Posts Tagged ‘classic’

A Beginner’s Guide To Spotting Sucky Movies

April 15, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

It’s an age-old conundrum: How can I know if a film is worth seeing, without actually seeing the film?  With ticket prices as high as they are today, it makes sense that consumers wish to know – or to at least have a decent amount of probability – that they will enjoy a movie before they see it.  The goal here is to find the great movies, and avoid the godawful flicks.

I can be of some assistance in the latter half of that puzzle.

Assuming the potential ticket buyer either has no access to the film’s trailer, or is not satisfied with the information found there, it’s a good idea to read the reviews.  Still, reviews are opinions, and those of other people, no less.  How can this be helpful?

The key, dear friends, is in how the reviews are written.

First, a lesson in wording and definitions.  The review words “zany,” “wacky” and “madcap,” exclusively used in reviews of comedies, ironically means unfunny.  Not in a dictionarial sense, but in a real-world sense.  These three words come to a reviewer’s mind when a screen writer’s idea of ccmedy involves such tired images as pie throwing, stop-action sped-up chase scenes, and cartoony sound effects whenever someone is hit on the head with a real-life lethal object, such as a sledge hammer.  Unless you are under the age of six, and have time-portalled back to 1972, this is by no means cause for smiling, let alone roaring with laughter.  This is actually cause for peeking at your watch every three minutes and praying for end credits.  For the wiser set, these buzzwords are code for “Do not even think about coming near this film.  Pretty much, ever.”

And second, the excessive use of ellipses.  Ellipses are those three dots you see in movie reviews, placed between one-to-three-word bullet phrases, such as “. . . a must-see . . . brilliant . . .a classic!”  Now, legally, you cannot misrepresent someone’s exact words.  This is called libel.  Therefore, you cannot change someone’s words and keep quote marks around the phrasing, because they did not actually say what you’re writing.

However, there is a loophole.

Let’s say your film gets absolutely trashed by a respected reviewer.  Well, you certainly don’t want to write the awful remarks into your advertisements, but the conspicuous absence of a review by, say, a Roger Ebert might shout “Load of rubbish!” to the money-holding public, as well.  So what do you do?  Well, legally what you can do is quote a person’s words . . . even if you don’t quote all of them!  Take the above made-up review:

“. . . a must-see . . . brilliant . . .a classic!”

Sounds good, right?  But consider that since some words are missing, this could be an accurate partial quote of the sentence “This piece of garbage film will never be A MUST-SEE in my book!  The BRILLIANT thing to do is to avoid this mess of a movie like The Plague.  Only an escaped lunatic would consider this release A CLASSIC!”

Accurately partial-quoted, but somewhat misleading by the marketing squad, wouldn’t you say?  To be safe, don’t trust a review you can’t actually read.

I hope this tiny cinematic lesson has been of some service.  If I save one human being from sitting through one horrid film, I’ll consider my work here justified.

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“Beastly”: The Title Is Its Own Review

March 25, 2011

by Thomas M. Pender

I really wanted to like this one.  The trailer was very interesting: a modern teenage version of “Beauty and the Beast,” in which a popular hunk insults a witch (or would she prefer “Wiccan”?) and she repays him by taking away his outward beauty.  Lots of potential here to be a hip-but-meaningful classic.

But, alas, no.

It wasn’t the actors who ruined this film.  I was very impressed with the young cast, though I hardly knew anything about any of them.  The only one I recognized was the rather noteworthy Mary-Kate Olsen (yes, that Mary-Kate Olsen, half of the Olsen twins, but flying solo here) as the witch/Wiccan.  I was a pretty quick fan of Alex Pettyfer (recently of I Am Number Four), too, in this first film I have seen him in.  The female lead Vanessa Hudgens (of the High School Musical series) was also good.  The incidental characters are also skillfully played by Neil Patrick (TV’s How I Met Your Mother) Harris and Lisa Gay (The Soloist) Hamilton.  No, the cast can’t be pointed at for this miss.  It was clearly the writing.

What should have been a deep and intelligent turn of a fairytale was so rushed (it tells a yearlong story in 86 minutes . . . which is only 40 times the length of the trailer and includes the running time of the credits, for heaven’s sake!) that the audience doesn’t have time to feel anything.  Each scene seems to be a change of season, and the main characters appear to fall in love in the time allotment of a coffee break.  Even though the writer (Daniel Barnz, who adapted Alex Flinn‘s novel) is to blame, his mess makes everything else messy by association.  The actors deliver incredibly dopey shortcut lines, which I believe will insult teenagers’ intelligences as quickly as they did my own.  Such lines leave a bad impression from the characters, and though they can’t be blamed, the actors are most associated with the characters, so you do feel them to be a bit dopey themselves for attempting such tripe.

From settings to makeup and costume design, Beastly has some really rich elements, but it zips by you like a commercial, and leaves you feeling a bit cheated.  You wonder if there shouldn’t be a discounted ticket price for an abbreviated film.

The good news is that since the advent of the outdoor rental machines, it won’t cost you more than a buck or two to check it out in a few months when it hits DVD.  There is plenty to appreciate here, but do yourself a favor: watch it in slo-mo, and make it last a bit.