Friday, April 27, 2012

'The Raven' Review

For as much press as John Cusack is doing for The Raven, you'd assume he's rather proud of the movie. After seeing it, I'm not sure why. Though hardly a disaster, it's a misshapen mash-ups of ideas and tones that doesn't work. I go into more detail in my review over at Deadspin.

Van Morrison - "Sweet Thing"

The Five-Year Engagement isn't a great movie, but on occasion it poignantly illustrates how a romantic moment can be a bit of a double-edged sword. At first, the memory of the moment fills the couple with happiness, but when the relationship starts to suffer, the memory becomes a cruel reminder of what used to be. Engagement has been compared to Like Crazy, and one element they have in common is that they both use a song to illustrate a specific moment in time for the young lovebirds. In Like Crazy, it's the repetition of Paul Simon's "Crazy Love, Vol. II," a bittersweet post-breakup song that Jacob and Anna first heard when they were falling in love. In Engagement, Van Morrison music is all over the soundtrack, but it's "Sweet Thing" that's the most crucial tune. I love the song anyway, so I'm happy to have an excuse to feature it today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back Stage: 'Sound of My Voice' Heads a So-So Movie Weekend

Some weeks, my Back Stage Screen Grab column is an embarrassment of riches. Unfortunately, this weekend's slate of films is filled with some pretty mediocre offerings. The one bright spot is Sound of My Voice, a solid indie starring Brit Marling, whom you may remember from Another Earth. My whole rundown of Friday's eight new film releases can be read here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Will the Post-'Avengers' Movie World Look Like?

I really liked The Avengers, but I had to admit that I got a little worried about what the repercussions of its success will have on Hollywood, specifically when it comes to future comic-book movies. For Deadspin, I took a stab at predicting what The Avengers will bring in its wake. Feel free to check back in five years and laugh at how ridiculously off I was.

Monday, April 23, 2012

2012 Has Had Some Great Films So Far

We are now four months into the film year. Yes, you had to suffer through some dreck (Dark Tide, Beneath the Darkness, This Means War), but there have also been some terrific films, too. For my IFC Fix column, I decided to single out a few highlights, including the beautiful, devastating movie depicted in the above still. My article is here.

'Safe' Review

Jason Statham remains his steely self in Safe, but this latest action-thriller isn't one of the action star's best. (I may have to save my pennies to help finance a Bank Job 2: That's a Statham vehicle I'd very much like to see.) My Safe review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hollywood Knows Nothing About Love

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, which has put me in a loving, romantic mood. (Hey, I'm just that type of guy.) That sensation runs counter to the emotions I felt while watching the two big date movies that just opened, Think Like a Man and The Lucky One. So, for Deadspin, I decided to write about why Hollywood movies give such bad dating advice. I also reflected a bit on how the movies and TV shows I watched as a kid influenced my own thoughts on relationships. You can read my article here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

'The Avengers' Review

Marvel's The Avengers (or, as it's known in the U.K., Marvel's Avengers Assemble) is a lot of fun. It's also a bit of a mess. But, mostly, it's a lot of fun. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Bonnie Raitt - "All at Once"

Bonnie Raitt was on The Colbert Report this week to promote her new album, Slipstream, which reminded me how much her 1991 album Luck of the Draw meant to me back in the day. So, here's the closing track, "All at Once." Just a beautiful, heartbreaking song about a kindhearted woman who realizes her life hasn't worked out at all. And the last two lines are particularly crushing: "Why the angels turn their backs on some/Is just a mystery to me."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back Stage: Go See 'Goodbye First Love'

This week's Back Stage rundown of the weekend's film offerings is filled with a lot of duds. But I do want to recommend Goodbye First Love, a melancholy little French film from writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve, who previously made the quite good Father of My Children. That's my pick of the week. For the rest of the rundown, go here.

The Summer Movies I Can't Wait to See -- and the Ones I Can

For Deadspin, my partner-in-crime Will Leitch and I both listed the 10 movies we're most excited about this summer. If that wasn't enough list excitement for you, we also ranked the five summer films we're most dreading. If you know me or Will at all, you won't be surprised we had the same No. 1 most-anticipated film of the summer. We've only been babbling about it since the last film in the series came out four years ago. OK, to the lists!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

'The Lucky One' Review

The Lucky One will be as good or bad as you're expecting it's going to be. At this stage of the game, being annoyed by the Nicholas Sparks romantic-drama machine is just silly: Filmmakers adapt his books because they know the movies will hit a target audience, and who cares what anybody outside of that niche thinks of them? Still, it's a sign of how unaffected I was by The Lucky One that I mostly just wanted to spend more time with the Blythe Danner character; she sure seemed more fun than the central couple. My review is up at Screen International.

Forgiving Mel Gibson

For Deadspin, I wrote about Mel Gibson and why it's been so hard for society to forgive him, even though people have been willing to forgive lots of other celebrities that have done terrible things. I recognize that some folks simply want nothing to do with the guy -- and I'm not trying to defend him -- but it's saddens me that it appears that some people haven't even read the article all the way through. They just assume I'm a blanket Gibson apologist or that I support the horrible things he's said. I don't recall doing either thing in my piece. Anyway, here's the article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'Shame' Is Now on DVD

Shame was my favorite English-language movie of last year. I raved about it a little back when I first saw it in Toronto, and on the occasion of its DVD release, I decided to devote this week's IFC Fix column on the film's greatness. Michael Fassbender is just too good, folks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Back Stage: Reviews of the Good ('The Cabin in the Woods') and the Bad ('Detention')

This week's Screen Grab column at Back Stage surveys eight movies coming out this weekend, and I'm sad to say most of them aren't so hot. Blue Like Jazz, L!fe Happens, The Lady, Lockout (hey, a Luc Besson double feature), Detention ... yeah, there are some duds out there. So why not take a chance on Monsieur Lazhar? Or The Cabin in the Woods? You can read my complete rundown here.

Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Jr., and Other Serious Actors Who Became Action Stars

For Gawker, I decided to put together a list of five memorable "serious" actors who took the plunge and became action heroes. It's worked out pretty well for some of them. Others are cautionary tales.

Warren Zevon- "Accidentally Like a Martyr"

Around the time that Warren Zevon was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Bob Dylan took to covering a couple Zevon songs at his concerts. His version of "Accidentally Like a Martyr" was particularly strong, and while I'd always liked the song, it really struck me at the moment how affecting it was.

Enjoy every sandwich.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

'The Three Stooges' Review

Much to my pleasant, astonished surprise, I thought The Three Stooges was pretty consistently funny. And not just that: When it's funny, it's really funny. It's not a new high-water mark for the Farrelly brothers, but it did help remind me why I used to like them so much in the '90s. Please understand that this is an unabashedly lowbrow comedy, but it finds its groove early on and doesn't overstay its welcome. That's good enough for me. My Three Stooges review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

'Think Like a Man' Review

If nothing else, Think Like a Man will probably go down in cinematic history as containing the single best joke about Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls ever. Other than that, it's a pretty by-the-numbers contemporary romantic comedy. And by that, I mean that it's all about its game-playing: Everybody in the movie operates under the principle that to find love, you have to treat the members of the opposite sex as a bunch of deceitful creeps you have to outsmart. Dating sure sounds stressful these days. My Think Like a Man review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'The Cabin in the Woods' Review

One of the toughest things about writing a review of The Cabin in the Woods is ... writing a review of The Cabin in the Woods. Loathe as I am to reveal plot spoilers, it's pretty darn hard to discuss this horror-comedy without delving into story specifics. (Wired put it best when they called it "The Coolest Movie No One Should Be Talking About.") But I found a way around such problems for my spoiler-free Gawker review. But, seriously: Avoid all trailers and commercials. As DJ Shadow once said, the less you know, the better.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Who the Heck Are These Guys Playing 'The Three Stooges'?

In my constant attempt to keep you as up-to-date as possible, I wrote a little thing for IFC Fix about the actors who will be Larry, Curly and Moe in The Three Stooges. I also wonder aloud if it's a good or bad thing that most audiences don't know who these folks are. You can read the article here.

'Lockout' Review

This is Guy Pearce. This is a new look for him. He's playing the action hero in Lockout, a somewhat fun but also kinda dumb sci-fi film involving outer space prison stations run amok and a beautiful damsel in need of rescuing. If that sounds like your kinda thing, you'll probably really enjoy Lockout. I wish I had more than I did. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Father John Misty - "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings"

This week's Friday Video presents an interesting dilemma: What do you do when you really like a song but really don't like its video?

Father John Misty is the recording name for Josh Tillman, who used to be the drummer for Fleet Foxes. "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" isn't very Fleet Foxes-y, though, which I consider a good thing. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with them, but as Tillman explained, "I don’t even like wound-licking music, I want to listen to someone rip their arm off and beat themselves with it."

"Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" shouldn't be confused with death metal, but it's powerfully moody and insistent in a way that Fleet Foxes isn't. Anyway, I dig it. As for the video, well, it violates a few rules I have about the medium. First, its plot is way too complicated; it gets in the way of listening to the song, which has something of a plot itself. Then there's the problem of hiring the hip indie actress (in this case, Aubrey Plaza) to be your video's star. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just seems like some sort of attempt on the artist's part to get an endorsement from a particular audience niche. So even if you hate the video, you might like the song. I hope you do, anyway.

And thanks to the invaluable KEXP for introducing me to "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" in the first place.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

'The Player' Is 20 Years Old

Robert Altman's The Player debuted on April 3, 1992. Yup, that movie is now 20 years old. I marked the occasion by writing a little something for Gawker. Above is the original trailer. By the way, one thing I didn't have a chance to mention in my piece: Thomas Newman's score (which is featured in the trailer) is really great.

Back Stage: Reviews of 'Damsels in Distress,' 'ATM' and 'Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope'

This week's Screen Grab column is now live at Back Stage. I reviewed seven movies that are coming out this weekend, including the unfortunate American Reunion and the charming Damsels in Distress, but my pick of the week would probably be director Guy Maddin's latest, Keyhole. This weekend's dud is undeniably ATM, a horror-thriller that, sadly, is not about an ATM machine that kills people. You can read my complete column here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

'American Reunion' Review

I feel that I've somehow betrayed my generation (and my gender specifically) by admitting that I don't like American Pie all that much. I "get" the appeal; I just don't think the actual movie is that good. Lots of folks disagree with me -- American Pie and its two sequels all made over $100 million each -- and now we have American Reunion. I reviewed the film for Gawker.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Life After 'Titanic'

This week's column over at IFC Fix was inspired by how uncomfortable "Where Are They Now?" features make me. Sure, I'm mildly interested in, say, what the cast of Pretty in Pink is doing these days, but I always end up feeling bad for those one or two stars who have done ... well, nothing since then. That got me thinking about Titanic (back in theaters in 3D) and how impressive Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's careers have been in the last 15 years. We just take it for granted, honestly. Maybe we shouldn't. You can read my piece here.