Friday, September 30, 2016

My Interview With Andrea Arnold

As you may have gathered, it's American Honey week around these parts. For Rolling Stone, I spoke with writer-director Andrea Arnold about her remarkable film. Hope you enjoy.

Bruce Springsteen - "Dream Baby Dream"

Bruce Springsteen's cover of "Dream Baby Dream," which appeared on his 2014 album High Hopes, is having a moment. Alan Vega, the co-founder of the band Suicide that wrote the song, died this summer, which prompted Springsteen to pen a eulogy for the musician, which brought more attention to his version of this song.

Also, the cover is used prominently in American Honey, which opens this weekend. The movie is fabulous, and so is the placement of the track within the film.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

'Crisis in Six Scenes' Review

Woody Allen makes a move to the small screen for Crisis in Six Scenes, his 1960s-set political satire for Amazon. How is it? Slightly worse than Irrational Man and Cafe Society. Slightly better than Magic in the Moonlight. Yeah, sorta in that neither/nor range. My review is up at The Wrap.

On the Great 'American Honey'

When I saw American Honey at Cannes, I walked out and tweeted this:

For The New Republic, I make the case for this great film. Read all about it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: What Went Wrong With 'Magnificent Seven'?

That's the question Will and I try to answer on the latest edition of the Grierson & Leitch podcast. Also, in our Reboot section, we look back at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Shakes the Clown, two movies about alcoholics. (No, really.) You can hear the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' Review

I'm not sure it's possible for me to ever enjoy another of Tim Burton's super-Burton-esque films. With his latest, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, he again indulges his favorite themes and visual tics. It's so exhausting. I reviewed the movie for Screen International.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Misleading Men: Danny Glover

For the latest installment of my "Misleading Men" column for MEL, I took a look at Danny Glover. There's a new Lethal Weapon on Fox, which made me think of the venerable stage and screen actor. It would be a shame if anyone considered Glover's career since that franchise as some sort of letdown. If anything, I argue that he's been a more major figure since. Read all about it.

Let's Rank All Denzel Washington's Movies

With Denzel Washington's painfully mediocre The Magnificent Seven out now, Will and I took to Vulture to offer a comprehensive guide to the man's movies. He has made so many movies, people, but we were up to the task. Take a look.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Stephen Malkmus - "Jo Jo's Jacket"

I wrote a piece about the original Westworld this week, which made me think of this great Stephen Malkmus song. Also, I tracked down this quote, since I'd always been wondering about it:
"I didn't plan [the song's satiric subject] to be Moby -- I have to set the record straight," he said of the very bald dance music producer. "He'll have his day in court with God one day, just like all of us, and I'm not going to be the judge on him."
I will forever love how Malkmus says "medicinal jellllly."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

'The Exorcist' Review

On Friday, Fox debuts The Exorcist, a small-screen reboot of the super-popular 1970s horror classic. (I actually don't love the movie that much, but that's for another time.) Anyway, what do I think of the show? It is, uh, really atmospheric. My review is up at The Wrap.

Taking a Look Back at 'Westworld'

For Popular Mechanics, I rewatched the 1973 sci-fi/Western Westworld to see if it still resonates in the culture. Sure does! With the new HBO series ready to debut, I wrote about the original film right here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hooray for 'Better Things'

Better Things, the new show from Pamela Adlon, is pretty darn good and, more importantly, it's not just a Louie knockoff. It's its own beast, and I'm glad FX has renewed it for a second season. Over at The Wrap, I talk about why the show matters.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Reviewing 'Snowden,' 'Blair Witch' and 'Bullitt'

I'm back from Toronto, and for this week's installment of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, I recap the festival briefly. Plus, we talk about two disappointing new releases, Snowden and Blair Witch. Then, in our Reboot section, I totally flip out for Bullitt. (It's more than a movie with a great car chase, folks.) You can hear the whole thing here.

Jerry Gergich and the Rise of the TV Schlub

With Kevin Can Wait premiering last night, I was thinking of the popularity of sitcoms starring dumpy everymen. And I decided to write about the greatest of them all, Jerry from Parks and Recreation. And, really, he's so different than his schlub contemporaries. For MEL, I explain why, really, the character type should have died with Jerry.

Toronto 2016: Ranking the Best and the Worst

Among other things, what the 2016 installment of the Toronto Film Festival demonstrated convincingly is that this has been a fabulous year for movies. Combining the best of Sundance, Berlin and Cannes -- as well as the gems of Venice and Telluride -- this Toronto ought to kill any notion that we're not living in a great time for film.

There were films I missed -- Arrival, Frantz, Fire at Sea, Nocturnal Animals, etc. -- but the below ranking is pretty stacked even without those omissions. What's clear is that I'm going to have a hell of a time coming up with a Top 10 in a couple months. There will be at least two or three really great movies that will miss the cut.

One last thing: If I'd seen the whole thing, I would have included Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids on my list. Directed by Jonathan Demme, it's a revelatory concert film from the guy who made the greatest of all time. I'm hoping I'll have a chance to write more about it later. For now, though, here are my rankings, with links leading to individual reviews.

1. American Honey
2. Paterson
3. Moonlight
4. La La Land
5. Jackie
6. Christine
7. Graduation
8. Toni Erdmann
9. Elle
10. Certain Women
11. Things to Come
12. Personal Shopper
13. Manchester by the Sea
14. Ma’ Rosa
15. The Unknown Girl
16. Sieranevada
17. Neruda
18. Safari
19. Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer
20. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
21. The Salesman
22. Aquarius
23. Lion
24. I, Daniel Blake
25. The Birth of a Nation
26. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
27. Free Fire
28. The Cinema Travellers
29. Mascots
30. Blair Witch
31. American Pastoral
32. Maudie
33. Loving
34. The Edge of Seventeen
35. Barry
36. Wakefield
37. Snowden
38. LBJ
39. The Levelling
40. Blue Jay
41. The Magnificent Seven
42. Queen of Katwe
43. The Exception
44. The Promise
45. The Bad Batch
46. Dog Eat Dog
47. Daguerrotype
48. It’s Only the End of the World
49. (Re)Assignment

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Toronto 2016: 'The Edge of Seventeen' Review

The Toronto Film Festival closed with The Edge of Seventeen, a thoughtful but, ultimately, kinda familiar coming-of-age story. What's most interesting about it is what it promises for its filmmaker (first-timer Kelly Fremon Craig) and its star (Oscar-nominated True Grit actress Hailee Steinfeld) in the future. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Justin Timberlake - "SexyBack"

There were plenty of very good films that played at this year's Toronto Film Festival. But none was more of a high than Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, the exceptional concert documentary from director Jonathan Demme, who made the greatest of all time. Granted, I only caught the last hour of Justin Timberlake, but it's utterly brilliant. Hopefully, I'll have more to say about it soon enough. For now, here's the song that's the film's highlight. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Toronto 2016: 'LBJ' Review

Sight unseen, the assumption was that Rob Reiner's biopic LBJ was a stinker. Screening late in the Toronto Film Festival, which is usually a black hole in terms of quality, the movie didn't look so good. So, the best than can be said about the movie is that, actually, it's not that bad. Woody Harrelson makes for an interesting Lyndon Johnson, but Reiner's conventionality drags down the proceedings. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'The Exception'

Aside from Christopher Plummer, The Exception is rather, uh, unexceptional. The problem, as it often is, is Jai Courtney, who's a dud as a German soldier in 1940 assigned to keep an eye on the exiled Kasier (Plummer). There's a romance, there's intrigue, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't add up to much. My review is up at Screen International.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking 'Sully,' 'Body Heat' and 'Teen Witch'

For this week's episode, Will and I reviewed Sully. But I highly recommend our Reboot section, where we totally flip for Body Heat and affectionately check back on 1989's Teen Witch. Top that ... and check out the whole thing here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tom Hanks and the Complexity of the Good Guy

Beloved as he is, Tom Hanks is sometimes dismissed as an actor because he "only" plays good guys. But as he shows with Sully, being a hero is more difficult than it appears. My piece is live over at MEL.

Toronto 2016: 'Blue Jay' Review

Blue Jay dramatizes a familiar scenario: Two old flames run into each other years later, taking the opportunity to catch up and reminisce. This one stars Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, and it's certainly very likeable. But, man oh man, you have seen this movie before in so many ways. I reviewed Blue Jay for Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer' Review

Norman is a treat. Richard Gere plays a New York fixer who's desperately trying to impress people with his access and connections, when in fact he's a flailing failure. This offbeat character piece is very funny but also pretty darn sad. Read all about it.

Toronto 2016: 'The Promise' Review

There is a movie that premiered in Toronto that stars Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, and I'm betting you've heard nothing about it. That's a bad sign, and indeed The Promise is a dud. The period war drama focuses on the atrocities of the Armenian genocide, and although Isaac is pretty good in the film, I found it painfully old-fashioned. You can read my review at Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'Abacus: Small Enough to Jail' Review

I've heard some grumblings here in Toronto that the latest from Steve James is a little too slight or dry. I grant that Abacus is a pretty conventional documentary, but it's nicely observed and emotional, recounting the tale of the only bank that was charged in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. I reviewed Abacus for Screen International.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Toronto 2016: 'Daguerrotype' Review

Folks, I did not like Daguerrotype. It is not creepy or suspenseful enough. It's not sufficiently compelling as a portrait of romantic obsession. It's just a dud. I reviewed director Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest for Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea' Review

The title explains the premise. In the feature debut of writer-director Dash Shaw, two teen buddies must battle to stay alive after an earthquake sends their school into the ocean. My Entire High School has a great voice cast, including Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts, and the movie is slight but fun. Plus, the animation is cool, which will count for something with its target audience. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'The Bad Batch' Review

Ana Lily Amirpour's sophomore effort has all the hallmarks of a sophomore effort. Biting off more than it can chew, The Bad Batch has a grand vision but some silly ideas. And, yes, it's another film about a post-apocalyptic hellscape. I'm very curious where she goes from here. I reviewed The Bad Batch for Paste.

Toronto 2016: 'Things to Come' Review

I love Mia Hansen-Love's last film, Eden. Now I have to decide if I prefer her latest. Things to Come has a more conventional premise -- it's about an older woman navigating some difficult life crises -- but it's a beaut. And Isabelle Huppert absolutely rules in it. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Toronto 2016: 'Queen of Katwe' Review

Queen of Katwe is very much a Disney movie. Telling the true story of a young Ugandan chess prodigy, director Mira Nair's drama is such a by-the-numbers underdog sports film that I found myself disheartened. My review is up at Screen International.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Toronto 2016: 'Barry' Review

We've already had Southside With You this year. Do we need another Obama biopic? Barry visits the future president while he's still a college student in the early 1980s. I admired the attempt to explain the roots of what would become a great man, but I think the execution gets it wrong. You can read my review at Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'Mascots' Review

It's been a while since Christopher Guest made a film. For better and for worse, Mascots is very much like his other movies. Did I laugh? Yeah. Did I laugh really hard? Maybe a couple times. Was I happy to have the old gang back together? Of course. Is the novelty wearing off? Sadly, yes. I reviewed the mockumentary for Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'Snowden' Review

Snowden has the makings of a classic Oliver Stone film: a man against the system, an attack on government hypocrisy, etc. etc. So what happened? Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a decent impression of the whistle-blower, but this biopic is surprisingly conventional and uninspired. My review is up at Screen International.

Toronto 2016: 'American Pastoral' Review

American Pastoral is a book I read on my honeymoon, which some might consider an odd choice. (Keep in mind, I also read The Road.) Now, Philip Roth's fine novel has been turned into, well, a just-OK movie. The directorial debut of Ewan McGregor is simplistic in some ways but emotional enough to suggest the power of Roth's words. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Happy 40th Anniversary, 'Ramones'

Hey ho, let's go and celebrate Ramones, which was re-released today in a fancy new deluxe edition. My appreciation of this eternal classic -- and the one album I think might be "perfect" -- is up at MEL.

Let's Rank All Tom Hanks' Movies

For Vulture, Will and I are mixing up our usual ranking system. Now, we're dividing an actor or director's work into specific categories. First up, is Mr. Tom Hanks. This was a lot of fun -- dive in.

Toronto 2016: 'Wakefield' Review

It's close but no cigar with Wakefield, an intriguing but ultimately unsuccessful study of a lawyer (Bryan Cranston) who decides to hide out from his family ... by living in the garage. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Peter Gabriel - "Intruder"

An excerpt from a 2011 interview in The Quietus with Peter Gabriel about this 1980 track:
How was it received at the time? Critics and audiences alike have never really had a problem with novelists and film makers using characters to tell a story but often do with popular music for some reason. I mean, ostensibly it's about home invasion but there's also some much darker stuff being hinted at as well.  

"Yeah, there's a transvestite element, a clothes fetish. There's part of me in that but there's also a rape metaphor. It's definitely dark but real. I always used to enjoy performing it."
I confess that I've never noticed the "transvestite element." I was too busy focusing on those drums and that wail.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Toronto 2016: 'The Magnificent Seven' Review

Welcome to this year's Toronto Film Festival. The opening night film, The Magnificent Seven, kicks us off on a sluggish note. I didn't think it was possible, but Denzel Washington actually delivers a less-than-impressive performance. And I'm not sure what's up with Chris Pratt. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking Toronto

Episode 33 of the Grierson & Leitch podcast focuses on the Toronto Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday. Also, in our reboot section, we discuss 12 Monkeys and Escape From New York, two movies that are more thematically linked than I realized. You can hear the whole thing here.

'Atlanta' Review

Atlanta is the brainchild of actor and rapper Donald Glover. I was taken by this show from the start: It stars him as a directionless young man trying to get his life together. Atlanta is about Southern life, hip-hop, racism and other worthy topics, but it's light on its feet. I reviewed the series for The Wrap.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Telluride 2016: 'Sully' Review

In its own modest way, Sully is the best thing Clint Eastwood has made in a while. Forced to choose, I'd say it's his strongest since Letters From Iwo Jima, and the two films have certain similarities, both depicting the horror of actual events with a movingly subdued approach. This story of Sully Sullenberger has its creaky, awkward moments, but it earns its sentimentality. And Tom Hanks is great. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Telluride 2016: 'Moonlight' Review

Filmmaker Barry Jenkins' first movie, Medicine for Melancholy, showed plenty of promise. Moonlight, his second, builds on it. I loved this drama about a young life told in three segments. It's insightful about race, sexuality, identity, poverty and many other things. I hope it finds an audience. My review is live at Screen International.

Telluride 2016: 'Maudie' Review

If you know me, or read my reviews, you're probably not surprised that I'm susceptible to love stories about impossible characters or scenarios -- especially if they're based on true stories. I have no idea how others will respond to Maudie, but I was willing to get on its wavelength.

It stars Sally Hawkins as Maud Lewis, an arthritic painter who fell in love with an ornery fishmonger (Ethan Hawke), becoming a celebrated Nova Scotian artist in the process. As the movie portrays them, they were difficult, socially awkward people who stumbled toward some version of romantic bliss together. Deeply imperfect, Maudie still worked for me. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, September 02, 2016

My Interview With Max Linsky, Host of 'With Her'

I was really curious to talk to Max Linsky, who hosts With Her, the official Hillary Clinton podcast. Thus far, he's interviewed the candidate and her running mate, Tim Kaine. So what are they like in person? We talked about that, criticisms people have about the show, and the nature of interviewing celebrities -- something he and I have some experience with. I'm very happy how this piece turned out. You can read it over at MEL.

XTC - "Grass"

Summer is over, so why not listen to a track from a quintessential summer album? Plus, my wife loves this song.