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Reaching a critical mass with veteran film critic

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Doug Bentin has been an Oklahoma Gazette contributor for more than 20 years, nearly a decade of that as a weekly film critic. He watches seven to 10 movies a week. Often curiously contrary, his reviews are endlessly entertaining and almost always unpredictable.

Almost.

"I've been accused of adoring 'spectacle movies,' but that isn't entirely accurate. I'm always up for a horror movie, or something with James Cagney or W.C. Fields, but I don't adore spectacle. It's just that I consider spectacle a legitimate film genre," he said. "Movies were born of spectacle, whether it was a train roaring into a station and frightening the viewers, or a Western train robber aiming his pistol at the audience and firing, or a bullet-shaped rocket being shot to the moon."

Since Bentin loves a spectacle, the Gazette decided to turn him into one for this anniversary issue. Digging through our archives, we collected some great examples of his persnickety film palate and gave him another chance to prove his case " general consensus and Academy Awards be damned " and had fellow reviewer Phil Bacharach add his critical perspective. "Joe Wertz

The Omen (2006)
Metacritic: 43
Rotten Tomatoes: 26 percent

From his review: "It's the scariest horror movie so far this year."

Explanation: "The key words are 'so far this year.' What horror films had been released in 2006 before 'The Omen'? Trash like 'An American Haunting,' 'When a Stranger Calls' and 'See No Evil.' Later that year, we got 'Wicker Man' and 'Turistas.' Case closed."

Daddy Day Care (2003)
Metacritic: 39
Rotten Tomatoes: 28 percent

From his review: "A charming and funny return to form for Eddie Murphy."

Explanation: "Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn actually stole some laughs from Murphy, but I still must have been tripping."

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
Metacritic: 45
Rotten Tomatoes: 36 percent

From his review: "'Rise' is more fun than 'Spider-Man 3.'"

Explanation: "'Spider-Man 3' sucks. 'Anna Karenina' is more fun than 'Spider-Man 3.'"

10,000 B.C. (2008)
Metacritic: 34
Rotten Tomatoes: 9 percent

From his review: Described it as an enjoyable, if unoriginal "spectacle."

Explanation: "Samuel Johnson once told a writer that his book was both good and original, but the part that was good wasn't original, and the part that was original wasn't good. Something tells me I may have had this quote in mind."

Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Metacritic: 81
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent

From his review: "'Punch-Drunk Love' is the most pointless, immature film to stumble down the pike since 'Freddy Got Fingered.'"

Explanation: "I don't remember much about this one, but I really don't like Adam Sandler. That is his name, isn't it? I would eat Phil Bacharach's feet before having to sit through 'Mr. Deeds' again."

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Metacritic: 35
Rotten Tomatoes: 19 percent

From his review: Has "unexpected beauty" despite its "slapdash" script.

Explanation: "This movie takes the imaginary splendor from the mind of a kid playing with a Transformer and puts it on the screen with choreography that is the most elaborate since the heyday of the musical. That's the part that works."

Delta Farce (2007)
Metacritic: 17
Rotten Tomatoes: 3 percent

From his review: "I found the movie's almost surreal goofiness surprisingly funny "¦"

Explanation: "'Surprisingly funny' because there wasn't a single laugh in Larry the Cable Guy's first film, 'Health Inspector,' which I actually paid to see on the assumption that no other Gazette reviewer would have the guts. I thought Larry had learned a lot about filmmaking since the first one, but I wasn't enamored enough to see his third one, even on cable."

The Wrestler (2008)
Metacritic: 81
Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent

From his review: A "D" letter grade.

Explanation: "One long sports-movie cliché from beginning to predictable ending. Snorable and boring."

Borat (2006)
Metacritic: 89
Rotten Tomatoes: 91 percent

From the review: An "F" letter grade

Explanation: "The very definition of 'overrated.' People were actually comparing this junk to Monty Python, if you can imagine such a thing. Shock in comedy is like shock in horror: It only works the first time you see it."

Cinderella Man (2005)
Metacritic: 69
Rotten Tomatoes: 80 percent

From his review: "We're supposed to forgive the mounting pitifulness because the movie is based on a real person, but it's all so Dickensian, it generates smirks instead of tears. Russell Crowe was there. His guy lost."

Explanation: "Sentiment, si. Sentimentality, no."

HOW PHIL FEELS
I think Oklahoma Gazette was printed on papyrus back when Doug Bentin began writing for it. A terrific writer, he is a fixture of this paper. I've loved reading his stuff since I was a wee lad.

And I've agreed with him maybe two dozen times. Doug has a rich and encyclopedic knowledge of film, but his opinions are as unpredictable as Kanye West at an awards show.

While he has championed a number of criminally under-seen gems, like "Slither" and "Cellular," he also lavishes praise on many others almost universally panned by critics, from "Delta Farce" to "Transformers."

But what always interests me more is what Doug doesn't like. He doesn't just march to his own drummer; he does the funky chicken. Movies adored by most film critics, like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," can leave him cold.

No one can beat up a movie like Doug. Consider his scathing review of "Date Movie," in which he noted that the career of Alyson Hannigan "would receive a greater boost if she were making porn in a leper colony." Or the forgotten Hilary Duff romcom "The Perfect Man," which Doug wrote was "stickier than the average theater floor on Sunday morning."

Such pronouncements are among the reasons I always look forward to reading Doug Bentin.

Even if he's wrong. Which is a lot.  "Phil Bacharach

 

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