Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

July 3, 2009

Save a Few Bucks, Skip 'Ice Age' 3D

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 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,' 'The Hurt Locker,' 'My Sister's Keeper,' 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 metacritic.com, 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 movie is also widely being shown in 2-D, and if you want to save a few bucks, that's the way to go."—Roger Ebert on Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Fox)
Metacritic Score: 51

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "The best. Pure invention."
Actual line: " 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' is the best of the three films about our friends in the inter-species herd of plucky prehistoric heroes. And it involves some of the best use of 3-D I've seen in an animated feature. … In the Ice Age films the tiger has learned to coexist with such edible species as sloths and gazelles, but dinosaurs aren't covered by the terms of the truce, and this one is so big it could eat even a wooly (sic) mammoth in one chomp. That sets us up for the staple of the series—chase scenes, involving dizzying falls, catapults into the sky, close shaves and possible digestion. This is pure invention, and unlike the monotonous chase sequences in some family animation, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is tirelessly inventive visually."
Not quoted: "I thought the 3-D was done well. I remained unconvinced by the process. You have to fool with the glasses, the brightness is dimmed, and so on. But I was surprised how well Dawn of the Dinosaurs implements it. It creates much less of a distracting superfluous dimension, and more skillfully makes the whole image seem to belong together. The movie is also widely being shown in 2-D, and if you want to save a few bucks, that's the way to go."
It may be "the best" of three films, but there's no indication this film is "the best" overall, nor that the film overall is "pure invention."

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: "Funny. Clever. Exciting."
Actual line: "Kids will love the cute, exciting 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' … [six paragraphs later] The major new character is a one-eyed (and quite demented), swashbuckling weasel named Buck buckling weasel named Buck (voiced by a very funny Simon Pegg) … [four paragraphs later] 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs' makes especially clever use of music …"
For this cut-and-paste job of adjectives, most of which don't even describe the film as a whole, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker (First Light)
Metacritic Score: 91

Richard Corliss, Time: "A near-perfect movie. Writer Marc Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow have pooled their complementary talents to make one of the rare war movies… this one's the tops."
Actual line: "Except for a few digressive scenes—a solo sortie of personal vengeance, a conversation about what it all means—that could easily be cut from the 2 hr. 11 min. running time, The Hurt Locker is a near-perfect movie about men in war, men at work. … These two filmmakers have pooled their complementary talents to make one of the rare war movies that's strong but not shrill, and sympathetic to guys doing an impossible job. … Later I may think of a better depiction of the helplessness and heroism attending the U.S. presence in the war on terrorism, but for now I'll say this one's the tops."
One of the rare war movies that what? I'm not sure I've ever seen such an odd choice of where to cut off a sentence in a blurb.

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "The best action movie of the summer. A viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise. You may emerge from 'The Hurt Locker' shaken, exhilarated and drained, but you will also be thinking."
Actual line: "If 'The Hurt Locker' is not the best action movie of the summer, I'll blow up my car. The movie is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise. … You may emerge from 'The Hurt Locker' shaken, exhilarated and drained, but you will also be thinking. Not necessarily about the causes and consequences of the Iraq war, mind you. The filmmakers' insistence on zooming in on and staying close to the moment-to-moment experiences of soldiers in the field is admirable in its way but a little evasive as well."
For the sake of Mr. Scott's automobile, let's hope that no other action movie tops this one this summer.

David Denby, New Yorker: "A classic of tension, bravery, and fear. It will be studied 20 years from now."
Actual line: "A small classic of tension, bravery, and fear, which will be studied twenty years from now when people want to understand something of what happened to American soldiers in Iraq."
A small but importance difference between the blurb and the original.

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: "One of the defining films of the decade. What you'll remember most will be Jeremy Renner's remarkably complex commander. It's become clear we've witnessed a star-making performance."
Actual line: "The film opens and closes with an unnecessarily heavy hand, but everything in between is edge-of-your-seat, burrow-into-your-brain stuff. And what you'll remember most will be Renner's remarkably complex commander. By the time we finally figure him out, it's become clear we've witnessed a star-making performance, in a movie that deserves to stand as one of the defining films of the decade."

My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper (New Line)
Metacritic Score: 51

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva are terrific."
Actual line: "Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva are terrific. But the performances by the older actors are largely forgettable."
Not quoted: "My Sister's Keeper takes a compelling ethical dilemma and turns it into formulaic pap by trying relentlessly to ensure an emotional reaction with sentimental exploitation and plot contrivances. Maybe if the film had adhered more closely to Jodi Picoult's best-selling novel, the result would have been better. … All the ingredients are here for an absorbing and touching film. Instead, what ends up on screen is a formulaic and banal Lifetime-style movie with music videos thrown in to enhance the heartbreak. Director Nick Cassavetes indulges in overkill, resorting repeatedly to an emotional song and weepy montages designed to wring poignancy from an already tragic tale. These artificial moments are in sharp contrast with the natural performances of Breslin and Vassilieva. But plot holes and inconsistencies dilute the story's potency. My Sister's Keeper doesn't scratch beyond the surface of the complex moral question it poses. Rather than exploring the tyranny of hope or stubborn determination vs. realism, My Sister's Keeper simply traffics in mawkish sentimentality."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Tender and very touching, 'My Sister's Keeper' is an immediate audience-grabber."
Actual line: " 'My Sister's Keeper' is an immediate audience-grabber … [eight paragraphs later] The hospital romance between Taylor and Kate is one of the best elements of the movie, tender, tactful and very touching."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "Heartfelt and deeply affecting."
Actual line: "For all its awkward structure, the film is heartfelt and deeply affecting."
Not quoted: "Part of 'My Sister's Keeper' takes place in a courtroom, and the convoluted plot can be a trial in itself."

Cheri
Cheri (Miramax)
Metacritic Score: 63

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "A decadent comedy of manners. A feather-light confection that flouts the rules, pushes sexual boundaries and stumbles on something of substance under all the flirtation and fun."
Actual line: "Cheri is a feather-light confection pitting l'amour against outrageous liaisons. The title character and his older lady love flout the rules, push sexual boundaries and stumble on something of substance under all the flirtation and fun. … Frears (The Queen) returns to the naughty folderol of his Dangerous Liaisons with this decadent comedy of manners."
Not quoted: "… their affair is never wholly convincing as an all-consuming passion. The narration, by director Stephen Frears, falls flat. Mostly, though, the soufflé-thin story is simply not all that compelling … Friend, so wonderful in Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, is less consistent here. Sometimes he's an endearing presence. Other times he is simpering and callow. … While the humor has its droll moments, the dialogue is more vapid than clever. Cheri, like the character, is an entertaining bauble without much on its mind."

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: "An ideal guilty pleasure. A feast for the eyes."
Not quoted: "Frears also directed [Michelle] Pfeiffer two decades ago in the caustic costume drama 'Dangerous Liaisons,' but given his refusal to delve too deeply into anyone's psyche here, this was clearly intended as a far more lightweight endeavor. Occasionally, his casual tone feels jarring, as with the overly-jaunty narration and complete indifference to the various accents cluttering his European setting."

I Hate Valentine's Day
I Hate Valentine's Day (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 25

Stephen Farber, Hollywood Reporter: "Endearing. Vardalos and Corbett demonstrate their chemistry in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' was no fluke. The supporting players are delightful."
Actual line: "She will not be a threat to Woody Allen anytime soon, but some of her fans will find this romantic comedy endearing. Vardalos reteams with 'Greek Wedding' co-star John Corbett, and they demonstrate that their chemistry in that earlier movie was no fluke. … The strength of Vardalos' movies is that she loves all of her fellow actors and allows large ensembles to flourish. The supporting players in 'Valentine's Day' are delightful."
Not quoted: "… the Freudian back story is simplistic … Directing herself, Vardalos isn't objective enough about her own performance. Although she's inherently likable, she smiles too incessantly during the first half of the movie; a more rigorous director might have convinced her that less is more. … the movie was clearly made on the cheap … No one will be thunderstruck by the insights buried in 'Valentine's Day,' but couples seeking romantic fluff probably will find just enough humor and heart to satisfy them."

The Stoning of Soraya M.
The Stoning of Soraya M. (Roadside Attractions/MPower)
Metacritic Score: 53

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Emotionally explosive… Profoundly compelling. Oscar® nominee Aghdashloo is terrific."
Not quoted: "This is a difficult movie to watch and probably won't help counter the prejudices of those who regard Islam as a religion that espouses violence. Though it is surely not meant to incite ignorance or fan the flames of fearmongers, it is conceivable that this unsettling story could have that effect. By drawing out the horrific stoning ritual, it can't help but fuel the average person's ire toward ritualized practices of human cruelty. It is anything but subtle. The sounds of children banging stones in rhythmic preparation for massacre is haunting."

The Girl from Monaco
The Girl from Monaco (Magnolia)
Metacritic Score: 53

Scott Foundas, Village Voice: "In her film debut, Louise Bourgoin proves a force of nature unto herself and leaves every man onscreen—and many in the audience—helpless in her wake."
Actual line: "Bourgoin—a former Canal+ weather girl making her screen debut—proves a force of nature unto herself. Bursting onto the screen and nearly out of her gaudy, cleavage-hugging couture, slurring her lines in what can best be described as a French equivalent of Valspeak, she moves through the film in a blissfully ditzy haze, leaving every man onscreen—and many in the audience—helpless in her wake."
Not quoted: "There's not much to this thin, sun-drenched concoction … the modest pleasure of the film issues chiefly from the performances."

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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