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Twisting My Words

Friday 22 July 2011, 20:00

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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There was a story in The Irish Times recently about a DVD cover that misused a review by me to sell a film as hilarious when I had actually found it pretty unfunny.
It's happened to lots of critics and here I give you a few other examples of cheeky selective quotation.

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Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.

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    Comment number 1.

    the best one i ever saw was 'Notorious'. The ad for it had Trevor Nelson quoted as saying 'the most important film of the year' (or something similar)...The catch? He was doing the voice over! They were quoting him reading the script they'd given him to read! Stunning.

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    Comment number 2.

    The thing is, the examples that you mention seem to illustrate critics being too clever by half. If, for example, one stuck to the fairly straightforward "don't waste your time", it would not only allow the reader to quickly ascertain that the film is bobbins, but also preclude the use of any of it out of context!

    I don't have any examples of my own to add, but I have wondered how many films have run with "This is really [not] a good film, so-and-so, the such-and-such times"...

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    Comment number 3.

    Somewhat surprised that you are not more annoyed about this practice given your welcome pedantic fondness for language. I was expecting a tsunami level rant on this one. Is there no come back for instances where critics comments are so blatantly compromised in this way? Looking forward to latest and welcomed full length podcast (with dvd extras) and glad to see the emerging beard has been annihilated. Ta. Pete (Edinburgh)

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    Comment number 4.

    Now a critic wasn't responsible for this but your blog made me think of a terrible use of a quote to sell a film. On the front cover of the film Love, Honour and Obey, you have the quote, "UNMISSABLE! COCKNEY GANGSTER COMEDY AT IT'S BEST!" by Loaded magazine. What a lot of people didn't know and were probably conned into buying this terrible film with this audacious and completely incorrect statement, was that this quote was from the review in said magazine by the directors of the film themselves, Dominic Anciano and Ray Burdis who were guest reviewers for their own film and this was what ended up on the final cover! To this day, I have to correct people who tell me that they love that film with this story just to make them think a little about what they are saying!

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    Comment number 5.

    I know it is not for a film which is on DVD, but the comedian Stewart Lee deliberately uses negative quotes on his DVD's, books and posters to tell people they might not neccessarily like his show, my particular favourite being "The worst comedian in Britain, as funny as bubonic plague".

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    Comment number 6.

    This is not so much twisting the words of the critics, instead taking advantage of them in order to give the advertisement an extra punch/edge, but there is a poster for David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY which says the following:
    -Siskel & Ebert

    Two more great reasons to see...

    Always made me laugh.


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    Comment number 7.

    Hey Mark, very interesting subject. First off, nice to see you giving The Irish Times a mention, as it is a publication that I have written for in the not-so-distant past. One twisting of words that sticks out in my mind concerns a feature that Total Film did around 2004 or so along the lines of the '50 Must See Movies Out This Year'. One of the films mentioned was Blade: Trinity, which was the third and final film in the Wesley Snipes-starring franchise.

    When the film was released, it was given an underwhelming two-star review, despite the fact that the poster for the film had a "Must See" quote attributed to Total Film.

    When a reader brought this matter to the attention of the magazine in a future issue, they contacted the PR person who was helping to promote Blade: Trinity, who said that, seeing as they had included the film in their 50 Must-See Films (a feature which was written at least six months before the film's release), they felt they were within their rights to put it on their poster.

    This despite the fact that it was in anticipation of what the film might be like (after all, Guillermo Del Toro had directed the second film, so they were justified in expecting it to have some redeeming features), rather than what they eventually thought of the film.

    These words, of course, were not in the actual review, but it nevertheless shows how the twisting of words can also exist outside the review of a film itself.

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    Comment number 8.

    I actually had an argument with my friend about this a while back.

    Whilst I dislike misleading reviewer quotes (or the use of reviewer quotes in general) in film advertising, I am of the opinion that if a reviewer says something positive in a generally negative review, such as:

    "Whilst the action scenes are exhilarating, they do not justify wasting 120 minute of your life on this rubbish."

    I think it's fair game for the advert to quote "The action scenes are exhilarating." as that is still the opinion of the reviewer. If somebody wants to see a film just for the action then it's their own fault if the film as a whole turns out to be rubbish. I would, however, have a problem if they just quoted the word "Exhilarating"... but then again, if someone goes to see a film based on a one word review then it's their own fault if the film is poor.

    Much more telling is the source of the quote. I generally don't take any notice unless it's from someone (or a publication) I usually trust. So, if it says "Loaded Magazine" or "The Sun" or a similar publication that has nothing to do with film then I can dismiss it immediately. Even if it's someone I trust and it's a film I know nothing about then I will look up the full review.

    Obviously I'm saying all of this as a film fan but I think you'll find a lot of casual film-goers or people who get sucked in by the hype/advertising/cast aren't as choosy anyway and don't really care.

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    Comment number 9.

    For some reason I have Batman Forever on VHS and on the front cover Jonathan Ross is quoted as saying "One of the greatest films ever made". The sad thing is I don't know if he was misquoted or being serious.

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    Comment number 10.

    I suppose the overall message here to critics is; be sarcastic at your peril.

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    Comment number 11.

    Pink Flamingos "Like a septic tank explosion, has to be seen to be believed.

    You can't top that!!

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    Comment number 12.

    Not a critic's quote, but I'm pretty sure the Lindsay Lohan film "I Know Who Killed Me" had "Award-winning" blazed across the top somewhere. Those awards were Golden Raspberries...

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    Comment number 13.

    Actually, I can't think of a movie that hasn't any very good quotes on the poster or the cover of the DVD... no matter how bad the movie is.
    That's why I don't pay attention to these kind of things anymore. And I really wonder how many people do.

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    Comment number 14.

    @ Truchsess

    Unless you were being sarcastic in your comment then you may have just posted the most pointless observation ever.

    Are you actually suggesting that a film/DVD distributor (whose sole purpose is to make money) would actually put negative quotes on their promotional material if their film wasn't any good?

    Someone mentioned Stewart Lee earlier but even those negative quotes are ironic as his material is actually very good yet is negatively reviewed by people who don't properly understand stand-up comedy.

    As I mentioned earlier, anyone who goes to see a film based solely on a quote from a poster or trailer does so at their own peril and, quite frankly, deserves to not enjoy the film.

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    Comment number 15.

    @Ben Walters - the Batman Forever Jonathan Ross quote sprang instantly to mind. In fact I'm sure Mark has mentioned it in a previous blog on a similar subject. I remember hearing Ross talk about it on his radio show a long time ago and it was either a joke taken out of context or a dare to get his name on the poster. I forget. Either way he really doesn't think it's the best film ever made.

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    Comment number 16.

    Slightly off topic, but one that has the same underpinnings of false advertising: Last night I watched the midnight showing of Captain America and the theater pulled the ol' bait and switch. Everyone there paid for 2D; that was the only showing listed... But they sold out and started adding more showings. They came in and announced that we would now be watching the 3D version for no extra charge and they handed out the The Glasses of Reduced Color Saturation. Anyone who wanted to view it in 2D could move to the next showing, which was at 12:31.

    As to what my decision was, I'm going to have to do what we Americans call "pleading the fifth". I must say, however, that I did enjoy Captain America:The First Avenger far more than the other recent Marvel Comics offerings.

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    Comment number 17.

    Dungeons and Dragons had:

    "Swordfights and special effects unlikely to disappoint even the most ardent fans of 'The Phantom Menace'"

    Another one: "Highlander 2: The Quickening is the smartest sci-fi thriller since Blade Runner."

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 19.

    According to Alan Carr "this summer's biggest movie" starring "three of Hollywood's funniest funny men" is Horrible Bosses.

    Ooooh, I know what I'm seeing this weekend!

    (I would like to clarify, to those who are sarcastically challenged, that I am not being serious.)

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    Comment number 20.

    I recently saw a DVD in Asda that I had never heard of (although searching the internet now suggests it was "The Wating Room") with the quotation: "Better Than Sex and The City" - Mark Kermode.

    It struck me at the time that this wasn't really much of a recommendation.


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