Something bizarre is happening to film criticism. On one hand, critics, along with the public, have probably never been better informed about the industry, from spec scripts to turnaround hell to casting conundrums to FX expertise to box-office returns and who's getting what percentage-wise. What used to be arcane information for movie buffs and the trade papers is now the tarmac of the super information highway; it's a mass culture groove thing, a hype for the would-be hip. Everyone gets to feel 'in'. As the old Hollywood producers' joke used to go: 'Everyone has two businesses. Their own business and showbusiness.'

Only criticism isn't a business. Criticism isn't meant to be concerned about being at one with the zeitgeist (criticism is meant to dismantle it). Moreover, criticism isn't meant to be part of the publicity loop, repeating budget figures as if the repetition told us something essential - analysis should tell us the essential. Criticism shouldn't be cosy or so understanding when a director bitches about the horrors of putting together a dollars 130m flick, especially when the flick is as rank as a dog turd and nowhere near as attractive.

These thoughts occur viewing True Lies (above), which has been done to death as a Schwarzenegger 'comeback' flick, as part of director James Cameron's spend-spend-spend CV, as anything other than what it is: a very bad film. True, in the wake of The Flintstones and in the face of The Mask, it's becoming increasingly clear that it's merchandising, not the product, that is the point. But criticism used to be on to such things too - before it lowered its standards, along with Hollywood.

(Photograph omitted)