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, 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.)


Picking up where The Da Vinci Code left off, Bloodline is a documentary that investigates the theory that Jesus had a child with secret wife Mary Magdalene. The film is strangely watchable, but that's not the same thing as saying it's good.

Monday, May 05, 2008

battestar galactica: the road less traveled

In this week's Vulture recap, I sing the praises of Tahmoh Penikett, who plays the quietly heroic Helo. He was all over Friday's episode, and he was terrific in it.

tom waits goes on tour

Can I forgive him for skipping over Los Angeles because of this video "press conference"? Almost.

my take on iron man

Good but not great. I review the Robert Downey Jr. blockbuster and also take on Flight of the Red Balloon, Coldplay's new single, Standard Operating Procedure and more in today's Consumables.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

kenneth turan on iron man

I'll have my thoughts on Iron Man up in a couple days, but in the meantime, the Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan's review will do nicely.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Jonathan Rosenbaum on 'Eyes Wide Shut'

Recently retired Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has his own site up now, and it's a great archive of his reviews and articles, going back to 1987, with some gaps in there. I could have picked just about anything, but I always thought he's done great work with Stanley Kubrick's films -- he just "gets" them on a fundamental level -- so here's his rave for the much-maligned Eyes Wide Shut.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

underoath speaks

Christian metal band Underoath are currently recording their follow-up to 2006's Define the Great Line in Atlanta. I spoke to them for Revolver, and our chat appears in the new issue out now. It's not online yet, but here's what to look for on your neighborhood newsstand.

made of honor

Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan are nothing but charming in Made of Honor -- so how does the movie go so wrong?