Peter Travers in Rolling Stone has an article this week, "Peter Travers Picks Five Summer Movies to Skip." I was going to provide a link to it, but then...well, I realized that I'm telling you to skip it, so I might as well help you out.
The problem with the article, as far as I can tell from the one-paragraph description that Mr. Travers gives for each of the five movies, is that -- he doesn't seem to have actually seen any of them!
Now, mind you, he may have. But it's not only impossible to tell, since he gives no details, but everything he writes suggests that he hasn't.
In his review of one of them (I won't say what they are, because it's simply not fair, if they haven't been seen), he writes about what the director "appears" to have done. To me, it appears that Travers has just seen the TV ads or trailer.
For another of the films, a follow-up to a mediocre original, he asks "how in hell" can the star "pull off a miracle with a sequel?" Those are the words of someone who hasn't seen the movie yet, which is why he can't yet answer his question.
A third describes the film's premise, for which he then writes, "I''m getting depressed just thinking about this." If he's just thinking about a premise, rather than describing what he actually saw in the film that depresses him, then he probably didn't see it, either.
With the other two movies, he tells you why the premises don't interest him, but not why the actual movies themselves don't.
Honestly, I can understand why a premise may sound really mind-numbingly bad, to the point of saying "I've had enough of the bloodsucking" vampire movies. Or that a premise shows that "The lack of originality was so staggering." But y'know...it's just the premise. A single sentence on a page. Not the...well, movie.
I would love to have seen earlier pre-snap-judgments by Mr. Travers --
"A one-legged captain chasing a white whale for 800 pages? Wake me up after just thinking about it."
"How desperate and empty do you have to be when the only idea you can come up with is a frolicking musical about Nazis singing and dancing in a cabaret before World War II?"
"A little boy wants to go to wizard school. Who does he want to grow up to be? Gandolf? Enough with fantasy and magic already! We've seen it."
By the way, while I don't especially admire trashing movies and such before you've seen them, I do understand the concept of criticizing weak-sounding premises. But if you're going to do that as a professional critic -- IF -- I think you owe it to your readers to at least be honest and upfront that You Haven't Seen What You're Writing About.
To be clear, it's possible that some or all of these movies ultimately do really suck eggs. But maybe one of them -- or all -- will turn out to be a refreshing take on a worn-out premise. It's been known to happen. But that's all beside the point, of course. Even if the movies are all lousy, you don't review a film before you've seen it if your job is to review films -- and to make matters worse, you don't tell the public that you haven't seen them.
It's possible, too, that Peter Travers has seen all these movies. It doesn't seem likely that he has. It doesn't see likely that he has seen any of them.
And so, you now don't have to see his article. The difference is...I've read it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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