Thursday, April 9, 2009

Critic fired for writing a bad movie review!

That's how the story of entertainment writer Roger Friedman's firing is being spun. And if that ware the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth I'd be up in arms, not matter how much I despise the Fox News empire. But it's not.

What Friedman (who, just to be clear, isn't a movie critic -- he's a columnist who writes about entertainment-related issues) did do was write in his "Fox 411" column about the bootlegged copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine that was leaked and wound up online last week. Part of his copy was reporting -- that the movie had been available, that he had downloaded it himself and so on. Fair enough: It was news. He also made critical comments about the film itself, which I'd agree is not kosher, because it appears to have been clear to everyone who saw that copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine that it was a work print. Not finished... like, not at all finished, with placeholders slugged in for effects sequences that hadn't been done yet.

I first saw both The Matrix and Deep Blue Sea (that dumb movie about smart sharks, remember?) in unfinished form, under legitimate circumstances. In the case of The Matrix, producer Joel Silver was hosting way-in-advance screenings, complete with key cast members in attendance. He was concerned that the Matrix pictures were costing his company a ton of money and didn't have the advantage of being based on a book or other existing source that might help make it stand out, but was confident that even unfinished, The Matrix was sufficiently strong that giving critics and entertainment writers a sneak peek would help build positive professional buzz for the project. In the case of Deep Blue Sea, I was doing interviews at the press junket and an unfinished print was all they had to show writers before they talked to the cast and crew.

In neither case would I have considreed reviewing the movie until I had seen it again in finished form. So I think Friedman was dead wrong on that score though, ironically, what he said about the movie was positive, not negative, including that it "exceeds expectations at every turn." It's my understanding that not all the reactions were so positive (though a quick scan of the web turned up nothing but fan-boy raves), and my gut feeling that were X-Men Origins: Wolverine not a Fox film, Friedman might have gotten away with a reprimand. But with one arm of the Fox conglomerate waging all-out war on movie piracy, having a writer for another arm of the company review a bootleg of a hugely expensive, tentpole picture couldn't go unpunished.

So that's my two cents.

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