Friday, April 29, 2016

'Keanu' Review

The difference between a great sketch and a great film is enormous ... and that difference has rarely been felt as acutely as it is in Keanu. The masterminds behind Key & Peele head to the big screen for an action-comedy involving some nerds who have to pretend they're hardcore gangstas to rescue a kittie cat. That's a funny idea, so what happened? I explain all in my New Republic review.

Beck - "Debra"

Among the many thoughts I had after Prince's death, one of them was "Hey, remember that Beck song that was a homage to him?" Well, that's what we thought at the time: "Debra" is, more accurately, a spoof of falsetto, lover-man R&B ballads. I saw Beck perform this during his brief, excellent tour for Mutations, before it was recorded for Midnite Vultures, and it was hoot watching this slender white dude convulse around on a bed while declaring his love for some pretty thing and her sister.

Prince homage or not, it's still very fun.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What's Great Cinematography?

That's the question film critic Scout Tafoya tries to answer in a new essay and video over at Fandor. To help, he asked lots of colleagues to submit their own ballots for the best cinematography in films. You can read mine -- and a lot of other folks' -- right here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Summer 2016: The Must-Sees of the Season

Captain America: Civil War is just around the corner. (I liked it.) So now seems a fine time to preview the summer movie season. For The New Republic, Will and I wrote about 15 films worth putting on your radar. (I'm going to hope for the best with the new Ghostbusters.) Check it out.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Elvis, Nixon, Warren Beatty and Lisbeth Salander

Many things to dig into in this week's edition of the Grierson & Leitch podcast. We review Elvis & Nixon. I speak briefly about The Huntsman: Winter's War and A Hologram for the King. And then we feature two films in our Reboot segment: The Parallax View and David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I was glad to see Tattoo again, by the way -- that movie really is exceptional. You can hear the whole podcast here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

'What the Flick?!': Talking 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' and 'Green Room'

I was very happy to guest-star on What the Flick?! with my pal Christy Lemire to review The Huntsman: Winter's War and Green Room. I was, however, unhappy with Christy because she made me see Winter's War for the show.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince and 'The Beautiful Ones'

I was away for my anniversary weekend, so I didn't have a chance to post this on Friday. For Rolling Stone, I wrote about my favorite thing Prince ever did, which was his performance of "The Beautiful Ones" from Purple Rain. His estate blocked the video my editors posted from the film, but hopefully you'll still get the idea.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince's Sensual, Spiritual Sexual Life

For MEL, I wrote down some thoughts about how Prince's embrace of sex opened up a whole new world for pop music. In the process, he taught us all how to embrace our sensual/carnal side -- and also how to really live. You can read my essay here. (Oh, and I have another Prince-related piece coming soon.)

The Mountain Goats - "No Children"

On February 24, 2003, about a month before I started dating her, I was emailing with my wife, who was just a friend at the time. But when I look at this email now, dear god, clearly I liked this gal. I don't spend this much time writing to somebody who doesn't mean a thing to me.

Anyway, we were chatting back and forth about several things. And in the midst of all that, I wrote this...

One of the great things about reviewing albums is that I often get my ears opened to music I wouldn't catch otherwise. Take the Mountain Goats, which is really just one guy. His new album is, basically, a concept album about a fictional married couple. They've been together for a few years, but things are falling apart -- they drink too much, they fight too much, etc. So, in order to save the marriage, they decide to take a road trip. "Tallahassee" is about how the whole thing goes wrong.

It's a great record -- I'm a sucker for marriage albums, since they are done so rarely. More often, music is about oh-I-love-you-and-you-love-me. Or, it's oh-I-love-you-but-you-don't-love-me. Not very often do you get something with much depth, that looks at a romance that's lasted more than a few passionate months.

Anyway, I love it. But it's depressing as hell. And it's not like I can stop listening to it -- I've got a job to do. But how often can I absorb these lyrics from the angry, fed-up husband to his wife:

I hope that our few remaining friends
Give up on trying to save us
I hope we come up with a fail-safe plot
To piss off the dumb few that forgave us

I hope the fences we mended
Fall down beneath their own weight
And I hope we hang on past the last exit
I hope it's already too late

And I hope the junkyard a few blocks from here
Someday burns down
And I hope the rising black smoke carries me far away
And I never come back to this town again     

In my life   
I hope I lie
and tell everyone you were a good wife
And I hope you die
I hope we both die

I hope I cut myself shaving tomorrow
I hope it bleeds all day long
Our friends say it's darkest before the sun rises
We're pretty sure they're all wrong

I hope it stays dark forever
I hope the worst isn't over
And I hope you blink before I do
Yeah I hope I never get sober

And I hope when you think of me years down the line
You can't find one good thing to say
And I'd hope that if I found the strength to walk out
You'd stay the hell out of my way

I am drowning
There is no sign of land
You are coming down with me
Hand in unlovable hand
And I hope you die
I hope we both die

Great, stirring stuff. That's one advantage music has over movies -- it compresses life perfectly into two minutes and 45 seconds.

I was speaking, of course, of Tallahassee and quoting from "No Children." Thankfully, my email did not scare the hell out of this woman. In fact, 10 years ago today, she married me. I am grateful every day for that. And I am also grateful that our marriage has never, ever resembled "No Children."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Short History of Great Pothead Characters

Because it is 4/20, let us now toast the cinematic stoners. Noel Murray and I had mucho fun putting together this very silly list for Rolling Stone.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'The Jungle Book' and 'The Shawshank Redemption'

This week's episode of the New Republic podcast is full of movies. We debate The Jungle Book and why I don't like it. I talk about Green Room and Sing Street, two very different films about bands. And for our special Reboot segment, we give The Shawshank Redemption a second look. Enjoy!