Not sure how to register speechlessness into words, but that is where Criticwatch is at as we tally up Travers' reviews. Out of 37 reviews posted at Rotten Tomatoes in 2013 - ready for this? - only 16 of them have registered as positive. As always with Travers, the accuracy of even that is suspect since sometimes a 2.5-star review is a positive (as it apparently is with Spring Breakers & Stand Up Guys) and sometimes it is not (like with 42 & Emperor). Didn't stop Warner Bros. from grabbing a quote from 42 ("Stirring and inspiring") The actual review reads "Corny? You bet. Also inspiring. Is that enough?" Apparently, Peter, because "stirring" appears nowhere in the review. Case closed.

Though not on the rest of the junket whores who have gladly picked up where Travers wasn't available. Cindy Pearlman, gossip columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, continues to disgrace that paper's critical legacy by laying down legs up for any Warner Bros. film available. Shawn Edwards, Maria Salas and the lot of them too. But this has been the year when the studios have gone to Twitter to look for positive reinforcement; sometimes even taking quotes from strangers completely out of context (as Fox did for Broken City.) Criticwatch's pleas for them to actually find some new critics to put in their ads were meant for someone there to actually do some research. Get reviews, grab praise there, even full sentences for a change. Well, they kinda took our advice. They just found even more anonymous quoters:

"Unlike any action movie ever." (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) - Raquel Baldwin, Talking Pictures
"Powerful" (42) - Xilla,
"A love story that will keep you on the edge of your seat!" (Beautiful Creatures) - Margaret Bristol,
"Bridesmaids' Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman are comedy gold. Drop dead funny. Perfect. Hysterical." (Identity Thief) - Courtney Howard,
"Carell and Carrey make movie magic!" (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) - Michael King, NBC-TV
"Laugh-out-loud funny! A great film that will leave you laughing the entire way through." (Scary Movie 5) - Deidre Behar,
"If you think you know this tale then you don't know Jack." (Jack the Giant Slayer) - Adam Pockross

That's just a little sampler for you. Chances are you have seen it all before if you're a regular reader of Criticwatch. Maybe we're just retreading the same ol' material for the one person out there unaware that the fight goes on against what The Daily Show might call "The Human Centipede of Film Criticism" (i.e. shit in, shit out.) One only needs to see Tom Cruise's Oblivion to understand how shitty some of these quote whores and their cranial faculties actually are. Some things indeed are worth fighting for. There are two methods to the Criticwatch madness and we can demonstrate them right here thanks to two of the above names throwing their wisdom on the ads for Universal's big piece of science-fiction.

"Extraordinary! Oblivion is jaw-dropping, exciting and the most visually stunning and innovative science-fiction thriller to hit the screen since Blade Runner and The Matrix. Tom Cruise delivers one of the best performances of his career. (Oblivion) - Pete Hammond

As Hammond normally does write reviews this is the time when Criticwatch would vehemently play the disagreement card on the guy. With him it's very easy to play that card as his review positive/negative tally normally makes Travers look like Armond White. Blade Runner and The Matrix were 17 years apart so the whole "since" timeline of his statement is dubious at best. We could run the list of other sci-fi films of the 21st century (i.e. Minority Report, Children of Men, Inception, Looper, etc...) as to just how innovative Oblivion really is. The truth is - not much. You can try to watch Hammond explain his reasoning in this Movieline video review. And good luck since I could not even get halfway through it.

One only needed to look at Twitter after the nationwide screenings of Oblivion to see a pretty universal response to the film being derivative of countless other sci-fi entities. Even those that liked the film enough to still recommend it were not short-sighted enough not to recognize its cornucopia of old ideas. Just naming a couple of the (at least) dozen films that could be mentioned was enough to have those who hadn't seen the film yet shouting "spoiler alert!" Pete Hammond could not even resist mentioning films that Oblivion reminded him of. It is doubtful Pete's review would hold up to scrutiny in a face-to-face, revealing him as always to be a hyperbolic clown more interested in pleasing the Tet (see the movie - actually don't) than giving us an educated evaluation of its merits.

Which brings us to the other quote on the Oblivion ads. It is amazing that anyone could even see the quote and not start laughing. One only needs to watch the trailer to come up with three films they could throw out at a pitch meeting. It's a quote that does not even require argument. Because there is no argument for it. It can't be defended. It can't be justified. It is pure diarrhea from the mouth of a quote whore who in just three years has been the runner-up Quote Whore of the Year TWICE and the grand champion of 2012. Unless he is talking directly to someone raised by wolves under a rock in the middle of the desert, even Jodie Foster's Nell would snap out of it for a minute to say "Dude, are you f!@#ing kidding me?" This is precisely the kind of thing we are hoping to avoid this summer in the studio ads. Have we built this up enough yet? Is that enough? Ladies and Gentlemen, Criticwatch Presents Joel D. Amos and his thought on Oblivion:

"Unlike anything you've ever seen." (Oblivion) - Joel Amos

If you are referring to yourself, Joel, then you are correct. Criticwatch cannot remember ever seeing such a pure-bred moron with no long-term memory of movie history calling themselves a film critic in all our years.

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originally posted: 04/20/13 01:45:42
last updated: 09/23/18 02:38:04
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