Friday, November 30, 2012

PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke - "This Mess We're In"

I haven't listened to Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea in a while, so I popped it in the other day. Still fantastic, but "This Mess We're In" really shocked me. I had forgotten just how terrific and romantic and evocative that song is -- and, believe me, I played it plenty back in 2000, so I was sufficiently aware of its greatness. But hearing it again after so long ... well, it was like being bowled over again for the first time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 in Review: C'mon, Zach Galifianakis

Today at Deadspin, I cast my vote for the performance I most want to forget from 2012. Which brings me to Zach Galifianakis and The Campaign. Sorry, Zach.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2012 in Review: Tom Cruise's Great, Forgotten Performance

2012 is very nearly over, so it's time to start looking back at the best and worst of the year. For Deadspin, I singled out a great performance that's been completely forgotten about: Tom Cruise in the very mediocre Rock of Ages. Enjoy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Zero Dark Thirty' Review

Zero Dark Thirty is the follow-up film from director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for her last one, The Hurt Locker. I respected the hell out of The Hurt Locker without necessarily thinking it was as terrific as other people did. So keep that in mind when I say that Zero Dark Thirty is the superior movie -- for me, it addresses some of my quibbles with the earlier film. I don't get into that much in my Screen International review, however -- instead, I focus on what makes Zero Dark Thirty such a singular experience. You can read my review here.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bruce Springsteen - "State Trooper (Trentemøller Mix)"

If it's playing in your town, you should see Rust and Bone, the fine new film from French director Jacques Audiard, who previously made the great A Prophet. Lots of reasons to recommend Rust and Bone, including the performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, but Audiard has also put together a great collection of disparate tunes for the soundtrack. Katy Perry's "Fireworks" has been the most noted, but I also deeply dug this remix of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper," which at first you might not realize is a remix. Shocked the hell out of me in the movie -- and now I'm fairly obsessed with it. Not being familiar with Trentemøller, I found this rather helpful background. And here's his website.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yeah, 'Red Dawn' Is Awful

The question isn't "Is Red Dawn bad?" but, rather, "How bad is Red Dawn?" Plenty -- it's plenty bad. I get into it over at Deadspin.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving: Some Thoughts on 'Hannah and Her Sisters'

Just about every year right after Thanksgiving passes, I'll think, "You know, I should have watched Hannah and Her Sisters." I don't know if I'll have time this holiday to do it, but for IFC Fix, I wrote about the film's enduring greatness -- and how oddly appropriate it is that it's set around Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

(Image taken by Happyotter, who is very much a fan of this film as well.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hell Yeah Ang Lee

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee will be releasing Life of Pi on Wednesday. My review will be coming out closer to that time, but meanwhile let's reflect back on the man's career to this point. My appreciation is over at Deadspin.

Friday, November 16, 2012

What's Steven Spielberg's Best Film?

That's the question that Will Leitch and I pondered for Vulture. We put our heads together and ranked the filmmaker's 28 features. We really enjoyed doing it, although I know some of our picks have been less than popular. Here's our list.

Back Stage: 'The Twilight Saga' Comes to an End

For this week's Screen Grab, you can read my thoughts on Anna Karenina, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and Silver Linings Playbook. But this weekend is all about Breaking Dawn - Part 2, which you and I both realize. That review leads my column, which you can read right here.

Joni Mitchell - "The Last Time I Saw Richard"

Joni Mitchell's birthday was earlier this month, which made me think about her career and what I would consider her best non-hit. A lot to choose from, but I'm going with "The Last Time I Saw Richard," the closing track from Blue. Is it about her first husband? Maybe.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'Anna Karenina' Goes Beyond the Gimmicks

I missed Anna Karenina in Toronto, but I wasn't exactly wowed by the idea of director Joe Wright taking the Tolstoy novel and staging it like a piece of faux-theater. Well, then I saw the movie and was duly impressed. I get into it over at Deadspin.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oscar Season > Election Season

The headline to this post is pathetically simplistic, I realize, but for IFC Fix I thought about the ways in which Oscar campaigns are preferable to presidential campaigns. (Seriously, if the Academy ever allows studios to go negative in their campaigning, it'll be the worst thing ever.) My piece is here. (And, yes, that is an image from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Just because.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Crazy Career of David O. Russell

In the late '90s, David O. Russell was looked at as one of a crop of new American filmmakers (along with David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino.....) that might be capable of ushering in a new Hollywood Golden Age. (Someone even wrote a book about it.) Russell's career has had its rough patches since, but he's back in the Oscar conversation with Silver Linings Playbook, an offbeat romantic comedy-drama that I liked in Toronto. For Deadspin, I look back at Russell's career -- and, yes, I do talk about a particularly ugly screaming match of his.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Prince - "Kiss"

I have no empirical proof to back up this feeling, but I just get the sense that when it comes to Prince's all-time best songs, "Kiss" isn't getting the props it deserves. So here's the song -- and I'm sorry the video quality is so, so terrible.

Update: Well, that was quick: Prince's Controversy Music got the video shut down. Oh well, here's another Prince instead, Prince Be:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Back Stage: Spend Some Time 'In Another Country'

There are several great options for your movie weekend: Skyfall and Lincoln both come highly recommended. But over at Screen Grab this week, I single out In Another Country, the latest from writer-director Hong Sang-Soo, which is really sublime. My whole column is available over at Back Stage.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

'Skyfall' Review

Casino Royale blew me away. Quantum of Solace was a bore. Now comes Skyfall, and it's a fine, fine return to form. In my Deadspin review, I explain how this series has drawn inspiration from Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, to great effect.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Falling in Love With '28 Hotel Rooms'

Months after attending this year's Sundance, it occurs to me that my two favorite films at the festival had something in common -- and not just that they both appeared in the festival's "Next" section. Compliance and 28 Hotel Rooms can both be viewed as behavioral lab experiments. In Compliance, we watch as a group of fast-food employees are manipulated by a prank caller into doing unimaginable things, and because almost the whole film is set inside the restaurant, there's a lab-rat feel to the proceedings. In a very different way, 28 Hotel Rooms works so well because of its confined locations -- in this case, a series of hotel rooms where the adulterous affair takes place over an unspecified amount of time. For whatever reason, such films can appeal to me. (I think it may have something to do with the idea of watching how human beings in a very specific location act under unusual circumstances.)

Regardless, this Friday 28 Hotel Rooms comes out in Los Angeles. I watched the film for a second time over the weekend, and I was moved by it all over again. This week's IFC Fix column is about me trying to come to terms with a movie I absolutely love, even if some of my colleagues have been rather cool to it.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

'Hitchcock' Review

I have a soft spot in my heart for the opening night of AFI Fest. Many years ago, I attended my first ever opening night when I attended the U.S. premiere of Life Is Beautiful. It was in the Grauman's Chinese, and Roberto Benigni spoke beforehand, doing all the shtick that, because no one was that familiar with it, was actually immensely charming. (That feeling would change as it was repeated ad nauseum during that Oscar season.) Regardless, the oh-wow excitement of a big premiere has always stayed with me, even if now I tend to look at them as a lot of talk talk talk until we can finally get to the movie.

This year's AFI Fest opening night film was Hitchcock, and I confess that I was somewhat optimistic going on. Anthony Hopkins seemed to have Hitchcock down cold, and I'm a sucker for behind-the-scenes stories of how classic movies are made -- in this case, Psycho. Alas, the film is defiantly mediocre. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, November 02, 2012

'Lincoln' Review

I'm already curious to see Lincoln again. Not because I think it's a masterpiece -- it has its flaws -- but because I found the experience so engrossing that I wonder how it'll hold up on a second viewing. Steven Spielberg's film is essentially a serious version of the Phantom Menace parody that The Simpsons did years ago. Remember, it was all about procedural amendments and other political minutiae? Well, that's what Lincoln's about: It follows the president as he fights to pass the 13th Amendment (which abolished slavery) through the House of Representatives. That shouldn't be riveting, but it is. And Daniel Day-Lewis has a lot to do with it. My review is up at Screen International.

'The Man With the Iron Fists' Review

It's a strange set of affairs when a movie starring Russell Crowe opens and just about nobody is talking about the fact that Russell Crowe is in it. And, yet, that's where we find ourselves with The Man With the Iron Fists, the feature directorial debut of RZA, the man behind Wu-Tang Clan. The movie is a loving, somewhat slapdash homage to old-school kung fu movies, and Crowe is actually pretty fun in it. As for the movie itself, well, it's just OK. My review is up at Screen International.

Steely Dan - "Midnight Cruiser"

Most weeks, I resist the urge to post a Steely Dan song for the Friday Video. Just too obvious. This week, though, I'm giving in and putting up a personal favorite that you may not have heard. It's "Midnight Cruiser" from Can't Buy a Thrill. Lead vocal is provided by Jim Hodder, the band's drummer at the time. This song is up there with Neil Young's "Days That Used to Be" in my pantheon of all-time great "What happened to us, man?" tracks.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Back Stage: 'Wreck-It Ralph' Is Fun, Fun, Fun

Five movies opening this weekend are reviewed in my latest Back Stage column, and not a one of them is a dud. (Even the so-so This Must Be the Place has its moments.) But allow me to draw your attention -- forgive the pun -- to the animated gem Wreck-It Ralph. Between this movie and ParaNorman, we've had a pretty decent year for toons. Here's my column.