Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

The Blurbs

July 6, 2010

'Twilight: Eclipse' Is 'Earnest and Humorless Teen Romantic Glop'

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 'Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' 'Grown Ups,' 'Last Airbender,' 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.

"What there isn't, as usual, is much in the way of good acting."—A.O. Scott of the New York Times, on The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit)
Metacritic Score: 58

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: "A blockbuster rooted in romantic rapture."
Actual line: "The Twilight movies, like the books on which they're based, are often mocked. But that's only because we're still, on some level, getting used to the novelty of a highly contemporary blockbuster saga that's this rooted in old-fashioned, borderline masochistic girlish romantic rapture."
Not quoted: "The story, at heart, is earnest and humorless teen romantic glop … As always, Stephenie Meyer is not the most seamless of storytellers. She sets up soap opera horror-movie situations that stutter and ramble forward, muffled by those declarations of adolescent devotion and by Bella's own tentative, hemming-and-hawing nature. … there are moments when Kristen Stewart's acting gets a little too moody and remote. … The movie is about a girl's primal dream of being desired. That may well be corny, but it's also an essential antidote to summer-movie hardware."
Despite all his reservations, Gleiberman grades this teen flick on a curve, giving it a B+. For removing so many words and so much context from his comments—including that he's referring to all the movies rather than just this one, and that he calls it borderline masochistic—this ad wins Gelf's Bogus Blurb of the Week Award."

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: "The kiss of the vampire is cooler, the werewolf is hotter, the battles are bigger and the choices are … life-changing."
Actual line: "The kiss of the vampire is cooler, the werewolf is hotter, the battles are bigger and the choices are, as everyone with a pulse knows by now, life-changing."
Not quoted: "Dead vampires, at least as imagined in 'The Twilight Saga,' have the look of broken Greek statues in a vandalized museum, which kind of takes the sting out of things and not in a good way. The same goes for the historical flashbacks that fill in werewolf lore and more about vampire Jasper (Jackson Rathbone). Enough already."

A.O. Scott, New York Times: "Robustly entertaining."
Actual line: "…a more robustly entertaining film than either of its predecessors. The previous entry, 'New Moon,' was a sustained (and to some viewers, tedious) exercise in delayed gratification. You had to wait a long time to see Mr. Lautner unveil his pectoral muscles or morph into a wolf, and Mr. Pattinson vanished altogether. This time we are treated to nicely costumed flashbacks to vaguely defined earlier eras, album-cover tableaus of the Cullen clan and the Volturi (including Dakota Fanning but minus Michael Sheen, for now) and some moderately thrilling if visually muddy fight sequences."
Not quoted: "What there isn't, as usual, is much in the way of good acting … Mr. Lautner still seems to have recently escaped from a high school cheerleading squad somewhere, and Mr. Pattinson's pout conveys not the existential angst of a lovelorn immortal, but rather the peevishness of a guy who just lost a Greta Garbo lookalike contest—for the third time in a row!—to his own girlfriend."

Knight and Day
Knight and Day (Fox)
Metacritic Score: 46

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: "The most entertaining made-for-adults movie of the summer, and one of the reasons it works at all is the great skill and commitment Cruise brings to the starring role. 'Knight and Day' is also fortunate to have James Mangold in charge. As he demonstrated in 'Walk the Line' and '3:10 to Yuma,' Mangold is one of the few current directors who has an instinct for reasonably intelligent popular entertainment. Charming."
Actual line: "It's hardly a perfect film, not even close, but it is the most entertaining made-for-adults studio movie of the summer, and one of the reasons it works at all is the great skill and commitment [Tom] Cruise brings to the starring role. … 'Knight and Day' is also fortunate to have James Mangold in charge. As he demonstrated in 'Walk the Line' and '3:10 to Yuma,' Mangold is one of the few current directors who has an instinct for reasonably intelligent popular entertainment. … Cruise's charming facility with [his character Roy] Miller's deadpan spy-side manner is this film's secret weapon, and yet another reason why we should put Oprah's couch in storage once and for all."
Not quoted: "… inevitably light on plausibility … the script does have [Cameron Diaz] panicking a lot and screaming things like, 'Please stop shooting people.' … it can seem at times as if the film is throwing too much at us too often …"
While the blurb does leave in some ambivalent words, such as "reasonably," it omits a very important word: "studio." Presumably there have been more entertaining made-for-adults movies outside the studio system this summer.

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: "Movie stars really do make a difference. I insist on it. The movie is entertaining. The comedy seems to generate naturally between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. They are effective enough in their roles that they're not overwhelmed by all the commotion surrounding them. They make the movie work because they cheerfully project that they know it's utter nonsense and pitch in to enjoy the fun."
Actual line: "Basically, what I wanted was more of it. Some of that Cary Grant dialogue. More flirtation. More of a feeling the characters, not the production, were in the foreground. More of the stars. Because movie stars really do make a difference. I insist on it. … [eight paragraphs earlier] The movie is entertaining, but could have been better. … [two paragraphs earlier] The romance part goes without saying after a Meet Cute contrived in an airport, and the comedy seems to generate naturally between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. But why do so many summer movies find it obligatory to inflict us with CGI overkill? I'd sorta rather see Diaz and Cruise in action scenes on a human scale, rather than have it rubbed in that for long stretches, they're essentially replaced by animation. … The wonder is that Cruise and Diaz are effective enough in their roles that they're not overwhelmed by all the commotion surrounding them. They make the movie work because they cheerfully project that they know it's utter nonsense and pitch in to enjoy the fun."
Not quoted: "Have summer audiences been so hammered down by special effects that they require noise and fragmented visuals to hold their interest? Is it still possible to delight in a story unfolding with charm and wit? How many machine guns do you need in a romantic comedy? If you have charismatic stars like Cruise and Diaz and an A-List director, do you have to hedge your bets?"

Claudia Puig, USA Today: "Shines as an original. Oh, what a fun 'Knight.' A romantic thriller with exciting high-speed chases, brisk comedy and exotic scenery. And, perhaps best of all, stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz make a surprisingly charming couple. The film has a consistent wit and energy likely attributable to the steady directorial hand of James Mangold ('Walk the Line')."
Actual line: "But in a lackluster summer, Knight shines as an original that thankfully lacks 3-D projection, sequel connections or comic-book associations. … [headline] Oh, what a fun, action-packed 'Knight and Day' … A romantic thriller with exciting high-speed chases, brisk comedy and exotic scenery. And, perhaps best of all, stars Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz make a surprisingly charming couple. … Though there were reshoots and a rumored eight screenwriters (Patrick O'Neill gets credit for the script), the film has a consistent wit and energy likely attributable to the steady directorial hand of James Mangold (Walk the Line)."
Not quoted: "… a few too many action scenes feature Cruise running in his distinctive arm-pumping style … the twists don't always make sense and the villains are cartoonish. And the story falters toward the end when the premise is stretched thin."

Time: "Smart. Diaz is wonderfully deft … and there's a genuine comic pulse between her and Cruise. 'Knight and Day' is proof that you should never count Cruise out."
Actual line: "Knight and Day is like Mr. and Mrs. Smith with questionable sanity standing in for marital tension, although without the spicy Brangelina backstory. But it is the very definition of a summer blockbuster: smart but not taxingly so, filled with pretty people (Diaz and Cruise look fantastic) and things that go boom. … Diaz is wonderfully deft in such scenes, and there's a genuine comic pulse between her and Cruise. … We recoiled as [Cruise] jumped on Oprah's couch and picked a fight with Matt Lauer and chattered about Scientology. Yet he just kept going and going, and the slick, proficient Knight and Day is proof that you should never count Cruise out."
Not quoted: "All these stunts are ridiculously over the top, and by the time we get to Austria, they go on too long."
For more questionable Knight and Day blurbs, see the last Blurbs column.

Grown Ups
Grown Ups (Columbia)
Metacritic Score: 30

Bill Zwecker, Fox-TV: "The perfect summer movie!"
If this blurb had an ad with blurbs of its own, they'd include:
"Finally, I have found a point of agreement with Fox, assuming that Zwecker meant by 'perfect' a completely mindless, witless entry in the man-child comedy sweepstakes."—Charlie Myers, Humboldt County Journal
And
"I guess our summers are supposed to suck."—The Filthy Critic

The Last Airbender in 3D
The Last Airbender in 3D (Paramount)
Metacritic Score: 20

James Oster, Joblo.com: "A powerful, action-packed, exciting family film."
Oster got an interview with filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan and inserted these adjectives into his favorable profile.

Love Ranch
Love Ranch (E1 Entertainment)
Metacritic Score: 37

Pete Hammond, Boxoffice Magazine: "Provocative, highly entertaining. Helen Mirren lets loose with another terrific performance."
Actual line: "Love Ranch proves to be a provocative, highly entertaining and surprisingly touching peek into a unique world movies don't often explore. Anchored by another terrific performance by Helen Mirren who lets loose as the Queen of the Brothels, the film will open in six markets and expand in July. It could find some box office success with the older movie going audience to which it is targeted but may find itself in a tough fight for attention during a brutal summer season."
Not quoted: "… It may not be everyone's cup of tea …"

Great Directors
Great Directors (Paladin)
Metacritic Score: 48

Hollywood Reporter: "Illuminating! These independent spirits speak eloquently and thoughtfully on their work, politics, inspirations and artistic suffering."
Not quoted: "At times, however, [director Angela] Ismailos' appearance in some of the scenes is awkward and forced. The documentary's surest audience is film lovers, though theatrical play may not be extensive for such a niche film."

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector (BBC Arena/VIXPIX)
Metacritic Score: 73

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "Creepily riveting! A rock 'n' roll Napoleon."
Actual line: "… creepily riveting documentary portrait … In mod clothes and a bowl wig, Mr. Spector (now 70) suggests a pathetic rock 'n' roll Napoleon in exile, caught in a time warp."
Not quoted: "An unseemly amount of the interview is devoted to the settling of scores. A social pariah in high school, Mr. Spector sneers at the classmates who ostracized him, dismissing them as 'nothing.' He harbors an antipathy for Tony Bennett, whose late-blooming success on MTV sticks in his craw. The story of Martin Scorsese's appropriation of the Ronettes' 'Be My Baby' without permission for the opening scene of 'Mean Streets' is raked over as if it were today's hot headline news."

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: "A top 40 opera."
Not quoted: "Spector is a notorious credit hog—and [director Vikram] Jayanti proves to be something of an enabler. There's plenty that's excluded. The songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who co-wrote many Spector hits, are never mentioned; nor is Spector's second wife, Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Bennett. His children are barely alluded to, and his current (fourth) wife is invisible."

Time Out New York: "Prepare to be dazzled."
Actual line: "Prepare to be dazzled…in some way."
That's from a capsule review. A David Fear review in Time Out concludes: "… access and anecdotes trump analysis here. We don't need onscreen fanboy-academic text to tell us that John Lennon's “Imagine” sounds fantastic. A little more in-depth insight into a person who both produced that song and pulled a trigger might have been nice."

New York Magazine: "Mesmerizing."
Actual line: "The novel approach doesn't always work, but when it does, it's mesmerizing."

Let It Rain
Let It Rain (IFC)
Metacritic Score: 70

Stephen Holden, New York Times: "It's really, really good. I often felt watching it that I was in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But it's in the south of France."
Actual line: "The focus of 'Let It Rain,' by Agnès Jaoui, whose last film, 'Look at Me,' opened the festival in 2004, is an arrogant feminist writer, portrayed by Ms. Jaoui, who ventures into politics in southern France while being filmed for a television documentary. As the project is delayed by squabbles, technical problems and bad weather, the movie's depiction of high-strung, ambitious egotists with a low tolerance for frustration feels as close to home as the Upper West Side of Manhattan."

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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