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ADVENTURES AT COMIC-CON 2016

Rotten Tomatoes-Comic-Con-2016

It’s impossible to take in everything the San Diego Comic-Con has to offer, as I learned again this weekend. Some fans come to see movie stars and major studio previews, while others zip from one specialized panel to another. My favorite thing to do is cruise the exhibition floor, meeting people, reuniting with old friends and acquaintances, and looking for interesting collectibles—even though my shelves are full and I have no more wall space. I did participate in several panels, including a tribute to Walt Kelly’s Pogo hosted by my pal Mark Evanier, a warm and often-hilarious tribute to longtime Disney animator and story-man Floyd Norman, and the annual edition of Rotten Tomatoes’ audience-participation gathering called “Your Opinion Sucks.” My fellow opinion-makers were Donna Dickens,…

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ONE OF THE SUMMER’S BEST: ‘DON’T THINK TWICE’

Don't Think Twice Cast

It’s rare to find a movie with heart and humor in equal measure: Don’t Think Twice is that rare bird, and it’s one of my favorite films of the summer. It also represents a major leap for comedian, actor and storyteller Mike Birbiglia, who made his debut film Sleepwalk With Me, just a few years ago. It was enjoyable in a quiet way, but this new endeavor is equivalent to his Annie Hall—a coming-of-age for him as a true cinematic storyteller. Don’t Think Twice is all about a somewhat impoverished New York City improv troupe. Each performer is talented, and has his or her own dreams of fame and success, but when one of them gets that big break—a spot on a network TV series…

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NEW REVIEWS OF MOVIES YOU CAN SEE AT HOME

Leonard Maltin-Grae Drake, Reelz Specials

My colorful partner Grae Drake (of Rotten Tomatoes) and I are back on ReelzChannel with a new half-hour show in which we review recent theatrical releases that are now available for home viewing, thanks to Video on Demand (VOD). If you haven’t yet seen The Witch, Deadpool, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Zootopia, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, How to be Single, Hail, Caesar! or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, tune in and you’ll hear our friendly debates about the merits of these films. (Spoiler alert: we both liked Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a good movie that failed because people expected an out-and-out comedy with Tina Fey in the leading role.) If you’d like to see sample segments from the show, click HERE. And if you’d like to watch the…

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A NEW HOME FOR MY PODCAST

Roseanne Barr-Eric Weinrib

I’ve made the leap to a new podcast network and it’s a great one. We’ve teamed up with Nerdist, the multifaceted company founded by entrepreneurial stand-up comic and TV host Chris Hardwick. I’m joined by my trusty sidekick (and daughter) Jessie, who’s cohosted previous episodes with me. Our first guests are Roseanne Barr, the always-outspoken comedienne, and Eric Weinrib, whose adventures with the likes of Ken Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson (and ten years working with Michael Moore) made him an ideal director and collaborator for their documentary Roseanne for President!, now available on VOD. You can listen to our conversation HERE. My podcast has evolved in a number of ways since it began in 2014. It now features a wide array of guests, whom…

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Catching Up: On Film Festivals and Movie Palaces

Castro Theatre-SFSFF-2016

I enjoy filing journals about my adventures and activities, but during the last couple months I’ve been so busy traveling, preparing this website, and launching my new podcast on the Nerdist network that I’ve fallen far behind. Had I been more on the ball I would have started by telling you about the annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival in early June. Every year this program offers an embarrassment of riches, but I found the latest edition to be especially good—and far-ranging. The musical accompaniment is as diverse as the films themselves, featuring such impressive performers and musicologists as the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Stephen Horne, Donald Sosin, and Jon Mirsalis. But having missed the 2015 event this was my first exposure to the…

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WORTH CALLING: THE NEW ‘GHOSTBUSTERS’

New Ghostbusters-2016

I am not a fan of remakes, by and large, but I don’t consider it sacrilege to have rebooted this 1984 comedy hit…nor do I think it’s foolish to have cast it with females in the leading roles. In fact, it’s the women who make the movie so enjoyable. The interaction among Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones offers a fresh take on the basic story and sets it apart from the original. Writer-director Paul Feig has made a specialty of crafting good parts for women in recent years, including Wiig and McCarthy (in Bridesmaids and Spy), so it should come as no surprise that he has developed entertaining characters for these actresses to play. As for the plot, there isn’t much…

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WOODY ALLEN’S ‘CAFÉ SOCIETY’ DOESN’T PASS MUSTER

cafe society-eisenberg-stewart

I cut a wide swath for Woody Allen and always have, but even I have to admit that Café Society is one of his weakest films. It isn’t dull, thanks largely to Santo Loquasto’s exquisite production design, evoking vintage Hollywood and New York City nightlife in the 1930s. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro makes the most of these settings and the beautiful women who populate the film. But the story is undernourished and its flimsiness is underscored by Allen’s heavy-handed narration. He feels the need to connect the dots for us even when the points he’s making are fairly obvious. Jesse Eisenberg plays a young New Yorker who chafes at the idea of going into his father’s jewelry business and decides to try his luck in Hollywood,…

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Sentimental Journey: Memories of Actor Whit Bissell

Whit Bissell-Teenage Frankenstein

[By BERNIE SHINE] During a recent dinner with my friends Alice and Leonard Maltin, our conversation naturally drifted to the subject of Old Hollywood. As we reminisced, one of the supporting actors whose name came up was Whit Bissell. When Leonard learned that I knew Whit, he suggested that I write something about him. Here it is. Whit and his wife Jennifer Raine were dear friends of mine, both of whom I first met in the mid-1970s when I was a young lawyer. For many years we joined the Bissells for cocktails and dinners, often in their Cape Cod style home on Chrysanthemum Lane in Los Angeles, a short street with a long name. On Thanksgiving and Christmas there were usually six of us in…

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‘THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS’ LEAVES YOU PANTING

Snowball-Max-Secret Life-Pets

Several people have told me how much they like the trailer for this movie; I don’t wonder. It’s so jam-packed with gags there are more than enough to supply a high-energy preview. But while the finished product is likable it’s also frenetic and uses up its good will before the end credits finally arrive. What puts The Secret Life of Pets on-target from the beginning is the clever and appealing character design by Eric Guillon. The various dogs and cats in the leading roles are inherently amusing and even irresistible. Guillon is also the film’s production designer, and his stylized rendering of Manhattan is truly impressive. The screenplay is sharp and funny, at least for a while. This is the work of Illumination Entertainment’s team…

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PORTRAIT OF A FANATICAL FATHER: ‘CAPTAIN FANTASTIC’

Viggo Mortensen and clan-Captain Fantastic

Despite its fanciful title, Captain Fantastic is an all-too-believable story about a man who raises his six children in a commune-like environment in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, away from civilization and all the evils he believes it represents. I can’t picture a better actor to embody this character than Viggo Mortensen, who practices a tough-love approach to fatherhood. Writer-director Matt Ross depicts him as an uncompromising extremist who celebrates Noam Chomsky Day with his kids and discourages conventional thinking…but we never doubt his love and devotion for a moment. The kids, who range in age from 7 to 17, follow their father’s teaching and daily agenda of exercise, survivalist training, and education, but when their mother dies they’re deeply upset and can’t go…

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