Friday, December 31, 2010

flaming lips - sleeping on the roof

The Flaming Lips are playing a New Year's Eve show in Oklahoma City tonight. They'll be performing The Soft Bulletin, still my favorite of theirs, in its entirety. If you can't make it, you can watch it here. In the meantime, here's the album's gorgeous closing instrumental. See you in 2011, everybody.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Neko Case - "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis"

Tom Waits is going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kinda unbelievable, in a good way. Since it's Christmastime, it only makes sense that I cue up "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis" in his honor, right? But I'm gonna cheat a bit and go with my favorite cover of the song, done by the one and only Neko Case.

(Thanks to Jason for the suggestion.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'country strong' review

Country Strong doesn't lack ambition or heart. As for focus, well .... my review at Screen International explains all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'little fockers' review

After watching Meet the Fockers, I was convinced the new Meet the Parents sequel couldn't be worse. I was right -- but, boy, was it close. My Little Fockers review is up at Screen International.

Friday, December 17, 2010

miike snow - silvia

It's the holidays, so let's enjoy a really depressing/beautiful song/video, shall we? You got it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

'yogi bear' review

How forgettable is Yogi Bear? I saw the film more than a week ago and wrote my review at that time -- when the review was published late last night, I could barely remember what I had said about the film. It's not bad -- it's just sorta there. My review is up at Screen International.

Update: Yes, I've seen Yogi Bear Alternate Ending. It is brilliant.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'the social network' wins best picture for lafca

Starting at around 10:00 this morning, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association cast our votes for the year's best films and performances. Here's the full list of winners and runners-up: I'm pretty pleased with how it all turned out. When I came home from the meeting, my wife said she was really surprised I Am Love didn't end up with a single mention. You know, I sorta am too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

billy joel - an innocent man

Recently, I was sent a copy of Billy Joel's latest greatest-hits package, The Hits. I have a complicated history with this man. My parents played his music pretty religiously when I was a kid -- we wore out a couple of his Greatest Hits tapes on car trips -- but in adulthood I've found that his music hasn't aged well at all. This is not exactly a groundbreaking revelation -- most music critics hate the guy -- but for me it's harder because there are a lot of family memories embedded in his songs.

The Hits is only one disc, and it misses a lot of Joel's actual hits. One song I thought of, that I still like, is "An Innocent Man." Here it is.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

'the tourist' review

I can already sense that I'm going to be the one weirdo who recommends The Tourist. But, hey, I am.

Friday, December 03, 2010

paul simon - the late great johnny ace

As you will hear over and over again, December 8 marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. His death brings to mind many Beatles songs, of course, but I also think of Paul Simon's "The Late Great Johnny Ace," which is, in part, about Lennon's death. Here's the first time he played it live, at the Central Park concert with Art Garfunkel in 1981. (It would eventually show up on his Hearts and Bones record in 1983.) Lennon's death wasn't even a year old by this point, which gives the weirdness that happens near the end of the performance an extra level of scariness.

Friday, November 26, 2010

bob dylan - must be santa

It's officially the holidays, people. If you're going to crank the Christmas songs, make sure they're good ones. Like this:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'faster' review

My love of Dwayne Johnson continues unabated, and I was pleased to see him return to action mode for his new film. And I was almost willing to go with Faster, but then it just gets dumb. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, November 19, 2010

rod stewart - tomorrow is a long time

The latest installment of the Bob Dylan "bootleg" series, The Witmark Demos, is out now. If you're a Dylan fan, you already have it by this point, but I wanted to point out one specific song on it. "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" was written by Dylan, but like several of his compositions it's better known for being performed by another artist. Rod Stewart's version off his fantastic 1971 album, Every Pictures Tells a Story, is just really, really wonderful. If you've never heard it, here it is.

'burlesque' review

Burlesque is a classic take-it-or-leave-it movie: You either get on its sexy/shameless/campy/bitchy/frothy wavelength, or you spend two hours restless in your seat. I was willing to go there, and I got rewarded. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, November 12, 2010

kid rock - 'born free' review

Ever since I interviewed Kid Rock for Blender back in 2007, right before Rock N Roll Jesus came out, I've liked the guy. Warm, personable, and much smarter than you might think, he was fun company. His new album, Born Free, invests too much energy in "I am like you, Heartland listener" bromides, but it's a record that's stuffed with strong, mellow country-pop tunes. You can read my review to get all the details.

kanye west - runaway

As you've probably heard already, Kanye West's new album has leaked online. Everybody loves it, and I can't wait to hear it. In the meantime, here's the video version of "Runaway," which is a terrific song. (Confession: I haven't yet sat down to watch the 30-minute-plus extended cut.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

afi fest 2010, from worst to best

Tonight concludes AFI FEST 2010 presented by Audi. (Yes, that's the festival's full name. And give Audi credit: They helped make the damn thing free for audiences.) Here's my ranking, from worst to best, of the films from the festival, including movies I saw prior to the festival that were included in the lineup. (Links are to my reviews.)

Casino Jack
Made in Dagenham

The Company Men

A Screaming Man

Two Gates of Sleep

Oki's Movie

Black Swan

Blue Valentine
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

I'm intentionally not including Film Socialism, which I also saw. My digital screening didn't include the subtitles, which made it a tad difficult to accurately judge the film. Still, it's a gorgeous looking movie. Very excited to see it again whenever I have the chance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

'the next three days' review

Watching Paul Haggis' latest film, The Next Three Days, I was reminded what's the most annoying aspect of Haggis' Oscar-winning Crash. It's not that the guy isn't talented -- it's that he is talented. He's got an ability to come up with clever dialogue and situations, but he consistently torpedoes his own films by being so pleased with his own cleverness. I go into depth about The Next Three Days over at Screen International.

Friday, November 05, 2010

teenage fanclub - baby lee

For 20 years, the Scottish band Teenage Fanclub have been making gorgeous, somewhat disposable power-pop that's been largely ignored in this country. (Sadly, they're mostly known in the States for the fact that their album Bandwagonesque beat Nirvana's Nevermind in Spin's 1991 end-of-the-year list.) Anyway, this song is off their latest, Shadows.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

'morning glory' review

J.J. Abrams has produced Lost, Fringe, Cloverfield and of course Star Trek. But Morning Glory has to be the most unbelievable, fantastical project he's ever been involved in. I explain why over at Screen International.

Friday, October 29, 2010

new order - dreams never end

Continuing the recent theme of Friday Videos that are inspired by movies I've seen lately, here's New Order's "Dreams Never End." It's used near the beginning of the 330-minute version of Carlos. (I haven't seen the shorter version, but I'm assuming it's there as well.) If you're the sort who's interested in how directors use music in their films, Glenn Kenny's piece about the postpunk songs in Carlos is pretty worthwhile. Otherwise, hey, just enjoy the song.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

'paranormal activity 2' review

Following the same formula as the first film, Paranormal Activity 2 is actually better than the original. How did that happen? I explain in my Screen International review.

Friday, October 22, 2010

pearl jam - just breathe

Pearl Jam are celebrating their 20th anniversary today. Think about that for a second.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to pick a recent favorite of theirs, off of 2009's Backspacer. And if you've seen the not-as-terrible-as-advertised Life As We Know It, yes, "Just Breathe" is used in the film.

'for colored girls' review

You remember how the Saw films supposedly created "torture porn"? Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls might be the start of another, even-more-frightening genre: victim porn. The African-American women whose lives we follow in this film have to be the most massively woe-is-me clan I've ever encountered. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, October 18, 2010

kings of leon - 'come around sundown' review

Warm and inviting, and blessedly free of rock-star self-indulgence, Kings of Leon's Come Around Sundown hits stores tomorrow. But my review is up now at

Saturday, October 16, 2010

'jackass 3d' review

Exactly what you expect and funnier than you might assume. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, October 15, 2010

b-52s - rock lobster

My mom was telling me a story about a friend of hers who went to a B-52s show recently. A metal band opened for them, much to the chagrin of my mom's friend. Anyway, it made me think how much I like "Rock Lobster." How much do I like it? I'm including the original, nearly-seven-minute-long album version of it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the event - "a matter of life and death" recap

Here's the way a typical episode of The Event plays out for me right now: many eye-rolls throughout until we get to a pretty cool final twist that I honestly didn't see coming. My latest recap is up at Vulture.

Friday, October 08, 2010

trent reznor and atticus ross - on we march

On Nine Inch Nails' most recent records, specifically The Slip, some of the best songs were the instrumentals, which were lovely yet menacing. So it shouldn't be any surprise that Trent Reznor's score for The Social Network is pretty stellar. (Hat tip to Atticus Ross who collaborated with him on the music.) If you've seen the film, you'll recognize this track almost immediately, I'm betting. And since I've been busy with other matters and haven't had time to formally review the movie, let me just say, yes, it's excellent, just like everyone else says.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

the event - "protect them from the truth" recap

Last night's The Event was not very encouraging ... until the ending. My recap is up at Vulture. (And a hat tip to the commenters who pointed out the plot point I got wrong. Hey, it happens.)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

'life as we know it' review

A little more than a month ago, Warner Bros. released Going the Distance, a disappointing romantic comedy that actually had an interesting premise. Next weekend, the same studio will be releasing Life as We Know It, another disappointing romantic comedy that actually has an interesting premise. (I even saw the two films in the same screening room.) For once, Katherine Heigl actually worked for me in one of her starring roles, but Life as We Know It is a good idea for a movie that ended up a rather predictable date-night flick. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, October 01, 2010

taco - puttin' on the ritz

Synthesizers, blackface and tap-dancing: what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the event - "to keep us safe" recap

The second episode of The Event started to answer some questions, but it also created more questions. Such as, is Jason Ritter going to become a sympathetic character any time soon? And does the show actually want us to root for the aliens over the humans? My recap is up at Vulture.

Friday, September 24, 2010

cannibal ox - iron galaxy

Can The Cold Vein, hip-hop duo Cannibal Ox's one and only album, actually be nine years old already? Unbelievable. Here's the opening track. Best line: "You were a stillborn baby/Mother didn't want you/but you were still born." Or maybe: "New York is evil at its core/So those who have more than them/prepare to be victims." Either way, the track's NSFW, people.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

stone sour's corey taylor speaks

Earlier this year, I interviewed Stone Sour's Corey Taylor while he was in Nashville working on Audio Secrecy. In retrospect, what's really interesting about this piece is that it occurred before two major events: the Nashville flood and the overdose death of Taylor's Slipknot bandmate Paul Gray. So keep that in mind when you read the article, which is now available on Revolver's website.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the event - "I haven't told you everything" recap

Sort of a bad news/good news announcement: I won't be doing Fringe recaps this season for Vulture, but I will be handling The Event. Last night was the premiere, which I broke up into three categories: what we know, what we don't know, and what we really want to know. Enjoy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

beck - timebomb

Was the best Beck single of the last five years not off any album? Maybe. Plus, I love this fan-made video.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

toronto film festival 2010, from worst to best

I'm back from the 2010 edition of the Toronto Film Festival. So many movies to see and too little time, but here's my ranking from worst to best of what I caught (with links to reviews where applicable). By the way, I'm including films I saw prior to the festival that were part of the Toronto lineup...

The First Grader
Jack Goes Boating
Sarah's Key
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Easy A
Vanishing on 7th Street
John Carpenter's The Ward
127 Hours
The Big Picture
Waiting for "Superman"
Meek's Cutoff
Boxing Gym

Blue Valentine
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Bottom Line: I have a lot of films to catch up with now.

'sarah's key' review - toronto film festival

At the beginning of this year's Toronto Film Festival, and before the film even premiered, the Weinstein Company acquired the rights to the French drama Sarah's Key. So it was with extra interest that I checked out the film for myself. Kristin Scott Thomas is (not surprisingly) quite good in a story that, yes, involves the Holocaust. But, thankfully, it's a more personal tale than what you might expect. My review is up at Screen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'john carpenter's the ward' review - toronto film festival

Wonderfully old-fashioned in all the right ways, John Carpenter's The Ward is a lot of fun. It appears that everyone at last night's midnight premiere who didn't like the movie immediately took to Twitter to register their disappointment. Me, I had a blast.

'ceremony' review - toronto film festival

When I sat down at the premiere screening for Ceremony, I noticed that Henry Winkler was in the audience. That seemed odd -- until I realized, duh, perhaps the film's writer-director, Max Winkler, was, y'know, related to him. Turns out Max is Henry's son.

I bring this up because when you're the son of someone in the entertainment industry, I'm sure you have to face certain resentments from others struggling to break into the business. (Jason Reitman, who's one of the film's executive producers, probably understands.) And while Ceremony certainly feels very familiar -- it's a Wes Anderson-lite look at a quirky younger man in love with an older woman -- it has real heart. My review is at Screen International.

Monday, September 13, 2010

'something's gonna live' review

Something's Gonna Live is a documentary that catches up with several distinguished production designers and cinematographers (now in their 80s and 90s) to reflect on their careers. It's undeniably sentimental, but these men are quite good company. My review is up at L.A. Weekly.

'127 hours' review - toronto film festival

One of the higher-profile offerings at Toronto is 127 Hours, Danny Boyle's follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire. The film would make for a fun double-feature with the forthcoming Buried -- both films are pure squirm-a-thons. As for 127 Hours, well, I think it gets to a pretty moving place. My review is up at Screen.

'vanishing on 7th street' review - toronto film festival

Brad Anderson is back in horror/thriller mode with Vanishing on 7th Street. Some of the character stuff is a bit lumpy, but the filmmaker has done a good job of rethinking the zombie movie without the zombies. Kinda. My review explains all, hopefully.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

'bunraku' review - toronto film festival

I'm covering several of the Midnight Madness films at this year's Toronto Film Festival. It's something I've discovered I really enjoy -- I don't get to experience midnight screenings much anymore, and the energy of the crowd at the Ryerson reconnects me with what I loved about a certain type of moviegoing in my youth.

Anyway, I say all that to mention that I've thus far been pretty disappointed with the selections for this year. Super was overly familiar, and Bunraku is a rather empty experience -- it's not nearly as cool as it thinks it is. You can read my review to see what I mean in more detail.

'the first grader' review - toronto film festival

The First Grader tells the true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan who decided to enroll in primary school so he could finally learn how to read, taking advantage of a new law in his country that allowed for free education for anyone. Sadly, the back story is far more interesting than the movie on display. I explain why over at Screen International.

'the big picture' review - toronto film festival

It's not a thriller in the conventional sense -- just like The American isn't -- but I found The Big Picture to be a fun little character drama, powered by a very strong performance from Romain Duris. I review the film for Screen International.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

'it's kind of a funny story' review - toronto film festival

I think It's Kind of a Funny Story is hit-and-miss and easily the weakest film of Ryan Fleck and Anne Boden's still-young career. And yet I still seem to like it way more than others do. I do my best to explain my mixed feelings about the movie in my Screen International review.

'easy a' review - toronto film festival

Easy A may not be a great movie, but it is a fun one -- and I think if it does well enough it'll be the vehicle that finally cements Emma Stone's star status. She's a lot of fun to watch in this sassy-yet-sincere teen comedy -- and so are Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as her parents. My review goes into all that works (and doesn't work) in this semi-adaptation of The Scarlet Letter.

'super' review - toronto film festival

Writer-director James Gunn follows up Slither with Super, a painfully familiar tale of an ordinary guy (played by Rainn Wilson) who decides to become a costumed superhero. Wilson and Ellen Page give good performances, but the highlight of the film may very well be the animated opening-credits sequence. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 10, 2010

stone - film review - toronto film festival

Stone is such a well-meaning, serious drama that you may feel bad that you don't like it more than you do. It's OK -- I feel the same way. But, honestly, it's a misfire. My review is up at Screen International.

m.i.a. - xxxo

I'm still uncertain about the album, but this song kills.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

stone sour - 'audio secrecy' review

When I interviewed Corey Taylor back in March for Revolver to talk about Stone Sour's forthcoming album, here's one of the things he told me:
“I went through a pretty brutal divorce about three years ago,” he says. “There are feelings that you just can’t let go of. But at the same time, I have a wonderful new wife, who I married in November. I’ve been writing about what I’ve been thinking about for the last six months -- there are ghosts from my previous relationships, and there’s great manic energy in the relationship I’m in right now.”
He nailed the essence of the new record, Audio Secrecy, better than I ever could. Nonetheless, here's my attempt at a review of a very good album I'll be really curious to revisit later in the year. I suspect it's going to grow on me.

Friday, September 03, 2010

baby dayliner - you push I'll go

Have a great Labor Day weekend, everyone. And thanks to KEXP for introducing this song to me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

ambulance ltd - sugar pill

Unintentionally, Friday Video is starting to turn into, "Hey, here's a good song used in a movie I've seen recently." That's just where my head's been lately. Anyway, this weekend Takers comes to theaters. I've already said my piece about the film, but I wanted to add right now how happy I was that this Ambulance Ltd. track was included in the movie. Also, Nathan Rabin totally stole my line about the movie resembling a high-end alcohol ad. OK, he probably didn't. But still.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'louis' review

The silent comedy Louis features fetching young women cavorting in barely-there clothing and Jackie Earle Haley channeling his inner Chaplin. So why isn't the movie more fun? I investigate over at The Village Voice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

the hold steady - the weekenders

Quite possibly the best song to ever start with the line "There was that whole weird thing with the horses." Because of the timing of its release, Heaven Is Whenever will forever remind me of being in New York in early May. Fun, fun times. OK, Craig Finn, play the blues.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

'going the distance' review

Going the Distance had the potential to be a smart, timely, poignant look at long-distance relationships, our sagging economy and other bittersweet concerns. But the filmmakers don't quite have the nerve to go there all the way. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, August 16, 2010

'takers' review

I have come to understand something about myself: I really dig heist/caper movies. Even the mediocre ones give me a little jolt of pleasure. So take that into consideration when I tell you that I enjoyed Takers, which wins no points for originality but is a slick, sharp-dressed B-movie. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, August 13, 2010

roger - I want to be your man

An upcoming foreign-language film makes great use of this song for a funny running bit. I won't spoil it by saying what film or how it's used, so just sit back and enjoy the tune. Ahhhhhh.....

Friday, August 06, 2010

michael penn - walter reed

I'm not sure how many people would lose their cool realizing they're sitting a couple tables away from Michael Penn at a restaurant, but clearly I'm one of them. Anyway, here's "Walter Reed" off his 2005 album, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

the roots - 'how I got over' review

It's still early, but How I Got Over is definitely one of my favorite albums of this year. Here's my review. And if you need more convincing, check out the title track.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

'the other guys' review

The Other Guys, the fourth collaboration between Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay, gets a lot of laughs out of a juicy comedic target: the buddy-cop genre. And yet it still feels a bit like a missed opportunity. My review explains all.

Friday, July 30, 2010

the roots - how I got over

America's best band is either Drive-By Truckers or the Roots. My glowing review of the latter's How I Got Over will be coming soon. But in the meantime, here's the title track.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

'get low' and 'countdown to zero' reviews

A general grumpiness pervades my latest Consumables column. I take on Get Low and Countdown to Zero, two average films that have been given far too much respect simply because they're "indie" or "art-house" or whatever. Enough, I say.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

scissor sisters - 'night work' review

Their first album was a sensation. Their second album was a dud. On album No. 3, Scissor Sisters return to the cheeky irreverence that made them so successful in the first place. My review of Night Work is up now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

'scott pilgrim vs. the world' review

Is Edgar Wright ever going to make a movie as brilliant and heartfelt as Shaun of the Dead again? I'm starting to worry, although I had a blast watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

top 40 R.E.M. songs

Normally for About, I make Top 10 lists of bands' best songs. But with R.E.M., it became a much bigger task. Even cutting it down to 40 took some doing. Well, after a lot of soul-searching, I've come up with R.E.M.'s top 40 songs of all time. Let the debate begin.

'cats & dogs: the revenge of kitty galore' review

I'll say this about the Cats & Dogs sequel: I chuckled much more often than I was expecting I would based on the commercials. But in the final analysis, this kids' film has the same problem as so many of them do: It's so frenetic it's hardly ever charming. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, July 23, 2010

thom yorke - "after the gold rush"

I was watching the American Masters documentary on Neil Young, Don't Be Denied, over the weekend. It's OK -- a very typical "hit the highlights" portrait of an icon -- but it did inspire me to seek out this Bridge School Benefit performance by Thom Yorke. He does a pretty decent cover of the great man's "After the Gold Rush," due in part to the fact that his voice can match Young's ethereal wail from the original.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

'beautiful islands' review

"Placid" is usually not the sort of adjective you want associated with your movie, but Tomoko Kana's documentary Beautiful Islands is a pretty serene piece of filmmaking. It's a portrait of three islands across the planet affected by global warming, including Venice. My review is up at L.A. Weekly.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

'salt' review

Angelina Jolie wanted to play a James Bond-like character. A producer had a James Bond-like script with a male protagonist. A gender switch later and we have Jolie starring in Salt, about a tough-as-nails female CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. If your parents thought those Jason Bourne movies were too nerve-jangling and hand-held shaky, then they might find Salt more their speed. As for the rest of us ..... well, it's a bit dull. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, July 16, 2010

danger mouse, sparklehorse, david lynch - dark night of the soul

To celebrate the official release (finally) of Dark Night of the Soul, how about the title track for our Friday? I sure do miss Mark Linkous.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

'inception' review

As I've been bragging to anyone who will listen, I have avoided all spoilers, commercials and reviews for Inception for the last several months. (Only on Sunday did I realize that Ellen Page was in the movie.) Well, now I've seen it, and I review the film for my Consumables column. To the best of my abilities, I don't believe there are any spoilers in this review, so dive in if you'd like.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read all the other Inception reviews.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

rogue wave - 'permalight' review

Rogue Wave haven't made a bad album yet -- not even close. Their fourth, Permalight, is their most pop-centric, but it's a real delight. My review is up at the Metro Times.

Friday, July 09, 2010

'the sorcerer's apprentice' review

If movies were all about effects, then The Sorcerer's Apprentice would be a real treat. But we need characters and clever stories too, right? That's what I thought. This Nicolas Cage action-comedy will make a boatload of money but isn't very good. My review is up at Screen International.

gil scott-heron - me and the devil

Creepy songs deserve creepy videos...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

'despicable me' and 'great directors' reviews

We're living in a golden age of animation, and yet people still like stuff like Despicable Me? I don't get it. I review the film for my latest Consumables column, plus I have some (guarded) praise for the documentary Great Directors.

Friday, July 02, 2010

talkin' softball

If you follow baseball at all, you know that Ken Griffey, Jr. recently announced his retirement. Sure, he's a guaranteed first-ballot Hall-of-Famer but, perhaps more significantly, it means that the entire team of professional ringers Mr. Burns brought in to win the power plant's softball championship are retired. Yes, this is a Simpsons reference. And here's the great song from that very great episode.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

'the last airbender' review

I admit it: I'm an M. Night Shyamalan apologist. Don't ask me why; even I can't quite explain it. But his new film, The Last Airbender, is hopeless. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"night catches us" review - los angeles film festival

It can be a bit of a double-edged sword when a filmmaker speaks after his or her movie during a festival. Sometimes, you end up wanting to leave because the director's obnoxious personality counteracts your warm feelings for the film you've just seen. Other times, the filmmaker is such a warm, gracious, down-to-earth person that you wish his or her movie was better. That latter scenario happened last night at Night Catches Us, which is an exceptionally well-meaning and thoughtful film that just doesn't work. Writer-director Tanya Hamilton seems like a good egg, though. Still, it's my duty to report on the film's flaws, which I do over at Screen International.

Friday, June 25, 2010

black sheep - the choice is yours

"You know that car commercial with the hamsters?"

Uh-huh. The one for the Kia Soul?

"Yeah. What's the song in there?"

It's by Black Sheep.

'mahler on the couch' review - los angeles film festival

Mahler on the Couch takes its inspiration from a true story: In the early 20th century, Gustav Mahler went to visit Sigmund Freud for some psychiatric advice. Directors Percy Adlon and Felix Adlon turn that encounter into a florid romantic drama full of canted angles and wall-to-wall Mahler music. Alas, the film is really just an overheated biopic. My review is up at Screen International.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

'wild grass' review

I've been anxiously awaiting Wild Grass since it premiered (mostly to acclaim) at last year's Cannes. Now I've seen the comedy-drama, and it gets an entire Consumables column to itself. My review is part analysis, part coming to terms with what is a genuinely strange film. Happy reading.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

'cold weather' review - los angeles film festival

Writer-director Aaron Katz's Cold Weather was a big hit at this year's SXSW, but, hey, so was Kick-Ass, right? Cold Weather screened as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival, and my review is up at Screen International.

Friday, June 18, 2010

elliott smith - pretty (ugly before)

Sure, "Pretty (Ugly Before)" is a superb Elliott Smith song, but why am I featuring it as this week's Friday Video? Because it's put to good (though quite understated) use in a very great movie opening this weekend. I won't say which, but here's a hint: I haven't seen Toy Story 3 yet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

los angeles film festival reviews

This is not meant in any way to be a comprehensive overview of all the great films showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival. But in case you need some encouragement to check out a flick or two, here are some glowing reviews from yours truly:

Animal Kingdom
Camera, Camera
Eastern Plays
Katalin Varga (who's this "Tom Grierson" guy?)
The Kids Are All Right
Waiting for "Superman"

And while I haven't formally reviewed the following films, they're certainly worth your time:

The Happiest Girl in the World
The Tillman Story

'waiting for superman' at the los angeles film festival

Waiting for "Superman" is a movie inspired by guilt: Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim knew that he was lucky (and rich) enough to send his kids to good schools that other people couldn't afford. So he decided to make a documentary about the U.S. school system and all the ways it fails students. It's a very affecting film, and it's playing at the L.A. Film Festival. My review is up at L.A. Weekly.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

'Shutter Island,' Revisited

I reviewed Shutter Island for Screen International back in February, and at that time I praised it, although I said it was "clearly flawed" and noted that it "overstays its welcome." Well, I watched it again last night -- and I have to say that I think the thing's very nearly a damn masterpiece.

For a few weeks now, I had been curious to revisit this suspense thriller, but I expected that knowing how it all played out would make it a little less engaging the second time through, especially at 139 minutes. Without giving away anything, I'll just say that, much to my surprise, the exact opposite proved true: Shutter Island emerges as a far more engrossing experience precisely because you don't have to spend a single second worrying about what's going to happen. Instead, you can fully luxuriate in Martin Scorsese's utter mastery of his form, Robert Richardson's hullucinatory cinematography (which, it should be noted, looks quite different than his work on another recent period/WWII-era film, Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds), a great collection of songs and instrumental scores compiled by Robbie Robertson, and Thelma Schoonmaker's superb editing that subtly adds to the growing sense of paranoia and madness that slowly envelops the film.

And then there's the cast. On first viewing, I found Mark Ruffalo's performance as Leonardo DiCaprio's partner to be a little too affected, but now I recognize how nicely modulated it is and essential for the storytelling. The supporting parts are all wonderfully handled -- Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley -- but, really, how great is DiCaprio in this? Again, a second viewing allows you to focus on his performance, and since you know how the story will resolve itself, you can observe even more clearly how beautifully he navigates his character's particular narrative arc.

But let's talk more about Scorsese. As someone who doesn't automatically worship everything Scorsese made up to and including Goodfellas, I couldn't care less about recent arguments that he's become "just" a Hollywood genre director -- the supreme confidence of Shutter Island and The Departed is a treat, one we should be celebrating. And how many Hollywood genre movies have the psychological insight, passion, poignancy and truly riveting sequences as Shutter Island? A film like this may not be particularly "deep" because it supposedly lacks the essential autobiographical or thematic richness that all great capital-A "art" demands, but surely some consideration needs to be given for a movie so astonishingly compelling and entertaining. If that's not the sign of a great director, what is?

Around the same time as Shutter Island came out, Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer opened, giving audiences two examples of acclaimed auteurs who were allegedly "slumming" by making pulpy genre movies. But look at the craftsmanship and tension in those movies -- are any Hollywood thrillers going to offer anything remotely comparable this year? We should be so lucky. Back in the spring, I thought The Ghost Writer was the better of the two films -- now I'm not so sure. I can hardly wait to revisit Polanski's thriller to see what surprises await me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

anita baker - sweet love

So, I guess Anita Baker's rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" was a bit of a flop last night, huh? Oh well, cheer up, Anita: It reminded me of the soft spot I have for your "Sweet Love."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'karate kid' and 'coco chanel & igor stravinsky' reviews

I know, what a double-bill. But The Karate Kid and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky both open this weekend -- I put them under the microscope for my latest Consumables column.

'star trek' movies invade the royal this summer

Saturdays at midnight this summer, the Royal will be screening (mostly) 70mm prints of the first six Star Trek films. (You know, the ones with Kirk and Bones and McCoy.) What better opportunity to reassess the Trek cinematic legacy, right? I did just that for L.A. Weekly.

'the a-team' review

With a movie that's pure kinetic overkill like The A-Team, you either embrace its over-the-top insanity or roll into a ball and wait for it to end. I choose the former in my review at Screen International.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

'12th & delaware' review

When I saw the abortion documentary 12th & Delaware at Sundance this year, I was convinced it was one of the best films at the festival. I got to watch it again recently, and I still think it's terrific -- it may only be 80 minutes long, but it's sure a special little film. The documentary will be playing as part of BAMcinemaFEST, which prompted my glowing review in The Village Voice.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

'marmaduke' review

Back from my out-of-town wedding, and I know you've been dying to know what I thought of Marmaduke. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

neil young - harvest moon

Yeah, I'm a day late -- what do you want me from me, I was traveling. I'm going to a wedding today, and, well, I always think of this song around weddings.

Monday, May 31, 2010

'get him to the greek' review

Remember how funny The Hangover was? Perhaps you were hoping that Get Him to the Greek would be this summer's Hangover? The trailers made me hopeful but, alas, it's not. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, May 28, 2010

janelle monae - tightrope

Have a happy, safe Memorial Day weekend. Everybody keep tipping on that tightrope.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'prince of persia' and 'survival of the dead' reviews

If you want to see Sex and the City 2 this weekend, you're on your own. But if you're interested in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time or George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead, well, perhaps I can be of some assistance. Take a gander at my latest Consumables column for my reviews of those two films.

Friday, May 21, 2010

living colour - nothingness

A buried gem from a forgotten band. I suppose this is one of the principal reasons people have personal blogs.

"Films That Got Away" at the Los Angeles Film Festival

"Films That Got Away" is a special sidebar that runs during the Los Angeles Film Festival that is put together by members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association to highlight remarkable movies that, for one reason or another, never got a release in the Los Angeles area. Last year's trio of films -- Musica Nocturna, United Red Army, and especially The Silence Before Bach -- were all exceptional, which inspired me to become part of the LAFCA committee that selected this year's sidebar. The 2010 installment only has two movies, but they're both definitely worth your time.

On Saturday, June 19, we'll be screening The Happiest Girl in the World, a Romanian comedy that, no, isn't just another of those long, boring Romanian films that critics absolutely love. (And, hey, what's your problem with The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days anyway?) This is a warm, smart, great film that's part coming-of-age drama and part social satire. Plus, it's funny.

Then, on Wednesday, June 23, I'll be presenting Katalin Varga, a dark British/Hungarian/Romanian character piece that gets more interesting and absorbing each time I see it. I absolutely hate using the word "challenging" to describe a film -- particularly one I want you to see -- but this is an uncompromising little movie. But it's also a haunting film -- and at 82 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome. I'll have more to say about Katalin Varga during my opening remarks before the film.

fringe - "over there, part 2" recap

Well, that's it -- no more Fringe until the fall. At least they gave us something to remember it by with last night's season finale. My thoughts on the episode are up at Vulture.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'everyone else' review

When I was in New York recently, German writer-director Maren Ade's romantic drama Everyone Else was playing within walking distance of where I was staying. Alas, I didn't have a chance to see it. Now back in Los Angeles, I have. I rave about the film at The Simon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

band of horses - 'infinite arms' review

Infinite Arms is probably Band of Horses' worst album to this point. But as my review demonstrates, I hardly cared.

pavement - spit on a stranger

It seems like there are two indie-rock-fan absolutes out there right now: (1) Everybody is excited about the Pavement reunion; and (2) Nobody likes their final album, Terror Twilight. To which I say: (1) Me too; and (2) Aw, c'mon, guys, it's not that bad. To prove my point, here's "Spit on a Stranger".....

fringe - "over there, part 1" recap

Once last night's Fringe did away with the scientific mumbo-jumbo to explain how the team could cross over to the alternate universe, it was all go-go-go. My recap is up at Vulture.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

dead weather - 'sea of cowards' review

The Dead Weather have released two albums in the last 10 months. I'm not sure if their new one, Sea of Cowards, is better than than their first one, but it's close. You can read my review here.

Friday, May 07, 2010

judy collins - daddy, you been on my mind

The backstory on the reasons why I chose this video are probably more interesting than the video itself. This weekend is Mother's Day, and I was trying to figure out what artist my mom would like to see in this space. After rejecting Celine Dion and Susan Boyle, I hit upon Judy Collins. So I did a little snooping around YouTube and found this performance of Bob Dylan's "Mama, You Been on My Mind," which she changes to "Daddy, You Been on My Mind." Interestingly enough, "Mama" is one of my dad's and my favorite Dylan songs, so it fit the family theme. Bonus points for Pete Seeger just sitting there being cool and drinking coffee.

fringe - "northwest passage" recap

My wife and I thought last night's Fringe was kinda on the lame side. My recap at Vulture reflects my disappointment. Thus far, the commenters vehemently disagree. Such is life.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

hold steady - 'heaven is whenever' review

After 2008's Stay Positive, I was starting to worry that the Hold Steady were running out of gas. I shouldn't have doubted frontman Craig Finn -- the band's latest disc, Heaven Is Whenever, is a real treat. You can read my review at

Friday, April 30, 2010

deftones - sextape

The new Deftones record, Diamond Eyes, is pretty spectacular -- just read my review if you don't believe me. Or you could just dig on this song, which is my favorite off the record. As you'll be able to figure out pretty quickly, this is a fan-made video.

fringe - "brown betty" recap

1940s noir attitude + song selections ranging from A Chrous Line to Tears for Fears + the Fringe characters = a rather mediocre episode. I break down last night's episode over at Vulture.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

'a nightmare on elm street' review

I cheered when Jackie Earle Haley was announced to played Freddy Krueger in the new Nightmare on Elm Street. Then I saw the movie. My review is up at Screen International (subscription required).

'dirty hands: the art & crimes of david choe' review

If you can roll with its rough, homemade quality, director Harry Kim's documentary, Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe, is well worth seeking out at the Sunset 5. I make my case for the film over at L.A. Weekly.

Monday, April 26, 2010

hole - 'nobody's daughter' review

Courtney Love and I have been through a lot. When Hole's 1994 record, Live Through This, came out, I really thought she was something special. Then came Celebrity Skin, an album that signified everything cynical and opportunistic about her. (Nick Broomfield's anti-Love documentary, Kurt & Courtney, probably didn't help matters.) Now she and her band are back with Nobody's Daughter. I kiss and make up in my review, which you can read here.

colcoa jury prize winners, and my own top favorites

Saturday night, my fellow COLCOA jury members and I deliberated at Greenblatt's Deli and selected our critics prize winners from the festival. You can read the full list of winners (including audience and short-film prizes) here. I'm very pleased with what we came up with, but I'd also like to offer my own list of favorites, with links to their plot descriptions:

1. Silent Voices
2. Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno
3. Rapt
4. The Father of My Children
5. An Ordinary Execution
6. Farewell
7. Irene

As I had hoped, being a jury member for the festival was a real treat. I thank my fellow jurors, COLCOA director/programmer Francois Truffart, and his entire staff for a great experience. Let's do it again next year.

'lust for life' and norman corwin

It's no exaggeration to say that Norman Corwin changed my life when I was his student at USC. I thank him immensely and owe him a lot. He turns 100 on Monday, May 3, and in honor of the occasion the Aero will be screening Lust for Life the day before. I talk about the film and the man at L.A. Weekly.

Friday, April 23, 2010

justice - valentine

A movie that I saw recently (review forthcoming) made great use of an instrumental that I recognized but couldn't place. Eventually, I figured it out: It was Justice's "Valentine" off the band's underrated 2007 album, Cross. So I went to YouTube and found this: a video in honor of the song "made out of 880 photos from Sea World." Happy Friday, everybody.

fringe - "the man from the other side" recap

A pretty great episode of Fringe last night -- one of my favorites, in fact. I go into all the nitty-gritty details over at Vulture.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

'kenny chesney: summer in 3D' review

2010 is shaping up to be a great year for concert documentaries. We've already had Neil Young Trunk Show and the White Stripes' Under Great White Northern Lights, and although it's not up to the level of those two films, Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D is pretty damn impressive, too. It's made by the same people who brought us U2 3D, which first demonstrated the possibilities for marrying big arena shows with 3-D technology. My review of Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D is here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

george michael - father figure

A year ago this weekend, I was up in Seattle at the Pop Music Conference presenting my paper on "How George Michael's 'Father Figure' Made Me a Man." It was a real highlight of 2009, and I got to meet several music critics whose writing I've long admired from afar. So, it seemed appropriate that this was today's video.

fringe - "white tulip" recap

Gotta be honest: When I learned that Peter Weller was going to be the guest star on last night's Fringe, I sorta rolled my eyes. ("Oh great, they're dragging out the washed-up sci-fi actors to impress the fan boys.") But I owe Weller an apology: He was damn good. My recap is up at Vulture.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'death at a funeral' review

The original 2007 Death at a Funeral was pretty mediocre. The new film, despite a bigger-name cast, isn't any better. In fact, it's a lot worse. My full review goes into all the horrid details.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

'harry brown' review

Harry Brown, the forthcoming revenge drama/thriller starring a very good Michael Caine, will be compared to Taken and Gran Torino a bunch. It's better than both of them. My review is here.

Friday, April 09, 2010

ambulance ltd. - stay where you are

As you might know, I love Ambulance Ltd. So I decided to see if they ever made any videos for their singles from LP. And I found this.

fringe - "olivia. in the lab. with a revolver." recap

Last night's Fringe was a little meh for my taste. My full recap is up at Vulture, but I'd like to add two things here. First, the guy who played James Heath, Omar Metwally, will soon be seen in James Ivory's The City of Your Final Destination. Second, there seems to be some disagreement over the name of this episode. Most places have it as "Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver." But Fox's official Fringe page has it as "Olivia. In the Lab. With a Revolver." More mysteries!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

'date night' review

In my latest Consumables column, I have nice things to say about all three films I review: Greenberg, How to Train Your Dragon and (most improbably) Date Night. Check it out at The Simon.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

'kick-ass' review

When Kick-Ass premiered at SXSW, the reviews were ecstatic. I've seen it now, and I have to say, "Yes, it's good, but..." My more in-depth thoughts are here.

girls - 'album' review

The San Francisco duo Girls released their much-hyped debut, Album, in September, and now they're touring behind it. To celebrate the occasion, I reconsider Album for Detroit's Metro Times. (Spoiler Alert: They're one of the few "precious" indie-pop bands I can actually tolerate.)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

'the city of your final destination' review

The City of Your Final Destination is director James Ivory's latest film -- and his first produced since the death of his longtime partner Ismail Merchant. It's a slight but affecting light drama. You can read my full review here.

Friday, April 02, 2010

fringe - "peter" recap

Well, the consensus is that last night's Fringe was the show's best episode ever. I wouldn't go quite that far, but it was damn good. I dig through all the yummy morsels over at Vulture.

radiohead - meeting in the aisle

Best Radiohead B-side? I'm going to go with the instrumental "Meeting in the Aisle," which was recorded during the OK Computer era.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'the last song' review

Miley Cyrus built her fame on her Hannah Montana persona. But how long can that last? That explains her decision to star in The Last Song, a teen drama based on a book by Nicholas Sparks that gives her a more grownup role to play. It ends up being a bit of a disaster. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

'twin peaks: fire walk with me' at the new beverly

From April 7-9, the New Beverly will be running a double-feature of David Lynch films: Mulholland Dr. and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Since everybody reveres the former film, there's no better time than the present for a defense of Fire Walk With Me. I do just that over at L.A. Weekly.

'clash of the titans' review

The original Clash of the Titans from 1981 isn't very good. So there was room for improvement in any potential remake. Sadly, the new Clash of the Titans -- in 3D! -- has almost the exact same problems as the first film. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

COLCOA jury duty

The annual COLCOA (City of Lights, City of Angels) festival will be taking place in Los Angeles from April 19-25. As the festival says, it's "A Week of French Film Premieres in Hollywood." I'm proud to say I'll be serving on the jury with four fellow LAFCA members, and our screenings start next week. The slate of COLCOA films is here -- in previous years, they've spotlighted such great films as The Secret of the Grain, Seraphine, Roman de Gare and Manon on the Asphalt.

I'm thrilled and honored to be part of COLCOA, and I'm looking forward to discovering a few gems -- as well as finding out what the super-secret "Blind Date" film that's screening during the festival will be.

Friday, March 26, 2010

the doors - the crystal ship

Maybe I've just been in a classic-rock mood lately. Or maybe it's because that Doors documentary will be coming out soon. Regardless, here's an underrated song from their first album...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

'the harimaya bridge' review

Do movies actually do anything to help cure social ills? I was thinking about that while watching The Harimaya Bridge, an earnest drama about a father who has to confront his own bigotry when he travels from San Francisco to Japan to collect his dead son's paintings. My review is up at L.A. Weekly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'joan rivers: a piece of work' review

Never been much of a fan of Joan Rivers, but the superb new documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work made me question some of my prejudices about her. At 76, she's an inspiring woman, even if she also seems like a handful. The film opens in June -- my review is here.

drive-by truckers - 'the big to-do' review

Anybody who knows me is aware of what a fan of the Drive-By Truckers I am. But, seriously, their new album, The Big To-Do, is pretty great. You can read my review here.

(P.S. If you need more convincing of this band's greatness, here are my reviews of Decoration Day, The Dirty South and Brighter Than Creation's Dark.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

television - venus

Every song off Marquee Moon is great -- you probably know that already. But right now I'm really loving "Venus."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'the red baron' review

The Red Baron, the famed World War I flying ace, is a great subject for a film. But The Red Baron is not that film. I explain why over at L.A. Weekly.

emmett malloy, director of 'under great white northern lights,' speaks

I interviewed Emmett Malloy, the director of the White Stripes documentary Under Great White Northern Lights, which I saw and loved at last year's Toronto Film Festival. Our chat is up at Vulture.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

white stripes - 'under great white northern lights' album review

I've been raving about the White Stripes' tour documentary Under Great White Northern Lights since I saw it during last year's Toronto Film Festival. The accompanying live album of the same name is pretty damn great as well. I review the record here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

broken bells - the high road

I haven't had a chance to absorb the whole Broken Bells album, but this lead single is the sort of thing James Mercer does really well with his regular band, the Shins: It feels slight, but its melodic assurance helps give it a real heft.

'green zone' review

Director Paul Greengrass had a perfect track record heading into Green Zone, his new Iraq thriller starring Matt Damon. Oh well -- nobody's perfect. I write about the film at length at The Simon.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'the cry of the owl' review

Paddy Considine and Julia Stiles appear in the thriller The Cry of the Owl, which opens this weekend. It's a small, intimate film, and for a while it's genuinely odd. But then things go wrong. I go into all of it at L.A. Weekly.

Friday, March 05, 2010

neil young - crime in the city

The original "Crime in the City" is an acoustic/country/jazz sort of thing from Neil Young's fantastic 1989 album, Freedom. It's great, and if you haven't heard it, you should -- some of the best storytelling Young's ever done. But as much as I dig that track, the live electric version blows it out of the water. Here it is: