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Mark Kermode Mark Kermode | 14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 3 July 2012

After an advance screening of The Sweeney recently a national newspaper published their review early - which annoyed the distributors greatly. Do you think it's OK to report films months before they are out or should critics wait until release?

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I have no problem waiting for a review - it's frustrating to hear a full review without being able to see it myself. As you say, too early and it can also kill the hype. I'm a fan of the first response reviews, though!

  • Comment number 2.

    I think any review is useful, no matter when it's filed. On the one hand, long-range reviews can build up the buzz and the sense of anticipation for a movie - I hadn't heard of Killer Joe, for example, until you did you stumbled out of the screening and reviewed it on this site, but after that I was looking forward to it (and it didn't let me down).

    In a way, that's the whole reason that festivals like Cannes, Edniburgh etc exist at all - to drum up early buzz, and create a sense of anticipation. Early reviews do the same thing, and if anything, they should be encouraged.

  • Comment number 3.

    Since the mid 90s where movie sites, and movie fans have been able to express their opinions on certain movies on the internet, a critics opinion has become irrelevant.

    I'm still surprised film critics such as yourself still have jobs. Yes you're fun to listen too, but I don't take any notice of your opinion, because the most of the time you're wrong, even though you claim to be right.

    A lot of the times when you review a film, you say a certain element is unique, or new, we the audience have most likely have seen something similar on a US television series months, or years before. As you don't want US television shows, only movies, your reviews do come off as out of touch.

    Regardless of whether a movie is reviewed months in advanced, or a few days in advanced, really doesn't matter, because a critics opinion is yesterdays news, the audience will see it regardless, The Transformers series is a classic example, and the same will go for The Sweeney.

  • Comment number 4.

    Personally I don't read reviews until after I've seen the movie so generally it doesn't affect me. That being said...

    What's the point then in previewing the film so far in advance if its not for a festival? It's their own fault. Do the screening a couple of weeks before release or put an embargo on it if you are previewing it that early. If the studio don't do either of those things then don't be surprised when a film review comes out early. With film reviewing, especially for websites, it benefits sites as well and if your site has a review up first your likely to get more hits and stick out.

    In this case the studio has no right to be angry at all.

  • Comment number 5.

    Since I don't have easy access to the cinema all reviews are months before I see the film on DVD or even years before I see it on television. Those reviews are still interesting and alert me to films that are worth seeing when they become available. The reviews that matter most aren't the big releases but the smaller, often more interesting, films that might go unnoticed without a good review.

    I can see the distributor's point of view though the more it is mentioned in the days running up to release the more people will be thinking of it when deciding what to see.

  • Comment number 6.

    Would the distributor's felt the same way if the film had been given 5 stars and not 1 i wonder..

  • Comment number 7.

    If the movie is screened then its fair game to talk about it. However, there's a difference between a review and a criticism, and personally I'm more interested in a crit than a review (although I'd read / listen to a crit after seeing a movie, in order to think more about the ideas expressed etc.).

    I doubt they'd be complaining if the reviews had all been gushing...

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    Too far in advance makes no sense for me. If the film's been shown at Cannes for example, I'd still look out for a review when it's finally released here. And if distributors don't want it reviewed at that point, why show it so early?

    *Really* annoying though is when a film makes it into so many critics' top 5 of 2011 because they've already seen it earlier in the year (ie The Artist), yet it didn't get to a cinema near me until 2012. And I live in Manchester.

    Now that's really unfair.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why are you writing the review? That's the question to answer if you need to know when to publish.

    If you want to be useful to your audience, then publish on or just before opening day.

    If, however, you want to be useful to your advertisers by grabbing lots of internet hits from eager fanboys, publish as soon as you can. Sooner, if (like Variety or several national newspapers) you think you're big enough the studio daren't punish you for breaking your NDA.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have found recently that reading reviews could possibly taint my judgement before even going into a film. Therefore I try my best to catch them after I've enjoyed the film myself as I feel that merely just a star rating can sometimes influence ones opinion of a movie.

    This was one of the reasons why I tried to avoid the Prometheus reviews as I didn't want to take another's opinion before having my own (even though I did actually enjoy it). I recently went into a screening of The Amazing Spiderman before any reviews had been published therefore I was able to enjoy it without having prior expectations.

    The same coming up with The Dark Knight Rises, hopefully i'll be able to avoid any reviews/spoilers in the build up to it but I doubt that is going to happen!

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't agree with Stuart Yates, first off, he may not appreciate critics (not sure what he was doing on this webpage then?) but plenty of people do. The mass of online film bloggers may contain some good writers but there is no quality control; there is just a huge volume of comment. There is still a role for well informed, professional critics who write or broadcast with entertaining and insightful material. Of course there aren't many left in actual jobs but that's a different matter!

    I think the Guardian's review was not really that useful as the film is not out for months and, more importantly, audiences were not exactly falling over themselves for a remake of The Sweeney!

    There is always a scramble to get the first reviews out there but to be honest, a well considered review is probably worth more.

    Anything that distances critics and writers away from the PR merry-go-round machine is good news - the whole embargo situation is an interesting topic for sure...

  • Comment number 13.

    I've got to admit that I prefer my reviews close to the release date simply because I'll forget about a film if there is too big a gap between reading about it and me going to watch it.

  • Comment number 14.

    I have no problem with people REVIEWING a film 3 monthes in advance. It doesnt matter when the film is reviewed, it will still have the same review.

    The problem with Prometheus was not an early review, it was the fact that we had been given so much information, trailers, teaser trailers, viral campaigns with David and screen shots and cast interviews... it just watered down the whole expirence. Yet studios are continuing to do this: Spiderman, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper etc

    What is wrong with have one, maybe two trailers, and let your audience get excited the old fashion way.

  • Comment number 15.

    Better early than late. Nothing worse to me than seeing the film and then getting reviews afterwards.

  • Comment number 16.

    I personally think that reviews should be published the same week when the film is released, because at the end of the day reviews are, at times, generally seen as the deciding factor whether or not to see the movie in question.

    Film festivals and preview screenings put paid to this idea. Even at a preview screening where a film can be in its rough stage, critics and audiences alike are already posting their opinion on an unfinished product which I personally find redundant, unethical and, in regards to Prometheus, annoying. Despite my admiration for the film, all the hype and build up annoyed me and I personally think all this hype can actually put you off the film before you even see it.

    However at the end of the day, who bears the blame for such a practice; the critics or the distributors/producers? One such example is Apocalypse Now, where Francis Coppola previewed his film twice in the U.S. before submitting a work in progress to the Cannes Film Festival. At the first two preview screenings the film was savaged by the critics, whom Coppola did not invite. It played at Cannes it was praised and eventually won the Palme D'Or, and also gave a chance for Coppola to vent off his disgust at the media who tried to ruin the film. But at the end whose fault was it that the film started off with a bad stigma; the critics, or Coppola himself?

  • Comment number 17.

    In the case of arthouse house films it's anyones guess as to when or if it will turn up at your local cinema, an advance review would at least tell me to keep an eye out. Earlier this year Outside Bet played for a week at my local Vue but i didn't take much notice as it wasn't reviewed until a week later. Last year i saw Sleeping Beauty a week before Mark reviewed it, as it turned out neither of us had anything good to say about it, which is probably why the public got it a week early.

    Although i liked Prometheus the reason so many hated it wasn't because it failed to live up to the hype but because it was a mess.

    I have just gotten in from seeing Killer Joe, having anticipated it ever since Mark staggered out of the preview, shocked and bleary eyed, all those months back. His reaction to "that scene" meant i envisaged something more extreme but i didn't realise Friedkin had made such funny film, really enjoyed it and i even had fried chicken afterwards. Of course Mrs Friedkin famously hated Cruising so she had better avoid Killer Joe altogether.

  • Comment number 18.

    Personally i don't mind hearing a review of a film months in advance - this obviously doesn't apply to a lot of the major blockbusters though as many aren't even completed till a few weeks before release, but the question one should be asking, and there may be a good answer to this? why was The Sweeney screened this far in advance by the distributors anyway? If they were disgruntled to find a review of it in a newspaper then why bother showing it now? I think for many average filmgoers they will only want to hear a review for a new release as it will be fresh in their mind to make a decision whether they want to see it over the next week or two. If you review a film so far in advance though i think the average multiplex punter will have probably have forgotten about it come the films actual release date.. One other thing that should be mentioned though is that sometimes films screened so far in advance can still be a work in progress with fx shots (if applicable),sound mix,editing,score etc all unfinished or still being tweaked,if this was the case then i wouldn't want to hear a review of an unfinished movie and i'm sure Dr K would agree with me on that.

  • Comment number 19.

    This is a tricky one as, on one hand, I like to know if a film is worthy of the hype and something I should eagerly anticipate with bated breath. On the other hand, I can be a bit sickened off by months of publicity and, by the time the film is released, will have largely forgotten what certain reviewers said about it and whether it's one to definitely see, probably see or completely avoid.

    Bearing in mind what Dr K said about Killer Joe and Enter the Void, perhaps there should be two reviews: one following the initial press screening and another a week prior to release when you've had time to digest and think about the film a bit more.

  • Comment number 20.

    Dear Dr. Kermode,

    I prefer to wait for reviews, just because I get excited and look forward to seeing the film as with Prometheus, however I do not think that is what you did with your Killer Joe blog entry. Your, I have to think carefully titled 'First Response' was about your initial reaction about your mixed feelings, not a full blown review. If you have ambivalent or strong views - I can imagine your 'first response' to The Idiots or SATC2, being hugely enjoyable, buut ful blown reviews, no I prefer them the Thursday or Friday the film comes out.

  • Comment number 21.

    To be honest, it depends on the talent involved. Namely the director, for me (Film Fan Here!). New films by Spielberg, Scorsese, Fincher and Nolan, then I want to know ASAP; then I'll spend the time until release reading other reviews and getting a wider view.
    Anything by Nick Love or the like, I don't care either way. If there is no biggy's on at the cinema that week, I'll give it a go. Stick to my one cinema trip a week minimum.

  • Comment number 22.

    I really can't understand why Mark keeps being so defensive of Prometheus.
    The film was badly received not because people were overtly hyped, but because it was an objectively bad film riddled with plot holes and tired tropes.

  • Comment number 23.

    The sooner we get any information on the film the better. It's up to us whether we take it on board or not. If we don't want to read or listen to the reviews then we don't have to.
    And for the people who do want to, then they can access them when they want. Otherwise we'd have the people waiting for the reviews getting fed up.

  • Comment number 24.

    As the subject of early reviews has come up, I feel I should direct attention to the incident last year, when the New Yorker broke the embargo and reviewed the film a week early.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/dec/05/girl-dragon-tattoo-early-review

    The person from Sony makes a point that should perhaps be considered, that preview screenings will happen at different times in different places and if you did not have an embargo the institutions who got to see the film later would not be able to review to films until later.

    In this particular instance, I find it hard to make a judgement, as the Sweeney was never a film I was going to see anyway, and with Prometheus, I think the reasons I had for disliking the film had nothing to do with the hype.

  • Comment number 25.

    No, I don't have a problem with a review about a film that is coming in three months. But I think that people who are reviewing a film must know that there are some things that are best left unkown, even if it's not quite a "plot spoiler" (not in the first half hour).
    A classic example is the beginning of "Hereafter". I'm certain that if someone told me about that opening scene I wouldn't have been (pardon the pun) so swept away by it.
    On the matter of the instant reviews, I very much enjoy them. I think you should continue doing them because I can't wait for you to share your feelings about films like "The Nymphomaniac" (next Von Trier movie) and other future controversies.

  • Comment number 26.

    completely agree, I find you have the perfect setup and it keeps everybody happy, hope the broadsheet in question loses the right to press screenings from distributors as punishment.

    p.s. can we have a recap blog from you saying what you think about our comments in the last few blogs, it's nice when it feels a 2 way thing.

  • Comment number 27.

    I rarely watch/read movies before seeing films, and I always avoid trailers for films that I'm anticipating.

  • Comment number 28.

    nothing else to contribute except that

    you hit the nail on the head with prometheus

    the worst spoiler-riffic pre release pr campaign i have ever seen in the history of film - and made zero sense

    i have every confidence to say that prometheus didn't even need a single bit of pr for a director returning to a genre after 30 years - 1 trailer and nothing else max would of been fine - even telling people to expect an alien film ruined it as it really is a stand alone film

    it completely dampened and worsened my lovely annual 3d enjoyment

    *someone remake hollywood*

  • Comment number 29.

    It's simple. For weekly publications/shows review a film in the week of release. For monthly publications/shows review in the month of release.

    The problem with traditional film critics in the press, be it online or in print, is that they are trying too hard to compete with bloggers, twitter etc. This is an issue running throughout professional journalism though, & is glaringly apparent in much of the online content of the newspaper that posted this early review of The Sweeney.

  • Comment number 30.

    I prefer to have your review just before I can see the film. If the waiting time is to long my expectations can be too high for a film with good/great reviews. To a certain extent reviews have to be taken with a pinch of salt. All the comments on this blog both for and against Prometheus show that there as many different types of review as there are numbers in the audience. You need to find a critic who broadly speaking is on your wavelength. Generally speaking if Mark says its great ,it usually is and vice versa . Its also nice disagreeing with him ,when he is wrong or Smugmode as they say in Red Dwalf.
    I also really like the immediate response reviews as mark generally looks like hes just finished a night shift! The debate on the blog about how our feelings and attitudes to a film change with time was excellent. I`d like to take this opportunity to thank bloggers for the many suggestions of films to see, that I had never heard of ,and now sit proudly on my DVD shelves.

  • Comment number 31.

    Probably doesn't too much. But it can be better if it's in the vicinity of the release. The thing for me about reviews is that they inform me what to expect. At the end of the day only I can decide what I like (or dislike).

    An additional question may be that of: does/can something similar apply to Trailers?

  • Comment number 32.

    I do not think there is one answer, if any?

    For a small-budget film, without large publishers/marketing, word of mouth is important and that can only grow if more people pick up positive vibes the more more people see that film. Any strong review anytime is good.

    Publishers as said are very guilty of mammoth marketing campaigns and splashing coverage everywhere, anyhow. It's fair enough that for a movie to make a profit those big budgets need to reduce risk, by doing this, but atst, I don't think it's in the interest of punters in the long-run and what is the justification for this big budgets that grow bigger and produce more regurgitated material than you can shake a stick at, so the budgets CAN be bigger and the profits bigger also AND the MARKETING CAMPAIGNS bigger which as they admit includes reviews...

    5* ~ "The movie event of the year! - The Mirror
    90/100 ~ "I could not believe my eyes, simply unmissable!" - GQ magazine

    etc.

    So there's also the fact, reviews (above) have become marketing: AKA: LIES. So if a review comes out outside the preferred slot and it is critical/negative, it's probably RELIABLE! And therefore useful to tick off a movie as a waste of time and money, when there are so many other movies or things to consider in the swath of information available on the internet.

    And that's the other side of it, somewhere, somehow someone will have had a preview and already be talking about a movie if you are determined enough to track it down: Is it legit or viral marketing usually depends if the source is reliable with a history (not a newly created-account 2 days ago!).

    And that comes full circle to:

    #3. Stuart Yates wrote:

    Since the mid 90s where movie sites, and movie fans have been able to express their opinions on certain movies on the internet, a critics opinion has become irrelevant.


    Not so fast, I've seen this argument before "not at all" ;) ; I think eg rotten tomatoes: Critic Reviews + Public Reviews is exceedingly useful comparison. Also I look at reviews by critics I follow for eg

    i) Familiarity
    ii) Reliability
    iii) Style
    iv) Comparison with my own views
    v) Wit and professionalism (different appreciation)

    etc... egs Ian Nathan at Empire (online magazine) or Dr. Mark Kermode or Roger Ebert

    I don't have the pleasure of discussing films with many people, so good critics are v good to check their opinions (for me after a movie I choose to watch or based off being persuaded by a critic).

    TL;DR: So when should the critics review the film? Up to the critic and what they think is best for their audience, although they should honor agreements if they sign them with the publishers.
  • Comment number 33.

    Sadly I believe, like you say Dr K, reviews don't make or break a film any more. Think of the successes of banal Rom-Coms starring Jennifer Aniston, or Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow 'comedies'.

    For me I properly read a review after I've seen, hopefully the reviewer has picked out scenes and aspects I liked, and hopefully go deeper into them. I get Empire so I know what's coming, not what's hot or not right now. I watch your radio show (that you do with Simon Mayo, on Radio 5Live as you put it) for the banter and well put together thoughts on movies. The actual review doesn't swerve my decision one way or another.

  • Comment number 34.

    If it's a film that I really, REALLY want to see, I generally avoid reviews until after I've seen the film anyway. I can usually judge by a film's trailer and who is involved with the movie whether I want to see it or not.
    So why do I listen to you, Mark? Because, you offer up obscure films that the general public will never see. You help the 'little guy' get their movies seen (I'm not saying that without your review I would never have seen 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives', for instance, but it did help me in deciding whether I actually wanted to see it when it finally was available in my area). And you have an obvious affinity for film, usually offering up a unique, intelligent take on films. Your sense of humor makes your reviews worth listening to, also, even when you get a little too pretentious for my own particular tastes.

  • Comment number 35.

    In Sweeney parlance, that review was a bit previous. But why even wait for the film? Pauline Kael was caught basing her 'review' on scripts that she had read much earlier. They caught her because of the changes to the shooting script, excising elements she had included in her 'review'. But somehow that just makes me respect her even more. Next we could have 'reviews' of the pitch.

  • Comment number 36.

    I suppose if you hear too many reviews in the run up to a film it can dilute the impact of just seeing it fresh. By the time i saw that famous scissors scene in Antichrist id heard so much about it beforehand that my only reaction to it was to think that the prosthesis had the consistency of marzipan.

  • Comment number 37.

    #3 Stuart Yates-why are you posting here then?

    I (like many others) read the full reviews AFTER the film. Tho, my friends and I usually check out the average score on Rotten Tomatoes before viewing, unless it's something I really, desperately want to see. I do, however, listen to your reviews on Fridays as I'm always marking classwork at that time at my tuition centre!

  • Comment number 38.

    Makes no difference to me when we don't get the film released in Oz until 4-6 months after release elsewhere. You can't comment on it, til you've seen it and by then, you've forgotten the reviews about it when it first screened in US/UK months before.

  • Comment number 39.

    Every so often a film will come along that I'm really looking forward to seeing ahead of its release I will watch the available trailers I like to read the reviews to find out what others think it does'nt matter whether its reviews during the week of its release or a review thats out months before the release date.
    Last year it was David Fincher's Remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Id seen the original and as a big fan of Finchers CV I was really looking forward to it and read the reviews when they were released including the New Yorkers Early review despite the reviews ranging positive to mixed they did'nt hamper my enjoyment of the film.

    I'm currently rewatching the trailers and will read reviews as soon as they are available for Django Unchained & The Dark Knight Rises.

  • Comment number 40.

    I think it can actually lead to some confusion as to when the film actually comes out if there are reviews being published a long time before the actual release, especially if they're staggered. I suppose this is why the distributors prefer a more focused timing for reviews.

    I'm also one of those people who tends to prefer to read reviews after seeing a film rather than before, if it's a film I want to see anyway. I avoided Prometheus reviews before seeing it and I will do so with The Dark Knight Rises. Sometimes though, as often happens on the Podcast, hearing a great review of a film I didn't know about will lead me to go and see it, kind of 'on impulse'. It's better to hear these reviews on the day of release, otherwise I'm more likely to forget about the film or loose the sudden spark of interest in seeing it.

  • Comment number 41.

    If distributors didn't want early reviews, then they shouldn't screen films months in advance, though I wonder if they'd have had the same reaction had The Sweeney not been completely panned; they can't have it both ways.

    Personally I find your approach a really good way of drumming up interest in a film; I was interested in both Black Swan and Killer Joe before your instant reactions but by not giving too much away as you would a review you managed to pique my interest in them even more (and I wasn't disappointed with either of them, as it happens).

  • Comment number 42.

    I can see both sides of the argument -- some people probably use reviews to find out when a film is playing and if it is published months in advance and unless the long lead time is mentioned in the review it could leave audiences scanning the listings for the thing. That's especially the case with the printed press.

    Except in the internet age its meaningless. There have been plenty of instances of films being screened in the Uk, with UK press embargoes which were released weeks or even months earlier elsewhere and so the web is already filled with opinion and invective and not just from professional reviewers.

    It's also about consensus. Many of us probably don't even look at individual reviews beyond those we read and listen to out of habit and simply look at the Rotten Tomatoes percentage and if that percentage is low we'll give something a pass.

    The last thing distributors want is for that low percentage to start building early because it creates an impression of what the film is like weeks before its release.

    You have to wonder if that was the case here.

    The first showing of a film based on a much loved television series is news in and of itself and so the review was probably published on that basis -- it appeared on page 10 of The Guardian's main section rather than in the usual space of G2 on a Friday. It's also by a journalist who only sporadically reviews film for the main film review section, generally producing the round-up for The Guide and general arts news.

    When the film is released it'll probably reviewed again by Peter Bradshaw.

    If this had been a glowing the review, five stars I expect the distributor would have been less inclined to send a sniffy email around because it would have been the start of building good word of mouth and strong critical reputation for the piece. Rose gave it one-star and says "this remake doesn't feel like it's based on anything remotely real" which kills it. No wonder they're annoyed.

  • Comment number 43.

    Are early reviews good or bad ? will that depends on will you remember the early review 3 months later when the film comes out.

    Dr K instaint reviews are the way forward as give use Marks instant recation and peeek your insterst for a film you may not have been insterested in at first, at time its maked clear that this his only his first impresstion and not a full review.

  • Comment number 44.

    Perhaps from a psychological viewpoint, these critics who review movies in advance are basically shouting to the public proclaiming, 'I have seen this before you. Na na na na na'. They are feeding their own egos, and the public don't need to hear or see these reviews weeks in advance.
    Yes, I believe it to be acceptable to state the basics, as you occasionally you do - i.e. It's weird, it's surprising. But to give the movie a thorough examination in advance is unjustifiable and makes the reviewer a plain and simple spoilsport.

  • Comment number 45.

    Dr K,
    Would your read our responses if we told you?

  • Comment number 46.

    I dislike early reviews, even when there's a decent excuse like film festivals. Either they make me angry if they're bad because I can't verify that or they contribute to a rising excitement that ultimately has nowhere to go because I can't see the film yet.
    Reviews from festivals are even worse, at least most early reviews involve films with a definite release date, I don't have to spend time worrying that they won't get a distributor or a UK release.
    As for Prometheus' press, I remember reading once that if you want to write a novel you can't talk about it because it will use up all your motivation, I feel similarly about modern marketing for films. I use up my excitement on the various trailers and articles and stills so that by the time the film arrives I'm already sated, fatigued even. Watching it becomes secondary, disappointing.

  • Comment number 47.

    The trouble is, i look at reviews as a form of entertainment in itself. whether I see the movie or not i like the review. I only generally like reviews of bad movies too. There's nothing better than listening to a review cutting a bad movie apart; it's entertainment (satire) in its purest form. I also extend this belief to computer games too (consider big rigs for example). Can't be bothered with books however, it's a bit like restaurant reviews... pointless.

  • Comment number 48.

    It's certainly alarming to read reviews for The Illusionist's British release in the summer and then reading Roger Ebert's December review. It gives perspective on the state of film distribution and how annoying it gets.

  • Comment number 49.

    I have no problems with early review either. Film companies are never happy: if they show the film early and a good review pops up unexpectedly, they're happy to be quiet about because, after all, that review might help the film ... However if the review is bad (like in the case of the Sweeney) they send nasty letters to all the critics.
    We are adult enough to be able to choose ourself whether to read a review in advance or not. If we don't want spoilers, fair enough, but if we'd rather not waste out money for the expensive cinema ticket and want to read a review early, we are perfectly entitled to do so.
    Stop put embargoes on movie review and just start making good movies, that's my suggestion.
    I have a suggestion, why

  • Comment number 50.

    If you don't want your film reviewed two months in advance of it's opening, don't have an advanced screening two months before it's opening. It's common bloody sense really.

    As other's have said though, if the review was a good one it may have been a different kettle of fish. They probably expected some good hype, a little buzz, around this film by doing this. It exploded in their faces and they are unhappy about it, deal.

  • Comment number 51.

    I tend to bookmark reviews to read after I've seen the films because you can't trust them not to have any spoilers in them and I'd rather end up seeing a rubbish film than having a good film ruined. To be honest, though, I can't help thinking that the distributors have got no right to complain about such an early review - don't show the film months in advance if you don't want to risk reviews coming out months in advance. It just doesn't make sense to me.

    Oh, and your first response to "Killer Joe" is what's made me want to see it. Otherwise I would have dimissed it as another rubbish Matthew McConaughy film.

  • Comment number 52.

    #46 Emma,

    That's a very good point about previews using up people's energy. I thought the early marketing campaign for Prometheus was quite brilliant: the David video, the TED talks with Peter Weyland and the first teaser trailer.

    But then I think they got nervous, and it wasn't enough to tease so they kept showing more and more in multiple trailers. And by that point I think I'd seen enough.

    I have to confess that I am a journalist and I wrote a preview of the movie while there was lots of excitement building [http://www.johnnymessias.com/2012/04/prometheus-to-3d-polish-your-eye-balls.html%5D.

    I suspect the excitement and anticipation of the marketing campaign was a factor when the final film was underwhelming, to be honest, although the film is the film!

  • Comment number 53.

    Don't worry Mark, you're doing a fine job and you do it in a timely manner, always ready with your reviews when the films are available to the public. However I'd like to see more of your "immediate reaction" reviews, I enjoy them immensely

  • Comment number 54.

    If the newspaper in question had given a great rave review would they be complaining. I think not.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hmmmmmm the idea of reviewing a movie three months before it is due for release strikes me as kind of preposterous. Reviews only provide a snap-shot of a film, and one which is seen through the eyes of a particular individual. I'm not educated in films, but I do know my own mind. If I want to see a film, I will go and see it. Reviewing something three months in advance is comparable to selling someone the cuff of a shirt and then telling them to come back in three months for the rest of it. Having said that, I love your reviews Mr Kermode, so please keep them coming!

  • Comment number 56.

    Speaking of Prometheus - thanks to the EURO the starting date has been pushed back to early August here in Austria. And since the critical consensus is something like "not really great" I might just wait for the DVD.
    Back on topic: it's very likely the distributors wanted someone to write about the movie otherwise there would have been an embargo. They're just angry the review wasn't that great.
    In my opinion it boils down to the question how much time and money on hand one has. Personally I'd rather not waste precious money and more important time on absolute stinkers which one can indeed avoid by reading lots of reviews.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'm not very keen on early reviews, however early publicity is fine as long as it's not to the point of saturation. I agree that Prometheus was certainly over hyped, where a more 'under the radar keep 'em guessing' approach might have helped.
    Your first responses are great, they are not reviews but more dip your toe in and see vox pops.

  • Comment number 58.

    For me, I prefer to see a critic's review a week or so before release. I quite like Film 2012 in this respect.

    I don't think any sane person on this forum cares for aggressive marketing by the studios, who these days reveal far too much of a movie's plot a long time prior to release. Sometimes, I've seen trailers at the cinema and wondered to myself how on Earth I'd deal with the disappointment of knowing what's coming up when I've seen major elements of the plot already.

    As others have mentioned, the Prometheus promotion was an utter fail in this regard. Just seeing a gigantic tumbling ship in a trailer told me far too much about what was coming up. Even worse than buying a disc that has insufferable trailers for forthcoming releases at the beginning.

    Don't the studios do follow up research on this to find out how annoying their marketing departments can be?

  • Comment number 59.

    Despite the fact that I disagree with many of your views with regards to film (I love Star Wars and HATE the Twilight series) your reviews Mark are, for better or for worse the ONLY reviews that I listen to. I read/listen to exactly ZERO other film reviewers.

    I cant remember which film it was for but I remember maybe two or three years ago I read a review online in Rotten Tomatoes in which major plot/story points were revealed without warning and with no regards to the fact that the reader had realistically not yet seen the film. I decided that from that time I would read/listen to/watch as few reviews as possible. Therefore, early review or not, I wont pay it ANY attention because I want the story to be as fresh as possible.

    I live in Japan and Prometheus has STILL not been released (August) and I have done a very good job of seeing only ONE trailer if you can believe that and the only review I heard was yours. Avengers hasnt come out either and it is VERY difficult to avoid reviews that even in the TITLE give away plot points.
    This is just not acceptable.

    Afew weeks ago Zoe Ball stood in for you on the radio and she KNOWINGLY gave away a plot point for Prometheus that wasnt revealed in the trailer assuming that everyone listening had seen the film. In anger I turned off and instantly deleted the podcast. (From this point I will NEVER listen to her again especially if she hosts your show)

    That is a longish answer to a shortish question... As far a Im concerned, the review could come out a year from release... and I still wouldnt read it/listen to it. That way the film is as fresh as it can be and thus give you the most neutral watch that you can have with no preconceptions of any kind OTHER than your own.

  • Comment number 60.

    I see no reason for a review too far in advance of the public release, as I believe those reviews published just before public theatrical release will carry more attention and weight.

    I do appreciate your 'immediate response' reviews, but I hope they would be supplemented by more thoughtful and considered follow-ups.

    As someone who lives in a provincial town, many of the films reviewed do not get shown locally, so I have to make a running list to wait for the disc/hire/download release. I guess I'm now used to seeing many films long after the review is published.

  • Comment number 61.

    Personally I avoided film reviews before viewing for about a decade until about five years ago a friend from the states told me about the your podcast. I've found you reasonably sensitive about not giving too much away, and opinions that I can relate to even when I don't agree with them.

    Timing of reviews has often been disconnected from releases. Growing up before the era of simultaneous releases, I'd often read reviews of films weeks or months before their prints made their way to our local cinemas and even as the blockbuster culture began, smaller and "art" films still had to make the rounds like little theatrical touring companies. Expatriating myself to the UK in the '90's gave that extra frustration of often waiting months for films to be released here.

    Now with the flurry of information that we get from the internet, we can get more information than we want about films almost from their point of conception. Although we are starting to converge on having worldwide simultaneous releases of films, the sheer variety of ways we now have of seeing films has left us with even more of a timing disconnect. Where I once would have been a purist, insisting on seeing everything in the cinema, it's no longer practical due to both my personal time constraints, and the fact that the multiplexes have reduced the cinematic life of everything not a blockbuster to a blink and you'll miss it release. Even local "art" houses have to pay the rent and pander to distributors by clogging their screens with some of the bigger films.

    I recently became a cod projectionist for a mobile cinema company, we show mostly second run films in village halls. The atmosphere is pleasant with groups of local friends and old dears who wouldn't brave the teen crowds of in town multiplexes. The audience have anticipated some of these films for months, we're just showing The Artist now, and they've been very appreciative of the trailers for Salmon Fishing... and Best Exotic.... which they won't see until the fall. They're not put off by the long range reviews. Some reviews might be worth waiting, long enough to forget the details of the film, just remembering enough to want to see it.

    So, as an audience member the timing of the reviews are much less important to me, as more than half the new movies I'm seeing are no longer during their initial theatrical release. I don't begrudge the distributors wanting the reviews to be more timely (I begrudge them loads of other things, but I can be a bore about that some other time). Of course from the critics point of view, you probably want to stay the right side of the distributors, before they figure out that with everyone's opinion blurted incomprehensibly on the interweb, they can probably do without you....

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree with Ronan. Reviews for films not available are pointless, most people will have forgotten the review by the time the film can be seen.

    First response reviews I'm all for though, provided they're not done to death and the reviewer has something specific they want to convey.

  • Comment number 63.

    This isn't a new debate - there was controversy when Pauline Kael reviewed Nashville months before its release (and from a print that wasn't even quite complete). However the reason she reviewed it early was because she loved it and presumably wanted to boost its chances in cinemas; the one-star review of The Sweeney certainly isn't written from that motivation, and to be honest it's more likely that it was reviewed because there were so few (if any, I'm not sure) reviews of the film online that it was publicity not for the film, but for the Guardian and the critic in question. If he didn't sign an embargo then there isn't much anyone can do, though. Personally if it's a film I am really excited about I just won't read reviews, especially weeks or even months before release.

  • Comment number 64.

    Advance reviews whiff of 'agenda', to me.

  • Comment number 65.

    Personally I don't mind if you just give your opinion months before release, because it gives me a little incentive of if I want to see it or not.

  • Comment number 66.

    ‘Back in the day’ films used to be released in the USA several months before opening in Europe and other regions. This meant we often came across reviews weeks before the film’s release in the UK. The same applies to films reviewed from festivals. It could be several months before the film gets shown at cinemas (or a DVD release) here.

    I’m fond of east Asian films (Korea, China etc). Many don’t get a European release (even on DVD with subtitles) until a long time after their release in the far-east. But reviews etc help me decide which ones to look out for – or avoid.

    I’m not particularly bothered about when a review appears. I do read reviews, I do watch trailers. Others don’t, in which case they would avoid them anyway, so it shouldn’t affect them one way or another.

    One reason Dark Knight had such an enormous opening weekend in the US was a very positive review by Kevin Smith (he’d been given a private screening by Nolan) on his movie blog – breaking the embargoes in the process. Smith is a quite influential reviewer and the hype it generated did the film’s box office a lot of good.

    The Sweeney: the 1970’s Thaw/Waterman TV series (and film spin-offs) were successful because they had a new approach, pitch perfect casting and were of their time. The TV series Life on Mars played on the differences between 1970s TV cops and modern day TV cops. Nick Love’s Sweeney reboot has all the signs of being cheap crash-bang-wallop cash-in of much better original material. My only surprise is that Danny Dyer isn’t in it.

  • Comment number 67.

    It's been said already, its not when the review appears, or whether its a good or bad review, its the marketing campaign as a whole.

    If I'm not hearing much about the film then fine, tease me with that early review; but if there is a constant stream of trailers, posters, random stills, early reviews and such, then it does work against the film. At the start, you'll get my interest, but then you'll lose it again. I was really looking forward to Prometheus until the hype machine kicked in and I got bored - all that constant nagging when there were still weeks to the release date, yuk!

    It's a fine line, to tease and trail without going too far...

    ...and I still haven't seen Prometheus!

  • Comment number 68.

    Surely the more important questions are not being asked: If the film's in a state where it's judged to be complete enough to be previewed, why won't it be released next week, rather than in September? If it's not going to be finished until just before release, on the other hand, why is it being previewed?

    If they're installing digital projectors everywhere, the corollary is that there's nothing whatsoever stopping studios from distributing films as fast as they can be downloaded by cinemas. There's coming to be fewer and fewer reasons to leave these unaccountable acres of time between the stages of the filmmaking process, and things like this expose that fact.

    To answer the actual question, regarding media around a film, I want the following:

    0) (I suppose it's too much to ask to be surprised by trailers for stuff I've never heard of any more, so assuming that's out, I'd like to be told about things that are upcoming by critics. Preferably ones with silly hair)

    1) The first thing I want is a single trailer that introduces the film; makes it reasonably apparent what it is about, what sort of tone it has, roughly what look and feel it has. It must NOT spoil the plot or contain all the best jokes/stunts/setpieces/fights/misc bits that people are basically supposed to think of as the climax of the film. There also ought not to be two or more trailers, or teasers or 'TV spots' or whatever, because what's the point? Perhaps this could even be an early scene from the film in its entirety.

    2) on release day, before I see it, I want a really short (100 words or so) review that basically says whether the film's any good and whether it does what it tries to do; newspaper reviews I find are ideal. Ideally, I'd like two or three.

    3) Then I want to watch the film and form an opinion.

    4) THEN I want the analytical, long review, the one that talks about themes and ideas and metaphors, or which deconstructs the effects or the fights or the lighting or whatever. Once I've seen it and know what is being talked about, then I want to add more to my own opinion. Preferably from a podcast by a man with silly hair and another man with a silly attitude.

    5) ultimately, I'd like later to see more comparative analysis of the film alongside/against other similar or different but somehow related films, or maybe picking apart the differences between it and its original source material. This is also the time for anecdotes and trivia and listing the film on weird obsessive stuff-hunting websites.

    I don't read mags, I rarely look at film websites (other than this), and I avoid hype like the plague, because guess what? Hype is a bad thing. Anyone who has been burned by believing the hype about anything really needs to learn from the experience. Anyone who lapped up all the advertising copy - because that's what hype is, really - and then expected Prometheus to be face-meltingly amazing is simply letting their mental guard down, and in this day and age, haven't a limb to stand on about 'disappointment' and should really know better. Advertising is the art of getting as close to lying about stuff as humanly possible without actually speaking falsehood - never forget that. It was very visually impressive, it had a dreadful script. It wasn't terrible, it wasn't amazing, but it was worth seeing and I'm glad I did.

  • Comment number 69.

    I wonder how annoyed the distributors would have been had the offending review awarded The Sweeney five stars instead of one.

    Personally, I understand and agree with the point of view of the distributors. I agree that the more conversation surrounding a film when it is released the higher the profile and the higher the box office returns. As a cinema-goer, if a film's profile is spread further but is less intense, even though I consider myself pretty up to date with current releases I am much more likely to miss a film I may have loved. Just as with films, the impact of a review lessens as time passes and it sits in the memory, and so an excellent review becomes "Oh yeah, that was supposed to be pretty good, wasn't it?", and the film is forgotten or at least not prioritised. For this reason I, along with many here, I expect, have a pile of dvds and a freeview box full of films I am very keen on but "have not gotten around to, yet."

  • Comment number 70.

    You remember back in the "old days" one used to look at the cinema poster for 'Empire's' star rating. 4* and above was excellent, if it didn't have one it was probably complete tat.

    But back then we didn't have the internet, every man and his lame dog wasn't a film reviewer. We had Empire and Barry Norman, and you Mark, on Radio 1.

    Empire used to come out the month prior to release with a review, BN a week to two and R1 the week of release. You used to get hype with interviews and stuff of "in production" movies maybe on set photo's and things but that was it.

    Films used to be things that were highly anticipated but now most are just so watered down by the time they actually get released no one could care less.

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't go to cinemas as often as I should, maybe, so I've come to appreciate certain film reviews as a genre in and of themselves as substitute. If there's more than one person involved in the review, if it's live interaction, if there's witty banter and/or insightful rants, I'll watch it regardless of when it shows up in relation to the film release. The point being, there's a fairly new kind of film review that has appeared, which beyond analysis and/or publicity, aims to provide entertainment.

    For example, there's you and Simon arguing like an old married couple. Over at the website of the Spill Crew there's a whole menage-a-quatre going on. Red Letter Media brings the perspective of indie film makers on major productions.

    The one time I seek printed, purely analytical reviews is -after- watching a film I absolutely loved, or really really hated, to compare notes, as it were.

    Incidentally. I really really loved Coraline, and can't seem to find your review of it anywhere ...

  • Comment number 72.

    #71 - Interesting that you mention Red Letter Media's 'indie film-maker perspective'. Strange he's unfavourable towards fellow indie film-maker George Lucas, then. Tall Poppy Syndrome-sufferer, perhaps...?

  • Comment number 73.

    irt. Matth Stil (#72):

    Ha-ha, perhaps ... or, perhaps, an honest appraisal of what can happen (and arguably has happened with Mr. Lucas) when one can do EXACTLY as they wish.

  • Comment number 74.

    Anyone who has seen the trailer for The Sweeney would know immediately that it looked awful. If I really want to see a film I will wait to read reviews after i have seen the film in case there is a plot spoiler. Saying that I listen to you (Dr K) every week and will usually see or avoid a film depending on what you say. Much cheaper that way.

  • Comment number 75.

    #73 - :) Lucas is undeniably an artist, though; he makes the film he - not the proverbial committee - wants to make. Great art elicits response - favourable or critical, doesn't matter, it's response, and Lucas' output ALWAYS elicits response.

  • Comment number 76.

    Lucas only elicits a negative response nowadays, this does not make what he does great art! He has a bunch of backslappers surrounding him and more money than sense-this situation will never equate to great art... he has no perspective at all anymore............Michael Bay elicits pretty much the same response, does he make 'great art'?

  • Comment number 77.

    #76 - Yes. No-one's indifferent towards Bay's output, either.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think the best time to review junk like a Nick Love film is months in advance and deny it the publicity in wants. I look forward to Dr K's review of Sex and the CIty 3 with just one word, rubbish.

  • Comment number 79.

    As long as they set an embargo for the review this wouldn't be a problem

  • Comment number 80.

    Generally I have a strong aversion to the way corporations (or at least, marketers) try to control information. So I am always glad when information gets leaked or someone breaks an embargo because I see it as a small win against those who seek to control our thoughts. Sounds strong, but that's how I feel.

    So great to know from the Guardian then, that The Sweeney is poop. Had this opinion got out amongst the waves of promotion the distributor is no doubt planning, then perhaps it would have got lost. But like a film without hype, the review stands by itself in the clear light of day.

  • Comment number 81.

    I think waiting until the movie comes out is a good idea. During the time a film is released that is when I want to read and hear reviews. Listening to a review months in advance just seem too early.

  • Comment number 82.

    i HATE long range reveiws. I read one about Sweeney Todd, in which it said it was awful. Well, it was so much better, when i saw it on DVD, 3 years after it was reliced. Its one of the best movies this movie lover has ever seen

  • Comment number 83.

    Long range reviews dont really bother me, I often forget what I've read by the time I get round to seeing the film.

  • Comment number 84.

    Not so long ago, films were always released in the US several months earlier, so I grew up in a culture of constant delay and premature reviews. I saw it as anticipation. Today, globally synchronized launches are possible, but very risky and expensive. It comes down to money. Reviewers are often given an arbitrary deadlines to tie in with promotional tours (hence endless interviews from hastily-dressed hotel rooms). 'When' to market and promote a film is a budget decision, whether the film is complete or not. Very few studios can afford a summer launch and buy concurrent media space.

    The problem of not being America still exists, though. My local cinema didn't screen Cabin In The Woods, it's still not available on DVD and has been reviewed within an inch of its life. But I'm still going to watch it.

  • Comment number 85.

    Mark is right: it must have been the buzz that made people dislike 'Prometheus'. Couldn't have been the lousy acting, monotone direction, lazy dialogue, the 'big ideas' that are actually stupid ones (The Chariot of the Gods is an idea others have frequently rejected as bad science AND bad history), nonsensical character decisions, twists that don't impact the story at all ('fa-therrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr'), dreadful structure (is the last act meant to be action? Horror? Science fiction? Tries to be everything, ends up as nothing), bad casting (why is Patrick Wilson playing a British scientist for a flashback within the first ten minutes of the film? Oh wait, I already mentioned structure. OK then, why is Pearce playing an old man instead of casting, ummm, an old man?).

    I really could go on ... so I will: the freaking boring score (LOUD NOISES), the fact that Lindelof makes one character a believer and the other a skeptic ... and thinks this will automatically make them interesting, the stupid John Hurt scene (what happened to the medical officers in the previous scene? Seriously, a groggy, disorientated Shaw somehow manages to knock both medical officers unconscious, but – with a corporation having a stake in her case – would not there have been some controls to stop Shaw from exiting the medical bay?).

    I really could go on. Regardless of what Mark or Ridley think, people are not stupid and won't start licking Scott's ass just because he's returning to the sci-fi genre.

  • Comment number 86.

    If I spent my entire life just watching films round the clock, I still would not see every film I'd probably like. So I'm selective, and only watch the ones that I think I'll enjoy, and that enter my radar. 90% of my decisions of whether or not to see a film are based on title/poster/director/star etc. The remaining 10% are a recommendation, whether from a friend or critic.

    So for that reason, it really doesn't bother me if reviews come out too far in advance of being able to see the film, as a good review only affects 10% of the films I watch. I don't usually care if a film gets a bad review, because if it's one on my "to watch" list, I'll see it anyway, and if it's not, I won't. It's rare that a good review will make me watch a film I wouldn't normally go for (a rom-com, for example, no matter how funny/witty/clever etc it may be): in fact, I can't think of a single instance off the top of my head.

    And some films, you just know they're going to be bad before you know anything at all about them. I didn't know a remake of "The Sweeney" was imminent until I saw this blog. But straight away, I think "bad idea". Then I saw the photo at the head of this blog: Ray Winstone and Plan B! How utterly predictable... Now I definitely think it's one to avoid.

    Ditto: Steve Martin's "Sgt. Bilko"... in fact I can't think of any classic TV series that has successfully made the transfer to the big screen, from "Morecombe & Wise" to "On the Buses", to "The Sweeney" itself. Oh wait... "The Simpsons Movie" was good.

  • Comment number 87.

    I would have to fall down the line of only wanting to see/hear a review in the week of the film's general release. I think that it's pointless to review a movie in advance of release if nobody is actually able to see the movie, and distributors are right to embargo reviews: they shouldn't have to, but unfortunately overzealous critics force them to lean that way.

    On the topic of Prometheus there, I would agree with the argument that there was too much said about it. Ultimately, there was so much said about the film that the marketing campaign became bigger than the whole movie itself. As such, that's why many people felt underwhelmed. Slow trickle marketing like Warner Bros. do for Christopher Nolan films, giving the audience a little to go on and develop their own interest in the film, is definitely the way to go. It's one thing having a film that tells you too much, but it's another having a marketing campaign that tells you too much before you get to see the movie that tells you too much!

  • Comment number 88.

  • Comment number 89.

    #86 - The first entry in the On The Buses trilogy of films was the most successful movie at the British box office in 1971, believe it or not.

  • Comment number 90.

    Good Dr., it almost sounded as if you would take Lars Von Trier's path at the very end, that being making a comment about not to give any more comments at all. However, if I had to choose between Lars Von Trier and you not giving any more comments, I'd definitely choose Lars Von Trier because I have grown to enjoy and even love your opinion on films, directors, actors and everything in between. Should movies be reviewed earlier than their release date, no, I don't think so. I am already surrounded by opinions about films I see and look forward to seeing, most of which come from fellow movie goers and art lovers. Having more of these in professional form on the internet or in newspapers would be a bit too much to take for some people. As for your first impressions after seeing af film, I enjoy them very much, don't stop.

 

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