Friday, September 28, 2012

Django Django - "Default"

I felt like hearing something peppy. So here you go....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

'9.79*' and the Return of ESPN's "30 for 30" Series

"dying to find out sports fans are so full of themselves that they call those 60-minute ESPN 'Behind The Music'-but-sports things 'films'"

-- Tweet from Christopher Weingarten, music critic

I have to assume he's referring to my piece up today on Deadspin where I sing the praises of ESPN's "30 for 30" series. A new batch of films start up in October, and I've seen one of the installments, 9.79*, already. At this series' weakest, yes, they're nothing more than fun, slick nostalgia trips. But the better ones are much more than that. Here's my piece.

Back Stage: Thrown for a 'Looper'

I'm less a fan of Pitch Perfect than some people are, so my pick of the weekend is Looper. Both films are part of the latest installment of my Screen Grab column over at Back Stage, as are my reviews of Hotel Transylvania, The Other Dream Team and Won't Back Down. You can read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

'Glengarry Glen Ross' Is 20 Years Old

Glengarry Glen Ross is certainly in the running for best films adapted from plays. I can't quite believe that the film came out October 2, 1992 -- 20 years ago -- but when you watch Alec Baldwin from that opening monologue now, well, it starts to feel like it really was 20 years ago. To celebrate the film's anniversary -- and to note the forthcoming Broadway revival -- I wrote a little appreciation for Deadspin. Hope you like it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

You Should See 'How to Survive a Plague'

How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about ACT UP's battle in the late '80s and early '90s to raise awareness for AIDS research, opened on Friday in select cities, but it's coming to VOD on September 28. I think it's definitely worth seeking out, as I explain in my IFC Fix column.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

'Trouble With the Curve' Review

My thoughts on Trouble With the Curve? It swings and misses. It fails to clear the fences. It gets some runners on base but fails to score. It doesn't throw enough strikes. OK, alright, enough bad baseball metaphors. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Top 20 Albums of the Last 40 Years

My beloved KEXP is celebrating its 40th anniversary by asking its listeners to pick their Top 20 albums of the last 40 years. In other words, what do people think are the best albums of the post-Beatles/Kind of Blue era? For the fun of it, I decided to vote and, like with my Sight & Sound ballot, I opted for quick, intuitive picks rather than laboring over my selections. In both cases, I feel like I got to something purer -- and, hopefully, more honest -- than if I had allowed second thoughts to cloud my process. KEXP didn't ask for these to be ranked, so I won't bother doing that here. Instead, they'll be listed alphabetically by album title, with a few stray observations where appropriate...

Appetite for Destruction, Guns N' Roses
Nothing any of these people have done since came close. 

Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
Confirmation that I'm a sap at heart, Blood on the Tracks cuts me deeper than Dylan's '60s masterpieces. Opens with "Tangled Up in Blue," possibly his greatest song. Concludes with "Buckets of Rain," also possibly his greatest song. Such a magnificent album even the so-so "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" can't derail it.

Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
I've been told that if I was from another generation, I'd understand that Born to Run is really Springsteen's best record. Maybe, maybe not.

Call Me, Al Green
Never-ending beauty.

Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins
More thoughts on this album here.

The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
I'm the furthest thing from a stoner or a concept-album fanatic. And yet I love this record.

Endtroducing..., DJ Shadow
For the record, he's made good albums after this one.

For the Roses, Joni Mitchell
Not a popular choice among Mitchell fans, who would probably cite Blue or Court and Spark. I prefer the challenging arrangements and thoughtful anxiety of For the Roses, which she put out in between the other two.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, Sinead O'Connor
Lord, do I worry for the sanity of this talented woman.

Illmatic, Nas
I slept on Illmatic when it came out. I'm making up for it by playing the hell out of this album throughout my adult life.

In Utero, Nirvana
Why, yes, I am one of those guys who thinks this is the better Nirvana record. Just as catchy as Nevermind but even angrier and confused. Probably the greatest dealing-with-fame album ever.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy
Friends have made convincing arguments about why Fear of a Black Planet is PE's true masterpiece. For now, I'm sticking with this one.

Marquee Moon, Television
I always swear I'm going to just listen to "See No Evil." And then I listen to the whole thing.

Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols
The Clash have the greater legacy, but none of their albums is top-to-bottom as corrosive as Bullocks.

OK Computer, Radiohead
Remember when people claimed this was the '90s' answer to The Dark Side of the Moon? Wow, were they dumb.

Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan
My favorite band who don't have one indisputably perfect album. There's a Steely Dan record for every mood, but I went with Pretzel Logic because, when push came to shove, it's the one that called to me the most.

Ramones, Ramones
My biggest surprise in the Top 20, mostly because I don't listen to it all that much. But, c'mon, how can you argue with its bam-bam-bam-bam brilliance?

Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young
In retrospect, should I have gone with After the Gold Rush? You know, maybe I should have. (Update: Ah, yes, After the Gold Rush came out in 1970, so it doesn't count.)

Sail Away, Randy Newman
12 Songs and Good Old Boys have their champions. Sail Away has less filler.

69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields
One day, I will get my wife to understand what a wonderful album this is.

'Frankenweenie' Review

It is a backhanded compliment to say that Frankenweenie is Tim Burton's best films in years. (Yes, even better than Alice in Wonderland!) I've long since tired of the man's visual shtick, but his latest film contains some of his most affecting work in quite a while. Still, it's a bit of a mess. My review is up at Screen International. (And, seriously, the dog's pretty darn adorable.)

Jennifer Lawrence Will Get Over 'House at the End of the Street' Just Fine

I skipped House at the End of the Street, but today for Gawker I decided to do a little status report on the state of her career. Any excuse to talk more about Silver Linings Playbook. My article is here.

Band of Horses - "How to Live"

The new Band of Horses record, Mirage Rock, is out now. (It's pretty darn good.) If I had to pick a favorite track, I'd probably go with this one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

'Dredd' Review

Within the first 10 minutes or so of Dredd, a guy's head melts from the inside. Yeah, I knew this was a movie for me. My Dredd review is up at Deadspin.

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Praise of Joaquin Phoenix

I loved The Master and in particular was impressed with Joaquin Phoenix. This is the best work of his career, which is saying something. For IFC Fix, I look back at some of his past roles and argue how they've shaped his performance in The Master. Here you go.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Toronto 2012: 'Spring Breakers' Is Terrific

I'm fascinated by Harmony Korine's career, which I've discussed before. Even his Trash Humpers, which I couldn't stand, has several disturbing ideas percolating under the surface. Now comes Spring Breakers, which I think is his most complete work. And, yes, James Franco is totally nutso in it. Here's my piece over at Deadspin.

Stevie Wonder - "My Cherie Amour"

I'm back from the Toronto Film Festival. This week's Friday Video is in honor of a song that has an important role in one of the films I saw...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Toronto 2012: Sticking Up for 'To the Wonder'

I'm back in Los Angeles, but the articles about the Toronto Film Festival continue. For Deadspin, I wrote about Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, which is starting already to develop a reputation for being "lesser" Malick. I like it quite a lot, and I explain why here.

Toronto 2012: 'Twice Born' Review

Generally speaking, I'm willing to buy any two actors playing lovers in a movie. But with Twice Born, I found it nearly impossible to accept the characters portrayed by Penelope Cruz and Emile Hirsch as a couple. It's not that Cruz is too beautiful for Hirsch. It's just that they somehow feel wrong for one another. That isn't Twice Born's only problem, though, which I explain in my Screen International review.

Toronto 2012: 'Crimes of Mike Recket' Review

Every film festival has a stinker, and I'm sad to say that at this year's TIFF, that movie for me was Crimes of Mike Recket. It's a drama/thriller about a psychopath who looks like a handsome regular guy. But he is not, I assure you. This sort of thing is up my alley, but Crimes doesn't work, as I explain over at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'Song for Marion' Review

Fans of Young@Heart may be interested in Song for Marion, a drama about an old-age vocal group that recruits an unlikely new member in the form of grumpy Terence Stamp. Unfortunately, this feel-good drama is very, very, very predictable -- no doubt the Weinstein Company hopes they've found this year's The Full Monty. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Toronto 2012: 'Imagine' Review

Of the Toronto films I didn't like, one that was perhaps most intriguing was Imagine, a story about a blind man who instructs blind students at an institute. However, he advocates that his students not use a cane -- instead, he wants them to use echolocation. The premise is fascinating, and the love story has potential, but ... well ... just read my Screen International review.

Toronto 2012: 'All That Matters Is Past' Review

All That Matters Is Past is both the title of a Norwegian drama and a big hint about its thematic content. A story of two brothers and the woman they both love, the film consists mostly of a series of flashbacks that explain what we're seeing in the present day. The past won't let these three folks go. My review is live at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'Imogene' Review

Man, Kristen Wiig doesn't look too happy in that photo, huh? This is a still from Imogene, a comedy starring the ex-Saturday Night Live comedienne as a flailing New York writer. It's a rather drab film, as I explain over at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'Yellow' Review

Director Nick Cassavetes has had a unique film career. He's made The Notebook. He's made Alpha Dog. He does a little bit of everything. His latest, Yellow, is a willfully experimental, almost antagonistic film about a woman who's losing her mind. Well, maybe she's losing her mind -- it's not always clear. The film annoyed me as much as any I've seen this year in Toronto, but eventually it won me over. I try to explain why over at Screen International.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Toronto 2012: 'The Brass Teapot' Review

The Brass Teapot sets up a scenario I'm sure a lot of people wish would happen in their own lives: A broke married couple discover a magic teapot that dispenses money. Of course, there's a catch -- several, actually. The biggest catch, though, is that this dark comedy isn't so great. My Screen International review is here.

Toronto 2012: 'What Maisie Knew' Review

It's been a few days since I've seen What Maisie Knew, but despite all the movies I've checked out in Toronto in subsequent days, this one has stayed with me. It's a touching, smart drama about a little girl named Maisie who gets embroiled in her parents' bitter custody dispute. The film breaks your heart. Here's my Screen International review.

Toronto 2012: 'Thanks for Sharing' Review

As you may recall, I love Shame. So I was both concerned about and intrigued by Thanks for Sharing, a genial comedy-drama about a collection of sex addicts (including Mark Ruffalo and Tim Robbins) going to group meetings. On the whole, the movie works, but I do have to acknowledge the dead-on genius of colleague David Fear's tweet about the film: "I like Shame, but I wish it was a horrific romcom directed by Garry Marshall." "Oh, have you tried Thanks for Sharing?" A bit brutal ... but not entirely inaccurate. Here's my review.

Toronto 2012: 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' Review

The gentleman in the center there whooping it up is Ezra Miller, who was so terrific in last year's We Need to Talk About Kevin. He's also the best part of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a familiar coming-of-age tale (based on the novel) that nonetheless I found rather moving. Read my Screen International review and you'll find out why.

Toronto 2012: 'Writers' Review

If the Toronto Film Festival gave out a prize for Most Likable Characters, Writers would win in a walk. Everybody in this movie, which stars Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly, is just so gosh-darn pleasant. But that's not the same thing as a great movie, unfortunately. My Writers review is up at Screen International.

(Oh, and one other thing. Logan Lerman, who I've thought had real potential since Jack & Bobby, does great work in this movie. His film career may still have potential.)

(Sorry, one other thing. The movie is, unsurprisingly, about a family of writers. Even though he doesn't exhibit any of this writer's personality traits -- as far as I know, anyway -- is Kinnear meant to physically resemble Jonathan Franzen? Because he sorta does in this movie with the glasses and stubble.)

Toronto 2012: 'Arthur Newman' Review

About maybe halfway through Arthur Newman, the new film starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, I was enjoying it, and I thought, "What does this movie remind me of?" Instantly, the answer came to me: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Then I remembered that I was one of the few critics who liked that movie. I think I'm in the minority on Arthur Newman as well, although, as you'll see from my Screen International review, I have plenty of reservations. What binds the two films in my mind? Well, they're both road-trip movies about mismatched characters whose personal apocalypse feels like it's just around the bend. There's a certain freedom to that premise that I find liberating -- and also a little poignant. There may be good fodder for an article in there. We'll have to see.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Toronto 2012: 'Silver Linings Playbook' Review

Now that David O. Russell has his Oscar-winning hit with The Fighter, would he stay in the same vein for his next movie, or would he return to the indie looseness of his early career? With Silver Linings Playbook, it's a little of both. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are both quite good, and I can't help but wonder what Mark Wahlberg would have done in the Cooper role. (He was initially signed up but then dropped out.) My review is at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'End of Watch' Review

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are both quite strong in End of Watch, the latest cop drama from writer-director David Ayer. Perhaps you are dog-tired of cop dramas. I understand -- I sorta am, too. But this is a good one. My End of Watch review is live at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'How to Make Money Selling Drugs' Review

After The House I Live In, which comes out in the fall and dissects the failures of the War on Drugs, do you need any more documentaries on the subject? It turns out you do: How to Make Money Selling Drugs has been one of the most pleasant surprises here in Toronto. It's a slick but smart analysis of both why drug dealing is so appealing and why the government's attempts to enforce tough legislation has been largely ineffective. My review is live over at Screen International.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In Praise of Paul Thomas Anderson

I haven't seen The Master yet, so I decided to write at length about Paul Thomas Anderson's legacy to this point. Yes, that's only five films, but it's been impressive nonetheless. The article is up at Deadspin.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Chicago - "Beginnings"

My dad loves this song. (And, don't forget, this is back when they were the Chicago Transit Authority, not Chicago.) And don't get him started on how Peter Cetera wrecked the band.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Toronto 2012: 'Argo' Review

Argo doesn't come out until next month, but it's making the festival rounds currently. I think it's director Ben Affleck's best film, but it's perhaps a touch too "professional," if you know what I mean: It's designed for Oscar voters, for better or worse. Still, it's a solid, skillful entertainment. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2012: 'Kon-Tiki' Review

For the next week or so, I'll be in Toronto for the annual film festival, and I'll be filing reviews for Screen International. First up, Kon-Tiki, which tells the amazing true story of Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer who, in the 1940s, decided to travel by raft from Peru to Polynesia to prove to the scientific community that Asians did not populate the Pacific Ocean nation. So, the movie is educational, but it's not a gripping entertainment. My Kon-Tiki review is right here.

Back Stage: I'll Take 'The Words' Over 'Bachelorette'

The silly but fun The Words opens this weekend, and it leads my Back Stage column. Also in there you'll find my thoughts on For Ellen, Bachelorette, Keep the Lights On and Hello I Must Be Going. And if you're thinking, "Hey, I'm pretty sure all those movies debuted at Sundance," you are absolutely correct. Here's the column.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

On the Great 'Keep the Lights On'

At this year's Sundance, I didn't have a chance to see Keep the Lights On, the latest from director Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue, Married Life). I heard mostly mediocre-but-respectful things about the film, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much this intimate romantic drama touched me. I wrote about the film for Deadspin.

Why Oscar Season Is Great (Despite All the Evidence to the Contrary)

Because of the glut of websites and industries that have cropped up around the Academy Awards, it's natural to feel pretty cynical about Oscar season. It's a popularity contest. It's all about money. They don't reward the right films. It goes on forever. All of that is true, and yet I still find myself a touch giddy each and every September when Oscar talk starts heating up. I explain why over at IFC Fix.