Saturday, October 31, 2015
Does the world need another Evil Dead iteration? Oh, probably not, but Bruce Campbell remains a lovably oafish Ash in Ash vs Evil Dead, the new Starz series that debuts tonight, appropriately, on Halloween. I've enjoyed what I've seen so far, as I explain in my review for The Wrap.
Friday, October 30, 2015
The major advantage of not growing up a big Smiths fan is that now as an adult I can enjoy them without any residual guilt about holding on to my angst-filled youth. To me, they're just pretty pop songwriters who tend toward the mopey. Their misery is their problem -- I'll just enjoy the tunes.
Thursday, October 29, 2015
3D sex dramas don't come around too often. The latest from writer-director Gaspar Noe, Love isn't quite as wondrous as Enter the Void, but I think it deserves better than the raspberries it's received since Cannes. The movie opens tomorrow -- I defend it today over at Deadspin.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
I find Our Brand Is Crisis to be the sort of cynical political satire that does almost nothing for me. I have a feeling that general audiences are going to feel the same way: The movie seems to have almost no buzz around it. I examine the corpse over at Deadspin.
I had no control over the rankings, but I contributed to Rolling Stone's list of the best horror movie sequels. Read them ... if you dare. (It's just a list. Really, there's nothing scary about it.)
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
For this week's Criticwire survey, we were asked to name the movie that scares us the most -- that isn't a horror movie. I'm down with all the people that picked Safe, but I decided to cheat and name a music video from my youth that still gives me the willies. Read the whole survey here.
Friday, October 23, 2015
That's it, gang: The Paranormal Activity series draws to a close with The Ghost Dimension. Most people, I imagine, are more than happy to see these found-footage horror movies go away. Me, I've always had a soft spot for them. Which probably explains why my review of the final chapter is as much as a tribute to the whole series as it is a discussion of what does (and what doesn't) work in this sequel. You can read all about it over at Screen International.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
It was named Adam Jones and Chef at different times. Now, though, it's called Burnt, which only makes me think of 30 Rock. Bradley Cooper is perfectly fine as a disgraced superstar chef looking for redemption, but this movie never stops feeling aggressively movie-ish in the worst ways. I reviewed Burnt for Screen International.
Today is the day that Marty and Doc Brown arrive in "the future" in Back to the Future Part II. The media is all over that fact, and for Popular Mechanics I spoke with writer-producer Bob Gale to talk about how 2015 ended up looking. I was also really interested in getting his thoughts about how Part II sorta envisioned the future of Hollywood franchises. Our whole chat can be read here.
Sometimes, I'm aware that I'm not as awed by Bill Murray as others are. I think he can be a great actor, but I also think that the culture at large kinda gives him a pass on everything, simply because "Hey, it's Bill." Rock the Kasbah may change that for some people: It's a terrible comedy about a music manager trying to jump-start his stalled career in Afghanistan. Did I mention it's terrible? My review is up at Screen International.
Friday, October 16, 2015
In select theaters today, Truth opens. It tells the story of how 60 Minutes II tried to break the George W. Bush/Texas Air National Guard story back in 2004 -- and how it all went pear-shaped. Starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford as, respectively, Mary Mapes and Robert Redford, Truth got very mixed reviews out of Toronto, but I appreciated much of what writer-director James Vanderbilt was trying to do here. Much like his script for Zodiac, Truth is about subverting audience expectations and leaving things unresolved, open to interpretation. So, for Biography, I sat down with the guy to talk about all this. Hope you enjoy.
It's been a very good year for Drake. Guesting on "Truffle Butter" and "Blessings," having hits on his own with "Back to Back" and "Energy" ... hey, and the Toronto Blue Jays are in the ALCS. Here's a little "Hotline Bling" for you.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
I went to see Room a second time in order to see how it played. I had reservations after catching it in Toronto, and some of them still remain, but on the whole this is a pretty darn affecting drama. A lot of it has to do with Brie Larson, who's great as the selfless, imploding mother. (The movie could almost be called The Mom Who Wasn't There.) My review is up at Deadspin.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Over the weekend, I chatted with two of the stars of Love & Mercy, discussing Brian Wilson, playing real people and why actors don't have master plans. I was happy to have the opportunity to tell Elizabeth Banks how good she was in W. And I hope Paul Dano didn't mind the joke I cracked at his expense.
Most of the time while watching Beasts of No Nation, I was struck by the same thought: "Gee, I sure wish I was enjoying this more." Gripping, thoughtful, meaningful, this tale of war in West Africa waged by child soldiers can't fully escape a certain familiarity. Is it good? Yes. Is it terrific? Not quite. I reviewed the film for Deadspin.
Never the biggest Guillermo del Toro fan, I report with delight that I enjoyed his latest, the Gothic horror throwback Crimson Peak. It's very much an homage to bygone horror flicks, and I found it quite pleasing in the regard. You can read my review over at Screen International.
I had been hearing good things about Experimenter since Sundance, but I wasn't quite prepared for how moving and bracing I'd find the latest film from writer-director Michael Almereyda. It stars Peter Sarsgaard as Stanley Milgram, the man who conducted the obedience study in the early 1960s in which a subject would administer shocks to another person, upping the voltage each time, even though the second person (who was actually working with Milgram) would beg him to stop. This is a biopic done right: endlessly curious, intellectually stirring, wonderfully ambiguous. My glowing review is up at Paste.
Friday, October 09, 2015
The first film review I ever wrote for my college paper was on Shallow Grave from some new director named Danny Boyle. Whatever happened to that guy? An Oscar, for one thing. In honor of today's release of Steve Jobs, Will Leitch and I rank the man's oeuvre from worst to best. We didn't have any disagreement about what should be No. 1. Here's the list.
For Biography, I examined Steve Jobs to see what its big takeaways are about Jobs himself. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin took some creative license, of course -- all filmmakers do -- and so I thought it would be fun to dig into Jobs' life story to see how accurate certain moments from the film are. (To be clear, this is not one of those "What this biopic gets wrong" pieces: I just wanted to compare and contrast between the film and the man.) My piece is up now.
With Jeb Bush's "stuff happens" comment in the news, I'm constantly thinking of "Things Happen," the lead single from the latest Dawes record, All Your Favorite Bands. Yes, the video is dippy, and some of the lyrics are kinda dumb. ("Like an honest signature on a fake ID"? Oof.) But the melody works like gangbusters, and the chorus gets at an essential truth: If you want to choose to be angry about everything, hey, that's on you.
Thursday, October 08, 2015
Over at Rolling Stone, I have an interview with Sebastian Schipper and Laia Costa, the director and star of Victoria, who had much to say about their nervy real-time thriller, how the movie reminds one of them of A Love Supreme and whether they'd ever do it again. (And, yeah, this photo of them from this year's Berlin Film Festival sums up their personalities pretty perfectly.) Hope you enjoy.
One movie, one shot: That's the conceit behind Victoria, which tells its story in real time without cuts. Part love story, part thriller, it's an exciting, uneven, rewarding viewing experience. My review is up at Paste.
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
What did I think of Steve Jobs? I think it's fairly consistently entertaining. I also think it's faintly ridiculous. But, mostly, really entertaining. I reviewed this unconventional biopic for Deadspin.
Over on Hulu, Jason Reitman is executive producing a new comedy, Casual, about adult siblings living together under one roof. (The sister also has a teen daughter.) That's a prescription for a pretty familiar sitcom, but Casual is often smarter and wiser than its premise might suggest. (Plus, the show ends up becoming an unexpected do-over for Reitman, who explored similar themes in his 2014 misfire, Men, Women & Children.) I reviewed Casual for The Wrap.
(No, they don't all live in a tub.)
Monday, October 05, 2015
I'm genuinely shocked how much people seem to enjoy Goosebumps, which I thought was mighty lame. (I guess I'm just being becoming a curmudgeon in my old age.) I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Friday, October 02, 2015
I was on KCRW today (alongside Miri Jedeikin) to talk about this weekend's releases: The Martian, The Walk, Freeheld and He Named Me Malala. You can hear the whole thing here.
Jafar Panahi has been banned from making films by the Iranian government -- and he just keeps on making 'em, anyway. His latest, Jafar Panahi's Taxi, comes across as a documentary, but it's actually scripted, the director playing himself as he drives around Tehran in a cab picking up passengers. A simple concept, but a pretty rich execution. I reviewed the film for Paste.
Are you ready for the most action-packed video of 2002? Here's my favorite song off The Instigator, the second solo album from Old 97's frontman Rhett Miller. If this track speaks to you, seek medical attention immediately.