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 (Ebert would get Siskel back in 1996 when he convinced Siskel to “twist his thumb” for the only time when Siskel rescinded his endorsement of “Broken Arrow.”)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]


“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]

Jon Benjamin

Jon's Erotic Tales

Jon Benjamin Developing ‘Erotic’ Anthology Series for IFC

Jon Benjamin is getting racy for IFC.

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Photo Credit: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Get ready to get hot and heavy with Jon Benjamin.

IFC has teamed up with Benjamin and Leo Allen (Jon Benjamin Has a Van, Review) to develop Jon Benjamin’s 100 Erotic Nights, a show filled with personal, passionate tales perfect for awkwardly watching with your family. “I always wanted to make a show that my kid could watch and I’m thrilled that IFC has given me this opportunity,” said Jon Benjamin.

The scripted comedy anthology series (currently in the pilot presentation stage) finds the man behind Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher starring in and narrating a series of lurid tales of secret passion, burning desire and ruthless betrayal sure to raise a few eyebrows. As the tales unfold, Benjamin’s narrator is overcome with confessions of love, lust, romance and sex, from the local waitress to a church nun, to a lover who’s revealed to be a robot.

“IFC is excited to dive into deadpan erotic humor, a new and untapped genre of scripted comedy for us,” said Christine Lubrano, IFC’s SVP of original programming. “As a send up of Red Shoe Diaries, these steamy and seductive tales represent a hilarious departure from familiar erotica. As our narrator and guide, Jon Benjamin’s irreverent and revealing journey will leave viewers gasping for more.”

Be sure to check back here for more updates about Jon Benjamin’s sure to be salacious series.

Amy Poehler Carrie Brownstein

Carrie and Amy Team Up

Watch Carrie Brownstein Officiate a Wedding With Amy Poehler’s Help

Carrie Brownstein's Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is available now.

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Here’s proof that anything can happen when you go to one of Carrie Brownstein’s book readings: a recent stopover on Carrie’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl book tour turned into an impromptu wedding ceremony.

Amy Poehler had just wrapped up her Q&A with Carrie when a couple asked the Portlandia star — who just so happens to be an ordained minister — if she would officiate their wedding. “Amy was visibly excited and shocked, and turned to Carrie [and said] ‘You gotta do it!’,” said a source speaking to Us Weekly

According to an audience member, “[The couple] asked if they could get married on the spot, as they’d come prepared with their marriage license.”

“It was a sincere, thoughtful, and impressive speech, considering the spontaneity,” added sources. “Amy remained seated at the piano, looking emotional and delighted for them…”

Be sure to grab Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl out now, and catch Carrie on her book tour. Who knows what will happen next???

Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

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Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.

Benders Steve Schrippa 1920 x 640

Steve Schirripa on Benders

The 10 Funniest Sopranos Star Cameos

Catch Steve Schirripa on a brand-new Benders tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Over the years, the cast of The Sopranos has popped up in a variety of other shows and movies, always bringing some edge. It’s no surprise that even in comedies, Soprano cast cameos come with a lot of NSFW caveats. Even in kids movies, you can tell they’re fighting to keep the F-bombs from rolling. In honor of Steve “Bobby Bacala” Schirripa shaking down the guys on Benders this week, here are a few of the funniest cameos from The Sopranos cast.

10. Tony Sirico, Family Guy

Paulie Walnuts himself finally got to teach Stewie some respect, as the voice of the Griffin’s new dog on Family Guy.

9. Vincent Pastore, Pepsi Ad

Pastore acts like a big, well, pussycat when he comes face to face with a tough little girl in this spot for Pepsi from his Sopranos heyday.

8. Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Real Housewives of New Jersey Spoof

Sigler was perfectly cast in a Funny or Die spoof of the Bravo show that owes a lot to The Sopranos.

7. Michael Imperioli, The Office

Dwight Schrute finally received his black belt from a new sensei during the last season of The Office. And when you think karate, the first person that always comes to mind is Michael Imperioli.

6. Drea de Matteo, Conan

De Matteo proves even her insecurities can be funny, copping to a whopper of a lie to get out of a guest spot back during Conan’s late night days.

5. Joe Pantoliano, The Simpsons



Joey Pants and Michael Imperioli voiced gangsters in a 2006 episode that spoofed The Sopranos, The Godfather, and pretty much every other aspect of mafia culture.

4. Steven Schirripa, Benders

It’s hardly surprising that Schirripa turns up in comedies from time to time, after years spent on the standup circuit. You can catch him on this week’s brand-new Benders as a tough guy shaking down the Uncle Chubbys boys.

3. Edie Falco, 30 Rock

Falco played Celeste “C.C.” Cunningham, a liberal congresswoman with a dark secret. That secret being she’d fallen for the human avatar of everything she’d spent her life fighting against. But have you seen Jack Donaghy’s hair?

2. James Gandolfini, Letterman Top 10 List

The late, great Gandolfini didn’t make as many cameo appearances as his costars (he was too busy making movies), but he did appear on Letterman with the rest of the Sopranos cast for a fun Top 10 list. Naturally, he came out last to the biggest applause. Tony always gets the number one spot.

1. James Gandolfini Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico and Vincent Curatola, Nicky Deuce

Schirripa actually starred in this kid’s movie, and enlisted a slew of his old Sopranos friends to pop by and put a PG spin on their old act.

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