Horror movies may not typically be the best reviewed genre amongst critics, but it is still usually the one easy enough to find a little praise to sell them with. I'm not saying horror fans are easy to please. Not in this piece anyway. Lord knows they have made their displeasure known (however unfairly) with this weekend's release of The Wolfman. Hard to believe that it is one of the two major releases of 2010 to go its opening three days without a positive quote to be seen anywhere in its newspaper ads or commercials. Lionsgate's Daybreakers was the other.
But how is that possible? The vampire thriller was getting its share of praise going all the way back to last September's Toronto Film Festival, plenty of time for the studio to prepare a couple of positive quotes. Well before the film settled in to a very respectable 64% at Rotten Tomatoes, more than double The Wolfman's 30%. (Hell, even Legion and its 17% still got two quotes for the ads - and it wasn't even screened for critics.) Still though, both films have a big enough pool to reach into and find a couple of respectable critics or outlets to sell it. Do you always need Peter Travers to be leading the way?
So we come to this week's upcoming horror entry; this one with the pedigree of one of the greatest filmmakers ever behind it. Shouldn't be too hard to find positive reviews on this one, especially when some of us are already discussing next year's Oscar race coming out of it. Paramount has opened up with the trump card of Rolling Stone and Peter Travers though.
"Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island sizzles with so much nerve-frying suspense that it's hot to the touch. This is DiCaprio's most haunting and emotionally complex performance yet."
We can go back and forth all week on whether this is a more "haunting" or "emotionally complex" performance than DiCaprio's work as Howard Hughes or Billy Costigan for Scorsese. And a healthy discussion that would be. It is Travers' first sentence that leaves little to the imagination. Mostly his own. Go back and take a look at the poster art for Shutter Island. Go ahead, I'll wait. What exactly stands out on it? Besides DiCaprio's shadowed face and the island itself? Let's narrow it down for you.
By golly that looks like a match, a bit of symbolism that plays well within the film's narrative. If you had to quickly describe a match, what words might you use? Bright? Fiery? Maybe "hot to the touch?" Even "sizzles" for good measure if you are thinking of the sound of its strike. Hell, why even see the movie if you can just describe it by the look of its poster?
Travers is also out in front on another master filmmaker's latest work. He calls The Ghost Writer "One of Roman Polanski's best. An addictive thriller. Dazzling." It is one thing to play up DiCaprio's work with Scorsese, but you are working in a far bigger pond when you try to size up the work of Polanski. Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, Repulsion, The Pianist - just to name a few. To go with calling something one of somebody's best, you have to be thinking top five right? Otherwise what does the word "best" mean? One of them should at least be within earshot of making the top spot. Is anyone but Travers prepared to put The Ghost Writer as the fifth film on that list when we can also consider Knife in the Water, Tess and Macbeth? Maybe between the "sizzle" of Shutter Island and the "dazzling" nature of The Ghost Writer, ol' Pete just has a case of the zzzzz's this week.
Speaking of zzzzz's, the best reviewed major release of the past weekend (if you can believe it) was Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Currently lingering at 49% at Rotten Tomatoes, that is more than triple the nightmarish Valentine's Day, which got more positive quotes in the ads from the junket crowd than either newbie. Percy got a couple though. One coming from Lindsay MacDonald of WFLA-TV (NBC Tampa) who said "Move over Harry, here comes Percy!!" Yeah, OK, Lindsay. I'm sure Harry Potter is shaking in his boots that Percy and his horny Greek Gods are the heir apparent to the franchise that has been in steady business since 2001 and will have two more films in the bank before Percy gets a follow-up. If Percy's first film grosses half of what Harry's sixth installment made last year ($301 million) I'll be shocked but still won't be saying "Move over Harry." Move over Eragon or The Seeker maybe.
Percy's other quote comes courtesy of Jim Ferguson, one of the most notable junketeers in the business and a board member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. He calls Percy Jackson "An action adventure for the entire family." Yes, as I'm sure parents will enjoy explaining the high-on-Lotus-flowers scene set in Las Vegas to the strains of Lady Gaga's Poker Face. They might have an easier time explaining that, though, than Mr. Ferguson's recommendations over the years.
"The perfect family film. Family animation comedy at its best." (Planet 51)
"The best family film of the year." (Flicka)
"A wonderful family film!" (Beverly Hills Chihuahua)
"Don't miss this wonderful holiday film. You'll enjoy this film right along with the kids." (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium)
"Stripes is the Seabiscuit of all zebras! Inspirational fun and funny for all!" (Racing Stripes)
"Fun for all ages!" (The Pacifier)
"Fun, fun, fun for kids of all ages." (Johnny English)
"The perfect summer comedy for the whole family." (A Cinderella Story)
"A holiday treat for the whole family!" (Fat Albert)
"An action comedy for the entire family!" (Kangaroo Jack)
"Finally a great movie for the whole family." (What a Girl Wants)