Sony's brilliant marketing strategy in Chicago (which you can read more about here and there) was to schedule the film up against a screening of Repo Men, guaranteeing that most members of the press couldn't possibly review both. Most members, that is. The Tribune, Sun-Times and At The Movies were invited to a screening a full ten days before. Makes sense, right? If you are desperately trying to hide a film from the press (without giving it the attached stigma of what it means to not screen it) you want to show it to the outlets you believe can best give you the most negative exposure possible. Who needs real critics though when you have Salas and Oldfield?
Even the normally generous Pete Hammond could not produce a fresh tomato for The Bounty Hunter. Thankfully, in such a lackluster first quarter, he was able to find a film that he could put his weight behind. Hammond called this week's box office champion, How To Train Your Dragon:
"The first great movie of 2010!"
That's a bold statement with such films as Shutter Island, Fish Tank and Greenberg on the schedule. Even a greater mystery than this particular commercial calling the film "Dreamworks' Dragons" (with the plural) is Hammond's assertion itself. After all, how can you call a film the first great one of the year when you have already gone on record for TEN OTHER FILMS.
The Book Of Eli - "The Book Of Eli gets 2010 off to a spectacularly exciting start."
Creation - "Creation is rich and involving. A fascinating movie with a wonderful lad performance by Paul Bettany not to be missed."
When In Rome - "Entertaining and full of laughs."
Edge of Darkness - "Edge of Darkness will keep you on the edge of your seat."
The Yellow Handkerchief - "A heartfelt, beautifully made film with wonderful actors at the top of their game."
Formosa Betrayed - "A powder keg of a movie."
The Crazies - "This shocker will have horror fans jumping out of their seats."
Alice In Wonderland - "Magical. Madly inventive. Magnificent."
City Island - "Pure entertainment!"
Defendor - "Harrelson at his very best!"
How does one go from saying a film on January 15 "gets 2010 off to a spectacularly exciting start" to calling a film on March 26 "the first great film of 2010?" He can't even say that Dragon(s) is the first great 3-D film of the year since he already played the Hatter's M-word game for Alice In Wonderland. And this is just counting what he has got his name into the ads for. On Rotten Tomatoes he has given positive notices to 16 films from 2010 (out of 23 reviews). Are we going to play the semantics game here? Well, in none of those quotes does Hammond ever actually use the word "great." True enough. In one of the few moments of positive recognition Hammond will ever deserve, the man actually does try to write reviews. That is more than we can say of the likes of hilarious combination Steve Oldfield and Maria Salas.
A closer look at Hammond's reviews though and we can see that he refers to the "great stunt work" in The Crazies and says that When In Rome "serves as a great date movie for the new year." Then on Edge of Darkness, before he even gets to the review the headline calls it "a great return to screen for Gibson."
So how again is How To Train Your Dragon "the first great movie of 2010?" (A statement that appears nowhere in his review.) What is one to surmise other than the quote-happy Hammond as either having no short-or-long-term memory whatsoever or simply being a slap-happy shill more willing to give each studio precisely what they need and when they need it. (Hammond's review was actually posted two weeks early on March 12. Tell us again about the embargoes, Paramount.) Time has already answered that question, but the perfect irony isn't lost with a film opening next week that Hammond calls "Enormously touching. A superbly written moving story of love, loss, hope and renewal."
The name of the film? The Greatest.