Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

November 9, 2010

'Secretariat' 'Gets Stuck in Stodgy Mud'

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 'Secretariat,' 'The Social Network,' 'Due Date,' 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.

"Yes, it is old-fashioned, often corny, preachy and altogether too emphatic."—The Boston Herald's James Verniere on Secretariat

Secretariat (Disney)
Metacritic Score: 61

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Diane Lane gives another performance that deserves to put her at the top of the best actress list."
Not quoted: "If it's hip to be square, then this racehorse movie is the ultimate in cornball cool. … Don't fret when the film gets stuck in stodgy mud."

James Verniere, Boston Herald: "Pulse-pounding racing sequences…"
Not quoted: "The art of the great, superbly cast studio film is alive, even if corn remains a key ingredient. … Yes, it is old-fashioned, often corny, preachy and altogether too emphatic."

The Social Network (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 95

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "A vital, engaging, even urgent parable for our age. With exhilarating insight and considerable storytelling flair, the movie is both a metaphor and a lens through which to understand contemporary culture."
Actual line: "A vital, engaging, even urgent parable for our age. … With surgical precision, exhilarating insight and considerable storytelling flair, they make Zuckerberg both a metaphor and a lens through which to understand contemporary culture.

Due Date
Due Date (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 52

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "A raucous ride… A recipe for nutso fun."
Actual line: "Recipe for nutso fun: Mix Zach Galifianakis with Robert Downey Jr. Apply the same mold John Hughes used for Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Have Todd Phillips stir with wack-ass abandon. Don't worry about missing ingredients, like plot. Serve to an audience ready to lap it up. There you have Due Date, a raucous ride built out of used parts and bizarre shifts in tone but driven by two comic virtuosos who know that the best laugh riffs rise from a baseline of character."
Not quoted: "Is Due Date the new Hangover? It is not. But it has its own rewards."

Shawn Edwards, FOX-TV: "Hilarious! 'Due Date' is side-splitting, roll in the aisle, can't stop laughing 'til it hurts funny."
Have a second-rate film? Shawn just might like it.

Red (Summit)
Metacritic Score: 61

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: "The best cast for an action comedy movie … ever."
Actual line: "Oh, that 'RED' was the giddy romp it might have been, it promises to be or it thinks it is. It has the best cast of any action comedy movie, maybe ever: four-Oscar-winners plus Bruce Willis. But despite that and a winning concept—that somebody, maybe in government, is trying to kill off aged, retired CIA assassins—director Robert 'Flightplan' Schwentke never lets this one achieve takeoff."
Not quoted: "That old Hollywood saying, 'Good villains make good thrillers' is pretty much where 'RED' comes up short. The solution to the mystery of who is after them and why is a letdown. And the fellow pulling the strings does nothing surprising. Urban's earnestness is not enough to sustain interest until we finally confront Mr. Big."

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: "The best part of 'Red' is the spectacle of terrific actors being terrific in novel ways."
Not quoted: "This cheerful bauble of an entertainment starts to lose momentum only when, two-thirds of the way through or thereabouts, the bad guys remove Sarah from the romantic equation for much too long. That's not the movie's only flaw. In what has been a consistently funny caper, Sarah's removal coincides with a turn toward political melodrama in a setting that, for anyone old enough to remember, has chilling overtones of RFK and the Ambassador Hotel. Given that the movie was presumably intended for audiences old enough to remember things (even though it carries, oddly enough, a PG-13 rating), one wonders how such a script choice could have been made."

Robert Wilonsky, LA Weekly: "'Red' is absolutely, thoroughly enjoyable. It rocks."
Actual line: "It's absolutely, thoroughly enjoyable. Red rocks like some giddy mash-up of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Manchurian Candidate, Three Days of the Condor and every movie ever made in which a hired gun yanks at his holster for One Last Stand to kill the one who brung him in the first place. Which is fine—nothing wrong with an affable movie about trained killers played by Oscar winners on paid vacation. It's only afterward when you realize nothing actually happened in between road trips and explosions."
Not quoted: "… all grins and giggles—a kid-friendly Kick-Ass ... or, let's be honest, an AARP-friendly Kick-Ass. (Holy shit, there's Ernest Borgnine as a character called the Records Keeper!) It's messy, but hardly gory. Goofy? That's more like it."

Hereafter (Warner Bros.)
Metacritic Score: 56

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Masterfully directed. Matt Damon is superb."
Not quoted: "There are a few glitches in this ambitious globe-spanning narrative, mostly having to do with too much time and detail spent on less-than-integral relationships."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Exhilarating … truly haunting."
Not quoted: "Eastwood hits narrative bumps on this atypical spiritual journey, as does politics-obsessed screenwriter Peter Morgan …"

Richard Corliss, Time: "Clint Eastwood's 'Hereafter' opens with the most exciting, expertly assembled flood scene in movie history. It launches the movie with a wondrous blend of art, technique and entertainment."
Actual line: "Clint Eastwood's 'Hereafter' opens with the most exciting, expertly assembled flood scene in movie history. … It launches the movie with a wondrous blend of art, technique and entertainment. And it has almost nothing in common with the pensive, sprawling supernatural narrative that follows."
Not quoted: "Hereafter is a daunting test for the video-game crowd—and, for more patient viewers, a film of mixed rewards and challenges. Eastwood the director is, as he acknowledges, a man with a slow hand. He lets the story play out at a measured pace. Rather than fiddling with scripts, he shoots them pretty much as written (which is why screenwriters love him). If there's inherent drama in the work, it will emerge; if not, scenes can lie there like a row of carp at San Francisco's Sun Fast Seafood Co. Hereafter has a few of these longueurs … The movie will divide some Eastwood fans, conquer others. The naysayers will be grateful that, from this healthy, workaholic actor-director, there is always the promise of a good movie—if not here, then hereafter."

David Ansen, Newsweek: "Haunting and bold."
Actual line: "Clint Eastwood flirted with the supernatural in his allegorical Western Pale Rider, but nothing in his career prepares us for his haunting and haunted Hereafter, a bold, strange, problematic investigation into the nature of the afterlife."
Not quoted: "This material couldn't be further from the reality-inspired political dramas (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) that made [screenwriter Peter] Morgan's name. Much of the movie's tension comes from wondering how these three stories are going to connect, but Morgan's plot mechanics—which grind all too noisily in the London section of the story, and serve up a tidy finale that seems oddly beside the point—are not the film's real strength."

Conviction (Fox Searchlight)
Metacritic Score: 60

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: "An inspirational true story."
Not quoted: "There are dramatic shortcuts and a few beats that play out conventionally. Kenny's real-life, post-prison fate goes unnoted, which is odd. 'Conviction' reinvents no narrative wheels."

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Hilary Swank fires on all cylinders. Sam Rockwell busts through with a spectacular performance—Oscar® needs to take notice."
Not quoted: "Sam Rockwell has yet to find a movie as good as he is (Moon comes closest). He's still looking. Conviction sweetens the true story it's based on, and director Tony Goldwyn dutifully connects the dots in Pam Gray's screenplay."

Tamara Drewe
Tamara Drewe (Sony)
Metacritic Score: 65

Richard Corliss, Time: "As captivating as its heroine."
Actual line: "It's as captivating as its heroine—before she had her nose job. That's no crucial blemish. Even a beaky creature like this one has enough wit and charm to win over audiences, whatever the venue or time of year."
Not quoted: "Reseeing the early scenes of 'Tamara Drewe', I got the queasy feeling that [director Stephen] Frears was pushing too hard. Some of the comedy struck me as strident. When Nicholas first spots the new-nosed Tamara in her short shorts, he's coaxing the cork off a champagne bottle held between his thighs; sure enough, the cork pops and the liquid squirts out incriminatingly, before Beth pats down his stained trousers. Even a sympathetic viewer has to tread carefully in the first half-hour, as acutely observed humor vies with the more obvious farce of pratfalls and eggs tossed at car windshields."

Cherry (Cherry Movie LLC)
Metacritic Score: TBD

The New York "A wry and poignant sleeper!"
Actual line: "… the film is reminiscent of wry, poignant sleepers like 'Juno,' 'Lars and the Real Girl' and 'Little Miss Sunshine.' "
That's not just a badly misquoted line, that's a line from a blog post about the movie back in March. The Times's review of the film, by Mike Hale and appearing the same day as the ad, makes less favorable comparisons: " 'Cherry' cribs from 'The Graduate,' 'Educating Rita,' 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Legally Blonde,' but never comes close to being as funny or as touching as those movies at their best. The writer and director, Jeffrey Fine, is a veteran of nonfiction crime and paranormal television series ('The F.B.I. Files,' 'Psychic Witness'), and the film's willingness to make all of its characters look bad and do nonsensical things is redolent of reality TV." For misrepresenting and misquoting a line from a non-review blog post, this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Music Box)
Metacritic Score: 60

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "Indisputably terrific. Naomi Rapace is hot stuff."
Actual line: "Hornet's Nest is talky but indisputably terrific, and it ends in a dazzling display of courtroom fireworks. Rapace is hot stuff in any language."

Inspector Bellamy
Inspector Bellamy (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 70

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: "Serious entertainment. It's loaded with the virtues that characterized Claude Chabrol's remarkable career."
Actual line: "Inspector Bellamy, the last movie Claude Chabrol finished before his death last month at 80, may only occupy a high middling position in the prolific director's 80-film oeuvre, but it's loaded with the virtues that characterized his remarkable career. A serious entertainment that opens with the sound of someone whistling in the graveyard, it's an ostensive crime film at once symmetrical, surprising, and knowingly cinephilic."
Not quoted: "For much of its 110 minutes, Inspector Bellamy is a pleasant, deceptively light divertissement in which the mutually resentful brothers spend considerable time arguing over nothing."

Four Lions
Four Lions (Drafthouse)
Metacritic Score: 63

Todd Gilchrist, Wall Street Journal: "Unforgettable. Hands down among the funniest and most transgressive movies of the year."
Gilchrist wrote that in his intro to his online interview with director Christopher Morris. Journal critic Joe Morgenstern disagreed, calling the film "an adolescent stab at a grown-up subject."

Welcome to the Rileys
Welcome to the Rileys (Samuel Goldwyn)
Metacritic Score: 48

Marshall Fine, Huffington Post: "Three beautifully brave performances …with deep emotion that will capture the receptive viewer with surprising force."
Actual line: "Jake Scott's nicely self-contained drama is a solid piece of filmmaking, built on an unfussy, honest script and three beautifully understated and brave performances. … Welcome to the Rileys isn't world-beating cinema. But it's a beautifully understated story with deep emotion that will capture the receptive viewer with surprising force."

Robert Levin, amNew York: "Powerful!"
Actual line: "'Welcome to the Rileys' takes a premise that sounds like a bad gag—married man befriends a teenage stripper—and spins it into a powerful character drama."

Peter Debruge, Variety: "Gandolfini and Leo are dynamite."
Actual line: "Though perfs are universally strong, both James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo seem like odd casting choices, forcing an awkward Southern accent from the former and swapping Leo's all-weather toughness for something more fragile. Such obstacles aside, the pair are downright dynamite in the pic's more confrontational scenes, as well as quiet moments, such as Gandolfini sobbing alone in his garage, or Leo enjoying her first night in years under the stars."
Not quoted: "Nothing short of preposterous … writer Ken Hixon's story is anything but an easy sell, especially given [director Jake] Scott's almost tediously self-serious treatment of the material."

Laremy Legel, "Kristen Stewart is electric."
Not quoted: "It's probably too subtle a work to really stick with viewers. The dialogue and settings are so natural that they don't lodge in your memory for long afterward."

Monsters (Magnet)
Metacritic Score: 59

Karina Longworth, Village Voice: "Visually spectacular."
Actual line: "The film peaks, dramatically and creatively, with an alien mating dance of astonishing verisimilitude. It's a cheap-shot plot device, but also visually spectacular."
Not quoted: "As a writer, [director Gareth Edwards is] a less successful realist, resorting to some pretty hoary contrivances to get and keep his boy and girl in the same space for the film's duration, and the largely improvised post-mumble performances don't add much depth."

Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York: "Every image looks like millions of bucks."
Not quoted: "They also have a number of unbearably on-the-nose exchanges: Staring at a massive dividing wall on the U.S. border, the lily-white duo dreamily remarks how gosh-darn weird it is to be looking at America from the outside. There's way too much of this overly explicit verbal folderol."

It's Kind of a Funny Story
It's Kind of a Funny Story (Focus)
Metacritic Score: 63

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: "A perfect coming-of-age comedy. An unpredictable grab-bag of funny, tender, ironic, insightful, poignant, hopeful moments that keep surprising you."
Actual line: "… kind of a perfect coming-of-age comedy … an unpredictable grab-bag of funny, tender, ironic, insightful, poignant, hopeful moments that keep surprising you."

Vision (Zeitgeist)
Metacritic Score: 69

New York Magazine: Critics' Pick!
Actual line: Critics' Pick
The exclamation point was a bit much.

Wild Target
Wild Target (Freestyle)
Metacritic Score: 40 "If you are a 'Love Actually' fan or a 'Devil Wears Prada' fan, you are well catered to here." hasn't been updated since 2001, when it had a solitary post, reading, "movies that i made coming soon." At, Vic Barry writes, "if your [sic] a Love Actually fan, a Devil Wears Prada fan, A Harry Potter fan or even a Rab C Nesbitt fan you are well catered for here." Barry adds, "Overall, Wild Target shouldn't work, but it does work…"

Mary Ann Johanson, "The cast alone—Nighy, Blunt, and Grint—are always worth watching, but they were fantastic together. I loved the whole thing."
What's with this movie's ad folks and basic spelling? Johanson writes for a site called, and Google couldn't turn up any review of this film there.

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go (Fox Searchlight)
Metacritic Score: 68

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: "Sumptuously gorgeous and filled with sterling performances."
Not quoted: "Some may find its tone suffocatingly heavy, and the score can feel a bit melodramatic and intrusive here and there."

Outside the Law
Outside the Law (Cohen Media)
Metacritic Score: 59

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Sweeping and powerful."
Actual line: " 'Outside the Law,' Rachid Bouchareb's sweeping historical melodrama of the Algerian struggle for independence, proceeds from a still-burning sense of outrage. With its mixture of righteous politics and family turmoil, this didactic, unashamedly manipulative film wants to be something like a cross between 'Army of Shadows,' Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 classic of the French Resistance, and 'The Godfather.' Those are mighty shoes to fill, and as powerful and well made as it is, 'Outside the Law' is too schematic and single-minded to lodge itself in your mind as a fully realized cinematic epic. Its few female characters are sketchy at best. It is all politics, all the time."
Not quoted: "… a certain humanity is missing. Some might describe 'Outside the Law' as a historical revenge film. …"

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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