Could this guinea pig be more annoying than Ben Lyons?
Is it possible that Ben Mankiewicz is trying to get Ben Lyons fired? After several weeks of discussions between the two finding very little difference in their opinions (papered over by the "Rent it" rating), this week's episode of At the Movies saw a near smack-down between the Bens.
First we get a bit of tense parrying around Revolutionary Road. Lyons liked it, Mank didn't. Lyons defends it, Mank says "eh . . ." and shakes his head. Nothing explosive, but it's the most tension we've seen in weeks.
Then, Lyons reviews Bedtime Stories. He ends his intro of the movie by quoting how much money Sandler's movies have made (what else?), saying "Over the years, Adam Sandler's movies have grossed 1.5 billion dollars at the box office and I expect Bedtime Stories to be his biggest hit yet. See it."
Then Mank responds: "I don't know where to begin. I didn't like any part of this movie. You aren't right about any point you made in the entire review."
Lyons comes back: "I think the live action family film is a lost art," which gets lost in CGI special effects. Unfortunately, this movie has a CGI guinea pig that seems to have all of the charm and subtlety as the Homer Simpson-voiced "Poochie" character. "Where's your heart, Mank, this is a sweet kids movie. I commend Adam Sandler."
Mank, visibly frustrated at this point, replies "I commend him, but they got to execute it. Just making it is not nearly sufficient."
Keep it up Mank, you may just save your job when Lyons gets fired as a result of the recent Los Angeles Times article calling Ben Lyons the most hated film critic in America. That's tough stuff that will be hard to get over--remember, America has Michael Medved and Rex Reed, being more hated than those guys takes and exceptional amount of effort.
Granted, Disney is standing by their decision for now, with one of their bigwigs (Brian Frons of ABC Media) saying "Did he spend 20 years as critic for a major newspaper? No. He's very much of the TV generation who don't spend time reading newspapers. I think we have a guy who is giving the information that audiences want to hear about film to make decisions about what to see." Ah, the TV generation--we couldn't waste our time with things like newspapers or reading. That's why there has been an explosion of news blogs in the last few years--because nobody wants to read the news anymore. Nonetheless, at some point Frons is going to be worried about saving his own ass in the face of the "Ben Lyons Hate Storm"--best to start worrying about yours sooner rather than later, Mank.
After this section, the air lightened up a bit, possibly because they tended to agree a bit more Marley & Me. But the best Ben Lyons has-his-cake-and-eats-it-too moment comes in the review of The Spirit. Lyons is very critical and at one point talking, about the shallowness of the film, says "All of the women are just eye-candy." Then we have this exchange:
Mank: I didn't have a problem with the women being eye-candy. First of all, they're exceptionally beautiful . . .
Lyons: Neither do I, yeah . . .
Mank: No, but I mean in the sense that they are playing along with it.
Oh, great, Lyons gets to act like a sensitive, thoughtful man and a horny frat boy, all at the same time! And good job for noticing, Mank, that all of complex roles for women that are replaced by "eye-candy" roles are all because the actresses want it that way. Or maybe it's just because you want it that way. After all, this is the same guy who said he would watch Famke Janssen eat oatmeal.
Finally, Lyons picked Valkyrie, The Wrestler, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons as his 3 to see. A few weeks ago, Ben said that Frost/Nixon would almost certainly be one of his favorite movies this year, but it gets pushed aside for a mild "See it" for Valkyrie, even though there are MANY places where Frost/Nixon is still opening. But who can remember that old movie? We have to stay current, not dwell on some old movie that came out 3 weeks from now. Unless we're talking about Twilight, of course.