Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Hail, Coens

In this week's episode of the podcast, Will and I talk at length about Hail, Caesar! while taking a little time to examine the corpse that is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Also, there's some football discussion. (Hey, we taped the episode before the Super Bowl.) Check it out right here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In Praise of the Two-Cassette VHS Movie

This was fun: For MEL, I did some deep research into an arcane piece of old home-entertainment memorabilia, the two-tape VHS movie. These were movies that were so long (The Sound of Music, JFK, Scarface) that they couldn't fit onto one tape. I took a look at 10 such films, breaking down their vital stats. (Where does the first tape end? Which tape is better? How much did it cost us to buy it on eBay?) Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

'Zoolander 2' Review

Look, folks, I didn't even like the first Zoolander, so what chance did the sequel have with me? Fifteen years later, Ben Stiller has brought back the old gang for a follow-up film that's truly, deeply meh. My review is up at Screen International.

'Where to Invade Next' Review

I have seen Where to Invade Next twice now, and both times I was convinced about halfway through that I wasn't going to be able to finish it. To be fair, Michael Moore's latest gets better in its second half, but I still find this exploration of how other countries do things better than the U.S. to be cutesy and insulting. No matter how moving the film can be on occasion, it doesn't matter, and that's entirely because of Moore. My review is up at The New Republic.

Monday, February 08, 2016

'Taxi Driver' at 40

The movie that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1976 turns 40 years old today. For Biography, I discuss how Taxi Driver is still very much part of the cinematic landscape. (In fact, last year's Palme d'Or winner shares an intriguing similarity.) You can read my piece right here.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

'Deadpool' Review

I imagine that at least one review of Deadpool is going to contain the line, "This ain't your dad's superhero movie!" or some such. This Ryan Reynolds vehicle wants to make sure you get that this is a snottier, coarser version of Iron Man or Captain America. People swear! A lot! And the violence is a lot more graphic! And the main character is kind of a jerk! Oh my!

I'm very torn about Deadpool. Overall, I think it's pretty darn funny, and I enjoyed the sarcastic, too-hip-for-the-room tone. But I also wish the film's comedic success rate was higher, and I wish the movie wasn't so darn pleased with its irreverent stance. It's a thumbs-up, with reservations. My review is live at Screen International.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Who's the Best Coen Brothers Character of All Time?

That's what the folks at Rolling Stone decided to figure out. I had no control over the rankings, but I contributed a few capsules to this list, including the character who landed at No. 1. Read the whole list right here.

'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Review

A few years ago, David O. Russell was going to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Think about how strange that would have been for a minute. (And think about the fact that, at one point, a horror-comedy was the direction in which he wanted to go.) Well, after many failed starts, the movie version of the hit 2009 novel is finally on the big screen. To which I say, "Hmm, well, OK." My review is live at The New Republic.

Father John Misty - "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)"

I've been thinking about Father John Misty's sophomore release I Love You, Honeybear ever since it came out, which is now almost exactly a year ago. A concept album about Mr. Misty (a.k.a. Josh Tillman) getting married, the record ought to be in my wheelhouse -- I'm unabashedly pro-love -- and yet Honeybear never quite clicked with me.

Why not? I gave the album a new bunch of spins lately after its strong showing in Pazz & Jop to maybe figure out why. Ultimately, I think Honeybear begins and ends beautifully, but the middle section sags under the weight of too many fussily-arranged tunes. It's a marriage album in which Tillman's cleverness sometimes outpaces his melodies or his insights. At its best, the record resembles something that Eels would do -- E has a penchant for utilizing concepts to give a collection of songs a structuring device -- but Honeybear's candid acknowledgment of the panic/excitement involved in saying "I do" is a bit too conceptual for my taste. Sentimentality can be wince-inducing, but so can manic, self-conscious irony.

That said, there are plenty of stunning tracks. "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" is one of them, and this bit always, always, always kills me...

First time you let me stay the night despite your own rules 
You took off early to go cheat your way through film school 
You left a note in your perfect script
"Stay as long as you want"
And I haven’t left your bed since

Thursday, February 04, 2016

'Horace and Pete' Review

Over the weekend, we got the surprise that Louis C.K. has been working on a new TV series, Horace and Pete, and that its first episode was available, like, now. For The Wrap, I reviewed the pilot, which is an intriguing, sometimes very engaging piece of old-school drama. Meant to feel like a theater piece, Horace and Pete is stagy, showy and also very interesting in terms of how it shows C.K.'s aesthetic projected into a new dramatic realm. My review is live now.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: My Report From Sundance

Over at The New Republic, Will and I chat a bit about my time at Sundance. I talk about Christine, Kate Plays Christine and The Birth of a Nation. More importantly, see if you can notice in my voice that a mammoth cold is about ready to consume me for the next several days. (Don't worry, I'm better now.) Check it out here.

My Interview With Alden Ehrenreich

Folks seeing Hail, Caesar! will recognize most of the A-list stars in the film. But then there's Alden Ehrenreich, a relative unknown who just about steals the movie with his subplot as a cowboy actor who has to appear in a witty romantic drama. (Spoiler: It doesn't go well.) For Rolling Stone, I spoke with Ehrenreich, who in his short life (he's 26) has already worked with the Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Warren Beatty. You can read it here.