Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

February 26, 2010

'Cop Out' Ads Fall Flat

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 'Cop Out,' 'Shutter Island,' 'The Art of the Steal,' 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.

"The subplot about cash-strapped Jimmy's need to fund his daughter's wedding falls flat."—Us Weekly's Thelma Adams on Cop Out

Cop Out (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 32

Thelma Adams, Us Weekly: "Laugh-out-loud performances from Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan."
Actual line: "Director Kevin Smith capitalizes on the duo's great chemistry and gets laugh-out-loud performances from Morgan as a bag of insecurities (not far from his 30 Rock role) and Willis as the stoic macho man."
Not quoted: "The subplot about cash-strapped Jimmy's need to fund his daughter's wedding falls flat."
Wonder why Willis got first billing in the blurb even though he didn't in the review. Written into his contract?

Bonnie Laufer, Tribute TV: "Willis and Morgan make a hilarious comedy duo."
Actual line: "Tribute's Bonnie Laufer caught up with Willis and Morgan in New York to talk about their take on this very funny film. The guys don't see it as a buddy-cop film, but more like a classic comedy duo flick modeled after Abbott and Costello. Willis had a blast working off of the hilarious Morgan, never quite knowing what would come out of his mouth and he says it's one of the best working experiences he's ever had making a movie."
This blurb, below a video of the Laufer interview, reads like promotional copy or the summary of Morgan's and Willis's comments rather than a review. By the way, neither is hilarious at all in the interview.

Shutter Island
Shutter Island (Paramount)
Metacritic Score: 62

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Thrilling. Scorsese has fear to evoke and he does it with many notes."
Actual line: "There are thrilling visuals in 'Shutter Island.' … Scorsese has fear to evoke, and he does it with many notes."
Not quoted: "You may read reviews of 'Shutter Island' complaining that the ending blindsides you. The uncertainty it causes prevents the film from feeling perfect on first viewing. I have a feeling it might improve on second. Some may believe it doesn't make sense. Or that, if it does, then the movie leading up to it doesn't. I asked myself: OK, then, how should it end? What would be more satisfactory? Why can't I be one of those critics who informs the director what he should have done instead?"
For applying an adjective meant to apply to the visuals in the film to the whole movie, this blurb wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

The Art of the Steal
The Art of the Steal (Sundance Selects)
Metacritic Score: 73

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York: "****!"
Not quoted: "… aggressively whiny … sour hysteria …"

Shaun Brady, Philadelphia City Paper: "Director Don Argott's take on the Barnes Foundation is an art-world heist film. Enough gripping intrigue to make Barnes feel like Bourne."
Actual line: "The title reveals all you need to know about director Don Argott's take on the Barnes Foundation's move from Merion to the Parkway: The Art of the Steal is an art-world heist film, unfolding with enough gripping intrigue to make Barnes feel like Bourne."
Not quoted: "So impassioned is Argott's posthumous defense of Barnes' legacy that even the Pew Charitable Trusts' application to change its status from private foundation to public charity is revealed with the conspiratorial menace of a Grassy Knoll shooter. Decidedly and righteously one-sided, Argott's film is perhaps too dismissive of art institutions' very real economic woes…"

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "Terrifically suspenseful and enlightening. The forces of art and money square off with primal ferocity."
Not quoted: "The movie portrays this battle as the greatest attempted art theft since World War II, which may be a bit much. (At times, the film acts a little too shocked, shocked at the vulgarity of the forces of commerce.)"

A Prophet
A Prophet (Sony)
Metacritic Score: 89

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "Masterful! I've never seen a performance like Tahar Rahim's."
That's from Morgenstern's brief Telluride review. His full review was also a rave, but did contain this caveat: "There are moments when its energy, or ours, perhaps, flags just a bit."

Prodigal Sons
Prodigal Sons (First Run)
Metacritic Score: 68

Village Voice: "Riveting!"
That was from a Michael Musto feature about the film. The Voice reviewer wasn't as riveted, writing that "dysfunction pushes the story along, tipping over into exploitation."

The Good Guy
The Good Guy (Roadside Attractions)
Metacritic Score: 42

NYT Critics' Pick
Not quoted: "… the movie may feel a little behind the curve. … The Boy Scout versus the cad is an old story, and the outcome of the competition is a romantic-comedy no-brainer."

The Ghost Writer
The Ghost Writer (Summit)
Metacritic Score: 78

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Spellbinding."
Not quoted: "The film's only weak link is a somewhat forced scenario connecting the dots, in which individual words from the memoir are pieced together in a revealing code."

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York: "****!"
Not quoted: "There are all number of similarly colorful touches (the sick-joke ending alone is worth the price of admission) that help to deepen what one colleague suggested is the greatest airport novel ever filmed. It's true that The Ghost Writer doesn't possess the lingering profundity of the director's best work—the War on Terror window dressing is just that."

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "… delectably amusing … 'The Ghost Writer' is irresistible … this very fine film from welcome start to finish."
Actual line: "The darkly brooding sky that hangs over much of 'The Ghost Writer,' the latest from Roman Polanski, suggests that all is grim and gray and perhaps even for naught. But this high-grade pulp entertainment is too delectably amusing and self-amused, and far too aware of its own outrageous conceits to sustain such a dolorous verdict. … he's delivering this pulpy fun at such a high level that 'The Ghost Writer' is irresistible, no matter how obvious the twists. … Mr. Polanski's work with his performers is consistently subtle even when the performances seem anything but, which is true of this very fine film from welcome start to finish."
Not quoted: "It would be easy to overstate the appeal of 'The Ghost Writer' just as, I imagine, it will be easy for some to dismiss it."

The Yellow Handkerchief
The Yellow Handkerchief (Samuel Goldwyn)
Metacritic Score: 61

Rex Reed, New York Observer: "A must-see! Wonderful performances."
Actual line: "Wonderful, honest and low-key performances inform and enhance The Yellow Handkerchief, an otherwise unexceptional little drama …"
Not quoted: "… sometimes so slow it threatens to halt, and it's often marred by choppy editing, an uneven and awkward narrative, and too much irrelevant local color …"

The Crazies
The Crazies (Overture)
Metacritic Score: 56

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: "This shocker will have horror fans jumping out of their seats."
Not quoted: "The cast won't be winning any Oscars for this …"

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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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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