Jaws Week Finale: We Got Your Posts Right Here.

So here is a list of links to Jaws Posts that I have some connection to. To begin, we will review all the posts that I have put up on this site in the last five years. To sweeten the deal I’m posting some fan art I found on line that has nothing to do with the post, it just looks cool enough to draw attention to the links.

Video Preview of Jaws Weekend

This is just a short couple of videos in anticipation of the first Fourth of July Post on the movie. It includes what might be the only “Unboxing” video of a Laser Disc.

First July 4th Review

The original post on my Movie A Day Project on the Summer films of the 1970s.

Jaws 2

The only sequel worth bothering to watch. Not a great film but not an embarrassment like the others.

OK, this is not fan art but it was cool.

Video Preview of a Book Gift for Amanda’s Birthday

This is an Ad for a great book, that was way too expensive, but with which I indulged my youngest child.

Robert Shaw Film Festival Jaws

During a week long project on some Robert Shaw films, I go off on the neglect by the Academy of this magnificent performance.


Roy Scheider gets Props for Jaws

I felt a little guilty all these years not mentioning the fine work of the lead of this film, here I try to correct that oversight.


Epic Vlog Link on a Screen of Jaws

You have to have some time to enjoy this. It’s like a podcast with video and a couple of clips thrown in. One of the most fun projects I’ve done for the blog.


Jaws Diorama Picture

Random Crap on the Internet that I shared.


Getting the Jaws Log Signed

A story about meeting the Screenwriter and getting my book signed. Wow, am I geeking out or what?

OK, This is also not fan art, it is an Ad.

Steven Spielberg Directing Actors

Jaws is mentioned in this post that I did for a blogathon last year.


Moments Without the Shark

Last weeks list of moments that remind you that there is a shark in the story. View it on the Blogspot version of the site to be able to see all the video clips.


Robert Shaw and Brian Keith get Mugged

Another post where I rant about the neglect of Robert Shaw by those people who gave awards out in 1975. This was for a blogathon done in conjunction with this years Academy Awards.


40th Anniversary Links

10 Scenes Without the Shark that remind you there is a Shark.

Inside the Crest Theater Waiting for a Screening

Tee Shirt Marketing Lives

Crazy People

Everyone Likes Move Quotes



You Don’t have to be a Star to Make Jaws Better


OTHER Bloggers

Here is some work on the subject from others that I admire.

Best Movie Ever

The genetic recipient of my disease shares her views on the movie.


Best Scene Ever

The Indianapolis monologue, treated with respect. This is from the only person I know who is a bigger fanatic than I am about the movie. She used the “Indianapolis” monologue as part of her admission essay to U.S.C..


The Following is a Poem by my On line buddy Eric. I love the creativity and the courage it takes to put your voice out there in this form.

 Look to the Summer of 1975
All of the ocean will come alive
Look to the water for the great white fin
And you’ll know what sort of trouble you’re in
Look at the shark’s eyes, lifeless and black
Look at the shoreline ahead and know you’ll never get back
Try to swim, try to scream, try to pray
The great beast just won’t go away
Close your eyes and hold your breath
And await the mighty jaws of death
But when you do open your eyes, that’s when you’ll know
It was all on the movie screen, just for show
So thank you Steven and Peter for forty years of great fun
‘Cause when it comes to summer blockbusters, JAWS is still the best one!

From And So it Begins a fellow blogger who is also a film maker, shares some notes on our feature.

I’ve read Alex’s blog for two or three years. He is very sharp and well versed on movie techniques. I liked what he had to say here.


1001 Movies to See Before You Die


 Steve Honeywell took on a blogging task that I don’t have the patience to do, he has written a post on every film from the book 1001 Movies to see before you die, and then he has added on top of that, hundreds more because he can’t stop himself. He posts something everyday and is on of my daily stops. The above link will take you to his Jaws post.

Reblog of Fogs Post

This is a link to a link, I reblogged it on my site when Fogs put up the article. Dan Fogarty did a series of posts he titled “Movies Everyone Must See”, this is his work on Jaws and I’m happy to share his efforts with you.



It Rains…you get Wet


Michael from “It Rains… You Get Wet” is a gentleman when it comes to movies. He is thoughtful, polite and honest. I’m happy to say he is a friend. His story includes a period of time when he was sick of this film. He has since recovered.

Digital Bits


Finally, I came across this epic post which has data and interviews galore and may be my new favorite past time. If you read any post other than mine, this should be it.

Happy Clicking everyone.

The Faces of Jaws

Everyone knows the stars of the movie “Jaws”. Between them, the three actors had Oscar nominations for five other roles and one win for best actor. All three leads had long and distinguished filmographies. I would never say anything to diminish the contributions that they made to the film. The movie however has a background cast that is made up not of necessarily great actors but great faces. When you look at the characters, most of whom appeared in only one scene and often without a line, you get a real feeling for the community of fishermen and tourist business owners and other locals that are likely to make up the population of Amity Island.

Robert Shaw’s Quint is shadowed in his scenes on land by a mysterious, mute, slack jawed lackey with a dog. He may be Quint’s usual assistant, but he apparently knows better than to get on the Orca with Quint in full Ahab mode. Ben Gardner’s most famous moment occurs underwater and at night, but he lends credibility to the film as the charter boat captain that thinks all of the bounty hunting fishermen are looney.

Locals like Polly, the Chief’s secretary, seem to have aged under the sun and the fog of the island. We only see the back of the irate store owner as he berates the jobber who failed to bring in the correct summer stock, but we can tell from his posture and the face of the man he is confronting, he expects people to listen to him. The harbor master is almost a parody of old sea captains from the area, and by the way he was a dead ringer for my Father in Law.

If you want to look despair in the eye and have it followed up by fury, glance at Mrs. Kitner as she confronts the Chief on his feckless handling of the original shark attacks. The local motel owner is scowling at the news that the beaches are closed and she drops the dead bird on the conversation when she tells the crowd at the public meeting that the joke about the bounty being in cash or check is not funny. Her eyes tell you she sees no humor there.

The collection of oddballs they gathered for the successful bounty hunters is hysterical. One guy looks like the kid from “Deliverance” all grown up, the other two look like bowling pros who are slumming for the weekend by fishing for shark. The media guys are played by real media guys, slightly out of their element. Benchly looks like a condescending elitist, pontificating on camera about the island being terrorized.  Screenwriter Gottlieb is mostly in the background but fits as the reporter who is more booster than newsman.

The stuntman who dies in the estuary looks more like he belonged in the little rowboat he occupied than any day sailing vessel. The poor kid on the beach who can’t find his dog, victim number two who is often over looked, Pipet, has a nice forlorn expression. College boy drunk who missed out on getting with Chrissy and being dessert, has the long blond hair of a college crew member on Hartford’s rowing team. Best of all, the two little stinkers who play the practical joke with the cardboard fin are perfectly snotty and whiny when they get caught. The speed with which the younger one throws his partner under the bus was amazing and he had the face of a squealer to match the performance.

None of these were big parts but they were all essential to making the movie entertaining as it sets up the confrontation that takes place in the last act.

One last face to include from this evenings screening, TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz.  If you left before the credits were over, you missed a nice little coda that was also an ad for “Double Indemnity” next month.

 See you in July Ben.

Less Celebrated Lines from Jaws

We just finished our first of two screenings for Father’s Day.

The time while people filed in was filled with a few trivia cards. Come on, you gotta find something a little harder than this.

Another Jaws List for you.


One of the myriad of things that Jaws is noted for are the quotes that have become part of the culture. The AFI has the most memorable quote from the film at number 35 on their list of 100 Greatest Quotes 

That’s a little low in my view but still respectable.  Fans of the movie will have a dozen other quotes that they will harpoon you with if given a chance. 

Bureaucrats everywhere will be comforted by the rationalization of the mayor of Amity when he warns the Chief about being too proactive based on the first attack.


Mayor Vaughn: Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, “Huh? What?” You yell shark, we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July. 

It’s awful hard not to smile with righteous glee when the truth gets flung back in the face of the sheepish police chief and the cow-towing medical examiner by young Mr. Hooper on examining the body of the first victim.

Hooper: Well, this is not a boat accident!

Of course  the misanthropic shark hunter Quint has no shortage of million dollar lines.

At the town meeting, after he gets a introduction worthy of Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, he sums up his offer to all the locals succinctly.


Quint: $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

As Quint engages in the male ritual of one upmanship with the Chief by offering a toast with his own home made moonshine, he shows himself to be as crude as the Chief fears he might be.

Quint: Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women

Of course Quint also gets the whole monologue about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. That five minutes has some of the greatest visualizations and quotes in it and star Robert Shaw delivered it perfectly.

Chief Brody has no shortage of good lines. One quote inspired Director Bryan Singer to name his production company.

Brody: That’s some bad hat, Harry. 

Perhaps the greatest ad-libbed line ever created, comes from actor Roy Scheider, when he first gets a look at their nemesis. He backs of in fear and awe and tells Quint everything he should know about what is going to happen.

 Brody: You’re gonna need a bigger boat.  


This post however, is a salute to some of the lesser lines in the film. They often convey a character or render a bit of humor in the first half of the movie. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who appears in the film as the local newsman Meadows, was a TV writer who added punch to most of the script which had a spine from novelist Peter Benchley. He is almost certainly responsible for the quotes that follow, many of which are spoken in the background of the scene.

The Chief’s Secretary is in only one scene but she quickly conveys to the audience how mundane the work of the police department in Amity should be. Her big piece of news is the complaint from some of the local businessmen.

“It seems that the nine year olds from the school have been karate-ing the picket fences.”–Polly

The mayor says it in more than one spot, Amity is a summer town, it depends on summer dollars.  When the Chief goes to the hardware store to get the materials for printing “Beaches Closed” signs, we hear in the background the local merchant complaining to the jobber who has failed to bring the requested summer product. You can tell from his language that he’s an “Islander”.

“This stuff isn’t going to help me in August, the summer ginks come down here in June.”–Store Owner

The Chief’s Deputy conveys his sense of powerlessness, lack of status and personal insecurities when the Chief instructs him to let Polly do the printing on the signs. He demurs with an understated question.

“What’s the matter with my printing?”–Hendricks

As the town selectmen announce support for closing the beaches, the Mayor tries to buy some calm with his pronouncement that the closure will only last 24 hours. The Chief says, “I never agreed to that”, but from the crowd comes the fearful response.

“Twenty four hours is like three weeks.”–Unidentified voice at the Council Meeting

The story is full of colorful characters who don’t really get any development except their one or two scenes. When their attempt to catch the shark from a jetty on the opposite side of the island goes bad, you can hear the understatement of the year from the first guy out of the water:

“Charlie take my word for it, don’t look back”.–Denherder

Fisherman Ben Gardner has disdain for the outsiders showing up to collect the bounty put up by Mrs. Kitner on the shark. As he takes his charter out, he mutters a curse under his breath that sounds like it would come from the mouth of a local fisherman.

“Wait till we get them silly bastards down in that rockpile they’ll be some fun, they’ll wish their fathers had never met their mothers.”–Ben Gardner

Matt Hooper attempts to be helpful by identifying the shark that is caught by one of the cast of idiots that went out on an overloaded launch. The quote itself is not so special, but the way in which it was delivered results in a laugh that is still hard to explain.

“A What?”–Belligerent Fisherman Pratt

Here is one that is so understated that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it before. Amanda pointed it out to me when we were watching the film last Sunday. After Hooper offers his help in identifying the shark, he discovers that the know it all does not always endear himself to others. He made the mistake of suggesting that the shark might not be the one who killed the little boy. The bounty hunters take umbrage and offer to stick his head in the mouth of the shark to prove their point


“What I’m saying is it may not be the shark, just a slight difference in semantics that I don’t want to get beaten up for.”–Hooper

Obviously the lion’s share of great lines went to the three stars. When the characters interact they reveal more about themselves to each other and us. As they are searching the waters where the shark has been feeding at night, Hooper chides the chief about being afraid of the water but living on an island. The Chief gives the only rationalization that makes sense of his situation:

“It’s only an island if you look at it from the water”.–Brody

The Mayor played by Murray Hamilton, is often seen as a villain in the story. In truth, he represents a part of the fear that the shark presents to the whole community. His way of coping is to cling to the trappings of his office and the illusion that some degree of control is still in his grasp. He’s not as worried about the shark as he is about nascent Banksyies moving into the neighborhood.


“That is a deliberate mutilation of a public service message.” –Mayor Vaughn

It is always funny to me when we show how predictable we are as humans. One of the prime examples of our craven natures is our desire to avoid responsibility for our actions. The world is full of excuse makers and apologists. Kids are much more honest about how this is true. When caught, one of the two kids with the cardboard fin is quick to sell out his buddy in order to weasel out of paying a penalty.

“He made me do it, he talked me into it.”– Whiny Prankster

OK, those are my choices. If you have some that you like and I neglected to mention, feel free to add them in your comments, then we will either take it under consideration or hang you up by your Buster Browns.

Inside Out

The pinnacle of the Pixar legacy happened five years ago with “Toy Story 3”, the second sequel to one of their films. Both the Toy Story sequels were outstanding, so I do not subscribe to the theory that Pixar’s decline is attributable to a loss of originality, illustrated by it’s willingness to do sequels. While I have detected a decline myself in the quality of their films, there has been only one that I consider an outright failure: “Cars 2”.  “Monsters University” has a lot to offer, and “Brave” although a lot more conventional than their other films, was still spectacular to look at and very entertaining. So five years and three films after their peak, Pixar is attempting to reach back to their greatest creative period with an original idea and some amazing visualizations, and they almost reach the brass ring but it falls just outside of their grasp with “Inside Out”.

I think the film will work for most people and there is nothing in it that I can say fails. Every sequence is clever, the jokes all seem to work, and there is a line of thought that is trying to hold the story together so that it is coherent. Frankly, my wife loved it and I rarely challenge her on something like this because, well, she is usually right. I can’t say she is wrong here, I can only say that it did not reach me the way so many other Pixar Films have. The fantasy elements get mixed in with the science theory ideas and they just don’t fill in all the gaps the way I would want them to. This is not a negative review, but it probably will be much more muted than you will see elsewhere, and it’s a little hard to put my finger on why.

One reason might be that the film is marketed to a younger audience, it is animated and it is Disney/Pixar after all, but the concepts seem to be a little more sophisticated than a family movie can handle. The idea behind core memories and personality and their relationship to emotions is a complex concept. It would be hard to explain in a psychology class over the course of a sixteen week semester, much less making it clear in a 94 minute cartoon. The function of long term memory and the personality islands that populate the scenery in this film is frankly confusing. I also thought that the story did not stay true to the rules it was creating as it went along. The memory dump is inescapable, until it isn’t, and the personality islands get repopulated faster than a Disney character gets brought back from the dead in one of the traditional fairy tales. After having set up the complex workings of the brain, it just felt at the end as if those complexities don’t really matter once we get our emotions in line.

The clearest message of the film is that we need all of our emotions. Joy does not mean much without sadness, and anger may be the only way to overcome fear at times. I think that if the film had followed the emotions interactions more and built a story around that community, the movie would feel more complete and there would be a stronger narrative. There are so many side trips that this movie makes that it is easy to lose focus of the main goal. By reducing all of the emotions to five characters, it cuts down on complexity there, but think of where the story could have gone if it was about the way all of the emotions had to try to live with each other while still doing their jobs. I really admire the creativity and orginality of the concept and the characters, I just thought the plot was confusing because of the roads those characters were sent down.

Kids will be afraid of their sub-conscious mind after watching this, and the notion of their dreams being turned into nightmares might also be a bit disturbing. I admired all the individual sequences and ideas, “the Train of Thought” is a great way to travel through the brain, but it does not seem to do anything but act as an obstacle for the two main emotions to overcome.  The different levels of abstract thought were brilliantly conceived, Picasso would probably sue. I thought the surface story of Mom, Dad and Riley was visually interesting as well. Apparently the folks at Pixar can recognize some of the faults of San Francisco thinking as well as the rest of us, broccoli does not belong on pizza.

When I see this down the road, I might have a different impression. Maybe my expectations were off, or my own emotions were asleep or lost in the sub-conscious during the film. Honestly, it is not hard to reach me emotionally. I have teared up at a Jackie Chan movie (the stuff that guy can do makes me cry tears of joy), but “Inside Out” left me with only a mild amount of pleasure and no deep emotional resonance. For a story about the emotions, that seems like a miss.

JAWS List Number One for the Fourtieth Anniversary

Of all the films I have written about in the five years of doing this blog, none has received more attention and space than Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws”. The film celebrates it’s 40th Anniversary this year. It came out just a week after I graduated from High School, and in the middle of a very weird decade, changed the way the movie business works.

Your Correspondent

I plan on celebrating the film several times this month. Today went to a screening at the Crest Theater in Westwood.

Crest Theater Interior

Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies are having screenings on June 21 and 24 at 500 theaters around the country. We plan on going to the two on the 21st and the final one on Wednesday the 24th. That’s right, in an orgy of self indulgence, our plan is to see the greatest adventure film of the last half century on the big screen, four times in 10 days. I can’t think of a better way to get the summer started.

As a change of pace for my writing on this film, I decided to try a sure fire strategy to make it easy for people to chow down on and digest some more “Jaws” material. So here is the first list for our 40th Anniversary Celebration.

Ten Times the Shark isn’t working but still appears on screen in some form.

The notoriously uncooperative mechanical shark used in the production, forced the film makers to find other ways of putting the lead character into the story without actually showing him. Here are my favorite moments showcasing the shark with no shark footage.

Fishing off the Dock of the Bay, Watching your Roast Swim Away.

Two guys decide to go for the $3000 bounty offered by Mrs. Kintner by baiting a giant hook with a raw beef roast and then tossing it into the ocean, anchored to the small dock they are standing on. They do this at night, on the far side of the island to avoid detection by the Police Chief. What follows is suspenseful and hilarious.

The turn of the pier at the end of the clip says everything about the invisible shark.

Click, click, click

Once out to sea, Chief Brody and Matt Hooper are introduced to “sharking” Quint style. They are not really fishing, but the rod and reel are essential to Quint’s process and it gives us plenty to fear without any image of the shark at all.

That’s Ben Gardner’s Boat

Hooper gets a drunk Chief Brody to go out on the water, at night and they discover the remains of a fishing boat that appears to have encountered our titular hero.

 Hooper goes into the water to investigate and everyone in the audience tightens their sphincter because this cannot go well. Spielberg was so meticulous on this piece of business that he went back to the scene after it was done and re-shot some footage in the pool of editor Verna Fields. The result was a scene that levitated whole audiences of hundreds, out of their seats simultaneously.   We won’t give anything away here, but Hooper’s face manages to say it all.

Foreshadowing, what foreshadowing?

Watching the start of the third act in the film, we get a transition shot that ironically shows the doomed Orca and the future that she is sailing into. It is a beautiful shot and it tells us to fear the shark, again without the shark being present.

Those proportions are correct.

How big is the shark? Well, let me draw you a picture.

Roll Out the Barrel.

How can we give a sense of showing the shark stalking the heroes if we can’t always use the shark, easy, we’ll use a shark surrogate. Those barrels that Quint uses to bring the shark to the surface, well watch them transform into creepy shadows following the Orca.

After we see the barrels attached to the shark, the Orca follows them, and for a moment, the hunters are joyous in their pursuit.

Suddenly, after being assured by Quint that he can’t stay down with three barrels on him, the barrels disappear as they pass under the boat. Oh oh.

And how do you know you are in deep trouble? The barrels start following you. This is not going as planned.

Research Man, get a book and do some reading.

Just the thought of the shark startles the chief and his wife.

Who Let That Shark into the Town Meeting?

All the Islanders are getting nervous about the beaches being closed. Quint shows up to make them an offer, but to get their attention he scratches a chalkboard with his fingernails and reveals a little doodle to scare them all.

The Most Iconic Theme of All Time.

Well before we ever see a shark, we know he is around because of the much parodied but perfect theme for the shark. Yeah, you know it.

Lets Go Swimming.

This scene catches you by the throat and the film never let’s go after that. No sign of the shark, but your nightmares will never be the same.

Jurassic World

The world is a different place than it was twenty two years ago when the original “Jurassic Park” stormed onto screens, made CGI the standard by which special effects would be measured from then on, and crowned the king of Hollywood with his greatest commercial success the same year he achieved his greatest artistic success with “Schindler’s List”. Spielberg’s dinosaur movie was the start of freeing our imaginations with digital images and the story was fresh. Here we are all those years later, and everyone knows that the dinosaurs are going to be spectacular, and the setting is going to be lush and the action intense. Even if it is the first time you see any of the Jurassic Park films, “Jurassic World” can never repeat the magic of that 1993 event picture.

Having said that, and giving anybody with bloated expectations a way to let a little air out of the bubble, “Jurassic World” is a terrific summer film that should fill the pockets of everyone involved because it does exactly what the times call for. It entertains us with spectacle, danger and action. There is one important element missing from this film that was much more abundant in it’s three precursors, humor. Other than that, you will have a great time at the movies as long as you are not really expecting a science lesson.

The park has been open for a while now. It is still unclear to me after the events of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park”, how “i-gen”, the company founded by John Hammond can still exist. They must have had their assets sold off to pay for the lawsuits that would have followed the company after the T-Rex eats half of San Diego. They could not even afford security to keep people off of site B in the third Jurassic Park film. That is all just nit picking however, the point of this movie is to give us something to marvel at and be frightened of. The real monsters continue to be the scientists who play with genetic power and don’t consider the consequences. These films must have inspired a lot of the Monsanto hate out there, because the researchers come across as indifferent to the work they are doing and it’s consequence, they simply see it as something to exploit.  B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu is older but not wiser, making all new mistakes with the current endeavor. Vincent D’Onofrio has the Paul Reiser role as a corporate hack who has visions of defense contracts dancing through his head. It’s Bryce Dallas-Howard who ultimately has to redeem herself as a cold fish of an executive, looking at marketing before she considers the ethical and responsible things to do. She does get to the point where we do root for her, but in the beginning, she is as guilty as anyone for what happens.

If you were worried that the velociraptors of the early films had turned into trained house pets, be assured that is not the case. Chris Pratt, channeling Harrison Ford, is working with the deadly pack hunters, but the story is much more realistic than the trailer would lead you to believe. He needed to have more of “Star Lords” one liners and facial ticks, to make the movie sing more. The fault is not in the performance but the script. Jeff Goldblum owned the first two movies with his sardonic sense of humor and his well timed jabs at the corporation and scientific processes. Pratt only gets one or two moments to show off his comic chops, and then once the story takes off, there are no moments of levity at all.

There are several thrill moments in the film, but nothing to match that T-Rex attack from “Jurassic Park”. The sequence with the gyroglobes is meant to stand in for the attack on the jeep in the first film, and it does have a few great elements to it, but it is not as sustained as that first brilliant sequence that Spielberg used all of his skills to put together. Director Colin Trevorrow copies the master but can’t quite match the terror achieved in that sequence. His strongest effort is in the final fight sequence which does manage to use the characters , both real and digital, to their best effect. Composer Michael Giacchino has done a good job in building a soundtrack for the movie but his work will always be overshadowed here by the theme from the first film, composed by John Williams. That motif is repeated in several sections and at the end of the picture it is as if Williams himself did the score for this. It may be an unfair thing for me to say, but it was the way I felt about it.

The movie succeeds in creating a monster to chase the characters that really is scary. The park looks fantastic and reasonably crowed, at least until the climax. I would want to do several of the rides and attractions we saw in the build up. Kayaking with dinosaurs, riding a Triceratops, or traveling by monorail through a forest are all attractions that would made me want to go through the turnstile. Some times the themes get a little big for the movie. Asset management and investment are certainly important, but a guy who manages to make it to being the eighth richest man on the planet can surely see that losing a $26 million project is small potatoes next to the disaster staring him in the face. Of course if people did not make some stupid choices, there would be no movie for us to thrill to, so ignore some of the improbable s, and sit back for what will surely be the thrill ride of the summer.

Gremlins/Gremlins 2: The New Batch

If any of you read my blog project last year, you will know that although I think “Amadeus” was the best film of 1984 (or any other year in the 1980s), it was not my favorite film of the year. That honor fell to a subversive little film that grabbed us by the heart and then kicked us in the balls. You can read the exhaustive discussion of “Gremlins” on that site, and if you missed it I hope you will go over and enjoy the nostalgia.

Last night as part of a week long tribute to director Joe Dante, a screening of “Gremlins” was held along with the sequel “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. Dante is one of those guys who came from the Roger Corman school of film making. Make em cheap, fast and be inventive. There are other double features playing this week that if I had the time to see, I would make the return trip to Hollywood. “The ‘Burbs/Matinee” and “Innerspace/Explorers” are this weekend and his new film “Burying the Ex” a zombie horror comedy is screening tonight. I would not have forgiven myself though if I had skipped the opportunity to see “Gremlins” on the big screen.

At the Turner Classic Film Festival back in March, I sat right in front of John Milius for a showing of “The Wind and the Lion”. Last night, the director of the film I love sat one row in front of me on the other side of the aisle. He did not stay for the whole film but he did do a brief introduction of the two movies, describing the “New Batch” as being more personal since he and his collaborators created it while he worked from Chris Columbus’s script for the original.

This was actually the second time I say behind Mr. Dante at a movie screening. In 1988 my wife and I saw the Bruce Willis/James Garner salute to Tom Mix, “Sunset” at the Cinerama Dome. Mr. Dante came in right as the movie started and sit directly in front of us. I don’t know that anyone else might have recognized him but at the time, I was a pretty big geek about “Gremlins” and to me it was a cool celebrity sighting.

“The New Batch” is an even more maniacal comedy of destruction and mayhem than the original. The technology was up dated and they had a bigger budget, and as Mr. Dante said last night, Warner Brothers was so happy to be getting a sequel that they pretty much let him do whatever he wanted.  What he did was a parody of his own film. The jokes make reference to moments in the original that often stand out as issues for some fans. As the security guys are dismissing Billy’s warning about the creatures, they ask those questions that critical fans might have asked about the original, like what if a piece of food caught between their teeth in a meal before mid-night comes loose after mid-night? Does that trigger the metamorphosis?  Kate starts a story at an odd moment during the film about her tragic memories of a Lincoln’s Birthday trauma from her childhood. The movie is filled with those sort of self referential jokes.

John Glover is marvelous as a cross between Donald Trump and Ted Turner, getting the bluster right and in the background being mocked by P.A. announcements and gift shop bric-à-brac . Leonard Maltin basically repeats his criticism of the original as being too violent for it’s own good, before being taken down in a moment of gentler violence. Sadly this day we lost Christopher Lee, who appeared in this film as a mad scientist with no conscience but a high level of lawsuit awareness.

The real stars of the movie however are the gremlins themselves, many of which have undergone a genetic transformation as a result of the lab experiments of Lee’s mad Dr. Catheter. There are vegetable gremlins and arachnid gremlins and flying gremlins. There is also one that might be deemed by Chris Brown a “Science Experiment” much like he described Mr./Ms. Jenner recently. Tony Randall does the voice of an intellectualized gremlin and makes mayhem seem as if it is a cultural behavior that we should value from this new class of creatures.

While it may be Mr. Dante’s choice, it does lack the heart of the first film, and the violent surprises that took our breath away and helped create the PG-13 rating. Gizmo is side lined for much of the sequel and the expressive face that made him the focus of marketing and audience adoration in the first film, gets used much more sparingly in the second.  It is still a wonderful film, my preference is as always for the original.


After the horrid reviews of “Tammy” from last summer and seeing the horrible poster for this film featuring the star dressed down and colored gold, I thought this would be one to skip. The word of mouth though has been really strong, the Rotten Tomatoes score was impressively at 95%, so I decided to take a chance and I can say I was rewarded. This is an amusing spy parody that gets a lot of credit for playing off the Bond film tropes but then adds the Melissa McCarthy vulgarity in appropriate doses.  When you throw in a couple of extra performers that I have an affinity for, well you end up with a solid piece of summer entertainment.

The titles and title song are perfect reflections of a Bond opening with Maurice Binder like silhouettes and a soft rock piece of cheese that isn’t Adele but make you think of her. Jude Law plays as typecast as a spy who is good, and of course good looking, but is extra special because of the control operator he has back at CIA headquarters. He’s not incompetent, but he appears to be a little less perfect than 007 would be in the same circumstances. Ultimately, the comedy turns on getting McCarty out in the field, as an unlikely spy with equally unlikely cover.

There is an amusing sequence with the CIA equivalent of “Q”. A spy quartermaster that is dismissive of the agent and also expert at his job. Michael McDonald plays a stone-faced bureaucrat in this sequence and to make it work, he has no joy in his eyes. One of the reasons the film works is because they don’t play it as a parody but rather as a straight spy film with comic overtones. “Q” might smirk, or make a sarcastic comment, but this quartermaster has no sense of humor. Neither does deputy director of CIA operations Elaine Crocker, played by the always great Allison Janney. She is the straight man to a number of jokes in the set up of the film, I don’t know if I knew she was in the movie before today, but ultimately the movie is carried by other performers.

There are three performances that ultimately make the movie work, and then just as a little frosting, there is a fourth actor I want to mention. McCarthy is the big gun here. She knows her way around this kind of material and so far people don’t appear to be tired of the familiarity. Her disappointment at the covers she is given is a nice contrast to the hard edged character she ultimately pretends to be (and it turns out, actually is). As the star of the film, most of the focus is on her and if you don’t care for her, then this film will not be for you. I was impressed with the cold bitch persona that Rose Byrne manages for her villain character. The dry, dull tone that she uses to pass out orders, insults and backhanded compliments was amusing and matched the tone the movie was trying for.  Jason Statham was hysterical as a spy who can’t keep from tooting his own horn in the most outrageous and self delusional fantasies you can imagine. His comic chops are great as he plays against the type of character that he played in “Furious 7”. If there is a sequel to this film, look for he and McCarthy to be paired in the mismatched partner story that a sequel would beg for. Also, stick around through the credits for a couple of stingers and an out-take that will make you laugh one more time. Bobby Cannavale is a comedian turned actor who gets to play a handsome in a slick bad boy kind of way, villain. After seeing him in “Win-Win” and “Blue Jasmine” in the last few years, I am increasingly impressed with his work.

The worst poster of the year winner.

This film is not likely to be seen as a classic. The jokes are good the first time through but I doubt they will have a high degree of repeatability. There are several visual gags that help the film earn it’s rating, as well as the potty mouth of the star. The people behind this get the joke and they know how to tell it. I thought “The Heat” from two years ago was alright but it was a big stretch to believe the two characters as tough cops. This movie suffers from the same problem but covers it up the same way, by making enough jokes that connect to outweigh the improbability of any of the story.