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by Bill Gibron

21 Aug 2017


Photo: Mark Boster (Los Angeles Times / TNS)

Editor’s Note: Originally published 7 September 2009.

Jerry Lewis remains an elusive cinematic figure. For most, he’s a joke, the punchline to a slam on the foolish French, or the kooky caricature of a nerd screeching “HEY LAAAAADY!” at the top of their nasal voice. Others have a more proper perspective, recognizing both his work with former partner Dean Martin (they remain the biggest phenomenon and unquantifiable gold standard in the now dead art of night club entertainment) and his tireless efforts on behalf of muscular dystrophy (summed up by this weekend’s telethon). But when it comes to film, especially those he’s personally written and directed, he stays a fool, a jester as jerk de-evovling the artform into nothing more than senseless silly slapstick. It doesn’t matter that Lewis authored one of the standard textbooks on the craft (The Total Film-Maker, 1971), or conceived technical innovations that revolutionized the production process.

by Danny Furey

2 Feb 2017


Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

The following is a commentary on the titular character of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), not Roald Dahl’s character (which differs from Gene Wilder’s cinematic portrayal), and certainly not Johnny Depp’s interpretation of the character, which is just the worst. But that’s a topic for another day….

“Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three.”

by Bill Gibron

6 Jul 2015


They say the third time’s the charm, a chance to make up for the mistakes made during the first two attempts. In the case of the Terminator franchise, this is doubly untrue. After two amazing installments by James Cameron (who created the concept, via Harlan Ellison). The third was an indifferent cash grab that recycled familiar elements from those films. It was a hit, but not a home run. Instead of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, it was The Matrix Revolutions.

Now, jump ahead a decade and we have another third. This time out, Terminator Genisys wants to reset the entire series. After Rise of the Machines, and the awful McG waste of time Salvation, the new film’s narrative goes back to the beginning, back to the moment when Kyle Reese travels back in time to save Sarah Connor from the seemingly indestructible killing machine of the title. Of course, when the new version of our hero arrives, he comes across an equally new version of our heroine, and she’s got an aging robot companion as her bodyguard/bestie.

by Bill Gibron

22 Jun 2015


Pixar has a problem. No, it’s not one of popularity. Just this past weekend, the latest release for the critically acclaimed animation house, the terrific emotional rollercoaster masterpiece known as Inside Out, scored a measly $91 million at the box office. The studio’s Toy Story 3 is even a member of the Billion Dollar Club, sitting somewhere between two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels at $1.06 billion.

It’s not one of aesthetics, either. While Pixar’s recent regression in to blatant sequel-itis delivered a pair of duds (Cars 2 and Monsters University), the rest of its canon sits on 12 Oscars (eight of which were wins for the equivalent of Best Picture) and hundreds of other group and guild accolades. No other company, aside from parent host Disney, has done such an amazing job of turning its vision into viable awards season fodder.

by Chris Barsanti

18 May 2015


A demolition derby of a chase scene occasionally interrupted by scraps of crackpot wit and Aussie slang-strangled dialogue, Mad Max: Fury Road burns through ammunition and fuel with abandon. You would think that the characters were video-game avatars possessed of endlessly replenishable digital supplies, not the starving and sickly remnants of humanity barely surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Unlike many action films, though, where such profligacy is determined by need for trailer-ready action beats, here it’s central to the film’s story and message.

“Message?” you say. Yes, we are talking about the fourth film in George Miller’s pedal-to-the-medal post-apocalyptic series that started back in 1979 with Mad Max. A swift and effective revenge flick about a cop who goes rogue after a biker gang kills his family and disappears into the Outback after taking revenge, it was also a subtle piece of dystopian fiction. Miller never identified exactly why society was collapsing, but made clear that it all went back to a gas shortage; a more savage version of the one from earlier in the 1970s that reportedly saw law and order break down in remote parts of Australia.

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