Thursday, May 31, 2012

'Snow White and the Huntsman' Review

After seeing Mirror Mirror, I was convinced that Snow White and the Huntsman would be the superior Snow White project. Alas, no. (Hollywood has a way of surprising you in all the worst ways.) My review of The Huntsman is up at Gawker.

Back Stage: Two Great Documentaries Are Heading Your Way

For this week's Screen Grab column, I have lots of nice things to say about two thought-provoking documentaries. One is 5 Broken Cameras, a bracing, intimate look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The other is Pink Ribbons, Inc., a sharp criticism of the breast-cancer awareness movement. They're both worth checking out in theaters or on DVD. My full column is here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

'Chernobyl Diaries' Review

This is neither here nor there, but I'd like to point out that the title Chernobyl Diaries is something of a copy-editing nightmare. "Chernobyl" always looks wrong to me when I write it, and if you're not careful, you'll end up with "dairies" instead of "diaries." (Then again, a movie about a top-secret building around Chernobyl where they make milk and cheese might be your type of flick.)

Anyway, enough of the nonsense. Here's my Screen International review of the so-so Chernobyl Diaries.

Handsome Furs - "Handsome Furs Hate This City"

I was really sad to hear that Handsome Furs were calling it quits. These matters become infinitely more complicated when your band's principal members, Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, are married. Hopefully they're doing OK. In the meantime, here's "Handsome Furs Hate This City" from their 2007 debut, Plague Park.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Memorial Day Is for Lovers ... of Movie Trailers

Back in the days of The Projector, Will and I used to love doing a regular segment called "Trailer Hitch," which were fun little rundowns of new trailers. Today for Deadspin, I decided to bring back the format for five new trailers released in the last few days. Memorial Day brings with it a ton of new trailers, so the timing seemed perfect. Hope you enjoy.

Back Stage: 'Oslo, August 31st' Is Terrific

For this week's Screen Grab column over at Back Stage, I dive into six movies opening over Memorial Day weekend. There are no real stinkers -- Cowgirls 'n Angels is merely a mild bore -- but the best of the bunch is Oslo, August 31st, from director Joachim Trier. Yes, he and Lars von Trier are apparently distant relatives, but their films are nothing alike, except for the fact that they're quite striking. Here's this week's column.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

'Men in Black 3' Review

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the 10 movies I was most excited about this summer -- as well as the five I was most dreading. Well, surprise surprise, two of the five have turned out to be good. First there was The Dictator. Now there's Men in Black 3, which is a satisfying little romp. My review is up at Deadspin.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I Love Will Smith

Those who know me have had to hear me rave about Will Smith for quite some time. So, on the occasion of Men in Black 3's imminent release, this week's IFC Fix column is about his amazing decade-plus run as Hollywood's best movie star. You can read it here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Eels - "I Need Some Sleep"

As you probably know, I wrote a biography of the band Eels. It arrives in stores in June in the U.S., but folks who have ordered it through Amazon have already started receiving theirs. So with the book's arrival imminent, it's probably only natural that I've been thinking about E and his music a lot lately. I decided to feature a song that may be lesser-known. It's called "I Need Some Sleep," and it was included on the group's 2008 best-of collection, Meet the Eels: Essential Eels, Vol. 1. The song is quintessential Eels: dreamy, wistful, incredibly melodic. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

'Battleship' Review

About 10 minutes into Battleship, I was pretty sure I was going to like it. Two hours later, I was right. Well-made blockbuster junk, the movie is no work of art, and thank god for that. My review is up over at Deadspin.

Back Stage: Two Great Foreign Films Worth Your Time

This week's Screen Grab column at Back Stage gives you the lowdown on seven movies opening this weekend. May I suggest you pay special attention to the two films at the bottom of the rundown? They're Elena and Polisse (pictured above), daring and effective foreign-language films that both knocked my socks off. Here's the column.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Loathsome 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

I try not to take movies personally, but I found it difficult when approaching the horrendous What to Expect When You're Expecting. As someone who's happily married to a woman who (like me) doesn't want to have kids, I feel a certain amount of societal pressure to reproduce. (I realize, by the way, that this pressure is far more intense for the woman than it is for the man.) So, for Deadspin, I decided to lay into What to Expect, which is like a walking advertisement for the You Must Procreate agenda. Ranting felt good. You can read my piece here.

Update: My piece was republished on Gawker, and I recommend checking out the comments section, which features a lot of thoughtful observations on the pros and cons of having children. 

Cannes: 'Moonrise Kingdom' Review

I'm not at the Cannes Film Festival, but for Screen International I reviewed this year's kickoff film, Moonrise Kingdom. I'm in sort of a unique position to write about the latest from Wes Anderson. It seems like most people are in one of two camps concerning Anderson's films: Either they've loved everything he's done, or they used to like his stuff but think he's just been repeating himself of late. Well, I'm in a third, less-popular camp: I actually think his movies have improved over time. For my money, The Darjeeling Limited was the best thing he'd done until Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is on its own level of greatness. With that background in mind, here's my Moonrise Kingdom review.

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the Great 'Elena'

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev made his auspicious debut with The Return. Since then, he's made The Banishment (which, thanks to the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Films That Got Away committee, of which I'm a member, will finally be getting its L.A. premiere next month at the Los Angeles Film Festival), and now his third film is about to be released. It's called Elena, and I think it's his best film yet. For IFC Fix, I do my best to explain why.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Strange Case of Sacha Baron Cohen

For Deadspin, I wrote a little something about Sacha Baron Cohen. The way I see it, he's in a very unenviable point in his career. Yes, he's still popular, but with the release of The Dictator imminent, he's come to a place where his shtick is starting to feel familiar. That can't be easy. Here's my article.

Friday, May 11, 2012

'Under African Skies' Review

As a huge fan of Graceland, I was curious about Under African Skies, a documentary about the 1986 album's making. Still, there's always that worry that it'll just be a bland puff piece, especially considering that the film is being packaged with a new deluxe edition of the album. But, no, Under African Skies does a solid job examining the controversy as well as celebrating its greatness. My review is up at The Village Voice. And if you want to read the definitive critical essay on the aforementioned controversy, I highly, highly recommend Robert Christgau's piece, "South African Romance," that was published about a month after the album's release. A very nice balance of musical analysis and political commentary.

'The Dictator' Review

For months, I've been dreading The Dictator. This is somewhat surprising considering how much I loved Borat, which was only six years ago. So, I'm happy to report that Sacha Baron Cohen's new film is pretty consistently funny. Not great, but consistently funny. My review is up at Screen International.

Guided by Voices - "The Brides Have Hit Glass"

I haven't listened to Isolation Drills in forever. You'll be happy to know that it holds up quite well. I recall hearing at the time of its release, back in 2001, that it was Bob Pollard's "divorce album." Here's one of the songs that definitely fits with the concept, "The Brides Have Hit Glass."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Back Stage: Seek Out 'I Wish'

This week's Screen Grab column contains one of the year's worst movies (Girl in Progress), but I don't want you to focus on that. Instead, I'd like to spend time singing the praises of I Wish, the latest film from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. It may not be as magnificent as Nobody Knows, but it's a charming, moving little drama. The whole column can be read here.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

'Dark Shadows' Review

I can't claim to be a fan of the original Dark Shadows TV show -- I've only seen clips on YouTube -- but a film version very much seemed down director Tim Burton's alley. Turns out, it's too much down Burton's alley. My review of Dark Shadows is up on Screen International.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Remembering Adam Yauch, Indie Film Mogul

Not surprisingly, most obituaries for Adam Yauch focused on his career with Beastie Boys. But for Deadspin, I wanted to write about his impact on the world of independent film. He and his company, Oscilloscope, did a lot in a short amount of time. You can read my article here.

'Spider-Man' at 10

I still remember when Spider-Man came out in May 2002. Summer event movies always seem like a big deal, but this one really seemed like a big deal. Superhero films had gone out of fashion -- you can thank Batman & Robin for that -- but this was an unabashed superhero movie. Adding to its enormity was that fact that it seemed for a while that we'd never get a Spider-Man movie because of insurmountable legal hurdles. Well, you know the rest. For IFC Fix, I wrote about the movie's 10th anniversary and how we're still living in the film world it helped create. Here's the piece.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Sight & Sound: What 1990s Films Will Stand the Test of Time?

Since I was a kid, I've been in awe of Sight & Sound's once-a-decade greatest films poll. It's the king of all best-film lists, and the latest edition will happen this summer. In the poll's honor, I decided to speculate about which five films from the '90s could possible crack the Top 10 someday. Newer films take a long time to reach the upper echelon of the poll, so I'm really just guessing. But I think a couple of them have at least a chance. And, hey, it makes for fun debate. (And, to make it clear, these aren't my favorite films of the '90s: I'm just saying they're the most likely to be the favorites of S&S voters.) You can read my article over at Deadspin.

Ludovico Einaudi - "Fly"

There's a film that's coming out in the next few weeks in which the central characters have a conversation about classical music. One guy loves it, the other guy hates it. So to convince his friend that classical is great, he plays him some iconic songs. The joke is that the second guy recognizes all the songs -- but only because they've been used in lots of TV commercials. That's how he can appreciate classical music.

What's funny to me is that another song used on the soundtrack, Ludovico Einaudi's instrumental piano number "Fly," is meant to underscore a dramatic moment. But, of course, I only thought, "Hey, that's the music from the NBA playoffs commercial that was quickly parodied all over the place." I guess we're all uncultured slobs in our own way.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Back Stage: 'The Avengers' and 'Last Call at the Oasis' Are Your Best Bets

This week's Screen Grab column over at Back Stage lays out six films choice for you this weekend. Do you need to hear anything more about The Avengers? Probably not, so let me suggest that, among the indies, the documentary Last Call at the Oasis is the strongest offering, although it's hardly the most high-profile. You can check out the whole column here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Pretty Soon, Everybody's Going to Know Who Joss Whedon Is

For most of his career, writer-director Joss Whedon has been a favorite of the Comic-Con crowd. He's the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly and other shows that that one geeky friend in your life really, really likes. But even if you've been able to dismiss the guy up to this point, it'll be hard to ignore him much longer: He wrote and directed The Avengers, which will make a ton of money. For Deadspin, I wrote about the rocky road Whedon walked to get to where he is now. As someone who doesn't consider himself a fanboy, I tried to write this piece from the perspective of a non-apostle, essentially explaining what's special about Whedon to those who may have a knee-jerk reaction to such an article. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Movies About the Pain of Long-Term Love

The Five-Year Engagement is an unusual Hollywood rom-com in one important way: It's about what happens after the happily ever after. For IFC Fix, I did a quick rundown of other recent comedies and dramas that have covered similar ground. (And, yes, I worked in a reference to the great Modern Romance.) You can read my piece here.