by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Today’s column will be A WINNER! It will be THE SURPRISE HIT OF THE FALL!



Sorry. You caught me practicing. I have decided to give up my current line of work, which is, well, I’m not sure, whatever it is, and go into movie reviewing.

I don’t mean the long, gracefully written reviews Pauline Kael did in the New Yorker. Or the serious criticism found in the New York Times, Boston Globe, or this newspaper.

I mean the stuff that gets used in movie ads, stripped across the top.

You know the lines I’m talking about.




Now, I don’t mind seeing these quotes for an obviously well-made film, such as “Scent of a Woman” or “Beauty and the Beast.”

What puzzles me is seeing the same praise atop ads for “Weekend at Bernie’s II.”

In fact, no matter how bad the movie, the studios seem able to locate some shill willing to slap a good word on it. From bad comedy to bad action films to bad horror films with names like “Buzzsaw III: The Beheading” (“IT’LL KNOCK YOUR BLOCK OFF!”)

Who are these people?

And how do I get their jobs? The reviews of the year

Well, a little research, particularly a collection of reviews in Variety magazine, shows a disturbing pattern amongst often-quoted film critics.

In fact, the word “critic” might be too kind. After all, if you can call
“Sommersby” the “best romance since Gone with the Wind,” how critical can you be?

But this is exactly what Pat Collins, from New York TV station WWOR did. In fact, Collins — whose name should really be spelled “COLLINS!” — has been spotted all over movies ads this year. And why not, with her “criticism” of:
* “In the Line of Fire” — “The best action movie of the summer.”
* “Hard Target” — “The fastest nonstop action movie of the summer.”
* “Free Willy” — “The best buddy movie of the summer.”
* “Sleepless in Seattle” — “The surprise hit of the summer.”

Whew. That was some summer, Pat.

Pat also called “Posse” — a pretty awful movie by most accounts — “The Wild Bunch of the ’90s!” And that’s tame compared to a guy named Michael Wilmington of the LA Times, who wrote of “Posse”: “A big, rousing, hip-hopping, trash-talking, dynamite-lobbing, all-stops-out, rock the house comic/epic Western.”

Whoa, slow down, cowboy. I’m exhausted.

Often, when you see amazing quotes atop awful movies, they come from small radio or TV stations, or individuals who syndicate themselves. The name Jeff Craig, from “Sixty Second Preview” may be familiar to movie fans who took his advice on “Cliffhanger” — “A True Blockbuster!” — and “Last Action Hero”
— “A Grade A Blockbuster.”

Never mind that both films were panned by an overwhelming majority of critics and customers. To Jeff, they were blockbusters, and that got him atop many a large ad.

Which may be what this is all about. Getting top billing

While many will not admit it, it’s a coup in the movie reviewing business when an ad blasts your name above names like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Van Damme. And for small reviewers and syndicated programs that make more money with each new station that buys them, recognition may be more important than standards.

Besides, these same reviewers are often flown by the studios, free of charge, to “junkets,” where they are treated to free hotel rooms, free meals, free parties, and a chance to chat with the stars after screening the film. The studios do this in hopes of good reviews. If you keep slamming their films, you are not likely to be asked back, especially if you are a small operation. It would be like asking a party guest to urinate on your carpet.

So we get reviewers like Jim Ferguson of KMSB, who declared “Hot Shots! Part Deux” was “Easily the summer’s funniest comedy!” even though his review was on May 21. And Gary Franklin of KCOP saying “Amos and Andrew” is “the funniest movie I’ve seen all year,” even though he said this in February.

Some studios even ask reviewers for “a line” about a movie before they’ve written their review. And the reviewers give them a line, then work it in later. I’m not kidding here.

You know what? I can do this.

I can. I know I can. And I’m gonna. Right after I sit on my couch, eat popcorn, and watch “Animal House.” Which, as we know, is THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE.

How’m I doin’?


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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