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David Poland

By David Poland

What Makes Me Think I Am Watching “Critics Gone Wild”

Todd Gilchrist asked, via Twitter, whether I think it’s unfair to go into a movie like Transformers 3 with blinders on – reviewing what the film IS, not what is in the film – since I “question enthusiasm for other movies. Or are all intense reactions suspect?”

Given that I have felt this happening a lot more this summer than any summer before – usually it’s 2 or 3 films all summer that I feel this weird thing happening around – I figure I should explain myself as clearly as I can.

“Unfair” is a funny word. If, for instance, Roger Ebert goes into Tr3 thinking the imagery of the robots fighting is “ugly” and is still unhappy being forced to watch 3D, it seems enormously unlikely that he will look too hard past his feelings going in to find good in the film. In other words, he seems to have gone in needing to be convinced… and certainly, Transformers 3 isn’t transformative enough from the basics of the previous two films – from its basic idea – to overcome this. Unfair? Well, I don’t begrudge any individual their opinion. You know… we all work in this weird space where predetermined biases come with us into the theater, by the nature of the work. Some would say that certain biases and a base of movie knowledge is a functional basis for working as a critic. What those biases are or should be is an issue that continues to divide critics.

For instance, there is a Chris Weitz film coming out called A Better Life. I had 3 people tell me last week that they had an issue with the film because it was too much like The Bicycle Thief, but wasn’t as good and not what they were expecting past the first act. Unfair?

I guess what sets me off is when a film seems to fit into a fairly easy-to-define range of valuations… and then, a wildly aggressive version of the same, positive or negative, emerges. If any work isn’t black and white, it’s criticism. Yet, the gray gets removed… often over issues of theoretical principle, like “I hate comic book crap.”

As I have quoted before, “Give me my fucking premise!” Aside from child porn and uber-violence, I think a professional critic has some responsibility to get over the idea that the film they are reviewing should not exist on principle, whether their issue is genre or budget or sequels. Conversely, don’t give a film a pass or praise it way beyond what seems sane (or likely to stick 6 months later) because you LOVE their premise.

If Super 8 is an homage to Spielberg, great. I get that. We all got that. So how did it stack up against that standard? This is not “I like that movie.” Plenty of people like the movie. As I noted in my gently negative review, there are plenty of things I liked about it. But if we’re reliving Uncle Steve’s genius, does this film deliver on that?

You know, it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Zemeckis, Robbins, Columbus, Silberling, Sonnenfeld, other newcomers, and later work by Dante, Donner, Kasdan, Bay, and lately, Eastwood have all been supported and built via some Spielberg largesse. And their films with him have, for the most part, contained the sentimentalism that is Spielberg’s clearest trademark.

So do the things that JJ Abrams does in Super 8 that add to the Spielberg tone live up to that legacy? We’ve seen Spielberg do kids and misunderstood monsters and aliens and threats to the planet. If we love what Spielberg did with them – 20/20/rose-colored hindsight for some critics – does Abrams’ take deliver as well… visually… but more importantly, emotionally?

I think, as a professional, you have a responsibility to, if you are going to embrace the love of Spielberg in it all, to consider this seriously… not just to throw up your hands and go, “I am sick of all this CG, 3D shit, and I loved that time in film, and it feels great to go back.”

I don’t need you to agree with me, as far as the answer goes. Love the movie subjectively all you like. But let’s get past why you hate summer movies, please.

You know when my head started spinning on Super 8.. when critics and feature writers started making excuses for the gross not being huge… even before it opened. And yes, I have written things like that before. But I write about box office every week. I’m talking about people who wouldn’t know tracking from a dolly track, suddenly opining on the legs to come. It’s not unlike The Social Network, a movie I liked more personally, but was hyped to the heavens by media, not just with positive reviews, but with all kinds of silly speculation about box office that seemed designed to tell readers, “It’s more than it seems… we swear… if you don’t know anyone who went in opening weekend, go anyway, or you will be left out on the next big thing!” And even that… if it was transparent, who cares? But it wasn’t. It was hidden behind the idea of it being journalistically sound. And it never was. The film was a great success, but it wasn’t a societal phenom.

Flip side is a movie like Green Lantern. Was it the least successful of three CG-heavy comic book movies this summer so far? Not for me, but I wouldn’t object to anyome arguing that.

But is it the Worst Comic Book Movie Ever Made?

And even if you HATE it, isn’t there some notion that it looks more like a comic book than anything we’ve seen since Dick Tracy? Could you throw it the smallest bone before you pee on it and try to bury it forever as though it was made to offend you?

It was also one of the many films this summer to be called, repeatedly, “incomprehensible,” another word that gets me buzzing. How dumb does one have to be not to be able to comprehend the fairly simple idea of what Green Lantern is? The Wrong Man gets sucked into the job, gets trained, faces bad guys, fails, finds the courage to become The Right Man. How many times have we seen this?

I do have a theory. Perhaps this is a function of commercial films becoming more narrow in scope and in intended audience.

There have been 15 films released on over 2000 screens this summer. 3 are comic books, 3 are r-rated comedies, 3 are sequels (among 5 overall), 1 is a long-held-from-release niche action film, 2 are for young kids, and 2 are rom-coms (one urban/one chick). That leaves Super 8. No wonder critics have picked it as their one true love.

It’s almost as though it’s time for a new language for films that critics hate or love going in.

3 stars for the film… minus 2.5 stars for the CG and 2 more for being in 3D. A -1.5 star film!

Or review harshly, but hold off on stars when it’s natural hate.

I’d rather that than critics reviewing commercial cinema seeming endlessly either strident or overcompensating. This is, in my opinion, a big reason why criticism has lost influence.

When I read, over and over, that movie is too loud or too visually busy or too incomprehensible when the story is a simple as a fart, I find it crazy-making. To me, it’s an abdication of the job. If you hate the visuals because you looked at them and felt they were artistic failures, fine! But I have read that review from these same writers… and when they hate the film. It seems like detail goes out the window. Conversely, when they go in humming, any flaw is so,show excusable.

I don’t think there is a great conspiracy or that everyone is a hack. I think critics are human. Writing windows are getting shorter. Competition for attention to your work, greater. Genre familiarity often breeds contempt.

I don’t need anyone to confirm by beliefs. But when others disagree strongly, I would like to feel challenged and not just dismissed along with these movies. Strong criticism does that.

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100 Responses to “What Makes Me Think I Am Watching “Critics Gone Wild””

  1. cadavra says:

    Saw GREEN LANTERN today and–horrors!–thought it was perfectly fine. I liked the idea that they spent time on having Jordan trying to figure things out as he goes along–rare in origin films. The story made sense (at least to me–could there really have been any more exposition at the outset?) and was cleverly resolved. Performances were solid (though it’s a bit of a stretch to buy Skarsgaard as Robbins’ son) and even the 3-D was pretty decent. Maybe it just wasn’t stupid enough to satisfy the knuckle-draggers…

  2. WG says:

    “1 is a long-held-from-release r-rated action film” – which was this? I’d say Priest, but that was PG-13.

  3. David Poland says:

    Priest was the one I meant… correcting… Thx

  4. LexG says:

    A Better Life is absolutely terrific. Don’t listen to anybody trying to dissuade you from seeing it. It’s about the best thing this year, and that Bichir dude should be the FRONT RUNNER for Actor.

  5. JKill says:

    If a movie has to better THE BYCYCLE THIEF to satisfy a viewer, I feel like they will basically never be satisfied by any movie ever.

  6. jesse says:

    Dave, at the same time, as someone who loved the bejesus out of Super 8, it’s kind of insulting to hear “no wonder the critics…” even if you’re not literally saying that critics didn’t like it as much as they thought. It also makes your take on both that and Green Lantern (which, come on, it’s not the worst comics movie ever, but wow, really, this is the movie that earns your defense? It’s not incomprehensible, sure; it’s just shockingly dull and feels executive-engineered and perfunctory; doesn’t even use its strengths, like casting, particularly well; etc.) seem more like you projecting your “objective” opinion onto a bunch of people who have committed the sin of agreeing with each other, not you.

    That said: you make some excellent points about film criticism in general here, points that often come out during the summer months. I don’t think it’s groupthink so much as boilerplate conventional-wisdom criticism. You’re absolutely right about the lack of detail in some reviews, how easily some writers will just say what ten other writers have said (whether they’re aware of that or not), without adding any kind of insight. There’s a weird hunger for a strong cultural CONSENSUS on these big movies and often that consensus, in the media narrative, has to be YES GREAT or UUGGHHHH OMG SO BAD. This exceeds not only the reality of 90% of movies, but, I think, how people who actually watch them (paying audiences) actually respond to them (this has been on my hand as I have an essay coming out this week about this very topic).

    Not that critics should reflect paying audiences, of course. I’m speaking more of the non-criticism Entertainment Weekly/Vulture/pop-culture-enthusiast semi-reporting that declares across-the-board verdicts on this type of stuff. The hunger for that kind of ultimate thumbs-up/thumbs-down final say does probably encourage some of the samey-sounding reviews, even if only indirectly.

  7. Tom Andrews says:

    Cars 2 was a fine movie. I enjoyed it. More importantly my 2 1/2 year old son enjoyed it.
    The reviews revealed critics went in convinced that it was only a cash grab and an excuse to sell toys. So every scene was more confirmation of that.
    They are clearly bringing their agendas into the theater with them.
    They need to learn the difference between individual movie reviews and writing columns/blogs/articles about the state of the movie business.

  8. Jason says:

    DP, interesting commentary. I imagine that it is hard sometimes for critics to separate pre-concieved notions versus trying to take the film on it’s premises. I generally enjoy Ebert’s reviews and think he tries to do this. Generally Ebert will metion “the movie achieves what it set out to achieve” and rate the movie accordingly. He mentions this theme passingly in the first Transformers review. It would be great if all critics did this, though acknowledging how hard it would be to do. If every critic reviewed a film on it’s merits for Oscar contention, there might be no more than 5 (certainly 10) movies a year warranting 4 stars with a great majority of films 2 stars or less. Of course, one could argue that if critics did this, would there be any difference in box office for movies?

    Additionally, one wonders if anticipated success (or lack thereof) plays a role into reviews. Everyone knows (or assumes) Transformers 3 will be wildly successful, even if it is down here in the US, it should be huge overseas. Therefore, it does not need any “further help” (for lack of better words). Whereas a film like Super 8 may need “further help.” One could argue whether that film would be wildly successful; however, most would have said prior to opening that the ceiling for opening was $40M. I would imagine the best projection would have been Inception (decent opening, great word of mouth). Though this brings up the question of do critics matter or can they influence box office. I generally think they could influence people to rent a movie, but in this age of expensive movie tickets and a down economy, people’s minds are already made up about what movie they are going to see in the theater, critic reviews be damned.

  9. SamLowry says:

    Odd that the word “incomprehensible” was never associated with “Memento”–a movie that requires you to rearrange the shot list in your head–yet several critics gave up on “The Matrix”, as if it was somehow difficult to follow. The same twits must have felt the contents of their skulls melt out through their ears during “Inception”.

    Has anyone managed to find a review of “Super 8” that doesn’t mention Spielberg? Is a feature-length homage still considered a movie?

    Let’s put it this way: If a Cromwellian government in the future decides as the result of some Wiki-inspired rumors run amok to destroy every copy of every Spielberg movie and wipe his name from history, would “Super 8” make sense to anyone born into A World That Knows No Spielberg?

  10. Krillian says:

    I’d be more worried about what else that Cromwellian government is doing.

    Since Spielberg helped produce Super 8, and he’s the biggest producer in the world, and his name on the poster is as big as JJ Abrams, and they’ve purposefully said it’s meant as a throwback to early Spielberg, how can you not mention him in a review?

    “JJ Abrams seems intent on making the Anti Harmony Korine movie…”

  11. I’ve whined about this before, but there is a long history of critics seemingly unable to follow simple and clearly-explained stories when they are encased in special-effects and/or fantasy genres. Be it The Matrix, Beowulf, Speed Racer, Inception, and now Green Lantern and Transformers 3, there seems to be some weird affliction that affects certain critics which causes them to not see the storytelling and character work (be it good or bad) right in front of their eyes. Then they scream about how “This film has no story! It’s nothing but special effects! I didn’t understand a damn thing!”

    Regardless of what you think of those movies, all of them have clearly laid-out stories that have extensive amounts of exposition that walk you through any major narrative hurdles. Green Lantern is arguably too simple of a story (and the opening exposition really kills what should be some real first-act tension by explaining what Parralax and the Lanterns are). Transformers 3 is not only easy to follow, but contains Shia LeBeouf explicitly telling you what just happened at the hour mark and what the end result of all that set-up actually is (“You all did A B and C, so now D will occur!”). Inception completely leads you by the hand, making sure that everyone understands the big pieces. And Speed Racer does one better, having the lead character state what his personal understanding of the plot is (IE – “I don’t understand all of this fixed racing crap, but I do know that they hurt my family and I want to hurt them back!”).

    I’ve said this before, but if you can’t follow a simple or exposition-filled narrative that happens to contain special effects, you shouldn’t be a critic. If you can’t see the forest for the trees, get out of the woods.

  12. Well says:

    Those are some nice paragraphs, but Transformers 3 makes no sense IF you pay attention. It’s a really cool movie but the plot is a disaster. I can’t get into it without spoiling the “twists.”

  13. Tom Andrews says:

    I’ve seen this too. Its one thing to say that a film’s plot is convoluted or overly complicated, but to say its incomprehensible is just a flat out lie. The Phantom Menace is another one that gets tagged that way a lot. For all its problems, it certainly not incomprehensible.
    This is how you know its just a BS term they are throwing out to continue to pile on. Because when they like a complex movie, they’ll tell you how great it is that the director didn’t feel the need to spell it all out for you.

  14. Hallick says:

    “Incomprehensible” is usually just another way of saying “I hated the twists and turns of the ridiculous story, and it demanded so much of my attention that my brain finally just checked out in protest”.

  15. JS Partisan says:

    Right the fuck on Scott and Tom. Right the fuck on.

  16. jesse says:

    I also bristle when people over-use words like “incomprehensible” (as a teenager, the ones that most riled me were Batman Returns and Mission: Impossible, both movies I enjoyed and heard referred to as “incoherent”! M:I is certainly a little tricky to explain or remember, but it’s not hard to actually follow as the movie goes on). That said, there is more to “incomprehensible” than simple a-to-b story. No, Green Lantern is not hard to follow in terms of its completely pedestrian and by-the-numbers story arc; as Scott says, it’s almost too simplistic and over-explained.

    But from a storytelling perspective, some of it is sort of baffling, like: why is the Hector Hammond character off in more or less his own movie most of the time; only to be revealed as someone who has a past with two of our other main characters; only to have that not really play into their conflict later on; and in fact have Hammond (played wonderfully by Sarsgaard) wind up tangential to the movie at best.

    Similarly, we meet Hal Jordan’s family in an early scene, and then they are basically never mentioned again.

    So it’s not that I couldn’t understand what was going on in the main story; I just couldn’t understand why the filmmakers were including certain scenes or plot threads and then dropping them (or more likely, gutting them in the editing room).

    But yes, Tom Andrews, I agree, convoluted or overly complicated (what I felt about the Pirates sequels, no matter how hard I wanted to follow them! And I did!) is different from incomprehensible nonsense!

  17. LYT says:

    You think effects movies get short shrift…god forbid a horror movie (not a thriller, like Psycho or Silence of the Lambs) have any kind of plot complexity or bigger idea whatsoever.

    And even if it does have a bigger idea, that generally gets attacked as a BS rationalization to show violence.

  18. yancyskancy says:

    The flip side of all this is critics who have no interest in any aspect of a film BUT story, often ignoring superb technique because it’s in service of a cliched genre plot. A lot of non-critics are like this, too, of course.

  19. cadavra says:

    Jesse: Hector is what is known as the “gray villain”–someone who works for the “black villain” (in this case, Parallax) but is not necessarily evil himself, at least at the outset. I thought it was pretty obvious that his hatred of Jordan was largely due to his crush on Carol, which was certainly hammered into us enough. As for Jordan’s family, they’re there to provide some backstory, and thereafter are no longer really needed. Bringing them back later in the film would’ve been a needless intrusion.

  20. SamLowry says:

    “god forbid a horror movie (not a thriller, like Psycho or Silence of the Lambs) have any kind of plot complexity or bigger idea whatsoever.”

    After reading about how amazingly great “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” supposedly is, I read the plot summary ( ) and was laughing by the end because it’s nothing but X kills Y, Z kills X, oral sex, A kills B…there’s no coherence whatsoever.

  21. David Poland says:

    Sam, if it was as good as it aspired to being, it would… much as Back To The Future and Men in Black would.

  22. JS Partisan says:

    Yeah most horror films cannot be taken seriously. Not only because the genre for the most part is heinous and adds nothing except exceptional make-up talents to the world, but it’s fans are just fucking weird. Farci’s daft ass will probably defend the idiocy that is Human Centipede all the live long day but something like Tron Legacy, which he saw BUZZED, pisses him. That just doesn’t make any god damn sense and he’s not alone in being that peculiar.

  23. Anghus says:

    Every symptom we see here is a result of the pass/fail mentality that permeates modern criticism.

    Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
    Monster Hit/Epic Failure

    Since the majority of film criticism is based off an “either/or” mentality, the resulting logic and rationalization is going to skew towards the far sides of the spectrum.

    Take the “big idea” as mentioned above. Inception seems like a fine example. The majority of reviews I read either celebrated the complex idea of dream exploration or shredded it for not being complicated enough, that the entire concept was too conveniently explained and defied logic.

    There wasnt a lot of inbetween there. People bought into the idea or scoffed at it.

    There is no more ambivilence, only celebrating greatness and crucifying failure.

  24. christian says:

    You dare speak of weird. Given the horror roots of the comic book industry to boot. And how about them FUCKING WEREWOLVES in Harry Potter? Stop baiting me with caviar!

  25. The Big Perm says:

    Horror is a great art form. How many genres are so based in mood, atmosphere, and interesting visuals?

  26. Jason says:

    Looks like Transformers opened to $13.5M midnight… off to a good start, though I would be shocked if it did $60M Wednesday + midnight showings like Part 2 did….

  27. JS Partisan says:

    Horror is a piece of shit genre much like hip-hop. Sure, it occasionally has moments of greatness among complete and utter mediocrity but most of the time it’s fucking pointless and it’s fans are fucking weird.

    This does not change that universal and Hammer and Romero are great but right now, if they never made another horror film, that would be just fine with me. I’ve never been one for the senseless killing of the young, the old, and that one time in that one film they go and murder those kids in the field.

  28. jesse says:

    Cadavra, you’ve just described the literal/technical reasons for including Hammond, which, yes, could’ve been a strong story point. But as played in the movie, it was absolutely perfunctory with no real reason for inclusion beyond screenwriting-manual stuff.

    Actually, that’s how I felt about most of Green Lantern: it was the very model of boilerplate and cliches being run through without any sense of style, fun, or panache.

    Also, if anyone is interested, my aforementioned essay on the weird media drive towards a critical consensus is up, here:

  29. SamLowry says:

    (I thought comic-book superheroes were a spin-off of the Western genre.)


    “[Green Lantern] was the very model of boilerplate and cliches being run through without any sense of style, fun, or panache.”

    Thus the criticism that it was moviemaking by committee.

  30. The Big Perm says:

    IO just admitted that he is NOT black. You sir, are a racist.

    At least comics are never pointless and their fans are not weird at all, and are very well-adjusted.

  31. Tom Andrews says:

    I liked Inception but didn’t overly love it. In that case I got tired of hearing how great it was BECAUSE it was so complex. It really wasn’t all that complex. For some reason people took complexity as a good thing and ran amok

  32. SamLowry says:

    At least revenge is a good, easy-to-understand motivation, compared to that Mandy Lane monstrosity I linked to, which–Spoilers, for anyone who gives a damn–boils down to Lane backing out of an idiotic suicide pact, which results in the jilted co-signer going all Columbine on her and her buds stranded at some secluded cabin. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

    Horror fans freak me out, especially the ones who laugh during murder scenes. But in the same way that the release provided by porn may stop its viewers from turning into rapists, I guess we need horror if it prevents some of its viewers from turning into serial killers.

  33. The Big Perm says:

    I’ve never seen Mandy Lane but that’s not THAT bad of a motivation. I mean, you consider a serial murderer is sort of crazy most likely, so “sense” is a little more fluid for a character like that. At least it’s not the usual cookie-cutter explanation.

  34. SamLowry says:

    I had a mental-mashup tying these two themes and the setup for Lane together and visualized Matt Damon’s character in “Syriana” turning into the Punisher and spending the rest of the movie trying to destroy the prince for killing his son. The irony is that the prince can scarcely be held responsible, making him a sympathetic “villain”.

    Maybe that would have been a better ending after all.

    P.S. That whole pool scene was a show-stopper for me. It’s all I remember about the movie and yet it has absolutely nothing to do at all with the theme of the movie. We’re supposed to be getting worked up over America’s energy policies and the tensions it’s causing in the Middle East, and instead I got all worked up over a little boy who died because he jumped into a pool, which is a scene that could have been included in just about any other movie released that year if all you wanted was a cheap moment of pathos.

  35. Hallick says:

    Is it really so much that critics are just turning binary or is it that in order to be heard or noticed as a film critic in the internet age YOU HAVE TO BE FROTHING AT THE MOUTH IN HATRED OR ORGASMIC GLEE AND MAKE EVERY MOVIE THE BEST OR THE WORST THING YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Because the idea of trying to be the best writer possible and making even the “meh” reviews sing doesn’t seem to have a lot of appeal when you read most reviews.

  36. jesse says:

    Hallick, a bit of both, I think, because those two inform one another. You’re absolutely right. The old bad film criticism writing would be extremely bland newspaper reviews that are 60% plot summary and lots of short, unimaginative sentences. The new bad internet film criticism is impassioned and also so conversational that it might as well be an email to three of your buddies rather than something a couple hundred people or more should be excited to read.

  37. Hallick says:

    “Every symptom we see here is a result of the pass/fail mentality that permeates modern criticism.”

    The mentality permeates EVERYTHING now. Politics is exactly the same. A politician does the smallest misdeed and it’s WATERGATE! Some back-bencher has a good appearance on a cable news show or gives a good speech and all the pundits are wondering COULD THIS BE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT?

    But what do you expect in a culture that believes “second place” is just another name for “first loser”?

  38. SamLowry says:

    Most “critics” don’t seem to be putting any thought into anything past the first paragraph, which is the one RT will post on its aggregation page.

    First impressions, grabbing eyeballs, etc. & whatnot.

    Yeah, they’re trying to appeal to a public who take seriously some complete idiots who want to be president, but some of the “serious” candidates and their handlers don’t seem much smarter. I believe the thinking was “Obama has a chick on his ticket, we need one too. How about we grab that hot filly from Alaska. Then we’ll be equal!”

  39. berg says:

    just saw Monte Carlo and thought it was charming … it almost washed the taste of Larry Crowne out of my mouth …. I’ve been out in the sun too long

  40. Hallick says:

    Another thing that might be going on is that there’s an equal and opposite reaction thing happening with something like “Transformers 3” that has praise and hatred so far, and so the people whose opinions fall in the middle of the spectrum will naturally wind up wondering “WTF?!?”.

  41. Anghus says:

    Criticism has gone binary.

    To be fair, so has American politics.

    Edit – sorry hallick, just read your follow up post where you said the same thing.

  42. SamLowry says:

    I’m all in favor of a moviemaker who wants to destroy Chicago. Bad enough they’re willing to destroy the Great Lakes to protect a dozen jobs, but I won’t return to that city until someone realizes that roads running north to south shouldn’t be labeled “East” and “West”.

    So did they nuke it in the movie? Please tell me they did. I did the same in my own story, which I’m shopping around. (And the nuking is a minor event, briefly mentioned and soon ignored. Tee hee!)

  43. JS Partisan says:

    Perm, who give a shit about color? What the fuck is wrong with you? Seriously? Oh you are a horror fan and compared to people who buy comics, yeah, a lot weirder.

    I am also not setting through another Michael Bay Transformers movie. Fuck that noise. Only that open-shirt wearing asshole would think anyone wants to fixate on THE PEOPLE in a TRANSFORMERS movie.

    When they reboot this series. Here’s hoping it’s with someone who gets that THE ROBOTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE GOD DAMN MOVIE!

  44. Anghus says:

    Io isnt black?

    Not that it matters, but the sheer number of times he has pointed oit my white-ness as an insult makes that seem weird.

  45. christian says:

    He’s black AND white.

  46. hcat says:

    I am sure IO will let us know his heritage if he ever finds out who his birth parents are and why they left his bassinet on the steps of that comic book shop.

  47. JS Partisan says:

    Hcat you are such a douche and late.

  48. The Big Perm says:

    I GIVE A SHIT about color IO, because you’re always acting like you’re down with my homies and you are so NOT down. You’re a whitey. Don’t you EVER refer to anyone as a dumb white man again! If you were in the hood with me and my boys, we’d surely have our way with you and leave you for dead, motherfucker!

  49. JS Partisan says:

    Perm, you just threatened to kill me on this blog. If Poland doesn’t ban you for this, the fuck with this place.

  50. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    “Here’s hoping it’s with someone who gets that THE ROBOTS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE GOD DAMN MOVIE!”

    ie More important than people.
    Looks like comic book fans and serial killers have another thing in common now.

  51. JS Partisan says:

    Whatever Spirit. It’s a Transformers film. They can make a quality TRANSFORMERS FILM without fixating on shitty human characters that add absolutely nothing to the films.

  52. Joe Leydon says:

    Can’t we all just get along?

  53. David Poland says:

    Guys… I am at a shoot. I cannot believe we are having a race war in this blog.

    Please knock it off. Now.

  54. The Big Perm says:

    To be fair, I said “leave him FOR dead,” not “leave him dead.”

    So clearly that isn’t a death threat!

  55. Enrique says:

    completely agree with your post in that I can’t understand the love for Super 8 and the hate for things like Green Lantern and Bad Teacher–both of which I enjoyed more than Super 8 but seem to be getting an unfair piling on by critics while 8 gets a little too much undeserved love.

  56. Telemachos says:

    Tangential to this discussion is whether or not the exposition/backstory is executed well or not. I agree that most genre movies aren’t incomprehensible in the slightest… they provide the needed explanation for people’s motivations, etc. However, they don’t necessarily do this well.

    For example, in THOR we’re told/shown that Thor and Jane end up deeply in love, that they’re soul-mates whose love transcends their separation at the end. Well and good, that’s clear motivation. But the actual execution of this is pretty silly: they have a brief mild moment on a roof together, and then Thor cooks eggs the next morning. At no point do we ever feel this passionate connection (Hemsworth and Portman have a genial attraction on screen, but it’s not particularly exciting or explosive), and there’s little effort taken to actually develop the relationship into something that’s meaningful.

    Most fans I know don’t care about the execution (I assume because they can rely on years and years of comics to fill it in), but as a stand-alone the movie falls pretty short in that department.

    (Not to pick on THOR specifically; this is fairly common among a lot of superhero and comic adaptations, and one reason why I think fans tend to enjoy the movies a lot more than critics or anyone going to the movie with a blank slate.)

  57. JS Partisan says:

    Tele, really? Not only have I had a conversation with someone whose sister in law loved Jane and Thor so much, she got pissed off after reading about what happens to them on Wikipedia. This alone blows your little poppycock bullshit out the water but everyone one this blog, SANS ME FOR SOME REASON, loves to act as if their view of the world is the only one. ARRRRRRRGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

  58. Telemachos says:

    Dude. I said “Most fans I know”. Chillax.

  59. LexG says:


    Cancel the rest of the bullshit summer movies.


  60. JS Partisan says:

    Can we just cancel this one and put Harry Potter in theatres already?

    Sorry about that Tele.

  61. LexG says:

    I’d be more exciting about a Harry Potter if they ever dolled up and fetishized Em-Wat like Bay does to the Fox, Rosie, Rachael and Isabel. What’s with all the glum fog and too many clothes? Brighten that shit with some sunshine and Linkin Park and GIANT CITYSCAPES UNDER THE GOLDEN SUN, and maybe I’d give a shit.

  62. Joe Leydon says:

    I forgot who it was — George Orwell, maybe? — who said that, when he was a book critic, the hardest reviews to write weren’t pans or raves, but reviews of books he felt nothing strongly about one way or the other. That he, in effect, had to invent an opinion about. I have to agree. Sometimes I will worry for 2-3 hours (or more) over a review of a movie that was… well, nice. Not bad. With a few things to recommend it. Try saying that without sounding condescending at best, snarky at worst.

  63. David Poland says:

    I will not be writing a review of Larry Crowne. Too frustrating and stakes are too low.

  64. JS Partisan says:

    That’s confusing. Yeah that’s confusing.

  65. LYT says:

    ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE isn’t much to speak of. Saw it at Comic-Con last year at a free screening full of hobos who wanted to sleep in a theater instead of on the street.

    It wants to be more artsy than it is. I’ll give it that it tries, but it fails.

    Every year we hear the complaint about Transformers movies not having Optimus or the robots in general as the main character instead of Shia. How clear does it have to be? I’ll bet you the filmmakers would like that too, but Optimus is expensive as hell to render onscreen. He gets more screen time each movie – eventually, if they keep making ’em, he will be the main character.

    But even in the animated movie, Spike was so prominent because audiences still want humans to relate to.

  66. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    LYT. I haven’t seen it but I’m guaranteeing the most thrilling stuff in T3 is the real aerial stuntwork by real humans with all the carnage going on. That was the trailer footage that connected with me and made me want to see it. Robots bashing each other is terminally boring without any human connection. It’s also why Real Steel looks to be hella fun and even with all the cheese and riffs from other films.

    The thing about all this opinion and baggage we carry into cinemas, is that it didn’t exist until the internet. It’s as if the platform to offer a voice to the unsung masses has transformed the quiet internal processing we used to have into a ragin’ roid nerd that feels compelled to incessantly talk about films until all the life has been sucked out of them.

  67. Aj says:

    Transformers 1, 2, 3 are awful (and I only saw the first one, that’s enough for me). Just a lot of explosions (like every Bay movie) with a dumb plot and boring CGI.
    The problem is exactly the opposite of the idea of your text. Lately, critics are giving a pass for awful tentpoles (Transformers, Thor, Iron Man, etc, etc.) and are very rude with good dramas (Defiance, Changeling, etc.).
    The critics are lowering the quality of an industry (USA cinema) already dominated for dumb projects.

  68. nikki whisperer says:

    The fact that you used “good” and “Changeling” in the same sentence is pretty amusing. If that movie had been directed by anyone besides Clint Eastwood, it would have been savaged even more than it was. An awful movie and Jolie overacted beyond belief. And don’t even get me started on DEFIANCE….

  69. Anghus says:

    Larry Crowne looks so painful. The marketing makes me cringe.

    an old tom petty song….. old loojing tom hanks…. Americas most unappealing female lead who hasnt been in an interesting film since 2004…. Cedric the Entertainer AND Wilmer Valderama?!?!

    Hanks on a moped? Zany!

    Hanks in his underwear? Shut the front door.

    Hanks shamelessly mugging at the front door? Shut your underwear.

    The only movie with less appeal this summer was Mr Poppers Penquins.

  70. yancyskancy says:

    I’m with Aj on CHANGELING. Found it riveting, thought Jolie was excellent, etc. My only real complaint is the SNAKE PIT-inspired psych ward stuff, with Amy Ryan in the thankless role of Exposition Inmate #1.

  71. Don R. Lewis says:

    Although I lean towards what Anghus is throwing out there on the binary tip, I think the issue with “critics” is even less complex than the plots they’re confused by. Most of these “critics” (and this is not a knock at anyone in particular, but rather at the NOISE of 10000 internet voices) don’t know what the fuck they are talking about. They are not well read in either film history, story basics or even literature. They do not know how to write. They are in this business for all the wrong reasons but they’re throwing crap against the same wall as those who know more than they ever will.

    Most of these younger “critics” are trying to figure out how they’re going to come off as smart in their review and/or bust out a quotable one-liner rather than, you know, watching the movie onscreen. We’re talking about a large swath of under 30 year olds here as well and this is an ADD riddled generation.

    There’s also a HUGE bullying angle to these blogger crits. They don’t want to make waves and can’t formulate their own opinion anyway (because as I mentioned, they don’t know WTF they’re talking about) so they just get in line with people doing the work. The “binary” angle Anghus mentioned is somewhat apt and if you want proof, look at crits who are trying to slap a “good/bad” angle on TREE OF LIFE.

    We’re dealing with lazy, un-educated kids who are hustling as fast and as hard as they can to make a buck and feel relevant so time figures into these “reviews” as well. Gotta be FIRST!! No time to think. Plus, they’re not capable of it anyway. Blah.

    Rant off.

  72. Anghus says:

    Ill take Don Lewis for the win.

    Id also like to take Hallick as a designated hitter.

  73. Hallick says:

    “I will not be writing a review of Larry Crowne. Too frustrating and stakes are too low.”

    It sounds like you’ve got a couple of good paragraphs you could rattle off though. Come on, it doesn’t have to be a complete review.

  74. LexG says:

    “FINE, but I am not wearing that BUCKET on my head.”

    Was Roberts always the world’s most negative-energy movie star, or did she just morph into being that entitled and sour over time?

  75. Hallick says:

    “Was Roberts always the world’s most negative-energy movie star, or did she just morph into being that entitled and sour over time?”

    Her work in “Pretty Woman” still holds up as a charmer, so it must have happened somewhere later (but not too much later, I think it was there in “Flatliners”). I think the problem is when she gets cast and promoted as “america’s most loveable sweetheart with a million watt smile” where viewers can see those brittle and tense qualities in her personality scuttling the hype. That’s why her presence works best in a movie like “Erin Brockovich” where she’s playing a character who’s supposed to be kind of bitchy and negative in the first place. But try to sell her as some wide-eyed innocent in something like “Eat Pray Love”, and you get big time blowback.

    I wonder what her career and reputation would have been like if she’d wound up doing the bitchy best friend parts more like what Lisa Kudrow winds up getting.

  76. Anghus says:

    Ive always generally disliked Julia Roberts as a performer. I like her in Closer. I enjoy My Best Friends Wedding.

    There isnt a whole lot else that doesnt make me wince. Ive always found her overbearing and ive rarely bought into her as a character.

  77. JS Partisan says:

    Compared to the fucking Transformers 2 REDUX BOOGALOO, I am totally looking forward to Larry Crowne.

  78. For whatever reason, Roberts has never struck me as a sympathetic person while ‘in character’. So when you try to make her the romantic lead whom you root for (Runaway Bride, Notting Hill, Hollywood Sweethearts, etc), I don’t particularly respond. Part of it is that many of her rom-coms involve her character doing very hurtful, selfish, or downright mentally-ill things and yet still expecting the happy ending. However, when we’re allowed to not fawn over her for one reason or another, she’s quite engaging. If I had to pick my favorite Julia Roberts performance, I’d have to pick Mary Reilly. She was onscreen for nearly every frame, didn’t smile a single time, relied on absolutely none of her tricks, and still carried a very flawed movie on her back. Also enjoyed her in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, My Best Friend’s Wedding (where she was allowed to be the antagonist), and Duplicity (where she and Clive Owen made a great icy couple). Roberts seems to be a case of an actor finding the most success in the area where they are at their weakest as a performer. No great tragedy.

    And yeah, second everything Don said above, except to add that older critics do it too, often in a “I’m better than all of this so I’ll just turn my nose, mock, and not take it seriously” kind of way.

  79. Anghus says:

    Notting Hill isnt bad. And I barely remember her in Confessions, a movie I remember liking a lot.

    Scott nailed it. She works best when she gets to play someone not nice.

  80. SamLowry says:

    “What’s with all the glum fog and too many clothes? Brighten that shit with some sunshine and Linkin Park and GIANT CITYSCAPES UNDER THE GOLDEN SUN”

    It’s England?

  81. Madam Pince says:

    I like Julia Roberts best in Steel Magnolias. For a while, she had a vulnerability that could enrapture audiences. Now she is more brittle than vulnerable. She was never that sunny America’s Sweetheart. That label is more applicable to Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz or Drew Barrymore.

    And even bundled up head to toe, Emma Watson is beautiful and charming. Seriously, anyone who says otherwise is stone cold nuts.

  82. leahnz says:

    i like older julia roberts both on and off screen, she seems like a bit of a low-key cynical smart-ass who likes to drink margaritas and make smallish movies – and occasionally has good chemistry with her leading men (namely clive owen). seems like perhaps it’s men who don’t care for julia. oh well.

    (oh and re: madame pince, julia has fantastic skin for her age for someone not canadian, eh, she must avoid the cali sun. don’t the moders live down south somewhere? lucky for julia’s face)

  83. Madam Pince says:

    No idea where Julia spends most of her time, but latest pics has her looking well. All the Beautiful People should do as Japanese old ladies, and carry sun umbrellas wherever they go. Seriously, their faces are worth millions of dollars. They should all live like mole creatures and shun the devil Cali sun. Or move to Canada.

  84. leahnz says:

    someone should make a movie about all the beautiful people moving underground to live like mole creatures in order to preserve their perfect skin, whilst the ‘uglies’ remain uptop, rampaging around as leather-faced low-earners, leading to the inevitable clash of ‘cultures’. ‘the time machine’ meets ‘valley girl’ meets ‘idiocracy’

  85. Joe Leydon says:

    Leah: Actually, some of the bitchiest things I’ve ever read/heard women say about other women have been things I’ve read/heard women say about Julia Roberts. Seriously. Just last week, an intelligent and educated woman in my Twitter circle — an academic, no less! — gratuitously posted that she thought Julia Roberts had the most graceless walk of any actress in the history of cinema. Really?

  86. hcat says:

    I thought Roberts was perfect in the first Oceans movie, wounded, angry, and unsure of where to place her trust and affections. Isn’t what we are saying about Roberts true about most actresses? That they are more appreciated in more rounded roles than just playing the sweet love interest? Isn’t Amy Adams infinitly more interesting in The Fighter than Leap Year? Roberts tried to branch out early with Mary Reilly and Micheal Collins and was crucified for those roles ( I am sure she gave up on Shakespeare in Love because there was no way she was going to attempt another English accent affter the drubbing she got). Like Meg Ryan and a few others, audiences might complain that they are the same in every role but when they deviate from those roles in the slightest they get either ignored or ridiculed.

  87. hcat says:

    And I agree that Emma Watson is really quite the young dish. She should be making daily phone calls to Richard Curtis demanding a decent romantic vehicle to follow up the Potter films (they could find someone else to direct of course).

  88. torpid bunny says:

    I saw Mona Lisa Smile. In a theater! That’s going to be tough for Julia to overcome with me.

    Although, everybody makes a bomb now and then and we should probably be much more forgiving with actors. Last night starz was showing a Liam Neeson movie whose synopsis was, and I’m not kidding, “macho DEA agent with extreme flatulence problems falls for his GI (Sandra Bullock) while busting some money launderers”.

    Also, my sense is that when critics say a story is incomprehensible, they generally don’t mean the plot per se. I think they mean that the story world and it’s logic is totally lost on them. So, in Trannies 1, obviously the climax is that they take the mystical cube to the anonymous desert metropolis. But why? To “hide” it from the decepticons? While at the same time preparing for battle? So Josh Duhamel says lets “hide” it in the city which is then the site of a devastating battle?

  89. Paul MD (Stella's Boy) says:

    Is that Neeson/Bullock movie Gunshy?

  90. torpid bunny says:

    Yes. Maybe he had a gluten intolerance. I watched about 3 minutes.

  91. Danella Isaacs says:

    I liked The Green Lantern. It was fairly unpretentious, pleasant fun that clocked in at a reasonable–what–105 minutes? And yeah, it had a cool look. It seems to have cost way too much for what we got: what I liked about it was its 50s b-movie charm, which is ironic considering how much money was spent on it. But, as a viewer, that shouldn’t be a concern of mine. With these superhero movies and the like, it seems some get wildly overpraised–Dark Knight, Iron Man, as if they’re Vertigo or The Godfather Part II–while others just a notch or two below, and refreshingly less pretentious–Green Lantern, Speed Racer–are considered affronts to humanity. Whatever.

  92. Madam Pince says:

    torpid bunny, you should have watched the whole thing! Gun Shy is a guilty pleasure, full of humorous character moments. It is a bit disjointed in parts, with the feel of skits pasted together, rather than a seamless whole, but I still enjoyed it muchly.

  93. Anghus says:

    Torpid, I agree.

    Sometimes its not the story thats incomprehensible but the logic within, and critics just sum it up with the wrong adjectives.

    Transformers is a great example. I get the story but have difficulty reconciling logic choices like the military taking the battle into a populated area then trying to air lift the thing out of the city from the rooftops when the other side has flying robots and ours does not.

    Green Lantern, same issue. I understand the story and the players,.but im curious as to why the smartest guys in the universe are crafting a yellow ring powered by fear to fight a villain powered by fear.

    In sci fi/comic films theres a lot of logic bending that gets categorized in reviews as incomprehensible,.when in fact its just bad writing and plot holes

  94. LexG says:

    This is just me pulling a MOVIEMAN and being a run-time dork, but somewhere it got reported that GREEN LANTERN was “105 minutes!” and everyone ran with that; It’s really not. It’s just around the 2-hour mark. When I saw it, the film proper began at like 3:45 and was over at 5:43.

    NO ONE gets runtimes right anymore. I think it’s cause the early reviews don’t count the endless credits, or the credits aren’t attached yet, and everyone just runs with that.

    Rant over.

  95. cadavra says:

    “I’d be more exciting about a Harry Potter if they ever dolled up and fetishized Em-Wat like Bay does to the Fox, Rosie, Rachael and Isabel. What’s with all the glum fog and too many clothes? Brighten that shit with some sunshine and Linkin Park and GIANT CITYSCAPES UNDER THE GOLDEN SUN, and maybe I’d give a shit.”

    Lex, that’s one reason why we love Harry Potter: it’s an oasis of taste, class, intelligent story-telling and epic filmmaking–plus the cream of British acting royalty. We can get all that other crud in 95% of other movies being shat out today.

  96. palmtree says:

    “Transformers 3 isn’t transformative enough”

    *chuckles* Best review ever!

  97. LexG says:

    “…plus the cream of British acting royalty.”

    I’d like to give Watson some cream, if you know what I’m saying. ZING!

    Such a cute CUTE! chick, wasting her whole career in these stupid HP movies.

  98. SamLowry says:

    In a world without HP, Watson would be working the register at a Sainsbury’s, never having to worry about photographers trying to snap pictures of her cooch every time she gets out of a car.

  99. cadavra says:

    While Lex and I seldom agree on…you know…we are in total accord on Ms. Watson; she is absolutely adorable. So much so that I, for one, don’t mind that she’s much cuter that Hermione is in the books. As for Sam’s crack (no pun intended), she might not have beome a cult idol, but she’d certainly be a busy actress on the order of Carey Mulligan and Sally Hawkins. Assuming she’d put career ahead of education, of course.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon