Friday, October 02, 2015

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Martians, Tightrope Walkers and Malala

I was on KCRW today (alongside Miri Jedeikin) to talk about this weekend's releases: The Martian, The Walk, Freeheld and He Named Me Malala. You can hear the whole thing here.

'Jafar Panahi's Taxi' Review

Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films by the Iranian government -- and he just keeps on making 'em, anyway. His latest, Jafar Panahi's Taxi, comes across as a documentary, but it's actually scripted, the director playing himself as he drives around Tehran in a cab picking up passengers. A simple concept, but a pretty rich execution. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Rhett Miller - "Come Around"

Are you ready for the most action-packed video of 2002? Here's my favorite song off The Instigator, the second solo album from Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller. If this track speaks to you, seek medical attention immediately.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Interview With Ellen Page

I had a great time hanging out with Ellen Page to talk about her new movie, Freeheld, which opens Friday. She and I discussed her Canadian upbringing, why she prefers muted performances, and how life has been for her since she came out February of last year. Plus, we talk a little surfing. My cover story is live over at Backstage.

Giving the Greatest Directors a Filmmaking Challenge

For the latest Criticwire survey, Sam Adams asks what directors we'd love to see be forced to put aside their usual tricks when making their latest film. (Yes, the question is reminiscent of the great Five Obstructions.) I tweaked the question slightly for my response, writing about my fascination with filmmakers who go to foreign lands to tell their stories. You can read my answer (and everyone else's) here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

'The Walk' Review

Man on Wire was the first time I ever got dizzy in a theater. Watching the Oscar-winning documentary in a screening room, I got panicky when they showed the actual photos from Philippe Petit's World Trade Center walk, viscerally imagining what would happen if he had fallen from such a great height. (Bear in mind that I knew for a fact that he hadn't fallen: Just the thought of it terrified me.) So I was curious how The Walk, a feature version of the incident, would play for me. The 3D IMAX is damn impressive. As for the rest of it...... well, my review is up at Deadspin.

'The Martian' Review

Matt Damon is not having a great couple weeks on the publicity tour for The Martian, but his performance is nonetheless pretty darn affecting. Like a mixture of All Is Lost and Apollo 13, this sci-fi survival drama is light on psychological depth, but it's one engrossing procedural as NASA tries to figure out how to bring a stranded astronaut home. My review is up at Paste.

Evaluating Trevor Noah After His First 'Daily Show'

Low expectations may have helped Trevor Noah, who took over for the beloved Jon Stewart as the new host of The Daily Show. A relative unknown, Noah came across as charming, self-effacing and funny, while leaving the show's familiar format basically unchanged. He wasn't swinging for the fences -- he just wanted to get the ball in play. He succeeded handily, as I explain in my Rolling Stone recap.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

'Quantico' Review

I understand that one shouldn't take a show like Quantico too seriously. Deeply soapy and filled with sexy, beautiful people, this ABC drama is meant to be guilty-pleasure eye candy. But does it have to be so dumb at the same time? My review is up at The Wrap.

Friday, September 25, 2015

On the Great 'Mississippi Grind'

I first saw Mississippi Grind back at Sundance, and today it opens in New York. (It's also available on DirecTV, and it'll be expanding across the country.) Though its outline is familiar -- two gamblers go on the road -- it find this movie awfully affecting. My review is up at Deadspin.

Let's Rank Robert De Niro's Comedies

Over at Vulture, Will and I took on the unenviable task of sifting through Robert De Niro's outright comedies. (In other words, we're not talking The King of Comedy or Silver Linings Playbook.) So, yeah, it's kinda depressing -- a lot of dreck there -- but we are brave, hearty souls, and so we dove in. Here's what we came up with.

Kendrick Lamar - "These Walls"

It's only late September, but if I had to make a prediction about the front-runner for Pazz & Jop, I'd have to go with Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. (Of course, considering how poorly I did with my last Pazz & Jop forecast, maybe you should ignore me.)

"These Walls" hasn't been released yet as a single from the album, which surprises me. Smooth, melodic but no less lyrically complex than Pimp's other tracks, "These Walls" is a change-of-pace highlight of the disc, moving between sex and incarceration to examine different types of "walls."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

'The Intern' Review

Robert De Niro is the best part of The Intern, which is a pretty charming, totally disposable comedy about aging, career ambition and Restoration Hardware production design. In fact, this might be my favorite of writer-director Nancy Meyers' films, which isn't saying much. I reviewed the movie for Deadspin.

'Limitless' Review

You (perhaps) enjoyed the 2011 Bradley Cooper thriller Limitless -- now here comes the CBS spin-off. Only the pilot was made available to me by the network, but I enjoyed what I saw. But if the series is going the direction I think it is, I'm a little less enthusiastic about its future prospects. My review is up at The Wrap.

Monday, September 21, 2015

'Minority Report' Review

Set about 10 years after Steven Spielberg's sci-fi/thriller, Fox's Minority Report series kicks off tonight. I've seen the pilot and ... well, I was underwhelmed. (And I do give the show extra points for casting Stark Sands, who's so good in Inside Llewyn Davis.) My review is up at The Wrap.

Toronto 2015: 'Anomalisa' Review

The best film I saw at this year's Toronto Film Festival was Anomalisa, a stop-motion animation written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman. Here's what I said about it as I was walking out of the theater...

...and now here's my review at Paste.