Criticwatch - The Not-So-Great Quote Whores of Warner Bros.
By Erik Childress
Posted 05/11/13 00:50:12
This week, Paramount did the unthinkable. They announced in many markets across the country, including Chicago, that their tentpole summer film, Star Trek Into Darkness, would not be screened until late Wednesday night on May 15. When I say late, I mean 9:00 PM (at least in Chicago.) This does not happen. It's already a big question mark given the film's May 17 release date. It's an outright WTF when the film opens in IMAX theaters on that same May 15 date. (Including Chicago.) That means that, technically, it is no longer a press screening. How can it be when paying patrons can plunk down inflated IMAX prices for a showing an hour earlier. All this despite the film being screened for select press and a full junket in London just last weekend. J.J. Abrams' Star Trek 2 sits at 89% at Rotten Tomatoes yet the loudest voices have been about the mixed reviews and outright negatives. Maybe next time Paramount will consider showing the film to those who don't have the biggest mouths.
Paramount is in the midst of a rather troubling summer season this year. With only two films on the docket, Star Trek Into Darkness, is the film that they need to hang their best hopes on. Their other, World War Z, has rumored to have inflated its reshoot budget into $400 million territory (which seems ridiculous.) Even if it's only in the $250 range (a la John Carter and The Lone Ranger), that's a $600 million haul Paramount needs globally just to make back its budget and marketing. A monumental task considering this box office watcher doesn't believe it will crack $100 here in the states. So, of course, Paramount has every right to protect its investment on what they believe to be their best shot to save a few jobs over there. Honestly the math isn't exactly in Star Trek's favor either. With a higher budget than the 2009 film, even if Into Darkness does as well as that one ($257 million) its overseas prospects have to be much better than the $128 million from '09 otherwise it's going to be a loser too.
While the film opens next week, Paramount has unnecessarily put a stank on its own product. That's self-imposed stank though. Better to just screen the film and take their chances (and God forbid try to enforce a damn embargo for a change) than to give the bulk of the nation's critics pause about the merits of their secretive sequel. Now shame of those same critics who have gone public to say they don't believe they can give the film a fair shake now. They can quit right now. But as Paramount will be noticing this summer, numbers don't lie, and the history of withholding films from scrutiny as long as possible normally translates into a film that merits real scrutiny. Even the studios know it, which is why they withhold it. Being overly selective on who you show films to first and who you then decide to promote those films with is now beginning to reflect more and more on the studios than with the junket whores and temperamental glad-handers we're used to hearing the loudest. Cut to Warner Bros. and The Great Gatsby.
Warner Bros. has enjoyed the bulk of Criticwatch's scrutiny over the past few years as it has really been the breeding ground for the "success" of the cancerous junket system. Entertainment reporters who do bad interviews and write even worse reviews (the kind that don't exist) flock to these things while more trusted (and literate) critics are left to wait until May 15. OK, Warner Bros. isn't that bad. They at least setup multiple early screenings of Gatsby for press who can be trusted to keep their negative thoughts in their heads until the film opens. (It currently sits at 45% at Rotten Tomatoes.) A few weeks back we observed that the quote whore situation has been relatively in control in 2013. Both Peter Travers and Pete Hammond, for example, were on pace for record lows. Though Travers has recently started liking movies again and apparently studios feel obliged to use him when he does. That's a mistake, Paramount. We don't care if he thinks Star Trek Into Darkness is "the first summer film that's crazy good." He's a punchline on the joke you have now made of that film.
Regardless, things have looked better here around Criticwatch. Especially if you just ignore the ads for Warner Bros. since once again they are front and center when it comes to providing quotes to their junket whores or accepting their minimal thoughts with total disregard to just how it looks to be the number one qhotewhoremonger in the marketplace. If we look at the ads for The Great Gatsby this week, we can see three very distinct quote whores; two of whom have won the Quote Whore of the Year Award from Criticwatch four times between them and a third who should have her own special trophy engraved from Warner Bros. Of the 15 quotes on their resume in 2013, Mark S. Allen, Shawn Edwards and Cindy Pearlman have seen 12 of them on Warner Bros. ads. They are also responsible for at least 1-of-3 quotes we've seen this year from the collection of Jeff Craig, Manny De La Rosa, Dan Jewel, Kevin McCarthy, Jeffrey Lyons, Greg Russell, Maria Salas and Tony Toscano.
Not to mention 100% of the quotes from Margaret Bristol, Carlos Bustamonte, Merlah Doty, Michael King, Dino Lalli, Mordechai Laub, Chris Miller, Adam Pockross, Mark Reardon and someone named Xilla from Globalgrind.com. Yeah, we never heard of them either.
What does Warner Bros. want us to think when whipping out these nobodies? Why can't they find real critics with real words? Gangster Squad (32%), Bullet to the Head (47%), Beautiful Creatures (45%), Jack the Giant Slayer (52%) and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (38%) didn't exactly light up Rotten Tomatoes, but those numbers represent critics who liked the film. 353 positive reviews to choose from and they go with the most anonymous names available. The only film on Warner Bros. slate to even approach making money for them this year (those five previous films were all losers) is "42". That's at 77%. 105 positive reviews. Who did Warner Bros. use? Among others, Mark S. Allen, Shawn Edwards and Cindy Pearlman. So what did these three have to say about The Great Gatsby?
"An absolutely spellbinding, dazzling film that leaves you breathless." - Mark S. Allen
"Quite possibly the first perfect action movie! Awesome, fun, funny with action sequences that will leave you breathless, but gasping for more." (The Rundown)
"Funny…and absolutely breathtaking from beginning to end!" (Meet the Robinsons)
"Breathtaking and mind-blowing. One of the greatest graphic novel adaptations of all time!" (Watchmen)
"A masterpiece! Visually breathtaking and stunning in every way." (The Phantom of the Opera)
Two more Warner Bros. titles there for Mark S. Allen, one of the biggest WB quote whores next to Maria Salas and this one here...
"An instant classic. Leonardo DiCaprio has never been better." - Cindy Pearlman
"An instant classic!" (Gangster Squad)
"The first great comedy of the year. An instant classic." (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone)
"An all-American classic. Harrison Ford is at his finest." (42)
For those counting, that is FOUR times THIS year that Cindy Pearlman of the Chicago Sun-Times has called a Warner Bros. film "an instant classic." 20 of Cindy's 22 quotes since 2009 have been for the studio. How sad is it to think that the home of Roger Ebert will now be seen in ads associated with this worthless stain on the face of entertainment reporting. And speaking of worthless stains...
"Stunning! A groundbreaking, visionary and stylistic masterpiece. Baz Luhrmann has outdone himself." - Shawn Edwards
"Ingenious! Groundbreaking!" (Hulk)
"****! Intriguing and visionary!" (City of Ghosts)
"**** Incredible, intriguing, inspiring! A stylistic and provocative portrait of a true creative genius and fascinating persona." (A Man's Story)
"A top-notch stylistic action thriller! ****" (Killer Elite)
"It's Kill Bll meets ER in this brilliantly stylistic, ultra cool action thriller!" (Repo Men)
"A flat-out masterpiece! A mesmerizing and haunting film that soars with creativity, stylistic genius and amazing battle scenes. A breathtaking experience that shouldn't be missed." (Snow White and the Huntsman)
"A truly haunting and mesmerizing masterpiece!" (Let Me In)
"A true masterpiece!" (The Beaver)
"A true masterpiece. One of the most creative, original and visionary movies ever made." (Where the Wild Things Are)
"A masterpiece, absolutely brilliant. One of the most powerful and moving films I've ever seen. A must-see." (Tsotsi)
"A 100% certified masterpiece." (Sin City)
"An undeniable masterpiece!" (Grindhouse)
"**** Brilliant! A contemporary masterpiece." (Stranger Than Fiction)
"An electrifying cinematic achievement! A modern-day masterpiece. One of the best films of the year!" (American Gangster)
"Electrifying. Liam Neeson has never been better. An epic adventure that will thrill you. A masterpiece!" (The Grey)
"An ultra-cool masterpiece! The best film of the year!" (Kill Bill Vol. 1)
"A masterpiece!" (Crash)
"A masterpiece!" (The Manchurian Candidate 2004)
A visually stunning masterpiece! (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)
"An explosive masterpiece tailor-made for those who love ultra-cool high energy action!" (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)
"The year's best film. Jamie Foxx is brilliant. A stunning masterpiece that is destined to become a timeless classic." (Ray)
"A masterpiece destined to become a timeless classic. Uplifting and inspiring. Movies don't get much better than this." (Cinderella Man)
Anytime we get a chance to whip out those last two quotes from Shawn Edwards on Universal films released eight months apart we just have to take it. Those who don't - the studios. Not you Warner Bros. and not you Paramount. There are dedicated, hard-working film critics out there who love movies. Most of them are good people too, ready to champion films they love with some fresh adjectives that your focus groups on the average moviegoer may never realized are equally spark-worthy in capturing their attention. You can increase the font size of the hyperbole in the ads and decrease the names under them all you want. Over the past decade Criticwatch may only have informed a handful of folks paying attention to the reputation of some of your favorite quote whores. But we're in the age of social media now. You have all but given up on embargoes. Maybe it's time you continue to bring yourself into the digital age and leave your younger and more vulnerable years behind. Whether you hide a film from the press or splash your junket twits all over it, even a stoned high schooler studying F. Scott Fitzgerald can break through the not-so-hidden symbolism of those gestures.