Whom Can You Trust? A Guide To Your Film Critics (Part 2)
By Erik Childress
Posted 02/21/02 11:15:19
Below is a list of critics. Rooted solely in the film year of 2001, one nearly unanimously considered the worst ever, these oft-quoted “experts” are the biggest defendants in the World Court of Cinema Reviewing (or Critiquing, however you want to call it). Some of them are the biggest offenders of quote whoring working today, and many of the others, (though mind you, not ALL of them), while not exactly whores in the traditional journalism definition, are certainly involved in some form of legalized prostitution. Taking a hard look at their quotes make you wonder if any of them get an incentive bonus by procuring a certain amount of mentions for their outlets in nationwide newspapers and television ads. Maybe you trust some of these people, maybe you don’t. But I’m willing to bet my reputation that after seeing the lists of films that they recommended (and panned), you will trust them even less. This is a guide of quotes for movies many, including myself, both support and dismiss. While my thoughts on several of the names show how untrustworthy I think they are, others are just a part of the guide and by no means completely dismissed by myself. We all like movies that others don't and vice versa. We all go a little mad sometimes according to a famous crossdressing mama's boy and it doesn't make you a whore for disagreeing, but I believe its easy to tell who goes just a little more crazy, a little more often. When these are the names you see ALL THE TIME in film ads and film commercials - Whom Can and Whom Do You Trust?
WELL-KNOWN AND OFT-QUOTED CRITICS
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)
If you can find a critic who is more quoted than Mr. Travers, then I wouldn’t believe you because its impossible for that many films to be released in a year. There are film studios operating for the better part of 80 years whose name isn’t as associated with the amount of film ads that Pete is in a single year. In the last three months of 2001, Travers’ name was stamped on over 20 films (about a third of the films released), and that’s just in Chicago. I can’t imagine how many more opportunities he would have had with major papers in New York and Los Angeles. Not a single film released in December that he reviewed received a negative rating, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes.Com (an incredible website where you can see the bad quotes along with the good ones.) The great Metacritic.com also lists similar statistics, rating each critic against the average reviews for every film versus their own. Travers graded higher than the average critic 49% of the time, even 20% of the time, and lower 32% of the time.
Travers’ name may be best remembered from the ads for last year’s summer debacle A Knight’s Tale. You couldn’t see a commercial, print ad or theater standee without seeing huge paragraphs from his review praising this ridiculous, boring, half-anachronistic, poorly acted, ineptly directed piece of medieval shite. (In case you couldn’t tell, I named it the worst film of 2001.) But not Mr. Travers. Oh no! He was quoted in saying “Forget the hard-sell generic blockbusters heading for the multiplexes. The real deal is coming in under the radar. The movie plays like a dream.” What a true original Travers was going out on a limb to describe the film this way, huh? Just a few months later, his words graced ads for Waking Life (”It works like a dream.”) and Mulholland Drive (“There’s nothing like this baby anywhere! It grips you like a dream that won’t let go.”)
Alas, there may not be anything like Mulholland Drive, but Travers’ Terminator-like list of adjectives is another deal. Ghost World was “A stunner of a film” but Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl was “An absolute stunner of a movie.” Apparently, Ghost World didn’t make that leap into borderline kiddie porn and child rape to make it “absolute.” I’d also like him to tell us the difference between Hannibal (“diabolical laughs”), The Man Who Wasn’t There (“Devilishly Funny”), and The Business of Strangers (“Maliciously Funny”). Unsuspecting viewers may not realize that none of them are comedies. (The subdued family drama In The Bedroom was referred to as a “heart-stopping thriller.”) No Man’s Land was described as “Superb! Fierce and Funny! You won’t forget No Man’s Land, a first feature that defies glib categorization.” As opposed to Jonathan Glazer’s debut Sexy Beast, which he quoted as simply “unforgettable.”
CLEVER GIRL!!! – Hannibal “adds up to the tastiest dish around”. The Royal Tenenbaums “a prime contender when it comes to choosing the crown jewel among the films of 2001.”
Travers also likes to let you know things ahead of time, just in case the trailers haven’t given everything away already. “Vanilla Sky is an out-there erotic thriller with mind-bending secrets no review should give away.” The fact that we now know there are “mind-bending secrets” does nothing but make us expect to see “mind-bending secrets.” Or what about The Others which has “a wicked twist of an ending!” And savvy filmgoers come to expect plot twists from a David Mamet crime flick, but Travers told everyone that Heist has “more twists than a bag of pretzels.”
SIMILARITY ALERT!!! – The Golden Bowl “casts a potent spell”. Amelie “there’s magic in it.”
Travers enlightened everyone that The Lord of the Rings “looms like a colossus over the Hollywood epics of 2001.” Did I miss a lot of three-hour costume adventure romantic war dramas last year? Unless he considers the following titles “epics” (“A literary or dramatic composition that resembles an extended narrative poem celebrating heroic feats”, “Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size. Heroic and impressive in quality”), I’m at a loss (Black Hawk Down, Charlotte Gray, Ali, The Majestic, Spy Game, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, The Last Castle, From Hell, The Musketeer, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park III, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Atlantis: The Lost City, Pearl Harbor).
HE TOLD YOU SO!!! – Hannibal “It’s Unmissable”. The Golden Bowl “My advice is Just Watch It!”
IN CASE YOU MISSED HIS TOP 10 LIST – The Lord of the Rings (“The Best Film of the year!”), A Beautiful Mind (“One of the Year’s Ten Best Films.), The Royal Tenenbaums (“One of the year’s 10 best.”), Ali & Gosford Park (“One of the best films of the year.”)
Sugar & Spice – “Give the girls a cheer”
Go Tigers – “Worth cheering for! Funny and touching.”
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – “Hedwig is a cause for celebration.”
In the Mood for Love – “The film’s sublime, closer-than-a-kiss intimacy will sweep you away with hypnotic allure. Slowly, seductively, the smallest details are eroticized.”
The Tailor of Panama – “Hypnotic…An astutely comic version of Le Carre’s novel…Playing a villain becomes Brosnan; he’s looser, sexier, edgier. Geoffrey Rush gives a note-perfect performance.
Va Savoir – “Va Savoir abounds in pleasures”
Series 7: The Contenders – “An outrageously funny satire”
Ghost World – “Outrageously Funny! A rebuke to everything crass that Hollywood is bombing us with. Steve Buscemi at his best.”
Apocalypse Now Redux – “At least one masterpiece will emerge from the summer of 2001.”
The Closet – “Hilarious. A delicious treat spiked with mirth and malice! Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil spar hilariously!”
About Adam - "Adam keeps the amoral laughs bubbling!"
Blow – “Smart, Sexy, funny and dangerous. Johnny Depp is dynamite! Penelope Cruz is a smoldering tour-de-force! Paul (Pee Wee Herman) Reubens is a lethal blend of mischief and malice.”
Bridget Jones’s Diary – “A-List all the way”
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion – “It's a real charmer from a director who feels that a knockabout romantic farce doesn't have to be mindless -- take that, "America's Sweethearts."
Someone Like You – “A Fine Romance. Jackman’s scenes with the dazzling Judd have a poignancy that soars above the chick-flick herd into the realm of sweet magic.”
Original Sin – “Two sexy stars steam up the screen.”
With a Friend Like Harry – “One of the Most deliciously witty and wicked thrillers in ages! A nifty nail-biter that knows how to tighten the suspense screws. You’re in for a treat”
The Others – “It turns the screws of psychological terror.”
Amores Perros – “Explosive! A spellbinder that grabs you from the first scene and won’t let go! You leave Amores Perros seeing the world with new eyes.”
Baby Boy – “Leaves you shaken.”
Memento – “Mesmerizing mind-bender”
Training Day – “Knockout Action Entertainment”
Amelie – “The year’s best romantic comedy! It’s hard not to fall in love with this moonstruck romance”
Kevin Thomas (Los Angeles Times)
Thomas’ attempts to dethrone Travers as the “legit film quote king” are only matched by the variety of class and crap that he’s willing to support. Thomas is the primo example of how a good review of a good movie means nothing when its given by someone who calls How High, “A Raunchy, good-natured comedy!” Honestly it’s best to just let Thomas’ quotes speak for themselves. Metacritic.com reports that Thomas graded higher than the average critic 64% of the time, even 17% of the time, and lower 19% of the time. No commentary is necessary, but I dare you to enjoy some of his other recommendations:
Made – “Hilarious”
Sugar & Spice - "Funny! Strikes just the right note! Amusingly subversive, thanks to sharp writing and direction."
Jump Tomorrow – “Hopkins' inspired sense of humor is equaled only by his inspired casting."
The Anniversary Party - “Cumming and Leigh – bring to their stylish, incisive and compassionate film an immediacy and a bracing snap”
The Princess Diaries – “This stylish Disney production is an ideal family film.”
Get Over It - "A blithe-spirited comedy."
Hit and Runway – “A little gem. A sparkling comedy with serious undertones about friendship, self-discovery and artistic integrity”
Everybody’s Famous – “A hearty, clever comedy with a sharp satirical edge!”
All Over the Guy – “A romantic comedy of wit and substance.”
About Adam - "A sly romantic comedy made with wit and style."
Someone Like You - "Smart, amiable and well-paced." (But according to him, the fun Heartbreakers “unfolds in an impersonal, by-the-book fashion that threatens to become downright laborious.")
Monkeybone - "An incredible journey of the imagination, darkly humorous and zesty in spirit."
The Animal - "An outrageous and imaginative summer comedy aimed primarily at young males, but it is often so funny that it may well connect to a broader audience."
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – “A Rip-roaring rock musical!”
Black Knight - "A rip-roaring time-travel comedy tailored beautifully to Martin Lawrence's protean talent."
Joe Somebody - "Joe Somebody sends audiences home happy but also with an awareness that happy endings have to be earned in real life as on the screen."
Tomcats - "Raucously energetic and replete with a barrage of graphic sexual humor." (REPEAT – A Recommendation of Tomcats from the same guy who said about Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back that "the relentless torrent of foul language--and not just from Jay--becomes numbing and finally makes the film seem more crass than amusing.")
Antitrust - "A not-bad, highly topical diversion."
Valentine - "A smart, stylish horror picture that offers a fresh twist on the ever-reliable revenge theme and affords a raft of talented young actors solid roles that show them to advantage."
Don't Say a Word - "Don't Say a Word is smart, stylish and, most important, satisfying."
13 Ghosts - "Although not for the faint of heart, it's a potent -- and very tricky-treat."
Session 9 – “So effective that its sense of uncertainty lingers long after the theater lights have gone up."
DRAMA / ROMANCE
Glitter - "Glitter could have set its sights higher or at least could have been more even in tone, but there's no denying that the material fits Mariah Carey like one of her skin-tight gowns."
Baise Moi – “It must be said that it is not mere pornography. Despetes and Trinh Thi proved to be skilled, dynamic filmmakers…Baise Moi moves fast, accompanied by a hard-driving score.”
Save the Last Dance - "A teen romance that generates enough honest emotion to play against the predictability of its finish."
Angel Eyes - "A carefully crafted romantic drama of considerable insight and emotional impact that provides Lopez an acting challenge she meets with ease."
The Princess and the Warrior – “The Princess and the Warrior…has been constructed with a bravura circularity and a bold fatalistic use of coincidence.”
Hardball - "A surefire heart-tugger made with skill and judgment."
Kingdom Come - "Hilarious! Joyous! Sensational! A movie to be cherished. A rich pleasure."
Under the Sun – “Captivating…Casts a lovely spell.”
Big Eden – “**** Irresistible!”
Faithless – “An unqualified triumph.” (As opposed to a “qualified” triumph?)
Calle 54 – “Visually as pleasing as it sounds.”
Nora – “A gorgeous period piece with rich, vigorous portrayals of Joyce ... and Barnacle."
The Million Dollar Hotel - "If you're a Wenders admirer and can give yourself over to his gorgeous verging-on-surreal vision, you can come away deeply moved." (But The Center of the World - "There comes a point…when it seems that watching that Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee video might just be more rewarding -- and surely less pretentious.")
The Musketeer - "Spectacular! Philip Harrison's superb production design, Raymond Hughes and Cynthia Dumont's wide range of costumes, Gigi Lepage's gowns for Deneuve and David Arnold's rightly thundering score all help bring alive Dumas' romantic, tumultuous world one more time." (Notice how he didn’t mention the bad acting, horrible script or kung fu swordfighting action.)
American Outlaws - "A handsome and skillful retelling of a legend that imaginatively draws on conventions of both the western and the gangster movie to create an energetic yet thoughtful contemporary action-adventure." (Yet Texas Rangers was called "A dull show.")
The Fast and the Furious - "An action picture that's surprising in the complexity of its key characters and portents of tragedy." (But Time and Tide - "Audiences looking for an action-adventure diversion that's easy to track are sure to get lost in a plot so ever-thickening as to be virtually impenetrable.")
Pearl Harbor - "Blockbuster entertainment that has passion, valor and tremendous action. Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the entire cast and crew have given us a Pearl Harbor to remember."
Quotes from the Los Angeles Times were also printed for Rat Race (“Non-stop funny”) and The Fast and the Furious (“Fires on all cylinders!”). Thomas claimed no responsibility for either.
Believe it or not he actually did dislike some movies in 2001 – and what a limb he went out on
Blow Dry, Bride of the Wind, Bully, The Caveman’s Valentine, The Crimson Rivers, The Glass House, Head Over Heels, John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, Joy Ride, Lost and Delirious, One Night At McCools, Original Sin, Our Lady of the Assassins, Saving Silverman, Scary Movie 2, Soul Survivors, Summer Catch, Sweet November, The Wedding Planner, What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Co-host of the long-running PBS series "Sneak Previews" from 1982-1996, Mr. Lyons is the epitome of blandness in film reviewing. When my friend and fellow critic, Collin Souter, saw the previews for last December’s The Majestic, he was hesitant in seeing it because it looked like “a perfect Jeffrey Lyons movie.” Truer words were never spoken as Lyons graced the top of every newspaper ad for that film as “The Best Movie of the Year.” Even in a terrible year, think of some of the movies released (A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down, Ghost World, In the Bedroom, Monsters, Inc., The Others, The Royal Tenenbaums, Shrek) and THE MAJESTIC (!!!) is his numero uno? Then again you have to expect that from the guy who said “You’ll be rolling in the aisles. The worst that could happen is missing this film” (American Pie 2? – Nope – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?) or “High tension…an entertaining thriller. An absorbing, fast-paced journey” (Memento? – Nope – Domestic Disturbance) or “Entertaining and absorbing! A thoughtful, compelling and well-acted journey into the possibilities of our world and worlds beyond!” (A.I. ? – Nope – K-PAX) or “An unbelievably exciting movie! It thunders across the screen.” (The Lord of the Rings? – Nope – Rock Star) or finally “Enormously Entertaining and Heartwarming” (Amelie? – Nope – FREAKING Joe Somebody).
Michael Medved was the other half of the “Sneak Previews” duo. Calling him the bad half is an insult to Jeffrey Lyons as he is equally deserving of such a distinction. A few years back, Medved wrote the book “Hollywood vs. America” about Hollywood corrupting the youth, yadda yadda yadda. He is a critic with his own political agenda and is liable to give any “G” or “PG”-rated film a good rating and then preach with unresearched facts that films with those ratings make the most money because that’s what people want. Never mind the fact that kids + their parents ticket prices = more money and that only really good or really hyped “G/PG” movies make money (i.e. high-profile Disney or Dreamworks animated projects or titles like Harry Potter, Spy Kids or a big star like Eddie Murphy communicating with talking animals.) I didn’t see the grosses go very far on Recess: School’s Out, See Spot Run, Pokemon 3, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles or Max Keeble’s Big Move. Only exceptions include The Princess Diaries, Cats & Dogs and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, three films released during the high-profile summer and holiday seasons when if you can’t lure kids and their parents to the theaters (even with inferior product like that) then you have no business being a studio head. But I digress. Doesn’t matter what Medved likes or doesn’t, sewage rats in the Witness Protection Program are more trustworthy.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert & Roeper)
“We all go a little mad sometimes.” – Norman Bates, Psycho.
THUMBS UP IN 2001
15 Minutes, Angel Eyes, Cats & Dogs, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The Fast and the Furious, Hearts In Atlantis, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, Just Visiting, K-PAX, Kate & Leopold, Kiss of the Dragon, A Knight’s Tale, The Last Castle, Legally Blonde, The Mexican, Original Sin, Sugar and Spice, Tomb Raider
OVERinflation – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was given 4 stars. The marginal 2 ½-star review was given to such turkeys as Driven, Hardball, Rock Star and Swordfish.
TOO Harsh? – Zoolander received a single star while Josie and the Pussycats was only worthy of a half-star.
THUMBS DOWN IN 2001
Blow, Donnie Darko, The Others, Series 7: The Contenders
Metacritic stats (higher than average 66% of the time, even 18%, and lower 16%.)
Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert & Roeper)
“We all go a little mad sometimes.” – Roger Ebert
THUMBS UP IN 2001
3000 Miles To Graceland, Angel Eyes, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Cats & Dogs, Hardball, Hearts In Atlantis, John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars, K-PAX, Kate & Leopold, A Knight’s Tale, Legally Blonde, Life As A House, Serendipity
OVERinflation – Planet of the Apes “isn’t just worthy of comparison to the original…It’s better.” And Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is “The Wizard of Oz of its time”, yet wasn’t good enough to make his top ten list.
THUMBS DOWN IN 2001
Heist, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Joy Ride, The Lord of the Rings, Spy Kids
Joel Siegel (Good Morning America)
Do you ever remember Joel Siegel giving a bad review to a film? It must have happened at some point on the time/space continuum, but I’ve never seen it. ABCNews.com says “Joel Siegel, a Good Morning America family member since 1981, blends his unique sense of humor with his insights in the field of films and filmmaking to provide GMA viewers with movie reviews that are both informative and entertaining.” Lets examine that.
INFORMATIVE AND ENTERTAINING REVIEWS
Monsters Inc – “An instant classic”
Behind Enemy Lines – “Amazing”
Training Day – “This is a great film”
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – “It’s a terrific film.”
Hearts in Atlantis – “A wonderful, wonderful movie”
Sexy Beast – “This film gets an A”
Jurassic Park III – “A thrill ride…high on adrenaline!”
Spy Game – “I loved this movie! The action’s terrific. Heart-pounding suspense. It’s really smart. I saw it twice. It’s that good.”
The Last Castle – “Wildly entertaining…Redford couldn’t be better”
What’s the Worst That Could Happen? – “Devito and Lawrence are dynamite together”
The Others – “A gothic ghost story with a 21st century twist!”
The Score – “Terrific Fun…Adds up to one of the best of the summer.”
Bridget Jones’s Diary – “Terrific Fun! This is one of the best films of the year! It’s great!”
Shrek – “Hilarious…I was on the floor. One of the year’s best movies”
The Lord of the Rings – “Real Magic! One of the Best Films of the Year”
Zoolander – “The funniest movie of the year”
Bandits – “Laughs, nothing but laughs. One of the year’s best films”
Apocalypse Now Redux – “One of the great films of all time! Don’t miss it!”
Gosford Park – “Gosford Park is one of Altman’s best, which is to say…one of film’s best”
UNIQUE SENSE OF HUMOR
Down to Earth – “Chris Rocks”
Blow – “This movie blew me away”
Dorothy Parker eat your heart out. I hope everyone is now informed AND entertained.
Gene Shalit (The Today Show)
Is there a scarier-looking critic working today than Mr. Shalit? His impenetrable Cheshire Cat-like smile rivals that of Bill Harris (former partner of Rex Reed and now seen reviewing videos on E! and The National Enquirer). If Shalit is your cup of tea, then drink your morning coffee, turn on the tube, jump on that handlebar mustache and go for a ride.
Hannibal – “I Cannot Get Enough of Sir Anthony and when I see Julianne Moore, that’s exactly what I want: Moore Moore”
A Beautiful Mind – “One of the year’s finest movies. Russell Crowe is as near to perfect as an actor can be”
Life As A House – “An excellent movie”
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion – “Fun! Hypnosis spells laughs.”
15 Minutes – “Blistering…ingenious…exotic…15 Minutes is an “A” all the way!” (Exotic?)
The Score – “An Ingenious suspense caper. A distinctive film – vivid, meticulous, cunning. When you see The Score, you’ll know it’s a winner.”
Enemy At The Gates – “A Climactic Confrontation that Resonates with High Noon”
Jurassic Park III – “A catch-your-breath cliffhanger.”
Along Came A Spider – “You’ve heard of a grabber? This Ending is a Gasper. A Clever Web” (Thanks again for informing us of a SURPRISE ending you jagoff!)
Riding In Cars With Boys – “Has got the Goods. Directed Superbly by Penny Marshall. The film accelerates Drew Barrymore’s career and puts Steve Zahn’s into overdrive” (Did Barrymore need acceleration after box office hits Ever After, Never Been Kissed and Charlie’s Angels? And hasn’t Zahn been working pretty steadily since his turn in 1996’s That Thing You Do?)
Hardball – “Hardball is alive with vitality and many pleasures. Keanu Reeves excels. …an uplifting screenplay…For a change, here’s a picture that’s not a concentration of special effects. Hardball is filled with human emotions, and that effect is most special of all.”
Serendipity – “I’ve been reviewing movies for 35 years and Serendipity joins my personal list of matchless romantic comedies. Thrilling, most wonderful and beyond compare!” (Guess he’ll be crying foul when it doesn’t make the AFI’s Top 100 Romance list.)
Bridget Jones’s Diary – “A Smart Comedy That’s Funny” (Have you ever seen a smart comedy that wasn’t?)
Leonard Maltin (Entertainment Tonight / Hot Ticket)
This guy may be one of the most well-known film critics and may have the best film reference book on the market every year, but consider this. (1) His book has consistently shown an aversion to correct alphabetical order (i.e. “Back to the Future” comes before “Backdraft”, not the other way around, dummy!) (2) For his new “Politically Incorrect”-like movie review roundtable show, he chose Todd “AWESOME!” Newton (from the E! Channel) for his co-host. If Todd and a bullet wound up missing in the same day, there would be no questions asked. AWESOME!
Larry King (USA Today)
If you look in the paper, see Larry King recommend a movie and say “hey honey, this HAS to be a good movie,” you deserve what you get. Does 17 marriages and 26 divorces dull your taste in movies? OK, so he “can’t stop thinking about” Vanilla Sky, but here are some of King’s recommendations that you should completely forget.
The Affair of the Necklace – “You will not forget this film” (Notice how he says, YOU will not forget)
15 Minutes – “A Slam Bang Thriller” (Any quote that uses the term “slam bang” is instantly untrustworthy)
The Score – “A twisting caper with a switch that will blow you away.” (Thanks for spoiling the ending, Lar!)
Behind Enemy Lines – “One Great Movie” (This film isn’t even an eighth of an average movie.)
Don’t Say A Word – “Wow! A masterpiece” (Up there with Lawrence of Arabia, Larry?)
Andrew Johnston (US Weekly)
The Mexican – “A Two-hour adrenaline high…This romantic adventure hits the bull’s eye.” (Dead people react more to invisible adrenaline than the living hooked up for shock therapy treatment do to this film.)
A Knight’s Tale – “Kicks off the summer season in High Style! A blend of Gladiator and Shakespeare in Love” (That’s like saying Behind Enemy Lines is a blend of Saving Private Ryan and Cast Away.)
The Anniversary Party – “A terrific comedy with superb performances!”
Legally Blonde – “A sparkling comedy! Reese Witherspoon is terrific as always”
Cats & Dogs – “Outrageously Funny”
Osmosis Jones – “An inspired satire”
Moulin Rouge – “**** An audacious pop spectacle.”
Waking Life – “A film as thought-provoking and touching as it is visually dazzling.”
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone – “Harry Potter fans who have been waiting to exhale can breathe easy. It’s everything Potter maniacs could ask for.” (Especially those who enjoy Whitney Houston “men suck” movies apparently.)
Tape – “A lacerating, razor-sharp comedy.” (Note: This is a searing drama about an accusation of date rape.)
Kate & Leopold - Seriously Romantic and Darn Funny. A showcase for the charms of Meg Ryan & Hugh Jackman who deliver sharp performances. (Not razor-sharp performances mind you, and evidently not nearly as funny as the date rape movie.)
For better or worse, Johnston was also quoted for (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Apocalypse Now Redux, crazy/beautiful, The Dish, Hannibal, Josie & The Pussycats, The Last Castle, Sexy Beast, Shrek, Training Day, Vanilla Sky, When Brendan Met Trudy)
Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal)
Metacritic stats (Higher than average 33% of the time, even 17%, and lower 50%.)
Hannibal – “Hopkins is a star for all seasons, and seasonings.”
The Others – “A Supernatural thriller – as classic as they come!”
Happy Accidents – “Fresh, flip and enjoyable. I urge you to seek it out.”
Osmosis Jones – “Explodes with funny ideas…wildly original animation!”
Behind Enemy Lines – “Impressive. Stirring. A resounding hit”
See Spot Run –“ See Spot Run Is What parents hope for and seldom find in comedies made for kids.” (How come he didn’t say that about Monsters, Inc. where he simply said “Funny and smart. A joyous, boisterous fable”?)
Holly McClure (Salem Radio Network / Crosswalk.com)
Holly McClure isn’t a name you will see pop up too often in quote ads, but you may have seen her (along with Michael Medved) on TV’s Politically Incorrect. The Medved parallel is no accident, because Miss McClure is one of those new breed of critics who don’t really review the movie as they do the content in it. Not plot, character and direction, but extreme violence, sexual content and foul language. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a guide for parents to help shield their young children, but there’s already a superb website that tells parents down to the dotted “I” and the crossed “T” & “A” what can be found in any particular movie called ScreenIt.com. There’s no place for this in film criticism. Family friendly or not, its not her place to criticize works of art because it has more “F” bombs and realistic violence than A Walk To Remember. Last October, McClure gave a poor review to David Mamet’s Heist because she felt it glorified criminals. Yet she was quoted on ads for both Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (“delivers a story with a convincing spiritual message”) AND Valentine (a lame-brained bloody slasher film about a high school nerd getting revenge on the pretty, bitchy rich girls who picked on him.) Mixed messages wouldn’t you say? Then again, what can you expect from someone featured in Dr. Laura’s bi-monthly newsletter. I’m surprised such a devout Christian would be associated with anything using the prefix "bi”.
Lou Lumenick (New York Post)
It’s hard not to see the name of Lou Lumenick in about 1 out of 3 film ads with a recommendation and I was prepared to label Lou amongst the untrustworthy. After seeing positive quotes for Behind Enemy Lines (“A slickly entertaining war movie that's sometimes striking, sometimes silly -- but never, ever boring.") and Domestic Disturbance (“A refreshingly unpretentious little thriller”) and this negative one for The Others ("An unconvincing, pretentiously artsy pastiche of just about every hoary old gothic thriller you can think of.") it seemed as much of a no-brainer as recommending Behind Enemy Lines and Domestic Disturbance. But in the spirit of Norman Bates, these seem to be minor bouts of madness as Lou hits the mark more often than not. Still, buyer beware as Metacritic reports (Higher than average 45% of the time, even 27%, and lower 28%.)
Mark S. Allen (UPN-TV)
Enemy at the Gates – “A poignant and suspenseful war epic that is masterfully directed."
Driven – “Gear Shattering, Ground-Pounding Action”
Domestic Disturbance – “Relentlessly suspenseful with Heart-stopping, nail-biting, jump out of your seat intensity”
See Spot Run – “The Best Family Film of the Season”
Monsters, Inc. – “Funny and touching…An instant classic.”
Riding In Cars with Boys – “The season’s first must see film! Remarkable! Funny, charming and ujnbelievably moving”
Scary Movie 2 – “The perfect cast at their comedic best.”
Say It Isn't So – “A Twisted masterpiece.”
Freddy Got Fingered – “Inspired Insanity”
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – “#@!#-ing Hysterical”
Rat Race – “Quite Possibly The Funniest Movie Ever!"
Bonnie Churchill (National News Syndicate)
Since Bonnie is actually a relative of Sir Winston Leonard Spencher Churchill (otherwise known as just Winston Churchill), I thought I’d list a Top Ten List of his quotes that sound oddly appropriate to the task at hand.
10. “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”
9. “The price of greatness is responsibility.”
8. “Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.”
7. "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
6. “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile--hoping it will eat him last.”
5. “A communist is like a crocodile: when it opens its mouth you cannot tell whether it is trying to smile or preparing to eat you up.”
4. “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else.”
3. “If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time--a tremendous whack.”
2. “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”
1. “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain hazardous, and conflicting information.”
From her website bio: “Bonnie Churchill’s positive, accurate reporting has earned her the friendship of film, stage and television stars, government leaders, authors, designers, food experts, sports figures and diplomats--all the international news makers she writes about.”
Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles – “Hysterical Fun for the whole family! Turn Up the Laugh Meter! Paul Hogan is back and the ‘croc’ rocks!”
Do you need any more proof than that?
Mike Cidoni (ABC-TV)
From his bio page – “Now based in Hollywood, Mike Cidoni is a veteran upstate New York broadcast, print and Internet reporter, with over 20 years of local experience covering entertainment. He presently covers the movie business for The Ackerley Group television stations, the I Know Network, DVDfile.com, TheMoviePlace.com and for more than 30 radio stations.”
Get Over It – “Absolutely Hilarious. Kirsten Dunst brings it on again”
Double Take – “Fast, Furious and Funny – It starts the new year with a bang!”
The Animal – “This season’s first fun comedy romp”
Zoolander – “A picture-perfect comedy”
Rat Race – “Spleen-burstingly funny”
The Wedding Planner – “Matthew McConaughey is simply irresistible!”
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone – “Simply Brilliant! A picture-perfect adaptation that will delight the books’ fans and win over legions more”
Rock Star – “Rock Star is an out-of-the-box smash hit. ****”
Vanilla Sky – “**** One of the year’s 10 best. Cruise and Cruz are a dream team in a mind-bending, eye-filling, heart-stopping masterwork”
Jeff Craig (Sixty Second Preview)
THE ORIGINAL QUOTE WHORE!!! His existence has turned into an urban legend. In one of Roger Ebert’s answer man columns, he asked “Has anyone ever actually seen Jeff Craig of 'Sixty Second Previews' at a movie? For that matter, does anyone know what 'Sixty Second Previews' is? I ask in all sincerity." Ron Breeding of Little Rock, Arkansas once worked for a radio station that aired “Sixty Second Previews,” a daily modular program that ran for a single minute. He said that “Jeff Craig is the host of the thing, but since the program comes on CD a month at a time, he apparently hasn't actually seen most of the movies -- thus "previews," not "reviews." Still, his gushing about an upcoming movie he hasn't yet seen ends up being used as blurbs in movie ads.” Ebert answered back by reporting that “in a magazine profile, Craig said he has employees who attend some of the movies for him, since he's too busy to see all of them himself. Strange, since real critics actually see the movies they review, and even find time to write whole long reviews about them, instead of action-packed blurbs.” (Ironically, another unintentional shot at new partner Roeper.)
Sugar & Spice – “BABEALICIOUS! One of the most satisfying teen comedies in years!”
One Night at McCools – A scorching hot seductress. Liv Tyler is a sexy delight.”
See Spot Run – “Kids will love it”
15 Minutes – “First great film of 2001”
Hardball – “Hardball makes the emotions feel authentic, and Keanu Reeves is quite impressive. Inspired by real life events…Its rousing story will hit a home run…”
Hearts In Atlantis – “****”
The Center of the World – “**** Powerful and Provocative”
Spy Game – “**** Spy Game is a great spy movie with megawatt star power”
Company Man – “A Rollicking Farce! A Madcap Comedy!”
Zoolander – “Radically silly and deliriously absurd.”
13 Ghosts – “The visual effects are breathtaking”
Swordfish – “One of the most breathlessly entertaining releases of the summer. You’ll be pinned to your seat by Swordfish”
Earl Dittman (Wireless Magazine)
Remember this guy? Wireless banner. 2 million circulation. Proud of his oft-quoted status. Loves movies. Always loved movies. Taken film classes. Gives filmmakers benefit of the doubt. (Let the quotes and those film classes speak for themselves.)
Domestic Disturbance – “An unforgettable cat-and-mouse thriller. It’s impossible to take your eyes off John Travolta! He delivers a commanding, impeccable performance”
Along Came A Spider – “A tightly woven cinematic web of intrigue and suspense... An intense and riveting psychological thriller that will keep you glued to your seat!"
15 Minutes – “Powerful and Electrifying”
The Mummy Returns – “An Exhilarating Roller Coaster Ride”
Tomb Raider – “Will have you screaming, laughing and cheering from beginning to end! It's one unforgettable adventure of epic proportions, filled with unstoppable thrills and chills. Don't miss a second of this spectacular motion picture!"
Moulin Rouge - "Glorious!"
Someone Like You – “The most hilarious film of the year!"
Shallow Hal – “Funniest comedy of the year!”
Joe Somebody – “Irresistible! Non-stop laughs”
A Knight’s Tale – “Simply Irresistible! A clever, cool film that breaks all the rules”
Novocaine – “Steve Martin is a comic mastermind in this clever and cool film”
Sara Edwards (NBC News Bureau)
Bachelor of Arts Degree in Film from UCLA – OK.
Film Reviewer and Entertainment Reporter for NBC NEWS CHANNEL since 1995 – Fine.
Member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association – RED FLAG!!!
Sweet November – “A Lovely Romance For Your Valentine”
Moulin Rouge – “Hip, Sexy And Outrageous”
The Princess Diaries – “A hip, funny and moving modern-day fairy tale.”
Sara was also quoted for Save the Last Dance. Men – do you see a pattern here?
Shawn Edwards (FOX-TV)
Sweet November – “A movie that sizzles with charm. You’ll have a renewed passion for life”
Save The Last Dance - "Will have you dancing in your seat.”
13 Ghosts – “Real Bone-Chilling Thrills. Finally a scary movie that will have you jumping out of your seat”
Tomb Raider – “Tomb Raider delivers with a magnificent wallop!”
Down to Earth – “The Funniest Man In America Will Have You Laughing Until It Hurts”
What’s the Worst That Could Happen? – “Martin Lawrence is the man. Danny Devito is terrific”
Kate and Leopold – “Smart, Sexy and Totally Satisfying Comedy! Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman are the screen couple of the year”
Cats & Dogs – “A hysterically funny and tremendously clever film.”
One Night At McCool’s – “A hilarious romp”
Scary Movie 2 – “You’ll laugh harder, louder & more often than you did at the first one.”
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – “A hilarious festival of humor! It will keep you laughing from start to finish.”
Hearts In Atlantis – “One of the year’s best cinematic experiences.”
Bandits – “Bandits is flat-out terrific. As much fun as you’ll have at the movies all year”
The Animal – “The comedy hit of the summer”
Black Knight – “Tremendously funny. The surprise comedy of the year”
Hardball – “Hardball is the most enjoyable movie of the year! It’s Simply fantastic. Finally a film that gets inside your soul and produces honest emotions. You’ll laugh and cheer for the most lovable group of kids since The Bad News Bears.”
Jim Ferguson (FOX-TV)
3000 Miles to Graceland – “A great heist movie. ..Costner plays the ultimate bad guy”
The Score – “Leaves You wanting more. Fantastic. Best heist movie in years. Truly an all-star cast that’s hard to beat.”
Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles – “He's back and the crocodile man takes on the LA sharks! Paul Hogan has a few lessons for LA bad guys!"
15 Minutes – “Riveting”
Driven – “Experience the thrill ride”
Along Came a Spider - "This year's best suspense-thriller. Thought provoking suspense at its best. You won't want it to end."
Swordfish – “The sleeper hit of the summer” (Sleeper hit? A big-budget summer action film with John Travolta.)
Legally Blonde – “One of the summer’s best comedies.” (For those keeping track – the summer comedies preceding its release were Shrek, The Animal, What’s the Worst That Could Happen?, Evolution, Doctor Dolittle 2, Pootie Tang, Cats & Dogs and Scary Movie 2.)
Cats & Dogs – “A doggone funny film filled with holiday fireworks.”
Vanilla Sky – “So thought-provoking youll want to see it twice. A lucid dream-ride with Tom Cruise that you won’t forget.” (Those who have seen the film – notice the use of the words “lucid dream”.)
Joanna Langfield (The Movie Minute)
“Heard On Radio Stations Around The World!” boasts Joanna’s website (www.themovieminute.com). Her voice is heard throughout the 50 states and around the world by more than one million listeners on her syndicated radio programs: Joanna Langfield's People Report and Video and Movie Minute. Joanna Langfield is known for taking the celebrity interview to another level with probing looks at celebrities' insights rather than just their latest projects. As a result, she has secured a niche among the nation's premier interviewers and movie critics reporting on radio and television. Joanna is heard and seen domestically and internationally as one of the top authoritative commentators on the entertainment industry. She is listed as a Radio Personality, Film Critic, Author, Television Commentator, Member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (AHHHHH!!!!!!!!).
Rush Hour 2 – “high kicking laughs”
Rock Star – “Mark Wahlberg gives his most arresting performance since Boogie Nights. He sure shows his real stuff here.”
Angel Eyes – “Jennifer Lopez is terrific. She’s so magnetic you can’t take your eyes off her.” (Apparently Mr. Dittman hasn’t shown her clips of John Travolta.)
The Majestic – “An Irresistible Tale! A Vibrant, heart-tugging American story”
Along Came a Spider – “A thriller that actually thrills”
Made – “Vince is so funny, he actually had me laughing out loud.” (Does she normally hold that laughter in when she finds something funny?)
All this and more from the person who said about Memento – “shtick is cute, but annoying. Once I got what was happening artsy-wise in this whodunit, I was long past caring whodunit in the story.”
Mose Persico (CFCF/Lite Rock & About 6 Other Outlets)
This guy was actually featured as a joke on Jonathon Brandmeier’s show as well. If the Film Freak failed to live up to his whoring duties than this guy could have taken his crown. Originally on because of his praise for Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (“Insanely funny!”), Mose (rhymes with Jose, not Bose speakers) was asked what was the last film he gave a bad review to. His response: Mallrats. (IN 1995!!!!) Another member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, if you see his name attached to any ad, you go running unless a respectable critic whom you trust advises you otherwise.
Hardball – “Touching and engaging…Hardball covers all the bases!”
Maria Salas (Telemundo / Gems Television)
Just remember – her outlet is where Erik Estrada is the hottest star on television.
Along Came A Spider – “A Classic Suspense Thriller with surprising twists and turns. It will keep you at the edge of your seat!”
The Score – “Suspenseful from beginning to end.”
Driven – “Driven is a pure adrenaline Rush”
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – “Brilliantly Irreverent!”
Angel Eyes – “Sparks fly between Caviezel and Lopez in Angel Eyes. Great Chemistry”
The Wedding Planner – “Hilarious and Romantic”
Someone Like You – “The Most Romantic film of the year!”
Cats & Dogs – “Two Paws Up! 100% Awesome.” (Wouldn’t her and Todd Newton make a great pair?)
David Sheehan (CBS-TV)
What’s the Worst That Could Happen – “The laughs are big”
America’s Sweethearts – “Fun, funny and filled with laughs”
Down to Earth – “Definitely Funny and Heartfelt. Chris Rock has a way of making it all so personable and entertaining. He’s a funny guy”
Moulin Rouge – “This is a terrific treat”
The Majestic – “The Season’s All-Out Feel Good Movie”
Hearts In Atlantis – “A captivating movie experience.”
Hardball – “Hardball is realistic and inspirational at the same time.”
Vanilla Sky – “A movie that reverberates with the unexpected and the surprising”
Domestic Disturbance – “An involving, suspense thriller…humanized and galvanized by a terrific performance from John Travolta”
Spy Game – “Spy Game is one of those unusually intelligent movies”
Jim Svejda (KNX/CBS Radio)
From his bio page: “Although Jim Svejda is one of the most respected, critical voices in the classical music field, he also is one of the most entertaining and popular program hosts on public radio. He is the host and producer of the nationally syndicated radio series The Record Shelf, which is carried by some 200 public radio stations. (Excuse me – then why is he reviewing movies?) Oh wait, at the bottom of the page (“A noted film critic, his reviews are broadcast on the CBS Radio Network.”)
Recess: School’s Out – “A Delightful family film. Smart, Funny and thoroughly lovable”
When Brendan Met Trudy – “Delightfully quirky and unpredictable, When Brendan Met Trudy is one of the freshest comedies in years”
Jump Tomorrow – ““The funniest, freshest, most imaginative film this year!”
Cats & Dogs – “The best family film of the summer.”
Max Keeble’s Big Move – “An absolute charmer”
The Princess Diaries – “Funny, touching and irresistibly charming.”
Jeannie Wolf (Jeanne Wolf's Hollywood)
Frankly, I think we all get the point and this one is not even worth mentioning.
CAVEAT EMPTOR ON THESE OTHER GENIUSES
Byron Allen, Bill Bregoli, Ron Brewington, Dwight Brown, Louis Hobson, Steven Iervolino, Christy Lemire, Omar Linares, Sandie Newton, Steve Oldfield, Kyle Osborn, Scott Patrick, Richard Reid, Neil Rosen, Leah Rozen, Sam Rubin, Patty Spitler, Patrick Stoner, James Vernier
Metacritic stats on other critics you may recognize (Yes, some of them don’t add up to 100%.)
Michael Wilmington (Chicago Tribune) (Higher than average 67% of the time, even 21%, and lower 13%.)
Jay Carr (The Boston Globe) (Higher than average 59% of the time, even 25%, and lower 16%.)
Joe Leydon (Variety) (Higher than average 54% of the time, even 24%, and lower 21%.)
Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) (Higher than average 54% of the time, even 23%, and lower 23%.)
Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly) (Higher than average 51% of the time, even 19%, and lower 30%.)
Jami Bernard (New York Daily News) (Higher than average 48% of the time, even 27%, and lower 25%.)
Mark Caro (Chicago Tribune) (Higher than average 45% of the time, even 27%, and lower 27%.)
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) (Higher than average 42% of the time, even 24%, and lower 33%.)
Jack Mathews (New York Daily News) (Higher than average 40% of the time, even 29%, and lower 31%.)
David Ansen (Newsweek) (Higher than average 39% of the time, even 34%, and lower 27%.)
Richard Shickel (Time) (Higher than average 38% of the time, even 24%, and lower 38%.)
David Denby (The New Yorker) (Higher than average 37% of the time, even 32%, and lower 32%.)
A.O. Scott (New York Times) (Higher than average 37% of the time, even 24%, and lower 39%.)
Desson Howe (Washington Post) (Higher than average 36% of the time, even 21%, and lower 42%.)
Stephen Holden (New York Times) (Higher than average 33% of the time, even 30%, and lower 37%.)
Todd McCarthy (Variety) (Higher than average 33% of the time, even 26%, and lower 40%.)
Richard Corliss (Time) (Higher than average 32% of the time, even 28%, and lower 40%.)
Elvis Mitchell (New York Times) (Higher than average 23% of the time, even 28%, and lower 50%.) (Note: Liked Pootie Tang!)
Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader) (Higher than average 23% of the time, even 24%, and lower 52%.)
Dave Kehr (New York Times) (Higher than average 16% of the time, even 38%, and lower 45%.)
Of course, in the interest of fair play, there were a collection of titles last year that I enjoyed and recommended that I could very easily be taken to task for. They include Bubble Boy, Evolution, Jeepers Creepers, Josie and the Pussycats, The Majestic, The Mummy Returns and Not Another Teen Movie. I also gave negative reviews to The Man Who Wasn’t There, Mulholland Drive and Waking Life, the latter of which graced the ten spot on my Worst List of 2001. My decisions to choose certain critics is based, of course, on my own opinion of the movies they reviewed. If you like movies like Behind Enemy Lines and Driven, hey, that’s your prerogative and some of these critics are right up your alley.
Besides trusting myself, naturally, the other critics I trust implicitly range from both professional to amateur. We may not see eye-to-eye on every piece of celluloid that gets put through the projector, but we agree more often than not and certainly have a mutual respect for each other’s opinions. We trust each other and know that ulterior motives do not guide our brains. When I see names like Dann Gire or Nick Digilio or even my fellow website contributors Scott Weinberg, Collin Souter, James E. Laczkowski, Chris Parry, Eric D. Snider and Andrew Howe, I feel safe and know I’m not being swindled with dishonest thoughts. By listing these fellow friends and colleagues, it does not mean that there are others whom I do not agree with, but frankly how many critiques do you need per movie?
There are others to be sure. When Roger Ebert gives a film 3 ½ or 4 stars, chances are he’s usually right on about it being a good movie. Maybe not great, but good. On the other hand, any three-star review of his gives me greater pause than a cease-and-desist order from the Chicago Sun-Times. James Berardinelli (Reelviews) (http://movie-reviews.colossus.net), Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central (www.filmfreakcentral.com – not the Quote Whore known as the Film Freak) and Berge Garabedian (JoBlo) from JoBlo’s Movie Emporium (www.joblo.com) are also not under the thumb of unscrupulous editors or junket publicists. All three of them along with Scott Weinberg and myself are members of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org) which boasts a membership of over ninety literate and insightful critics, none of whom recieve free airplane rides in exchange for calling Chevy Chase "delightfully uproarious".
But I leave it up to you. The reader. The moviegoer. Find a critic or two and a backup if necessary before you throw down $50+ to take your family to a movie or put a strain on that first date by taking her to Rollerball. Take my advice or don’t. It’s a free country. But you, and only you, can put a stop to those trying to buy your time and waste it.