Wednesday, December 26, 2007


John Sayles is one of America's real filmmaking treasures. His newest film, Honeydripper, isn't one of his finest, but it's worth seeking out.

Friday, December 21, 2007

national treasure: book of secrets

More of the same from Nicolas Cage and the gang as they run around the world lookin' for clues. My review appears at Screen International.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

daft punk

Bummed you missed Daft Punk on their latest highly-praised tour? Want to know what it was felt and sounded like? You might try Alive 2007, their new concert disc. Just don't expect it to totally replicate the live experience.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

hal holbrook speaks

The veteran character actor gives one of his best performances in writer-director Sean Penn's Into the Wild. In the midst of the Oscar buzz swirling around him, I sat down with the man, 82 years young, for an interview, which can be found at L.A. Weekly. We discussed his process, his past, and the acting advice his wife always gives him before tackling a new project.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

rosa parks

The song, not the woman. Anyway, if you're curious how Outkast came up with their signature tune, wonder no more: I profile its origins in the latest Blender.

Friday, December 07, 2007

christopher plummer's oscar grab

Man in the Chair is one of those mediocre films which only seems to exist so as to give some venerable actor an outside shot at an Academy Award. Christopher Plummer supporters should give up hope now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the walker

One of Woody Harrelson's best performances goes to waste in writer-director Paul Schrader's new mystery-drama.

Monday, December 03, 2007

simon lebon is the man

That was my impression, anyway, after interviewing him for Blender.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

chris brown

R&B singer Chris Brown, a tape recorder, and I all got together down at the Venice boardwalk to take a little Blender personality test. The results can be read here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

divine intervention

If a movie has its heart in the right place, does that make up for a miniscule budget, so-so acting, and a weak script. In the case of Divine Intervention, a religious-themed romantic comedy, the answer is no.

Monday, November 26, 2007

bob dylan or amy adams?

I'm Not There or Enchanted? I say try 'em both. The two films lead my latest Consumables column, which also features reviews of Margot at the Wedding, American Gangster, Redacted, and other award-hungry films.

Friday, November 23, 2007


The Timothy Olyphant action movie (based on the popular Hitman video game) is decent, but not great. Its core audience will eat it up, but no one else will care. My review appears at Screen International.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

bob dylan on film

In L.A. Weekly, I discuss the movies Dylan has made about his own legacy: Eat the Document, Renaldo and Clara, and Masked and Anonymous. None of them are as terrific as I'm Not There, but they're an illuminating bunch nonetheless.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

lcd soundsystem

45:33 was a project LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy put together for Nike: a long instrumental suite of songs that joggers could listen to while running. Now available commercially, the album has its merits but isn't quite primo LCD.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

mr. magorium's wonder emporium

The movie's title is a mouthful, but Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium is a really special family film, anchored by a terrific performance from Natalie Portman. My review is at Screen International.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

me on no country for old men

My review appears here as part of my Consumables column. Also in there: my thoughts on Lars and the Real Girl, The Assassination of Jesse James, Thurston Moore's solo album, and more.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

no country for old men and the coen brothers

After you've seen No Country for Old Men and digested it fully, proceed immediately to David Edelstein's terrific dissection of the Coens' oeuvre in New York.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

afi film festival: the final weekend

AFI wraps up on Sunday, but there are still some worthwhile films left on the slate. Here's a rundown at the L.A. Weekly, including two reviews from yours truly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

radiohead's new album

Has the hype over In Rainbows died down yet? Can we discuss the album on its own terms? Great -- here's my review.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

somebody help martin freeman

Martin Freeman, you may recall, was the lovelorn nice guy in the original version of The Office. He seemed destined to break out after that celebrated sitcom, but it hasn't happened yet. He stars in The Good Night, the feature debut of Gwyneth Paltrow's brother Jake. Freeman is decent in it, but he needs to find better material.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

michael clayton and the amazing george clooney

If you want proof that I'm not one of those critics who hates everything that comes his way, check out my latest Consumables column, where I liked all nine things I wrote about, which includes Michael Clayton, The Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Bruce Springsteen's Magic, and M.I.A.'s Kala.

Monday, October 29, 2007

saw iv

At this point, you're either someone who watches ever Saw sequel or someone who badmouths the whole franchise. That sorta makes a film critic-proof, huh? Nonetheless, here's my take on Saw IV (as well as the whole series, really).

Friday, October 26, 2007

roger ebert nails grindhouse

It's been a delight to have Roger Ebert back reviewing movies every Friday; we had lost his distinctive critical voice for several months while he fought cancer. As if his full slate of new movies isn't enough, though, he's also been writing a new piece each week on a movie he missed while recovering. These reviews have allowed him an opportunity I think many critics would like to have: a chance to evaluate a movie long after its hype has died down and the pressures to file a review on deadline have expired.

A perfect example is today's piece on Grindhouse, a film that many critics I respect and admire loved back in the spring but which didn't do much for me. Ebert, blessed with perspective and his usual writing talent, sizes up the movie so clearly that his conclusions help explain not only why this B-movie double bill is terribly flawed but also why it didn't end up as any kind of box-office hit. Read his review here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

black irish

Writer-director Brad Gann's Black Irish takes on one of the cinema's most overdone dramatic territories: the suffering Irish family. My review is at the L.A. Weekly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

a film about jimmy carter

Man From Plains, a Jonathan Demme documentary about Jimmy Carter, is one of the best films of the year. But it's about more than just the former president -- a lot more. My review appears here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

the season of joy division

Ian Curtis has been dead for 27 years now, but his old band's legacy still looms large. Control, a film about Curtis directed by Anton Corbijn, drew raves at Cannes and is now making its way across the country. My review appears at L.A. Weekly.

ac/dc: their hidden gems

If you just know "You Shook Me All Night Long" and "Back in Black," then enjoy my analysis of some of AC/DC's lesser-known tracks at VH1. (Hint: Most of 'em have something to do with sex.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

joni mitchell

Shine, her new record, isn't a galvanizing return to form, but if you give the disc some time, its beauty can sneak up on you.

chamillionaire doesn't drink or smoke

Those were just two things I found out about the "Ridin' Dirty" rapper in my recent interview with him for Blender.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

band of horses

Cease to Begin is the South Carolina band's second album -- it's even more lovely than their first. My review appears at Blender.

Friday, October 12, 2007

the kite runner

The award-seeking adaptation of the Khaled Hosseini novel won't be arriving in theaters until December, but my review is up now at Screen International.

kid rock talks to me

To promote his new album, Rock N Roll Jesus, Kid Rock sat down for an interview with me. The results can be found at Blender.

the final season

Another inspirational baseball film? I'm afraid so, but The Final Season has its heart in the right place at least. If it's on cable, give it 15 minutes or so. My L.A. Weekly review appears here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

baby elephant

Turn My Teeth Up! is the name of the new album from Baby Elephant, a collaboration between hip-hop producer Prince Paul (of De La Soul fame) and keyboardist Bernie Worrell (of Parliament-Funkadelic fame). It's an uneasy mixture of oddball humor and sincere testimonials to Worrell's legacy. My review appears in the Metro Times.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

blender's 40 worst lyricists in rock

Yup, Blender magazine picked Sting as rock music's worst lyricist. But who were the other 39? The link to the piece, which I helped contribute to, is here.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

bergman at the new beverly

If you've never seen Cries and Whispers or Autumn Sonata, now's your chance: Ingmar Bergman's harrowing family dramas screen at the New Beverly this weekend. My musings on both films appear in L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

lake of fire

Filmmaker Tony Kaye's abortion documentary Lake of Fire opens this weekend in New York. It's an affecting but imperfect work. My review appears here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

bruce springsteen returns

The Boss is back with his new album, Magic. In honor of the occasion, I look back at Springsteen's greatest non-hits for VH1.

Monday, October 01, 2007

kanye west

Graduation, the new record from Kanye West, heads my latest Consumables column. Also included: reviews of Into the Wild, Justice, Beck's "Timebomb" single, The King of Kong and more.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 and blackstreet in blender

The new Blender with Kanye West on the cover has hit newsstands. I've got three pieces in there, but two are online currently: my interview with the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am and my look back at the making of the great Blackstreet jam "No Diggity."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

feast of love

Director Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer) returns with Feast of Love, a serio-comic look at relationships across age, race, and gender. Morgan Freeman and others do decent work, but it's all for naught.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Just a reminder that a truly terrible movie can be made about a very important subject, Trade, a horrendous drama about underground sex trafficking, opens this weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

good luck chuck

Dane Cook looks uncomfortable, Jessica Alba is no comedienne. At least the penguins are cute.

Monday, September 17, 2007

in the shadow of the moon

The documentary about NASA's '60s adventure is worth seeing. So are a bunch of other goodies included in this week's Consumables, including Sunshine, 2 Days in Paris, and Deep Water.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

moving mcallister

Some might say I was overly harsh in my review of Moving McAllister, a feeble road movie that represents all that's wrong with so-called "independent cinema." I think I was just being honest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

great world of sound

Great World of Sound, a smart sad little indie about con men trying to trick aspiring musicians into forking over their hard-earned money in hopes of a record deal, opens this weekend in New York. My review appears in The Village Voice.

Friday, September 07, 2007

the brothers solomon

Will Arnett, Will Forte and Kristen Wiig have all been funny in the past, and they'll be funny in the future. But in The Brothers Solomon, they're mostly just marking time.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The duo Earlimart specialize in a studio-enhanced indie pop. Their latest album, Mentor Tormentor, evokes the dreary side of L.A.'s suburban sprawl in lovely ways.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ben affleck: director

Gone Baby Gone is the directorial debut of Ben Affleck. If you're someone who automatically dismisses him as a lightweight, you probably didn't see his underrated performance in Hollywoodland and you'll probably want to skip this crime drama as well. But while Gone Baby Gone has a strong feel for Boston's working poor, the film overall is a bit of a mixed bag.

Friday, August 31, 2007

ladrón que roba a ladrón

This Spanish-language heist film is targeted toward mainstream Latino audiences, but I can't help but think, "Hey, couldn't you come up with something better than a Ocean's Eleven knockoff with a smidgen of (rather timid) social commentary?"

Thursday, August 30, 2007

shoot 'em up

This ultraviolent, cheekily irreverent action thriller starring Clive Owen is strictly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. I'm with the lovers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Congratulations: You've come to the blog of the only film critic in the world who actually liked War, the not-screened-for-reviews action thriller starring Jet Li and Jason Statham. My well-worded defense of the film is at Screen International.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

balls of fury

Perhaps you're on the fence about whether to invest your hard-earned dollars on Balls of Fury. Let me help make up your mind for you.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Kinski are a band from Seattle that specializes in instrumental avant-rock. Don't be scared by that description: They're actually pretty great. Down Below It's Chaos is their latest.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

closing escrow

When on vacation, my wife and I have a guilty pleasure: watching HGTV in our hotel room for hours. (Scandalous, I know.) It's easy to understand what's so compulsively watchable about the network's shows: These days, who isn't obsessed with real estate, its value, and its upkeep?

Closing Escrow, a film that opens this Friday, would seem to be perfectly situated to satirize that world, as the mockumentary follows three young couples on their misadventures through Los Angeles trying to find their dream home. But the unfunny movie barely has a brain in its head.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the new pornographers' new album

Challengers is the fourth album from the Canadian power-pop collective. My review appears in the new issue of Under the Radar, the indie-minded music magazine. If you're looking for just a one-sentence synopsis of my feelings on it, check here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

the simpsons movie

At long last, after much worrying and cynical naysaying, The Simpsons Movie comes to us. So what did I think? Check here -- and also see my reviews of The Bourne Ultimatum, Spoon's latest album, and a great new theater piece called Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings.

Monday, August 20, 2007

foo fighters: a fond look back

The Colour and the Shape just celebrated its 10th anniversary with a new reissue, including bonus tracks. Idolator may not see the point, but I nevertheless reviewed it quite favorably over at Blender.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

death at a funeral

Discriminating comedy audiences may be hoping that Death at a Funeral, director Frank Oz's British farce, will be a respite from dumb Hollywood product. Which, I suppose, it is. But that doesn't make it worth seeking out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

howards end

The Academy, as part of its "Great To Be Nominated" series, will be showing a 70mm print of Howards End on Monday, August 20. My appreciation runs in this week's LA Weekly.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

daddy day camp

It's not a question of whether or not Daddy Day Camp is good -- it's a matter of just how bad it is. The answers are here.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

looking ahead to football season

With the St. Louis Cardinals' chances for making the playoffs looking dimmer and dimmer, let's focus on the St. Louis Rams for a moment instead. I've written a preview of their upcoming season at Deadspin.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

rush hour 3 and rocket science

Both films open this Friday, catering to much different audiences. But these two movies suffer from the same problem of diminishing returns: Rush Hour 3 is but a pale shadow of its funnier first installment, while Rocket Science rides the coattails of an indie sensibility perfected in earlier films like Rushmore.

Monday, August 06, 2007

harry potter versus el-p

It wouldn't even be a fair fight: El-P would pound that sniveling little wizard. Both reside in this week's Consumables, as do reviews of La Vie en Rose and the abysmal Transformers.

Friday, August 03, 2007

no end in sight

At long last, No End in Sight, the exceptional documentary about the failures of the Bush administration in Iraq, comes to Los Angeles. My review from earlier this summer appears here.

underdog is here

If you have small children in your life, the chances are good they're dying to see Underdog, the new Walt Disney movie based on the old '60s cartoon. If you're forced to go with them, you'll have an OK time -- a ringing endorsement, I know.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

woody allen, ace film critic

Ingmar Bergman died this week, and of all the terrific appreciations of the filmmaker that have popped up since, the best probably comes from 20 years ago. Reviewing Bergman's autobiography, The Magic Lantern, in The New York Times, Woody Allen (a Bergman acolyte) discusses the man's body of work with an enthusiasm and insight that's unparalleled. Woody wasn't trying to be pretentious when he talked about how great Bergman was; he understood him to his bones.

The 1988 piece appears here. (Warning: Formatting issues cause the ending of the article to get a little wonky.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007


The Shakespeare in Love of romantic comedy-dramas about the young life of the French playwright Moliere. But not as good.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

no end in sight: the interview

Charles Ferguson, the writer and director of the great new documentary No End in Sight, talks to me about the film in this week's LA Weekly.

Friday, July 13, 2007


The greatest movie Woody Allen ever made returns with a new print for one week in New York starting today. The Village Voice's J. Hoberman may not be an Allen enthusiast, but his recent reevaluation of the movie is the best assessment of it I can think of.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

snow patrol

The Glasgow band is taking one more trip across America this summer. I preview their latest tour.

falling out of love with the simpsons

I ask every Simpsons fan in my life the same question: How do you think the movie will be? They all have the same response: They grimace, fearing the worst. I'm the same way. The show hasn't been great in years, so it's hard to imagine that the movie won't be a embarrassing final nail in the coffin.

Ian Jones has a great piece in The Guardian about this shared dread among longtime fans. I imagine my friends will nod their head in agreement while reading this.

talk to me

Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor are both quite good in this filmic re-creation of the life of 1960s DJ Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr., but the film itself follows the biopic conventions a little too generically.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins Songs

Yup, they're back. Billy Corgan is taking the '90s alt-rockers back on the road in support of a new album. Thanks to the fine folks at, here's my look back at 10 classic songs from their heyday.


I taste-test the latest Pixar film in Consumables. I also take on Interview, Ocean's Thirteen, and the new albums from Amy Winehouse and Feist.

Friday, July 06, 2007

the bitter truth

"Someday, the Bush era may come to seem like a bad dream, a shameful, inexplicable interlude in American history. We're right to be outraged by Bush and Cheney, but we should also save a bit of outrage for when we look in the mirror."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

introducing the dwights

Happy 4th, everyone. If you're in the mood for an Australian coming-of-age dramedy about a crazy showbiz family, you're in luck.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

license to wed

It's John Krasinski vs. Robin Williams in this painfully unfunny romantic comedy.

And I have a question to all the married/engaged couples out there: Have any recent Hollywood movies gotten even remotely close to capturing what it's really like to be in a long-term relationship? I can't think of a one.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

edward yang, 1947-2007

There are two movies I adore that I won't let my wife watch until they run on the big screen. In the time we've been together, they've never shown in a theater in Los Angeles. Not once. One is Hoop Dreams. The other is Yi Yi.

Yi Yi, written and directed by Edward Yang, opened in the dead of winter in December 2000. I had just returned to town from seeing my family over the holidays and had noticed that the film's short run was going to be ending the next day. I had to work and catch up on things I missed while I was gone, but I had heard enough good stuff about the film that I decided I needed to see it, no matter its three-hour running time and my general lack of pep.

The movie is about a family in Taiwan, and it looks at three generations who live together under the same roof. I love great ensemble pieces for their ability to interweave several characters into one narrative to better illustrate the complexities of daily life, the comings and goings of people, and the different perspectives different people can bring to the larger world. That’s all there in Yi Yi, and it absolutely floored me. It's smart, it's funny, it's moving, it's romantic, it's plainly terrific. In this young century, I haven't seen a better film.

I haven't seen it since, wanting to wait until it showed up at one of our great repertory theaters: the New Beverly, the Egyptian, the Aero, LACMA's Bing Theater. I balked on checking out its new Criterion DVD because I always prefer a movie in the theater experience, surrounded by other people. Especially a movie that’s as generous and open-hearted and communal as Yi Yi.

I ran into Edward Yang once after I had seen the film. I tend not to approach filmmakers or celebrities, but I had to make an exception in this case. He had made a film I absolutely loved. And I just had to thank him.

I just read that he died of colon cancer here in Los Angeles. I am ashamed I never got around to seeing his earlier films as I promised myself I would. I can only assume that with his passing, they will get back into circulation. And my wife will finally get to see Yi Yi.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

ghosts of cite soleil

This documentary about power, poverty, and gangs in the Haitian slums opens today in New York. It's not a pretty picture, but it's one worth seeking out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

the hidden gems of elvis costello

Elvis Costello is on the road this summer to promote his new reissues, The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years and Rock and Roll Music. Over at VH1, I take a look into his lesser-known but still worthy album cuts and outtakes. It was hard cutting my list down to just 10 tracks.

Monday, June 25, 2007

white stripes

Icky Thump is easily the band's loudest record. It's also one of their best. Elsewhere in Consumables, I take on Wilco, Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M.'s cover of a John Lennon song.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

los angeles film festival

While we can lament that 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days was a last-minute scratch, the Los Angeles Film Festival starts tonight and there are plenty of worthy films to see. Here's but a sampling.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

you kill me

Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni make for a fun (if unlikely) romantic pairing in You Kill Me, an offbeat hit-man comedy from director John Dahl.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

casting about

Actors' audition tapes for a fiction film instead become the raw material for Casting About, a documentary about the auditioning process itself. I thought it was thought-provoking, but I wonder what actors will think of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

eagle vs. shark

This Sundance romantic comedy doesn't know if it loves or hates its nerdy characters. I feel the same way about it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

brand upon the brain!

The Guy Maddin silent-film spectacular hits Los Angeles. I cover the event in Consumables, and also tackle Arcade Fire, Knocked Up, Once and a litany of other delights.

Friday, June 08, 2007

hostel: part ii

Give writer-director Eli Roth credit for adding some new wrinkles to his Hostel sequel. But not too much credit.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

chris cornell

The onetime frontman of Soundgarden is back with his second solo album. I don't dislike Cornell in his introspective guise, but Carry On could have used a little more muscle. And fewer Michael Jackson covers.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


The newest animated film from director Satoshi Kon is beloved by everyone. Except me.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Based on Elizabeth Shue's childhood experience of playing soccer in boys-only leagues, Gracie is a bit of a family affair. After watching this sports film, I'm assuming the real story was a little more interesting.

Friday, May 25, 2007

the police

Well, the long wait is over. The Police's reunion tour kicks off this weekend. To get you in the mood, here's a list of 10 hidden gems from the band.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

zz top takes the rock honors

VH1's annual Rock Honors program airs tonight, which includes a tribute to ZZ Top, who will be performing. For VH1's website, I looked back on the band's now 30-plus-year career. Click on this link and play along at home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

pirates of the caribbean: at world's end

This third Pirates is more ho-hum than yo ho ho.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

maroon 5 return

Make snide jokes all you want, but Maroon 5's new album, It Won't Be Soon Before Long, is actually pretty good.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

the corporation

Having recently seen No End in Sight, the terrific Iraq War documentary by Charles Ferguson, I was reminded of The Corporation, an equally meticulous and riveting nonfiction film from 2004 about the roles of corporations in our daily lives. It's been a while since I've seen it, but Jonathan Rosenbaum's terrific review brought it all back. What a great movie.

wilco v. son volt

I never thought I'd live to see the day when a music critic would actually dare to say he preferred Son Volt to Wilco. Bless you, Mark Mauer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

even money

A drama starring Forest Whitaker, Danny DeVito, Ray Liotta, Tim Roth, Carla Gugino, Kelsey Grammer, and Kim Basinger comes out today. Why have you not heard of it? Because it's not very good: Even Money is the Crash of gambling-addiction movies, for better and certainly for worse.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

luke wilson is wendell baker

The Wendell Baker Story, written and co-directed by Luke Wilson (who also stars), starts off so promisingly that it's even more disappointing when the whole film falls apart about halfway through.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

michael keaton returns

Michael Keaton is the star of The Last Time, a mediocre film that doesn't have enough confidence in its central theme and instead resorts to David Mamet tricks. It'll disappear to DVD soon enough.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

roger ebert teaches a lesson in class

As film critic Roger Ebert continues to recover from surgery, he tells of a bouquet of get-well flowers that came from a most unlikely person: Rob Schneider. His response to the gift touches on the common humanity that all critics share, and mostly shows what a decent, great guy Ebert really is.

28 weeks later

Loved the first one. But the new one is just so-so. Also in Consumables, I discuss Away From Her and new singles by the White Stripes, Avril Lavigne, and Interpol.

Friday, May 11, 2007


It's done like a mockumentary, but there's a lot of heart to Chalk, a great look inside the demanding world of high school teachers.

the salon

Hoping to grab the crowds who liked Barbershop, The Salon offers a similar milieu. If you can't get enough jokes about how white people are different than black people, by all means check it out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the hip hop project

The documentary The Hip Hop Project operates in the inspirational, make-a-difference genre. Savvy rap fans may quibble with some of the assertions made in the film, but by and large it's an affecting look at a group of young people trying to change their lives through some thoughtfully-versed rhymes. The film opens Friday, May 11.

Monday, May 07, 2007

steely dan: hidden gems

Steely Dan, the crown princes of '70s snark, just kicked off another summer tour. In honor of that wonderful news, here is a salute to 10 of their best songs most people don't know.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

another sad end to a lakers season

The Los Angeles Lakers lost in the first round, for the second straight year, to the Phoenix Suns. Two years into the new Phil Jackson era, I have to ask one more time: Why did he decide to come back? What has he added to his legacy? Why does he want this aggravation?

I was reminded of a piece I wrote almost two years ago with a fellow writer right before the Lakers announced that Jackson was coming back to coach the team. Other people were excited about his return. I was not.

I'm still not.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

hot fuzz

I loved Shaun of the Dead, but Edgar Wright's new film, Hot Fuzz, isn't up to the same level. Also in Consumables, I review Jindabyne, Red Road and the Shins live.

waitress: adrienne shelly's unexpected swan song

Waitress, starring a terrific Keri Russell, turned out to be writer-director-actor Adrienne Shelly's last film. (She was murdered in New York in the fall of 2006.) My review appears here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

the condemned

The Condemned is recommended to fans of bad reality television and professional wrestling. Hey, you've been warned.

Monday, April 23, 2007


When I got married a year ago, several of our great writers at The Simon offered me wedding advice. It was a real surprise and a treat at the time ... and it still is today.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Usually, describing a movie as a "creepy cockroach of a thriller" isn't high praise, but in the case of Vacancy, it's a glowing blurb.

Monday, April 16, 2007

what does jackie robinson day have to do with barry bonds?

A lot, says author Zev Chafets, and I have to agree with him.
Jackie Robinson Day is an exercise in racial public relations. Baseball desperately wants to repair its connection to the black community, whose younger generation seems to regard the national pastime as only slightly more relevant than curling.

Chafets argues that Barry Bonds could help repair that connection, but because sportswriters (and MLB commissioner Bud Selig) dislike him so much, they continue to turn away black fans, who get sick of seeing Bonds attacked for the same things white players like Babe Ruth were adored for doing back in the day.

I hate Bonds as much as the next guy, but the racial double standard in baseball is certainly noticeable.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Rear Window for the teen set? Probably, but it's an effective thriller with a surprising amount of brains and heart.

Monday, April 09, 2007

grindhouse: bloody, long

Grindhouse tops the list of items in my latest installment of Consumables. Also, I show much love to Killer Sheep and The Host and !!!.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

j. hoberman on killer of sheep

Charles Burnett's rarely-seen 1977 movie Killer of Sheep is finally getting a proper theatrical release. (It's playing at the Nuart through Thursday.) The Village Voice's J. Hoberman writes about the film's greatness -- there's no pointing pulling a quote because the whole piece is great and dead on the money.

Friday, April 06, 2007

fighting words

The world of spoken-word slam poetry is too interesting for filmmakers to resist, but thus far they've yet to do it justice. Fighting Words is but the latest example of this problem.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

kurt cobain: still dead, still missed

This piece was written for The Black Table three years ago to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide. I still agree with every word of it.


"My artwork and films are about responding to daily materials, conditions, tasks and/or gestures of people of African descent," experimental artist Kevin Jerome Everson says on his website. A collection of his films -- including the documentary-fiction hybrid Cinnamon, which will be having its Los Angeles premiere -- will be playing Monday, April 9 at REDCAT. My LA Weekly review appears here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

the tv set

Another satire on the banality of the entertainment industry? Yes, but writer-director Jake Kasdan's The TV Set has more depth than you might think.

Friday, March 30, 2007

let's go sailing

Her name is Shana Levy. She fronts a band called Let's Go Sailing. She lives in Los Angeles. Her new album, The Chaos in Order, is out now. It's darn good.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

after the wedding

I loved Susanne Bier's last film, Brothers, but her latest -- After the Wedding, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year -- isn't quite as amazing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

do film critics matter? (part 653,363)

I tend not to care too much about articles debating the relevance of film critics -- if you read film criticism, they are relevant; if you don't, they aren't -- but Lewis Beale in The Reeler has a well-balanced perspective on the matter. The comments after the piece are the usual collection of insightful and barely literate.

Monday, March 26, 2007

peyton manning, comic genius

Yes, Peyton Manning, a football player, was hilarious on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. I sing his praises in Consumables ... and also say nice things about LCD Soundsystem, the Silos, and Low.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

the hills have eyes 2

The sequel to last year's remake of the 1970s Wes Craven horror classic is a stunning artistic statement. OK, maybe not.

Friday, March 23, 2007

usc in the sweet sixteen

After impressive wins over Arkansas and Texas in the first two rounds of the NCAA college basketball tournament, the Trojans take on the North Carolina Tar Heels tonight. Here's all the info you'll need to get ready for tonight's game.

the prisoner or: how i planned to kill tony blair

It's hard to say when audiences' saturation point for Iraq War documentaries will come -- if it hasn't come already -- but The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair is one worth checking out. It opens in New York today before expanding to other parts of the country.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

adam sandler gets serious for reign over me

I loved Adam Sandler's dramatic turn in Punch-Drunk Love and I adored writer-director Mike Binder's prickly, moving The Upside of Anger. So the comedy-drama Reign Over Me, Binder's new film that stars Sandler, should be a slam dunk. Sadly, the movie goes awry for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

color me kubrick

Based on the true story of a Londoner's successful attempts during the 1990s to pose as famed film director Stanley Kubrick, Color Me Kubrick is a failed satire about our obsession with celebrity culture. Even though it was made by two people who worked closely with Kubrick, you can't help but wonder what the great master could have done with such potentially great material.

billy zane, odd as ever

Perhaps the only reason to see the silly thriller Memory, which opens this Friday, is to catch Billy Zane at his ironically loopy best. But that probably won't be enough enticement for most people.

Monday, March 19, 2007

teenage mutant ninja turtles

Yup, they're back -- and their new film, the animated TMNT, isn't half bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

tortilla heaven

George Lopez, Miguel Sandoval, and Lupe Ontiveros star in this low-budget religious comedy. Avoid like the plague.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

r.e.m. enters the rock and roll hall of fame

Looking around the Web for an appropriate piece that paid homage to R.E.M.'s greatness, I was left unsatisfied. So I turned to my man Robert Christgau. This article came out in '96 as a review of their underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi, but it serves as a nice little encapsulation of what the Athens band accomplished. It's at least as good as Eddie Vedder's induction speech.

fight on, trojans

USC's men's basketball team starts its NCAA tournament play Friday against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Here are three tidbits about the Trojan team, in case you're interested.

caffeine, the movie

Katherine Heigl fans may be curious to check out Caffeine, the 20-something ensemble comedy in which she co-stars. I'd advise against it, though.

time for a nap

I need no convincing about the importance of midday naps, but Louisa Thomas, part of the editorial staff of The New Yorker, lays out the argument in fine fashion nonetheless. Specifically, I love that she addresses the foolishness of demonizing naps:
I can't shake the sense that napping is slothful and decadent, for the lazy and weak. In a society that places a premium on the appearance of productivity -- even at the cost of actual productivity -- just the impression of wasted time is enough to damn the practice.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

fall out boy

Dedicated to always keeping an open mind, I review Fall Out Boy's new album, Infinity on High. The results? Read here .... along with my thoughts on Lily Allen, Zodiac, the Mountain Goats, and more.

Friday, March 09, 2007

captain america, RIP

Maybe only comic-book aficionados cared about the recent murder of Captain America in issue No. 25, but commentator Jacob Heilbrunn sees the iconic hero's death as symbolic of something deeper going on in the country: the realization that we're losing the war on terror.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

the ultimate gift

Fox Faith is a new subsidiary of 20th Century Fox that specializes in religious-themed films that espouse Christian values. The company's latest offering, The Ultimate Gift, ends up feeling more like a sermon than an entertainment.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

the brilliant zodiac

It's humbling and frustrating to realize that there's almost no point in writing a review when someone has articulated your points far better than you ever could. Such is the case with Owen Gleiberman's spot-on piece about David Fincher's terrific Zodiac.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

taking the academy to task -- with class

Great piece by John Sinno, producer of the Oscar-nominated Iraq in Fragments, on his disappointment with the Academy that they chose to let Jerry Seinfeld mockingly dismiss the Best Documentary nominees as "incredibly depressing" during his introduction.

Sinno does a commendable job of not coming across as a humorless grump -- and he makes several good points, including the fact that the Iraq War was never mentioned once during the broadcast.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

wild hogs

Tim Allen + John Travolta + Martin Lawrence + William H. Macy + homophobic jokes = a disaster.

Monday, February 26, 2007

a woeful oscar night

I didn't have a problem with the winners, but the broadcast was one of the weakest in recent memory. Elsewhere in Consumables, reviews of new albums by the Shins and Clipse, new singles from Timbaland and Modest Mouse. Plus, a look at Mike Judge's Idiocracy.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Back by popular demand, I'll be teaching in March at the Writing Pad. The topic? Getting Your Name in Print.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

field music

Two XTC-loving British brothers are the songwriting team behind Field Music. Their new album, Tones of Town, is so endlessly catchy that you may not notice that the band doesn't have much to say.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Neko Case: Live in Concert

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, gorgeous and atmospheric, was my favorite album of last year, but I was curious to hear how Neko Case would translate the songs in a live setting. I needn't have worried.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

babel and for your consideration: two examples of what's wrong with this year's oscar season

Great piece in the Los Angeles Times from film critic Dennis Lim. In his DVD column called "A Second Look," he uses the video release of Babel and For Your Consideration to discuss how Oscar season has become a nearly unending celebration to self-importance. For Your Consideration doesn't do enough to mock that celebration, Lim says, while Babel represents the sort of overblown "message movie" that's become a staple of the season.

amazing grace

Director Michael Apted's film, Amazing Grace, about Britain's battle to end the African slave trade in the 18th century, boasts a strong lead performance by Ioan Gruffudd. The rest of the movie, however, is a bit of a snore.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

money, baby

Doug Limon and Jon Favreau's (and also, really, Vince Vaughn's) 1996 film Swingers is perhaps the quintessential L.A.-in-the-'90s movie, a very funny, very touching look at male bonding and the singles scene. Swingers will be playing Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Aero. Screening info is here. My appreciation of the film for LA Weekly is here.

the broken west

This Los Angeles-based band has a new record, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On. Let the Big Star and Teenage Fanclub comparisons begin.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

oscar-nominated shorts

The five Best Live Action Short and five Best Animation Short nominees will be screening in select theaters this weekend. Here's my review.

a valentine to james brown

In honor of Black History Month, here's my appreciation of the late, great James Brown, who died on Christmas Day, for VH1.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

hannibal rising

It's even worse than you imagined.

top ten albums and singles of 2006

The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music poll is out. My top tens appear here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

foreign-language films that didn't make the oscar cut

France's Avenue Montaigne, Kazakhstan's Nomad (The Warrior) and Bosnia-Herzegovina's Grbavica all missed the cut for this year's list of nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Were they robbed? Click on the titles for my reviews

Friday, February 02, 2007

can mr. smith get to washington anymore?

If you find yourself in downtown L.A. this weekend and you're hungry for a good political documentary, check out Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? Here's my review.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

top ten movies of 2006

I've been meaning to put this up for a week, but writing deadlines and real-life obligations got in the way. But here they are ... links lead to my original reviews for each film.

1. The House of Sand
2. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
3. United 93
4. The Departed
5. The Child/L'Enfant
6. The Queen
7. Borat
8. The Puffy Chair
9. Children of Men
10. Letters From Iwo Jima

Thursday, January 25, 2007

jennifer garner has a not-so-good cry

Catch and Release is writer-director Susannah Grant's ambitious attempt at melding the tear-jerker and the romantic comedy. But Alias star Jennifer Garner is miscast. Then again, the film has bigger problems than that.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

the hitcher

Is The Hitcher as bad as you imagine? Honestly, it may be worse.

Friday, January 19, 2007

iraq and darfur: two tales of suffering

What's the difference between Iraq and Darfur? Nothing, says writer David Bosco, and that's the problem:
It's natural that Americans would yearn for a simpler and clearer conflict than Iraq to showcase their humanitarian impulses. But our concern for Darfur must not become a moral salve that allows us to abandon Iraq to its spasm of violence. There may be no blameless factions in Iraq, but there are thousands of ordinary victims. Unless it is clear that we are doing no good, we owe them more.

Friday, January 12, 2007

don't just laugh -- do something

Great piece from Courtney E. Martin in the Baltimore Sun who suggests that, while shows like The Daily Show are a great outlet for our collective disgust at the state of the world (and the Bush administration), we should be doing more than just laughing:

I'm not advocating boycotting sweet Jon [Stewart] or leaving The Onion to rot. I am reminding us all, especially the young and appropriately outraged, not to let our laughter soothe our social conscience. We should be so uncomfortable with the state of things that we can't idly sit by, giggling at our daily dose of fake news and then falling asleep.

In this side-splittingly hypocritical country, you are entitled to the pursuit of happiness - so go ahead, laugh. But please, refrain from laughing until "it don't hurt no more." It should hurt. It should hurt so badly that you have to get up from the couch and do something about it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

justin timberlake

It's not an unhealthy obsession -- I just respect the dude. OK?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

the new music poll on the block

Idolator's new Jackin' Pop Critics Poll means to dethrone the Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music poll as the authoritative best-of list for popular (and semi-popular) music. But for me, the real story is the excellent essay Jackin' overseer Michaelangelo Matos contributes as part of the poll. Its exhaustive sweep of the year's musical trends and its sharp analysis of the poll's results emulate the enthusiasm of deposed Pazz & Jop maestro Robert Christgau's yearly tome. But at the same time, Matos doesn't try to mimic the Dean's denser-than-dense writing style. Matos proves himself to be a writer with his own voice, and he shines here.

children of men and letters from iwo jima

Over at The Simon, I review several of the Oscar-hopeful films of the season. Other than Children of Men and Letters From Iwo Jima, though, it's pretty rough sledding out there.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Robert Wilson Speaks

The theater director, known for Einstein on the Beach and The Black Rider, stars in a new documentary about his life: Absolute Wilson. I spoke with him for LA Weekly.