Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Radiohead - "Lotus Flower"

Happy holidays, folks. This isn't the best or worst video of 2011, but it's the one I'll probably remember the most as feeling like 2011.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'The Flowers of War' review

The Flowers of War is the second Chinese production to hit the U.S. this year about the Nanjing Massacre. The first was the brilliant, unforgettable City of Life and Death. The latest is The Flowers of War, the mediocre new drama from director Zhang Yimou and star Christian Bale. You can't fault the intentions, but you sure can fault the execution, which has a lot to do with Zhang's overly bombastic, spectacle-rich storytelling style. Everything's too operatic, too showy -- and yet, weirdly, it hardly resonates at all. I reviewed The Flowers of War for The Village Voice.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wye Oak - "Holy Holy"

With Pazz & Jop just around the corner, I'm working on my list of the year's best albums and songs. Which led me back to Wye Oak's Civilian. Great stuff ... here's "Holy Holy."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked' review

The day before this year's LAFCA awards vote, I spent time watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Well, you can't say I'm not thorough when it comes to making sure I see just about everything out there in the world of movies. And I have to admit that Chipwrecked isn't the worst thing I've seen all year. Top Five, definitely, but not the worst. I reviewed the film for Screen International, which allowed me to at least say a few nice things about Jenny Slate, who does the best she can in this tediously terrible kids' movie. Hey, a girl needs to earn a living, right?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' review

Yup, that's Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a movie I liked quite a lot. I definitely prefer it to the original Swedish version from a few years ago, although I wish David Fincher's new take ended a little better than it does. (Honestly, I wish both movies had better endings.) Do I think Dragon Tattoo needs to be over two-and-a-half-hours long? Not really: As popular as the original books are, these don't quite seem like epic stories that require that sort of extended running time. Still, it's Fincher being Fincher, which is more than good enough for me. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Albert Pujols Is No Longer a Cardinal

The news I'd been expecting since the final out of the World Series happened Thursday: Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals to sign with another team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Unlike some Cardinal fans, I'm taking the news in stride. I think it makes sense for St. Louis not to be burdened with an expensive contract that will carry Pujols through his later, less-effective years. Rick Chandler over at NBC Sports asked me (among others) to react to the Pujols news. You can read that here.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "No One Is (As I Are Be)"

Yeah, I still love the guy after all this time. And who can resist these lines: "I cannot even do one sit-up. Sit-ups are so bourgeoisie"?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' review

To call the new Mission: Impossible the best of the series isn't that much of a stretch. To be honest, I've never really loved any of them. (Before this one, I would have probably gone with the J.J. Abrams third installment simply because it was the least ponderous and/or self-important.) But director Brad Bird puts together some pretty fantastic action sequences in Ghost Protocol. And Tom Cruise remains forever young. And, good lord, the IMAX is just stunning: I see now why Christopher Nolan wanted to do The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX instead of 3D. My Ghost Protocol review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

'New Year's Eve' review

For what it's worth, I didn't think Valentine's Day was the worst thing in the world. Now, that's not to say that I liked it  the last sentence of Karina Longworth's review sums it up pretty nicely but, trust me, I've seen far, far worse. Like New Year's Eve, for instance, which made me hate my life and everything that's good and decent. It's not that this latest comedy from Garry Marshall is incompetent and lazy: It's that it's insufferably smug about it. I rip into the film over at Screen International.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Saying Goodbye to The Projector

Today, I got the sad news that Yahoo is pulling the plug on The Projector, the film site I ran with Will Leitch. As many of you know, Will and I grew up together and have been passionate about movies from an early age. Getting to run a site with a lifelong friend was a dream come true, and so you can imagine how heartbroken I am at the moment.

Still, I'd like to take a moment to thank Mark Lisanti and Courtney Reimer for being great editors. It was a pleasure, you guys, and I'm glad to have been part of this endeavor with you.

Also, I wanted to thank everyone who has reached out to let me know how much they enjoyed the site. It means a lot. You have no idea what a fantastic time Will and I had every day at The Projector.

It really isn't my style to be too self-promotional -- even writing this blog post makes me a little queasy -- but I want to say that, fear not, I'll continue to be writing reviews for Screen International.

And, seriously, Will: What a blast that was. Let's do it again soon.

Chic - "I Want Your Love"

Seriously, see Shame as soon as you can. A fantastic film. In honor of Shame, let's do some "I Want Your Love," which shows up on the movie's soundtrack.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

'coriolanus' review

Ralph Fiennes is an absolute monster in the bloody, gripping Coriolanus. It's the sort of Shakespeare adaptation that inspires "this isn't your mother's Coriolanus" kinds of raves, but it is a movie that feels vital and engaging in ways that some recent Bard remakes haven't. My review is up at Yahoo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'the lady' review

Having action filmmaker Luc Besson direct a biopic about Aung San Suu Kyi might seem like an odd pairing, but The Lady .... well, yes, it is indeed an odd pairing. And a mediocre film. I reviewed the Michelle Yeoh-starrer for Yahoo.

Friday, November 25, 2011

madvillain - all caps

One of the tough things about picking a single track off Madvillainy to spotlight is that there isn't exactly a standout track: It's all about the flow from song to song. Still, "All Caps" is pretty awesome -- and check out this video.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

'hugo' review

Martin Scorsese is known for his dark tales of New York City life, but he heads off to 1930s Paris for "Hugo," his first family film. There is a lot to love -- and a lot to wish could have been a little better. I reviewed Hugo for The Projector over at Yahoo.

'arthur christmas' review

I'm in the minority on Arthur Christmas, an animated family movie I thought was merely OK. What can I say, my heart is three sizes too small. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, November 18, 2011

u2 - numb

You know, I still really dig Zooropa.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'the muppets' review

For the first several reels, The Muppets is very nearly perfect. It slows down after that, unfortunately, but its cheerful, idealistic spirit made me so very happy. My review is up at Screen International.

'tyrannosaur' review

Actor Paddy Considine makes his feature directorial debut with Tyrannosaur, the sort of tough, bleak film that lives or dies by the strength of its acting. I reviewed the drama for Yahoo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'beginners' writer-director mike mills speaks

Beginners is a small little gem. It's out on DVD now, and I interviewed writer-director Mike Mills to talk about the movie. It was a very fun chat, which you can read over at Yahoo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

'happy feet two' review

Happy Feet has a permanent place in my heart, and not just because my wife adores the movie. But Happy Feet Two isn't nearly as special. I reviewed the film for The Projector over at Yahoo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

'the adventures of tintin' review

It's not high praise to say that Steven Spielberg has rebounded from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with his new film, The Adventures of Tintin. Frankly, any movie he would make would be better than that unfortunate debacle. But while Tintin is a technological feat, it doesn't feel inspired in the way that Spielberg's best movies do. I saw it last night at its North American premiere at AFI Fest, and my review is up at The Projector.

matthew sweet - into your drug

I got into a Matthew Sweet kick on Spotify and stumbled across his greatest-hits collection, Time Capsule. Decent overview, but where's "Into Your Drug"? It's right here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

'immortals' review

Big muscles! Big fights scenes! Big speeches! Welcome to the world of Immortals, which I reviewed for Screen International. I wish I liked it more than I did.

'jack and jill' review

I didn't like Jack and Jill so much, but rather than just ripping on it, I decided to spend some time in my review trying to figure out what it is about Adam Sandler that drives me nuts. The results are over at Yahoo.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

eddie murphy and brett ratner exit the oscars

For The Projector last night, I wrote about Brett Ratner's resignation as Oscar producer. Then this morning, we found out that Eddie Murphy is walking, too. So, naturally, I had some things to say about that as well.

Monday, November 07, 2011

'j. edgar' review

It's practically stop-the-presses news to announce that I didn't hate J. Edgar. A lot of folks do, but I actually think it's a sturdy (if unfocused) affair. My review is up at Yahoo.

'Haywire' review

Man, oh man, Haywire is a lot of fun. This is Steven Soderbergh just rolling up his sleeves and having a blast, and while the movie does eventually lose some of its fizzy pleasure, you probably won't care all that much. And the action sequences? Man, oh man. The movie premiered last night at AFI Fest: I reviewed it for Screen International.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Lou Reed - "Baton Rouge"

Because I've been concentrating on Lulu a lot lately, I've been thinking about Lou Reed's career some. So here's a personal favorite "deep album cut" from the man. This is off Ecstasy. My dad likes this song, too. I always consider it a sign of how good a song is when both my dad and I like it.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

lou reed and metallica - 'lulu' review

Oh, Lulu, why does everyone hate you so? You're not that bad at all, actually -- just a little misunderstood. I reviewed the record for About.

'a very harold & kumar 3D christmas' review

I really enjoyed the first Harold & Kumar and didn't care much for the sequel. Now we have A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, which I ultimately liked, although it's very hit-or-miss. Thankfully, John Cho and Kal Penn are as fun as ever. And, seriously, WaffleBot rules. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

'charlotte rampling: the look' review

I've always liked Charlotte Rampling as an actress, but I gained a new appreciation for her after watching Charlotte Rampling: The Look, a documentary that's less about her acting career and more about her as a person in the here and now. She's a bright, thoughtful woman. She also seems like she's a lot of fun. My Yahoo review is up now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

'killing bono' review

U2 fans who want to know about the band's early days in Dublin will get a kick out of Neil McCormick's memoir, I Was Bono's Doppelganger. It tells about his childhood growing up with the band in the late '70s. U2 become superstars, but McCormick's rock 'n' roll dreams never materialized. Now there's a movie based on the book, but the tome's spirit, candor and insights are mostly scrubbed clean. I reviewed Killing Bono for Yahoo.

Monday, October 31, 2011

'janie jones' review

I'm still trying to catch up after being gone for a few days, but I reviewed Janie Jones, the low-budget indie starring Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola. Breslin's career is at an interesting crossroads, which I talk about over at Yahoo.

Friday, October 28, 2011

massive attack - protection

OK, not the full-length version off the album. But nonetheless, still a total killer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'anonymous' review

Probably like you, I didn't have much faith in Roland Emmerich making a movie about the conspiracy theory that argues that William Shakespeare was a fraud. But, nope, I liked Anonymous just fine. But the movie's real secret weapon is Rhys Ifans, who's really fun. My review is up at Yahoo.

Monday, October 24, 2011

'like crazy' review

This year's Sundance dramatic competition turned out to be a pretty strong one. Higher Ground, Take Shelter, Martha Marcy May Marlene ... and now let's add Like Crazy, which ended up winning the Grand Jury prize. I think it's not quite as good as those three other films, but it's pretty remarkable in its own right. My Like Crazy review is up at Yahoo.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coldplay - 'Mylo Xyloto' review

Apparently, any intelligent person worth his salt absolutely hates Coldplay. You wouldn't want to be caught dead liking these guys -- it would be akin to really digging No Jacket Required back in the day. Me, I'm Coldplay-neutral. I've liked a few songs off each of their albums, but beyond A Rush of Blood to the Head I've never considered any of their discs to be all that essential. So here comes their latest, Mylo Xyloto. It's more of the same, which I get into over at About.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

'father of invention' review

Were you aware that Kevin Spacey has a movie out? Well, too late, it's already gone from theaters. Father of Invention is a comedy in which he plays a former millionaire fresh out of jail who has to rebuild his life. Spacey's OK, the movie less so. Please enjoy my review over at Screen International.

Friday, October 21, 2011

uncle tupelo - new madrid

It's now been 18 years since the final Uncle Tupelo album, Anodyne, was released. Here's "New Madrid" off it. Yes, a Jeff Tweedy song. I still prefer Jay Farrar, but this tune just seemed right at the moment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

'le havre' review

The latest from filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki, Le Havre, opens this weekend in New York and Los Angeles. I reviewed this gentle, likable fable for Yahoo. The movie's worth your time -- hopefully the review is, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'being elmo' review

I can't be the only person who finds Elmo kinda annoying, right? But even if you are like me, you may still very much enjoy Being Elmo, which is about the puppeteer who brings the character to life. I reviewed Being Elmo for Yahoo.

'oranges and sunshine' review

Oranges and Sunshine is based on the true story of Margaret Humphreys, a social worker who exposed a horrible secret about child deportations from the U.K. to Australia in the 1980s. Emily Watson plays Humphreys, and while she's her usual great self, the movie itself isn't quite up to snuff. My Yahoo review goes into all the details.

'paranormal activity 3' review

Has a franchise other than Paranormal Activity ever gotten progressively better with each installment? (Maybe The Lord of the Rings.) Much to my pleasant surprise, Paranormal Activity 3 is the best one yet. How did they do it? I reviewed the found-footage horror movie for Screen International.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'The Catechism Cataclysm' review

The Catechism Cataclysm played as part of Sundance's Park City at Midnight section, but it's not nearly weird and/or offensive and/or nutty enough to be a truly great midnight movie. I dispense with this meager road comedy/surreal anti-religion satire at Yahoo.

Monday, October 17, 2011

'martha marcy may marlene' review

One of the big sensations at this year's Sundance, Martha Marcy May Marlene is pretty much as good as advertised. Even if Elizabeth Olsen never does anything as impressive again, well, she did this. My review is up at Yahoo.

jane's addiciton - 'the great escape artist' review

Don't tell anyone, but I was never a big Jane's Addiction fan. (Too hippie-dippy mystical for me.) But, hey, I am a man with open ears, and so I am pleased to announce that I enjoyed their comeback record, The Great Escape Artist. Maybe it's because I wasn't such a fan back in the day that I'm open to their new sound? Perhaps. My review is up at About.

Friday, October 14, 2011

'the rum diary' review

Johnny Depp's second adaptation of a Hunter S. Thompson novel, The Rum Diary, is more effective than his first, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Still, Rum is a bit of a mess, only sporadically arresting. I give a full rundown of its strengths and weaknesses over at Screen International.

bon iver - beth/rest

The final track off Bon Iver's new self-titled album is some sort of throwing down of the gauntlet. "You think I'm a sappy wimp?" he seems to be saying. "I'll show you just how much of a sappy wimp I can be!" "Beth/Rest" is like Bruce Hornsby-meets-Sting. Phil Collins would have killed to have come up with this song. So, yes, it is very sappy ... but I also find it sort of endearing for its outrageously wussy courage.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'the big year' review

Marley & Me got me but good -- it's that rare tearjerker that's actually well-done -- but director David Frankel's new film, The Big Year, isn't quite as good. Mostly it's just nice and pleasant and bland. My review is up at The Projector, a high-quality film site that is never nice or pleasant or bland.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

'footloose' review

There's cheesy-good and cheesy-bad, and then there's Footloose, which is cheesy-so-so. I reviewed the film for Yahoo, where I can proudly say I made no bad allusions to kicking off my Sunday shows or cutting loose or what have you. I'm a professional, consarnit.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

'Trespass' Review

In 2011, a movie starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Joel Schumacher shouldn't inspire much confidence in anyone. And, alas, Trespass isn't very good, although it's not quite the laughable fiasco some might think (or hope). I dissect the corpse for Yahoo.

'fireflies in the garden' review

Did you know there's a movie coming out on Friday that stars Julia Roberts and Ryan Reynolds? Well, there is, and it's called Fireflies in the Garden, an indie drama about family dysfunction and grieving that's, unfortunately, very pedestrian. I reviewed the film for Yahoo. (And now that I have reviewed it, I can stop calling it Grave of the Fireflies by mistake. Now that is a great movie.)

Friday, October 07, 2011

tom petty - i'll feel a whole lot better

The Byrds originally recorded "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," which you can hear here, but I've always been partial to Tom Petty's version -- probably because I heard it first and more often. Fun Fact: Contrary to what this YouTube video would have you believe, Petty's cover is not from Into the Great Wide Open. It's on Full Moon Fever. What would you people do without me?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

blink-182 - 'neighborhoods' review

Just catching up on this, but for About I reviewed Blink-182's big comeback/reunion album, Neighborhoods. I never loved them back in the day, but I was pleasantly surprised by their new "mature" sound. Anyway, I go into all of that here.

'1911' review

Jackie Chan gets serious for 1911, a war drama tied to the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution. As someone who doesn't pretend to know much Chinese history, I found it somewhat enlightening. But as a piece of cinema? Good lord, what a bore. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

Friday, September 30, 2011

'dream house' review

How can a movie that stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts (and is directed by Jim Sheridan) not be screened in advance for critics? Well, if that movie is Dream House, it's actually pretty easy. Not quite a disaster or fiasco, the film feels like it's been rejiggered during its making: I'm not sure who came up with the third act, but it doesn't seem like it's from anyone who made the first two acts. My Dream House review is up at Screen International.

fruit bats - you're too weird

I am shocked and embarrassed that I have yet to pick up the new Fruit Bats album, Tripper. I also can't believe I hadn't seen this video for the album's single, "You're Too Weird." Parodies of '80s video cliches: They never get old, huh?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

'margaret' review

It's hard to say what's the saddest thing about Margaret. Is it that it's the long-delayed follow-up film from Kenneth Lonergan, the man responsible for the excellent You Can Count on Me? Is it that it's full of interesting ideas that simply don't work? Is it that some of my colleagues are being far too kind to it? All of the above. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

'sarah palin: you betcha!' review

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is not grade-A Nick Broomfield, but it's still an engaging, breezy documentary into the former Alaska governor's background. One thing's for sure: Palin's parents sure seem like nice folks. I reviewed the movie for Yahoo.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'take shelter' review

Yeah, Take Shelter is terrific. Writer-director Jeff Nichols and star Michael Shannon performed their magic first in 2007's Shotgun Stories, and they've returned with an even more resonant film. I gush about Take Shelter in my Yahoo review.

'the whale' review

So, Ryan Reynolds' best movie of 2011 definitely isn't Green Lantern or The Change-Up. It's the documentary The Whale, which he executive produced and narrated. It's about a baby orca that got separated from his family and ended up off the west coast of Canada. It's a bit cutesy, but that whale sure is lovable. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Monday, September 26, 2011

'my joy' review

My Joy is a Russian drama that calls to mind the bare-bones stories popular in Romanian cinema, but it's more existential and mysterious than that. I can't say it all worked, but the movie has stayed with me, which is its own kind of compliment. I reviewed My Joy for Yahoo.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

wilco - 'the whole love' review

I'm one of those weirdos who has preferred Wilco's post-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot/A Ghost Is Born period to all the ones that came before. (If that makes me a proponent of dad-rock, so be it.) Their new disc, The Whole Love, is another superb addition to their catalog. I reviewed the record for About.

'thunder soul' review

On Friday, I reviewed Thunder Soul, a documentary about the Kashmere Stage Band. It's a very likable film that isn't quite as deep or insightful as I would have preferred. Still, if you love '70s funk, you'll very much enjoy it. And, hey, DJ Shadow cameo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

r.e.m. - try not to breathe

Yeah, I'm still bummed out about the R.E.M. news. So here's a little "Try Not to Breathe."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

'weekend' review

If it's playing in your area, seek out Weekend, a sweet, simple drama directed by Andrew Haigh. If you're the type to be unnerved by a gay love story, well, you should still see it. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

'machine gun preacher' review

Gerard Butler gives one of his better performances -- which, I realize, isn't saying all that much -- in Machine Gun Preacher, an inspirational drama about Sam Childers, the former drug dealer turned Sudan crusader. The movie isn't bad but, man oh man, I wish they'd found another director other than Marc Forster to put it together. I reviewed Machine Gun Preacher for Yahoo, and I see that folks are already commenting over there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'puncture' review

Chris Evans goes dark and indie for Puncture, a legal drama based on a true story. Turns out the true story is more interesting than the movie itself. I reviewed Puncture for Screen International.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

toronto film festival 2011, from worst to best

If it hadn't been for a nasty cold that wiped out the last two-and-a-half days of my trip, I would have easily logged over 30 films during my stay at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Nonetheless, here's my list (from worst to best) of what I saw, including films I screened in advance. Links lead to my reviews or articles over at The Projector....

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding
This Side of Resurrection
360
50/50
God Bless America
Twixt
Albert Nobbs
The Artist
Friends With Kids
Rampart
The Deep Blue Sea
Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
Damsels in Distress
Moneyball
Guilty
A Dangerous Method
Alps
Melancholia
The Loneliest Planet
Wuthering Heights
Your Sister's Sister
The Descendants
Into the Abyss
Drive
Shame

So many movies, and yet so many I wish I could have seen: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Elena, The Kid With a Bike, A Separation, I Wish... Oh well, it happens. I'm hoping this year's AFI Fest helps fill in some gaps for me.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

'your sister's sister' review

Humpday is one of my favorite recent American indies, so I was excited to see what writer-director Lynn Shelton would do next. That turns out to be Your Sister's Sister, which isn't quite as accomplished but still rather fetching. I saw the film in Toronto and review it for The Projector.

'twixt' review

Francis Ford Coppola continues his late-career adventurousness with Twixt, a moody, loopy horror thingy starring Val Kilmer. And parts of it are in 3D. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, September 16, 2011

trent reznor and atticus ross - in motion

If I had to list my 10 happiest film moments of the year, I think one of them would be Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross winning the Oscar for their exceptional score to The Social Network. It's an example of an acclaimed songwriter (and his longtime collaborator) easily transitioning to movies without losing an ounce of their creative spark. If anything, Reznor's work has gotten stronger in the last few years, which I attribute to him realizing he can't be the angst-ridden young man anymore. Regardless, here's a little "In Motion" for your Friday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

'take this waltz' review

One of the happier surprises at this year's Toronto Film Festival has been Take This Waltz, the follow-up film from Away From Her director Sarah Polley. It's a very different film, and yet it's equally heartfelt and affecting. And, as usual, Michelle Williams is great in it. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

'rampart' review

Director Oren Moverman reunites with Woody Harrelson, his star from "The Messenger," for his new film, "Rampart." It's a dirty-cop drama set in Los Angeles. The city looks great, Harrelson is great, but the movie is only so-so. You can read my review over at Yahoo.

'alps' review

Dogtooth was a disturbing, original drama. (Or was it a dark comedy?) Regardless, director Yorgos Lanthimos is back with a new film that's playing Toronto, Alps. Sadly, it's not quite as good. I explain why over at Yahoo.

'into the abyss' review

Werner Herzog's latest documentary is one of his strongest in years, mostly because he stays out of the way. It's called Into the Abyss and examines a 10-year-old triple-homicide case in Texas. Gripping, sobering stuff. My review is up at Yahoo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

'the descendants' review

Alexander Payne's new movie, The Descendants, sneaks up on you. It's not quite as sharp as his About Schmidt, but it's in the same ballpark. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, September 09, 2011

the sundays - here's where the story ends

Dreamy folk-pop modern rock circa 1990 for your Friday morning. I was about the only person I knew who owned Reading, Writing and Arithmetic until I met my wife. Folks, she has all three Sundays albums. A true fan.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

'moneyball' review

Hi, everyone. I'm covering the Toronto Film Festival for The Projector, and my first review is up. It's Moneyball, which really should be better than it is. Here's the review.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

'warrior' review

Miracle is probably the best sports movie of the last 10 years, so I had high hopes for director Gavin O'Connor's latest, Warrior. It's half a great movie -- unfortunately, the second-half of the movie is a real problem. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

'shark night 3d' review

Put me in the camp of people who found Snakes on a Plane big, dumb ludicrous fun. That movie was directed by David R. Ellis. His latest is Shark Night 3D. It's simply ludicrous. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Friday, September 02, 2011

'apollo 18' review

Shock of shocks, I didn't hate Apollo 18 like a lot of folks did. Actually, I found it enjoyable enough. My review is up at Screen International.

serge gainsbourg and brigitte bardot - bonnie and clyde

The French biopic Gainsbourg, about singer Serge Gainsbourg, is out this weekend, so a little "Bonnie and Clyde" seemed appropriate. I would have loved to have included the original music video, but it's not embeddable, so you'll just have to check it out here. By the way, in the film Laetitia Casta holds her own playing Bardot. A fun performance.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'gainsbourg: a heroic life' review

I first saw Gainsbourg back in the spring of 2010 when I was part of the jury for COL-COA. I liked it then, and I liked it again when I re-watched it this week in a slightly shorter version. (The original was 130 minutes long; the new cut is 122 minutes.) I couldn't tell you what was taken out, but the film's overall impact feels the same: Eric Elmosnino is quite good in it as Serge Gainsbourg, but the biopic as a whole is only so-so. My review is up at The Projector for you perusing.

'a good old fashioned orgy' review

Jason Sudeikis seems destined to be a movie star, but if that happens A Good Old Fashioned Orgy won't be one of the first films mentioned during his AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony. It's a likeable comedy but very forgettable, which is not what you'd expect from an orgy. My review is up at The Projector.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

red hot chili peppers - 'i'm with you' review

Every four years or so, Red Hot Chili Peppers emerge from their L.A. lairs and put out essentially the exact same album. This drives other people nuts because, honestly, when's everybody going to realize it's all a bunch of shtick? I remain neutral on the band -- on one level, I think they're overrated, but I also kinda marvel at their consistency -- and so I went into I'm With You with open ears. Well, they've done it again: Familiar as it is in some ways, it's another winning collection of tunes. They are who we thought they were. My review of I'm With You is over at About.

Friday, August 26, 2011

dj shadow - I gotta rokk

DJ Shadow's new album, The Less You Know the Better, comes out next month. I know a lot of folks gave up on Shadow after The Outsider, but I still love the man. And I absolutely love "I Gotta Rokk" from the new disc. The title tells you all you need to know: It's one long, indulgent, flash-them-devil-horns ode to arena rock posturing. Does it go on a bit too long? Maybe. But, man oh man, that beat.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

'chasing madoff' review

I don't think there would be many people who wouldn't like to learn how Bernie Madoff finally got his comeuppance. So why is the documentary Chasing Madoff such a disappointment? I go into that over at The Projector at Yahoo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'higher ground' review

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, Higher Ground, is really special. Though flawed, it's impressively nuanced in its portrait of a woman's shaky religious conversion. Sensitive, touching, sincere ... there's a part of me that thinks I'm being a little easy on it, but I can't help it: The film moved me deeply. My Higher Ground review is up at Yahoo.

Monday, August 22, 2011

'don't be afraid of the dark' review

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark isn't a great movie, but it's an enjoyably nasty/cheesy/atmospheric one. As I told a friend while walking out of the screening, "As long as you don't ask me a single question about it, I think I liked it." Some movies are just like that. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, August 19, 2011

fountains of wayne - michael and heather at the baggage claim

I did some traveling recently, which means getting on an airplane, flying, landing somewhere else, and then waiting for your bags. "Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim" off Fountains of Wayne's 2007 album Traffic and Weather always comes to mind when I'm wondering if my bag will ever show up. Plus, it's a love song, which even though it's a sad song always makes me think of my wife. What can I say: Whether it's a sad love song or a happy love song, I think of her. It's like what Stephin Merritt once sang: "You're in every song I know."


Thursday, August 18, 2011

'amigo' review

John Sayles is a filmmaker I love, but I have to admit that he hasn't made a great film in quite a while. Sadly, his latest, Amigo, is one of his weakest. It's a look at the Philippine-American Way, but it's clear Sayles is more interested in another conflict, our current occupation/misadventure in the Middle East. It's not very subtle and, unfortunately, just not very good. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'flypaper' review

Flypaper is a heist-gone-wrong comedy starring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd. Did I mention it's also terrible? Well, it is. Man, is it awful. I reviewed the film for Yahoo, if you care to give my words a look-see.

Friday, August 12, 2011

radiohead - codex

I decided to revisit The King of Limbs recently to see if it had grown on me at all. Sadly, it had not. I think it's their weakest album -- not terrible, just merely so-so. "Codex," though .... well, "Codex" is great.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

'littlerock' review

Littlerock is a micro-budget indie from director Mike Ott that opens Friday in New York. It's a small film that won the "Someone to Watch" award at the Independent Spirit Awards. I think it's got some real feeling in it, despite its modest trappings. I dive in over at Yahoo.

Friday, August 05, 2011

death cab for cutie - death of an interior decorator

Yes, it's true: Ben Gibbard once wrote a song inspired by Woody Allen's Interiors, which is a pretty underrated film of his. "Death of an Interior Decorator" is off Transatlanticism, which, you may recall, I like quite a lot. This is a fan-made video for the song. I wonder if these guys ever saw Interiors.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

'rise of the planet of the apes' review

I think a running theme in a lot of reviews for Rise of the Planet of the Apes will be "Wow, what a pleasant surprise." That's code for "We all kinda assumed it was going to be bad." But, no, it's actually pretty smart and assured, although it does have a few problems. Nonetheless, in a summer of pretty bad studio movies, Rise is one of the few bright spots. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

'mysteries of lisbon' review

Director Raul Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon is a 257-minute-long soap opera about an orphan boy looking for his parents. That's just one of the characters whose story we learn about over the course of this sumptuous, often stunning film. My review is up at Yahoo.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

'the change-up' review

In theory, I'd watch just about anything with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman in it. But that theory is tested by The Change-Up, a very dispiriting body-switch comedy. Serves me right for thinking the trailer looked funny. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

'bellflower' review

Bellflower is the audacious debut of writer-director-star Evan Glodell. Its first two acts are really terrific, but, man oh man, I wish its ending was better. I review the romantic drama/coming-of-age tale/apocalyptic whatsit for Yahoo.

drive-by truckers - 'ugly buildings, whores & politicians' review

Drive-By Truckers have never had a hit, but that didn't keep them from releasing Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians: Greatest Hits - 1998-2009. It's terrific.

Friday, July 29, 2011

george michael - cowboys and angels

Are my wife and I the only ones who have sometimes accidentally called the Cowboys & Aliens movie Cowboys & Angels because of the George Michael song? It's a great tune off Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 -- you know, the album that supposedly ruined his career because he wanted to be taken seriously. Twenty-one years later that still drives me nuts: It's really a great record. Anyway, that's for another time. Enjoy "Cowboys and Angels."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

'the smurfs' review

I really liked the Smurfs as a kid. My hometown barber had little plastic Smurfs all over his shop. (I'm not sure why he collected them. Maybe to give little kids something to play with?) So I was dreading the feature-length Smurfs movie, especially when the trailers looked horrible. Now that I've seen the movie ... well, it's not a good film, but it's better than I was expecting. That's not the same thing as a recommendation, though, which hopefully my Screen International review makes clear.

'the interrupters' review

If you asked me to name the best movie of the last 20 years, I'd probably go with Hoop Dreams, the documentary by director Steve James about Chicago high school basketball. His latest film, The Interrupters, isn't a landmark, but it's quite affecting. It looks at an organization that tries to curb violence on Chicago's most dangerous streets. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'cowboys & aliens' review

Cowboys & Aliens has such a fun hook -- it's right there in the title -- that it's a shame the movie isn't more fun than it is. I sigh and deliver the bad news in my Yahoo review.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

'the guard' review

The Guard is the feature debut of writer-director John Michael McDonagh, who has concocted a minor charmer that's a comedy, a thriller, and a bit of a Western as well. Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle are both a lot of fun, and while the movie may not add up to much, it's an enjoyable little treat. My full review is up at Yahoo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

'the future' review

Miranda July's new film, The Future, is a nice improvement on her debut, the overly cutesy Me and You and Everyone We Know, which everyone else loved. This one has real weight to it, touching on the fear of romantic commitment in a way few recent films have. I reviewed it for Yahoo.

'life in a day' review

Life in a Day has a clever, gimmicky concept: Director Kevin Macdonald asked people around the world to film their lives on July 24, 2010. The resulting film, however, is nicely affecting, with its individual moments not as great as the whole. I review the documentary for Yahoo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

talking heads - this must be the place (naive melody)

A couple incidents conspired to make this my Friday Video this week. First, I caught (for the first time) Stop Making Sense on the big screen over the Fourth of July weekend. Mind-blowing ... and just as much of a masterpiece as I had heard. Then, "This Must Be the Place" was featured in a film I saw recently that will be coming out next week. So, really, I've just had Talking Heads on the brain of late.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'captain america: the first avenger' review

Captain America is a defiantly square, old-fashioned action movie. Others have compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I see it as another variation of The Rocketeer, which was also directed by Joe Johnston. Too bad that earnest spirit isn't enough. My review is up at Screen International.

'crazy, stupid, love' review

Steve Carell is the star and one of the producers of Crazy, Stupid, Love., a disappointingly sitcom-y adult romantic drama. The other trades were pretty kind to it, but I take the film to task over at Screen International.

'friends with benefits' review

I enjoyed Easy A, so I had hopes for director Will Gluck's next film, Friends With Benefits, with Mila Kunis and hey-didn't-you-used-to-be-a-musician? Justin Timberlake. Now that I've seen it, I can say authoritatively it's the best sex-without-attachments movie of the year. But, then again, I hated No Strings Attached. And, to be honest, I was let down by Friends With Benefits as well. I talk about all that over at Yahoo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

'another earth' review

The Sundance hit Another Earth opens on Friday. It's a mess of a movie ... and yet it still works. Barely. I explain why over at Yahoo.

'the myth of the american sleepover' review

The Myth of the American Sleepover, the debut of writer-director David Robert Mitchell, is a special, understated coming-of-age film. It's familiar and, yet, it's very candid and well-observed. I dig in to the movie over at Yahoo.

Friday, July 15, 2011

the verve - sonnet

Because I find it pretty and comforting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'tabloid' review

Errol Morris returns with his latest documentary, Tabloid. I think it's one of his best in recent years. I explain why over at Yahoo.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'harry potter and the deathly hallows - part 2' review

Well, that's it. No more Harry Potter movies ever. I'm not entirely sad about that since I've only really loved two installments of the series, Prisoner of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows - Part 1. How does the new one stack up? I give it some consideration over at Yahoo.

'the undefeated' review

Last month, I wrote about my genuine interest in The Undefeated, the pro-Sarah Palin documentary that comes out this weekend in select theaters. There's a great film to be made about the divisive political figure, but this is not that film. I explain why over at Yahoo.

Friday, July 08, 2011

faith no more - midnight cowboy

I was thinking about "Easy," the Commodores' song that's featured in Zookeeper. And I was thinking, "Hey, Faith No More did a cover of that." And then I thought, "But it wasn't quite as great as their cover of the theme to Midnight Cowboy."

And, presto, a Friday Video was born.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

'project nim' review

Folks, I thought Project Nim was quite impressive. Director James Marsh has topped his estimable Man on Wire with this new documentary, which traces the history of a 1970s experiment to teach sign language to a baby chimp. My review is up at Yahoo.

'zookeeper' review

I like Kevin James. Really, I do. I thought he was really fun in Hitch, which made me hopeful he could transition from TV to film smoothly. Instead, we get Paul Blart: Mall Cop and, now, Zookeeper, which, honestly, may be even worse. I detail the movie's many, many problems over at Screen International.

(Update: Should you doubt my sincerity about liking James, check out what I said about Paul Blart at the time. See? I really do like the guy.)

'a little help' review

Jenna Fischer of The Office stretches her acting muscles a bit with A Little Help, a comedy-drama indie about a young wife and mother whose life gets upended when her husband dies unexpectedly. The movie has a lot of genuine feeling but pretty wobbly dramatic instincts. I reviewed the film for Screen International here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

'Rapt' Review

I first saw Rapt last spring as part of COLCOA. I thought it was pretty great then, and I still think it's pretty great now. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, July 01, 2011

cee lo green - bright lights bigger city

Have a great Fourth everyone. I picked this song specifically because of how nicely it's used in a movie that comes out this weekend. (Hint: It's not Larry Crowne or Transformers: Dark of the Moon.) Be safe out there, folks.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

'monte carlo' review

Monte Carlo is getting very little buzz, but, honestly, it's better than both Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Larry Crowne. That doesn't mean it's good, however, although it does have its charms. I review the Selena Gomez tween comedy for Yahoo.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'larry crowne' review

I've always liked Tom Hanks. That's what made watching Larry Crowne all the more painful. That's not the only reason, though. I lament this misbegotten project over at Yahoo.

'terri' review

One of the best reviewed movies of the summer is Terri, a tart coming-of-age comedy-drama starring John C. Reilly and Jacob Wysocki. I'm in the minority in thinking it's very mediocre. I try to justify my stance over at Yahoo.

limp bizkit - 'gold cobra' review

Much to my surprise, Limp Bizkit's comeback album, Gold Cobra, is just like the Limp Bizkit of the late '90s: bratty, whiny, and, yet, oddly compelling. Fred Durst might be an obnoxious twit, but what can I say: The dude knows how to make his paranoia work for him. My review of Gold Cobra is up now at About.com.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

'transformers: dark of the moon' review

This should explain what an eternal optimist I am: I actually had faith that Transformers: Dark of the Moon might be good. Michael Bay kept talking about how it was going to be more streamlined and action-packed. That sounded promising, right? And then I saw the movie. It's the same old bucket of bolts. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Derek and the Dominos - "Bell Bottom Blues"

You know, Layla has other great songs than just the title track. "Bell Bottom Blues" is a real standout. (Oh, and that stuff Clapton sings at the end about turning to another partner if his true love doesn't take him back? Who believes that? This man is hopelessly infatuated with his Layla.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'bad teacher' review

After last night's screening of Bad Teacher, my wife commented that the movie wasn't as bad as she was expecting. Sadly, it was almost exactly as bad as I was expecting. My Yahoo review goes into all the reasons I think it's a pretty lame comedy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

'a better life' review

I know a few critics who have cried at the ending of A Better Life, an illegal immigrant drama set in Los Angeles. I don't deny its impact, but I wish the film had earned it more. I review the movie for Yahoo.

'if a tree falls' review

If a Tree Falls is a documentary that looks at the Earth Liberation Front, a group of radical environmental activists. For Yahoo, I discuss why one of the film's best features is its reasonableness, which you wouldn't necessarily expect from a documentary about radicals.

Friday, June 17, 2011

'bernie' review

Last night's opening film for the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival was Richard Linklater's Bernie. Starring Jack Black, it's based on a true story too bizarre to believe: A kindly assistant funeral director befriended a recent widow and ultimately killed her, much to the shock of their small-town Texas community. For Screen International, I discuss why I think the movie's just OK.

'green lantern' review

My love for Ryan Reynolds continues. He's a funny, intensely likable actor, which made me even sadder that Green Lantern isn't better. I go into the whys and hows over at Screen International.

paul simon - rewrite

An odd choice for a Father's Day song, perhaps, but I've really been feeling "Rewrite" off Paul Simon's latest album. For such a peppy, pretty melody, it's actually quite a sad, sad song. And, at the same time, it's also oddly uplifting too. Artists, what can't they do?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

'the art of getting by' review

You can't really hate The Art of Getting By, a coming-of-age indie film starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts. It's sincere and heartfelt and all that. But, boy is it a pile of bad metaphors and cliches. I explain why over at Yahoo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

'buck' review

Buck is a documentary about Buck Brannaman, a modern-day cowboy who teaches people how to train their horses. He's a soft-spoken man who had a horrible childhood that he thankfully escaped to become an incredibly decent man. (Plus, he was the inspiration for the book The Horse Whisperer and was a consultant on the film adaptation.) Buck is modest -- maybe to a fault -- but it's a nicely gentle little film. My full review is up at Yahoo.

Monday, June 13, 2011

'page one: a year inside the new york times' review

I found Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times to be a pretty fascinating film. But I'm a bit of a media nerd. Will normal humans be as interested? It's hard to say. I review the film for Yahoo.

Friday, June 10, 2011

best coast - goodbye

"I've had people say, 'Oh, your voice is reminiscent of Liz Phair.' And I take that as a huge compliment, but I don't hear it. I don't really listen to a lot of '90s alternative indie female stuff anymore, but I loved Liz Phair and Kim Deal when I was younger." -- Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast to Pitchfork

The Phair connection I noticed immediately when I heard Crazy for You, the band's debut, last year. At first, Cosentino's whiny lyrical complaints annoyed me. Then I went back to Exile in Guyville and noticed a similarity: Both women used humor and honesty as ways to express their heartbreak. Soon after, Crazy for You clicked for me. It's a great summer album for being bummed that you don't have anybody. Or as Cosentino said in the same interview, "There are a s--tload of songs about being in love with someone who doesn't love you back and I talk about weed and my cat and being lazy a lot."

True. But she does it well. "Goodbye" is a particular favorite of mine.

Monday, June 06, 2011

'the trip' review

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictional versions of themselves in The Trip, a funny and oddly touching little comedy about two friends driving through the North of England. It's worth checking out. My review is up at Yahoo.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

'super 8' review

While I was watching Super 8, I was thinking a lot about Fringe, the sci-fi show J.J. Abrams co-created that I used to recap for Vulture. Like Fringe in its early seasons, Super 8 is what I'd call "theoretical fun": It's put together in a way that should be fun, but it's not nearly as fun as it should be (or thinks it is). Plus, like a lot of Fringe episodes, Super 8 is in part a mystery: What's the creature? What's its objective? Why are animals and machine parts going missing? In both the show and the movie, you can basically figure it out before the explanation comes, which isn't very satisfying.

None of these observations would have fit in my Super 8 review for Screen International, which you can read here, but I wanted to pass along those comments in case you are/were a Fringe fan. If like me, you always wanted to like the show more than you did -- and I'm not talking about this most recent season, which the few episodes I saw convinced me was a huge step up -- I'm here to warn you that you may have the exact same reaction to Super 8.

Friday, June 03, 2011

jessica lea mayfield - our hearts are wrong

Jessica Lea Mayfield turns 22 in August. I seem incapable of escaping her new-ish single, "Our Hearts Are Wrong," no matter where I go lately. So you win, Ms. Mayfield: You're my Friday Video.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

'film socialisme' review

You may remember that I first saw Jean Luc-Godard's Film Socialisme last year during AFI Fest. (It didn't go so well: The digital file didn't have subtitles.) Well, now I've seen it with the subtitles ... which only help so much. My review is up at Yahoo.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'submarine' review

Submarine is a slight, charming film about a Max Fischer-esque teen trying to find his way. Most critics seem to love it more than I do. My review is up at Yahoo.

Friday, May 27, 2011

drive-by truckers - goddamn lonely love

Happy Memorial Day weekend, folks. Be safe out there. And may you never feel that goddamn lonely love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'The Tree of Life' review

The Tree of Life is boldly ambitious, stunning conceived, and occasionally transporting. Unfortunately, it's also probably Terrence Malick's most frustrating film. I go over it at length in my Yahoo review.

Monday, May 23, 2011

'Tuesday, After Christmas' Review

At this point, just about any movie from Romania interests me. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu ... 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days ... Police, Adjective ... The Happiest Girl in the World ... Tales From the Golden Age: It's just been one strong film after another. Now comes Tuesday, After Christmas, a very sober, lifelike depiction of a married man having an affair. I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

'kung fu panda 2' review

The first Kung Fu Panda was a real charmer. After years of "hip" (read: lame) DreamWorks animated films, Kung Fu Panda actually had some real heart -- plus, the thing looked fantastic. So my hopes were high for the new film. Unfortunately, I walked away disappointed. My review of Kung Fu Panda 2 is up at Screen International.

Friday, May 20, 2011

sebadoh - not too amused

Finally, someone got the bright idea of marrying Sebadoh's wonderfully angst-ridden lo-fi rock to an old Popeye cartoon....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'midnight in paris' review

Midnight in Paris is a real charmer. It's modest and likeable and funny. Is that enough? It is for me: I reviewed the film for Yahoo.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

thoughts on terrence malick

On Monday, Terrence Malick's new film, The Tree of Life, premieres at Cannes. I took the opportunity to reflect back on the director's career, specifically the aura of mystery he's cultivated so successfully. My piece is up at Yahoo: I hope you enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

vampire weekend - giving up the gun

Yes, you've probably already seen this video. But is it not amusing? And, really, "Giving Up the Gun" is something of a time-capsule video: It'll be used to document the way indie bands used to incorporate random bizarre celebrity pairings for comedic effect. Or something. Oh, just watch the video.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

'pirates of the caribbean: on stranger tides' review

The initial reviews suggest I'm all by lonesome in thinking that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides stinks. Folks, I think it stinks really bad. I explain why over at Screen International.

Monday, May 09, 2011

'dylan dog: dead of night' review

I always thought Brandon Routh got a raw deal with Superman Returns. He played the part perfectly as a loving, dead-on homage to Christopher Reeve's turn as the Man of Steel a generation earlier. When the movie underperformed, everybody blamed him: Hey, he was just doing what he was told (and did it pretty well, I might add). Anyway, his career has stumbled a bit since then: He's in the new horror-comedy Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. It is not very good, as my Screen International review explains.

Friday, May 06, 2011

elvis costello and burt bacharach - this house is empty now

Remember when it seemed like Elvis Costello was making every other album with some sort of high-profile collaborator? 1998's Painted From Memory paired him with Burt Bacharach: "This House Is Empty Now" was a real standout.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

'something borrowed' review

Oh, Something Borrowed, there's a kernel of a good idea embedded within your movie: Why couldn't you find it? And, seriously, Kate Hudson: What were you thinking? My review of this unfortunate romantic comedy is available over at Yahoo.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

'thor' review

My review of Thor in five words: "Sue me, I liked it." My review of Thor in 860 words you can see over at Yahoo.

Friday, April 29, 2011

beastie boys - ricky's theme

The Beastie Boys are offering a free stream of their new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, so naturally I've been thinking a lot about these guys lately. And I thought about my favorite Beasties instrumental, "Ricky's Theme" off Ill Communication. It's smooth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'jumping the broom' review

Jumping the Broom starts with a promising idea, but then it becomes essentially the African-American version of all those bad, melodramatic wedding movies where you laugh and cry and learn lots of deep, dark family secrets. Blegh, I say. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'prom' review

If I was 13 years old, I wonder what I'd make of Prom, the high school comedy-drama coming from Disney this Friday. The movie sure makes prom seem like the biggest, most awesomest thing ever. But because it's a Disney movie, the high school is the most unrealistic version of a high school you'll ever see: Everybody's teeth are way too perfect. I reviewed Prom for Screen International, which you can read here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

'the beaver' review

Well, after all the wait, The Beaver will finally be coming out May 6. I just saw the Mel Gibson comedy-drama-satire and reviewed it for Screen International. Overall, it's an honorable misfire, but Gibson's quite good in it. I go into more detail here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

fruit bats - the earthquake of '73

Five years ago, I got married to an amazing woman. This was the song for our first dance. I still get happy whenever it pops up on shuffle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

'incendies' review

Incendies was the Canadian entry for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It's an involving drama, but also a really frustrating one. I review the film for Yahoo.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'meeting spencer' review

Consider the career of Jeffrey Tambor. Most people my age know him as the obnoxious sideman to Larry Sanders on The Larry Sanders Show and the unscrupulous father on Arrested Development. Two great TV shows, sure, but his film career has never been as impressive. So it's nice to see him as the lead in the world-of-theater comedy Meeting Spencer, but, oh boy, this thing isn't very good. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, April 15, 2011

frank ocean - we all try

Frank Ocean is a member of Odd Future, and his new gratis album is Nostalgia, Ultra. (Really, go to his site and download it for yourself.) It's a pretty solid set of songs, but "We All Try" is simply out of this world.

Not since Erykah Badu's visionary "Me" has an R&B/hip-hop song hit me with such a force. Like "Me," "We All Try" is sort of a "state of the union" address, and also like Badu's song it's such a stunner that it gets away with lyrics that I can't always agree with. (For instance: Ocean thinks the moon landing never happened.) But if Badu can shout-out Louis Farrakhan, Ocean ought to be allowed his views as well. That's what great music does: It opens you up to conflicting viewpoints.

I worry that I've made this post preachier than I meant. Bottom line: This is a beautiful song, underlined with lyrics that come from the heart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'scream 4' review

Wasn't the first Scream really fun? Well, that was 15 years ago, folks. Which brings us to this weekend's Scream 4. It's better than it needs to be, but not quite good enough to recommend. There's a lot to enjoy, even if the movie doesn't really have any worthy reason to exist. I struggle with the horror sequel over at Yahoo.

Monday, April 11, 2011

sidney lumet has died

Director Sidney Lumet died on Saturday at the age of 86. The first year I was a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, we gave him a Career Achievement award: The man had just directed the fantastic Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and he was full of energy. I remember the man and his movies over at Yahoo.

Friday, April 08, 2011

de la soul - eye know

You may have read that, among other albums, De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and Steely Dan's Aja were added to the National Recording Registry. Some smart folks immediately thought, "Hey, those albums share a connection!" Sure enough, 3 Feet's "Eye Know" very nicely samples "Peg," which appears on Aja.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

'Meek's Cutoff' Review

I first saw Meek's Cutoff in Toronto. Catching it near the end of the festival, I was fully aware of all the praise director Kelly Reichardt's film had received already, and I had loved her previous drama, Wendy and Lucy. And while I was duly impressed, Meek's Cutoff didn't fully bowl me over. So I caught it again this week. I'm even more convinced that it's an amazing piece of work, but not quite a masterpiece. I try to take the full measure of the movie over at Yahoo.

'meet monica velour' review

Meet Monica Velour is a low-budget indie about a dorky teenager who's obsessed with a porn star from the 1980s, played by Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall. He decides to meet her, and, well, things don't turn out quite like he planned. I review the film for Screen International.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

foo fighters - 'wasting light' review

Being a Foo Fighters fan isn't easy these days. Foo Fighters and The Colour and the Shape are albums that most people can agree are good, but after that? It gets a bit harder, although I think there's a lot of great stuff on There Is Nothing Left to Lose. So Wasting Light is sorta what you'd expect, which is both a good and bad thing.

'hanna' review

Thus far, people seem to be pretty high on Hanna. Me, I think the action sequences are superb, but the rest of it? Ah, that's where things get a little dicey. I review the film for Yahoo.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

'your highness' review

Defiantly, gleefully vulgar and crass, Your Highness is definitely funny in a "I can't really believe I'm laughing at this" sort of way. Unfortunately, the movie runs out of comic energy before it reaches the finish line. I give Your Highness the once-over at Screen International.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

2011 baseball predictions

I figured I might as well put these up somewhere so that I can have a document of them in case I'm right. I won't be, just so you know: My track record is horrible in making baseball predictions. But what the heck....

2011 Major League Baseball Predictions

AL West: A's
AL Central: White Sox
AL East: Red Sox
Wild Card: Twins

NL West: Giants
NL Central: Brewers
NL East: Phillies
Wild Card: Reds

World Series: Red Sox and Brewers

Friday, April 01, 2011

sleigh bells - infinity guitars

"Infinity Guitars" is being used in some commercial currently -- I can't remember which one right now, and I don't feel like looking it up at the moment -- but every time it comes on, I'm reminded all over again how much I love that Sleigh Bells album. And, yeah, "Infinity Guitars" sorta is cheerleader-rock, which the video slyly mocks.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

'hop' review

Hop is probably going to do pretty well this weekend. And, hey, it's got a darn cute bunny as its main character. But, lordy, is it generic. My review is up at Screen International.

'source code' review

Source Code has a lot going for it, so why isn't it more fun? I examine that question in much detail over at Yahoo.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'in a better world' review

Bad movies win Oscars all the time. Look at Braveheart. Or Crash. And now let us add director Susanne Bier's In a Better World to that list. She may have walked away with the Best Foreign Language Film trophy, but her movie is deeply infuriating -- I explain why over at Yahoo.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'trust' review

David Schwimmer's Trust is about a very serious subject: the rape of a 14-year-old girl by an Internet predator. But the movie is one of the cases where it's so relentlessly "dramatic" that it becomes oppressive rather than revealing. Or, as I said in my Yahoo review, my prevailing thought was that I wished everyone in the movie would lighten up a little. That's when you know you've failed as a dramatist.

Friday, March 25, 2011

bob mould - sunspots

With Husker Du, Bob Mould was probably best known for crafting corrosive rock songs. But the dude has a gift for the pretty as well. Here's the instrumental "Sunspots" off his first solo album, Workbook. On a side note, whichever of you stole my CD of Sugar's File Under: East Listening let me know, OK?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

'sucker punch' review

I think I actually like Sucker Punch more than a lot of my colleagues -- and I don't really like it. My Yahoo review goes into why I think it's a rather unusual big-budget studio movie, which makes it all the more disappointing that it's not so good.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

'miral' review

I try not to let expectations (high or low) influence my reading of a film, but after all the horrible things I've heard about Miral, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't hate it. Now, did I love it? Not quite .... I explain all over at Yahoo.

Friday, March 18, 2011

warren g featuring nate dogg - regulate

Maybe an obvious pick this week, but "Regulate" was a song I really loved back in the day. I decided to go with the official video version, even though some of the lyrics are censored.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'limitless' review

Bradley Cooper does some of his best work in Limitless. It's not a great film, but it works pretty nicely. I share my deep, probing thoughts about the movie over at Yahoo.

Friday, March 11, 2011

sleater-kinney - don't talk like

My dirty little secret is that I was never the biggest Sleater-Kinney fan. I liked them, I respected them, but they never quite blew my socks off the way they did for so many other music critics. But "Don't Talk Like" from The Hot Rock is one of those exceptions: I could listen to it on a loop, and believe me I have. And as I get older, the lyrics become more and more resonant: "Don't talk like/you're 19/you're 35 if you're a day."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

'red riding hood' review

Gary Oldman camps it up. Amanda Seyfried does her best to seem sultry and innocent at the same time. And the whole thing feels like Twilight but with less vampires. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Red Riding Hood for you -- and here's my full Yahoo review.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

'the lincoln lawyer' review

For the first time in a long time, Matthew McConaughey isn't just tolerable but actually good in a movie. That film is The Lincoln Lawyer, a modest but sturdy little courtroom thriller. It's a movie for parents who don't like all those explosions and just want some good-old-fashioned storytelling. It's not perfect -- far from it -- but it's well done. My review is up at Screen International.