LOS ANGELES – It’s the biggest movie of the summer that practically no one has seen.
“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” opens Friday, but Paramount Pictures isn’t screening the blockbuster for critics beforehand. Only a select few writers from blogs and movie Web sites have seen it for review — such as Harry Knowles, the self-professed “Head Geek” from Ain’t It Cool News — and their opinions have been mostly positive.
Who else has seen it? I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t think the movie had screened for critics, just for junketeers, but it seems I was wrong:
Devin Faraci from the film Web site CHUD.com is one of the few writers who have seen it for review purposes, and not just for junket interviews. He’s among the critics who’ve contributed to the movie’s 88-percent positive rating as tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes, saying: “If I was 10 years old, `G.I. Joe’ would be one of the best movies I had ever seen.”
Faraci said he was in Toronto recently when he received a phone call at 8:30 a.m. Los Angeles time, asking if he could come to the Paramount lot that day for a “G.I. Joe” screening. He flew back, got off the plane and headed right over.
First off, the next time anyone suggests to me that “Flick Filosopher” is kind of a silly name for a Web site, I’m gonna point to fuckin’ CHUD.com and note that this is one of the most popular movie sites out there. I mean no disrespect to CHUD.com, but clearly, a goofy name is no barrier to success.
Second, talk about no barrier! For all those people who’ve asked me — in comments and in email — why it is that some reviewers appear not to be bound by embargoes while others are, or why it is that some critics are allowed to see films earlier than other critics, here’s your answer: The studios actively court certain reviewers, at least some of the time, hoping (and probably with good reason) that they’re going to get a positive result from that courting.
Clearly, at least in the case of Rise of Cobra, it’s bullshit to suggest that Paramount doesn’t care about reviews or about the negative buzz that comes from not screening a film for critics. If that were true, they would have simply not screened the film for any critics at all. But let me tell you their evil plan: They screen the film for a hand-picked group of critics they’re pretty sure will be sympathetic to the film — and eliminating those they’re pretty sure won’t be — and bingo! A high freshness rating at Rotten Tomatoes, at least until Friday morning, when Paramount can no longer prevent all us other Tomatometer critics from seeing the film.
(The one review currently posted at the more selective — and far less visited — Metacritic is negative. It’s from what could certainly be characterized as a “geek” outlet, the U.K.’s Empire, but perhaps a more discriminating one than CHUD.com or Ain’t It Cool News.)
And look: it’s working. I’m talking about Rise of Cobra again, and I haven’t even seen it yet.