24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Reviews

Hollywood Reporter parts ways with longtime critic Kirk Honeycutt

November 14, 2011 |  3:56 pm

As a film critic for the Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt has by his count reviewed more than 1,000 movies, covering festivals in Cannes, France; Berlin, Toronto, Park City, Utah; and most recently in Busan, South Korea. But after some 20 years writing for the trade newspaper, the veteran journalist has been let go, and will soon leave the paper. Kirk Honeycutt

Honeycutt, who also was a film reporter in his roughly 20-year career at the Reporter, most recently was the paper’s international film critic, supervising its overseas reviewers. He served on juries in Athens and Hawaii, prior to his jury work in the inaugural Napa Valley festival, where he judged narrative features. The paper’s lead film critic is Todd McCarthy, who joined the Reporter last year after he lost his job at Daily Variety.

In reviewing Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In,” Honeycutt recently wrote, “…like many lab experiments, this melodramatic hybrid makes for an unstable fusion. Only someone as talented as Almodóvar could have mixed such elements without blowing up an entire movie. He was less impressed with Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” writing, “That a huge worldwide audience is primed for this movie hardly needs stating. But the range of those actually enjoying the onslaught of technology at the expense of human drama might be narrower than (director Michael) Bay, Hasbro or Paramount think.

“ I loved working at THR but eagerly look forward to my next adventure,” Honeycutt said in an email.
Said a spokeswoman for the Reporter:  “We appreciate Honeycutt's contributions during our transition and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

— John Horn

Photo: Kirk Honeycutt. Credit: Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.


Do we like Adam Sandler more when his movies are bad?

November 14, 2011 |  8:15 am


Adam Sandler -- on some subconscious, primordial level -- wants to do good work, judging by the fact that he has, on intermittent occasions, collaborated with respected directors on respectable movies ("Punch Drunk Love," "Funny People," maybe "Spanglish").

That might be helpful for his sanity, and our collective good taste. But anyone advising Sandler on his career may actually want to give him the opposite counsel: Make more bad movies.

That's because lately we've shown an odd disposition when it comes to Sandler vehicles -- we buy tickets in inverse proportion to how good they are.

Of course, good is a subjective, and in Sandler's case lately, a relative term. But the actor in recent years has shown some disturbing tendencies, and we're not even referring to all those scatological moments in "Jack and Jill."

As a rule, even commercial actors see a positive correlation between reviews and box office. Consider Tom Cruise, a star who's always been about fans as much as reviews. His last four movies have performed at the box office in direct proportion to their appeal among critics. The poorest-reviewed, according to Rotten Tomatoes, "Lions for Lambs," is also the lowest grossing. His second worst-reviewed, "Knight & Day," is the second-lowest grossing. And so on.

There are plenty of reasons why it works this way. The simplest is that the hardcore fans will always come out, no matter how much a movie is panned. But strong reviews can bring in those fans as well as filmgoers who wouldn't normally see a given star's movie.

Sandler, though, somehow shows the opposite trend. Entering this weekend, his past six starring vehicles almost always made money in direct proportion to how much critics hated them. The worst-reviewed of the lot, "Grown Ups" (10% on Rotten Tomatoes) made the most money (an eye-popping $162 million). His second-worst reviewed, "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (14%) was the second best-performing ($120 million).

And when he scored marginally better with critics, as with "Just Go With It" (20%), his box office dropped to $103 million. Call it the Sandler Rule -- the higher a movie's quality, the smaller the group that turns out to see it.

Now, you might say that's just because we don't want to see a broad-comedy actor doing anything serious or reaching for a meaty dramatic role he can't pull off. But the Sandler Rule applies in the middle of the curve too. "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" was hardly Oscar bait. But it scored better with critics than his other recent movies -- and performed worse at the box office. "Zohan," with an almost passable 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, barely hit $100 million.

His newly released cross-dressing comedy "Jack and Jill" will break the pattern a little bit. The movie is by far the worst reviewed of his recent starring roles -- at 3%, it's in the hallowed single-digit company of "One Missed Call" and most of Joel Schumacher's canon -- and it won't be a record-breaker at the box office.

But it still took in a solid $26 million this weekend, which means it will almost unquestionably outgross "Punch Drunk Love," "Funny People" and "Spanglish." To create an Adam Sandler hit, you don't necessarily have to make the movie good. But it certainly helps to make it bad.


Movie Review: Adam Sandler's 'Jack and Jill' is a drag

Box Office: Sandler, DiCaprio can't beat No. 1 'Immortals'

'Grown Ups' a summer surprise for Adam Sandler

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Adam Sandler in "Jack and Jill." Credit: Sony Pictures

Toronto 2010: Roger Ebert will bring festival-esque debate to PBS

September 10, 2010 |  5:20 pm

With syndication a tough market, the next frontier for intelligent on-air movie criticism was supposed to be cable, not public television. But Roger Ebert decided to go back to his roots, announcing that he will bring back the half-hour show he made famous, this time as "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies."

As my colleague Yvonne Villarreal also reports here, Ebert is producing this time, along with wife Chaz, and the couple will be, at least at first, largely financing it themselves and looking for sponsors as they go. Public television station WTTW in Chicago, the birthplace of the series, will produce, and PBS stations will broadcast the show beginning in January.

The new "At the Movies" will use the appealingly simple formula of knowledgeable people riffing about current and classic film, with the AP's Christy Lemire and NPR's Elvis Mitchell serving as hosts and Roger Ebert himself making the occasional appearance.  "American television is swamped by mindless gossip about celebrities, and I'm happy this show will continue to tell viewers honestly if the critics think a new movie is worth seeing," Ebert said in a statement.

When "At the Movies" was pulled by Disney this year because of the changing syndication landscape -- the last show from critics Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott aired several weeks ago -- the thought was that a new review program might migrate to cable. That could still happen, but Ebert said he thought the more uncluttered landscape of public television was the better place for his new show.

“I believe that by returning to its public roots, our new show will win better and more consistent time slots in more markets,” he said.

The announcement sent a nice little ripple through the Toronto Film Festival, where movies are discussed in the corridors of hotels and on street corners with gusto.

Of course, these days there's plenty of intelligent conversation on the Web about movies and the conversation is  more interactive. Ebert himself, for that matter, has helped make Twitter a more cinephile-friendly place. Still, when it comes to the lean-back medium of television, it's encouraging to see that there will be some movie talk, in whatever form it takes.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Siskel & Ebert At the Movies. Credit: Tribune Broadcasting

'At the Movies' is canceled. Was it too soon?

March 24, 2010 |  7:10 pm

Here we were all ready to gin up a post about how "At the Movies" seems to be hitting its stride this year with Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott after the shaky experiment that was the two Bens (Lyons and Mankiewicz) last year. And now we find out there's nothing to gin -- the show is being canceled.

Sco "At the Movies" fought the good fight of balancing the commercial with the art house -- every second of coverage for a small or foreign film was precious, and Phillips and Scott found a way to secure enough of them, even amid the obligatory "Twilight" and "Alice In Wonderland" assessments (just as Gene Siskel and Rogert Ebert did in the 1970s and 1980s).

But today, Disney-ABC, which syndicated the program, gave up on the fight. Some will say they gave up too soon; it takes years, after all, for any talk-format show to find its audience. There's something to that. But the show was in many ways an anachronism, with even the more hospitable precincts of print and radio struggling to attract audiences for film reviews.

And after trying a younger, more populist approach with Ben Lyons last year that didn't work, and then going back to serious criticism this year, at least they gave it a shot.

Many point to the growth of review-aggregation tools and social media as a reason for the demise of the show (and the declining prominence of critics in general). There's something to that too, though it's worth remembering that Twitter isn't all tweens breathlessly effusing about the Jonas Bros.; some old-school critics, like Ebert himself, have brilliantly used social media too.

We didn't always agree with the new "At the Movies" pair -- Phillips in particular -- though Scott was often brilliantly on point in taking on scared cows like "Shutter Island' and supporting less fashionable causes like "Green Zone." But even when their take differed from our own, it was great fun to watch two intelligent people gab about the movies, whether to get worked up, nod along in agreement or just take the temperature of two of the country's leading critics.

We can only hope a version of the program -- or least some sort of film-review show -- will survive on cable. Everything else good on television seems to.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips. Credit: Disney-ABC


Dumbing down the film critic


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: