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Sam Adams
Philadelphia, PA
Sam Adams is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Onion A.V. Club, and a Contributing Editor at Philadelphia City Paper, where he edited the film section from 1999-2007. His writing has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, the Boston Globe, the Hollywood Reporter and Film Comment. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics, and his essays on Two Lane Blacktop and Greendale appear in the NSFC anthology The B List. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.
Recent Activity
Philip Seymour Hoffman told me that Love Liza, a movie about a man grieving his wife's suicide, was "was a real specific exploration of what somebody does to not go boo hoo hoo" and a part of me — the part, maybe, that's given to glib writerly explanations — wonders if that wasn't what drugs were for him: a way not to feel. There's (some) overlap between what drives (some) people to create and (some) people to do drugs, but the idea that the latter leads to the former has killed far too many people to let that toxic notion survive.
Toggle Commented Feb 4, 2014 on Heroin and creativity at Some Came Running
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Of late, my favorite interviews seem to be those where I get my ass ever so slightly handed to me by my subject, a category into which my talk with the ever-irascible William Friedkin squarely falls. Killer Joe, which I'll be reviewing when it opens in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks, is the latest step in what's looking like a full-blown late career revival for the director, who went seriously astray with movies like Jade and Rules of Engagement before getting his mojo back with a vengance. Along with 2007's Bug, which like Killer Joe was adapted from a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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The good folks at Slate let me go long on Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, whose much-anticipated extended cut arrives today as a DVD bundled with the Amazon-exclusive Blu-ray of the theatrical cut. (As to why it's a standard-def edition available only through a single outlet, see the tortured history of the film's theatrical release.) The piece is long enough without me blathering on here as well, so suffice it to say that in spite of some technical rough spots, the three-hour Margaret turns an already great movie into a wounded masterpiece. When you're done, return here for an equally patchy recording... Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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I probably should have been disappointed when word came back I wouldn't be able to interview Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom (an excellent movie I'll get around to praising in this space, I hope soon). But I was way too busy turning mental backflips over the fact that I'd get to talk to Bob Balaban, a brilliant actor and not-at-all-bad director who plays the onscreen narrator in Anderson's film. Balaban's great roles are too many to number, or to get to in a 40-minute exchange, but I touched on a good number, including his memorable turn as François Truffaut's translator... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2012 at Breaking the Line
Octo-Ron: A good question, one I thought I'd solved midway through the movie and forgotten to re-check against the way things actually turned out. It certainly seems like David is pursuing some nefarious agenda on behalf of Old Prune Guy. (He certainly seems to know more than he lets on; I've read people suggesting he's just pushing buttons on the alien machinery at random, which seems preposterous.) That doesn't exactly square with what turns out to be Weyland's immortalist agenda, but perhaps the idea is that given that no one knows what they're dealing with, the idea is to cover as many bases as they can. Either that, or David's just doing to humans what they did to him: creating life because he can, with no thought to the consequences.
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While I watch a lot of TV, I don't often get a chance to write about it; weekly recaps are a bit of a thankless grind, and they've largely taken the place of more reflective, occasional essays. (Some people, like my colleagues Matt Zoller Seitz and Noel Murray, manage to do both at once, damn them.) Plus, Jesus are there a lot of people writing smart stuff about Mad Men on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Thanks, at any rate, to my Indiewire editor Alison Willmore for letting me chime in on the Mad Men finale and the season as a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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The documentary Paul Williams: Still Alive distracts from its intriguing subject with the naggingly persistent intrusions of the filmmaker himself, who more often than not seems to be making the film as a means to buddy up with his musical idol. (It doesn't work.) But if nothing else, it has put Williams, a prolific lyricist whose songs include "We've Only Just Begun," "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "The Rainbow Connection" back in the spotlight, and gave me a chance to talk to him about them for the A.V. Club. It also gave me a chance to pursue what's become an... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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As a critic, sometimes you get paid to be in the right place at the right time. I'd somehow missed the fact that Against Me! was playing at Philadelphia's Electric Factory this past Sunday until my Inquirer editor asked me to cover the show — something about the phrase "opening for The Cult" evidently induced some form of temporary amnesia. But being present for the band's first tour with singer Laura Jane Grace — who, up until a few months ago, was known as singer Tommy Gabel — turned out to be a genuine privilege. I suppose the fact that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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I don't know many critics who rated Metric's 2009 album Fantasies quite as highly as I did, but if you like your pop music unabashed, heavy on sleazy synths and swing-for-the-rafters choruses, it's just about perfect. And while plenty of the popular music I love ends up being, in fact, not all that popular, Fantasies sold nearly half a million copies worldwide, especially impressive considering it was the band's first self-released album. Their new Synthetica doesn't have anything as punch-you-in-the-face awesome as "Help I'm Alive" or "Gold Guns Girls," but it turns out to be a surprisingly effective grower, not... Continue reading
Posted Jun 12, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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So I had this nice post pointing in the direction of my Prometheus review all set to go at an embargo-compliant 12:01 a.m. — a real beaut, involving the phrase "plays like a motherfucker" — and Typepad seems not only to have declined to post it but eaten it altogether. But here, in any case, is my Promtheus review, linked without embellishment or apology. Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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I was in the midst of writing my review of Safety Not Guaranteed, in which Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza plays a magazine intern who tracks down the author of a classified ad seeking a time-travel companion, when I got an email from All Things Considered asking me to contribute to a profile on the actress. (The impetus, apparently, was this 2010 interview, in which, among other things, she talks about her sullen Parks & Rec intern, April Ludgate, as being a kind of generational stand-in.) NPR ended up whittling me down to one inconsequential soundbite — no complaints, it's... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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Under the heading of "I read it so you don't have to," I slogged through all 30,000 words of Joe Ezsterhas' Heaven and Mel and wrote up the results for Slate. Long story short: Mel Gibson is, as expected, a raving, anti-Semitic loon, with a curious email alias (in the above title) to boot. (Remember when he was the fun, wacky kind of crazy, rather than the I'll-just-take-this-butcher-knife-to-bed-with-me kind? Good times.) Ezsterhas, as expected, turns out to be a self-serving sleaze whose converstion to devout Catholicism has only added self-righteousness into the mix. Also, Mel Gibson's father believes that Pope... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2012 at Breaking the Line
Posted May 23, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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Just a quick entry by way of pointing to my A.V. Club Primer on the films of Studio Ghibli. Argue over your favorties in the comments — and be sure to scold me for my insufficient love of Spirited Away. And really, watch Pom Poko next chance you get. Previously: Reviews of The Secret World of Arrietty, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro, plus a talk with Neil Gaiman about writing the English-language script for Mononoke. I reviewed Ponyo as well, but the internet seems to have et that one. Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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Part Two of my ongoing series, "Sam Adams Talks With Actresses of a Certain Age About Working With Alfred Hitchcock and Vincente Minnelli" is my highly enjoyable-in-retrospect, slightly terrifying-at-the-time, interview with the great Eva Marie Saint, who remains as spirited and sharp-witted as ever. The ostensible occasion for our talk was her visit to Philadelphia, where she was to be interviewed on stage by the doubtable Ben Mankiewicz before a screening of North by Northwest. As her time in town was short, I was advised to speak with her beforehand by phone, and told I'd have 15 minutes. That's less... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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I don't often (read, almost never) get around to posting my Inquirer concert reviews — sometimes because thanks to the paper's nightmarish website, I can't even find the damn things — but I'm pretty happy with how this account of Leslie Feist's show at the Academy of Music turned out. For me, at least, the show was a revelation, a dramatic and at times emotionally violent performance that sent me back to Feist's albums, wondering, "How did I miss that?" In all honesty, I still thought of her principally as the woman behind the ubiquitous, Muppet-friendly "1234," pointedly absent from... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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And speaking of Bernie, it gave me an excuse, I mean opportunity, to talk to Shirley Maclaine, who plays a wealthy, mean-spirited widow opposite Jack Black's guileless mortician. Even better, the A.V. Club's "Random Roles" format let me quiz her on her past triumphs, including the beyond-brilliant Some Came Running, as well as her experiences with Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Frank Tashlin, Jerry Lewis. Did I ask about her role on the upcoming third season of Downton Abbey? I sure did. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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Lots to catch up on, so we'll make this quick. I talked to Jack Black about Bernie, the Richard Linklater movie in which he plays a soft-spoken East Texas mortician who winds up shooting an elderly widow in the back. (It's based on a true story, so shut up with the spoiler talk.) He's more subdued in person than his bigfoot persona might lead you to expect, and especially so in this case since he was jetlagged and sick, apologetically offering an elbow bump in lieu of a handshake. Even so, he was great fun to talk to, especially with... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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"I will send help as soon as I've accomplished a rescue in my own particular..." "Idiom, sir?" —Monty Python and the Holy Grail I'm not moved to write a full-on review of The Avengers, mainly because I'm disinclined to wade into summarizing plot, recapitulating backstory and so forth, but there's one aspect of the project that struck me as particularly interesting. There's a burden built into the framework of The Avengers that Joss Whedon handles with exceptional grace, and yet still weighs down the movie considerably, which is that assembling a group of previously unaffiliated superheroes to fight a common... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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I'm well aware that making Grantland's Humblebrag honor roll is a dubious honor at best, but when Isabella Rossellini's name pops up on the CallerID, it's hard to suppress the urge to crow. (Even my wife, who's long since used to interview subjects calling the house, was moved to a "Shut up!" when I told her about it.) But enough about me — read the article instead. It's one of the A.V. Club's "Random Roles," which allowed me to talk not only about Rossellini's two new movies, Late Bloomers and Keyhole, but to go all the way back to Blue... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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With Mad Men entering the Swinging Sixties — as in "to swing" — it seemed like a good time to survey the career of one Richard Lester, whose movies Petulia and The Knack... and How to Get It embody the spirit of the time better than any others. As I point out in the A.V. Club's "Gateways to Geekery," that's scratching the surface of a long and varied (and sometimes patchy) career that owes as much to Jacques Tati and Ernie Kovacs as it does to the Beatles, who put Lester on the map as the starts of A Hard... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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One of the myriad joys of writing for the A.V. Club is that there's an audience for pieces that might meet with a shrug elsewhere. Case in point: my interview with animator Don Hertzfeldt, who's currently touring the country with his hilarious and unsettling short films. I lucked into Hertzfeldt's shorts early on — my review of Billy's Balloon was blurbed on his site, which thrilled me at the time — at still remember the shock I felt watching Rejected, which began in by-now familiar territory and somehow managed by the end to tap into a profound sense of existential... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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As you might imagine, an interview with Guy Maddin can cover a lot of ground, and so it was when we sat down for the A.V. Club on the occasion of his new film, Keyhole. We dutifully covered the new release, of course, but before long he was off and running (with a little help from me), covering subjects ranging from the new Mission Impossible movie — he likes it, and is pretty sure Luis Buñuel would, too — to The Odyssey. If you're at all familiar with films like The Saddest Music in the World and Dracula: Pages From... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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A career as rich as Willem Dafoe's puts the "random" in the A.V. Club's Random Roles feature, but I touched on as many high (and low) points as time would allow in an interview on the occasion of two new movies: Abel Ferrara's 4:44 Last Day on Earth and the upcoming The Hunter. More from Dafoe, including lots on Antichrist and a bit on Spider-Man, in our previous interview. UPDATE: Forgot I talked to Dafoe in 2001, for Shadow of the Vampire. That's here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2012 at Breaking the Line
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The A.V. Club let me go long on Bully, a not enormously interesting documentary that touches on a lot of important issues. Harvey Weinstein has, as is his habit, done a magnificent job of turning the film into a cause celèbre by focusing attention on the MPAA's decision to slap it with an R rating due to the use of profanity, a comical (if characteristic) act given that the 16-year-olds who aren't allowed to see it without a guardian's say-so indubitably hear more foul language at school every day. Much as I dlslike the MPAA and its apparent inability to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2012 at Breaking the Line