Category Archives: Uncategorized

Barry, Plane and Not Tall: American Made, reviewed.

Film Title: American MadeHere’s my NPR review of American Made, Doug Liman’s heavily fictionalized but ecstatically true crime biopic starring Tom Cruise as C.I.A. gunrunner and dope smuggler Barry Seal. As I discuss in the piece, Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, was heavily involved in the 1987 U.S. Senate hearings into the Iran-Contra affair, of which Seal’s covert flights were an operational element. (Here’s Arthur.)

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Don’t Forget the Motor City: Detroit, reviewed.

DETROITReview-writing is easier when you can interrogate your responses to the work and make judgments quickly. Detroit just wasn’t one of those movies for me.
 
I thought it was important to try to discern exactly where the Bigelow-Boal directing/screenwriting duo deviated from or compressed the facts, which is hard in a 50-year-old case where so many of the facts were disputed. But I also saw some odd parallels between this movie and a couple of the ones Bigelow made before her historic Oscar win changed the way we receive her work. So my review is, among other things… long.

By Any Means Necessary, Any Which Way You Can: War for the Planet of the Apes, reviewed.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APESWhat a Craig Finn-style blockbuster summer we’re having this year. Nothing as visionary as Mad Max: Fury Road from 2015, maybe, or as congruent with my own sensibilities as The Nice Guys from last year, but everything I picked sight unseen for my Village Voice/LA Weekly summer movie preview—Wonder Woman, The Beguiled, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming—has so far avoided embarrassing me. I even liked Rough Night okay. It’s possible I’m not all that discerning a critic.

But my praise for War of the Planet of the Apes is well-founded. Even though I saw the movie weeks before I was assigned to write about it, which might be why the review is uncharacteristically (I hope) light on specific observations.
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Mr. Holland’s Opus: Spider-Man: Homecoming, reviewed.

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I know I’m supposed to be sick to death of superhero movies, but I don’t think we’ve ever had three as strong as Logan, Wonder Woman, and the new Spider-Man: Homecoming arrive in such rapid succession. Here’s Homecoming, for NPR. Continue reading

Putting the “All” in All Things Considered: Can Wonder Woman Find a Superhero Theme That Sticks?

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Here we are in Year Ten of the Marvel Cinematic Era, and not one piece of music has emerged from any of the two dozen films based on Marvel characters (released by Marvel Studios and others) that can rival John Williams’ mighty score for Superman: The Movie or even Danny Elfman’s brooding Batman theme.

For years I’ve wondered why this is. But only two days ago did I at last get to ask someone who might know. On today’s All Things Considered, I speak with Rupert Gregson-Williams, who composed the score for director Patty Jenkins’ fine Wonder Woman. You might even hear a cameo by one of the most venerable heroes of the National Public Radio universe, the great Bob Mondello.

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Time for Carrousel: Logan, reviewed.

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I’m looking forward to the argument we’re going to have over beers, you and I, about whether Logan is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight or the best Western since No Country for Old Men. 

Here’s my NPR review, where I ran out of space to cite all the things I loved about this movie (Eriq La Salle! Autotrucks!), or to warn you that if you know you will recoil from the sight of an 11-year-old girl defending her life with lethal force, you should skip it. And it would probably be more correct to call it the Rocky Balboa of Rocky movies than the Creed of Rocky movies, but sometimes clarity is more important than pinpoint accuracy.

Bring tissues.

The Game-Over Man: Remembering Bill Paxton, 1955-2017

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For NPR, I wrote this fond remembrance of the actor Bill Paxton, a man who lived but one colorful life but who died onscreen an absurd stupid lot of times, in some of my all-time favorite film. He was in great big movies like Aliens and Titanic, he was in not-great big movies like Twister, he was great in little movies like One False Move and Traveler and A Simple Plan. He was great, basically.

I strongly endorse the episode of WTF with Marc Maron on which Paxton appeared only three weeks ago. He spoke at least as much about his upbringing in Texas as about his 40-year career in movies, but it was a wonderful interview, warm and revealing. But please read my piece, too. I literally ripped a sleeve from emphatic typing while working on it. Continue reading