Tuesday, September 30, 2014

'Gone Girl' Review

One of the most anticipated movies of the fall, Gone Girl, opens on Friday. I went long on my review for Deadspin, trying to capture all the different feelings I have about this fascinating film. (Specifically, I dug into the fact that director David Fincher divides his output into two categories: films and movies.) My review is here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Talking 'The Equalizer' and 'The Boxtrolls'

Yesterday, I appeared on KCRW's Press Play With Madeleine Brand with fellow critic Drew McWeeny to discuss several new releases: The Equalizer, The Boxtrolls, Two Night Stand, The Two Faces of January and Jimi: All Is by My Side. A fun time was had by all. You can hear it here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Greats: Michael Douglas

Yesterday, Michael Douglas turned 70. A few years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer, reaching 70 didn't seem very possible. Happily, he's still with us. For Paste, the actor-producer is the latest subject of my series "The Greats": You can read it here.

Janelle Monáe (featuring Prince) - "Givin Em What They Love"

Because Prince won't allow his songs on YouTube, it's very hard to feature the man's work on Friday Video. But, lo and behold, this duet from Janelle Monáe's The Electric Lady is there. And it's used so nicely in The Equalizer, too. So enjoy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'Lilting' Review

Lilting is a postage stamp of a movie. Small, intimate, delicate, it tells of the uneasy relationship between an older Cambodian woman and the young London man who was in a long-term relationship with her dead son. The complication: The mother never knew her son was gay, and the lover doesn't want to bring it up. It's an affecting, modest drama. My full review of Lilting is up at Paste.

On Andre Benjamin in 'Jimi: All Is by My Side'

I was quite taken by Jimi: All Is by My Side when I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival last year. Though flawed, it was a honest attempt to try new things with the conventional rock-biopic format. But watching the film again recently, I was struck by the fact that this Hendrix biopic is less about Hendrix than it is about its star. That would be Andre Benjamin -- or, as he's known in Outkast, Andre 3000.

Benjamin has mostly shied away from music in the last decade, and his acting career never quite took off. Jimi allows him to show off his dramatic chops, but it can also be read as a sort of self-portrait, which makes this film all the more fascinating. I dig into all of that over at Deadspin.

Toronto 2014: 'The New Girlfriend' Review

One of the most underrated films of this year's festival was The New Girlfriend, the latest from prolific French writer-director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, In the House). Romain Duris plays a husband and new father who's just lost his wife and as a result returns to an old habit: dressing up as a woman. What could be a bawdy farce instead turns into something darker, sexier and more thoughtful. I reviewed The New Girlfriend for Paste.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Welcome to Me' Review

I need to stop seeing Kristen Wiig movies in Toronto. At three separate festivals, I've sat through clunkers from the very talented former Saturday Night Live star. First was Imogene (later titled Girl Most Likely). Then came Hateship Loveship. This year, I tried Welcome to Me, a dark, dark comedy about a woman with mental issues who wins the lottery. It's another misfire, lamentably. Here's my review for Paste.

Monday, September 22, 2014

'Two Night Stand' Review

Sometimes, I'll sit through a romantic comedy and think, "Thank heavens I'm married and don't have to deal with this nonsense anymore." Such a sensation occurred during the perfectly pleasant, utterly disposable Two Night Stand, which stars the likable Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton. Alas, the movie fades from memory even while you're watching it. I reviewed Two Night Stand for Screen International.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence' Review

Before arriving in Toronto, filmmaker Roy Andersson's formally brilliant movie played Venice, where it won the top prize. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is another strong, occasionally brilliant, quite funny example of his precise, engrossing technique. I do have mild reservations, though. My review is up at Paste.

The Roots (featuring Raheem DeVaughn) - "Tomorrow"

...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is probably the most minor album that the Roots have put out in a while. But who cares? And the closing track is just plain wonderful. The piano that comes in about three minutes in? Wowza.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'This Is Where I Leave You' Review

At the Toronto Film Festival, I skipped seeing This Is Where I Leave You: It just didn't seem special enough to go out of my way to check out. Now that I've seen the movie back in Los Angeles, I can say that my instincts were correct. (Which is too bad: Jason Bateman does some of his best big-screen work in this movie.) I reviewed This Is Where for Deadspin.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'The Duke of Burgundy' Review

I've been a fan of filmmaker Peter Strickland ever since, as part of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Films That Got Away committee, we programmed his debut, Katalin Varga, at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2010. His third film, The Duke of Burgundy, was one of the best reviewed offerings out of Toronto. I reviewed it for Paste.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'While We're Young' Review

While We're Young is the second collaboration between filmmaker Noah Baumbach and actor Ben Stiller. Less caustic than Greenberg, it concerns a married, childless couple in their 40s and the twentysomethings that enter their lives. (And it also has Charles Grodin.) My review is up at Paste.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Toronto 2014: Ranking the Best and Worst of the Festival

What I've realized ever since missing Cannes this summer is that life now feels like an endless game of catch-up. Going to Toronto, I wasn't just needing to see new movies -- I also had to see what had premiered on the Croisette. Therefore, these below rankings (which also include a few films I caught at Sundance) are even less definitive than normal. Links leads to individual reviews.

29. Tokyo Tribe
28. Welcome to Me
27. The Good Lie
26. Infinitely Polar Bear
25. Mary Kom
24. The Judge
23. Black and White
22. Laggies
21. Nightcrawler
20. The Last Five Years
19. Men, Women & Children
18. Tusk
17. Maps to the Stars
16. 99 Homes 
15. The Voices
14. Sunshine Superman
13. Tales of the Grim Sleeper
12. Rosewater
11. Whiplash
10. The Imitation Game
9. Charlie's Country
8. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
7. While We're Young
6. The Duke of Burgundy
5. The Theory of Everything
4. Two Days, One Night
3. The New Girlfriend
2. Still Alice
1. Eden

Also, I'd like to thank my roommates Jordan Hoffman, David Ehrlich and Matt Patches for being such fun company during the festival. And now...sleep.

Toronto 2014: 'The Good Lie' Review

One of the narratives you're going to be hearing about this fall is that Reese Witherspoon is "back." She has two high-profile films out soon: Wild and The Good Lie. I haven't seen Wild yet -- it just looked so Oscar bait-y that I resisted -- but I did review The Good Lie for Screen International (subscription required). I hope Wild is better than this well-meaning, slightly dull inspirational drama.

Toronto 2014: '99 Homes' Review

Ramin Bahrani was once a much-touted indie filmmaker (Chop Shop), but his recent movies have been mild disappointments. First was At Any Price, and now comes 99 Homes, an intriguing look at the collapsing U.S. housing market. It stars Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, who are both quite fine. Sadly, though, the film is only good-enough. I reviewed 99 Homes for Paste.

Katy Perry - "Hot N Cold"

When I return from a film festival, I tend to dedicate my Friday Video to the song that made the biggest impression on me because of how it's used in one of the movies I saw. Fresh from Toronto, I remain smitten with Katy Perry's six-year-old "Hot N Cold," which director Francois Ozon incorporates so winningly in The New Girlfriend.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Tusk' Review

Kevin Smith's latest, Tusk, is a very cheeky little horror film. It's also kinda shocking in parts. And it features a cameo from possibly Hollywood's most irritating current A-list star. My review is up at Screen International. (Sorry, it is behind a paywall.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Two Days, One Night' Review

The Dardenne brothers returned to Cannes this year with Two Days, One Night, and it was the first time one of their films didn't win any prizes. That's no knock on its quality: I caught up with the film, which stars Marion Cotillard, at Toronto. My review is up at Paste.

My Interview With Luke Wilson

I had a very enjoyable time chatting with Luke Wilson, who's costarring in The Skeleton Twins. We talked about that, but we also discussed the end of Enlightened, how Bottle Rocket's shaky beginnings scarred him and whether or not he has a game plan for life. My cover story for Backstage can be read right here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper' Review

Nick Broomfield, the documentary filmmaker behind Kurt and Courtney (and plenty of other movies), turns his attention to a serial killer who plagued South Los Angeles for 25 years in Tales of the Grim Sleeper. But what's most interesting about this film is the spotlight it shines on a struggling African-American community. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'The Imitation Game' Review

The Imitation Game tells the story of how ace mathematician Alan Turing helped the British (and, by extension, the Allies) defeat the Nazis during World War II. The secret was code-breaking, which is dramatized entertainingly in this tasteful drama. I reviewed the film, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch, for Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'Still Alice' Review

Julianne Moore's finest performance, as I've mentioned before, is in Safe. But her portrayal of Alice Howland in the tearjerking drama Still Alice is absolutely stunning as well. She plays a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's, and the film watches what happens to her and her family after the diagnosis. Folks, this movie just about killed me: This is how you do an intelligent melodrama. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Black and White' Review

Writer-director Mike Binder creates great parts for Kevin Costner. He did it first in The Upside of Anger, and he's done it again in Black and White. But this custody-case drama doesn't deal with racism as well as I'd hope. My review is up live at Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'Nightcrawler' Review

Jake Gyllenhaal is getting a lot of praise for Nightcrawler, but I'm one of the few who's underwhelmed by this would-be Los Angeles satire. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'The Last Five Years' Review

Anna Kendrick remains one of our best young stars, but the best thing that can be said about The Last Five Years is that she makes it almost recommendable. This two-hander musical about a marriage that's just ended is filled with singing, singing, singing. I wish I liked it more. I reviewed The Last Five Years for Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'The Theory of Everything' Review

The surest Oscar contender I've seen so far at this year's Toronto Film Festival is The Theory of Everything, the graceful, lovely drama about the marriage between Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. The film certainly smacks of "prestige," but I very much enjoyed it anyway. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'Tokyo Tribe' Review

I haven't done a Midnight Madness screening at Toronto in a while. I got back on the proverbial horse for Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe. I was not a fan, although its rambunctious energy can be a hoot. (I can imagine what my father will say to me after he reads this review: "I don't think your parents will be seeing that movie.") I reviewed the hip-hop musical-cum-gangland epic for Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'The Judge' Review

Robert Downey Jr. puts away Iron Man for a bit to play a hot-shot, big-city lawyer in The Judge. It's well-made, well-acted hokum. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Toronto 2014: 'Sunshine Superman' Review

As I get older, I have become a vertigo-sufferer in movies. Man on Wire, the last Mission: Impossible: Oh, they did a number on me. The documentary Sunshine Superman chronicles the life of Carl Boenish, the founder of BASE jumping. So, yes, there's some amazing footage. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2014: 'Men, Women & Children' Review

As one of the few human beings who actually liked Labor Day -- I wrote a whole thing about it -- I wasn't predisposed to hate Jason Reitman's new film, Men, Women & Children, which is about the ways that social media impacts the lives of several families. Alas, despite some strong performances, the movie stumbles badly while trying to teach us lessons. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Eden' Review

Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Love's two most recent movies, Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love, were (in different ways) about the struggles people face when life doesn't work out for them like they'd hoped. Her latest, Eden, follows in the same vein, and is even better. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Toronto 2014: 'Mary Kom' Review

Sort of an Indian Rocky, Mary Kom tells the true story of one of that country's most decorated female boxers. Unfortunately, despite a certain amount of stylishness, this movie pulls its punches. Yes, I just used a bad sports metaphor. I apologize profusely. I reviewed Mary Kom for Screen International.

Spoon - "Inside Out"

Trippy .... and incredibly lovely.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

My Interview With Eva Longoria

Last month, I sat down with Eva Longoria to talk about her new movie, Frontera, and the many, many things she's involved with, everything from philanthropy to directing. She's an impressive woman, no doubt. You can read my Backstage cover story here.

Toronto 2014: 10 Must-Sees

The Toronto Film Festival kicks off tomorrow morning. For Deadspin, I previewed 10 movies I'm really hoping to see. (And I left off a couple high-profile entries, like Wild, because they just leave me cold, although my instincts have certainly been wrong before.) Hope you enjoy.

(Also, ScreenCrush's Mike Ryan asked me and other critics to pick our most-anticipated Toronto offerings. Definitely worth a look.)

Monday, September 01, 2014

'The Identical' Review

There's only one new release opening semi-wide this weekend, and that's The Identical, a drama about an Elvis-like star in the 1950s who isn't aware he has a twin brother. That's an interesting idea, but the movie doesn't do much with it. I reviewed The Identical for Screen International.