Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

December 5, 2009

A Road You'll Wish Hadn't Been Taken

In this week's edition of The Blurbs—the feature in which we take a close look at those critic blurbs that are a fixture of ads for movies—see breakdowns of ads for 'The Road,' 'Up in the Air,' 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon,' and more.

David Goldenberg

The critic blurb is a staple of arts advertising. Yet if you look behind some blurbs, you'll find quotes out of context, quote whores, and other questionable ad practices. Blurb Racket exposes the truth behind critics blurbs in movie ads from the New York Times. Movie titles link to, which compiles movie reviews in a far-more honest way than do movie ads. See the inaugural Blurb Racket column for background and useful links, and find out what critics think of the racket.

"Be warned: This is one of the toughest trips to the movies this year."—Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News

The Road (Weinstein Co.)
Metacritic Score: 64

Patrick Goldstein, Los Angeles Times: "It's time to put 'The Road' on the Oscar® contender list!"
Not quoted: "Todd McCarthy is one of my favorite critics, but he's just plain wrong—let's say plumb crazy—to dismiss 'The Road' as a disaster, as he did in a recent Variety review that shrugged the movie off as a woeful misfire 'without any sense of pacing or dramatic modulation.' "
Goldstein's Times colleague Kenneth Turan, sides with McCarthy: " 'The Road' is a road you'll wish hadn't been taken."

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Life-affirming!"
Actual line: "While the film is not as resonant as the novel, it is an honorable adaptation, capturing the essence of the bond between father and son. Their efforts to hold on to their better natures amid soul-killing conditions is stirring and life-affirming."

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News: "Extraordinary! Viggo Mortensen's performance is mesmerizing!"
Actual line: "Mortensen's mesmerizing performance is rawboned, full of fatherly fierceness and a single-minded determination to protect his only child, born just as the world slid toward darkness. … As a parable about death and a kind of global homelessness, 'The Road' leads to some extraordinary places."
Not quoted: "… be warned: This is one of the toughest trips to the movies this year."

Everybody's Fine
Everybody's Fine (Miramax)
Metacritic Score: 47

Roger Friedman, the Hollywood Reporter: "Robert De Niro is one of the great actors of his generation. He is outstanding. It's De Niro's command of it that turns it into something of a greater mission."
Actual line: "DeNiro is in nearly every frame, and he's just outstanding. There's none of the 'Fockers' nonsense, even when he's working in scenes with a baby or a teenager. Maybe he found something in his relationship to his own late father, the artist whose name he carries, but DeNiro feels more invested in 'Everybody's Fine' than he has in any film since maybe 'Marvin's Room' or before. He almost reminded me of Spencer Tracy: refined, elegant, wise. Now new generations will want to reconsider DeNiro, and see why we have considered him one of the handful of great actors of his generation. Whatever qualms there might be about the conventional nature of the film, it's DeNiro's command of it that turns [director Kirk] Jones's film into something of a greater mission."
Not quoted: "British director Kirk Jones … has managed to rein in the the [sic] potentially worst aspects of his own story…"
Friedman refers to De Niro as DeNiro throughout his review. His trade paper's staff reviewer, Kirk Honeycutt, gets the name right. He also differs in his take on the quality of the film: "The movie glides along a surface of complete inauthenticity. Characters have no depth, and all emotions get ladled on via a syrupy score and De Niro's strenuous acting. It's a no-go almost from the start."

Up in the Air
Up in the Air (Paramount)
Metacritic Score: 82

Rex Reed, New York Observer: "Smart & witty."
Actual line: "… smart, cynical and witty …"
Not quoted: "… often looks like an American Airlines commercial, and I wouldn't call it a feel-good movie per se … "
How cynical of the ad writers not to include "cynical" in the ad.

Old Dogs
Old Dogs (Disney)
Metacritic Score: 19

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: "Riotously funny!"
Actual line: "… an often riotously funny slapstick farce …"
Not quoted: Three stars out of five. Also some of the comments below the review, such as "You are getting paid to give this movie a positive review. Period." and "You're what's wrong with everything to do with Hollywood...And the human race."

The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment)
Metacritic Score: 44

Larry Carroll, "A triumph. See it again. And again."
Actual line: "Yep, we've seen 'New Moon.' And the best news we can give you might be this: We want to see it again. And again. Most of us here at MTV News make no secret of the fact that we're fans of the franchise, and if you're reading this story, we know you'll see this latest 'Twilight' installment—which is why we wanted to write something that doesn't so much say, 'See this movie,' as it says, 'Don't worry; this movie is all you're hoping for.' "
Not quoted: "[Director Chris] Weitz put every penny he could up on the screen, and it shows."
As opposed to pocketing some of the money? This review was written by a fan for fans, and it shows. Another example of the faint praise: "Every returning actor is better in this film than in 'Twilight.' "

Me and Orson Welles
Me and Orson Welles (Freestyle)
Metacritic Score: 69

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "There's one great reason to see the movie, and that's Christian McKay's performance."
Not quoted: " Zac Efron, who plays this bushy-tailed rube, is mostly a cute blank here; when he woos the Mercury Theatre's secretary (Claire Danes), we seem to have landed in one of Woody Allen's more halfhearted fables. Except for McKay, Me and Orson Welles has so little fire that Welles himself would have wondered out loud what he was doing stuck in the middle of it."
Thaat blurb doesn't even sound that inviting—only one great reason to see it?

Serious Moonlight
Serious Moonlight (Magnolia)
Metacritic Score: 35

Marlow Stern, Manhattan Movie Magazine: "A solid directorial debut for Cheryl Hines."
Not quoted: "… some of his revelations and ruminations seem a bit too studied and hurried … Meg Ryan rebounds from last year's unmitigated disaster The Women to deliver a solid performance as a desperate woman, although, and this may seem shallow, but one can't help finding her botched plastic surgery job jarring. Don't get me wrong, she's still maintained her charm and is easy on the eyes, but in certain scenes where she's meant to display deep sorrow and emotional frustration, a smile is, at times, still slightly visible at the corners of her mouth. At the risk of hyperbole, in this film, she's like a domestic version of Heath Ledger's manipulative, anarchic villain in Dark Knight. … certain monologues do seem a bit too ‘written' and strained, and this material may probably work best as a play given how contained it is …"
Shocking that the Meg Ryan-as-The Joker reference didn't make the cut for the blurb.

Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A labor of love that brings out the best in its stars. It's a pleasure to watch Meg Ryan resurrect her trademark persona in her most characteristic role in a decade."
Actual line: "With a posthumously produced script and Shelly's friend Cheryl Hines making her directorial debut, Ryan has her most characteristic role in a decade. The marital-showdown comedy Serious Moonlight has the gossamer gloss of contrivance, but it's also a labor of love that brings out the best in its stars. … It's a pleasure to watch Ryan resurrect her trademark persona, a mix of perkiness and pique, as she flounces around the room. But it's shaded with a middle-age desperation that's half real and half chick-flick shtick."
Not quoted: "The story goes off track—and steals a page from 'The Ref'—with the arrival of a larcenous gardener named Todd (Justin Long). Those scenes are disturbing, not just for their innate violence but for the inadvertent reminder that Shelly was killed by an angry workman. But the subplot is slightly redeemed by a predictable trick ending. And the formulaic shortcomings of 'Serious Moonlight' are redeemed by the glow of a group tribute to a fallen friend."
For piecing together two separate references to Ryan's performance, and cutting out all the complicated components of those references, this ad wins Gelf's coveted Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

Brothers (Lionsgate)
Metacritic Score: 59

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: "Absolutely mesmerizing! An Oscar-worthy must-see movie for our times."
Not quoted: "… stiff Holiday competition and the overall weak track record for contemporary war-related films."
Yes, Hammond really does write in such blurb-ready chunks.

David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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- The Blurbs
- posted on Sep 22, 13
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Article by David Goldenberg

David Goldenberg is the co-founder and editor of Gelf, and the host of Geeking Out, Gelf's monthly science speaking series.

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