Saturday, September 23, 2017
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
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
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.
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.
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.
I like The Golden Circle a little bit more than its predecessor, The Secret Service. Still, I can't stand this franchise. Someone, please, make it stop. I reviewed the new film for Screen International.
On this week's episode, Will and I debate mother! Plus, I sing the praises of Brad's Status. And in our Reboot segment, we both admit to not liking The Hudsucker Proxy all that much. This was a special episode because Will was in Los Angeles, so we recorded it face-to-face in my kitchen. Feel the love here.
This week, Jerry Seinfeld debuts a new comedy special on Netflix called Jerry Before Seinfeld. For MEL, I took the opportunity to remind everyone that the 2002 documentary about Seinfeld, Comedian, is still terrific. You can read my piece here.
Monday, September 18, 2017
I am fearful that 2017 is going to be the year of the B+ for me. For most movies, a B+ is a very respectable grade, indicative of a film that's of fairly high quality. But a B+ is also the grade I assign films that aren't quite amazing, that don't quite wow me. Toronto had a lot of B+ movies, when I was really hoping for something more.
Will some of the movies on my ranked list end up getting a higher grade on second viewing? It's very possible. But I note that the top two films on my list came from earlier festivals. And I should also say that I'm excited to catch up with Bodied, Dark River, Downsizing, Ex Libris, Foxtrot, Sweet Country and I, Tonya down the road.
In the meantime, let's hear it for Lean on Pete, the third and best film yet from director Andrew Haigh. It's the Kelly Reichardt movie of the year: I saw shades of Meek's Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves and Certain Women in this beautiful, tough coming-of-age story. Sadly, it's not arriving in theaters until 2018. Regardless, put it on your radar.
45. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!
44. Three Christs
43. The Summit
41. The Mountain Between Us
38. 55 Steps
35. Mom and Dad
34. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women
32. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
31. A Ciambra
30. In the Fade
29. Unicorn Store
26. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
23. Battle of the Sexes
22. The Death of Stalin
21. I Love You, Daddy
20. The Day After
19. The Rider
18. The Square
17. Beats Per Minute
16. First Reformed
15. Lady Bird
12. The Shape of Water
11. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
10. The Other Side of Hope
9. The Disaster Artist
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
7. The Florida Project
6. Happy End
5. Brad's Status
3. Lean on Pete
1. Call Me by Your Name
Will and I spent a little time ranking the Oscar-winner's roles, including mother! As far as I was concerned, No. 1 boiled down to three possibilities, probably the same ones anyone else would guess. Check out the full list over at Vulture.
For MEL, I wanted to talk about why Ben Stiller is such a perfect choice to play the lead in Brad's Status, a film about insecurity and envy. Yes, I brought up his New Yorker profile from five years ago and the "Tom Cruise cupcakes" part. You can read my essay here.
Foo Fighters have a new album out. I used that occasion to discuss how they're the real victors in the Nirvana/Pearl Jam debate that we didn't really get to have back in the 1990s. My piece is up at MEL.
It's stressful having to make sure you spell Chappaquiddick right in the midst of a festival when you're running around and not getting a ton of sleep. Anyway, Chappaquiddick features a very good performance from Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy, who's about to be tested after that fatal 1969 car crash. A drama about the crash's aftermath, Chappaquiddick is a despairing look at a senator who did not acquit himself particularly well. My review is up at Screen International.
Brie Larson makes her directorial debut with Unicorn Store, which risks cutesiness at every turn. She plays a failed art student who comes to believe that she's going to receive a unicorn from a mysterious salesman (Samuel L. Jackson). Is she right? Is she crazy? Unicorn Store is a goofy, odd little beast, but I went for it. My review is up at Screen International.
Three Christs is a fictionalized look at actual events, and the premise is an interesting one. An American psychiatric doctor (Richard Gere) discovers that three of his patients all believe they're Jesus Christ. So, he decides to put them together to see what happens. Unfortunately, the film is a bit of a snooze. I reviewed Three Christs for Screen International.
A24 picked up 1% during the Toronto Film Festival, which surprised me. I had seen this Australian crime drama early, and wasn't all that impressed by it. Fans of Gomorrah and Animal Kingdom will probably enjoy this look into the world of motorcycle gangs engaged in a turf war, but I didn't see much new here to recommend. My review is up at Screen International.
Friday, September 15, 2017
Never ceases to amaze me how quick festival buzz spreads and then shifts. The first folks who saw Roman J. Israel, Esq. reported back that it was a fiasco. But when I caught up to it, I didn't find a fiasco at all. In fact, I think it contains one of Denzel Washington's gutsier recent performances. He plays an idealistic, deeply odd Los Angeles lawyer who goes through a moral crisis. I wish it worked better, but Roman is a noble failure. My review is up at Screen International.
Sergio G. Sanchez is the screenwriter of The Orphange who's made his feature directorial debut with Marrowbone. It's an atmospheric horror movie with a twist. I did not like the twist. I talk about it (a little) in my Screen International review.
The remastered, expanded Purple Rain has been out for a little while. While most of the extras aren't that worthwhile, I'm glad that "Father's Song" is now commercially available. And, yes, you do hear a little "Computer Blue" in there.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
What a great premise Professor Marston & the Wonder Women has. This biopic tells the story of William Moulton Marston, the Harvard psychologist who came up with the idea for Wonder Woman. How did he do it? Well, partly thanks to his wife ... and their shared lover. Rebecca Hall is the highlight of this intriguing but ultimately disappointing drama. My review is up at Screen International.
The guy in the center there is Scotty Bowers. You probably have never heard of him. I had not before I watched Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, a documentary portrait of this man who, around the 1950s, became infamous in L.A. by procuring young lovers for Hollywood stars -- many of whom were gay and wanted to keep that a secret. Dishy and fun, Scotty is full of superficial pleasures, although there's a little poignancy thrown in, too. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) makes the leap to Hollywood for The Mountain Between Us, a romantic melodrama in which two strangers, played by Kate Winslet and Idris Elba, crash land in the Utah mountains, struggling to stay alive while they look for help. Both stars are quite good, but I couldn't get with this florid disaster flick/love story. My review is up at Screen International.
The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Talking 'It,' 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' and 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'
This week's podcast focuses on the super-successful It. Will and I feel very differently about that horror movie. We're much more aligned on two terrific movies in our Reboot section. First, there's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. And then we dig into Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. You can hear the whole thing here.
There's a certain cinematic school of thought that insists that when Nicolas Cage goes really crazy in some low-rent B-movie, it's always amazing. But a film like Mom and Dad tests that theory. This action-thriller has a great premise: For some reason, suddenly parents start wanting to murder their children, creating citywide havoc. But the movie is nothing but its premise, and Cage doesn't do much to help. I reviewed Mom and Dad for Screen International.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Hey, that's not Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman! Yep, it's Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek in a remake of Papillon. It's grueling but not particularly great, never quite excavating a lot of interesting themes about human resilience and masculinity. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany have a great rapport in Stronger, the biopic based on the life of Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Unfortunately, the movie itself isn't as affecting as I wish it was. My review is up at Screen International.
What did you do this summer? Louis C.K. made a movie in secret, and now it's just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. I Love You, Daddy is about several things, but it's chiefly an homage to C.K.'s hero Woody Allen. (The movie is shot in black-and-white in New York, giving it a vague Manhattan-like vibe.) But that homage comes with a twist, as I explain in my review over at Screen International.
Ben Stiller is at his very best in Brad's Status, a smart, funny comedy-drama about an insecure dad who uses the opportunity of his son's trip to look at colleges to examine himself, pinpointing all the areas where's he failed. It's great, as I explain in my Screen International review.
Friday, September 08, 2017
The longer that Morgan Spurlock's career rolls along, the more irritating I find his shtick. He's back with a follow-up to his Oscar-nominated hit. There's interesting info in Holy Chicken!, but he won't get out of its way. I reviewed the film for Screen International.
Armando Iannucci heads to Russia for his latest satire, The Death of Stalin. I don't think it's among his best work but, you know what, it'll speak to you in these modern times, which is absolutely the idea. You can read my review at Screen International.
Still thinking about the passing of Walter Becker. I can't overstate how massively important Steely Dan have been to me. But what's my favorite song of theirs? Gun to my head, I might go with this one.
Thursday, September 07, 2017
The Toronto Film Festival features no shortage of award-hopefuls, and some of them will leave here being exposed as well-meaning but simply not good enough. Such is the case with 55 Steps, a real-life drama about a landmark California case from the 1980s that sought to improve the rights of psychiatric patients. Helena Bonham Carter plays Eleanor, who knows that the medication she's being forced to take is only making her worse, and Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Tambor play the lawyers fighting for her in court. 55 Steps is a film dripping with worthiness, which is rarely enough. My review is up at Screen International.
On Friday, MTV Unplugged returns. For MEL, I took this opportunity to talk about both why the show was so influential in the 1990s and why that's somewhat disappointing. And, of course, I had to remind you just how amazing Nirvana's episode was. My essay is right here.
Wednesday, September 06, 2017
It is great. The first half of what's expected to be duology, this horror movie turns Stephen King's bestseller into a fraught tale of adolescence that's rich with dread. My review is up at Screen International.
Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Tomorrow, I leave for the Toronto Film Festival. So on the podcast, Will and I each picked five movies we're very curious about that will be screening there. (That still from above comes from my most-anticipated film, Frederick Wiseman's Ex Libris - The New York Public Library.) Then, in our Reboot segment, we take a look back at Good Will Hunting and 11:14. Bad news, everybody: I like neither film. You can hear the whole episode down below.
Sunday, September 03, 2017
I was one of the few critics the Weinstein Company actually allowed to see Tulip Fever in advance. We had to hold our reviews until Friday, though, and I'm just now bothering to post it here. Is the movie as terrible as its advance buzz suggested? No, it's just dull. My review is live at Screen International.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind was re-released this weekend. For MEL, I took the opportunity to devote my latest Misleading Men column to Richard Dreyfuss, the star of that movie and several other notable 1970s flicks. What happened afterward? I'm here to talk about that.
I was on Press Play on Friday to talk about this holiday weekend's new releases. Spoiler Alert: Those movies are no good. And then, Alicia Malone and I discuss what we're excited to see as the fall film festivals start up. You can hear the whole thing here.