Thursday, March 31, 2016

'Batman v Superman' and Our Uneasy Relationship With Heroes

Batman v Superman doesn't portray either of its superheroes as particularly heroic. For MEL, I wrote about how the movie is an apt reflection of how we distrust clean-cut heroes in real life -- and also why the people usually put into the position of being heroes (or role models) are resisting the label. (And that includes Mr. Jose Bautista.) Hope you enjoy.

What Am I Missing?: Poker

Poker has always intimidated me. I've never felt savvy or macho enough to do well at the game, so I've largely avoided it. Over at MEL, I talk to a pro, Bart Hanson, to help walk me through my anxieties. Take a listen.

'Archer' Review

Archer returns tonight to FX. It's as charmingly immature as ever, as I note in my review over at The Wrap. (And I'm so happy my "Phrasing!" joke didn't get cut.)

Happy Birthday, Christopher Walken

The Oscar-winning actor turns 73 today, and in his honor I combed through his prolific career to pick his most indelible moments. Notice I didn't say "his most memorable films": With a guy like this, a performance in a music video is, I would argue, as iconic as some of his movie roles. You can check out my piece here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'The Larry Sanders Show' and the Birth of the Bromance

Over at MEL, I pay tribute to the late, great Garry Shandling by writing about a particular plotline on the show in which Larry's buddy David Duchovny has a crush on him. In the piece, I argue that the characters' sexual tension helped give us the modern bromance. Check it out here.

My Interview With Emayatzy Corinealdi

Making her breakthrough with the terrific Middle of Nowhere, Emayatzy Corinealdi is back with Miles Ahead, where she plays the muse and love interest of a tempestuous Miles Davis (Don Cheadle, who also directed). For Backstage, we talked about faith, getting into fistfights and why she writes a self-evaluation every six months. She was delightful. You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Era of the Way-Too-Late Sequel

For MEL, I dug into a recent cinematic phenomenon. We're used to prequels, remakes and reboots, but what about the way-too-late sequel? I'm talking about films like Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2: follow-up films that come out way, way, way after anyone would have reasonably expected a sequel. More such sequels are on their way this year. What's the deal? Read my take.

'Everybody Wants Some!!' Review

It took me a little while to warm up to Everybody Wants Some!!, the latest from writer-director Richard Linklater. Then when I did, oh man, I just loved it. Alongside Before Midnight and Boyhood, this is another absolute gem from the man. I reviewed the film for The New Republic.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: That Terrible Superhero Movie and Two Classic Films

The latest edition of the Grierson & Leitch podcast dissects the corpse that is Batman v Superman. If you're tired of hearing critics complain about that movie -- you can see me on CNN International doing the same thing -- then stick around for the back half of the podcast, where we discuss Election and Field of Dreams. Hope you enjoy.

(Also worth mentioning: The original trailer for Election is terrible.)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Loudon Wainwright III - "Bed"

Recently when my wife was out of town for a week, I slept alone in our bed. The few times we don't sleep together, I always think of this song, which is off Loudon's 2001 album Last Man on Earth. Specifically, I think of its opening lines: "Experiments and tests have shown/We sleep sounder when alone." When I was single, those lyrics made me feel a little better. Now that I'm married, well, they don't.

The rest of the song, which touches on sleep, sex, death and dreams, is a beaut.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's the Greatest Music Biopic Ever?

Over at Rolling Stone, some smart writers and I sing the praises of 30 terrific music biopics. I wasn't in charge of the rankings, but I agree with No. 1, which I happened to write. Check 'em all out here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

True/False 2016: The Wrap-Up

This year for True/False, I decided to focus less on individual reviews and instead immerse myself in as many films as I could. (The fewer reviews you write at the festival, the more time you have to see stuff.) And I tried my best to cover the proverbial waterfront, including sampling one of the Neither/Nor selections. (I, however, didn't make it to any of the secret screenings.)

The below ranking does not include Concerned Student 1950 for two reasons: It's a short, and I missed the first five minutes. But it's incredibly inspiring, and I recommend checking it out online. Now, on to the list...

19. Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You 
18. Life, Animated
17. Sonita
16. Behemoth 
15. Michael Shannon Michael Shannon John 
14. Helmut Berger, Actor
13. Weiner
12. The Pearl
11. Starless Dreams
10. Jim: The James Foley Story
9. Kate Plays Christine
8. Tickled 
7. Cameraperson
6. All These Sleepless Nights
5. The Killing of America
4. Thy Father's Chair
3. Peter and the Farm
2. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
1. The Other Side

For Paste, I wrote a gargantuan overview of the year's festival, taking a close look at how many of the films focused on the question of watching and being watched. This yearly piece is one of my favorites, and so I hope you enjoy.

'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Review

I'm genuinely shocked that Batman v Superman has received good reviews. I found it depressingly, oppressively "dark" without much emotional weight behind all that gloom. It just plain stinks, and I explain why over at The New Republic

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking Batman, Superman and 'Frank'

This week's installment of our New Republic podcast covers Midnight Special, of which we're both a fan. But we also dive into our ranking of all the Batman and Superman movies. And after a listener suggested we go back and review Frank, we took the opportunity to give the film a second chance ... not that it helped either of our assessment of the movie much. Feel free to give a listen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Let's Rank All the Batman and Superman Movies

On Friday, Batman v Superman comes to theaters. I see the movie tonight, but before then, Will and I put our heads together to rank the 13 Batman and Superman films that came before. (Sorry, we didn't include the Adam West feature-film adaptation.) You can check out our list right here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

SXSW: 'The Arbalest' Review

The just-completed SXSW Film Festival awarded its Grand Jury prize to The Arbalest, the first feature for writer-director-editor Adam Pinney. (One of his previous claims to fame: He was the cinematographer on Too Many Cooks.) His film deals with a toy inventor hopelessly in love with a woman who won't give him the time of day. (We've all been there, buddy.) I reviewed the movie for Screen International.

Friday, March 18, 2016

'What the Flick?!': Talking 'Midnight Special,' 'Krisha' and Terrence Malick

I was pleased to be back on What the Flick?! to discuss recent and upcoming releases. Watch as I praise Midnight Special and Jeff Nichols, say nice things about the indie drama Krisha, and defend Terrence Malick's latest.

Kamasi Washington - "The Rhythm Changes"

As someone who's always appreciated jazz but never had the expertise to dissect it with any sort of confidence, I can only report that Kamasi Washington's acclaimed The Epic from last year radiates a kind of mastery that even my unsophisticated ears can pick up on. Mostly instrumental, and stretching out to encompass 17 tracks over almost three hours, The Epic works great in the background. And in the case of "The Rhythm Changes," which features vocals from Patrice Quinn, it can lift your mood exponentially. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

'Pee-wee's Big Holiday' Review

To watch Pee-wee's Big Holiday is to be reminded what made Mr. Herman such a delight in the first place. Pee-wee's gonzo sweetness, his inclusive world, it's all here in this uneven, very silly, pretty pleasurable Netflix film. You can read my review over at The Wrap.

'Midnight Special' Review

Writer-director Jeff Nichols has done it again. Continuing a hit streak that started with Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter and Mud, he returns with the smart sci-fi thriller Midnight Special. I really flipped for it, which will become clear when you read my New Republic review.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: '10 Cloverfield Lane' and 'Dead Again'

In the latest Grierson & Leitch podcast, we get into 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Brothers Grimsby. But perhaps the most interesting segment concerns us continuing our initiative of reviewing a movie suggested by our listeners. This week, that was Dead Again, which Will and I remembering liking back in 1991. Things change. You can hear the whole thing here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

True/False 2016: Chatting With 'The Cinephiliacs'

It was a treat to hang out with Peter Labuza and talk True/False on The Cinephiliacs. I was on with Sam Adams and Scott Tobias to recap the festival and our favorite films. (I should say, though, that at the time of the taping, I hadn't yet seen the documentary that I ended up thinking was the best of the fest.) You can hear the whole thing here.

'Party Over Here' Review

Andy Samberg and the rest of the Lonely Island have a new late-night show on Saturdays called Party Over Here. They're not the stars, though: Instead, it's three up-and-coming comics, Nicole Byer, Alison Rich and Jessica McKenna. So far, I'm not too impressed, which you'll be able to gather from my review in The Wrap.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Bunkers, English Spies and 'Eye in the Sky'

Yesterday, I was on Press Play to talk to Madeleine Brand about 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Brothers Grimsby, Eye in the Sky and Lolo. (I only liked one of the four films.) You can hear me and fellow critic Witney Seibold right here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

True/False 2016: 'Weiner' Review

Film festivals are funny things: One day, you hear glowing things about a documentary, the next day you encounter a wave of dismissive opinions. This happened at Sundance with Weiner, about disgraced politician Anthony Weiner. I didn't see it there, but people warned me off it initially. Then, I started hearing from folks who loved it. I finally caught up with the movie at True/False; my take is up at Screen International.

'Fantastic Lies' Review

Premiering at South by Southwest before airing on ESPN on Sunday, Fantastic Lies recounts the 2006 rape allegations leveled at members of Duke's lacrosse team. It's part of the cable channel's 30 for 30 series, and if you like those films, you know what you're going to get here. Smoothly efficient, perhaps a tad glib, pretty absorbing ... that sort of thing. You can read my review at Screen International.

Zero 7 - "Destiny"

I'm not big on long-distance dedications, but a few weeks ago on KEXP, the DJ played a song requested by a man whose girlfriend was going through chemotherapy or surgery. (My memory is a little fuzzy. It was early in the morning.) It was "Destiny," from Zero 7's 2001 album Simple Things. I've heard the song plenty of times, but only in that moment did I realize what an apt relationship tune it is, expressing how each partner picks the other one up during hard times.

Anyway, I've now been listening to the track, and Simple Things, quite a bit in recent days. I hope that couple are doing OK.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

True/False 2016: 'Life, Animated' Review

Life, Animated was my mother's favorite film at this year's True/False. I suspect it may be a strong Oscar contender. This look at the Suskind family, particularly son Owen, who has dealt with autism since he was a boy, is potently emotional, but it's also a feel-good tale. I can imagine a lot of people responding the way my mom did. My review is up at Screen International.

Hanging Out With Olivia Wilde and Alex Ebert

Last night in Los Angeles, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros premiered their new video, "No Love Like Yours." For Rolling Stone, I spoke with frontman Alex Ebert and his old friend, actress Olivia Wilde, who directed the video. We talked about shooting on iPhones and why Ebert doesn't much like Adele. You can read all about it here.

'The Brothers Grimsby' Review

I used to have such faith in Sacha Baron Cohen. But a look on IMDb reveals that Borat was 10 years ago, with very little to show for it since. His latest film, The Brothers Grimsby, has a funny idea: What if Baron Cohen's English doofus was brothers with an elite MI6 assassin (Mark Strong)? The inspiration sorta ends there, though. I reviewed this wan comedy for The New Republic.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: True/False and 'Goodnight Mommy'

In the latest installment of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, I report from the True/False Film Festival, and Will and I discuss Knight of Cups, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, London Has Fallen and our reader request Goodnight Mommy. You can hear it all here.

Looking Back at 'River of Grass'

Long before Old Joy and Meek's Cutoff, director Kelly Reichardt made a film called River of Grass. Little seen, the 1994 crime comedy returns to theaters on Friday. I had never seen it, so I did for The New Republic. Here's what I thought of it.

'10 Cloverfield Lane' Review

No matter what you thought of Cloverfield -- I'm a big fan -- you don't need to have seen it to enjoy 10 Cloverfield Lane. This is an entirely different creature, one that stars John Goodman as a survivalist who's rescued Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Or did he kidnap her? That's the central mystery of this claustrophobic thriller, and it powers everything that happens. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Camper Van Beethoven - "Take the Skinheads Bowling"

"It's about nothing, really," Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery once said of "Take the Skinheads Bowling." "But it's one of those songs that the more you repeat the mantra the more you understand it." Me, I've always seen the song as being weirdly optimistic: Maybe even skinheads would change their ways if you just invited them to throw a few frames. But mostly, it's just a really catchy song.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

'London Has Fallen' Review

Did anybody really want a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen? Well, you get one anyway. This time, Gerard Butler kills terrorists in London rather than in Washington, DC. The difference turns out to be rather negligible. My review of London Has Fallen is up at The New Republic.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: The Oscars and Your Requests

This week's podcast begins a new initiative: We're going to take a little time in each episode to review movies that our listeners request. So after a rundown of Sunday's Oscar telecast, stick around to hear our thoughts on Goodfellas and Mean Girls. Hope you enjoy.

'Knight of Cups' Review

Knight of Cups is the third Terrence Malick movie to come out in the last five years. This marks the most prolific stretch in the celebrated director's career. (And remember: Knight of Cups actually premiered in Berlin a year ago.) Is that partly why people are not as enthused about his new film as they've been about his earlier ones? I think that's very possible -- and, of course, I have to include myself in that consensus. I reviewed the beautiful, moving, somewhat familiar Knight of Cups for The New Republic.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Why the Film Industry Isn't Interested in Surprise Releases

We live in a time when Louis C.K. can surprise the world with a new series he shot in secret, or Beyonce can release an album without advance notice. Just about every art form does its own surprise releases -- except for movies. Why is that? For MEL, I talked to filmmakers, producers and publicists to get some answers. I enjoyed writing this immensely -- hope you enjoy reading it.