Monday, July 24, 2017
Because of competing screenings, I wasn't able to get to Dunkirk until Thursday night, when my wife and I saw it at the Arclight in 70mm. So, I've had no chance to write at length about the movie. Not surprisingly, I had a ton to say on this week's episode. Plus, I talk to Will about Girls Trip, and we both review Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Finally, in our Reboot section, we look back at 24 Hour Party People. You can hear the whole thing down below.
Nobody really thought Steven Soderbergh was going to retire from filmmaking, right? Four years after his last movie, he's back with Logan Lucky, a working-class Ocean's Eleven, which is a big, fun lark with just a smidge of emotion underneath. Hardly his finest hour but, hey, not too shabby. My review is up at Screen International.
In honor of Dunkirk, I put together a timeline of World War II movies for MEL. Specifically, I focused on Hollywood's myriad examples over the last 75 years. My purpose was twofold: to show how each major film reflected America at the time, and to show how it reflected what was going on in Hollywood. Hope you enjoy.
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Kathryn Bigelow returns with her first film since Zero Dark Thirty. It's Detroit, which focuses on the 1967 riots in that titular city. This is a raw, angry, feverish drama that has the sweep of an ensemble epic. It doesn't always work, but I got wrapped up in its urgency and fury. My review is live at Screen International.
Recently, Monocle's The Cinema Show had me on to talk about 2017 films that have really stood out for me. I chose three, and I'm not telling you what they are. You can hear my segment right here.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Jason Bateman has been doing some of his best work of late. I quite liked him in The Gift, and I thought his second directorial effort, The Family Fang, was a huge improvement over the massively lame Bad Words. (And this, of course, isn't even mentioning Arrested Development, which rejuvenated his career nearly 15 years ago.)
He's now the star and one of the executive producers of the Netflix series Ozark, which is about a financial advisor from Chicago who has to move his family to the Ozarks after the drug kingpin he's been working for accuses him of skimming off the top. There's a strong Breaking Bad quality to Ozark, but Bateman doesn't go full Walter White. He brings his own take to the dark-antihero trope, which I talk about over at MEL.
Had a blast, as always, on Press Play. I was on with Kyle Buchanan to review Dunkirk, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and Landline. There's also some random Comic-Con talk. Hear the whole thing here.
Friday, July 21, 2017
When it comes to poetic, specific details, "No one knows me like the piano in my mother's home" is as evocative as it gets. I first heard of Sampha from his work on Kanye West's Life of Pablo record. This track off his debut, Process, is one of those "OK, let's stop everything and listen to this" songs that seems to freeze time.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Rolling Stone is doing a feature where they spotlight the most dynamic artists under the age of 25. I got to speak with Shameik Moore, the breakout star of Dope and part of the ensemble in The Get Down. He's one driven 22-year-old; we chatted about social media, growing up partly in Jamaica and how he wants to be thought of in 100 years. Check it out here.
New podcast episode! Will and I dig into War for the Planet of the Apes. Then, we have two Reboot films. First up is the movie that's considered one of the best of this century, Mulholland Dr. And then, we talk about writer-director Noah Baumbach's debut, 1995's Kicking and Screaming. So, sci-fi, horror and indie comedy. Check out the whole thing below.
Friday, July 14, 2017
Early impressions of Fin: I like that voice, I like the minimalism of the music, I hope the whole album comes together for me as I suspect it will. In the meantime, I'm perfectly happy to love fully its opening track, which really ought to be a single.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
For Popular Mechanics, I interviewed some of the wizards at Weta Digital to find out what were the biggest challenges in doing the effects for War for the Planet of the Apes. These folks have been on the franchise since 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so hearing about this new film's headaches was especially interesting. (Apparently, snow is a pain when you're working with monkey characters.) My piece originally appeared in the magazine, but since the film hits theaters tomorrow, it's now available on the website.
As I've said before on this blog, one of the pleasures of my job is being assigned to interview someone with whom I'm not that familiar. It allows opportunities to really discover who a person is with no preconceived notions.
That's how Adam Grandmaison came into my life. Rolling Stone asked me to meet him and learn what makes him tick. Grandmaison is better known as Adam22, and he's a mini-entrepreneur. Starting out as a BMX blogger, he's become an influential man in the world of underground hip-hop, hosting the popular interview podcast No Jumper. He is a character, as a cursory scroll through his YouTube videos will attest, but he also loves rap music and can speak about it with incredible passion and precision.
I spent two days with Adam22, and the more time I was with him, the more I liked him. He's smart, funny and opinionated, and while it didn't make the final piece, his thoughts on how to approach interviewing guests really resonated with me.
We hung out around the NBA playoffs. Today, the piece is live over at Rolling Stone. It was a pleasure, and I hope you enjoy.
That's the question Rolling Stone decided to answer, and the magazine asked a lot of writers to provide capsules for the list. As always, I need to say: I had no control over the rankings. Still, I'm very pleased that my top two choices ended up at Nos. 2 and 3. The whole list is here; I wrote about Barton Fink, The Matrix, When We Were Kings, Breaking the Waves, JFK and Lone Star.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
What a treat it was to spend some time talking with ESPN's Keith Law. We talked about his great new book, Smart Baseball. But we went far beyond sabermetrics, digging into politics, medication, living on Twitter and what should be done with players who get accused of domestic violence. If you love baseball, you'll love this conversation. But even if you don't, hopefully you'll get a lot out of our chat. He's a smart guy. Read the whole interview at MEL.
I dunno, folks: There aren't that many planets in this movie. Valerian is an ambitious, swing-for-the-fences sci-fi epic. It's just not very good. But there is a lot of it. My review is up at Screen International.
Many have praised Spider-Man: Homecoming for its performance by Michael Keaton as Spidey's nemesis, the Vulture. For Rolling Stone, I dig a little deeper into the character, making the argument that he's the encapsulation of the so-called "angry white voter" we read so much about since Trump rose to power. You can read my thoughts here.
We had three big movies to discuss on this week's podcast. First, we dive into Spider-Man: Homecoming. (One of us likes it far more than the other.) Then, we both go gaga for A Ghost Story. Finally, it's time for our Reboot segment: Has Mangolia held up? That turned into a conversation about Paul Thomas Anderson in general -- someone I always enjoy discussing. You can hear the whole thing here.
Sunday, July 09, 2017
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the best blockbuster since The Dark Knight, so I had high hopes for the trilogy's finale, War for the Planet of the Apes. Alas, War is not unlike The Dark Knight Rises: a perfectly good last act that can't quite live up to what's come before. My review is up at Paste.
Saturday, July 08, 2017
Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now, but for MEL, I decided to take a look back at the first big-screen Peter Parker. That would be Tobey Maguire, and here's my appreciation of an actor who has remained the culture's idea of who Spider-Man is.
Friday, July 07, 2017
Wednesday, July 05, 2017
I flipped for A Ghost Story earlier this year. Now that it opens Friday, I sing its praises again over at MEL, where I talk about how the movie makes the afterlife seem like the most horrifying thing imaginable. You can read my piece here.
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
On this week's podcast, we review Okja and The House. But the majority of the episode is devoted to our lists of the best films of the first half of 2017.
Let me say that these are the films I still need to see and will be dutifully catching up on over the next several months: Beatriz at Dinner, Contemporary Color, Dark Night, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, Heal the Living, I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Kedi, Land of Mine, Last Man in Aleppo, The Lovers, My Journey Through French Cinema, A Quiet Passion and A Woman’s Life. So, yeah, I've got some work to do.
Listen to the whole thing here:
(Pssst..... my picks, in alphabetical order, are Casting JonBenet, Graduation, Hermia & Helena, It Comes at Night, The Lost City of Z and Personal Shopper.)
Saturday, July 01, 2017
Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas are all really funny people. They're all in The House, which is a stunningly unfunny movie. Seriously, what happened? I gaze at the wreckage in my Paste review.
Friday, June 30, 2017
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the first web-slinger adventure to take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This means that Captain America and Iron Man show up, which will excite comic-book fans but made me wish more and more that these superheroes could just do their own thing in their own movies. (Is this the reason why I've become such a fan of the practically standalone Guardians of the Galaxy films?) Regardless, this is a fun, engaging reboot highlighted by a very good Michael Keaton as the bad guy. You can read my review over at Screen International.
Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Will and I tackled six movies on the most recent podcast. I talked about The Big Sick and The Beguiled. We both reviewed Transformers: The Last Knight and Baby Driver. We sorted out our personal feelings to discuss Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press. And, in our Reboot section, we looked back at Inside Moves. An epic episode, and you can hear it all below.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Let me start by mentioning this:
You're not gonna get a better pull quote than @TimGrierson's tonight: "that movie makes you want to put your junk in a microwave."— Todd Gilchrist (@mtgilchrist) June 27, 2017
Yup, I said it, and I was referring to Despicable Me 3, which I also told Todd was like an advertisement for birth control. I'm not opposed to kids' films, but when they're this witless, they're a pox. My review is up at Screen International.
Monday, June 26, 2017
I think I've made peace with the fact that Edgar Wright is a filmmaker for other people. Baby Driver, like many of his movies, is very entertaining and innovative. But there's nothing underneath the whiz-bang exterior. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Errol Morris remains one of our finest filmmakers. Even in a minor key, he rules. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography is about his good friend, and the affection is obvious from the first frame. But this is also a smart, wise documentary about the impermanence of everything. I reviewed the film for Paste.
Friday, June 23, 2017
'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Transformers, 'The Bad Batch,' Romantic Comedies and 'The Beguiled'
Always fun to be on Press Play. This week, I guest alongside Alicia Malone, and we review Transformers: The Last Knight, The Bad Batch, The Beguiled, The Big Sick and Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press. We had fun, fun, fun ... you can hear the whole thing here.
A few weeks ago, my MEL editors were putting together ideas for an ambitious wedding-themed week of pieces. That's when they asked me, "We really, really want you to do an oral history of Wedding Crashers. What do you think?"
I went for it. Today, you see the results of that work. I spoke to several people involved in the 2005 comedy sensation to hear their behind-the-scenes stories. It was very fun. And I hope you enjoy.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
I feel the same way about The Big Sick now as I did when I first saw it at Sundance: It's immensely charming and very good, but it's not quite amazing. Still, the movie offers many, many pleasures, and I talk about them in my review at Paste.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
As you may have heard, Daniel Day-Lewis has said he's retiring. I'm not sure I entirely buy that, but if it's true, I wanted to pay tribute to our finest actor. Rolling Stone gave me the space to praise him -- and, specifically, to debunk this idea that he's just this grim, obsessive Method actor. Beyond being a brilliant performer, he made acting look like a total blast. You can read my piece here.
That's how I felt too, Mark.
I remain absolutely dazzled by Michael Bay's next-level aesthetic. Like it or not, nobody makes action sequences with such frenetic expertise as he does. But when the movie's this junky, well, who cares? I reviewed Transformers: The Last Knight for Screen International.
Many new movies to discuss on this week's episode. We split on Cars 3. We agree on All Eyez on Me. We agree about Rough Night. And I talk to Will about my experience of watching The Book of Henry. A lot of fun, and it's all right here.
Friday, June 16, 2017
The Showtime documentary Becoming Cary Grant examines the hidden demons underneath the smooth, polished glamour of the beloved Hollywood legend. It got me thinking about the public's desire to build up celebrities and then convince ourselves that they're not that great. Grant may be our most visible example of that phenomenon. My piece is up at MEL.
Sampling Grant Green's "Luanna's Theme," this standout track from Digable Planets' second album, Blowout Comb, has popped into my brain every once in a while ever since my then-roommate bought the record back in 1994. That's right, baby.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
It's been far too long since I've guested on What the Flick?! I had a blast with Alonso, Christy and Ben, and we dig into Cars 3 (ugh), Rough Night (eh) and It Comes at Night (great). Check out the videos below.
What a stunning disappointment All Eyez on Me is. A biopic of Tupac Shakur's short, tragic life, the film is long and uninspired, detailing the rapper's story without much flair or insight. Demetrius Shipp Jr. looks a lot Tupac, but the movie has no sense of his brilliance. I reviewed All Eyez on Me for Paste.
That's the case I make over at Paste, going into detail about precisely why Cars 3 makes me so sad. Is it a terrible movie? No. But it's a lazy one ... and for a studio this great, that's just as unforgivable. You can read my piece here.
For Father's Day, MEL is having its contributors write about their dads and drinking. This required me to do something I've never done, which is talk to my dad about alcohol. He doesn't drink ... at all. Literally, he's never had a drink. Am I a chip off the old block? I talk about that in my MEL essay.
The Book of Henry premiered last night at L.A. Film Festival. The movie, from Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, has been carrying bad buzz for a while, and now that I've seen it ... well, I can see why. A bad movie by any measurement, it's also a fairly audacious one, about a single mom (Naomi Watts) who's raising two kids, one of whom is a genius. Few films try to combine the tearjerker and the Hitchcockian thriller: The Book of Henry gets points for being bold, I suppose. But as I explain in my Screen International review, this movie is still a mess.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Digging Into 'The Mummy,' 'It Comes at Night' and 'Shadow of a Doubt'
For whatever reason, Will and I haven't had any major disagreements on the podcast in a while. (Our last epic one was Rogue One.) But we don't see eye-to-eye at all on It Comes at Night. We talk about it -- and we (kinda, sorta) defend The Mummy. And then, in our Reboot segment, we take a look back at Shadow of a Doubt. You can hear the whole thing here.
Monday, June 12, 2017
If I may, a brief timeline of my feelings about the Cars movies...
2006: "Hey, Cars, isn't amazing, but it's good, OK? Lay off it!"
2011: "Oh, god, Cars 2 was terrible. What were they thinking?"
2017: "Was the first Cars any good? I don't honestly remember anymore."
Cars 3 is less irritating than its predecessor, but it's far more boring, which probably makes it worse. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Friday, June 09, 2017
Thursday, June 08, 2017
I have issues with Band Aid, the new movie written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones (who also stars), but what I responded to was its depiction of marriage. Specifically, I think it's dead-on about the importance of arguing. Not that you have to argue, but that you need to figure out how to do it well. I wrote about that for MEL.
Wednesday, June 07, 2017
I'm actually less brutal to The Mummy than a lot of my colleagues are. It's not a good film, but it is fascinating in a way -- especially in what it says about the modern blockbuster, where a star like Tom Cruise means a heck of a lot less than the maintenance of a possible franchise. My review is up at Paste.
Monday, June 05, 2017
This week's episode features only one new review, but it's a big one. We go long on Wonder Woman. Then, in our Reboot segment, we discuss The English Patient (don't tell Elaine) and In Bruges. So, yup, it's a Ralph Fiennes double feature. Hear the whole thing down below.
Hulu has a new documentary out called Dumb. It's a celebration of Big Brother, a rude-and-crude skateboard magazine that lived to annoy conservatives and parents in the 1990s. Big Brother's greatest claim to fame, though, was the franchise it helped inspire, the brilliant (and also rude-and-crude) Jackass. I wrote about the film for MEL.
For Rolling Stone, I reflect on Wonder Woman's most provocative point: Diana isn't just battling bad guys but a bad society. Sexism runs rampant in the world of this movie -- and our modern-day world -- but Wonder Woman never lets it stop her. You can read my essay here.
Trey Edward Shults, the writer-director of Krisha, returns with It Comes at Night, which I consider a far superior film. It stars Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo as a married couple that has survived an unnamed global plague. Soon, they're visited by Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough, a married couple seeking shelter. Thus begins a very tense chamber drama that gets more unsettling as it goes along. Great stuff, as I explain in my Screen International review.
Saturday, June 03, 2017
Always have a great time on KCRW. Yesterday, my pal Amy Nicholson and I were on Press Play to discuss two very different superhero movies. And then we went long on Band Aid, a film that I have very mixed feelings about. You can hear the whole thing here.
Friday, June 02, 2017
For MEL, I wrote about Chris Pine, who plays the damsel-in-distress in Wonder Woman. It's a fun gender-switch for a role that's usually portrayed by women. You can read my piece here.
While I was at Cannes, I listened to In Mind a decent amount while writing reviews. I'm of two minds when it comes to Real Estate. On the one hand, they're exceedingly pleasant indie-rock: light, refreshing, ephemeral. On the other, they're almost too much aural wallpaper. Nonetheless, a track like "Stained Glass" is a good way to spend four minutes of your life.
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
We had lots to cover in this week's podcast. First up, I recap the Cannes Film Festival. Then, Will and I review War Machine, Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. And finally, we look back at 2000's George Washington for our Reboot segment. It's a supersized episode, and you can hear it below.
Tuesday, May 30, 2017
One final Cannes dispatch. I thought Michael Haneke's Happy End was real good. Most critics disagreed. So I decided to defend it. My review is up at Paste.
Saturday, May 27, 2017
This is my fourth Cannes. In terms of quality, it was the weakest. There were highlights, obviously, but the top of my rankings aren't as strong as they were, say, a year ago. Few unqualified raves and a general consensus that the competition titles were a bit lacking led to an overall sense of feeling underwhelmed. But then you remember you're at the Cannes Film Festival, and your mood brightens.
On to the rankings. Links lead to individual reviews...
30. An Inconvenient Sequel
29. Ismael's Ghosts
27. The Summit
26. Based on a True Story
23. A Ciambra
22. In the Fade
21. La Familia
20. Brigsby Bear
19. Jupiter's Moon
18. Alive in France
17. The Workshop
16. The Day After
15. The Rider
14. The Square
13. A Gentle Creature
12. 120 Beats Per Minute
11. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
10. You Were Never Really Here
9. Amant Double
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
7. The Beguiled
5. The Florida Project
4. Happy End
3. Bright Sunshine In
2. Good Time
What will win the Palme d'Or? My gut, which should never be trusted, says 120 Beats Per Minute. I wouldn't rule out Wonderstruck or Loveless, though. Don't be surprised if Robert Pattinson takes home Best Actor for the terrific Good Time. And I'm going out on a limb by picking Vasilina Makovtseva for A Gentle Creature, a movie that tied me in knots and continues to replay itself in my mind. If this was an underwhelming year at the festival, then Sergei Loznitsa's no-prisoners Russian drama was the most Cannes film I've seen in my four years. A singular, provocative vision that challenges viewers, A Gentle Creature stretched my brain in ways both pleasing and infuriating, and I'm grateful to have been at the first screening anywhere in the world for a film that will inspire plenty of reaction in the months to come.
See? Even a disappointing Cannes can be a great one.