Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Remembering Jonathan Demme, the King of the Concert Film

Jonathan Demme passed away today at the age of 73. For Rolling Stone, I focused on a crucial aspect of his career: his concert films. Of course, that means a lot of love is shown to Stop Making Sense, but I also talk about his Neil Young movies and Justin Timberlake+ the Tennessee Kids. It's an incredible legacy, and I try to do it justice here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Free Fire,' 'Network' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

The 65th episode of the podcast finds us debating Free Fire, a movie that crashed and burned at the box office this past weekend. But I particularly liked our conversations in the Reboot section. Much to my surprise, we both have similar reservations about the Oscar-winning, much-beloved Network. And The Royal Tenenbaums gave us a chance to revisit our ongoing discussion about Wes Anderson. Lots of goodness in this episode: Take a listen.

'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Review

Summer movie season begins in fine fashion with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Though not without its issues -- I'm more convinced that Chris Pratt just isn't a major Hollywood star -- I found it very fun and surprisingly emotional. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tribeca 2017: 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson' Review

Marsha P. Johnson died around Fourth of July 1992. The police ruled it a suicide, but her friends suspected she was murdered. Decades later, an advocate tries to get the case reopened. That's the setup for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a documentary that doesn't necessarily uncover the truth but does have much to say about the transgender community and the many hardships it faces. This is sobering stuff nicely rendered, as I say in my Screen International review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Stephin Merritt, '50 Song Memoir' and the Art of "Personal" Songs

For MEL, I wanted to write about 50 Song Memoir, the superb new album from the Magnetic Fields. I started thinking about how Magnetic Fields leader Stephin Merritt inadvertently joined a recent trend of indie artists who are writing about themselves in intensely personal ways. Merritt, who abhors autobiographical lyrics, decided to write a song per year of his life for 50 Song Memoir -- and to draw from his real-life experiences for once. Along the way, he has created a new way of thinking about "personal" songs. You can read my piece here.

Stevie Wonder - "Sir Duke"

My wife and I got married 11 years ago tomorrow. She loves this song, and I love it more now because it makes me think of her loving it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

'Free Fire' Review

Pew! Pew! Pew! Free Fire isn't exactly nonstop gunplay, but there is a lot of shooting in this action-comedy-thriller about an arms deal that goes wrong. I've seen the movie twice now, and both times I've appreciated the exercise without necessarily caring all that much about what happens. My review is up at The New Republic.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Summer 2017: The Must-Sees of the Season

Yup, it's that time of year again. Summer movie season is about to launch, and over at The New Republic, Will and I take a look at the next few months of the release calendar. There are some blockbusters that excite us. There are some auteurist indies that could be amazing. We'll find out soon enough. But for now, here's our preview.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Car Chases, Lost Cities, 'Zero Effect' and 'Man of the West'

This week's edition of the podcast finds me asking Will about The Fate of the Furious and him asking me about The Lost City of Z. But we team up to debate our two Reboot films: the late-1990s cult film Zero Effect and the Anthony Mann western Man of the West. Hear it all here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': 'Fate of the Furious,' 'The Lost City of Z' and 'Norman'

Barbara Bogaev filled in as host for Madeleine this week, as Jen Yamato and I talked about the Easter weekend's movie options. Jen is a massive, massive, massive Fast and the Furious fan, so being on with her was a treat -- especially since I haven't seen the new movie. (She interviewed Vin Diesel this week for the Los Angeles Times.) And any opportunity I have to sing the praises of The Lost City of Z and Norman I will. Hear it all here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Misleading Men: Richard Gere

In honor of his new film Norman, which I like, I devoted the latest column in my Misleading Men series to Richard Gere. What's his appeal, exactly? Why is he underrated? And does he have a signature role? I get into all of that over at MEL.

R.E.M. - "Pilgrimage"

On April 12, 1983, R.E.M. released their full-length debut, Murmur. They have probably made better albums since, but none of them feel as cohesive as this one. I said a lot about the record back in this 2008 piece (scroll down), and I still stand behind every word. On an album full of highlights, perhaps my favorite deep cut is "Pilgrimage." No idea what the song means, but Michael Stipe and Mike Mills' vocals say so much.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

'The Lost City of Z' Review

For its first half, The Lost City of Z was a perfectly solid, old-fashioned adventure film. Then, something shifted for me. By the end, I was pretty enraptured. I wrote about the movie for The New Republic.

Franchise Scorecard: The Series With More Films Than 'Fast and the Furious'

The Fate of the Furious is the eighth movie in the franchise, so how does that compare to other long-running series? For MEL, I do a little number-crunching, digging into everything from James Bond to Jason. Check out my findings here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Reviewing 'Graduation' and 'Colossal'

This past weekend's major releases all looked negligible, so Will and I focused the latest installment of the podcast on two foreign/indie movies. First, we dig into Graduation. Then, we turn our attention to Colossal, which we disagree about. Finally, our Reboot segment is dedicated to Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans. Will loved it back in the day -- I was a lot less impressed. Anything changed in 25 years? Take a listen.

I Was on 'The News Reel' to Talk About Alec Baldwin

The folks over at The News Reel were nice enough to have me on. We talked about my recent piece on Alec Baldwin and my feelings about movie stars in an era when they seem less important than the property they're in. You can hear the whole thing here.

'Born in China' Review

There are certain movies I see that, when I give them negative reviews, I think, "Oh, my mother is going to be so disappointed in me." Nonetheless, it is my duty to inform you that I think the Disney documentary Born in China suffers from aggressive cuteness. Yes, it has pandas. Yes, it's about making people realize that animals have complex lives. But I still found myself resisting the whole enterprise. I get into it over at Screen International.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Remembering 'Tough Guys'

In honor of this weekend's Going in Style, a movie about older guys pulling off a heist, I decided to look back at another movie about older guys pulling off a heist, 1986's Tough Guys. How has the movie held up? Not so well! But, man, is it fascinating. Here's my piece for MEL.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Teenage Fanclub - "The Cabbage"

If you're trying to write mopey-boy music about a girl breaking up with you, "We were together/But now we're not/Asked you for nothing/That's what I got" sure does the trick.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

'Going in Style' Review

You know what you're gonna get from Going in Style, but I still wish it was a little more inspired. Who doesn't love Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin? Well, their relaxed charm is all this heist comedy has going for it. My review is up at Screen International.

Prince's Short, Tragic Fatherhood

It's been nearly a year since Prince died. This week, his ex-wife Mayte Garcia has released a memoir, The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince, about their time together. The most heartbreaking section, though, covers the death of their days-old son, Amiir. For MEL, I give readers a preview of how Garcia remembers her husband from the initial pregnancy to the boy's tragic death. It's an ordeal no one should have to experience.

My Interview With Dan Stevens

For Rolling Stone, I talked to Dan Stevens, who's in everything at the moment. He was the star of the fantastic Legion, and he's also the hairy creature in a little movie called Beauty and the Beast. But we mostly focused on a new indie drama where he plays a blind man who inexplicably gets his sight back, The Ticket. How does the former Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey fame feel about his big moment? Read on.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

On the Great 'Graduation'

I dug Graduation when I saw it at Cannes, taking issue with colleagues who thought it was merely one more good Romanian moral drama. In my book, you can't have enough of those. I reviewed the film for The New Republic.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Ghost in the Shell,' 'The Last Picture Show' and 'The Room'

My voice feeling back to normal, I very much enjoyed this week's installment of the Grierson & Leitch podcast. First, I come to the defense of Ghost in the Shell. Then, in our Reboot segment, I sing the praises of the anti-nostalgia The Last Picture Show. Finally, I give in and watch The Room, which I had suspected I would live my whole life without seeing. Turns out, I wasn't so lucky. Hear the whole thing here.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Let's Rank American Presidents' First Pitches

In honor of the fact that Donald Trump isn't throwing out the first pitch today at Nationals Park, I decided to rank presidential tosses. You can read the whole thing over at MEL. I did a bunch of research and found lots of fun sports-related tidbits for each commander-in-chief. Oh, and if you're looking for my MLB predictions, I think the Dodgers will beat the Indians in the World Series. In seven months, we'll know if I'm right.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Misleading Men: Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin is the voice of The Boss Baby. I have not seen the movie, which looks rather dreadful. But for MEL, I took this opportunity to dedicate the latest installment of my Misleading Men column to the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning actor. In the early 1990s, he was primed to become the next action star thanks to The Hunt for Red October. That didn't work out ... leading, ironically, to his recent renaissance in a very roundabout way. Check out my piece here.

The Magnetic Fields - "How to Play the Synthesizer"

I have yet to fully absorb 50 Song Memoir -- gimme a break, there are 50 songs -- but I'm really liking what I hear so far. And I definitely like this track, which documents 1981 in Stephin Merritt's life. Witty, catchy, clever -- very Magnetic Fields, in other words.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

'Gifted' Review

I don't need to be told that Chris Evans is a good actor. Just because he's Captain America, that doesn't he mean he doesn't have depth, which was obvious to anyone who saw Sunshine or Snowpiercer. (And for that matter, he's a pretty solid Captain America, too.) So, it's not really news to report that Evans is the best thing in Gifted, a schmaltzy custody drama that I found increasingly irritating as it became more and more formulaic. Seriously, this movie infuriated me, which I get into in my Screen International review.

'Ghost in the Shell' Review

Critics shouldn't take these things under consideration before they see a movie, but when a film doesn't screen before the Wednesday it comes out, well, it does create an impression that the studio is hiding it. The thought had certainly entered my mind when I sat down to watch Ghost in the Shell last night. And yet, lo and behold, it's actually a pretty good sci-fi action-thriller, bringing its own energy to the 1995 anime that inspired it. A lot of credit has to go to Scarlett Johansson -- and, as far as the accusations of whitewashing are concerned, well, I get into that in my Popular Mechanics review.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'After the Storm' Review

After the Storm is the latest from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda. It's lovely, like so many of his films, telling the story of a deadbeat dad who only slowly comes to the realization that he's kind of a screw-up. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Looking Back at 'The Trouble With Harry' and 'Big Business'

I make my glorious return to the podcast this week: Will and I reviewed Life, CHIPS and Power Rangers. It's good to be back. If you'd like to hear how my voice sounded before surgery, check out the Reboot segment, which was prerecorded. There, we dig into The Trouble With Harry and Big Business. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Cops, Superheroes, Grumps and Aliens

I was very happy to be back on Madeleine Brand's show yesterday, and even happier to be hanging out with my buddy Christy Lemire. We talked about Life, Wilson, CHIPS and Power Rangers. We only liked one movie -- can you guess which one? Check out our Press Play episode here.

Friday, March 24, 2017

'Life' Review

Of the three big releases this weekend, I'll take Life over the not-that-bad CHIPS and the truly dreadful Power Rangers. Yes, it's a total Alien ripoff. But well-done ripoffs are still worthwhile, right? Right. My review is up at The New Republic.

Vince Staples (featuring Jhené Aiko and DJ Dahi) - "Lemme Know"

You can't pick the earworms that consume you. "Lemme Know" has been lodged in my brain this week for reasons I could not begin to fathom.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

'CHIPS' Review

After last night's all-media screening of CHIPS, I could sense that certain colleagues were feeling very sheepish about how much they laughed during this utterly dumb, raunchy action-comedy. Me, I just wish I'd laughed more. This is, again, a dumb, raunchy movie, but it has its moments. Enough to recommend? Not quite, but close. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

'I Called Him Morgan' Review

Jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan was a major star in the 1960s. But he ended up murdered by his common-law wife in 1972 at the age of 33. What happened? I Called Him Morgan is an involving documentary that investigates his life -- and that of his lover Helen. It's a sad story. My review is up at Paste.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Christy Lemire, 'Easy Rider' and 'Repo Man'

I'm still on vocal rest, so you won't hear me doing new reviews on this week's episode of our New Republic podcast. Thankfully, my good buddy Christy Lemire was kind enough to pinch-hit for me. She and Will discuss Beauty and the Beast and T2 Trainspotting. I am, however, part of the Reboot segment: Will and I look back at Easy Rider and Repo Man. Take a listen here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

True/False 2017: The Rankings and the Rundown

As per norm, I had a great time in Columbia, Missouri, and as per norm, I wrote a massive tome for Paste that chronicled just about everything I saw at True/False. That rundown, you can read here. If you're more interested in a conventional ranked list, here you go. Links lead to individual reviews...

23. Long Strange Trip
22. Dina
21. Distant Constellation (work-in-progress)
20. The War Show
19. Step
18. Brimstone & Glory
17. Whose Streets?
16. Safari
15. Railway Sleepers
14. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
13. Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?
12. Manifesto
11. Communion
10. Quest
9. Strong Island
8. Miss Kiet's Children
7. The Force
6. Stranger in Paradise
5. The Graduation
4. Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2
3. Casting JonBenet
2. Rat Film
1. I Am Not Your Negro

I am very curious to check out Lindy Lou and Rat Film again. The latter has, more or less, been a big hit on the festival circuit. As for Lindy Lou, I know many who were underwhelmed by it at True/False, where it had its premiere. I think it's really remarkable. But, like I said, you can read all about those movies (and many more) over in my Paste piece.

Monday, March 20, 2017

'The Zookeeper's Wife' Review

Jessica Chastain is suitably restrained as, you guessed it, a zookeeper's wife in this fact-based World War II drama about a Polish couple who helped protect Jews from the Nazis. There's much to admire here, especially Daniel Bruhl as one of those Nazis, but I kept wishing The Zookeeper's Wife was a little more gripping, a little sharper, a little better. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

The Legacy of "The Next Woody Allen" Actors

For decades, different actors and auteurs have been dubbed (or have sought to be dubbed) the next Woody Allen. In honor of Paul Rust, the star and co-creator of Love, I took a look back at nine such individuals (including Jesse Eisenberg, pictured). The story of these artists is also sort of the story of how Allen's stature has shifted over the years. My piece is over at MEL.

'Power Rangers' Review

Transformers is back, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is back, so why not Power Rangers? No. No, let's not let that happen. The new film is just wretched. Awful. I hope I don't see anything worse this year, although that new Pirates of the Caribbean movie still looms ominously on the horizon. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why Does the Alt-Right Love Taylor Swift and 'The Matrix'?

For MEL, I spent a little time researching artists that are beloved in the alt-right world. Why? Because I'm fascinated why these cretins enjoy some of the same stuff that I do -- albeit for really different reasons. Dive in.

'T2 Trainspotting' Review

It's been 21 years since Trainspotting, the movie, and Danny Boyle has brought back the gang for T2 Trainspotting, which couldn't afford a colon in its title, apparently. I confess I'm not the biggest fan of the original, so I was curious how I'd respond to this sequel. I walked away from T2 impressed with its thematic ambition. Which is something, I suppose. My review is live at The New Republic.

Parquet Courts - "One Man No City"

Sorry, I'm still not entirely sold on Parquet Courts. But this track off last year's Human Performance gets me bopping. I'm always fond of a good Velvet Underground rip.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Mark Lisanti and 'A Fish Called Wanda'

So happy to have our old Yahoo editor Mark Lisanti as a special guest for this week's episode. He and Will discuss Kong: Skull Island and Personal Shopper. But fear not: You do get some Tim as well. Will and I take a look back at A Fish Called Wanda. I can't remember the last time I heard Will laugh as hard as he does talking about Kevin Kline in that movie. Check it out.

SXSW 2017: 'Bill Nye: Science Guy' Review

Let me start by saying this: I've never been a big Bill Nye guy. I didn't watch his show as a kid, and I find his shtick to be awfully tiresome. Still, I was willing to give the man a fair hearing, which is where the documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy comes in. The movie is a pretty affectionate portrait, and it does a good job showing what he's fighting against it: bozos who deny climate change and think humans lived side-by-side with dinosaurs. I think Science Guy missteps too often, though, which I explain in my Screen International review.

Monday, March 13, 2017

'Song to Song' Review

Song to Song is Terrence Malick's weakest film, which won't be a surprise to the people who have written him off after his last few movies. But as a true disciple, I'm here to tell you that I still liked Song to Song, although I see all the reasons why most people won't. I reviewed it for Screen International.

'The Belko Experiment' Review

It's Battle Royale in a corporate high-rise with The Belko Experiment, a low-budget, undernourished thriller. There's a grim fascination to the proceedings, but I kept wishing the movie would be edgier, smarter, darker. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

SXSW 2017: 'A Critically Endangered Species' Review

What an odd beast A Critically Endangered Species is. Starring Lena Olin as a writer who decides to kill herself, this insular character drama is a meditation on aging, literature and the lasting value of art. It's also about power dynamics between this novelist and the impressionable young men she's auditioning to be her executor. It's an intriguing film but not an entirely successful one. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Why Do Certain Movies Cause Us to Faint?

For MEL, I decided to do some looking into the history of movies and bands that have provoked powerfully visceral reactions in some fans. Vomiting, seizures, heart attacks, uncontrollable sobbing ... what's going on here? I talked to some experts to get answers. Check it out.

Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car"

It's hard to convey how titanic a song "Fast Car" was when it hit radio in 1988. Pop music is known for its bright, shiny, energetic surface -- and then along came this stripped-down, plaintive tune about poverty scored to an acoustic guitar. With echoes of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska, "Fast Car" felt like a thunderbolt of quiet, sad first-person storytelling. It topped the Pazz & Jop Singles poll that year, and Tracy Chapman was No. 3 on the album poll. It's fair to say that Chapman never put out a song so momentous the rest of her career. No matter: "Fast Car" still demands that you slow down to its rhythm, leaning your ear close to the speakers.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

My Interview With 'Raw' Filmmaker Julia Ducournau

This was fun. For Rolling Stone, I spoke with Julia Ducournau, whose feature debut is the much-buzzed-about horror film Raw. What I most enjoyed: talking to her about the reasons she's not happy that her movie has been reduced to "Oh man, people fainted at a screening!" hype. You can read my profile of her and Raw right here.

All Hail Kristen Stewart

Personal Shopper was one of my favorites at last year's Cannes. (I'm still annoyed at the idiots who booed after its premiere.) For The New Republic, I revisit the film, which contains the best performance Kristen Stewart has maybe ever given. Read all about it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

True/False 2017: 'Dina' Review

Dina was a hit at Sundance, but I have to say: I'm not as blown away as many of my colleagues. I caught up with the documentary at True/False, and while I still recommend the film, about two autistic people in love, I have my reservations. You can read my review over at Screen International.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking 'Logan' and My Brief Hiatus

There is much going on in this week's episode. We review Logan and marvel at the fact that we're among the few critics who didn't actually like the movie. We take a look back at The 'Burbs and Waking Ned Devine in our Reboot section. But, most importantly, we talk about why I'm going to be taking a brief break from the podcast. Don't worry, I'm fine -- but I'm already excited to be back on the show soon. Hear it all here.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Movie Marathons: Wild About Hairy

In honor of Logan, I decided to do a Movie Marathon over at MEL that celebrates other famous hairy movie characters. Some stuff I write is passionately argued and deeply considered. This was just silly fun. Hope you enjoy.

The Wrens - "Thirteen Grand"

Is this the year the Wrens finally release their follow-up to 2003's The Meadowlands? It sure seems possible -- and, of course, best wishes to Charles Bissell.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Your Oscar Alternatives

Now that awards season is over, I decided to offer MEL readers a different kind of viewers' guide. Looking at the nominees, I created suggestions about smaller, forgotten films that might make for decent companion pieces. Mostly, I just want you to watch movies like Primer and It's Such a Beautiful Day and Passing Strange. Take a look.