DID YOU READ

Our 10 favorite reviews from Siskel, Ebert, Roeper, and “At the Movies”

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After more than 35 years on the air and hundreds of episodes, “At the Movies” — formerly “Ebert & Roeper,” formerly “Roger Ebert & The Movies,” formerly “Siskel & Ebert,” formerly “At the Movies” again, formerly “Sneak Previews” — shot its final episode earlier this week for broadcast this weekend. In humble admiration for decades of outstanding work, we present our ten favorite reviews from the history of the show in no particular order.

“Cop and a Half” (1993)

Possibly one of the most infamous reviews of the Siskel & Ebert era, “Cop and a Half” was one of those delightful cases where the two not only profoundly disagreed about a film, but did so by speaking about it with far more intelligence and sincerity than its filmmakers ever likely intended. A lesser critic than Ebert would’ve been undermined by the images of precocious Norman D. Golden II firing a water pistol at Burt Reynolds’ crotch flashing across the screen for this comedy about a kid joining the police force, but by the time Ebert surmises, “‘Cop and a Half’ is not any kind of masterpiece, but it’s not dumb and it’s not boring either,” one is more willing to suspend their disbelief.

However, not Siskel, who waits patiently until Ebert finishes to deliver a perfectly contemptuous “Wow, where’s your big red suit and beard, Santa?” Ebert wrote years later that Siskel never could get over the review, saying “One day the mail brought an autographed photo of Norman D. Golden II, the eight-year-old co-star of “Cop and a Half,” thanking me for helping his career. I thought that was nice of the kid, until I recognized something familiar about his handwriting.” (Ebert would get Siskel back in 1996 when he convinced Siskel to “twist his thumb” for the only time when Siskel rescinded his endorsement of “Broken Arrow.”) [SS]

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“Hoop Dreams” (1994)

When you cover the Sundance Film Festival for television, your mandate goes something like this: stars, stars, stars. Stars bring in advertising dollars, stars headline the majority of the movies that find national distribution, and thus stars have the most relevance to a national audience. Highlighting a three-hour documentary with no name talent before it had even premiered at Sundance breaks every rule in the entertainment news book, which is why this very early review of Steve James’ “Hoop Dreams” shows Siskel and Ebert at their advocate best. They were confident that “Hoop Dreams” was one of the best documentaries either of them had ever seen, and that was all that mattered. These men took their jobs as tastemakers very seriously, and when they felt strongly about a movie they didn’t hesitate to say so. [MS]

“Kingpin” (1996)

Siskel and Ebert’s early advocacy of “Do the Right Thing” and “Hoop Dreams,” and later with Ebert’s later efforts on behalf of films like “Monster,” proved invaluable to their success, but they didn’t limit themselves to championing “important” films. The Farrelly brothers found no bigger backers during the early part of their career than the “At the Movies” duo, who could barely contain their giddiness during a review of “Kingpin.”

Although their professionalism prevented them from being completely reduced to trading punchlines like a couple of awestruck teenagers who had seen their favorite comedy for the 25th time, Siskel and Ebert come perilously close, with Siskel speaking directly in camera to the Farrellys to “thank them personally” for making him laugh so hard. “Kingpin,” ultimately, wasn’t a hit at the box office, but Siskel and Ebert’s embrace of the film not only turned it into a cult hit, but has been said to have influenced the Farrellys to push the boundaries of taste even further with their next film, “There’s Something About Mary.” [SS]

Watch the review

“Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood” (1996)

As demonstrated by “Kingpin,” Siskel and Ebert didn’t just take “important” movies seriously; literally any film could provide them the jumping off point for a serious discussion. This terrific review of a not-so-terrific Wayans Bros. movie addresses issues of race, stereotyping, and guilt and explores the very nature of comedy and satire in cinema, all in just four minutes. Also admirable is the fact that Ebert’s honest enough here to admit that he’s unsure how he feels about the film. In the world of television, where authority on a subject is based less on actual knowledge than the appearance of confidence in one’s own intellectual certitude, that’s not easy to do. [MS]

Watch the review

“Frozen Assets” (1992)

However, there were some things Siskel and Ebert could be sure of. Siskel would admit four years later to walking out of “Black Sheep” after he could no longer stand the sight of Chris Farley, but yet he stayed for the entirety of what he and Ebert agreed was “the worst comedy ever made.” Or at least that was before Siskel feared the filmmakers might actually use that line for marketing purposes and amended it to “the second worst comedy ever made,” setting off one of the show’s funniest discussions ever about what kind of reparations could be made in the afterlife to atone for such a film — Ebert suggests “months and months and months in a beautiful valley, with honey, and nectar, and zephyr-like breezes.” The Corbin Bernsen-Shelley Long sperm bank comedy was never released to DVD, and I’d like to think this review is why. [SS]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.