Monday, July 31, 2017

When Movies Get Censored

Earlier this summer, Sony floated the idea of releasing cleaned-up versions of some of its movies. That plan went nowhere fast, but for MEL I decided to look at all the ways films get censored on a daily basis. (It also allowed me an opportunity to tell a personal anecdote about watching Airplane! as a young lad.) Hope you enjoy.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Slowdive - "Star Roving"

Last Friday, I went into KCRW to do Press Play. I've been to the station enough times now that I generally know the routine, but this was a unique case, because a band was in the studio to play during Morning Becomes Eclectic. There is something undeniably thrilling about hearing a band tune up; it makes you feel like, at any moment, music is going to happen. I inquired about who the band was, and found out it was Slowdive.

The U.K. group hadn't made much of an impression on me when they started out in the 1990s, so I didn't actually know that their latest album, Slowdive, was their first in over 20 years. So I decided to give it a spin and have been enjoying it quite a bit over the last week.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

'The Emoji Movie' Review

What a terrible movie. My review is up at Screen International.

What's the Best Batman Movie?

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm comes to Blu-ray for the first time this week. In honor of that news, Vulture asked Will and me to rank Batman movies. This was a very fun exercise ... and you can read the whole thing here.

(No, the Simpsons parody isn't included.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'Person to Person' Review

Person to Person premiered in Sundance's NEXT section. I missed it there, but was excited to catch up with this ensemble comedy-drama that stars Michael Cera, Abbi Jacobson, Tavi Gevinson and Philip Baker Hall. Alas, this study of marginal lives in New York never quite rises to anything momentous -- nor does it really relish in its smallness. I reviewed the film for Paste.

'Atomic Blonde' Review

Charlize Theron rules Atomic Blonde, a slick, superficial, oddly bloodless action-thriller. Mechanical efficiency is the prevailing tone, and while the film delivers the goods, it's not a particularly euphoric experience. I reviewed the movie for Screen International.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Reviewing 'Dunkirk,' 'Girls Trip' and '24 Hour Party People'

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.

'Logan Lucky' Review

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.

'Dunkirk' and the History of the Hollywood World War II Film

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

'Detroit' Review

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.

'The Cinema Show': Three of My Favorite Films of 2017

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

On Jason Bateman's Dark Turn in 'Ozark'

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.

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Talking 'Dunkirk,' Luc Besson and 'Landline'

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

Sampha - "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"

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

My Interview With Shameik Moore

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.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Apes, David Lynch and 'Kicking and Screaming'

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

Syd - "Shake Em Off"

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

The Story Behind the 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Effects

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.

My Interview With Adam Grandmaison, the Man Behind No Jumper

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.

What's the Best Movie of the 1990s?

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.

A Salute to Dumb Awards Shows

The ESPYs were last night. In their honor, for MEL I shone a spotlight on other silly awards programs. (Any chance I have to speak ill of the Razzies, I'm happy.) You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Interview With Keith Law, Author of 'Smart Baseball'

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.

'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' Review

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.

'Spider-Man: Homecoming' in the Age of Trump

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.

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Spider-Man, 'A Ghost Story' and 'Magnolia'

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

'War for the Planet of the Apes' Review

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

Misleading Men: Tobey Maguire

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

The xx - "I Dare You"

I've been a romantic for so long 
All I've ever had are love songs

I feel you, Romy.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

In Praise of 'A Ghost Story'

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

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: The Best Movies of 2017 (So Far)

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

'The House' Review

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.