Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Being a Horror Wuss

Because it's Halloween, I decided for this week's IFC Fix column to own up to the fact that horror movies used to freak me out as a kid. I got over it in my adult life, which is a good thing considering all the horror films I watch for my job.

(By the way, most of you will recognize that this is a still from The Exorcist. For the record, this movie does not freak me out. I've mentioned why before.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Back Stage: Say Hi to the Guy Who Liked 'Cloud Atlas'

This week's Screen Grab column features my reviews of Chasing Mavericks, The Loneliest Planet and Pusher. But it's led by my writeup of Cloud Atlas, a movie that lots of people can't stand but I sorta loved, despite how bombastic and silly it is. (And, believe me, there are plenty of clear flaws with the film.) The whole column is up at Back Stage.

The Rolling Stones - "Rocks Off"

The Rolling Stones will soon be back for yet another tour. So I'm picking a personal favorite of theirs. Off Exile on Main Street, which, of course, you knew already.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Visiting 'The Loneliest Planet'

I saw The Loneliest Planet for the first time at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011. There was one problem: Because I rushed a public screening, I wasn't let in until 10 minutes after the movie started. So I was excited to see the film again, which I have. Yep, it's still great. I sing the indie drama's praises over at Deadspin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

'Flight' Review

Early this year, I lamented that Denzel Washington's career had fallen into a rut. I needn't have worried: Once he found the right piece of material, I knew he'd kill it. Well, it didn't take long. His new movie, Flight, is one of his strongest in years. My review is up at Screen International.

'Take This Waltz' Comes to DVD

I saw Take This Waltz at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011 and was impressed by its unpredictable, deeply affecting tone. Tomorrow, writer-director Sarah Polley's romantic drama arrives on DVD. If you haven't seen it, give it a shot. I explain why over at IFC Fix.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Daryl Hall & John Oates - "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)"

My growing fondness for '80s cheese is criminal and should be brought up on charges as soon as possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Back Stage: Stick With the Small Stuff

This weekend has two wide releases, and I can't recommend either of them. Paranormal Activity 4 isn't up to snuff, and Alex Cross is rather dreary. Instead, I suggest you seek out two very limited releases: Holy Motors and The Sessions. This week's Screen Grab rundown covers those movies as well as the disappointing Nobody Walks. Dig in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Checking In With 'The Sessions'

When I saw The Surrogate back at Sundance, I liked it with some reservations. I wanted to revisit the film before it came out, and so the time has come. Now retitled The Sessions, the film does a fine job of sidestepping the cliches of the Oscar-bait/disease-of-the-week genre that might have been tempting for such a film to fall into. My article on The Sessions is up at Deadspin.

'Paranormal Activity 4' Review

As I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of the Paranormal Activity series. So, it's no fun to report that the latest installment, Paranormal Activity 4, is the weakest of the bunch. It's not terrible, mind you, but it's the least inventive -- although it did prey on my fear of sharp knives. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

'Holy Motors' Sure Is Great

Yes, that's Eva Mendes lighting the cigarette of some disturbing creature in Holy Motors, the new film from French writer-director Leos Carax. It's a maddening, mysterious film -- it's also pretty great. I explain why over at Deadspin.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Am I Going to Do With You, Kevin James?

For years, I've been convinced that Kevin James could be a movie star: He's got a light touch and a sweetness that's rare. Unfortunately, it's getting harder and harder to root for him when he makes movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Zookeeper. On the occasion of his latest, Here Comes the Boom, I decided to look back at his career up to this point. You can read my piece over at IFC Fix.

'Alex Cross' Review

Having never read any of James Patterson's Alex Cross novels, I can't say I have a specific vision of what the character should look like or how he should be embodied. But after seeing Alex Cross, I'm not convinced Tyler Perry was the right choice. He's likable, I suppose, but he's just not gripping enough of an onscreen presence. You can read my review of Alex Cross (or, as I like to call it, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Cross All by Myself) over at Screen International.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Heart 'Paranormal Activity'

I've reviewed every sequel in the Paranormal Activity franchise for Screen International, and I'm happy to say I'll be doing the same for this week's Paranormal Activity 4. (I'm seeing it Tuesday night.) I think this is a quite good series of horror films -- inventive and stripped-down in a way that allows for nice, solid shocks. For Deadspin, I advance the theory that this franchise has improved with each installment. Enjoy.

The xx - "Chained"

The xx's self-titled debut was much praised -- rightly so -- but their latest, Coexist, seems less beloved. I find it quite beguiling. Here's "Chained."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On the Underrated 'Sinister'

Next week, Paranormal Activity 4 opens. That's become the go-to horror franchise for Halloween, but I'd like to say a few words about Sinister, which opens this weekend. It's actually a pretty smart horror flick -- it's less frightening than it is atmospheric, but it gets the job done. I go into more detail about this unlikely surprise over at Deadspin.

Back Stage: A Very Good Movie Weekend, Including 'Middle of Nowhere'

This week's Back Stage column is full of choice offerings, and I'm not just saying that because four of the six films I reviewed are at least partly set in Los Angeles. Argo is solidly entertaining, but I also got a big kick out of Seven Psychopaths and Smashed. (Even Here Comes the Boom is better than expected.) But I'd like to draw your attention to the low-budget gem Middle of Nowhere. It's probably the lowest-profile film in this week's column, but it may be the best of the bunch. Read on for more info.

Monday, October 08, 2012

'Shut Up and Play the Hits' Comes to DVD

Shut Up and Play the Hits chronicles LCD Soundsystem's final concert, but more than that, it dives into the mindset of front man James Murphy as he wrestles with his decision to end the band. The concert footage is great, and the portrait of an artist is great, too. The movie arrives on DVD on Tuesday, so if you had been curious to check it out, now's your chance. I wrote about the film for this week's IFC Fix column.

(P.S. If you've seen the film, you're perhaps aware of one intensely crying audience member during the LCD show that the directors linger on a bit. Well, the kid's become somewhat famous, as this video clip/promotional item explains.....)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Your Buddy Ben Affleck

With Argo about ready to come out, I decided to write about the remarkable, unlikely comeback that Ben Affleck has orchestrated over the last half-decade. Be honest: After Gigli, how many people thought he'd be in line for an Oscar nomination for Best Director? My piece is up at Deadspin.

(P.S. As an added bonus, here's the first part of a short Affleck directed back in 1993: I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney. To be clear, I haven't watched it yet, so there's always a chance there's some objectionable material in here.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Roxy Music - "Avalon"

Like many people, I've long lamented the fact that MTV doesn't play videos anymore. But why? Were videos in and of themselves incredible works of art? Oh sure, some were: I could list a dozen examples easily, and I'm sure you could list a different dozen. But a lot of times, they were like the clip for Roxy Music's "Avalon," a song I deeply enjoy. The "Avalon" video isn't bad, but, like a lot of videos from the era, it tries incredibly hard to sorta tell a story and kinda create a mood. And it ends up looking like a perfume commercial anyway.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Back Stage: Oh, That 'Paperboy'

This week's Screen Grab is live at Back Stage, but right now I'd like to take a moment to single out The Paperboy, a movie that got horrible reviews out of Cannes. I was wholeheartedly prepared to enjoy the film for its trashy, sleazy vibe, but, well, I couldn't get there. Better this weekend to spend your time watching quality work like Wuthering Heights and The House I Live In.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

'Taken 2' Review

Liam Neeson! Liam Neeson! Liam Neeson! My review of Taken 2 is up at Deadspin.

Monday, October 01, 2012

'Wuthering Heights' and Andrea Arnold

Director Andrea Arnold has made three films, each of them distinctive and resonant. Her latest, an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, impressed me greatly when I saw it in Toronto a year ago, so I was looking forward to seeing it again closer to its release. I was just as enthralled the second time. For IFC Fix, I discuss what makes Arnold's films so special.

(P.S. This was, I believe, the very first still made available to the press last year when Wuthering Heights was playing the fall festivals. I love this, in part because its murky, bleak mystery just feels appropriate to the film.)