Friday, July 29, 2016

Review: Stephen Colbert at the Conventions

For the last two weeks, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has been doing live episodes in connection with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. This was an opportunity for the mighty Colbert to show off his strengths and promote his still-new show to an audience that may still be on the fence about him. How did it go? I have my reservations, as I have had about the show for months, and I talked about them in this Rolling Stone piece.

Beastie Boys - "3 the Hard Way"

For whatever reason, Beastie Boys' To the 5 Boroughs was calling to me the other day, so I popped it into the car CD player. You may remember the album. It came out in 2004, and was a conscious attempt on the trio's part to both attack the Bush administration and pay tribute to New York in the wake of 9/11. That tribute, in part, was reflected in the record's old-school hip-hop sound. (The album may have been released in 2004, but it was meant to sound like it was still 1985.) To the 5 Boroughs got some of the worst reviews for a Beasties' album, but it's still solid. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Come Play With Me

Over at MEL, I decided to share the fact that I used to be a terrible person to play games with. I didn't have a temper, I didn't cheat -- I just took it all really, really seriously. I'm better now, though, thank goodness. Here's my essay.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: We Like 'Star Trek Beyond' and 'Don't Think Twice'

On the latest episode of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, we review Star Trek Beyond and Don't Think Twice. We also spend a little time discussing The Proposition, the gritty Western that put director John Hillcoat on the map. Does it hold up? That answer, and so many others, can be found right here.

'Bad Moms' Review

They're moms! And, boy, are they bad! Actually, the title characters in Bad Moms are (for the most part) good moms who are tired of killing themselves to be perfect for their kids. And so, they decide to loosen up a little. And now that I've established the film's premise, let me say that this comedy is just sorta funny. (And, listen, I like Kathryn Hahn, too, but I wish she had better roles than this.) My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

'Pete's Dragon' Review

For Screen International, I reviewed Pete's Dragon, a remake of the 1977 Disney movie that isn't exactly a beloved classic. This one is gentle, modest and very touching. You can check out my thoughts here.

'Under the Sun' Review

For Paste, I caught up with one of the more acclaimed documentaries of the year. It's Under the Sun, and it's got a great hook. Director Vitaly Mansky was approached by the North Korean government to make a film about a supposedly typical North Korean family, but only if Mansky would follow a script that his bosses had written for him. And so, Under the Sun becomes a story of how Mansky both does and doesn't play along, stripping away the lies that the government wants to peddle about its people. Simultaneously, he examines exactly what's "real" about a documentary. You can read my review here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

'Jason Bourne' Review

Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon swore they'd never make another Jason Bourne movie. Guess what? They did. Jason Bourne is perfectly solid, but nothing special -- and also a bit unnecessary. But in a summer in which good-enough has been the high-water mark of rave reviews, this sequel is among the season's better offerings. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Woody Allen and the Lady Ghostbusters

For the latest episode of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, Will and I review Ghostbusters and Cafe Society. (On one of those two movies, we disagree.) And then, for our Reboot segment, we tackle Gattaca. You can check out the whole thing here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Sci-Fi Franchises and 'Don't Think Twice'

I pulled off the rare feat off being on Press Play two times in the same week. Wednesday, I talked about Garry Marshall's passing. Today, I was on with Witney Seibold to review Star Trek Beyond. I went solo to discuss the very funny Don't Think Twice, Witney had the honors with Lights Out, and we both discussed what's going on with the woeful Divergent series. You can listen to the whole thing here.

'Star Trek Beyond' Review

Where does Star Trek Beyond rank among the series' best? It's better than Star Trek Into Darkness, probably on par with Star Trek. (Is it as good as Star Trek II or Star Trek IV? Don't be silly.) I reviewed the new film for The New Republic.

Misleading Men: Leslie Nielsen

The latest installment of my "Misleading Men" series for MEL focuses on Leslie Nielsen. For years, he had built up a perfectly respectable career as a dramatic film and television actor. And then Airplane! came along and changed his life. You can read my appreciation here.

Moby - "I'm Not Worried at All"

Have a peaceful Friday, everyone. We need something a little soothing right about now, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

'What the Flick?!': Talking 'Star Trek Beyond' and 'The Night Of'

I returned to What the Flick?! this week to hang out with my dear friends Alonso Duralde and Christy Lemire to review Star Trek Beyond. Plus, I talk The Night Of's second episode, "Subtle Beast."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Garry Marshall, RIP

Usually, I'm on Madeleine Brand's show on Fridays to talk about that weekend's film releases. But the recent passing of TV and film icon Garry Marshall inspired this impromptu reminiscence between Madeleine, Hollywood Reporter TV critic Daniel Fienberg and me. Take a listen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Exploring Aerosmith's Best Non-Hits

My latest rundown for MEL of an iconic artist's forgotten back catalogue brings me to Aerosmith. Sci-fi tunes, childhood lullabies, songs about the perils of rock 'n' roll decadence ... they're all here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

'What the Flick?!': Debating 'Ghostbusters,' 'Cafe Society' and 'The Night Of'

It's entirely a coincidence, but I returned to What the Flick?! on the same week that Woody Allen has a new movie. (One of the last times I was on the show was to talk about Irrational Man.) I'm back to defend Cafe Society, and I also joined in on the discussions of Ghostbusters and The Infiltrator. Plus, since I've seen all but the last episode of The Night Of, I was happy to talk about the show's fantastic first episode.

Ruin Your Childhood

Over at MEL, I tackled this whole dumb phenomenon where adults complain about Hollywood "ruining their childhood" by remaking movies from their youth. This is going on right now with Ghostbusters, and I think it's stupid -- not to mention selfish. In fact, I encourage you all to ruin your childhoods. You can read my essay here.

Sam Cooke - "A Change Is Gonna Come"

For months, without me really becoming cognizant of it, I've been drawn to Ali. Michael Mann's 2001 biopic of the legendary boxer has popped up on TV enough that I found it to be a comforting presence, while also realizing that I'd underrated the film at the time of its release. It had gotten to the point that I'd watch it on flights, getting swept up all over again by Will Smith's performance and the film's emotional thrust. It's become one of those guide films for me now, a way to recenter myself. The movie is endlessly inspiring.

The other day, a DJ played "A Change Is Gonna Come" and I immediately associated its use in Ali. So I'm playing it for you today.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

'Ghostbusters' and the Don't-Screw-It-Up Franchise Culture

For The New Republic, I looked at the new Ghostbusters through the perspective of a Hollywood mentality that takes as few risks as possible with remakes/reboots of beloved properties. In such a climate, the closest a filmmaker can get to being daring is, well, switching the genders of the main characters. You can read my piece right here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking 'The BFG' and 'Gymkata'

This week's installment of the Grierson & Leitch podcast is a special one: We actually did it in person. (Will was in town for the day.) That made for an extra-delightful episode, and we had a lot to cover. We reviewed two family films: The BFG and The Secret Life of Pets. And for our Reboot section, we took on Miller's Crossing, Face/Off and Gymkata. Also, I think I blew Will's mind by revealing what my favorite Coen brothers film is. You can hear the whole thing here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

'Ghostbusters' Review

It took me about 20 minutes into Ghostbusters until I could finally relax and think, "OK, this is actually good." After months of so-so trailers and sexist online diatribes, this remake is pretty darn delightful -- and surprisingly emotional, to boot. But also just funny. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

'The Night Of' Review

Is The Night Of as good as you've heard? Yeah, basically. I reviewed HBO's superb new series for The Wrap.

The Long Shadow of Philip K. Dick

It's impossible to watch modern sci-fi films and not think about the massive influence that author Philip K. Dick has had on the entire genre. For Popular Mechanics, I put together a list of 10 great movies that weren't adapted from his work but bear his trademarks. Everything from Open Your Eyes to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was fair game -- as, of course, was The Matrix. Dive in.

Friday, July 08, 2016

They Might Be Giants - "Drink!"

Three great albums came out September 11, 2001. Love & Theft and The Blueprint, you already know. But I'd also add They Might Be Giants' Mink Car to that list.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

'The Secret Life of Pets' Review

I liked Finding Dory quite a lot, so I was a little bummed that people seemed to be taking it to task simply because it wasn't quite to the level of Pixar's best. By comparison, The Secret Life of Pets is incredibly mediocre, and indicative of how Pixar is still often miles ahead of its competition. Even a very charming Louis C.K. performance can't save this film, which I reviewed for The New Republic.

'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' Review

I mention this every once in a while, but it bears repeating: Before I write a review, I almost never know how other people feel about the movie I've seen. I like keeping all that info out of my head so that my review can be an unfiltered reaction. As a result, I don't know what the consensus is until those reviews start posting. So, imagine my surprise when several of my smart colleagues actually fell for Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, which I thought was absolutely terrible. My review is up at Screen International.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Looking Back at the First Half of 2016

Will and I see pretty much eye-to-eye on what the best movies of 2016 have been to this point. But that doesn't mean we don't have our differences of opinion. We get into it in this week's Grierson & Leitch podcast, debating the merits of The Other Side and extolling Everybody Wants Some!! You can hear the whole thing over at The New Republic.

Friday, July 01, 2016

On 'The Legend of Tarzan' and the Problem With CGI Fakery

It seems we're never going to live in a movie world again in which CGI is not a major component. But in the case of a film like The Legend of Tarzan, all those effects have a deeply deadening quality. I talked about that for The New Republic in a piece in which I also take a little time to describe the weird sensation I had staring at Alexander Skarsgard's chest.

'The Infiltrator' Review

Directed by Brad Furman, the man behind The Lincoln Lawyer, The Infiltrator is a very solid but mostly meh crime drama based on the memoir of drug agent Robert Munoz. Bryan Cranston plays Munoz, who goes undercover to bust some drug dealers. This requires him palling around with Diane Kruger, who poses as his fiancee. I found the movie only moderately interesting, as I explain in my Screen International review.

Katy Perry - "Firework"

Happy Fourth, everyone. I have never felt like a plastic bag.

(Also, how many of us are going to associate this song with Rust and Bone for the rest of our days?)