Tuesday, December 30 2014
The cringe-worthy humor of Ricky Rouse undercuts whatever salient satire it might have had, such as Donald Rumsfeld's disguise as the beloved Disney character Donald the Duck.
Spanning a Truffaut-indebted magnum opus to a comeback vehicle for Michael Keaton, this collection of films is an eclectic representation of 2014's best.
Monday, December 29 2014
Gustavo Perez Firmat's book is a serious examination of why The Andy Griffith Show is still rerunned and revered in the 21st century, even as it slumped to its end with Mayberry R.F.D.
The world of cinema in 2014 is blessed with a host of performances by female actors at the top of their game. From zany sci-fi to lamentations on aging, the performances on these list will follow the viewer long after she leaves the theater.
Cinemagoers in 2014 were given the opportunity to be captivated by tyrannical drum instructors, troubled Olympians, and ersatz superheroes.
Friday, December 26 2014
The mainstream appeal of Daniel Lanois' Anti-Thesis show may not have been huge, but the creativity level of the performances ranks among the highest of all shows in 2014.
From idiosyncratic tales of dastardly aliens to concept albums about a mysterious demon, prog maintained its reputation for eclecticism in 2014.
Thursday, December 25 2014
This year's rich pickin's of traditional bluegrass, jamgrass, and newgrass make it the best year for recorded bluegrass music in quite some time.
Wednesday, December 24 2014
The urgent Black Messiah proves that sometimes, life won’t let a cultural statement that’s chomping at the bit wait for a proper marketing campaign;
In American Sniper, military sharpshooter Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) comes to see that delineations among wolves, dogs, and sheep are rarely obvious.
Take more than a quick glance at country music in 2014 and you'll see a varied landscape -- in terms of gender, age, experience and song content.
Tuesday, December 23 2014
The Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s film is a preacher of vision, but he’s also a tactician willing to let blood be shed in order to advance the cause.
Midge Ure reflects on just how far his career has come since his days in the new wave pioneers Ultravox, including what he's realized 30 years after the release of the classic charity single he wrote with Bob Geldof, "Do You Know It's Christmas?"
The story of the Olympian athlete Louis Zamperini story is ideal for the epic scale of Angelina Jolie's film, yet it's also too complicated to be reduced to such notorious generic confines.
Due to current events, 2014 was largely a rough year for K-pop. Still, these 15 songs represent the best K-pop had to offer this year, both inside and outside the mainstream.
These essays provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of Athens, its relationship with the cinema, and how that relationship has evolved.
Monday, December 22 2014
From Polish black metal to mind-blowing progressive R&B and electronic music, 2014's best albums certainly have something for everyone.
From electro to Americana... from R&B to metal... from hip-hop to rockin' and poppin' indie... 2014 had something great for everyone.
Tim Burton’s sweet little film about art and identity doesn’t demand enjoyment of Margaret Keane's big-eyed waifs, but instead an appreciation of her sincerity and expression.
Disney’s film of Stephen Sondheim’s ironic fairy tale musical keeps the master’s gorgeous melodies, knowing lyrics, and finger wagging intact.
Colm Toibin's latest literary outing is like a complex Persian rug: the reader must work to notice and appreciate the patterns.
This is a new Annie, decidedly anti-nostalgic and only clumsily cynical, but at the same time it tries too hard to both be and not be the previous Annie.
Sony’s cancellation of the 25 December screening of The Interview may not be the free speech catastrophe that it's being made out to be.
From Steph Cameron to White Lung, these 15 releases showcase the very best of Canadian music in 2014, and illustrate that the Canadian music community is definitely thriving and maturing.
Sunday, December 21 2014
Green: A History is a broad-spanning visualization of this multifaceted color, one that reveals the value of seeing different shades of meaning in the color of historical artworks.
Saturday, December 20 2014
Here's another reasonably entertaining novel of ideas from this internationally-celebrated satirist.
Friday, December 19 2014
Who better to talk about the future of the comics industry than someone who’s been inventing the future of comics for nearly four decades now? To wrap up this year, we sit down for a full session with Dark Horse Publisher and President Mike Richardson.
This film makes J.M.W. Turner's story fascinating, his personal failings and artistic innovations seemingly inevitable, throbbing, propulsive and painful.
If all you care about is action, of witnessing outstanding special F/X and genre fantasy fashioned by a true master of such material, then this will satisfy your needs to no end.
The real attraction to a Miller-Heidke release lies in the pleasure given by her voice. She may sing about love and life and engage in some interesting wordplay, but her distinctive vocals and range merit the bulk of attention.
Scandinavian renaissance man's first album in seven years is glorious piano purity over sample-free glitch.
Heartbreaking melodies belted over Hi-NRG beats of endless momentum -- only the beats are polkas.
Bitch Planet gives us naked bodies and bloody violence. (Naked bodies and bloody violence in space, no less!) It's called Bitch Planet for God's sake. And it gives us something more.
This wide-spanning anthology is a mélange of London experiences, encapsulating rich and poor, native and immigrant.
Gruff Rhys' innovative, multi-platform narrative unfolds the beguiling and intriguing narrative of an enigmatic Welshman seeking out his kind... in America.
The 1966 live-action series still mesmerizes today as a deft Pop Art confectionary satire on '50s squares that wanted its viewers to have their cake and eat it too.
There was no shortage of new and exciting music in 2014. From an avant-garde saxophone quartet to soul-inflected pop from the UK, this crop of artists gave us a lot of great music this year.
VS. both affirms Bastille's successes up to this point and highlights the weaknesses that need to be remediated as the band moves forward.
From revenge porn to cyber mobs to trolls, Hate Crimes in Cyberspace shows the ugly side of the Internet and, most importantly, what people can do about it.
Thursday, December 18 2014
As Nicholas Vreeland's journey into Buddhist philosophy goes deeper, the tension between his photography and his role as a monk increases.
J. Robert Lennon's morbidly dark vision of American domesticity drains the light out of the human dream of domestic bliss to leave it shrouded in shadow.
As always, Jacky Terrasson's trio of shows in New York City's Smoke Jazz and Supper Club highlight his catch-all creativity and energy as a performer.
The best world music albums of 2014 often possessed some element of exaggeration or extremeness that seemed too unlikely to be fully true, and made you listen to them again and again.
There is no cloud storage for print, making the decision to recycle a bunch of my print comics qualitatively different from my decision to delete a book or title from my tablet.
The skeptics who claim jazz is weaker than before simply aren't listening. As these 16 albums reveal, jazz remains on the cutting edge.
One day, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will land a role in a film that’s fitting of his charisma, physique, and on-screen likability, but Hercules is not that film.
More often than not, Sucker just ends up being too clever for its own good, despite Charli XCX's attempts to be the smartest student at the Pop Music Academy.
“Do you want a spanking or do you want to go to bed?” This EP is meant for those who want it both ways.
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is all about speakeasies, gangsters, glamour, and mystery. Best of all? The mystery is a true story.
Circle of Death works best when things become subtle and a big part of that is slowing stuff down.
Devonte Hynes and Robert Schwartzman head up this synthy, très indie companion piece to Gia Coppola's film.
Wednesday, December 17 2014
For his third film based on true material, Bennett Miller tells a tale of how when wealth and Olympian athleticism mix together, those living in those worlds become increasingly insulated.
With their full performance of The Holy Bible, the Manic Street Preachers take the most sunless of records and place it under a spotlight.
She started as a pre-teen Ella Fitzgerald clone, flirted with being Norah Jones, and now (at 20) finally sounds like the young pop singer she is...despite some lingering belief that she needs to "give jazz new life".
Ostensibly a grand experiment, Faust's latest is just another pretentious excuse to avoid the most difficult step in all art: finishing it.
With a mind as encyclopedic as Scott Snyder’s all interviews seem to become a single interview. And talking about Wytches #3 (released today) also means talking about parental love, childhood fears and the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA.
There’s strong production value here, as alt rock and indie rock sensibilities are mixed in with dreamy psychedelic ambience.
Apps changed everything. The Imaginary App explains how.
When everyone feels they can be an expert, how do you reassert your ownership over a topic? By waiting for its crossover moment.
Lord of Illusions is at its best when it balances noir mystery with supernatural elements without veering too far to one side or another.
With new albums from icons like Swans, the continued proliferation of vaporwave, and a bevy of exciting new acts, 2014 has been a wonderful year for experimental and avant-garde music.
The No Energy boxset provides a valuable opportunity to place the unsung Unwound in a proper context, both offering nostalgia-tinged appreciation of a band at the height of its powers, as well as putting the music of the '90s Kill Rock Stars stalwarts in a new light.
Whimsical and frustrating, Murakami's latest may alienate some readers, but fans will want to add this oddity to their collection.
Tuesday, December 16 2014
Within three minutes, the film connects stories across time as told by painters and observers and those who work in London's National Gallery.
Spider-Man's first teaching experience with mutants has some new twists, but misses out on important lessons.
Herbie Hancock's memoir shows us how possibilities in and of themselves can be fleeting, but their ripple effects can go on nearly forever.
The year 2014 saw classic composer/director teams hit new highs, as well as a considerable dark streak take over the world of film scoring.
The most compelling electronic music of 2014 could be found in thoughtful experimentation and dancefloor-ready fun. But the ones who led the way tended to be pioneers who made their reputations doing just that.
After watching I Am Santa Claus, you'll never think of Santa the same way, whether you like it or not.
Love Has Many Faces is a great box set, but make no mistake: while it does tell Joni Mitchell's story, it may not be the exact one you've been wanting to hear.
...Honor is All We Know is a solid but ultimately inessential addition to the Rancid catalogue that finds Rancid back where they belong, crafting straightforward punk anthems without pretense.
EPs nine and 10 in Pallot’s 2014 song-writing project are polar opposites of each other; from the cheery to despondent.
Yes, there's already been one Rough Guide to African Blues. But don't go thinking this is more of the same.
Monday, December 15 2014
Amanda Wilder's remarkable "free school" documentary shows all sorts of pleasures and tensions among the kids and adults as they figure out how to manage such an experiment.
Like the other entires in the World Film Locations series, this Florence installment acts as a great starting point for serious scholars of film.
These stories are as delightful and fizzy as Hilary Mantel's many awe-inspiring historical novels.
Fraction’s writing, which dips in and out of epic verse with a casual mastery, demands a close attention to rhythm and meter, but retains his unique voice.
Thomas Healy offers up a masterful psychological portrait of one of America’s great thinkers, one whose legal opinion would eventually shape free speech in America.
Very simply put, Miss Take is an exceptionally executed game, advancing a kind of minimalist, arcade-style form of stealth that never wears out its welcome.
Beware: what follows may contain tubas. Also accordions, clarinets, canned gunfire, protest songs, dance songs, songs about roosters, songs about drug cartels, songs using drug cartels as metaphors to make the singers seem intimidating and/or awesome and/or "authentic", songs using roosters the same way, and amor.
Rudolf Maté's Union Station tells a noir story from a time when passenger rail travel was central to American life.
The music world saw reissues from all over the genre map, spanning classic rock titans to electronic music legends.
Twenty years on, the Old 97’s see their indie debut re-released in deluxe packaging by Omnivore. It’s worth the plunge.
Sound Man gives you a look through 50 years behind the studio glass with the premier engineer/producer of the classic rock era, without any obsession over fame or status.
If you're looking for a pretty sick and twisted metal record, here you go.
Space-rock and dub reggae sound great together, man. Who knew?? 10th Anniversary reissue for the Pink Floyd reinterpretation.
Legendary music artist Annette Peacock fuses blues, rock, jazz and poetry on her once rare 1969 debut, finally reissued by Ironic Records.
Friday, December 12 2014
While it shows Chris Rock is still a bit shaky when it comes to his cinematic skill set, Top Five is a triumph. It is easily his best movie, as well as one of the best comedies of 2014.
As in The Master, the ocean haunts the protagonist in this film adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, but it’s a haunting of a different kind.
Paul Duffield takes us back to the power of Frank Miller’s Daredevils, where the vertical sunless, steel-and-glass canyons of Manhattan, were always repurposed as horizontal spaces.
Just like Moses' task from God, the social and cultural context that surrounds Exodus: Gods and Kings shapes it in ways that these actors and filmmakers might not have wanted.
The Year's Work at the Zombie Research Center answers any questions you might have about the burgeoning field of zombie studies.
This year's push of stylistic diversity, craft, and experimentation adds fuel to hip-hop's movement into the future.
With 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole relies on on stimulating emotions by telling instead of evoking emotion by showing.
Philip Glass' collection of 20 etudes, written over a span of 19 years, is given a moving performance by the virtuosic pianist Maki Namekawa.
It's only in America that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
A soporific lullaby of the heart and mind, Björklund’s Shaken puts to bed any misconception of how a Danish artist should sound.
Pretty Music for Pretty People is fun. Fortunately, that's not the only thing going for it.
Brazilian thrash veterans Ratos de Porão's first offering in eight years is certainly nothing worth dancing over.
In an ideal world, Automat is what industrial music would have grown into, something which acknowledges the roads its founding members paved without imitating them in the process.