Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

March 28, 2008

Insert Pun on 'Flawless' Here

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 'Run, Fat Boy, Run,' '21,' 'Stop-Loss,' 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, and find out what critics think of the racket here.

"A present-day framing device featuring an apparently reverse-Botoxed Demi Moore proves close to disastrous."—Time Out's Ben Kenigsberg on "Flawless"

Flawless (Magnolia)
Metacritic Score: 57

Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out New York: "A diverting, confident heist thriller."
Not quoted: "… a present-day framing device featuring an apparently reverse-Botoxed [Demi] Moore proves close to disastrous, recontextualizing the events that came before it."

New York Magazine: "The film's plot and stylish treatment keeps you riveted."
Actual line: "The old-lady-telling-her-story setup feels contrived, but the film's harrowing plot and stylish treatment keep you riveted."

Run, Fat Boy, Run (Picturehouse)
Metacritic Score: 48

Mary Anne Bargen, Reelz Channel: "Run, don't walk, to see this heartfelt tale of endurance, love, and enough laughs to carry you past the finish line."
Gelf couldn't find this rave on Reelz Channel. The review that does come up says, among other things, "Run, Fat Boy, Run is a just a straight-up romantic comedy—and sadly not a particularly good one, at that."

Stop-Loss (Paramount)
Metacritic Score: 61

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "[Three and a half stars] The first major movie of the new year that touches greatness. 'Stop-Loss' strikes a universal chord that transcends politics and preaching. It's the real deal. Raw and riveting."
Actual line: "Here's the first major movie of the new year that touches greatness, and damn if there isn't a curse hanging over it. Stop-Loss, directed with ferocity and feeling by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry), is up against the war raging between audiences and films about Iraq. Box-office casualties last year include Lions for Lambs, Rendition, Redacted, Grace Is Gone and the unfairly scorned In the Valley of Elah."
Travers truly does love the film, but his point about its poor financial prospects was conveniently cut from the blurb.

21 (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 48

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Odds are you're going to like this lively spin on the true story of six MIT mathletes who broke the Vegas bank. It's a kick to watch Kevin Spacey and a gifted young cast use smarts to deal audiences a winning hand."
Not quoted: "21 drags itself to a climax that puts credulity in splints."

The Bank Job (Lionsgate)
Metacritic Score: 69

Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times: "Masterful."
Not quoted: "The film gets off to a shaky start … The film dawdles at times."
A mixed review being distilled down to "masterful" earns this ad Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

Mark Rahner, Seattle Times: "The best caper movie to come out in a long time and one of the best movies of the year."
Actual line: "Whoever's responsible for the misleadingly generic title of 'The Bank Job' should be charged with fraud. Sounds as unexceptional as the can of 'FOOD' from 'Repo Man,' but it's the best caper movie to come out in a long time and one of best movies so far this year, period."
For more blurbs about this generically titled movie, see the most recent Blurbs column.

Priceless (Samuel Goldwyn)
Metacritic Score: 68

Elisabeth Vincentelli, Time Out New York: "Utterly charming … effortlessly sexy and chic."
Not quoted: "Priceless may not actually be much …"

My Brother Is an Only Child (THINKFilm)
Metacritic Score: 70

Time Out: "Robust and enjoyable!"
Not quoted: "… a noticeable dip from genteel comedy into stock melodramatics, and the ending isn't as curt as it perhaps should have been."

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Focus)
Metacritic Score: 63

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Buoyant!"
Actual line: "How light is this movie? So buoyant that even an air raid warning, signaling that this whole world is about to crumble under the blitz, can't dampen its giddy spirits."
Not quoted: "… a little nothing of a story …"

The Other Boleyn Girl (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 50

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "A classy romantic cocktail…"
Not quoted: "… there's also something rigid and slightly locked-in about it. Morgan's characters are a little too abstract this time. They manipulate engagingly, yet they don't fully breathe."

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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