Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

July 13, 2007

Harry Potter's Latest 'Not a Great Movie'

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 blurbs for 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,' 'Joshua,' 'Interview,' and more.

Carl Bialik

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.

Graphic created by Paul Antonson
"We get little more than military jingoism and some surprisingly simple stereotypes."—USA Today's Scott Bowles on 'Rescue Dawn'

Graphic created by Paul Antonson

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros.)

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Sleek, swift and exciting."
Not quoted: "… absorbing but not transporting, a collection of interesting moments rather than a fully integrated dramatic experience. …not a great movie …"

Joshua (Fox Searchlight)

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "Something vitally new… that has cool and savvy fun with your fears… a superbly crafted psychological thriller."
Not quoted: "Joshua does grow a bit repetitious…"

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: "A nifty psychological thriller—part Bad Seed, part Rosemary's Baby… comic and creepy."
Not quoted: "[Director George] Ratliff lost me with the introduction of a child psychologist who makes house calls and snap diagnoses."

Interview (Sony)

Pete Hammond, Maxim: "An absolutely fascinating film."
Actual line: "… An absolutely fascinating little film …"
An absolutely fascinating removal of one little word. Incidentally, Hammond has a knack for writing a review that reads like a rave, and has lots of quotable lines, yet awarding fewer than five stars—in this case, just three and a half.

Rescue Dawn (MGM)

Scott Bowles, USA Today: " 'Rescue Dawn' is chillingly good."
Not quoted: "… as prison-break movies go, Rescue ranks among the best. But in terms of what gave [Dieter] Dengler and his co-captives the resilience to survive their brutal prison camp in the Laotian jungle, we get little more than military jingoism and some surprisingly simple stereotypes."

Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Times: "Rescue Dawn is a marvel."
Not quoted: "The film is not without flaws. The story's basis in fact doesn't inoculate it against charges of predictability. Klaus Badelt's score can be intrusively emphatic. And the triumphant ending—in which Dengler is welcomed back to his carrier with applause and speeches—is disappointingly conventional."

Evening (Focus Features)

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "A star-studded tear jerker."
Not quoted: "… stumbles on its way to the screen. Hungarian director Lajos Koltai (Fateless) pushes emotions that need to flow."

Live Free or Die Hard (Twentieth Century-Fox)

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "… terrific fun."
Actual line: "Unlike the first two Die Hard flicks, set respectively in an L.A. highrise and a D.C. airport, the fourth chapter repeats the same mistake as the third by painting on a broader canvas and dissipating the claustrophobic tension. But there's no denying that the stunts are terrific fun."
Not quoted: "… may not be much a movie …"

Jack Mathews, New York Daily News: "Hysterically … entertaining."
Actual line: "The action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon."
Not quoted: "The plot is a kind of queasy exploitation of 9/11. … Mark Bomback's script lacks authenticity …"
The ellipsis makes it possible for an adverb to seem to modify a word it wasn't mean to modify. For this convenient omission, the ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award. For more on blurbs about the latest adventure of John McClane, see Gelf's prior Blurbs column.

You Kill Me (IFC)

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Consistently funny."
Actual line: "What follows is straight-up ridiculous, but it's also consistently funny …"

Richard Schickel, Time Magazine: "Deeply pleasurable. A delight!"
Not quoted: "You Kill Me is no big deal of a movie … I don't want to oversell You Kill Me. It is not going to leave you breathless with laughter. But I don't want to undersell it either. For an hour and a half it exerts its own preposterous reality, making you believe it—and like it."
IFC did want to oversell it.

My Best Friend (IFC)

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "A smart, acidic French comedy about the meaning of friendship."
That's from a brief mention in Holden's report from the Tribeca Film Festival. A.O. Scott's review in the Times was less kind: " 'My Best Friend' is a comforting, sentimental tale of a kind that would be insufferably maudlin if made in Hollywood and unbearably affectless if it showed up at Sundance. Somehow it's easier to take in French."

Broken English (Magnolia)

James Vernier, Boston Herald: "'Broken English' has moments of revelatory, stunning power and Parker Posey is on my short list for best actress of 2007."
Actual line: "OK, it's another movie with a title borrowed from a vintage pop song, and it's about another not-so-young woman desperate for a relationship. But writer-director Zoe Cassavetes' 'Broken English' has moments of stunning power. [4 paragraphs ensue] Judged in terms of originality, 'Broken English' is hardly innovative. Judged on the basis of the shocking realism Posey brings to Nora's self-disgust, desperation and bizarre but familiar mix of narcissism and masochism, 'Broken English' is frightening and revelatory, and Posey is on my short list for best actress of 2007."
Not quoted: "If Zoe Cassavetes, a contemporary and colleague of Sofia Coppola, can harness her vision and sensitivity to a subject less stiflingly self-reflexive, she could have something spectacular indeed."

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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