Tuesday, December 29, 2015

On the Beautiful 'Anomalisa'

A gorgeous little love story full of melancholy, Anomalisa is one of the year's best films. Over at The New Republic, I sing its praises, which is challenging in part because the movie's greatness is tied up in its ineffability. I explain why right here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Joy': The Stories David O. Russell Tells About Himself

For the third time in his last four films, director David O. Russell is working from a true story in Joy. But, as usual, the movie is less about the real-life person than it is about himself. For The New Republic, I explain the pros and cons of that approach. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

'(T)error' Review

(T)error was my favorite documentary of the year. For Screen International, I go into why. (And if you missed it in theaters, fear not: (T)error will be coming to PBS in February.)

'The Revenant': Leo Gone Wild

I make my New Republic debut with my piece today on The Revenant. It was only during a second viewing that the enormity of Leonardo DiCaprio's performance really hit me. Truth is, the whole movie worked better a second time, which is even more impressive considering I saw it on a television, not the big screen. You can read my thoughts here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Saturday Night Live' Recap: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Are Funny Enough

Much like their new film Sisters, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's hosting job on Saturday Night Live didn't require much from them and was likable enough. Not amazing, not brilliantly funny -- but, hey, good enough. For Rolling Stone, I recapped last night's episode. (My wife laughed as much as I did over "Meet Your Second Wife.") You can read my thoughts here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

What's Leonardo DiCaprio's Greatest Performance?

That's what Will and I set out to determine over at Vulture, doing one of our fun ranked lists. A few things I discovered while putting together the list....

1. I've been defending DiCaprio to naysayers for a long time.
2. I was right.
3. Will and I both think that his best work has come with Martin Scorsese, a collaboration that many critics had serious reservations about at first.

OK, on to the countdown.

Daft Punk (featuring Panda Bear) - "Doin' It Right"

Immediately after seeing Sisters, I thought, "Man, I kinda want to listen to Random Access Memories now." The reason was that this gem is used in the film quite nicely.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

'Sisters' Review

Yay, Tina Fey! Yay, Amy Poehler! Eh, Sisters ... which is barely good enough to recommend, just so long as we all promise not to think about it too much. I reviewed this hit-or-miss comedy for Paste.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

'The Magicians' Review

The Magicians premiered tonight on Syfy, and the show appears to want to be a sexy Harry Potter. Did you want that in your life? No, no you did not. I reviewed the pilot for The Wrap.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Review

OK, let's do it: Here's my review for Screen International. (And don't worry: This review is spoiler-free.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2015 in Review: The Year's Best Lists

For the second consecutive year, I had the very enjoyable task of figuring out for Rolling Stone what the year's best lists were. What I try to do is find lists that are either incredibly smart, deeply engaging or emblematic of the year gone by. Here are 20 that serve as a time capsule of life in 2015. (Congrats, Ms. Lawrence, you made the cut.)

'The Hateful Eight' Review

Here are some facts about Quentin Tarantino:

1. He is one of our most accomplished, ambitious, talented, essential modern filmmakers.
2. His films tend not to do as much for me as they do my colleagues.

This brings us to The Hateful Eight, which I reviewed for Screen International. I am convinced I need a second viewing to fully absorb it. And I am also fairly certain that it's another QT joint that is audacious but not entirely satisfying. You can read my review here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

'Childhood's End' Review

As a teen, I really liked Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. Hollywood has long wanted to turn the novel into a film, but now Syfy has decided to go the miniseries route. It is perfectly competent and not all that good. I reviewed Childhood's End for The Wrap.

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens': What If It's Great? What If It's Not?

I see Star Wars: The Force Awakens tonight, with Disney asking that reviews be held until Wednesday. So, for Popular Mechanics, I did a little speculating about a best- and worst-case scenario for the film. (The worst-case scenario was a lot less fun to write.) You can read the piece here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Beach Slang - "Porno Love"

Did you know that if you search "porno love" on YouTube, you will find many results that are not the Beach Slang song? This track if off the band's wonderfully-titled disc The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

'In the Heart of the Sea' Review

Not to be confused with By the Sea or The Sea of Trees, In the Heart of the Sea stars Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker as seaman on the hunt for a white whale. Sound like Moby-Dick a little? That's the idea. Based on the actual events that inspired the book, this Ron Howard film is only moderately engaging, which I get into in my Popular Mechanics review.

Monday, December 07, 2015

'Joy' Review

Of all of David O. Russell's recent films, Joy is the most resistible. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as the inventor of a self-wringing mop, the movie is based on the true story of Joy Mangano, but it very much combines elements of the director's The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. It is, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. Just enough of it works for me to recommend, but you gotta wade through much that doesn't. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, December 04, 2015

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Who's Ready for a Little 'Krampus'?

I was on Ms. Brand's KCRW show today with Christy Lemire to discuss Krampus, Chi-Raq, Macbeth and Youth. Spoiler alert: I am very meh on several of this weekend's film options. You can hear us chat right here.

'The Revenant' Review

One of the final pieces of the Oscar puzzle, The Revenant, was shown to critics at the end of last month. My review is now up on Screen International. What did I think of the film? Well, like with a lot of Iñárritua's stuff, I am enormously impressed by the craft but a little iffy on the content -- and the showiness can sure be a drag. But, hey, it's a hell of a show he puts on. You can read all my thoughts here.

Stone Temple Pilots - "Sour Girl"

By now, you've probably heard the sad news that Scott Weiland passed away at the age of 48. I interviewed him once, back in 2008. It was over the phone and, if memory serves, he was in the middle of a birthday party for one of his kids. This exchange stands out now...

Condolences to his family and friends.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

'A Very Murray Christmas' Review

A Very Murray Christmas, the quirky new Netflix holiday special starring Bill Murray, will be an interesting litmus test for how people feel about the Oscar-nominated actor. Personally, I've come to enjoy the idea of Bill Murray more than the actual performer, and the reasons why are pretty evident in this one-hour program. I get into that over at The Wrap.

What's the Greatest 'Star Wars' Character?

I didn't have anything to do with the rankings, but over at Rolling Stone I helped contribute to their massive list of the 50 Best Star Wars Characters. Very, very fun. (And, no, Jar Jar didn't make the cut.)

Talking 'Husbands & Wives'

I realize I haven't talked much about MEL, a new publication based out of Venice, California. I serve as a contributing editor alongside a group of smart writers and editors. We're in the midst of a soft launch now, but here's the first thing from yours truly: a discussion about Husbands & Wives with Will Leitch. It's part of a regular podcast called "The Rewatch" that I think is quite fun.

OK, here's my episode with Will.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Grierson & Leitch Has a New Home

Four years ago today, Will Leitch and I got some sad news: Our movie site at Yahoo was being shuttered. In the aftermath, we jumped over to Deadspin, where we found a very happy home. Well, I come to you today with some more news: "Grierson & Leitch" is leaving Deadspin and heading to The New Republic. I'm so pleased to get to do the work we've always done at a new place. We said farewell over at Deadspin today. Look forward to seeing you at the new home.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

My Interview With Spike Lee

Just a few days after Spike Lee won his honorary Oscar, I sat down with the director to talk about his new film, Chi-Raq, for Screen International. Sadly, the piece is behind the site's paywall. But, as an added bonus for readers of my site, here's an excerpt that didn't make the final story. I asked Spike about his place in the industry. This is the lightly edited transcript of that discussion...

Is there any sort of place for you in terms of studios or any conversations still going on?  

You don’t seem sad about that.
Hey, by hook or crook, been doing it since 1986, sir. 

You've talked about other independent directors, like John Sayles, being inspirations to you. Did you imagine you’d always be an independent filmmaker?  
I always felt that I would have one foot in independent cinema, and one foot within a [studio] system. And depending [on] the film, it’d be my left foot or my right foot. [Laughs] You know, it would depend upon if it’s my left in a Jordan or my right in a Jordan.

During our chat, by the way, he was wearing a nice pair of new Air Jordans. 

I told him that, as a fan, I found it depressing to think that there's no place for him in the major studios in 2015 -- that a movie like Chi-Raq only has a shot with a newcomer like Amazon. He looked at me and replied, "I don't find that [depressing]. Not to negate your statement, but I find it refreshing. Because it’s gonna be places like Amazon and Netflix, and other places like that, that are gonna take the chances that the big Hollywood studios don’t want to take."

For those who have a subscription to Screen International, you can read the published piece here.