How to Read Movie News


Or, more precisely, how to read a movie “press release.”

For the uninitiated, a press release is a prepared statement by a business, politician or other sort of public entity and/or figure that is distributed to the media in lieu of an on-the-record statement. In the world of entertainment, press releases tend to be a strange fusion of information dump (here’s who’s in our new movie!!!) and spin control (our new movie won’t suck!!!) written in a coded language that can be impossible to decipher if you don’t do this for a living.

Well, I do do this for a living. So here’s a handy guide for all of you to understand what moviemakers are really telling you in “news” stories that quote directly from the studio publicity department:

“We are excited to be working with this unique new filmmaker!”

“We are excited that a new talent just coming off a breakout feature has signed on to our project, guaranteeing us favorable early press and not costing us as much as someone more established!”

“I am honored to be involved in such a storied, important part of pop culture.”

“I’m psyched to be attaching my name to a movie tied into something with such a massive pre-sold fanbase that it’s going to open huge and net me massive industry clout no matter what kind of job I actually do on it!”

“I’m a long-time fan of this comic/book/game franchise!”

“I have heard of this comic/book/game franchise!”

“This genre has always offered such great possibilities!”

“A film in this genre just made a lot of money, and we are following the leader.”

“Re-imagined for a more contemporary audience.”

“Dumbed down for the Facebook generation brats who we believe are the only people still spending money at movie theaters.”

“[Insert Actor] is being considered for the part.”

“[Insert Actor] draws a lot of search engine hits right now, so we are floating their name in a non-story that you will now report hoping to get a traffic boost, thus giving our production free publicity.”

“We’re looking to get to the core of what the character is actually about, and not get hung up on superficial details.”

“The main character in whatever our film was based on was originally gay, non-white or in some other way a minority in the U.S., and we are rationalizing changing their race/orientation/etc. to a white heterosexual because we believe that’s the only kind of lead character people want to see.”

“Starring Vin Diesel.”

“Jason Statham said no.”

“Easter Eggs, just for the fans!”

“Insubstantial nods to outside-film continuity to keep the fanboy press distracted and skew our press coverage favorably.”

“Reminiscent of Black Hawk Down!”

“Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a brown filter.”

“Reminiscent of the Bourne films!”

“Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a blue/green filter.”

“Reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan!”

“Hand-held camera at a high shutter speed, processed through a desaturation filter in a period setting.”

“Influenced by the Grindhouse revival movement.”

“Our movie sucks, but pretending to be intentionally following in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s footsteps will hopefully deflect criticism from people who don’t know any better.”

“In the style of Japanese anime.”

“In the style of The Matrix.”

“Videogame-inspired action scenes!”

“Poorly-shot action scenes involving squads of elite gunmen.”


“Martial-arts scenes played just a little bit over the top in terms of physics.”

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“In the tradition of The Dark Knight!”

“We just mentioned The Dark Knight, meaning that you can now report this story as news in a pathetic reach to draw web traffic from fans obsessively searching for every scrap of info about the next Batman movie. You’re welcome.”

“The story has been updated to reflect the reality of the day-to-day modern world.”

“The characters use mobile phones and talk about Facebook.”

“Comic book-inspired visuals!”

“Shot primarily using green screens!”

“While we didn’t originally shoot the film in 3D, we’ve decided that it is a perfect candidate for the unique opportunities offered by a 3D conversion.”

“We started shooting before it was discovered that you could add a couple depth-of-field tricks to a movie and then charge twice as much for a ticket, and like hell we were gonna miss out on that racket!”

“A strong female character who is also complex and challenging.”

“A female character who is capable of beating up male enemies twice her size like they were made of jell-o but also has the appearance, physique and temperament of an emotionally-traumatized teenager. Also, she is almost totally uninformed about sex, save that she is fiercely (yet demurely) attracted exclusively to non-threatening nice guys who happen to resemble the males in the film’s target audience.”


“Screenplay by Joss Whedon!”

“Some elements have been updated to address the sensibilities of a modern audience.”

“Holy crap, the old book/comic/game/etc this was based on was crazy racist! Like … not even in the cute drunk-grandpa-on-Thanksgiving harmless racist, more like … did you ever see American History X? Yeah, like those guys.”

“Aimed at an urban audience.”

“Aimed at what a white studio executive thinks black people are like.”

“An exciting international cast!”

“Remember that smokin’ hot foreign chick with the sexy accent who won an Oscar for some subtitled movie you didn’t see last year? She’s totally in this. So is whoever the most popular aging distinguished British theater star right now. Also, we cast an Indian and/or Chinese guy who’s, like, a huge star back home but will do Hollywood movies for next to nothing, so now this sucker is gonna make serious coin on the Asian market. The lead roles, of course, have still gone to the two blandest, whitest people we can find.”

“[Insert Actor] says this role will show people what he can really do!”

“[Insert Actor] is a vapid teen heartthrob currently on the People/Us Weekly/Star cover circuit; we’ve cast him because we want a big opening weekend, hopefully he can hit his marks while the less handsome real actor in the supporting (usually bad guy) role does all the heavy lifting.”

“[Insert Actress] sheds her squeaky-clean image!”

“[Insert Actress] – probably from the Disney/Nickelodeon stable – is 18 now, so it’s okay for you to stare. Come see her play the hot chick in our otherwise forgettable movie!”

“From the people who brought you …”

“No one with any particularly impressive credits is involved directly in the production, but a few of the several-dozen people credited as some sort of producer also had their names on something popular, so we can technically mention it in our advertisements!”

“A hot cast of fresh faces!”

“An inexpensive cast of people you’ve never heard of.”

“Brave, sensual, ground-breaking romantic scene.”

“Lesbian sex scene.”

“Shocking, taboo sexuality!”

“Gay, male sex scene.”

“Racially charged drama!”

“White people using the N-word.”

“From visionary filmmaker Tim Burton.”

“Hot Topic stockholders are about to have a good morning.”

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.