Sunday, April 30, 2017

'All the Cities of the North' Review

A new festival debuted in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago, giving itself the commendable task of bringing some of the most ambitious movies from Locarno to L.A. for their Southern California premiere. It's called Locarno in Los Angeles, cleverly enough, and I was happy to finally check out All the Cities of the North, the feature debut from writer-director Dane Komljen, who also co-stars in the movie. It's about two utterly silent men who live in an abandoned building complex -- and how their lives are changed by the appearance of a third utterly silent man (played by Komljen). All the Cities of the North is described as "slow cinema," which is a term that scares a lot of people. For Paste, I argue against that tendency.

'The Circle' Review

I was on a mini-vacation this weekend, so I didn't have a chance to post my review of The Circle. The short version: It's stunningly bad. The longer version: Read all about it here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

My Interview With Kitty Green, Director of 'Casting JonBenet'

At Sundance, I flipped for Casting JonBenet, a documentary that interviews people in the Boulder area who responded to an open casting call for a JonBenet Ramsey feature. But director Kitty Green was actually more interested in talking to these people about their feelings on the case, and the movie shows her subjects revealing much about themselves. For MEL, Green and I discuss why the movie was so therapeutic for its subjects, the strangeness of beauty pageants, and why everybody seems so harsh on JonBenet's mother Patsy. Check it out here.

Madonna - "What It Feels Like for a Girl"

"What It Feels Like for a Girl" was the third single off Madonna's 2000 album Music. The first two, "Music" and "Don't Tell Me," went to No. 1 and No. 4., respectively. This track didn't even crack the Top 20. Seventeen years later, I still don't know why.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

'How to Be a Latin Lover' Review

How to Be a Latin Lover is the feature directorial debut of Ken Marino, who (as someone will no doubt tell you) was really funny on Party Down. Latin Lover is not very funny: It stars Eugenio Derbez as an aging lothario who gets dumped by his rich wife and must learn to fend for himself. (Salma Hayek plays his down-to-earth sister who reluctantly lets him crash at her place.) Neither a raucous comedy nor a satisfyingly sappy family film, Latin Lover didn't do much for me at all. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In Praise of 'Rachel Getting Married'

For MEL, I wrote about a Jonathan Demme movie that didn't get as much ink today as some of his acknowledged masterpieces. That would be Rachel Getting Married, which helped solidify Anne Hathaway's emergence as a serious actress. It's also another example of a film full of Demme's compassionate view of people. You can read my appreciation here.

(P.S. If you need more Demme recommendations, I contributed to Rolling Stone's overview of his all-time greats.)

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Saying Goodbye to Jonathan Demme

I was very pleased to be asked to appear on Press Play to talk about Jonathan Demme's legacy. I did my best to talk about such a varied, meaningful career. You can hear the segment here.

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.