Wednesday, December 31, 2008

erykah badu made the best album of 2008

And Jess Harvell of Idolator will tell you why:
Badu's self-dissection lacks the ego-engorged glibness of her college-spurning, casually misogynistic peer, and in a singularly shitty socioeconomic year, she sold down-and-out, day-to-day life as hard as she wagged a mystical finger at new jacks who paid more attention to strip clubs than stump speeches; dismissed consumption-drunk gangstas who name-checked while missing her point(s); and refuted an industry happy to squeeze modern African-American music through the current pinhole parameters of MTV Jams.
New Amerykah heads my list of the year's top ten albums of 2008. You can read the whole list here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

jarvis cocker: running the world

A perfect holiday song, don't ya think? After all, it was featured in Children of Men, which came out Christmas Day 2006. And, oh yeah, NSFW or, as the case may be, not safe for playing around your family and young children.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

bedtime stories

Oh, Adam Sandler. Sometimes, you can be so funny, and then sometimes you can do stuff like Bedtime Stories -- what gives? My review is at The Village Voice.

Monday, December 22, 2008

marley & me

Perhaps the nicest surprise of the holiday-movie season has been Marley & Me. I went in expecting just a cute-dog movie -- turns out it's more poignant and thoughtful than that. Put it this way -- it's way better than Bedtime Stories.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Neko Case - "Favorite"

Fan-shot concert footage on YouTube is my last resort when I'm trying to find worthy tracks for this Friday Video feature, but it's the best way to find Neko Case songs.

Middle Cyclone drops March 3. My expectations are a tad high.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

not hating seven pounds

If I get around to it, I'll write a review for Will Smith's new film, Seven Pounds, but in the meantime, I refer you all to David Poland's defense of the movie. I'm less interested in his attacking of film critics who have disparaged it, but I agree with him that Seven Pounds has more going for it than just being this winter's Pay It Forward or Sixth Sense.

Poland's theory that its critics would have more willingly accepted the film if it had been in a foreign language is questionable, though.

Monday, December 15, 2008

yes man

In Yes Man, Jim Carrey plays a man who decides to say "yes" to everything that comes into his life. It's a decent comedy, but Carrey is stuck between playing the goofy slapstick comedian of his early career and the sensitive leading man of his Eternal Sunshine period. My review of Yes Man is here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

the raconteurs: old enough

The Raconteurs' second album, Consolers of the Lonely, got dismissed a little too quickly, in my judgment. It's a less immediate record than the band's first, Broken Boy Soldiers, but I think it's a stronger collection. So, here's "Old Enough" from Consolers.

the day the earth stood still

I love the original 1951 sci-fi film. As for this new version of The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves? Read on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

frost/nixon

In the latest Consumables, I review ...

Frost/Nixon
Doubt
Wendy and Lucy
Gran Torino
Che
Milk
Changeling
Australia
Bolt

... so have at it.

dragon hunters

Cartoon Network junkies may remember the short-lived French animated show Dragon Hunters. The series has been turned into a film now -- but not a very good one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

dark streets

The blues and jazz songs that populate the soundtrack to Dark Streets are lively. The movie itself is another matter entirely.

scott weiland speaks

I interviewed Scott Weiland for Kerrang. We discussed the Stone Temple Pilots reunion tour and his new solo album, "Happy" in Galoshes. The interview isn't available on the magazine's website, but the issue is on the newsstands now. All in all, I found him to be a thoughtful guy who's gone through a lot lately -- drug problems, divorce and the death of his brother.

Update: I hadn't seen this news item. This poor guy can't get out of his own way.

r.e.m.'s murmur

Murmur just received the deluxe reissue treatment. It makes an excellent holiday present for the R.E.M. fan in your life who doesn't own any of their pre-Document albums. (Note: You have to scroll down a bit on this page, but, trust me, my write-up is on there as part of the Metro Times gift guide.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

the los angeles film critics association speaks

LAFCA, of which I'm a member, voted for our annual awards this morning. The full list is here. I'll say more when I do my final, official Top 10 list the night before the Oscar nominations, but I was pleased with the results -- smart choices were made, making room for some pleasant surprise upsets.

Friday, December 05, 2008

richard and linda thompson: the end of the rainbow

OK, really, it's just a Richard Thompson song. (And if you haven't heard Elvis Costello's version, you should seek it out.) But regardless, "The End of the Rainbow" gets my vote for Most Depressing Children's Song. I don't think I want to know other worthy contenders for the prize.

nobel son

Remember all those awful Tarantino ripoff movies of the 1990s? Well, Nobel Son is in keeping with those films -- it's a crime caper that goes awry in quirky, hip ways. It's pretty insufferable.

ac/dc: the last rock band

AC/DC are back on the road promoting their new album Black Ice. For the Phoenix New Times, I propose that these Aussies are the last true rock band in the world -- and why there's an integrity to that.

And if you only know the band's big hits, I recommend checking out these hidden gems.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

tennessee ... starring mariah carey

Tennessee is a family drama and a road movie, but it will attract the most interest because Glitter star Mariah Carey plays a supporting role as a waitress who longs to be a country singer. Some people will probably be hoping the movie is a total trainwreck, but, eh, it's not so bad.

Friday, November 28, 2008

pavement: cut your hair

One of my greatest regrets of the '90s? Only really getting into Pavement as the band's brilliant career was winding down.

Monday, November 24, 2008

slumdog millionaire

Today's Consumables column features Slumdog Millionaire, A Christmas Tale, Ballast, I've Loved You So Long, and Quantum of Solace. It's my super-busy time as I prepare for LAFCA's end-of-the-year vote in just over two weeks. So many more movie reviews are heading your way soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

guns n' roses: chinese democracy

I didn't think I would ever write these words: Here is my review of Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

paul simon: you can call me al

Very '80s in many ways: The song has a slick, processed feel; the video is built around a jokey high-concept idea; and, good lord, those clothes. But the song is still great, and let's be honest -- if this video came out now, there would be 10,000 YouTube parodies/homages buzzing around the Web. It's like the precursor to OK Go's "Here It Goes Again" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies" except it stars schlubby guys.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

transporter 3

No one need question my affection for Jason Statham. But Transporter 3 isn't worthy of his talents. I review the film for Screen International.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

revolutionary road

Director Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road is, to my mind, a better and more empathetic variation of American Beauty, the Oscar-winning suburban drama that launched his film career. Between this and Jarhead, I think Mendes is becoming a subtler and looser filmmaker, and therefore a much more interesting one.

Friday, November 14, 2008

the new pornographers: myriad harbour

Last year's Challengers might not have been the finest album from the New Pornographers, but there were some great songs on it. Like this one ... and the video might be even better.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ryan and sean's not so excellent adventure

What happens when two YouTube sensations get their own movie? Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure. If you like jokes about pooping, little people and "I drink your milkshake," oh boy, this is the movie event of the fall. My despairing review is in the L.A. Weekly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the beautiful truth

The Beautiful Truth is a preachy documentary about Dr. Max Gerson, who came up with the controversial Gerson Therapy in the 1920s that aimed to cleanse the human body of pollutants through organic juices and coffee enemas. I'm all for a healthy diet, but noxiously manipulative movies I can always do without. My review is at The Village Voice.

defiance

Defiance, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Edward Zwick, is based on an interesting true story from World War II, a tale of three Jewish brothers who organized a ragtag army of fellow Jews to fight back against the Nazis. Unfortunately, the film's solemn tone and lack of creative spark leave it feeling stolid instead of thoughtful. My review is at Screen International.

Friday, November 07, 2008

magnetic fields: busby berkeley dreams

Is 69 Love Songs the greatest concept album of all time? It's either that or Dark Side of the Moon.

This song goes out to all the people who still keep their Busby Berkeley dreams alive.

synecdoche, new york

Synecdoche, New York heads up the latest edition of Consumables, which includes reviews of W., In Bruges, Taxi to the Dark Side, Moving Midway, Summer Palace, and Boy A.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

elf power

While I try to find my copy of Creatures, which I still think is their best record, enjoy my write-up on Elf Power, who are touring America as we speak.

a quiet little marriage at afi

L.A. Weekly concludes its coverage of the AFI Film Festival with a roundup of reviews for films playing this upcoming weekend. My (positive) write-up of A Quiet Little Marriage is here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

pray the devil back to hell

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is that rare thing -- an understated documentary about an inspiring subject, the 2003 nonviolent protest of Liberian women during that nation's bloody civil war. Though the film has several other commendable qualities, that by itself is impressive. My review is in The Village Voice.

prop 8

Marc Lacter of LA Biz Observed puts its victory in perspective:
Shameful. And what's truly stunning about the results - though not surprising - is that African Americans voted overwhelmingly against extending to gay people the civil rights once denied them. One possible factor behind the yes vote: depressed voter turnout in California due to the early calls back east in the presidential race. The ironies are mind-boggling.
I couldn't agree more. We Obama fans patting ourselves on the back today about how much America has changed should remember there's still a long way to go.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

repo! the genetic opera

My hunch is that you will either love or hate Repo! The Genetic Opera. It's not for all tastes, but if you can envision yourself enjoying the silly camp appeal of a sci-fi/horror rock opera, this might be the movie for you.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the economist goes for obama

Everybody and their mother does presidential endorsements, but The Economist's pick was the one I was most anticipating. (To review, in the last four elections, they've endorsed Kerry, Bush, Dole and Clinton.) This year?
[T]his cannot be another election where the choice is based merely on fear. In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.
I couldn't agree more. The whole piece is here.

afi film festival

L.A. Weekly, as always, does a great job covering the festival (which starts tonight) from every angle. Here's a rundown of reviews and critics' picks, written by the regular Weekly gang, including yours truly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

rosemary's baby

Rosemary's Baby will be playing for a week at Film Forum in New York starting on Halloween. I recently watched it again -- I swear it's even better than I remembered it. I sing the horror classic's praises in The Village Voice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

the other end of the line

The Other End of the Line stars Desperate Housewives hunk Jesse Metcalfe as a New York City ad executive who falls in love with the Indian woman (Shriya Saran) who's his credit-card customer service rep. She's delightful, he's insufferable, and the movie is just marginal.

Monday, October 27, 2008

saw v

If you know nothing about the Saw franchise, Saw V is not the place to hop onboard. In fact, these sequels are becoming more and more geared to hardcore fans, which is part of their problem.

Friday, October 24, 2008

rem: until the day is done

If your favorite R.E.M. album is Automatic for the People, then your favorite song off Accelerate is probably "Until the Day Is Done." For a "comeback" album that was hyped as their rock-out record, it's funny that Accelerate's best moment might indeed be this one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

fringe: the cure

Fringe was starting to show some improvement. Then the show decided to do a "character" episode. The problem? The writers focused on Dunham instead of Walter. I survey the damage over at Vulture.

noah and the whale

Noah & the Whale are an English group whose debut album, Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down, is full of twee indie rock that's several notches above many other up-and-coming twee indie rockers' recent efforts. I explain why in Detroit's Metro Times.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

the best guns n' roses songs ever

What else am I supposed to do until Chinese Democracy arrives? Here's my list of GNR's Top 10 songs. (Sorry, no "Live and Let Die.")

Sunday, October 19, 2008

please don't bother E at his house

In Geoff Boucher's great profile of Mark Oliver Everett (aka E of Eels) in today's Los Angeles Times came this upsetting tidbit:
"Those are for the stalkers," Everett said, nodding toward a bank of security-camera screens in the kitchen of his home. "It's nice when something you have written or recorded means so much to people, especially since you never thought about that happening when you're working on it. But I prefer letters to unannounced visitors."
He's the sort of distinctive, candid songwriter who clearly connects with his audience in a meaningful way. But nobody should have to deal with that type of fan craziness.

Friday, October 17, 2008

death cab for cutie: cath

I'm still undecided about Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs as a whole -- it's better than Plans, but not as great as Transatlanticism. But I do know that I like "Cath."

max payne

Max Payne hits theaters today -- it's pretty dreadful. Shoot 'Em Up is looking more and more like a classic each day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

filth and wisdom

Madonna's directorial debut, Filth and Wisdom, is very Madonna-y: overbearing, pretentious but also kinda loopy in a really endearing way. It'll mostly appeal to fans of Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hutz, who really is something else as the film's star.

plants and animals

Plants and Animals are a Montreal trio whose debut full-length album, Parc Avenue, came out earlier this year. As they tour the United States, I try to figure out how you describe their hard-to-pin-down sound for the Phoenix New Times.

political advertisement VII at redcat

Political Advertisement VII is the latest edition of an anthology of presidential commercials put together by artists Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese that covers more than 50 years of TV spots. It plays at REDCAT on Monday and is illuminating no matter what your party affiliation. I explain why at L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

fringe: power hungry

Last night's episode of Fringe made me think about REO Speedwagon, Battlestar Galactica, and Airplane! Is that a good thing or bad thing? My recap is up at Vulture.

why the phillies are up 3-1 on the dodgers

The great baseball writer Ross Newhan says it's time to stop blaming Joe Torre for the Dodgers' problems against the Phillies. Instead, he offers a counter-theory for why the Phillies are ahead:
Has anyone stopped to think that the Dodgers are trailing, 3-1, in the series because Philadelphia is a better and more complete team?

Does anyone realize that Manager Joe Torre isn't operating with a full complement of postseason-caliber players?


Can anyone recall that only two months ago the Dodgers were a sub-.500 team trailing Arizona in a National League West that didn't exactly resemble Appaloosa and the only difference between that Dodgers team and this one is Manny Ramirez?


I mean, Ramirez is having one of the greatest stretches of big-time hitting any of us has been fortunate to see or will be fortunate to see again, but by now his back must be bending from the load.


How far and for how long can one man carry a team?
I agree -- of course, I picked the Phillies to make it to the World Series ... and lose to the Angels. (Hey, this predicting stuff is an inexact science.)

morning light

The new Disney sports-competition documentary Morning Light asks the question: What's scarier -- the ongoing popularity of reality shows or the Walt Disney Company's ability to find the planet's most squeaky-clean individuals? My answer is at The Village Voice.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

mastodon speaks

I interviewed Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor for Revolver. We discussed their upcoming record, whether it's a concept album, and how Bruce Springsteen's Magic inspired its making. The interview is not available on the magazine's website, but the issue should be on newsstands now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

happy-go-lucky

Happy-Go-Lucky is perhaps the most divisive movie of Mike Leigh's career. I know people who love it and those who absolutely cannot stand it. I'm in the love category.

nirvana: scentless apprentice

Today is my buddy's birthday, so this one is for you, Will. Maybe someday this whole special will be available commercially?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

the used

I spoke with Bert McCracken, frontman for the Used, to talk about their upcoming album and how Nirvana's In Utero inspired its creation. My piece is in Kerrang!, and while it's not available online, it's at your local newsstand.

good dick

Good Dick tries to reinvent the romantic-comedy wheel, pairing two misfits in an unlikely love story. It doesn't work entirely, but it's a noble misfire.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

the express

The Express will be comfort food for lots of guys who love sports movies, no matter how generic. Elsewhere in Consumables, I review Blindness, Rachel Getting Married, Water Lilies and Bob Dylan's Tell Tale Signs.

Daddy Yankee in 'Talento de Barrio'

Talento de Barrio features reggaeton star Daddy Yankee as a young crime boss who dreams of being a rapper. It's even more cliched than that description sounds.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

oasis - dig out your soul

Oasis return with Dig Out Your Soul. It's another solid but unspectacular set from the Manchester group. But it does have its moments.

margot & the nuclear so and so’s

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's is an Indianapolis indie rock group that has just released two new albums, Not Animal (which was approved by the band's label) and Animal! (the band's preferred track list). I review them both for Blender.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

michael wilmington on blindness

My review of Blindness will be up on Monday in Consumables, but in the meantime let me just say Michael Wilmington is one of the few people who agrees with me:
I was gripped by this all the way through, and it’s certainly an example, like Alfonso Cuaron’s fine movie of Children of Men, of the kind of intellectually and emotionally challenging material, that moviemakers with resources should tackle more often. At it’s worst, it’s a super-Twilight Zone episode. At it’s best, it’s a grand dystopian epic of social degeneration.

Friday, October 03, 2008

oasis: don't look back in anger

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Oasis this week, as you might have noticed, so here's their saddest, best song, "Don't Look Back in Anger." I love that since Liam doesn't sing on this track, he just, y'know, hangs out in the video.

cypress hill gets its due from vh1

On Monday, VH1 will be airing its Hip-Hop Honors program celebrating, among others, Cypress Hill. For the channel's website, I provide a brief history of the group and pick five classic songs.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

winona ryder and me

The Biography Channel will be premiering its Winona Ryder biography tonight. I haven't seen it, but I believe I'll be one of the talking heads in it. The viewing details are here. I hope I don't come off too badly.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

smother

Poor Diane Keaton. For those of us who still love her, Smother is a truly poignant viewing experience. She's not bad in it, but, honestly, isn't there anything else more stimulating she could be doing with her time? My review is up at L.A. Weekly.

fringe: the arrival

If you accept the fact that Fringe is just big dumb fun, I think you can enjoy it just fine. Last night's episode was a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Monday, September 29, 2008

st. louis rams fire scott linehan

Well, that wasn't unexpected. Last year's terrible season and an 0-4 start this year doomed him. I wonder if they'll bring back that stupid "I Believe" slogan any time soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

de la soul: a roller skating jam named saturdays

After a week of bad financial news, I need something light. So here's this great De La Soul track off of 1991's De La Soul Is Dead, which still might be my favorite album of theirs. Remember when we thought they were going to change the face of hip-hop? It didn't happen, but it was still a thrill to interview the band a decade later. (Fun trivia fact: It was the same night that the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees to win the World Series.)

the best rock band cameos on the simpsons

The Simpsons has been on the air for 20 years now. To celebrate, I list my 11 favorite rock band appearances on the show. (Hint: I decided not to include Aerosmith.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

freebird

Freebird is a British biker comedy that's surprisingly charming and funny. I say nice things about it at L.A. Weekly.

hank and mike

Did you think Bad Santa was hilarious? Did you wish someone would do a version of it with swearing, drinking Easter bunnies? Your wish is granted: Hank and Mike comes to the Nuart this weekend.

P.S. What's wrong with you people?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

loudon wainwright III: recovery

Loudon Wainwright III looks back on his career on Recovery, a collection of remakes of his '70s material. In its modest, imperfect way, the album pieces together scraps of memories to find the emotional truths that have remained over a 30-plus-years career.

fringe: the ghost network

After kicking off with two so-so episodes, Fringe finally started to come to life last night -- and not a moment too soon. My recap is at Vulture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

nights in rodanthe

Nights in Rodanthe will appeal to the tearjerking base, while alienating moderates and men. If you want an excuse to sniffle in a movie theater, it's the film for you. My review is up at The Village Voice.

plain white t's: big bad world

The “Hey There Delilah” pop-rockers return with Big Bad World. My review of the latest from the Plain White T's is up at Blender.

The Replacements: Remastered and Reconsidered

The Replacements' Warner Bros. albums are being reissued today. History remembers those records as the era when Paul Westerberg imploded. I disagree.

Monday, September 22, 2008

kanye west goes into a love lockdown

I liked the original version of Kanye West's "Love Lockdown," and I like the new version, too. I write about it in Consumables, as well as review the Broken West's great new album, The Duchess, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, and Jellyfish.

Friday, September 19, 2008

sonic youth: 100%

"100%," from my favorite Sonic Youth album, Dirty. Good lord, does this video capture the alternative-rock scene of the 1990s or what?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Broken West: Idolator and I Agree

Big Gray over at Idolator loves the new album from the Broken West, Now or Heaven:

If there is any justice in the world, The Broken West will take off in the way Spoon did. Their first record was a nice slice of Teenage Fanclub-lite, and that's never a bad thing. But the band's new album, Now Or Heaven, really pushes the band out of the powerpop formula. While the album is sharply produced, it has the right kind of slickness: it sounds like it came from California in all the right ways.
I agree -- although I liked their first record, I Can't Go On, I'll Go On. I'll have more to say about Now or Heaven in my Consumables column on Monday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

fringe: the same old story

"The Same Old Story" was the name of last night's episode of Fringe -- it also could have been called "The One Where the Team Makes Like MacGyver." My recap is up at Vulture.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Igor

Igor is a cute but forgettable animated movie for kids about a hunchback (voiced by John Cusack) who wants to show the world he's more than just a stupid henchman. It's no Nightmare Before Christmas. My review is at Screen International.

metallica: death magnetic

Metallica's new album, Death Magnetic, will remind older fans of some of the band's earliest records. For my money, it comes closest to resembling ...And Justice for All -- long songs, epic reach, etc. My review is up at About.

buckcherry: black butterfly

The L.A. bad boys of hard rock return with Black Butterfly. Is it just me, or are they mellowing?

Friday, September 12, 2008

matt damon on sarah palin

Right, it's a celebrity mouthing off about politics and voicing an opinion I share. But unlike some of the more snide snipes at Sarah Palin, he's extremely even-tempered and civil about his objections to her. Some people won't listen simply because it's Matt Damon. But his point about access to nuclear weapons is a fair one.

rappers turned actors: the list

Over at VH1.com, I assess the track record of 15 rappers who caught the acting bug. It's a mixed bag of blinding success stories and what-were-they-thinking cautionary tales.

righteous kill

How many people still get excited about a movie starring Robert De Niro or Al Pacino? The faded icons are both in Righteous Kill, and the good news is that it isn't awful. (Yes, that's what it's come to.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

could oliver stone give the election to mccain?

The great STV over at Defamer has made some predictions about the forthcoming fall movie season. This one seems the most likely...
W. (10/17) will tip the election to the GOP. Opening less than three weeks before Election Day, the film will be too muddled to move the Democrats yet irreverent enough to galvanize the Republican base against Hollywood one more time before voting. Oliver Stone will be recognized as the new Ralph Nader.
I also worry about Religulous in that regard. I'm curious how that movie will play for people post-Palin. When I saw it a few weeks ago, the religious right seemed to be lukewarm about the McCain campaign and therefore less of a potential factor in November. That's not the case anymore, and it'll be interesting to see how much Palin gets referenced in reviews nearer the film's release date. Backlash to Palin-mania will no doubt drive Obama supporters to see Religulous as a show of solidarity for their guy, but it'll no doubt also get conservatives huffing and puffing.

young people f***ing

This sex comedy would be more accurately called Attractive White People Nattering On. My review is at L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

fringe

Fringe premiered last night. What did I think of it? You can find all the answers over at Vulture.

no way, no how, no mccain

Andrew Sullivan encapsulates why I support Obama over McCain:
When he knew that George W. Bush's war in Iraq was a fiasco and catastrophe, and before Donald Rumsfeld quit, McCain endorsed George W. Bush against his fellow Vietnam vet, John Kerry, in 2004. By that decision, McCain lost any credibility that he can ever put country first. He put party first and his own career first ahead of what he knew was best for the country.
and in regards to his selection of Palin and those "Obama is a celebrity" ads...
McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain - no one else - has proved it.
The entire piece is here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

no end in sight: now on youtube

If you never caught No End in Sight, now it's gotten that much easier: The film is available in its entirety on YouTube. I say a few words in its honor over at Vulture.

Monday, September 08, 2008

trouble the water

Trouble the Water leads my biweekly Consumables column, but its equal is the also-wonderful Shotgun Stories, which I finally caught up with on DVD. Also in Consumables, reviews of Elegy, Momma's Man, A Girl Cut in Two, Flow and Matthew Sweet's Sunshine Lies.

towelhead

Towelhead, the button-pushing coming-of-age comedy-drama written and directed by Alan Ball, is neither as awful as its harshest critics claim nor as brave a satire as its champions suggest. Mostly, I just found it really immature.

Friday, September 05, 2008

bangkok dangerous

Nicolas Cage bonds with an elephant. And that's one of the highlights of Bangkok Dangerous.

matthew sweet: i've been waiting

Matthew Sweet has been on my mind lately as I listen to his new album, Sunshine Lies, which I'll be reviewing in Monday's Consumables. So I decided to find an old favorite off of 1991's Girlfriend. "I've Been Waiting" is the sort of muscular power-pop he is exceptionally good at -- straightforward, instantly hummable, etc. He also captures emotions well: "I've Been Waiting" is what the glow of new love sounds like. (And I always loved that line "You can wear my clothes.")

And in case you're wondering, Sweet's a big fan of Japanese animation, hence the video's look.



Monday, September 01, 2008

ed guthman, 89

I went to USC for the film school, but once I got there, I became interested in the university's highly regarded journalism program as well. As luck would have it, the school started offering a minor program in my sophomore year, and I enrolled immediately. Ed Guthman, who died Sunday at the age of 89, was my first journalism teacher.

I couldn't have asked for a better introduction into that world: He was a smart man who believed in ethics above all else. He would have quizzes about current events at the beginning of every class, which got me into the habit of reading the newspaper on a daily basis -- a habit that stayed with me. I was in his class when the O.J. verdict was read. He was an advisor to Coppola on The Godfather II in that film's sequence at the U.S. Senate, which he happily told me all about once I found out that fact. And he made a comment about a piece I wrote in that introductory class on newswriting that I have never forgotten: I referred to someone in their 50s or 60s as "old" and he politely pointed out that such labels were dangerously arbitrary, since he himself was already well into his 70s by that point.

The man taught me to be thorough and respectful in my journalism. He also introduced me to Norman Corwin, another professor at USC's journalism school, who changed my life forever. I thank him for all that.

In the AP's obituary, a USC student was quoted: "He exemplifies the ultimate journalist. I'm successful because of what (he) taught me." That's exactly right.

Friday, August 29, 2008

randy newman: a few words in defense of our country

This isn't top-notch Randy Newman -- it's not quite as cutting as his very best satirical songs -- but it'll do for the long weekend. The Supreme Court stuff is especially wonderful ... best Pluto joke ever?


Thursday, August 28, 2008

death note comes to los angeles

Death Note, a fun Japanese thriller based on a popular manga of the same name, may be for the fan-boys, but, hey, we've all got a little fan-boy in us, right? My review is at L.A. Weekly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

vicky cristina barcelona: my take

I heap all kinds of praise on Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona in my Consumables column. Also, reviews of Transsiberian, The Exiles, Chop Shop, and In Search of a Midnight Kiss.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

obama picks biden

Lots of good analysis this morning of why Barack Obama went with Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, but this from the intrepid Andrew Tanenbaum might be the most dead-on:
Every serious observer of the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, readily admits that few, if any, senators know as much about foreign policy as Biden. He shores up a critical weakness in Obama's CV--lack of foreign affairs experience. When McCain attacks Obama for lack of experience, Biden is going to say: "John, Barack and I are a team and I've been in the Senate 14 years longer than you and I'm chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a job you've never held." This alone is worth the price of admission. It makes it hard for the Republicans to attack the Democrats on foreign policy when the Democratic ticket has more experience than the Republican ticket (short of McCain picking Colin Powell as Veep).
For me, the real interesting test will be how the young Obamamaniacs respond to the choice. As much as I love The Colbert Report, the gold standard of hip political comedy, the show's constant jokes about McCain's age have gotten (forgive the pun) old. Biden is only six years younger than McCain, and one of his chief electoral appeals is, put bluntly, he's not hip and he's not cool. He's a grownup in the eyes of people who worry that Obama (and some of his younger, impetuous supporters) aren't.

Friday, August 22, 2008

kanye west: champion

Remember, everyone: Puppets are always funny. And the song's good too... dig that Steely Dan sample.

UPDATE (Sept. 10, 2008): You can no longer embed the video (sorry), but it's available here.

one last comment about obama and mccain at saddleback

In case you assumed all conservatives thought McCain whipped Obama last Saturday at Rick Warren's presidential forum, this blog post should set you straight. Even more impressive: the commenters, who seem to have digested the content of the forum more deeply than a lot of professional pundits.

my religulous review: bill maher goes gunning for god

Religulous, the satirical film from comedian Bill Maher and Borat director Larry Charles, is often very funny in its condemnation of organized religion, but it does fall into certain traps of contemporary documentaries. Religulous doesn't come out until October 3, but my review is up now at Screen International.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

death race is pretty fun

Much to my pleasant surprise, I found Death Race to be a perfectly enjoyable way to round out the summer movie season. Oh sure, it's insanely violent and geared entirely to young men, but it's big-dumb-fun done well.

nixon: the movie

Nixon, Oliver Stone's underrated 1995 biopic of the disgraced president, returns to DVD. My review is up at Vulture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

staind: the illusion of progress

Staind were huge back in 2001 thanks to their monster ballad "It's Been Awhile." Not surprisingly, their latest album, The Illusion of Progress, has a couple "It's Been Awhile" clones on it. My review is at About.

Monday, August 18, 2008

traitor: don cheadle in syriana territory

Traitor is a political thriller that tries to be more sensitive in its depiction of Islamist terrorists than your average Hollywood fare. But despite Don Cheadle's good performance, the film aspires to the cosmopolitan flair of a Syriana or Traffic without possessing their depth. My review is at Screen International.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

woody allen on vicky cristina barcelona

Cities move me. That’s why I don’t think I could make a film in a place that would appear boring to me, or unromantic. If I’m making a film in Venice, or Paris, I can really do a good job and make the atmosphere part of the story — that’s very important to me. Originally, when I was doing this film, I was going to title it Midnight in Barcelona. And then I changed it, because I just felt the film was about Vicky, Cristina and Barcelona — that it required equal billing.
The rest of the interview with L.A. Weekly's Scott Foundas is here.

vicky cristina barcelona is terrific

And David Denby will explain why.

Friday, August 15, 2008

radiohead: house of cards

Right, you've already seen this. But in case you haven't, you really should. And if you've only seen it once, why not see it again?

enough of mccain

A reader of Andrew Sullivan's fantastic blog has had enough with the recent turn in sympathy toward John McCain:
McCain wants to win the election, and he's shown since he lost in 2000 that he's willing to compromise his own values entirely for the sake of cozying up to the neo/theocons. He traded his "maverick" credibility in a long time ago, and we should all stop trying to excuse his boorish behavior.
Nicely said. The rest is here.

one day as a lion

If you haven't heard One Day as a Lion yet, and you're a fan of Zack de La Rocha's vocal stylings from Rage Against the Machine, you might enjoy what you hear. My review is up on About.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

henry poole is here

Luke Wilson stars as the despondent titular atheist of Henry Poole Is Here. It's an affecting performance in a low-key way, but the movie is a little too doe-eyed for my taste. My review appears in L.A. Weekly.

randy newman's so-so new album

I love Randy Newman, but even he can make a mediocre record on occasion. Harps and Angels, his latest, has plenty of nice touches, but it's just not up to his high standards. I review it in Consumables, as well as discuss Keane's new single, the Hold Steady's recent L.A. show, and the documentary Stealing America: Vote by Vote.

Monday, August 11, 2008

star wars: the clone wars

The animated Clone Wars film, which hits theaters August 15, in some ways improves on the debilitating problems of the mediocre prequels. But George Lucas's franchise still seems to be running out of gas.

Friday, August 08, 2008

the shins: pink bullets

This might be the saddest video ever. If it's not, I'd love to hear your alternate picks.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

pete seeger: the power of song

The Power of Song, the great documentary about folk singer Pete Seeger, comes to DVD today. I give it the brief once-over at Vulture.

trapt - only through the pain

Only Through the Pain is the third album from the rock band Trapt. How is it? About the same as their last two.

the airborne toxic event

This L.A. indie rock band made a big noise last year when their first song, "Sometime Around Midnight," started getting a ton of airplay on KROQ and Indie 103 without the band even having a record deal. Well, now the album, The Airborne Toxic Event, is here. I review it for Blender.

Friday, August 01, 2008

the hold steady: the swish

In honor of the great Hold Steady show I attended this week, here's "The Swish" from their first album, Almost Killed Me. The "Beverly Hills" line played well with the L.A. crowd. One note: Craig Finn is much more spastic than this in concert -- it's really a sight to see.



Thursday, July 31, 2008

the mummy: tomb of the dragon emperor review

The buzz has been very bad for the new Mummy movie with Brendan Fraser and (in the Rachel Weisz role) Maria Bello. Well, I saw it, and Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a pretty joyless affair. Who wants a no-fun mummy movie?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

photo op

In case anyone out there wonders what I look like, here's a picture of me from my About.com page.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the bronx speaks, and i marvel at slipknot

In the new issue of Kerrang, I interview Joby Ford of the critically acclaimed punk band the Bronx. If that's not enough for you, I also covered the Rockstar Mayhem tour, which gave me new appreciation for Slipknot.

Monday, July 28, 2008

the dark knight: my take

Most concede that The Dark Knight is quite good, but just how good is it? I weigh in over at my Consumables column. And if you're sick of all the Batman talk, I also review Baghead, Boarding Gate, Frozen River and Man on Wire.

Friday, July 25, 2008

john prine and iris dement: in spite of ourselves

"In Spite of Ourselves" is the title track from John Prine's 1999 comeback album, a collection of country covers. This song (a duet with Iris DeMent) was the only one he wrote, and as he explains in this clip from Sessions at West 54th, he did it for a Billy Bob Thornton movie. Prine is the example of a great country songwriter who writes with sentiment without being overly sentimental. (OK, he can be overly sentimental sometimes, too, but he's earned it.)

Special note for my wife and I to ponder: I'll sometimes say to her "you're my baby, don't mean maybe" -- did I get that from a line in "In Spite of Ourselves"?

step brothers review

Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay have been on a hot streak since Anchorman and Talladega Nights, but with their latest, Step Brothers, it appears they've gone to the same comedy well once too often. My review is at Screen International.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ebert looks back on his life in the balcony

As you've probably heard, Ebert and Roeper is no more. For me, after Gene Siskel died, there was simply no way to carry on -- there was no way to replace him -- but Ebert has tried gallantly in the years since. With he and Richard Roeper officially walking away from the program, Ebert writes about the show's long history (33 years) and his memories of Siskel. Among many striking moments was this recollection of discovering that he and Siskel were famous because of their show ...
The day we fully realized it in our guts, I think, was the first time we were invited to appear with Johnny Carson. We were scared out of our minds. We'd been briefed on likely questions by one of the show's writers, but moments before airtime he popped his head into the dressing room and said, "Johnny may ask you for some of your favorite movies this year."


Gene and I stared at each other in horror. "What was one of your favorite movies this year?" he asked me. "Gone With the Wind," I said. The Doc Severinson orchestra had started playing the famous "Tonight Show" theme. Neither one of us could think of a single movie. Gene called our office in Chicago. "Tell me some movies we liked this year," he said. This is a true story.

You can read the entire piece on Roger Ebert's blog.

electoral college: the time-wasting game

If you haven't seen this on 270towin.com, you really need to: It's a computer simulation that plays out all the different electoral scenarios for this fall's presidential election based on different polls. I went from zero to obsessed in about 0.3 seconds.

Oh, and Obama fans? I've run the simulation enough times to see several outcomes where McCain wins, so don't start celebrating yet.

'Asian Stories (Book 3)' Review

Asian Stories (Book 3) is getting a brief L.A. theatrical run, presumably thanks to the fact that its star, James Kyson Lee, plays Ando on Heroes. If anybody is wondering whether to see this comedy-drama or just go to Comic-Com this weekend, well, maybe my review will help make up your mind for you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

buckcherry and norma jean speak to me, separately

I have two features in the new issue of Revolver. I interviewed Buckcherry about their forthcoming album, Black Butterfly, and I profiled the Christian metal band Norma Jean who will be putting out The Anti Mother imminently. The articles aren't available online, but the magazine should be on shelves as we speak.

UPDATE (Nov. 10, 2008): The Norma Jean interview is now available on Revolver's website.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

david bowie: live in santa monica 36 years ago

Live Santa Monica '72 is the finally officially released live album from David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust period. I have a brief write-up at Vulture. For a longer appreciation, proceed to Blender to read Rob Sheffield's assessment.

Monday, July 21, 2008

brideshead revisited

The new adaptation of Brideshead Revisited starring Emma Thompson and Matthew Goode looks great and has several good performances, but its unrequited love story could use a little more heat.

Friday, July 18, 2008

the band: it makes no difference

It's Friday, it's been a long week, let's enjoy a little of "It Makes No Difference" from The Last Waltz. Deal?

Ebert Remembers 'La Dolca Vita'

Roger Ebert writes very well about a few classic movies -- not only that, he keeps revisiting them over time, and writing more about them as the situation dictates. La Dolce Vita is one of those films. It helps that I love the movie, too, but, it's clear Ebert responds to Fellini's film on a profound personal level:
Although it is great, I have seen greater films than "La Dolce Vita." But it is the film of my life. By its eternity I measure my time.
The whole piece is here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

beck: modern guilt

My review of Beck's Modern Guilt is up at Metro Times. What can I say? On the whole, I've really liked his recent stuff, and the new album is no different.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

hancock is underrated, wanted is terribly, terribly overrated

So says I in my latest Consumables column for The Simon. Also included are reviews of Garden Party, R.E.M.'s Accelerate and Erykah Badu's magnificent New Amerykah.

Friday, July 11, 2008

meet dave: a surprisingly not-bad eddie murphy film

Meet Dave is a perfectly respectable kids' movie, and Eddie Murphy is genuinely funny for the first time in a long while. But don't rush out and see it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

contempt: i remain unmoved

There are few cinematic classics that leave me so divided as Godard's Contempt. It's one of those films where I enjoy its lovely-worded reviews much more than I enjoy the film itself. The last time I sat down with Contempt on DVD, I watched it and then re-watched it with the commentary track, which added many great insights but didn't greatly change my muted feelings about Godard's overly intellectual deconstruction of "Hollywood" and "love" that wasn't nearly as emotionally devastating as its admirers claim.

Well, the film is returning to Los Angeles on Friday, where it will play at the Nuart, which is where I saw it the last time it was re-released back in 1997. I'm pretty sure I don't need to see it again, but Ella Taylor's terrific piece in the L.A. Weekly makes me wonder all over again.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

the stone angel

The Stone Angel, a tearjerker adaptation of the Margaret Laurence novel, would have benefited from a harder-edged approach, but nonetheless it's an affecting drama starring Ellen Burstyn and a pre-Juno Ellen Page. My review appears at The Village Voice.

my new gig at about.com

In early June, I was selected to be the Rock Music guide at About.com. Organizing a site from scratch, under the direction of the great people at About.com, has been a major undertaking, but now that I feel a little more comfortable in the role, I'm very much enjoying it.

At About.com, I'll be doing reviews, profiles, interviews, and a blog that covers everything that falls under the category of Rock Music -- we're talking Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Daughtry, etc. It'll be updated just about every day with new content, so come by often to see the latest and greatest.

And because it's run by me, there will be lots of Top 10 lists as well.

pixar's short films

They're available online now -- even the new one, Presto, which plays in front of Wall-E. Let the productive time-wasting begin.

Monday, July 07, 2008

kenneth turan on criticism

Kenneth Turan, film critic of the Los Angeles Times, writes today about the nature of being "right" in one's opinions. It's a brief, but thoughtful piece. There are several good bits worthy to frame above your computer, but here's my favorite:
If you come out of a film and aren't sure what your opinion is, it likely means you do know but are not comfortable with your thoughts.
You don't have to be a spineless jellyfish to worry on occasion if you've missed the point of a movie other people either love or hate much more than you do. For me, this creeps up if I'm inordinately tired or unhappy/distracted when I get to the screening. Turan's advice couldn't be simpler or more helpful: Relax, and just trust yourself.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

wall-e made me very happy

My review of Wall-E is up at The Simon as part of Consumables. Also in this edition: reviews of The Visitor, Aimee Mann's @#%&*! Smilers, Gonzo, The Edge of Heaven and much more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

ranking the pixar films

Vulture doesn't include Wall-E in its list as it ranks Pixar's eight other films. The bottom of the bunch, not surprisingly, is Cars. No. 1 is a bit of a surprise. For what it's worth, here's my ranking (including Wall-E) with links to my reviews where possible ...

9. Cars
8. The Incredibles
7. Ratatouille
6. A Bug's Life
5. Monsters, Inc.
4. Toy Story 2
3. Wall-E
2. Finding Nemo
1. Toy Story

My review of Wall-E will be up at The Simon tomorrow.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Top 10 Protest Songs of the 21st Century

The staff of Under the Radar, which includes yours truly, selected the top 10 protest songs since 2000. You can find the results (and the reader response) here. I wrote about Jarvis Cocker's "Running the World" for the magazine. It's not available online, but you can enjoy the issue's cool cover(s) on the magazine's website.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

the palm beach story: reconsidered

Putting the finishing touches on its month-long Preston Sturges retrospective, Cinefamily will be screening The Palm Beach Story on Friday. I write about the film for L.A. Weekly, focusing not on its humor but its underlying sadness.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

no age

Nouns is the full-length debut of the Los Angeles noise rock group No Age. It's one of my favorite records of the year so far.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

jerry seinfeld on george carlin

It takes one comedian to describe another comedian's genius, and that's why Jerry Seinfeld's appreciation of George Carlin in the New York Times is just right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

jason patric and samantha morton in expired

Expired is an intriguing romantic-comedy about two people who aren't right for each other at all: a piggish parking official and his punching-bag fellow employee. Jason Patric is quite good, Samantha Morton less so. My review is up at The Village Voice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

battlestar galactica: revelations

The final episode before the mid-season hiatus was a damn good one. Now we have to wait until 2009 for more Battlestar. Dang it. My recap is at Vulture.

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Abigail Breslin and her fellow young actors are quite good in this touching live-action adaptation of the popular American Girl franchise. Too bad the story's a bit of a snoozer, though. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, June 13, 2008

get smart

Steve Carell is a decent Maxwell Smart, but the big-screen version of Get Smart is only so-so. My review is at Screen International.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

my thoughts on jack black

The Biography Channel interviewed me as part of an hour-long special on Jack Black. I haven't seen the episode yet, so I have no idea how much I'm featured in it -- or if I look unusually unattractive -- but it airs tonight. Info on the program is here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

megadeth bring the thrash

In the new Kerrang!, I go behind the scenes of Gigantour, the annual metal festival put together by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine. This year, the tour included Children of Bodom, In Flames and copious amounts of head-banging. My piece isn't available online, but it's on magazine stands now.

battlestar galactica: the hub

At a wedding this weekend, I had several conversations with Battlestar fans, and the consensus was that this final season has thus far been pretty mediocre. I had to admit it was a relief: I was starting to worry that I was the only one who had been disappointed with the recent episodes. Good news, though: Things turned around a bit with Friday's episode, "The Hub." My recap is at Vulture.

Friday, June 06, 2008

perez hilton speaks

Perez Hilton, the love-him-or-hate-him celebrity gossip king, sits down to talk about his annoying personal habits and the musicians he's friends with. The dirty details are at Blender.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

you don't mess with the zohan

Adam Sandler returns with You Don't Mess With the Zohan. If you love gags about hummus and sex-crazed men who talk in funny accents, this is the movie for you.

war and peace: the epic movie

Starting Friday, LACMA will be showing the seven-hour version of War and Peace, the 1968 winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Is it worth seeing? Yes, yes, yes. My piece appears at L.A. Weekly.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

miss conception

Heather Graham survives the embarrassing debacle that is Miss Conception, but this romantic comedy is a must-miss. For all the gory details, read here.

jamie lidell gets his groove on

Jim is the name of British soul singer Jamie Lidell's new album. The man does funk-lite right: My review appears at the Metro Times.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

weezer have a new album

This is the third time the band has named one of its albums Weezer. (Before this, there was The Blue Album and The Green Album.) My review of The Red Album appears at Blender. (And as an added bonus, here's my original review of their second album, Pinkerton, that appeared in the Daily Trojan way back in 1996.)

Monday, June 02, 2008

battlestar galactica: sine que non

Friday's episode of Battlestar had a lot of totally nutty things going on involving pregnant Cylons and dead cats. Thankfully, Bill Adama was still Bill Adama. My recap appears at Vulture.

when did you last see your father?

Director Anand Tucker's When Did You Last See Your Father?, based on the memoir of poet Blake Morrison, sports a terrific lead performance from Jim Broadbent. (After watching him in the new Indiana Jones sequel, it's nice to be reminded how good he can be when allowed to actually, y'know, act.) As a whole, the film is simply too emotional restrained, but for a male weeper, it does the job.

r.e.m.'s mike mills speaks

Not to me, sadly. But the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro got R.E.M.'s bassist to talk about the band's writing process and why he's sick of critics calling Accelerate their "return to form." (I'm with you there, Mike.) Also fun: We finally find out who actually wrote "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

short order

The fluffy romantic comedy Short Order is recommended to fans of Amelie, old-school Hollywood musicals, the culinary arts and, most importantly, insufferable amounts of self-indulgent whimsy. My review appears at L.A. Weekly.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

battlestar galactica: guess what's coming to dinner

Lots of surprises and lots of small little storytelling annoyances came together in Friday's episode of Battlestar Galactica. My recap is at Vulture.

Friday, May 16, 2008

a thought from woody allen to end our week

From an interview in today's Hollywood Reporter...

Gregg Goldstein: Since death has been such a theme in your work, how do you feel about death now? How have your feelings about it changed?
Woody Allen: They haven't changed. We're hard wired to reject it. Problem is, it doesn't reject us.

The full interview -- tied to the premiere of his new film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, at Cannes -- can be read here.

roger ebert on david mamet

One of the filmmakers Roger Ebert assesses better than just about any other critic is David Mamet. Ebert's review of Mamet's undervalued Val Kilmer thriller Spartan is one of those pieces I go back to on a consistent basis: He captures not just what is great about the movie, but also how seductive its twists and worldview are. Plus, Ebert clearly loves writing in a rat-a-tat style that's an homage to Mamet's hyper-artificial dialogue.

Mamet's the sort of writer-director who works in such a distinct way that his fans can easily become obsessed, and Ebert speaks to how that obsession feels. In his new blog, Ebert discusses Redbelt, suggesting that it deserves its own genre: the twister. It gives him another chance to get at the heart of what makes Mamet's movies fascinating, even when they're not great.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

when good bands rise from the ashes of other good bands

When a popular band breaks up, you expect its individual members to go off and do mediocre side projects and cruddy solo albums that never live up to their once-high standards. But that's not always the case: For VH1.com, I look at those rare instances where one band's collapse made way for the birth of a new good band.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

brooks melchior speaks

Sports by Brooks is a Los Angeles-based sports site that features gossip, news, humor and, oh yes, many pictures of beautiful women. For L.A. Weekly's annual L.A. People Issue, I speak with the man who runs SbB, Brooks Melchior. We discuss how he found the site's lovely ladies and why his social life is nonexistent.

How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer

Three very good performances, including one from "it" girl America Ferrera, are almost enough to recommend How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer, a tale of three generations of women looking for love in their sleepy small town. But ... well, my review is in L.A. Weekly.

destroyer's dan bejar speaks

Trouble in Dreams is the fine new album from Destroyer, a Vancouver band lead by Dan Bejar. (He also contributes songs to the New Pornographers.) Bejar is touring to support Dreams, so I was thrilled to get a chance to talk to him about his surrealist lyrics and the grinds of the road. My interview appears in the Phoenix New Times.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

grand theft auto iv: overrated?

I read a lot of film, music, and book reviews. But I don't read many video-game reviews, although a large reason for that is because I don't play video games. So it's been interesting to read some of the articles about the new Grand Theft Auto game, most of which have declared it the greatest thing ever. The Village Voice's Gary Hodges begs to differ with all that:
Now that other games are improving, GTA’s continued shortcomings have become harder to excuse. Perhaps that’s being critical. Or maybe it’s just being a critic, which sometimes means pointing out the hooligan has no clothes.
The full review is here. One thing I love about video-game reviews: They capture the stream-of-consciousness rush of the games themselves. It's as if the writers are recording their experiences as they're playing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

robert christgau discusses the b-52's, aging

With the nationwide push to cut older music and film critics, it's important to remember that people who were born before, say, 1965, might actually know a thing or two the rest of us don't.

For example, who else but 66-year-old Robert Christgau could lend this insight about the new B-52's album, Funplex?
In an unseemly display of decaying flesh, these nutty kids turned DOR nostalgia act make their first album in 16 years their sex album. Eeyew, say today's normal kids. 'Bout time, says anybody old enough to know that one lure of the flesh is that it's always decaying.
Perfect. The rest of this month's installment of his Consumer Guide can be found here.

battlestar galactica: faith

If Battlestar Galactica wasn't set in outer space, an episode like "Faith" would earn it a ton of Emmy nominations -- it was a wonderfully well-written piece, exceptionally acted by Mary McDonnell. But, alas, because it's a "sci-fi show," it'll always be stuck in that disrespected ghetto. My recap of "Faith" appears at Vulture.

Friday, May 09, 2008

here's all you need to know about speed racer

"This toxic admixture of computer-generated frenzy and live-action torpor succeeds in being, almost simultaneously, genuinely painful -- the esthetic equivalent of needles in eyeballs -- and weirdly benumbing, like eye candy laced with lidocaine."

That's Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern take on Speed Racer. I haven't seen the film yet, but his review is a good way to keep those expectations down, huh? But, honestly, can it be worse than V for Vendetta?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

radiohead: from the basement

Well, this is a pleasant surprise: To promote In Rainbows, Radiohead went into a London studio to perform a series of songs that were later broadcast as a special on VH1. The resulting show, From the Basement, confirms that while Radiohead may still be one of the world's best bands, I wish they could bring more flesh-and-blood intimacy to their avant-rock compositions. As an example, here is "House of Cards," an In Rainbows track I adore. This live version blows it away.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

the whigs and what made milwaukee famous

Two great indie-rock bands performing on the same bill: So why does that make me so darn nervous? My piece is up at the Phoenix New Times.

lyrics born

Everywhere at Once is the new album from Bay Area hip-hop artist Lyrics Born. He takes on Homeland Security and relationships, but not at the same time. My review appears at the Metro Times.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

obama wins north carolina

I'm on deadline right now, so I can't focus on tonight's primary results as much as I'd like, but this made me happy. (Here's the full text of Obama's speech in North Carolina.)