Monday, June 29, 2015

'Magic Mike XXL' Review

No Matthew McConaughey, no Steven Soderbergh, no problem ... well, not exactly. Magic Mike XXL doesn't feature either the star or director of the first film, but it's still a pretty enjoyable sequel. (And, for the record, Sodebergh does make his presence felt in other ways than as director.) If the novelty and heart aren't there as abundantly as in the original movie, Channing Tatum's star turn picks up the slack. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, June 26, 2015

SAG Foundation: My Conversation With Yana Novikova of 'The Tribe'

The Tribe, a dark drama set in a school for the deaf, is the best film of the year so far. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking with one of the film's stars, Yana Novikova, for the SAG Foundation. Because Novikova is deaf, our chat required two interpreters, which you'll notice in the below video.

Weezer - "Automatic"

One of Weezer's best songs of the last 10 years wasn't written by frontman Rivers Cuomo. "Automatic," off the third self-titled Weezer disc -- it's also know as The Red Album -- comes from longtime drummer Patrick Wilson, who also contributed lead vocals. Never a hit, never a single, "Automatic" would have completely fallen through the cracks if not for a remixed version showing up in the video game Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. I prefer the original.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Conversation With Peter Labuza for 'The Cinephiliacs'

I think the first time I heard of Peter Labuza was back in 2012 when he wrote "Between the Pitches: Why Film Critics Love Baseball," a very smart piece that connects a fondness for the national pastime with an appreciation of slow cinema. A longtime Twins fan, Peter is now at USC as a PhD candidate in Critical Studies and Annenberg Fellow at the School of Cinematic Arts. (When I went to SC, it was just known as "the film school.")

Anyway, he's an impressive guy, and I was honored to be on his podcast, The Cinephiliacs, to discuss my background, my philosophy on film criticism, and my latest book, Public Enemy: Inside the Terrordome.

I am grateful to Peter for his thoughtful attention to my book and his smart questions. And I'm also happy that I got to talk about the movie with which I've been obsessed since finally seeing it a few years ago, Stop Making Sense. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

'Batkid Begins' Review

A lot of people will like Batkid Begins for obvious reasons. The documentary chronicles what happened to Miles Scott, a young boy diagnosed with leukemia who dreamed of being Batman for a day. Make-A-Wish stepped in, turning San Francisco into Gotham one fall day in 2013. It was a heartwarming story, so why did the movie annoy me? I explain why in my Paste review.

'Terminator Genisys' Review

Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger ended his stint as governor of California, his fans have been counting down the minutes until he made a new Terminator movie. Terminator Genisys isn't your typical sequel/reboot, however: It rewrites/revises the storyline from the original 1984 Terminator. Does it work? Better than it should. Is it a good movie? Close, but not close enough. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Beck - "Dreams"

After releasing my favorite album of last year, Beck switches gears completely with his new single, setting aside the gorgeous acoustic sadness for a little summer fun. "Dreams" makes me very, very happy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Interview With the 'Wolfpack' Gang

For Rolling Stone, I chatted with Crystall Moselle and Mukunda Angulo, the director and one of the stars, respectively, of The Wolfpack, which was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival. For those who don't know, the documentary chronicles the exploits of Mukunda and his brothers, who lived in a New York apartment with a father who forbid them to interact much with the outside world. However, that didn't stop them from re-creating their favorite movies at home. You can read my profile piece here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What's Pixar's Best Movie?

With Inside Out opening on Friday, Will and I put our heads together and ranked Pixar's 15 features. Lots of disagreements, except for what should be No. 1. You can complain about our rankings, but I think our write-ups are on-point. The whole piece can be found over at Vulture.

'Manglehorn' Review

Oh, Al. Over the last couple decades, Mr. Pacino has found himself in one misfire after another, with the notable exception of something like Heat or The Insider. His latest, Manglehorn, is an indie character piece in which he plays the titular locksmith struggling to make sense of a life that's passed him by. There are surface pleasures to be found here, but not enough to recommend. I reviewed Manglehorn for Paste.

'Southpaw' Review

I'm always a bit baffled when critics seem surprised that Jake Gyllenhaal can act. Last year's Nightcrawler was overpraised, in my view, because of his go-for-broke, Taxi Driver-like intensity; had everyone forgotten how good he was in everything from Brokeback Mountain to Zodiac to Enemy? I imagine there might be a similar reaction to his performance in Southpaw, a gritty boxing drama in which he plays a mumbling, raw pugilist looking for a shot at redemption. He gives his all, but this film is awfully familiar. I reviewed Southpaw for Screen International.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'The Tribe' Review

The year's best movie so far, hands down, is The Tribe, a Ukrainian drama about a school for the deaf where a few bad apples seduce the impressionable new student. Gripping, bleak, mesmerizing, fascinating, upsetting, sometimes hard to take, brilliantly constructed ... The Tribe is all that and more. My review is up at Deadspin.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Ornette Coleman - "Ramblin'"

RIP, Ornette Coleman. This is the opening cut off his 1960 album Change of the Century.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Second Thoughts About 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'

You may recall that I saw Me and Earl and the Dying Girl back at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. I had reservations then, but now that the film is opening in select cities tomorrow, I wanted to give it a second crack. Turns out I have even more reservations now, which I get into in this piece over at Deadspin.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

'Jurassic World' Review

There was one big reason to be excited about Jurassic World: Chris Pratt. After establishing himself as a deeply lovable presence on Parks & Rec, he parlayed that into a fine starring turn in Guardians of the Galaxy. (Before then, though, he was also quite good in dramatic roles in Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty.) But in Jurassic World, Pratt is just as listless as the movie in which he stars. I deliver the bad news over at Screen International.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

'Love & Mercy' Review

Oops! Well, that's embarrassing: I just realized I never posted a link to my Love & Mercy review from earlier in the week. I'm not quite as high as some are on this unconventional Brian Wilson biopic, but I think it's a smart, engaging -- and, again, smart -- way of tackling a musical genius in a way that's not so straightforward. My review is up at Deadspin.

Friday, June 05, 2015

J. Cole - "Wet Dreamz"

How do you make a music video for a song about a man remembering his first sexual encounter? With adorable dogs, of course. What I love most is how this video emphasizes the mocking sense of humor Cole brings to his tale of being an inexperienced lover man. He gets to have it both ways, serving up an ace romantic ballad while also goofing on the genre.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

In Praise of 'Spy' and Melissa McCarthy

You may remember I saw Spy back in March in connection to its premiere at South by Southwest. I was in Los Angeles in a screening room of about four people, and I greatly enjoyed this action-comedy, but I was curious to watch it again with a full audience. I got my wish this week at an all-media screening. It plays like gangbusters. This is easily the best thing Melissa McCarthy has done since Bridesmaids, and it's also a real showcase for everybody from Jude Law to Rose Byrne to Jason Statham. I hope it's a huge hit. I reviewed Spy for Deadspin.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Looking Back at 'White Men Can't Jump'

As part of The Dissolve's Movie of the Week feature, film critic Noel Murray and I had a conversation about 1992's White Men Can't Jump. This weekly back-and-forth exchange is called Forum, and I loved getting a chance to do one with a guy I really like. In our conversation, we talk about the film's terrific opening, Ron Shelton's view on racial politics, the L.A. riots, the connection between sports and art, and where Sidney and Billy probably are today. A lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

'Entourage' Review

I'd have to think long and hard about the last movie I reviewed for Screen International that I hated as much as I hated Entourage. (Oh, wait, The Lone Ranger! That was it.) The feature-length adaptation of the hit TV show is a sour little nothing. Apparently, we're supposed to root for these obnoxious Hollywood twits but, dear god, why would you? My review is live now.