Saturday, January 26, 2013

'Movie 43' Review

Hardly a rebellious youth, I recall that one of the "edgiest" things I ever did in my childhood was trying to rent Kentucky Fried Movie at my local video store before I was 18. Because it was rated R, I needed my parents' permission, so the video store called my folks to ask them if it was OK that I was renting the movie. (Naturally, my parents had no idea what the hell this movie even was.) That's a fond memory, and I thought of it while watching Movie 43, which is a new generation's version of a sexually outrageous comedy made up of short films. And while it's not very good, it is rather fascinating. My review is up at Screen International.

(By the way, if you want to skip this movie and just see the best short in it, may I refer you to "Victory's Glory"? NSFW.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sundance 2013: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Festival

In the span of about a week, I saw 25 films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but because I wasn't in Park City for the festival's entire run, there are still several titles I wish I could have seen: Escape From Tomorrow, The Spectacular Now, Fruitvale, Blue Caprice, Valentine Road, After Tiller, Toy's House, even jOBS. Those will have to wait, sadly, but I wanted to offer that caveat to the below ranking to suggest that it's far from a definitive overview of everything that was available at the festival. Nonetheless, this was my 2013 Sundance. Links lead to my reviews... (Update: I had forgotten to include the one film I saw before the festival, The Gatekeepers. It's added now.)

26. Very Good Girls
25. A.C.O.D.
24. May in the Summer
23. Prince Avalanche
22. Don Jon's Addiction
21. The East
20. Sightseers
19. Computer Chess
18. Magic Magic
17. Big Sur
16. Lovelace
15. S-VHS
14. In a World...
13. Touchy Feely
12. Breathe In
11. God Loves Uganda
10. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
9. Mother of George
8. Crystal Fairy
7. Fill the Void
6. Two Mothers
5. The Gatekeepers
4. Mud
3. C.O.G.
2. Upstream Color
1. Before Midnight

'Side Effects' Review

Someone who follows me on Twitter mentioned that he was very interested in seeing Side Effects, the forthcoming film from Steven Soderberg, but that the title just seemed so boring. Deceptively so, I say -- just like everything else in this twisty little thriller. My review is up at Screen International.

'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' Review

Anybody else out there like Dead Snow? Norwegian horror movie from a few years ago? Very much tongue-in-cheek? Featured Nazi zombies? The filmmaker of Dead Snow, Tommy Wirkola, makes his Hollywood debut with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and I wish it was nearly as fun. What can I say: There just aren't enough crushed heads for my taste. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Magic Magic'

Juno Temple is the best part of Magic Magic, a trippy psychological horror movie about a young American woman who's probably losing her mind on a vacation in Chile. Why is she losing her mind? Nobody knows and, frankly, I didn't care. It's all about mood with this movie, and the mood is incredibly funky. You can read my Magic Magic review over at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'A.C.O.D.'

Adam Scott is in danger of becoming the new Anna Faris. By this, I mean that he's an actor we all like whom we think should be a much bigger star than he is. But like Faris, he can't seem to make good choices. A.C.O.D. starts off with a funny premise but goes nowhere, unfortunately. For you Parks & Recreation fans, Amy Poehler is in this, too. She also is wasted in the movie. Really, everybody is. My review is up at Screen International.

Low - "California"

Yo La Tengo just released a new album, which I need to hear. (Hey, I've been a little busy.) But it got me thinking about other great indie bands whose members are married. Which led me to this particular favorite from Low.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sundance 2013 Review: 'In a World..."

Others were captivated by the Sundance comedy In a World..., the feature debut of writer-director-star Lake Bell. Me, I though it was quite clever and funny, but it's also rather thimble-deep. Still, plenty of laughs, which is sadly rare in most comedies. My review is up at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Big Sur'

You may remember that a few years ago I interviewed the Polish brothers after they took issue with a post I wrote about the direction of their career. I very much enjoyed our conversation and had been curious about their forthcoming work, Big Sur, which is based on the Jack Kerouac novel. I've seen the film now, and it's very much a continuation of the moody, melancholy aesthetic they brought to their last film, For Lovers Only. And if you love the National, their music is all over the thing, to striking effect. My review is up at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Lovelace'

Back in 2010, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman premiered Howl on opening night at the Sundance Film Festival. They return to the festival this year with Lovelace, about '70s porn star Linda Lovelace. This is one of those films that Will and I covered a decent amount back during The Projector days, so I was curious about the finished product. Now I've seen it, and I think it works, although I do have some reservations. My review is up at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Very Good Girls'

For those of you who have been hankering for a movie that brings together Elizabeth Olsen and Dakota Fanning, you are in luck: Very Good Girls is here. This coming-of-age drama has a sweetness that can't obscure the fact that, really, you've seen all this before. I go into more detail over at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'C.O.G.'

I haven't read the David Sedaris essay that serves as the inspiration for C.O.G., but I can only hope it's as compassionate and moving as the film that's been made by writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez. This drama about a young man who travels to Oregon to get away from it all features a superb performance from Denis O'Hare but, really, the whole cast is excellent. This is a lovely, small-scale story that grows richer as it moves along. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sundance 2013 Review: 'The East'

I liked Sound of My Voice, the first film from director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling, but unfortunately their second, The East, is much like their previous effort, just slicker. It's a smooth-running thriller, but it doesn't add up to a whole heck of a lot. You can read my thoughts over at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints'

Ain't Them Bodies Saints is part of Sundance's U.S. Dramatic Competition, and if the jury decides to give out a prize for Best Terrence Malick Impression, this movie will win hands down. At first, writer-director David Lowery's appropriation of Malick's poetic style feels derivative, but as the film went along, well, I succumbed to Ain't Them's genuine beauty. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Prince Avalanche'

I get the impression that I'm less enamored by Prince Avalanche, the new film from writer-director David Gordon Green, than other people are. This comedy has its charms, but I ultimately found it too minor to really engage with. When you get to see it, maybe you'll disagree. My review is up at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Before Midnight'

How many trilogies get better with each film? The Lord of the Rings, right. Anything else? I can't think of any others, either. Until now. Richard Linklater's Before Midnight isn't flat-out lovely like Before Sunset, but the emotional complexity of the thing is rather remarkable -- heroic, even. Watching the film last night at its Sundance premiere, I was reminded of a line by Robert Christgau about Bob Dylan's Love & Theft: "It's profound, too, by which I mean very funny." That's a great way of describing this movie as well. My rave is up at Screen International.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sundance 2013 Review: 'S-VHS'

No, this isn't a still from Spring Breakers. It's S-VHS, the sequel to last year's indie cult sensation V/H/S. That means more horror shorts, more found-footage fun and, sadly, more stupid wraparound narratives getting in the way. But with that said, the new film is better than the first. You can read my review at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Breathe In'

Before talking about Breathe In, it's probably important to remind you that I was a fan of director Drake Doremus' last film, Like Crazy. Not everyone is, I realize, so let me say that his new movie is a deeper, more poignant experience. But, god, do I wish it didn't lose its way near the end. My review of Breathe In is at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Touchy Feely'

Touchy Feely, the latest from writer-director Lynn Shelton, isn't as good as Humpday or Your Sister's Sister. But it still moved me, even if it does strain a little too hard for a feel-good vibe. Still, when it comes to Shelton, I forgive a lot. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Two Mothers'

Naomi Watts and Robin Wright are both excellent in Two Mothers, which is said to be based on a true story. Two longtime friends, Lil and Roz, find themselves in unlikely romantic entanglements: Lil is sleeping with Roz's son, and Roz is sleeping with Lil's son. How could such a thing happen? This very nuanced and thoughtful romantic drama seeks to provide the answers. There was a smattering of nervous laughter throughout this film's premiere last night at the Eccles, but I attribute that to audience expectations. They were thinking Two Mothers would be a bedroom farce when, in fact, it's a boldly straight-faced look at an impossible situation. My review is up at Screen International.

Sundance 2013 Review: 'Don Jon's Addiction'

Don Jon's Addiction is the feature directorial debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who's been a hit at the festival over the years thanks to movies like Brick and (500) Days of Summer. His new film, which he also wrote and stars in, concerns a porn addict and one-night-stand enthusiast who decides it's time to change his ways. He meets his match when he falls for Scarlett Johansson. Addiction is a noble effort to shake up the romantic-comedy rules, but, alas, it doesn't quite work. My review is up at Screen International.

By the way, Johansson's New-Jersey-girl performance really made me think of this:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Grimes - "Oblivion"

Here's a song I just need right now. Maybe you do, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sundance 2013: The Must-See Movies

It is, of course, impossible to know at the beginning of a festival which movies are the "must-see" ones. (You have to see them first.) Still, I put together a list of 10 potentially intriguing Sundance titles for Deadspin. We'll see if I'm right or wrong very soon.

By the way, I'll be reviewing films at the festival for Screen International. Here's the reviews page so that you don't miss a thing from me or my two esteemed colleagues, Anthony Kaufman and David D'Arcy.

Finally, in case you're wondering, the above is a still from Upstream Color. I know, right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 Pazz & Jop Poll Predictions

The Village Voice is about to reveal the results of its annual Pazz & Jop music poll. So, for the hell of it, my predictions for the Top 10 on the album list....

1. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
2. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
3. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel...
4. Japandroids, Celebration Rock
5. Grimes, Visions
6. Tame Impala, Lonerism
7. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
8. Alt-J, An Awesome Wave
9. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream 
10. Swans, The Seer 

I can't wait to see how completely wrong I was.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Welcome Back, Arnold Schwarzenegger

I haven't seen The Last Stand -- and probably won't be able to until after Sundance -- but for IFC Fix today, I wrote about the uniqueness of Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback bid. Unlike, say, Mel Gibson, he never fell out of favor: He was just busy being the governor of California. My piece is live now.

Friday, January 11, 2013

'Gangster Squad' Review

Pretty dames, tough-talking guys, mid-century Los Angeles. That's the world of Gangster Squad, and I wanted to like it more than I did. But I just couldn't, people. I just couldn't. My review is up at Deadspin.

Santigold - "The Keepers"

Here's why you should never put together your Pazz & Jop ballot while suffering from a low-grade fever. While compiling my 10 picks for Best Singles, I typed in Santigold's "Disparate Youth," my mind so foggy that only after I hit "Send" on the online ballot did I realize I meant to put "The Keepers," the second single from Master of My Make-Believe. Somehow, I got the two titles mixed in my brain, which would be bad enough. What's even worse is that I may, in fact, have actually put in "The Keepers." (It's all such a blur I can't even remember now.) As someone who takes this stuff inordinately seriously, well, it's incredibly embarrassing. Anyway, here's the song that I meant to include on my ballot. We'll find out next week, when the full results are announced, whether I actually did.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscar Nominations: My Two Cents

Will and I cobbled together some thoughts about this morning's Academy Award nominations. Will seems pretty certain Lincoln is a lock. I'm a little less sure. We could have a repeat of 1999, when Saving Private Ryan (directed by Steven Spielberg) was the big, looming favorite but was defeated by Shakespeare in Love (shepherded by Harvey Weinstein), the plucky, feel-good underdog. In 2013, that would pit Lincoln against Silver Linings Playbook -- Spielberg and Weinstein -- all over again. Still, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money down on Lincoln. Anyway, here's what we learned from today's nominations.

Monday, January 07, 2013

My Oscar Wishlist

The Academy Award nominations, taking a break from tradition, are going to be announced on Thursday, rather than the usual Tuesday. For IFC Fix, I wrote about the movies and performances that I wish would get a nomination, even though I realize they don't have a chance. Oh well, a man can dream.

Friday, January 04, 2013

'Texas Chainsaw 3D' Review

Man, this dude has a lot of chainsaws to choose from. He must be, like, a freakin' psychopath or something.

Why, yes, this is a still from Texas Chainsaw 3D, a movie that opens with a little montage of moments from the 1974 original, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. (By the way, I do want bonus points for my proper spelling of the '74 film's title.) The new movie, a sorta sequel, has its moments, but, well, you know. My review is up at Screen International.

Kendrick Lamar (featuring Dr. Dre) - "The Recipe"

Because I don't listen to much commercial radio anymore, I mostly hear new music through albums. There are lots of advantages to this approach, but the one downside is that I deprive myself of the opportunity to let a song blow my mind randomly on the radio. Take Kendrick Lamar's super-good Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. I totally was digging on the album for months before hearing "The Recipe" on the radio. I had always liked the song a lot, but I had liked it as part of a collection of great songs. Hearing "The Recipe" isolated on the radio, though, I was stunned by just how astoundingly fantastic it was -- and in a way I had never realized before. Now I love it in a whole different way. That's what the radio can do.