Friday, March 29, 2013

Paul Simon - "The Coast"

Sunday is Easter. There aren't a lot of secular pop songs about Easter, but one that comes to mind is "The Coast," from Paul Simon's fine, fine, fine The Rhythm of the Saints. "But, Tim," you're saying, "I don't remember that song having anything to do with Easter." It sorta does, and this guy agrees with me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

'The Place Beyond the Pines' Review

The Place Beyond the Pines is the follow-up film from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. Both star Ryan Gosling, and my guess is that both will enrapture and annoy audiences in equal measure. Blue Valentine I loved. This one I'm more mixed on. You can read my review at Deadspin.

'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Review

Whew, boy, I really didn't like G.I. Joe: Retaliation. My love of Dwayne Johnson is well-documented -- and, hey, I enjoy me some Bruce Willis. But this movie? It's just plain cruddy. I never hated G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but I did think it was dopey and jokey and pretty forgettable. But all of a sudden, it's starting to look like a modern-day masterpiece. Yes, that's right: The sequel is so bad that I actually caught myself longing for Marlon Wayans. That's grim, folks. My review is up at Screen International.

What Happened With 'Admission'?

We've had back-to-back weeks with comedy bombs at the box office. First, it was The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Now, it's Admission, which I think is underrated. Regardless, for IFC Fix, I did another of my Bomb Squad columns, figuring out why people weren't interested in this Tina Fey film. You can read my conclusions here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Praise of 'Room 237'

At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, one of my favorite discoveries was Room 237, a documentary that compiles all the different conspiracy theories about the hidden meanings buried within Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. This Friday, it finally gets a release. For Deadspin, I try to explain what makes this film so special, especially for Kubrick fans. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What Happened With 'Burt Wonderstone'?

For IFC Fix, I'm going to start doing an occasional column called "Bomb Squad" where I try to figure out why a recent film tanked at the box office. For the inaugural column, I take a look at The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which, you may remember, I actually sorta like. My IFC Fix piece is here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

True/False 2013: The Wrap-Up

Early this year, I was invited to attend the True/False Film Festival. It was my first time going to the festival, now in its 10th year, and I was curious after hearing good things about the weekend event, which celebrates the best in documentary filmmaking (not to mention the occasional fiction film that also studies the relationship between truth and fiction). I reviewed several films for Screen International during my time there, and now for Paste I have a lengthy rundown of my time in Columbia, Missouri. A combination of first-person account and critical analysis, this piece looks at the current state of nonfiction film, festival culture and the experience of having my family with me during the festival. I hope you enjoy.

And while I'm at it, here's my ranking of the films from True/False, including those I saw during the festival and ones I screened in advance. Links lead to individual reviews...

15. Computer Chess
14. I Am Breathing
13. Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
12. The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
11. Twenty Feet From Stardom
10. Blackfish
9. Dirty Wars
8. After Tiller
7. The Last Station
6. No
5. Sweetgrass
4. The Gatekeepers
3. Cutie and the Boxer
2. Stories We Tell
1. Leviathan

El-P - "The Full Retard"

Writing about El-P's 2007 album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, I commented that it "[d]emands its own Grammy category: Best Apocalyptic Hard-Rock Album by a Hip-Hop Artist." That could just as easily apply to last year's Cancer 4 Cure. The lead single, "The Full Retard," is a real brain-scrambler. (And the official video is like some Harmony Korine fever dream, complete with psychotic squirrel puppet.) Pump this, pump this, pump this like they do in the future...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

'Starbuck' Review

Starbuck is a Canadian comedy about an average schmoe who in his youth earned extra money by donating to a sperm bank. Now those kids are in their 20s and want to meet their biological father. Does hilarity ensue? Only slightly. My review is up at Backstage.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

'Olympus Has Fallen' Review

If you didn't know, there are going to be two movies coming out this year in which the White House is overtaken by terrorists. The first of these two is Olympus Has Fallen. After seeing it, I feel rather confident that the second, this summer's White House Down, will be the better of the two. That one is directed by Roland Emmerich. This one isn't. As I explain in my Deadspin review, that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

'Admission' Review

I wish Admission was better than it is, but judging from other people's reviews, I still think I like it more than most folks do. This comedy-drama starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd really feels like a latter-day James L. Brooks film, which, I realize, isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. I wrestled with the movie's strengths and weaknesses in my review at Deadspin.

Friday, March 15, 2013

'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' Review

Steve Carell's latest, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, may not be hilarious, but it has a stream of enjoyable chuckles throughout. To my mind, it's a more buttoned-down version of Talladega Nights, and the film has its charms. Most critics are pretty down on Burt Wonderstone, but I liked it enough to recommend. My review is up at Backstage.

Danger Doom (featuring Talib Kweli) - "Old School"

The Mouse and the Mask came out during that great period in the mid-2000s when hip-hop supergroups were popping up left and right. Producer Danger Mouse and rapper Doom combining forces with Adult Swim characters? Fun fun fun. Here's "Old School."

"I might be buggin'/but it seems to me/that cartoons be realer than reality TV."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

'Ginger & Rosa' Review

Writer-director Sally Potter sets her coming-of-age drama Ginger & Rosa at the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For her young hero Ginger (a very good Elle Fanning), the possible end of the world is somehow more tolerable than the romantic anguish she's witnessing in her own backyard. It's a modest film, but it sticks with you. And Robbie Ryan's cinematography really is out of this world. My review is up at Paste.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Nas (featuring AZ) - "Life's a Bitch"

From Illmatic, which of course you know. If you haven't seen Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, she incorporates "Life's a Bitch" quite nicely into the film's final moments. A great example of placing a song from one context into a completely different context without sacrificing the underlying meaning.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Colin Farrell Does His Best With 'Dead Man Down'

For Deadspin, I didn't so much review Dead Man Down as I thought out loud about Colin Farrell's career at this exact moment in time. The two things are intertwined, I swear. Read for yourself.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

True/False 2013: 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' Review

Twenty Feet From Stardom will do quite well with its target audience. I mean, some folks are gonna love this movie. Directed by Morgan Neville, the documentary sings the praises of background vocalists. We don't know their names or what they look like, but we recognize them on songs like "Gimme Shelter." This is one of those feel-good, crowd-pleasing films, although it's rather predictable in how it goes about its rock-doc business. Nonetheless, it gets the job done. My review of Twenty Feet From Stardom can be found at Screen International.

On a side note, at the Q&A after the True/False screening, Neville said that he had enough material to do a sequel, and if he ever did, I hope there's some discussion about how integral female voices were to Steely Dan's sound. (I may be the only person interested in this, but, hey, it's my blog.)

True/False 2013: 'Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington' Review

Anyone who was affected by Restrepo, the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary, will be interested to see Which Way Is the Front Line From Here?, which was made by one of that film's two directors, Sebastian Junger. This new film is a tribute to Tim Hetherington, Junger's co-director who died in 2011 in Libya. (In the above still, Junger is on the left, Hetherington is on the right.) Which Way arrives on HBO next month, and it's a touching farewell to one exceptional photojournalist. My review is up at Screen International.

True/False 2013: 'The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear' Review

The film with the most evocative title at True/False would have to be The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear. It's a documentary from the country of Georgia, and it has a terrific premise. Filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani put up ads looking for local young people to audition for a movie. When the would-be actors showed up, she asked them questions about their lives, which led her to follow them into their worlds, learning more about a specific aspect of them. It's a rambling, meditative film that grew on me as it went along. You can read my Screen International review here.

True/False 2013: 'Blackfish' Review

Blackfish seeks to open our eyes about the inhumane treatment given to orcas at parks like SeaWorld. I still remember going to SeaWorld as a kid with my family, wowed by the killer whale show. Little did I know then what misery those gentle creatures were going through. This documentary draws much of its power from interviews with former SeaWorld trainers: Collectively, they still seem quite saddened by what they helped perpetuate. My review is up at Screen International.

True/False 2013: 'Cutie and the Boxer' Review

I've always been interested in bands in which the members either are currently romantically involved or once were: Low, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Handsome Furs, Richard and Linda Thompson, Fleetwood Mac. The ways that art and real life intertwine and feed off each other can be quite powerful, and it can also be true in disciplines other than music. Take Cutie and the Boxer, which looks at the 40-year relationship between painter Ushio Shinohara and illustrator Noriko. They're an adorable couple, but as documentary filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling points out, there's more going on under the surface. Here's my Screen International review.

True/False 2013: 'Dirty Wars' Review

Dirty Wars will serve as a good reminder to all my fellow Obama voters that our War on Terror, while improved in some ways since the Bush administration, is hardly free of moral gray areas. The documentary looks at the efforts of investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, who has uncovered troubling revelations about the United States' Joint Special Operations Command. You probably haven't heard much about this group, but I'm betting you will soon. (Once Andrew Sullivan gets a whiff of this film, he's going to have weeks' worth of blog fodder.) My review is up at Screen International.

True/False 2013: 'I Am Breathing' Review

I was invited to attend this year's True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. The festival focuses on documentaries, as well as fiction films that play with the notion of how "reality" is captured, such as the Oscar-nominated Pinochet drama No. For Screen International, I reviewed several films, including I Am Breathing, which looks at the final months in the life of Neil Platt, a Scottish architect diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. Like Amour, it doubles as a love story. Here's my review.

Friday, March 01, 2013

'Oz the Great and Powerful' Review

Sam Raimi making a dark prequel to The Wizard of Oz sounded promising. Then I started seeing commercials for the film. "It sure looks like Alice in Wonderland," I thought. This was not meant as a compliment. Sadly, Oz the Great and Powerful is an effects-driven mess that lacks the spirit of the original film. Put another way, the films Great and Powerful most reminded me of were the Star Wars prequels. Again, not a compliment. My review is up at Screen International.

'Jack the Giant Slayer' Review

I'm sure Warner Bros. will be thrilled with the amount of, "Hey, at least it's better than The Hobbit!" blurbs they're getting from critics about Jack the Giant Slayer. Well, remember that I actually liked The Hobbit. (Seeing it in 2D probably helped.) And I didn't care much for Jack the Giant Slayer. My review is up at Backstage.

50 Cent - "In Da Club"

Nowadays, 50 Cent is something of a joke. His rap career has fallen off, and as for his acting, well, the less said the better. But 10 years ago, he seemed destined to be major. And "In Da Club" was the reason why. He had Eminem and Dr. Dre on his side -- what could go wrong?