Friday, October 31, 2014

First Aid Kit - "Cedar Lane"

Imagine if the Carpenters tried to do a cover of "Rainbow Connection" but didn't get it quite right. That's one way to describe First Aid Kid's "Cedar Lane," which I find rather enchanting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

'Interstellar' Review

It's one hell of an experience. Interstellar, the latest from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, wants to be the biggest, grandest, most emotional sci-fi extravaganza ever. The storytelling isn't nearly as impressive but, to be honest, I was willing to forgive that -- up to a point, anyway. My review, which wrestles with the film's strengths and weaknesses, is up at Screen International.

Friday, October 24, 2014

'White Bird in a Blizzard' Review

Most who caught White Bird in a Blizzard at Sundance seemed to have been left cold by it. (Har har har.) But I found this Gregg Araki film, about a teenage girl coping with the disappearance of her mother, to be uniquely affecting. Shailene Woodley continues to demonstrate why she's one of our best young actors. My review is up at Paste.

Phish - "Waiting All Night"

Like lots of people, I enjoy mocking Phish and their fans. It's easy sport, even easier because I don't think I've heard more than, like, three Phish songs in my life. So, in the interest of fairness, I'm posting "Waiting All Night," off their new album Fuego. It's perfectly pleasant.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

'Citizenfour' Review

Over at Deadspin, I reviewed Citizenfour, which was a sensation at the New York Film Festival. A documentary that takes you behind the scenes when Edward Snowden first blew the whistle on the NSA, Citizenfour is quite good ... but I have a few reservations. I get into those right here.

'Force Majeure' Review

Sweden's official entry for the Oscars, Force Majeure kick-starts its plot on a split-second decision a husband makes that radically changes how his wife feels about him. (We've all been there, buddy.) My review of this character drama (or is it a dark comedy?) is live at Paste.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Beirut 2014: 'Tom at the Farm' Review

Xavier Dolan's Mommy was one of the divisive films at this year's Cannes. I haven't seen it yet, but while in Beirut I got a chance to see the movie he made right before it, Tom at the Farm, which has yet to be released in the U.S. It stars Dolan as a man grieving for his dead lover by going to the deceased's family farm. This turns out to be a very bad idea but a pretty sly film. I reviewed Tom at the Farm for Paste.

Beirut 2014: 'The Blue Room' Review

While at the Beirut Film Festival, I got the chance to catch up on a few movies that I had let fall through the cracks. One of those was The Blue Room, Mathieu Amalric's romantic thriller that just opened in the States. A whodunit with a somber air, the film plays like an unlikely companion piece to Gone Girl, which I talk about in my Paste review.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Best Non-Disney Animated Movies on Netflix

For Playboy, I decided to to put together a handy-dandy list of great animated movies that are currently streaming on Netflix. (The catch: They couldn't come from Disney.) Some observations:

1) There are plenty of great candidates that currently aren't on Netflix.

2) Many of these are geared more to adults than kids.

3) It's a cheat, I admit, but I had to include Team America: World Police.

You can read the list here. (Don't worry: The site is SFW.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

tUnE-yArDs - "Wooly Wolly Gong"

Don't ask me my opinion of tUnE-yArDs: I simply have never been able to get a grasp on Merrill Garbus's much-acclaimed indie-rock project. Nikki Nack, her latest, continues to bewilder me months after its release--it's enchanting, sometimes aggravating, always vibrant--so this week's Friday Video is dedicated to the one song of hers I unquestionably love. It's "Wooly Wolly Gong," off 2011's Whokill.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

AFI Fest 2014: Jury Duty

I'm very happy to say that I'll be part of the New Auteurs jury at this year's AFI Fest. And I'm especially pleased to be in such good company alongside Alonso Duralde, Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson. It looks like a great slate, as always. Looking forward to seeing what else is added to the festival's program in the next week or so.

My Trip to the Beirut Film Festival

Late last month, I went to the Middle East for the first time. My trip was in connection to my attendance at the Beirut International Film Festival. (I was invited by the festival to cover the goings-on.) I'll have more coverage coming soon, but in the meantime, here's an essay about my experience at the festival, which brings together Middle Eastern and Western cinema under one roof. I recommend a few gems and take in the atmosphere in this Screen International piece.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

'Birdman' Review

For the first reel of Birdman, I was wowed but a bit resistant. A whole film made to look like one shot? Another story about an artist at a personal and professional crossroads? Another film from once-mighty director Alejandro González Iñárritu? Soon enough, though, I was won over. My Birdman review is up at Deadspin.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On Bill Murray and 'St. Vincent'

Is Bill Murray more of an actor or a walking meme? I explore that question while discussing his latest film, St. Vincent, for Deadspin. (Also, I reveal a dirty secret: The man's recent misfires have featured some of his most nuanced performances.) You can read the piece here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

SAG Foundation: My Conversation With Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke

Yesterday, I conducted a Q&A with two of Boyhood's stars, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, for the SAG Foundation. This is actually the second time I've chatted with them in connection to this film. (Back in August, I moderated a panel with those two, as well as Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane.) So I already knew what to expect from them, which is that they're total pros who don't need much guidance. Just ask them a solid question, and they'll take it from there. This Q&A was a delight, and the crowd loved them. You can watch our talk below, where we discussed the challenges of making a film over 12 years, Linklater's creative process, and why neither actor really wanted to ever share Boyhood with audiences. (Also, Hawke pokes a little fun at Daniel Day-Lewis.)

Oh, and a personal highlight before our conversation: Hawke telling me he liked my outfit.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SAG Foundation: My Conversation With Clara Mamet

This week, I hosted a post-screening Q&A with Clara Mamet, the writer-director of the forthcoming Two-Bit Waltz, for the SAG Foundation. Our chat is now available online, if you're interested. We talked about life as a first-time filmmaker, writing out of vengeance and what it's like to have David Mamet and Rebecca Pidgeon as parents.

Friday, October 10, 2014

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Talking 'Whiplash' and 'St. Vincent'

This morning, I taped an appearance on KCRW's Press Play With Madeleine Brand. Greg Ellwood and I chatted with Madeleine about all the weekend's worthwhile releases. (The more I think about St. Vincent, the less I like it.) You can hear our segment here.

'Fury' Review

Fury is a movie I respected more than I loved, but I respected it enough to recommend. Writer-director David Ayer has made a World War II film that's awfully familiar in its broad strokes, but on closer inspection it has its own peculiar rhythm to it. And I quite liked Brad Pitt in it -- and Shia LaBeouf, which may surprise some. My review is up at Screen International.

My Interview With Matt Lauria

For Backstage, I profiled Matt Lauria, the go-to character actor who's been on Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. His latest endeavor is Kingdom, the gripping DirecTV MMA drama. We sat down to discuss the merits of having a thin skin and being endlessly self-deprecating. I enjoyed our talk, and I hope you do, too.

Beirut Film Festival 2014: 'Clouds of Sils Maria' Review

For the first time, I attended the Beirut International Film Festival. I'll have more to say about that soon, but in the meantime here's my review of the festival's opening night film. Clouds of Sils Maria premiered at Cannes and will be coming to the U.S. next year thanks to IFC. It's no surprise that Juliette Binoche is superb in it, but the big revelation is her costar, Kristen Stewart. (Between this and Still Alice, she's had a very good year.) My thoughts on this mysterious, somewhat ambivalent treatise on art and interpretation are over at Paste.

'What the Flick?!': Talking 'The Judge' and 'Whiplash'

I had a blast joining Christy Lemire and William Bibbiani on What the Flick?! this week. On the show, we discussed two of the weekend's more notable releases, The Judge and Whiplash. You can see those video segments below. My wife informs me that I sounded smart, which is all I can ask.

The Judge 


R.E.M. - "Electron Blue"

R.E.M. fans can argue about what the band's best album is, but most agree what's their worst: 2004's Around the Sun. An oddly dispassionate, almost diffident record, Around the Sun was around the time that most observers decided that R.E.M. were "over." And yet, there are a few gems on it. Including this one.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Caribou - "Can't Do Without You"

Dan Snaith has never really blown me away. But the lead single from his project Caribou's latest album is a corker. It's called "Can't Do Without You," which is repeated approximately 10,000 times in the song.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

'Nas: Time Is Illmatic' Vs. 'Illmatic'

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Nas's groundbreaking debut Illmatic, the documentary Nas: Time Is Illmatic will be opening this week. For Playboy, I wrote a little about the film, and why I think it can't do justice to the album that inspired it. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

'The Two Faces of January' Review

When I was working on FilmCraft: Screenwriting, I spoke with Hossein Amini, who has one of my favorite chapters in the book. At the time, he was trying to get his directorial debut off the ground. Well, now it's out, an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel The Two Faces of January. I reviewed the film, which is a stylish little treat, for Paste.