Monday, April 30, 2007

Introducing new critic

I wasn't going to launch our new critic, Brandon Fibbs for another couple of weeks. But Brandon couldn't let "Spider-Man 3" go without spinning his own web about it.

His review of Spidey will be in Friday's GO! (First reviews look kind of lackluster. Bummer!)

I just saw "Next" last weekend, and it reminded me that Roger Moore, although a clever writer, doesn't get popcorn movies. As he did with "Deja Vu," he looks for plausibility in action adventures. He needs some help with suspension of disbelief.

I think most of us who pay $8 at the door already have suspended plenty of disbelief and we just want to be entertained. What Moore didn't get about "Next" is that it has no ending. Totally enjoyable popcorn movie until the credits rolled and everybody said, "What?!"

Brandon will do better.

Oh, I was also excited to see the preview of "Stardust." Just read the Neil Gaiman novel. Wonderful escapism. Can't want for the movie.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Saw Disturbia with one of my sons this weekend. Fun thriller. With all the mindless pour-on-the-gore slasher flicks out there, this one felt like it had some substance.

Of course, most of that substance was stolen from "Rear Window," my second favorite Hitchcock flick. But it was stolen well, and updated well.

I especially liked the way they encorporated new technoogy, such as the ring tones.

back-shelf picks

I'm sometimes asked for a complete list of recommended movies from my Back-Shelf Pick column. Here's all of the movies I've featured so far. (And check the comments for some great suggestions from readers!)

Riding Giants
The Autumn Heart
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Sweet Lorraine
Lord of War
The Producers
Butcher Boy
Blood Simple
The Spanish Prisoner
The Good Girl
Attack of the Bat Monsters
Better Than Sex
Me Myself I
Okie Noodling
One Hour Photo
The Sweet Hereafter
Midnight Train
Everything Is Illuminated
Minus Man
American Movie
East Is East
The Aristocrats
The Year of Living Dangerously
The World's Fastest Indian
Bagdad Cafe
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Touching the Void
The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition
A Slipping Down Life
The Cooler
You Can Count on Me
The Straight Story
Requiem for a Dream
House of Sand and Fog
Calendar Girls
Kingdom of Heaven
Saint Ralph
Clay Pigeons
The Big Kahuna
House of Games
The Missing
Plots with a View
A Love Song for Bobby Long
Love and Sex
The Quiet American
The Deep End
Rabbit-Proof Fence
Howl's Moving Castle
I Capture the Castle
Eve's Bayou
The Professional
A Walk on the Moon
Cop Land
Billy Elliot
Two Family House
Searching for Bobby Fischer
In the Bedroom
The Ref
Hear My Song
Green Dragon
Garden State
21 Grams
28 Days Later
Personal Velicity
To End All Wars
Dear Frankie
Truly, Madly, Deeply
The Tao of Steve
Danny Deck Chair
In America
Scotland, P.A.
Into the West
The Woodsman
Happy Texas
The Safety of Objects
Happy Accidents
Smoke Signals
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

I hope you find some movies here you like. I've tried to pick under-watched movies with the most wide appeal. I have plenty of favorites that are Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese ... But I know that so many moviegoers won't bother with subtitles.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Critic bashing

Here's a recent e-mail about our critic. I get a lot of this sort of thing.

Mr. Epstein,
Why is it the Gazette's movie ratings/reviews are so consistently misleading? It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that the McClatchy-Tribune News Service is the pandering tool of the movie studios. When I need a laugh these days I share the Gazette's film "ratings" with friends and family around the country.

Two such blatantly lopsided reviews appear in today's GO section, Perfect Stranger and Pathfinder are both given a B-. To see what the majority of reviewers actually think of these movies check: and

I pity the poor souls who actually rely upon the Gazette's rating system to decide which movie to see. You do both your readers and yourself a disservice by continuing to publish these untruthful unpaid advertisements for inferior films.


I'm a little confused about your e-mail. You complain about the movie ratings/reviews being misleading and "lopsided."

I think what you mean is that Roger Moore's opinions about movies don't square with your own, and therefore, Moore must be in the pocket of the film industry. I can understand why an outsider might make such assumptions. After all, some critics are "quote whores." They get wined and dined and taken on trips by the studios in exchange for gushing quotes for movie ads. Roger is not one of these people. He works for the Orlando Sentinel, a reputable paper and would never take anything from the studios in exchange for positive reviews.

In fact, on the whole, Roger's reviews tend to be more negative than the Rotten Tomatoes or imdb averages.

But that's not really the point. I don't judge critics on how often I agree with them or how often their opinions are in line with what other critics are saying. In fact, I almost always disagree with my favorite critic, Tom Shales of the Washington Post. But I read him because he's fun to read, and, like the movie or hate the movie, he gives me insights about the film that other critics don't.

I've enjoyed Moore's reviews. I thought his reviews of "300," "Grindhouse" and "Pathfinder" were particularly well-written.

Still, we're planning to introduce our own critic in May: Brandon Fibbs, a former intern here who's now attending graduate school at NYU. You may find his opinions more in line with your own ... but, again, that's not the point.

Warren Epstein
Gazette A&E Editor

I love when people disagree with our critics ... but it always bugs me when they feel a critic's opinion is somehow "wrong." That's just crazy talk.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"Grindhouse" blues

What you should know about "Grindhouse" is that it's more of a critic's movie than a regular person's movie.

Critics love that Tarantino and Rodriguez have raised the exploitation films to a works of art ... and, as art, they work.

But they're not really movies. You won't get emotionally invested in anything or anyone. It's not "Pulp Fiction," which was not only an homage to the genre but raised it to a great movie.

"Grindhouse" gives us plenty of cheap thrills, and a few laughs (especially in the fake coming attractions), but neither of the double-features ("Planet Terror" and "Deathproof") feels like a movie movie.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Not so high on the 'Hog'

I just got back from a vacation in San Antonio, during which the kids and I had time for one movie (not counting the very clever 3-D movie "Pirates," starring Leslie Nielsen, at Sea World.

My boys are 10 and 14 and they really wanted to see "300." So did I. But an R-rating for blood-gushing fight scenes (and stern looks from my wife for even CONSIDERING taking them) convinced me to look more toward the PG-13 part of the movie marquee.

The choices were slim. The older one didn't want to see "Bridge to Terabithia." Everybody was lukewarm about "Ghost Rider."

So we settled on the lukewarm choice of "Wild Hogs." This is a movie that faces a built-in contradiction. One of my rules of movie-going is that if it has William H. Macy in the cast, it's going to be good. But I have another rule that if it has Tim Allen in it, chances are that it'll suck.

The Tim Allen rule carried the day in a movie that's all about gay jokes and goofy sight gags until the weekend warrior comedian biker quartet comes face to face with a mean biker gang led by Ray Liotta. Then it gets way too serious, way too fast and not all the gay jokes in Texas could save it.

There are just too many great R-rated movies out there. And "Grindhouse" opens Friday. The new Tarantino-Rodriguez bloodfest is getting great reviews.