Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'War Machine,' 'Baywatch,' Johnny Depp and 'George Washington'

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

Cannes 2017: 'Happy End' Review

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

Cannes 2017: The Wrap-Up and the Rankings

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...

32. Fortunata 
31. Bushwick
30. An Inconvenient Sequel
29. Ismael's Ghosts
28. Redoubtable 
27. The Summit
26. Based on a True Story
25. Filmworker
24. Okja
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
6. Wonderstruck
5. The Florida Project
4. Happy End
3. Bright Sunshine In
2. Good Time
1. Loveless

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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Angel Olsen - "Sister"

Singer-songwriter gets sad and reflective, decides to walk around Southern California to clear her head.

Cannes 2017: 'Bushwick' Review

I saw Bushwick at Sundance and was very mixed on it. I gave it a second look here at Cannes, and I now know how I feel about it: I think it's pretty so-so. This action-thriller is meant to look like a single-shot story, but the gimmick gets old fast. I reviewed the movie for Screen International.

Cannes 2017: 'Brigsby Bear' Review

Brigsby Bear, which stars Saturday Night Live's Kyle Mooney, premiered at Sundance, but I caught up with it in Cannes. He plays a twentysomething man who doesn't realize (A) he was kidnapped as a baby; (B) he's been living in a bunker with his captors; and (C) his favorite show is actually something his kidnappers made specifically to keep him entertained. When the guy enters the real world, how will he react? My review of this decently funny and thoughtful comedy is up at Screen International.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Is 'Sgt. Pepper' the Greatest Album Ever Made?

For MEL, I spent a little time musing about Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. It's long been considered the greatest album ever. Rather than debating that point, I decided to focus on what exactly the "greatest album ever" would even mean. I was really pleased with how this came out. You can read it here.

Cannes 2017: 'Good Time' Review

I saw Good Time before Cannes but had to keep hush-hush about it until the film premiered at the festival. Well, now I can say: Holy cow, is it great. It's a triumph for the Safdie brothers and it's a triumph for its star, Robert Pattinson. My review is live at Screen International.

Cannes 2017: 'The Summit' Review

The Summit ought to be a lot of fun, telling the story of how the new president of Argentina (Ricardo Darín) tackles political and personal crises simultaneously while in the midst of a high-stakes summit with other Latin American leaders. There's potential for a pulpy airport-novel thriller, but the movie gets away from filmmaker Santiago Mitre. I reviewed The Summit for Screen International.

Cannes 2017: 'La Familia' Review

Venezuelan filmmaker Gustavo Rondón Córdova makes his feature debut with La Familia, a stripped-down story about a father and son on the run after the kid brutally attacks another boy in self-defense. A portrait of modern-day Caracas as much as it is a family drama, the film suggests Córdova might be someone worth keeping an eye on. My review is live at Screen International.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'The Beguiled' Review

Sofia Coppola is back with her first feature since the slightly disappointing The Bling Ring. The Beguiled is a huge step up -- and maybe her best film since Marie Antoinette. Colin Farrell plays a wounded Union soldier who's taken in by a girls' school in Virginia run by Nicole Kidman. Heavily atmospheric and very thought-provoking, it packs a punch in just over 90 minutes. My review is live at Screen International.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'The Square' Review

There is much to like about the ambitious The Square, the new dark comedy from Ruben Östlund, who brought us the Golden Globe-nominated Force Majeure. How much do you enjoy jokes about postmodern art? Do you have a tolerance for films that amble from subplot to subplot? The Square will test you on both fronts. My review is up at Paste.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Alien: Covenant,' 'The Big Chill' and 'Game 6'

I have yet to see Alien: Covenant. So for this week's podcast, I asked Will some questions about it. Then, in our Reboot segment, we dive into The Big Chill and Game 6. One's a Baby Boomer classic, the other is barely remembered. Which one did I like better? Check it out below:

Remembering Roger Moore

For MEL, I wrote a quick remembrance of Roger Moore, who, for people my age, was the James Bond we grew up with. His take on 007 was emblematic of its time, but it wasn't built to last. You can read my piece here.

Cannes 2017: 'Fortunata' Review

Even Cannes has its turkeys. Screening in Un Certain Regard, Fortunata is a super-melodramatic story about a single mom trying to realize her dream of owning her own beauty salon. No dice, says I. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2017: Is Adam Sandler Back?

Adam Sandler has received a lot of praise for his role in Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories. It's one of his rare "serious" roles, and he's never been more comfortable playing a regular guy. For MEL, I look at Sandler's artistic evolution.

'Baywatch' Review

You see these people? They made my life miserable for two hours. Folks, Baywatch stinks. It's just awful. It's not funny. It's just so bad. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2017: 'The Florida Project' Review

Here's a little glimpse into how my life works at a film festival. On Monday morning, I went to see The Florida Project, the latest from Tangerine filmmaker Sean Baker. I then headed straight home to file my review, staying off social media so I could just focus on my piece. Right after, I headed off to see the new Hong Sang-soo movie, The Day After. Right after that, I headed to a party. Near the end of the event, someone came up to me and said, "So, you got to review the film of the festival, I hear." I had no idea what they were talking about. But, apparently, yes, The Florida Project has received stellar reviews. I'd been so swamped that I'd had no idea how others felt about it.

Anyway, here's mine, up at Screen International.

Monday, May 22, 2017

'War Machine' Review

I am starting to worry that Animal Kingdom was a fluke: Filmmaker David Michod hasn't come close to delivering a knockout since. His latest is War Machine, which stars Brad Pitt as a loony American general fighting in Afghanistan. There's a lot of anger and a lot of strained comedy in this misfire. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'Alive in France' Review

Abel Ferrara isn't my idea of a master storyteller, but I was pretty pleased with his concert film Alive in France. The concept: In conjunction with a French retrospective of his oeuvre last October, he decided to stage some concerts of the songs from his films. It's a freewheeling behind-the-scenes look at the shows. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2017: 'The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)' Review

With The Meyerowitz Stories, writer-director Noah Baumbach returns to the caustic dissection of family that marked his movies like The Squid and the Whale. But there's a noticeable uptick in warmth, though, which I talk about in my Screen International review.

Cannes 2017: 'Okja' Review

Okja is a mess. Is it a mess I'd recommend? Just barely. But Bong Joon Ho's film has plenty of dark energy, which helps counteract a lot of cutesy stuff elsewhere. And, Jake Gyllenhaal, seriously, I love you -- but you are terrible in this film. I weigh all the pros and cons at Paste.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'Filmworker' Review

The gentleman on the right, you know. The guy on the left is Leon Vitali, who served as Stanley Kubrick's assistant for years. The documentary Filmworker aims to shed some light on the former actor who became the late director's fiercest champion -- even now, years after his death. A Kubrick nut like me should eat up a movie like this. So how come I didn't? I explain over at Screen International.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bryan Cranston Plays a New Monster in 'Wakefield'

For MEL, I wrote about Wakefield, which stars Bryan Cranston as a man who decides to walk away from his life. He doesn't go too far, though: He hides in the family garage, spying on his loved ones who don't know what's happened to him. The movie's only so-so, but the Oscar-nominated actor delivers an inspired performance about a deeply contemptuous man. There are some shades of Walter White in Wakefield, which I explain here.

Cannes 2017: 'A Ciambra' Review

In 2015, writer-director Jonas Carpignano released Mediterranea, which followed the harrowing journey of an African refugee living in Italy. A side character from that film is the star of his new movie, A Ciambra. It's a coming-of-age story about poverty and isolation. I reviewed A Ciambra for Screen International.

Temple of the Dog - "All Night Thing"

Sad news about the passing of Chris Cornell. Here's his most romantic, loveliest song.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'Wonderstruck' Review

Todd Haynes follows up Carol with Wonderstruck, based on the young-adult novel from Brian Selznick. It concerns two adolescents -- one from 1927, the other from 1977 -- who both journey to New York in search of phantom people in their lives. Haynes often plays with genre; here, he tackles the family film. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2017: 'Jupiter's Moon' Review

Jupiter's Moon is the new film from director Kornél Mundruczó, who previously made White God. The follow-up is more ambitious, in ways that are both good and bad. Here's the premise: A Syrian refugee is shot dead -- except, he doesn't die, instead developing the power to levitate. Intriguing idea, right? It is. I wish Mundruczó hadn't decided to get preachy, though. My review is up at Screen International.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cannes 2017: 'Ismael's Ghosts' Review

The Cannes opener is generally considered a bit of a snooze. So I wasn't expecting a ton out of Ismael's Ghosts, the new film from French director Arnaud Desplechin. Still, this tale of a filmmaker (Desplechin regular Mathieu Amalric) who discovers that his long-lost love (Marion Cotillard) has returned after a 21-year absence, is rather minor. And sorta frustrating. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Cannes 2017: 'Loveless' Review

After loving Elena (and willing to fight anyone about how underrated The Banishment is), I was a little underwhelmed by Leviathan, which helped bring Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev a larger American audience. (It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.) Well, his latest has restored my faith. Loveless is a real stunner, telling the story of an unhappy couple about ready to divorce who discover their 12-year-old son has gone missing. Chilly, chilly, chilly. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. My review is up at Paste.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Shows Spawned by 'Twin Peaks'

With Twin Peaks returning May 21, the gang at Rolling Stone is paying tribute by highlighting the shows inspired by David Lynch and Mark Frost's indelible series. This is where my intimate knowledge of Fringe pays off. Check it out here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Amy Schumer, Charlie Hunnam and 'Billy Madison'

On the new episode of the podcast, we have some news. (Don't worry: It's all good. And, no, my vocal-cord nodule has not returned.) Then, we dive into two new movies. I try to muster up much enthusiasm for Snatched and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It's more fun dissecting our Reboot movie, which is (heaven help us) Billy Madison. Enjoy!

'Get Me Roger Stone' Made Me Really Angry

For MEL, I wrote about Netflix's new documentary Get Me Roger Stone, about the GOP operative. On one hand, getting incensed about a political bully is a waste of mental energy. (And it's not like Stone's reputation isn't well-established already.) On the other, well, the guy infuriated me. So I went off on a rant here.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

On Norm Macdonald's Very Funny 'Hitler's Dog, Gossip & Trickery'

Netflix debuted the new Norm Macdonald stand-up special on Tuesday. For MEL, I suggest that the acerbic comic may be showing his softer side of late. Well, in the way that Norm would. You can read my thoughts here. You can read Norm's thoughts below:

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bruno Mars - "24K Magic"

On Sunday, I head off to Cannes. It's one of my favorite times of the year, but it does mean being away from my wonderful wife for two weeks. So today's Friday Video goes out to her and the song she's (mostly) convinced me is good.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

'Snatched' Review

Hey, ladies, don't overreact: I didn't hate your movie that much. I actually found a lot of it pretty amusing. But Snatched only rises to the level of amusing: It's never quite uproarious, and it's rarely that inspired. My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Your Guide to Cinema's Best and Worst King Arthurs

With King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opening Friday, I decided to take a look back at the previous King Arthurs on the big screen. I wrote up my findings for MEL.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'Guardians,' 'Cast Away' and 'Streets of Fire'

Will and I both like Vol. 2 more than the original Guardians of the Galaxy, which puts us in the minority. So we talked about it on the podcast. Then, in our Reboot segment, we tackle Cast Away and Streets of Fire. I use the phrase "street toughs" at one point, and Will and I laugh at Willem Dafoe's outfits. A very fun episode, and you can hear it here.

'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' Review

Do we need another King Arthur movie? Probably not, but Warner Bros. has decided to gift us with Legend of the Sword anyway. Guy Ritchie is an interesting filmmaker: I don't necessarily like his movies, but I am also not bored by them. His sensuous collision of images and sounds is hypnotic -- too bad it never adds up to much. I reviewed King Arthur for Screen International.

Marvel's Secret Superheroes: The Films' Directors

For Rolling Stone, I wrote a longer essay about the secret to Marvel's success. For nearly a decade now, the studio has been on a critical and commercial hit streak, continuing with this past weekend's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. My theory: It's their directors, many of whom were oddball choices to helm major blockbusters. In the process, some of these filmmakers have ended up producing the best work of their careers. How exactly did that happen? Read on.

Friday, May 05, 2017

'The Wall' Review

Are you aware that there's a movie coming out next week called The Wall? I'm guessing not: There seems to be just about no advertising for it. It's the latest from director Doug Liman, and it stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena as American soldiers facing off with an Iraqi sniper. Does The Wall work? I suppose, but it feels more like a cinematic exercise than an actual movie. My review is up at Screen International.

Misleading Men: Kurt Russell

Kurt Russell is in two of the world's biggest franchises: Fast and the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy. So it seemed an appropriate time to write about him for Misleading Men. My take: He's the sort of reliable actor who's very easy to overlook. You can read the whole thing over at MEL.

Run the Jewels (featuring Danny Brown) - "Hey Kids (Bumaye)"

No Run the Jewels album has been a home run for me from top to bottom. But when they lock into a particular mood or groove, they're pretty arresting. RTJ3 has several gems, but today I'm going with "Hey Kids (Bumaye)."

Thursday, May 04, 2017

'Burden' Review

When my family comes to Los Angeles, we'll sometimes visit Metropolis II at LACMA. It's a great installation -- playful and endlessly watchable -- and it was constructed by artist Chris Burden. The superb documentary Burden looks back at his life and work, much of which was far more combative and upsetting than Metropolis II. My review is live on Paste.

'Hermia & Helena' Review

One more review from the recent Locarno in Los Angeles film festival. I'd heard great things about Matías Piñeiro's Hermia & Helena, which concerns two young women (neither of them named Hermia or Helena) and their romantic travails. Shakespeare buffs will recognize the allusion, but even if you don't, that won't hamper your enjoyment of this lovely little drama. My review is up at Paste.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: 'The Circle,' 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'A History of Violence'

In Episode 66 of the podcast, Will and I perform an autopsy on The Circle: Seriously, what happened here? Much more satisfying is digging into our two Reboots movies. Neither of us had ever seen A Streetcar Named Desire. And we were both excited to revisit A History of Violence, a much-acclaimed film that neither of us loved when it came out in 2005. You can hear the whole thing here.

Tribeca 2017: 'Bobbi Jene' Review

No, this isn't a movie about the Bruce Springsteen song. Bobbi Jene is a very affecting documentary about Bobbi Jene Smith, an American dancer who decides to come home after making her name as part of an acclaimed Israeli dance troupe. But will the move hurt her career? And what about her romantic relationship with a younger dancer in the company who stays behind? Lots to really savor here, as I explain in my Screen International review.