Friday, July 31, 2015

'Straight Outta Compton' Review

Going into the summer, Straight Outta Compton was one of the most intriguing question marks. A biopic about N.W.A, the movie is produced by (among others) Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, and Cube's son plays him in the film. At almost two-and-a-half-hours long, Straight Outta Compton is plenty entertaining, but it's also -- to use a frowned-up critical term -- "problematic." I get into all of this in my Screen International review.

Big Sean (featuring Drake and Kanye West) - "Blessings"

Hip-hop boasts mixed with the weary troubles of the blues: That's one way to interpret the steely, alluring "Blessings." And since I run the blog around here, that's what I'm going with. (Also, it's kinda funny how Kanye's verse at the end is sorta like, "Uh, sure, 'Ye, you wanna rap on it, too? OK.")

Thursday, July 30, 2015

'A LEGO Brickumentary' Review

If you're wanting to learn more about LEGO, then A LEGO Brickumentary will be a handy overview of the company and the toy's legacy. But if you're looking for insights or perspective? Well, better look elsewhere. I reviewed the documentary for Popular Mechanics.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's the Greatest Stand-Up Special Ever?

I contributed to Rolling Stone's latest list, which counts down the greatest stand-up specials. (I had to write about Bill Cosby: Himself.) You can read the whole list here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

'Vacation' Review

For years, there had been talk about remaking National Lampoon's Vacation. Well, at long last it's here ... and it's not quite as terrible as its most vicious reviews would suggest. Yes, folks, I laughed at some truly stupid bits in Vacation, but it's still not enough to recommend. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Friday, July 24, 2015

'Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation' Review

Before Rogue Nation, my favorite of the Mission: Impossible movies was 2011's Ghost Protocol. Well, that's changed: I think the new film is really a kick. (The woman in that photo with Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, has a lot to do with it.) I gush significantly over at Screen International.

Hot Chip - "Huarache Lights"

Hot Chip are a band whose existence I've always appreciated without ever really celebrating. "Huarache Lights" changes that for me.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

'Southpaw' and Our Obsession With Actors' Preparation

At the end of last year, I interviewed Christoph Waltz for Big Eyes and asked him about how he prepared for the role. His response was refreshing: He didn't want to talk about it, he didn't think it was interesting, and he didn't think audiences should even care. Watching Southpaw the other day, I thought about Waltz's comments. He's absolutely right: Much of the pre-release story around the film has been about Jake Gyllenhaal's preparations to play this hardened boxer. Why do we care, especially when the movie isn't that hot? I wrote about this strange phenomenon for Deadspin.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

'Pixels' Review

I was curious about Pixels. I loved the concept, and I was intrigued by the idea that Adam Sandler was stepping away from his typical lowbrow comedy to make a high-concept, effects-heavy action-comedy. But that optimism evaporated within five minutes. Pixels is the worst thing Sandler's done in recent memory. (Is it worse than Grown Ups 2? Honestly, I don't want to spend the time thinking about.) My review is up at Popular Mechanics.

Monday, July 20, 2015

'Phoenix' Review

Last fall, when Phoenix started making the festival rounds, critics expressed their enthusiasm, as well as dropped vague hints about its stunning final shot. I only saw Phoenix a week ago, so you can imagine how long I've wondered what that final shot was. Well, it's a doozy, but the movie that leads up to it is as well. The latest from director Christian Petzold lingers in the mind, its implications especially troubling. My review of this gripping postwar drama is live over at Paste.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

'What the Flick?!': Your Weekend Movie Options

I was very happy to guest on What the Flick?! this week, and I thank my pals Christy Lemire and Alonso Duralde for having me on. In the below clips, you can see me and the gang discuss Ant-Man...


...The Stanford Prison Experiment...

...Irrational Man...

...and Do I Sound Gay?...

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Interview With Joshua Oppenheimer

I caught The Look of Silence, the follow-up film from Joshua Oppenheimer, who previously had made The Act of Killing, at True/False. It's stayed with me ever since. For Rolling Stone, I spoke with Oppenheimer about both films and how he's had to let that part of his life go and move on. Hope you enjoy.

Beach House - "Sparks"

Considering how much I liked Beach House's last two records, Teen Dream and Bloom, I'm beyond excited for Depression Cherry, which is out in late August. This new album, according to a press release, will be a "louder, more aggressive" effort. From the sounds of "Sparks," that means a dreamy mix of My Bloody Valentine and Yo La Tengo, which I totally can get behind.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Defending Woody Allen, Again

For the last few years, Woody Allen's fans have had to defend him and and his movies against, well, a lot of things. Irrational Man opens on Friday in New York and Los Angeles, so I decided to lay out my own reasons for still looking forward to the man's films, even when they're not so great. I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

'The Jim Gaffigan Show' Review

I've enjoyed Jim Gaffigan's stand-up -- he's a solidly funny if not exactly transcendent comic -- and I knew that his sitcom had been in the works for a while. Well, at long last, The Jim Gaffigan Show has arrived on TV Land. After watching five episodes, I judge it to be merely OK so far. I reviewed the show for The Wrap.

'The Stanford Prison Experiment' Review

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment in which subjects were divided into guards and prisoners in a simulated jail scenario. You probably know a little of what happened from there, but director Kyle Patrick Alvarez has constructed a tense dramatization of six harrowing days in these people's lives. I reviewed The Stanford Prison Experiment for Paste.

Defending the Conventionality of 'Trainwreck'

Of all the criticisms levied against Amy Schumer's very funny Trainwreck, the one that most surprised me was the accusation that it's somehow dishonest about being a progressive romantic comedy. Frankly, I don't think the movie is trying to be all that transgressive or daring: At its heart, it's an old-fashioned girl-meets-boy story. And what's wrong with that? Here's my piece for Deadspin.

Judd Apatow's Movies, Ranked

Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow has only helmed five films, but his influence stretches far beyond those movies: He's produced (and written) several others that further encapsulate his particular comedic brand. For Vulture, Will Leitch and I dove into his oeuvre to rank all his movies. Will our No. 1 be controversial? I'm not sure. Take a look at the list.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Talking 'Tangerine,' Twice

This weekend's far-and-away best film option is Tangerine, one of the hits of this year's Sundance Film Festival. If you want to hear my thoughts on this lively, brash, beautiful L.A. comedy-drama, you can check it out two ways. On Thursday, I guested on What the Flick?! to talk about the movie with my pals Alonso Duralde and Christy Lemire...

...and then, Christy and I teamed up again to be on KCRW's Press Play Friday to chat about the film, as well as Minions, Magic Mike XXL and others. You can hear that here.

(And if you can't get enough of my handsome face, I'm also on WTF?! to discuss the unfortunate Self/Less.)

B.B. King - "Hummingbird"

I picked this song for two reasons. One, to commemorate the passing of B.B. King, who died back in May. Two, "Hummingbird" is a cover of a Leon Russell tune, and Mr. Russell is the star of a long-buried documentary, A Poem Is a Naked Person, which is out now.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

'Ant-Man' Review

No great fan of Edgar Wright, I didn't burst into tears when it was announced that he was stepping aside from Marvel's Ant-Man project. Replaced by Peyton Reed, the film stars Paul Rudd but never has much comedic momentum. To be fair, its third act goes a long way toward making for an exciting theatrical experience, but it's not enough. All in all, I just feel very blah about Ant-Man: I prefer the studio's other heroes far more. I reviewed Ant-Man for Screen International.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Best Movies of 2015 (So Far)

We're halfway through the year, so (as is our custom) Will and I each spotlighted our six favorite films from the first six months. We only have one in common, and not the one I was expecting. You can read our lists here.

(And, as a mental note to myself, I still need to catch up on About Elly, Buzzard, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Hard to be a God, Girlhood, Li'l Quinquin, Paddington, Seymour: An Introduction, La Sapienza and Spring.)

The Best of Modern Exploitation

Like the ol' saying about what constitutes art, you know an exploitation movie when you see it: blood, guts, boobs, severed limbs, the works. For Rolling Stone, I helped put together a list of the greatest modern exploitation films. That means anything from 1995 to the present: Showgirls, Grindhouse, Crank, I Saw the Devil.... You can check out the whole list here.

Monday, July 06, 2015

'Paper Towns' Review

If we're ranking John Green adaptations, I'd put Paper Towns ahead of The Fault in Our Stars. However, this coming-of-age drama still has a bit of the same-old-same-old to it, despite the film's depth of feeling and narrative quirks. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, July 03, 2015

'Trainwreck' Review

Inside Amy Schumer is funny and smart, but I'm not sure I was quite prepared for what she'd bring to Trainwreck, which she wrote and also stars in. This romantic comedy finds her revealing new layers to her delightfully tart persona -- plus, it gives Bill Hader one of his best film roles. (LeBron James is a hoot, too.) This is the first film directed by Judd Apatow that he didn't write as well. I don't think it's a coincidence it's also one of his strongest. My review of Trainwreck is up at Screen International.

The Chemical Brothers (featuring Q-Tip) - "Go"

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Channing Tatum, Good Actor

My latest piece for Deadspin was inspired by a similar conversation I've had with different people of late. Folks like Channing Tatum's movies, but they feel like they have to apologize for liking him, as if it would be verboten to enjoy the guy's acting. Well, that's just silly, and I explain why here.