Saturday, November 18, 2017

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': 'Justice League,' 'Mudbound' and Denzel Washington

I saw Roman J. Israel, Esq. back in Toronto, but the movie has been trimmed and reedited for its release. So I gave it a second look to be on Press Play with my good buddy Christy Lemire. We talked about that, as well as Justice League, Mudbound and Wonder. You can hear the whole thing here.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Pearl Jam -"Black"

Continuing this month's "Songs of Pine" series, I will now acknowledge that, yes, at one embarrassing moment in my life, I was so heartbroken that I actually said to myself (to the woman who had made me so sad)...

I know someday you'll have a beautiful life 
I know you'll be a star 
In somebody else's sky 
But why 
Why can't it be 
Why can't it be mine?

Yup, those are lyrics from "Black," the emotional centerpiece of Pearl Jam's first album, Ten.

To this day, the song kinda makes me cringe because of just how nakedly earnest my feelings were in that moment. But I'll say this: Eddie Vedder was never a creep or a jerk in his lyrics. "Black" is a song about losing someone, about being left behind, but there's no misogyny or snottiness in his delivery. In the history of rock songs about dudes getting dumped, "All I taught her was everything" is pretty mild rancor. In other words, I feel embarrassed but not ashamed to have clung to this song in a vulnerable moment. Vedder is actually trying to be an honorable person while acknowledging how distraught he is. Many have expressed themselves in far uglier fashion under the same circumstances.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Misleading Men: Jim Carrey

For my latest installment of Misleading Men at MEL, I wrote about Jim Carrey, who's the star of a new documentary called Jim & Andy. It's about Carrey's transformation into Andy Kaufman for Man on the Moon, which I think is a great movie. Jim & Andy examines what went on during the movie, and what happened to Carrey afterward. I talk about the film and him here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

'Justice League' Review

This is the face that Ben Affleck makes through most of Justice League. It's also the face I made while watching it. My review is up at Screen International.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Three Billboards,' 'Thelma,' 'Cabaret' ... and Louis C.K.

On this week's episode of the podcast, we dutifully review Murder on the Orient Express. But we're much more interested in discussing I Love You, Daddy and Louis C.K. Elsewhere, I go solo to break down Three Billboards and Thelma. And, in our Reboot segment, we tackle Cabaret. You can hear the whole thing below.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

'Wonder' Review

Wonder is a story about being kind, even when the world doesn't show you it in return. Based on the bestselling novel, this tearjerker has a lot to recommend. And, yet, I couldn't quite get there: The film ends up overdoing its sentimentality. My review is up at Screen International.

Will Ferrell and His Comedy Sidekicks

In many of Will Ferrell's movies, he works off a sidekick: John C. Reilly, Kevin Hart or, in the case of Daddy's Home 2, Mark Wahlberg. For MEL, I decided to rank all of his comedic wingmen. Check out the results here.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - "Blue Chair"

For this week's "Songs of Pine," I've chosen a track off Blood & Chocolate, Elvis Costello's 1986 record that I gorged on while obsessing over not one but two women. What's especially fun about that scenario is that the songs really never lose their vitality; if you get tired of projecting the lyrics onto one person, hey, you can just switch to the other.

"Blue Chair" was the focal point, though. I still cannot fathom these lyrics, which actually made the song work even better. The snippets of coherence stung even more...

You say that your love lasts forever 
When you know the night is just hours

And wherever she is tonight
I want her anyway
I suppose she never said to you
You were just in the way

Now when I hear it, I think, "Oh right, I was going through a bad time then, huh?" I'm very grateful not to be sinking into the blue chair anymore.

'Daddy's Home 2' Review

I thought the first Daddy's Home was disposable but contained an interesting idea underneath: In an era of enlightened masculinity, how do sensitive guys compete with old-fashioned alpha males? Alas, Daddy's Home 2 mostly abandons the nuance of that notion for dumb hijinks. This thing stinks, as I explain over at Screen International.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

What's Cate Blanchett's Best Movie?

With the two-time Oscar-winner in Thor: Ragnarok, Will and I decided to rank all of Cate Blanchett's roles. Where did I'm Not There end up on the list? That answer is over at Vulture.

Let's Rank Woody Harrelson Movies

Woody Harrelson is having a pretty busy 2017 between Wilson, War for the Planet of the Apes, LBJ and Three Billboards. Over at Vulture, Will and I went through all his performances to select his finest. Take a look.

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Review

I saw Three Billboards in Toronto, but I wanted to catch it one more time before reviewing. I've done that now, so I have some thoughts about this Oscar contender over at Paste.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Thor, 'Lady Bird' and 'Punch-Drunk Love'

On this week's episode, we cover a lot of movies -- well, I do. Will and I review Thor: Ragnarok, while I go solo to discuss Last Flag Flying, Lady Bird and LBJ. Then, we take a little time raving about Punch-Drunk Love, which isn't getting any less wonderful over time. You can hear the whole thing here.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

'Last Flag Flying' and the State of the Iraq War Movie

For MEL, I wrote about Last Flag Flying and noted that, in the modern Iraq War film, we see very little of the battlefield. Instead, the focus has shifted to the home front. I pondered why that is here.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Foo Fighters - "How I Miss You"

So, for no reason other than the fact that the idea came to me, I've decided that, in November, each week's Friday Video will be devoted to a song I've listened to on repeat while dealing with some sort of heartache. I'm calling this series "Songs of Pine." I'm sure this tour through my musical back pages won't be embarrassing at all.

First up: "How I Miss You," which was a Foo Fighters B-side from their 1995 self-titled debut. This is such an obvious mid-'90s alternative-rock track: quiet vocals, minimalist but tense arrangement and then, finally, an explosion of guitars and yells. This is how pining used to sound to me, as if that eruption of power chords was a way of letting all that pain and anguish out of my system. Hearing "How I Miss You" now kinda makes me cringe -- the song isn't even that great -- but the rawness of its misery (or was it my misery projected onto the song?) still stirs something deep in me.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

'Murder on the Orient Express' Review

There's a new Murder on the Orient Express. Were we craving one? I have my doubts, and I'm not sure Kenneth Branagh's adaptation will do much to get people excited. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

'Last Flag Flying' Review

I suppose that calling Last Flag Flying "a shrug of a movie" doesn't sound very glowing. But this sequel to The Last Detail works in its own low-key way. I'm not sure about Bryan Cranston as Jack Nicholson, though. My review is up at Paste.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

'A Bad Moms Christmas' Review

I kinda sorta liked Bad Moms, but not enough to recommend. I actually kinda sorta liked A Bad Moms Christmas better. But not enough to recommend. My review is live at Screen International.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Thank You for Your Suburbicon, Manchurian Candidate

On this week's episode, we lament Suburbicon while sticking up for the underrated Thank You for Your Service. Then, in the Reboot section, we look back at 1962's The Manchurian Candidate. You can listen to the whole thing down below.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Misleading Men: Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell is in the midst of a comeback, but perhaps you've heard that before. It seems like every other year, some media outlet will declare that this is the movie or this is the year where he finally becomes a superstar. Why do we keep doing this with him? I dig into that over at MEL.

'The Man Who Invented Christmas' Review

Ever wonder what inspired Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol? The dreary The Man Who Invented Christmas is here to provide the backstory, casting Dan Stevens as the author. I found the whole thing pretty uninspired, as I explain in my Screen International review.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sinead O'Connor - "John I Love You"

About once a week or so, I'll think about Sinead O'Connor and hope she's doing OK. Lord knows the woman has had a hard life. It only makes her music seem all the more fragile and beautiful.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

'Suburbicon' Review

George Clooney has directed six films. Suburbicon is his worst. My review is live at Paste.

'Thank You for Your Service' Review

Miles Teller is having a very good October. I liked him quite a bit in Only the Brave, and now he's in Thank You for Your Service, a look at Iraq War veterans who come home, unable to cope with civilian life. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Sacred Deer,' 'Wonderstruck' and 'The Fugitive'

This week's episode is jam-packed with films. First, Will and I dig into The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Then, I go solo on Wonderstruck and Only the Brave, two movies I liked for very different reasons. After that, I ask Will some questions about The Snowman, a film that seems too ridiculous to be believed. Finally, we revisit The Fugitive in our Reboot segment. I'll admit it: I've never loved that movie. You can hear the whole thing here.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

'Coco' Review

Not like a Pixar movie? Me? Sad to say, it's true: I think Coco is a visual delight, and it has some good songs, but I found myself pretty bored by its story. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, October 20, 2017

'Patton Oswalt: Annihilation' Review

For MEL, I wrote about Patton Oswalt's new Netflix special. Yes, it's the one where he talks about coping with his wife's death. I didn't find it particularly funny, but that doesn't make it any less engaging. My piece is live here.

Joni Mitchell - "Refuge of the Roads"

I'm so in awe of this incredible piece that The Ringer ran this week on Joni Mitchell. Just really great. So I'm playing some Mitchell today. Also, this is a good reminder to myself that I now have Hejira on vinyl and I need to get some speakers for my record player.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

'Thor: Ragnarok' Review

You know, I just like the Thor movies. I like that they're goofy, and I like how Chris Hemsworth plays the guy. So I liked Thor: Ragnarok, which is very self-mockingly silly but also kinda sweet. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

The Gotham Awards: The Nominations (and Me)

For the second straight year, I was asked to serve on one of the nominating committees for the Gotham Awards. In 2016, I handled the Breakthrough Award. This year, I helped select the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees. Our team, which included A.A. Dowd, David Ehrlich, Sheila O’Malley, and Alison Willmore, deliberated yesterday, and now the full list of nominees has been announced. Pretty happy with our picks, and the nominees in general.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Amidst the Weinstein Revelations

For MEL, I looked at the public's (and the media's) portrayal of the Good Will Hunting stars' friendship over the last 20 years. We think of them as adorable, clean-cut kids who realized a dream by turning their passion project into an Oscar-winning hit. But how do we feel about them now that their early champion, Harvey Weinstein, has finally been outed for the creep he is? I dig into that here.

'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' Review

I saw The Killing of a Sacred Deer at Cannes and said this:

I've revisited the film to review for Paste, and I have to say: I feel about the same, although maybe a little more measured. I explain why right here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'The Meyerowitz Stories,' 'Heathers' and More

On this week's episode, we dive into the latest from Noah Baumbach. Then, we spend a little time on Marshall and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. And may I also recommend our Reboot segment, which is devoted to 1989's Heathers? You can hear the whole thing here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Busan 2017: 'Ash' Review

I'm not at the Busan Film Festival, but I reviewed a film that premiered there the other day. It's Ash, a thriller that opens with a dead body in a movie theater. How did it get there? And who committed the crime? Those are just some of the answers that director Xiaofeng Li provides in his elegant mystery. My review is live over at Screen International.

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Attorneys, Shower Scenes, Threesomes and Adam Sandler

Had a blast being on Press Play on Friday. Alicia Malone and I were on to discuss Marshall, The Meyerowitz Stories, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, 78/52 and Faces Places. You can hear the whole thing here.

'78/52' and the Disturbing Legacy of the 'Psycho' Shower Scene

Over at MEL, I wrote about the new documentary 78/52, which is devoted to the shower scene from Psycho. Specifically, my piece talks about how that infamous death sequence unleashed sexual violence into the movies, changing the landscape of horror films forever. You can read my essay here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beck - "Dear Life"

About a year after it was supposed to first come out, Colors finally gets released today. I've been digging "Dear Life" for a few weeks now. It sounds like an Exile on Main Street track with a modern, sunny pop edge. And, longer than it should have taken, I eventually realized the clever wordplay going on in the chorus.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

'Marshall' Review

Marshall tells the story of a young Thurgood Marshall (played by Chadwick Boseman) in the early 1940s as he defends a black chauffeur accused of raping a white woman. The film is based on an actual case, but Marshall had a basic phoniness that bugged me. I get into it over at Paste.

'Only the Brave' Review

I have to admit that I was skeptical about Only the Brave, a true-life drama about wilderness firefighters battling a horrific blaze. But what intrigued me was that the film was directed by Joseph Kosinski, who's best known for Tron: Legacy, a visually spectacular sci-fi flick. His latest movie doesn't lead with its visuals: It's a modest but resonant ensemble piece starring Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly. Only the Brave may be conventional, but it's smart and it's thoughtful and it works. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Blade Runners, Mountains and 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure'

On this week's podcast, Will and I have several new movies to discuss. We rap about Blade Runner 2049 and The Mountain Between Us, and then I go solo for The Florida Project. Finally, in our Reboot segment, we take a look back at Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is sweeter and sunnier than you might remember. You can listen to the whole thing here.

At the Movies, We Don't Want the Dog to Die

Last week, Fox revealed a minor spoiler in The Mountain Between Us: The film's dog character doesn't die. Why did the studio do that? Because Fox knew that some viewers would stay away if they weren't sure of the pooch's safety. This inspired an essay from me for MEL, in which I look into the different relationships we have with human and animals characters on screen. Hope you enjoy.

Let's Remember Some Great Brotherly Rivalries

In honor of Liam Gallagher's new album, I decided to look back at some of the more infamous rivalries between brothers. And, as an added bonus, I pick a winner in each feud. The results are over at MEL.

(By the way, after all these years, I still have to think, "Wait, which one is Liam and which one is Noel?")

Friday, October 06, 2017

Tom Petty - "You Wreck Me"

Still bummed about Tom Petty's death. There are so many indelible hits, but I've really been digging on this Wildflowers cut this week. That's an album that seems to be a standout for so many fans -- as close as he came to a really coherent "concept album," even more so than Southern Accents. Little did we know that the record was his way of hinting that his long-term marriage was falling apart.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Let's Rank Harrison Ford Movies

For Vulture, Will and I gave ourselves the challenge of ranking all of Harrison Ford's performances. The real question: Did Han Solo or Indiana Jones come out on top? The answer is here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Greatest Screenwriters Ever

Vulture put together a list of the 100 best screenwriters of all time and asked its contributors to wax rhapsodic about the choices. I was happy to do so. Our bylines aren't included next to the pieces we wrote, but the entire list is here.

Tom Petty: MTV Trailblazer

For Rolling Stone, I looked back at Tom Petty's music-video legacy. What I found were a lot of funny, clever clips. And the more research I did, the sadder I got that he's gone. Check it out here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking 'American Made,' 'Bull Durham' and the Original 'Halloween'

American Made underwhelmed at the box office, but Will and I liked it pretty well. We talked about that on this week's episode. And, in our Reboot segment, we dig into two very different themed requests. First up, because the playoffs are about to start, Bull Durham. And then, because horror movies are heading our way in droves, John Carpenter's original Halloween from 1978. Listen to the whole thing below.

Friday, September 29, 2017

SAG-AFTRA Foundation: My Conversation With the 'Super Dark Times' Team

Super Dark Times opens today, telling the story of two high-school friends (Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan) who get involved in something, well, super-dark. For the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, I moderated a Q&A with them and director Kevin Phillips. We talked about the film's genesis, the challenges Phillips did (or didn't) face making a movie that would invite comparisons to Stand by Me, and how the two young stars found their way into acting. (I hope Tahan is feeling better, by the way.) You can watch the whole thing below.

Misleading Men: Kiefer Sutherland

Asked to name my favorite Kiefer Sutherland performance, I might go with I Trust You to Kill Me. That little-seen documentary, which followed him as he went on tour with a band that he'd signed to his label, is a very revealing snapshot of the actor. I get into that while discussing the man's life and career for MEL.

'Blade Runner 2049' Review

So, Roger Deakins is finally going to win his Oscar, right? For Screen International, I reviewed Blade Runner 2049, which I (overcome by hyperbole) referred to on Twitter as "the most gorgeous film I've ever seen." And a lot of that has to do with Deakins, the renowned cinematographer who has been nominated 13 times. My review is right here.

Father John Misty - "Ballad of the Dying Man"

Pure Comedy came out in April, and ever since I've been struggling to wrap my head around it. Pretentiousness, concept albums, long-winded singer-songwriters, me me me ... none of that stuff turns me off normally, but there's something about Father John Misty's third record that leaves me cold.

As a document of where he's at emotionally after his nervous-newlywed sophomore release I Love You, Honeybear, the resolutely melancholy Pure Comedy suggests ... well, I don't pretend to know a thing about the man's personal life, but I would argue that maybe things aren't going so well on the home front. (Or maybe that's just how I read "Leaving LA," which feels like a farewell to Los Angeles as well as to the promise that it once held for an artist and his artist wife.) Regardless, this album's big-swing approach to its major themes -- most of which I'm aligned with him spiritually on -- too often play out as declarations from a guy who sounds like he thinks he's the first guy to come up with them. Not only does the music keep declaring its cleverness, the lyricist does, too.

So why may Pure Comedy still make my Top 10? Because when I stop fighting with the album, when I just let it play in the background, the beauty and inventiveness keep sneaking up on me. "Oh, that's a really good song," I'll think. "And so is that one. And that little passage there sure is lovely." And so on. As a friend, Father John Misty would probably be exhausting. As a songwriter who's trying to find new ways to express old ideas, he never stops thinking, never stops trying a new angle, often finds the grace note that makes me reassess the whole endeavor.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

'American Made' Review

This site is very Tom Cruise-friendly, so it shouldn't be a surprise how much I liked him in American Made. The movie is sort of his American Hustle with more than a dash of Goodfellas thrown in. I have quibbles with this true-life crime drama, but Cruise helps to mitigate them. My review is up at Paste.

My Interview With Peter Nicks, the Director of 'The Force'

I was quite taken by The Force, which premiered at Sundance and offered an inside glimpse at the workings of the Oakland Police Department, which had been beset by scandal for more than a decade. So, I was happy to speak with its director, Peter Nicks, about Black Lives Matter, the challenges of police reform, and what happens when you try to make a nuanced film about a politically charged subject. (Spoiler: Everybody gets mad at you on all sides.) My interview is live at MEL.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Best Airplane Movies

This Friday, American Made opens. It's about an airline pilot who becomes a smuggler. So, for Popular Mechanics, I put together a list of the finest movies about planes. Yes, Snakes on a Plane made the list. No, Con Air did not. You can read the whole thing here.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: On 'Me and Orson Welles' and 'Holy Motors'

This week's episode features two new reviews: Battle of the Sexes and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. But since you already know how I feel about those movies, let me direct your attention to our Reboot segment, where we discuss Me and Orson Welles and Holy Motors. Unintentionally, we linked together two films that are about the art of performance -- it may be the only thing they have in common, though. You can hear the entire episode here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

So, Who Was Bobby Riggs?

With Battle of the Sexes out now, I decided to look into the life and times of Bobby Riggs. For MEL, I read his 1973 memoir and the 2003 biography The Last Sure Thing. I was curious if Riggs was more a chauvinist or a showman who would say anything for attention. My piece is here.

Friday, September 22, 2017

LCD Soundsystem - "Black Screen"

The closing track on American Dream is this 12-minute simmer, dedicated to David Bowie, that is my favorite type of LCD Soundsystem song: mournful, low-key, really beautiful. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

'Battle of the Sexes' Review

Battle of the Sexes is a perfectly likeable sports biopic about Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both good, but what's best about the movie is a love story -- and, no, it's not between those two characters. My review is up at Paste.

The History of 'Broken,' the Notorious Nine Inch Nails Promotional Film

I haven't written for Revolver in five years, so it was fun to be reunited with my old editor Brandon for this piece, which is tied to the 25th anniversary of the release of the Nine Inch Nails EP Broken. Trent Reznor wanted to do a promotional film in connection with the album, but the resulting video was so upsetting he decided to shelve it. That wasn't the end of the story, though. My appreciation of this horrifying artifact is available here.

What's Emma Stone's Best Performance?

Emma Stone has a new film out on Friday, Battle of the Sexes. Today at Vulture, Will and I look back at her first decade of stardom, ranking every one of her movies. I think you can guess what No. 1 is. The full list is here.