Wednesday, April 30, 2014

See This/Skip That: Summer Movie Edition

For my Playboy column Culture Club this week, I took a look at 10 movies coming out this summer that may be terrible. In their place, I recommended worthy alternatives: movies or books that are just about guaranteed to be better. This was a lot of fun.

Summer 2014: The Movies I'm Excited to See

The next four months are crammed with big Hollywood tent-poles, not to mention intriguing art-house fare. What am I excited to see? What am I dreading? Will Leitch and I put together our annual warm-weather movie list for you to enjoy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Talking About Jonathan Glazer, Part Two

Earlier this month, I began an online conversation with Glenn Heath Jr. at To Be (Cont'd) to discuss the films of Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth, Under the Skin). The first installment of our talk, written by me, is here. Glenn picked up the thread and responded here. Now the baton is handed back to me. In the latest installment, I explain why Glazer's movies have come out in almost the reverse order of what you'd expect from a developing filmmaker. Also, I dig into how Under the Skin can be seen as both a metaphor for filmmaking and acting. Here's my latest missive.

Billy Joel - "Laura"

One of the side effects of getting a record player is that I've taken to digging back through my family's old vinyl. Which brings me to The Nylon Curtain, Billy Joel's 1982 album, the one he's most proud of in terms of material and recording. (He has clearly forgotten he made The Stranger.)  

The Nylon Curtain was clearly Joel's attempt to make a Reagan-era record: Everything is bitter and paranoid and disconsolate. And because Joel loves the Beatles, there are also a lot of Lennon/McCartney touches throughout. Two of the non-hits have caught my ear: the ballad "Surprises" and the angry "Laura," where he goes off on a needy lover with the sort of punk-like anger he tried to bring to 1980's Glass Houses. Love those "ahhhh-ahhhhs" in the background.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Pixies, 'Indie Cindy' and the Dangers of Mystique

Next week, the Pixies release their first album in over 20 years, Indie Cindy. That should be a big deal, but it isn't. For my Playboy column Culture Club, I explain why that is. I hope you enjoy.

'Brick Mansions' Review

Brick Mansions will be of interest to fans of the late Paul Walker, but it doesn't have much other than that to recommend. (It's amazing that in 10 years, parkour now seems so played-out.) I reviewed the film for Screen International.

(P.S. When did it change that we just refer to the gentleman on the left as "RZA"? I always dug "The RZA," but I guess that's not the correct billing anymore.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Interview With Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair of 'Blue Ruin'

I very much enjoyed speaking with director Jeremy Saulnier and star Macon Blair, the men behind Blue Ruin, a fine indie thriller that hits theaters this Friday. Saulnier and Blair grew up together, and this new movie is sort of the culmination of years of giddy genre filmmaking they've been doing since childhood. You can read my interview over at Rolling Stone.

'For No Good Reason' Review

For No Good Reason, a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson illustrator Ralph Steadman, gets its name from the response Thompson would give Steadman when he asked the author why they were going on their latest journalistic adventure. Steadman's work is terrific, but this film about him is only so-so. I reviewed For No Good Reason for Paste. (And, yes, Johnny Depp is featured heavily in the movie, so be warned.)

The Greats: Dustin Hoffman

He's won two Oscars. He's a beloved Hollywood figure. So why does Dustin Hoffman still think he's ugly? My latest installment of "The Greats" for Paste focuses on Mr. Hoffman, and you can read it here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Japandroids - "The House That Heaven Built"

"The House That Heaven Built" is one of those songs I love so much that I just assumed I must have featured it as a Friday Video at some point. To my shock, I hadn't. That changes right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Couchella > Coachella

Perhaps you've heard of "Couchella": It's the term used by people who watch Coachella's live webcast at home rather than trekking down to Indio, California to experience the festival in person. This past weekend, I spent a decent amount of time on the Coachella webcast, and I have to say: I was impressed. For this week's Culture Club column in Playboy, I detail why live shows are actually better online. I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Transcendence' Review

Transcendence is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan's longtime cinematographer. But you don't care about that: You just want to know how this Johnny Depp thriller is. Well, it's just barely good enough. But Depp isn't the real star -- it's Rebecca Hall, who's quite fine as his concerned, smart wife. I weigh Transcendence's pros and cons in my Screen International review.

'Fading Gigolo' Review

It's rare that Woody Allen stars in someone else's movie, so attention needs to be paid to Fading Gigolo, John Turturro's latest. Just don't pay too much attention: It's a perfectly fine but utterly disposable comedy-drama about a regular guy (Turturro) who becomes a prostitute. Hilarity only rarely ensues. My Fading Gigolo review is up at Paste.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How Should a Critic Handle Spoilers?

Recently, I wrote about The Raid 2 and mentioned that the main character's brother dies. This happens in the first minute of the film. And yet, a commenter fumed, "Ugh. What the f***. Thanks for the spoiler(s?) - stopped reading after the finding out his brother was dead." Readers care a lot about spoilers, which is why this week's Criticwire survey was of particular interest. The question: How should critics treat plot spoilers in their reviews? My response, as well as my colleagues', is here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kevin Costner, Sports (Movie) Hero

Watching Draft Day, I thought about how much I like Kevin Costner, especially when he's in sports-movie mode. For Deadspin, I dug deeper into his oeuvre, looking for connections between the different jocks (and ex-jocks) he's played. You can read my conclusions here.

X - "It's Who You Know"

For whatever reason, I've been listening to X's Wild Gift a lot lately. You'll be happy to know it's still pretty fantastic. Because I've always loved "White Girl," I tend to overlook the album's many other gems. Which is why I've been knocked out all over again by just how terrific "It's Who You Know" is.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

All Hail Stephen Colbert

For Rolling Stone today, I tried my best to explain why Stephen Colbert is like a 21st-century version of David Letterman, thereby making him the perfect choice to succeed him. I hope you enjoy.

'Draft Day' Review

The sports-business drama Draft Day is just barely good enough to recommend. And a lot of my recommendation is because of Kevin Costner, who's better than the movie around him. I reviewed Draft Day for Screen International, and I tried my best to keep the sports puns to a minimum. (I was marginally successful.)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Greats: Lauren Bacall

"I don’t consider myself a great actress. I’m just trying to stay alive, actually." That's what Lauren Bacall had to say about herself. I have my say about her in my latest installment of "The Greats" for Paste.

Nicolas Cage in 'Joe'

For years, Nicolas Cage has seemed lost in the wilderness, but his latest film, the indie drama Joe, offers him one of his best roles in a long time. I marvel at the Cage of old in this week's Culture Club column for Playboy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Talking About Jonathan Glazer, Part One

This is Jonathan Glazer, the filmmaker behind Sexy Beast, Birth and the new sci-fi drama Under the Skin. Starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien come to Earth to lure young men to their doom, Under the Skin is his best movie yet. To mark the occasion, the editors of To Be (Cont'd) were kind enough to invite me and fellow film critic Glenn Heath Jr. to do a month-long discussion about Glazer and his work. Kicking off this series, I tried to find a connective thematic tissue between Glazer's diverse collection of films. (I also talk about his videos a bit, too, Radiohead fans.) Hope you enjoy our conversation.

Friday, April 04, 2014

David Byrne and St. Vincent - "Who"

I've decided that it's high time I start paying attention to St. Vincent. I've never had anything against her, but her music has failed to leave much of an impression over the years. (And when I learned that she started out in the Polyphonic Spree, well, that didn't help things.) But I'm duly focusing on her latest, St. Vincent, as we speak -- and I'm dedicating this week's Friday Video to my favorite song of hers, off her 2012 album with David Byrne, Love This Giant.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

On the Greatness of 'The Unknown Known'

I've been saying great things about The Unknown Known, Errol Morris' documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, since November. With the movie opening this weekend, I'm trying one last time to sell you on this terrific film. My latest attempt is up at Deadspin.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

What Movies, TV Shows and Music Defined the George W. Bush Years?

The Unknown Known, a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, opens today in New York and Los Angeles, and then opens elsewhere (including on-demand) on Friday. In honor of that great film, I decided to make a list of the 10 pop-culture items that best encapsulated life during the Bush administration. Idiocracy made the list, of course: Click here to see the other nine.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Review

I was pretty lukewarm on Captain America: The First Avenger, so I was heartened to hear that the sequel is better. And sure enough it is: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fun, smart ride. My review is up at Deadspin.