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Criticwatch - The Gravity of Peter Travers
by Erik Childress

Last week we warned you that this was the season of the Petes. Hammond may not be what he used to when he racked up 88 worthless ad quotes in one calendar year. But after the hope that maybe even Travers was not being as generous as he has been in years past, we are left with the hopeless fact that he is probably headed for another 60-quote year. Anything under 50 is the ceiling we have been trying to set for this hyperbolic buffoon. That would be progress. Further progress even as we have entered October and there are only four names on the Criticwatch list that have reached double-digits in quotes. There are plenty hovering around eight and nine with several weeks to go, but we have managed to keep these features to more monthly or seasonal check-ups than weekly. Leave it to the whoriest of the whores to change that schedule though. The tenth month has just started and he's already been seen on three ads; two of them for films a full month before their release. We showed you how familiar his words for Captain Phillips were. Not only has he added to that, but has whipped out some of his old favorites on what is already the best-reviewed film of 2013.

A quick refresher on Peter Travers and Captain Phillips as seen in the commercials.

"Tom Hanks hits a new career peak. One of the best films of the year." - Peter Travers
"Crazy Heart may finally win him the Oscar that's unfairly eluded him and it offers the pleasure of watching a great actor at the peak of his form." (Crazy Heart)
"Dazzling...Mann hits a new peak, orchestrating action, atmosphere and bruising humor." (Collateral)
"Eastwood, at the peak of his artful powers, tightens the screws of suspense without ever forgetting where the heart of his film lies." (Changeling)
"A spellbinder that builds unbearable suspense without losing sight of the story's grieving heart. This classic-in-the-making is the Coen Brothers at the peak of their powers!" (No Country for Old Men)

The adjective they are really banking on to describe the film though is the following. Watch as Travers quickly takes the meaning out of it.

"Captain Phillips is a knockout." - Peter Travers
"A knockout!" (Crash)
"A French knockout!" (A Christmas Tale)
"A knockout! A visual miracle!" (Rize)
"A game-changer. A breathless rush of a movie that jumps off the screen, spins your head around and then works its way into your heart. Dazzling...A visual wonderland that is literally a knockout." (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
"Drop-dead dazzling knockout beautiful…this movie will grab you." (Step Into Liquid)
"Hits the jackpot! Maria Bello dazzles! A knockout!" (The Cooler)
"Great acting is quicksilver, impossible to pin down in words. But you know it when you see it. "And you see it with dazzling clarity in this landmark portrayal. A movie that doesn't pull its punches. It's a knockout! A terrific no-nonsense Catherine Keener." (Capote)
"Jonah Hill scores a no-joke knockout." (Moneyball)
"Keira Knightley scores a knockout…Impurely delicious…There's a fire in her eyes that won't be extinguished." (The Duchess)
"It's a comic knockout. Sharply funny and touching...A dream cast! Playful." (Crazy Stupid Love)
"Hairspray earns knockout status for its humor, heart and high spirits." (Hairspray)
"Hilarious in ways you have to see to believe! Apatow builds a knockout fable of modern immaturity." (Knocked Up)
"Think of all the ways you can hurt yourself laughing, as in fall down, split your sides, bust a gut, blow your mind. You get it all in Tropic Thunder, a knockout of a comedy that keeps you laughing constantly. It's also killer smart, lacing combustible action with explosive gags." (Tropic Thunder)
"Thunderous action and nail-biting suspense…A potently acted powerhouse that sticks in the mind and the heart. Harris and Mortensen make a knockout team. Gripping entertainment that keeps springing surprises" (Appaloosa)
"A knockout! Spellbinding! It spins a web that will pull you in. A thriller that really thrills." (The Lookout)
"A knockout of a thriller! A triumph of the highest order! A new crime classic." (A Prophet)
"A globe-trotting, butt-kicking, whiplash-paced action movie done with humor, style and smarts. A knockout performance by Matt Damon" (The Bourne Supremacy)
"A knockout in every way…Passing Strange blows the roof off!" (Passing Strange)
Kinsey wanted to snap the public out of sexual ignorance. And Condon's knockout of a movie tries to do the same. You'll be shocked at how far we haven't come." (Kinsey)
"One sweet sexy sting of a movie! Edward Burns gives a knockout" (Confidence)
"A knockout! Like nothing you've ever seen!" (Hanna)

Got that? The latest quote is as follows:

"A knockout of a movie filled with nerve-jangling tension, and surprises you don't see coming. It's one of the best movie of the year. Raw and riveting, Hanks hits a new career peak." - Peter Travers

Let's start with the first bit, shall we?

"Director Gabriele Salvatores delivers a nerve-jangling film." (I'm Not Scared)
"Sizzles with so much nerve-frying suspense that it's hot to the touch. "(Shutter Island)
"This movie delivers so hard it shoots off sparks. Your head will spin. Your palms will sweat. Your nerves will fry." (Unstoppable) [br]
"A potent frightfest that will fry your nerves and creep you out." (Paranormal Activity) [br]

The "surprises you don't see coming" line is a new one. An odd one too considering that Captain Phillips is based on an infamous true story with a well-known outcome. Perhaps there is more to the story that Sony is keeping Chicago critics from until the week of release, but that hardly correlates to what is anticipated in terms of movie "surprises" and "twists." We did examine that a bit last week too in regards to Travers' praise of Prisoners.

"Hot-blooded, haunting and packed with the pleasures of the unexpected. (Tell No One)
"Devilishly clever plot twists." (Duplicity)
"It's jolting, juicy stuff made juicier by the actors. State of Play keeps the twists coming." (State of Play)
"Tommy Lee Jones shakes you in way you do not see coming." (The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada)
"David Hyde Pierce is pricelessly good at taking you places you don't see coming." (The Perfect Host)
"Precious leaves you moved like no film in years and then lifts you up in ways you don't see coming." (Precious)
"A mind-bender of a thriller with twists you don't see coming!" (Mr. Brooks)
"Terrific and packed with surprises. It's full of twists and nail-biting suspense. You can't get it out of your head." (Side Effects)

You know, maybe we wouldn't see the twists coming, dummy, if you didn't tell us they were there in the first place. How do you respond to that, Peter?

"Expect the unexpected." (The Counselor)

OK, fine. The best of the new Captain Phillips quote though is Travers' love of the phrase "raw and riveting." They are adjectives we expected to popup quite frequently as individuals throughout Travers' timeline, but lo and behold...

"Amazing. Raw and riveting." (Revolutionary Road)
"Raw and riveting…Winterbottom exerts a grip that won't let go." (A Mighty Heart)
"Raw and riveting! You can't tear your eyes away from this explosion of sounds and images." (American Hardcore)
"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)
"Directed with ferocity and feeling by Kimberly Pierce, the emotional battlefield strikes a universal chord that transcends politics and preaching; it's raw and riveting. The film takes us inside the minds and hearts of soldiers and is a powder keg with no agenda except the human one. It's the real deal." (Stop-Loss)
"Raw and riveting…an experience you won't soon forget." (Monster)

Apparently, except Travers. As usual. Try a thesaurus sometimes, Peter. It's a wondrous tool for a writer in a brain pinch. And you sure could have used it in your review of Gravity.

"The Mexican-born Cuarón is a true visionary. In tandem with the Bullock tour de force – she blends ferocity and feeling into a triumphant, award-caliber portrait of grace under pressure – he turns Gravity into a thing of transcendent beauty and terror. It's more than a movie. It's some kind of miracle."

That is in his Rolling Stone review. We haven't even gotten to the ad yet. Read it again if you must and then continue.

"Tom Ford is a true visionary." (A Single Man)
"Burton is a true visionary. As the film follows its tragic course, Burton scores an explosive triumph. Covered in blood, Sweeney is finally engulfed by his emotions, and Depp finds the character's grieving heart. It's a staggering moment in a spellbinder of breathtaking beauty and terror." (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
"A thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool!" (Finding Nemo)
"It's a thing of beauty." (Holy Motors)
"Directed with ferocity and feeling by Kimberly Pierce..." (Stop-Loss)
"What David Fincher does is simply extraordinary. He fuses ferocity and feeling and creates a world you want to get lost in." (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
"Bradley Cooper's ferocity and feeling pull you in." (The Place Beyond the Pines)
"Tommy Lee Jones fills every frame of his directorial debut with the ferocity and feeling of his best screen performances." (The Three Burials of Melquaides Estrada)
"The go-for-broke intensity and emotional layering Watts brings to her role is an acting triumph. And McGregor matches her in a performance of ferocity and feeling." (The Impossible)

Now we get to the newspaper ad. 98% approval at Rotten Tomatoes. The glorious reviews that have been pouring in non-stop since the Venice Film Festival were enough to keep Warner Bros. from its usual stable of whores. Yet they put Travers right at the top.

You'll notice back at the review the line reads "In tandem with the Bullock tour de force" as opposed to "Bullock is a tour de force." With or is, it's all the same to Travers.

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)
A tour de force for Sally Field. (Lincoln)
Norton delivers a tour de force. (Leaves of Grass)
Anne Hathaway delivers an acting tour de force. (Rachel Getting Married)
You'll never forget Javier Bardem's tour de force. (No Country for Old Men)
Eastern Promises is Viggo Mortensen's tour de force. (Eastern Promises)
Savagely moving. Julianne Moore's tour de force performance is unforgettable. (Savage Grace)
Streep's performance is a comic and dramatic tour de force. (The Devil Wears Prada)
Marion Cotillard is a tour-de-force of unleashed emotions. (Rust and Bone)
(Cohen's) performance is a tour de force that sets off comic and cosmic explosions in your head. (Borat)
Frank Langella gives the performance of a lifetime as Nixon in a bone-deep tour de force. (Frost/Nixon)
A gift of a movie! Jeff Daniels gives the performance of his career. Jeff Daniels' portrait is a tour de force and his shining hour onscreen. (The Squid and the Whale)
Ralph Fiennes, as star and commander, pulls off a triumph! Vanessa Redgrave gives a tour-de-force performance. (Coriolanus)
Triumphant and enthralling. A double tour-de-force for James Franco and Danny Boyle. (127 Hours)

Travers' review ends with the line "It's more than a movie. It's some kind of miracle." As opposed to Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky...

"It's more than a movie, it's a gift."

Not to get sidetracked but...

"A gift! (King of California)
"Fun this smart is a gift!" (Kung Fu Hustle)
"A gift of a movie absolutely worth seeing more than once." (Once)
"A gift from comedy heaven" (A Mighty Wind)

Which brings us back to miracles. Those of us critics who may consider words like "miracles" to be a sacred word - not necessarily in a holier than thou way, but just as one that should be reserved for films like Gravity, should take offense to hearing Travers use it. If you recall the old Father Guido Sarducci joke about the Pope "just waving" the fourth miracle needed to canonize Mother Teresa to sainthood, that is what it is like to see Travers throwing the word around willy-nilly. And boy does he ever.

"Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a miracle worker..." (A Very Long Engagement)
"A knockout! A visual miracle!" (Rize)
"A movie miracle! It soars! You feel privileged!" (Winged Migration)
"An unmissable movie event. A feast for the eyes and ears. Cate Blanchett's soon-to-be legendary performance is not a stunt, it's some kind of miracle. (I'm Not There)
"Some kind of miracle!" (Camp)
"A miracle of a movie!" (Another Year)
"High on the list of the year's best movies. A miracle of a movie! Alfred Molina is a comic force of nature." (An Education)
"Unmissable and unforgettable! Hits you like a shot in the heart. This classic in the making ranks high on the list of the year's best movies. It's a landmark film and a triumph for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Heath Ledger's performance is an acting miracle." (Brokeback Mountain)
"Allen and Elliott perform acting miracles in this quietly devastating spellbinder." (Off the Map)
"Funny and touching, it works miracles in 3-D." (How To Train Your Dragon)
"A hilarious and heartfelt wonder! A new miracle in animation from Pixar…Unique and unmissable." (Ratatouille)
"A breathtaking ride. Wonderfully funny and touching…Up works miracles." (Up)
"A mesmerizing mindbender! Duncan Jones pulls off sci-fi miracles." (Moon)

The only miracle left is the one where we never see Peter Travers' name in an ad ever again.

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originally posted: 10/05/13 03:00:10
last updated: 10/05/13 03:04:08
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