Premiere

Off the top of my head, I can't think of too many publications with less editorial credibility than Premiere. For the last few years, its main features have read as if they were dictated by negativity-nixing publicists. Similarly, its reviews generally vary between three stars and four, rendering them little more than a wordier version of the euphoric one-liners spewed in every direction by Wireless Magazine's Earl Dittman ("'Boat Trip' is cruising... towards an Oscar!!!").

And yet Premiere remains an easy, breezy read, even for those not inclined to fawn over moppets like Kate Hudson. The mag might have less of an insider feel than syndicated entertainment shows like, um, "The Insider," but that doesn't mean it can't be a welcome companion during an airport layover. It's better than the bathroom tile salesman from Topeka, anyway.

Both sides of Premiere--the celebrity-glad-handing one and the film-wonk one--are on display in its July/August issue. Sadly but expectedly, the former overwhelms the latter, especially in the "Red Hot Summer" features. The mag administers the requisite kid-gloves treatment to clanging studio dreck like "The Island," "The Dukes of Hazzard," and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." All promises of "on the set" access are empty ones, as nothing in the July/August issue boasts even the faintest sheen of exclusivity. I don't doubt that the mag's writers visited the sets in question, but I'm reasonably certain the same courtesy was extended to journalists from other entertainment pubs and programs.

A more urgent concern is that Premiere feels increasingly irrelevant in this get-it-live-on-the-Web-pronto era of celebrity and film journalism. Anyone who even casually follows the film biz likely long ago digested the information conveyed in the mag's "first look" nuggets about upcoming projects and casting decisions. Also, the actors featured in the "Bright Young Things" photo essay appeared on the pop-culture radar in 2002. Fellas, if you want to run a cheesecake pic of Scarlett Johansson, you don't need to whip up some half-assed pretense to do so.

Amazingly, the July/August issue devotes two full pages to "the movies that matter this month," just in case ostensibly plugged-in readers missed all the ads, previews, Web trailers, and summer-movie features that ran in every newspaper with a circulation of more than 6,000. For an entity that touts itself on its cover as "The Movie Magazine," this is distressingly minor-league.

Where Premiere continues to shine are those too-rare instances when its writers revert back to the mentality of an enthusiastic video-store clerk. A piece on Ingmar Bergman muse Liv Ullmann--stunningly, nowhere to be found in "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo"--provides rare insight into the life of a bona fide celluloid goddess. The "Hell on Wheels" story covering the documentary "Murderball" (BTW, leave what you're doing and go see this. Now.) smartly illustrates what makes both the filmmakers and quad rugby players tick, while godfather of the undead George Romero himself surfaces to take a look at the evolution of the zombie flick.

I'll continue to read Premiere for items like these, even as I shake my head in utter befuddlement that the supposed movie magazine of record devotes seven pages to "The Dukes of Hazzard" and a trifling sidebar to a eulogy of filmmaker Ismail Merchant. I understand why Premiere has evolved into what it is, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.