Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

May 8, 2009

Star Trek Is 'More Brawn Than Brain'

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 'Star Trek,' 'Wolverine,' 'Tyson,' and more.

Konstantin Kakaes

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.

"It has its over-caffeinated aspects and its missteps."—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, on Star Trek

Star Trek (Paramount Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 84

Los Angeles Times: "This year's 'Iron Man'."
Actual line: "Early reviews and a uniformly positive industry buzz that seems to frame 'Star Trek' as this year's 'Iron Man,' a sleek summer movie with intense action, wit and surprising buoyancy considering all the heavy equipment taking flight."
The line is from a blog post about attempts to market the movie, not the actual review, which, like most others, is positive enough, describing the movie as "successful enough for everyone to breathe a sigh of relief." Kenneth Turan, the reviewer, goes on to say: "Though it has its over-caffeinated aspects and its missteps, this 'Star Trek' has in general bridged the gap between the old and the new with alacrity and purpose." Interestingly, the LA Times seems particularly concerned with answering the question of which movie is in fact the Iron Man of 2009—another article asked in January whether Terminator Salvation is the Iron Man of 2009.

New York Post: "Smart, Epic and eye-popping."
Actual line "NEVER a huge 'Star Trek' fan—especially of the 10 previous movies, with one notable exception—I actually found myself misting up at the conclusion of J.J. Abrams' smart, epic and eye-popping reboot."
Not quoted: "In this intensely satisfying version…Nimoy exudes gravitas."
This is an instance of the blurb racket returning an easy lob—the Post loved this movie and every part of it. It's not even clear the producers chose the most positive possible blurb to put in the advertisement.

Newsweek: "Way cool."
Actual line: "'Star Trek' is way cool. How'd that happen? Because the geeks have inherited the earth, and the White House."
Again this is not from the Newsweek review, which is one of the few negative ones out there, saying, "The latest film version of 'Star Trek,' however, is more brawn than brain, and it largely jettisons complicated ethical conundrums in favor of action sequences and special effects." The pulled blurb is from an article about the Star Trek phenomenon rather than the movie itself, and so wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week award.


Wolverine
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Twentieth Century Fox)
Metacritic Score: 43

USA Today: "Exhilarating. 'Wolverine' is well-acted, with spectacular action and witty one-liners. Although it's a quintessential popcorn movie, 'Wolverine' is not mindless. Director Gavin Hood and Hugh Jackman bring depth to a comic-book tale of anti-heroes with anger issues. Jackman invests his fierce character with…clear eyed intelligence and inherent decency, compelling viewers to care about his metamorphosis."
Actual lines:
"Jackman invests his fierce character with a cheeky attitude, clear eyed intelligence and inherent decency, compelling viewers to care about his metamorphosis."
"Despite a couple of 'Nooooo' yowls, Wolverine is well-acted, with spectacular action and witty one-liners."
"A scene with a helicopter, a tank and several Hummers in pursuit of Wolverine is exhilarating."
"Although it's a quintessential popcorn movie, Wolverine is not mindless. Hood and Jackman bring depth to a comic-book tale of anti-heroes with anger issues."
Gelf applauds Fox for using such a complete quote. They've re-arranged the sentences and left out the yowls, but they also edited USA Today's copy to be more compelling without distorting the meaning.


Tyson
Tyson (Sony Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 83

Rolling Stone: "One of the best movies of any kind so far this year. It's elemental, essential viewing."
Not quoted:
"It's madness that links Tyson and Toback. They're both extremists."

The New York Times: "Tyson had enabled Toback to make his best film…profoundly honest."

Actual lines
: "It is not an entirely trustworthy movie, but it does feel profoundly honest."
"The transaction between them is charged with a strange kind of magic. The filmmaker allows the fighter to have his unchallenged say to justify, condemn and contradict himself. In exchange Mr. Tyson has enabled Mr. Toback to make his best film, which is also, paradoxically, his most personal."

New York: "Brilliant! Has you by turns sympathetic, perplexed, appalled, and enthralled."

Actual lines
:
Gelf can't figure out if the blurb is referring to Toback's brilliance:

Toback the effusive, brilliant, pickup-slash-bullshit artist who cultivates in himself the Maileresque White Negro, who revels in public humiliation as if convinced it makes you stronger.

or Tyson's
Perhaps he's so brilliant at bringing us into his head because he hasn't yet learned to see himself through anyone else's eyes.
An 88-minute stream-of-consciousness monologue that has you by turns sympathetic, perplexed, appalled, and enthralled.


Rudo y Cursi
Rudo y Cursi (Sony Pictures Classics)
Metacritic Score: 70

Newsweek: "A delight! Irresisitble! Hilarious, satirical and melancholy. Carlos Cuaron's storytelling is juicy and ribald. Vivacity turns this tale of brotherly bonds and a sibling rivalry into one of the year's most memorable offerings."

Actual quotes:

"Cuarón, del Toro and Iñárritu are all listed as producers of the latest Mexican delight, "Rudo y Cursi," which is directed by Cuarón's actual brother Carlos, and stars "Y Tu Mamá's" irresistible duo, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna—who have been best friends since they were 9 years old…..

It's an old story, but Cuarón's storytelling is juicy and ribald…..

Hilarious, satirical and melancholy, "Rudo y Cursi" may not go as deep as "Y Tu Mamá También," but it has a similar vivacity. It turns this tale of brotherly bonds and sibling rivalry—a veiled allegory of the Cuarón boys themselves?—into one of the year's most memorable offerings."


Adoration
Adoration (Sony Pictures Classics)
Metacritic Score: 67

New York Observer: "Atom Egoyan remains an auteur at the highest level of cinematic creation. 'Adoration' deserves to be seen."
Actual line: "As for Mr. Egoyan, he remains an auteur at the highest level of cinematic creation, and even one of his lesser films, like Adoration, deserves to be seen."
Key elision here!

Dark Horizons: "Another compelling and intelligent work from Atom Egoyan. Like all of his films, a complex myriad of layers that unpeel before one with intoxicating complexity."
Not quoted: " … 'Adoration' is clearly not a film for mainstream audiences."
UPDATED: A previous version of this article stated that we could not find this review on the Dark Horizons website. Thanks to Dark Horizons editor Garth Franklin for pointing out that the mostly positive review does indeed exist.


Julia
Julia (Magnolia Pictures)
Metacritic Score: 56

Village Voice: "Electric! 'Julia' demands to be reckoned with. A messy, nervy, frequently exhilarating thriller."
Actual lines : "Julia is nearly as electric as its heroine, a leggy, vodka-guzzling tart in false eyelashes and cheap sequined gowns who tells men she can make their dreams come true, and who can, provided those dreams involve parking-lot sex and sunlight-blasted mornings after."
"Directing his first theatrical feature in the decade since the neo-Bressonian The Dreamlife of Angels, Zonca tips his hat to the entire John Cassavetes oeuvre while crafting a messy, nervy, and frequently exhilarating thriller that operates on instinct rather than plot and features richly pulpy dialogue by Zonca and co-screenwriter Aude Py. Jeered upon its premiere at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival and only now receiving a token U.S. release, Julia demands to be reassessed and reckoned with."

The Nation: " 'Julia' offers something like the elemental pleasure of drunkenness itself."
Actual line: "This attitude might have seemed corny when Julia had its premiere at the Berlin festival early last year; but since then, people have grown newly critical of the scams and excesses of the would-be rich. It's possible that audiences now will find pleasure, and even meaning, in watching a busted corporate player (in real estate, no less) drive herself into the wall and then keep going. But Julia also offers something like the elemental pleasure of drunkenness itself: a crazy, dirty vitality, which stops only with the blackout and then can get restarted with the next sip of vodka."

Konstantin Kakaes

Konstantin Kakaes is a fellow of the International Reporting Project, a non-profit journalism organization based in Washington, DC.







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Article by Konstantin Kakaes

Konstantin Kakaes is a fellow of the International Reporting Project, a non-profit journalism organization based in Washington, DC.

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