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Friday, October 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Book of Life (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Many years ago, I made the mistake of dismissing The Nightmare Before Christmas as a visually spectacular but hollow animated musical. Yeah, I didn't get it. It isn't that nostalgia has made the movie feel closer to a classic or that over time its style has eclipsed its substance. In a fundamental way, I've come to realize, its style is its substance. I shall not make the same mistake with The Book of Life. While not the animation game-changer that The Nightmare Before Christmas may have been, The Book of Life perhaps has even more room to grow into a classic in the coming years. And curiously it has a similar pedigree.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Movie Review: Fury (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Writer-director David Ayer crafts another fine look at the way shared violent experiences form a tenuous brotherhood among men with Fury. Set in the final days of World War II's European Theater, the movie follows a Sherman tank, christened "Fury," and its battle-hardened crew led by Staff Sergeant Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt). Among Wardaddy's crew are the God-fearing "Bible" (Shia LaBeouf), wisecracking "Gordo" (Michael Peña), and the crude "Coon-Ass" (Jon Bernthal). After losing one of their drivers, the tight-knit unit is saddled with a virtual rookie plucked from the clerical corps, Private Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Norman is our way into this predictably episodic depiction of the horrors of war, one that becomes a surprisingly stylish and at times contemplative suspense film punctuated by short, intense bursts of violence.

RIP Elizabeth Peña

by Tony Dayoub

"Sayles could pull a performance out of a dog. I'm serious. He was just amazing. The world could fall apart and he remained on neutral."
- a humble but talented Elizabeth Peña on John Sayles, who directed
her to her best performance in the highly underrated Lone Star

Recommended Films - They All Laughed, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, La Bamba, Blue Steel, Jacob's Ladder, Lone Star, Rush Hour, The Incredibles

And an even better list of titles I haven't seen but should - El Super, Crossover Dreams, *batteries not included, The Waterdance, Tortilla Soup, Transamerica, The Lost City

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: I Am Ali (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Going in, documentary I Am Ali has two strikes against it. It tries to distill the entire life of boxing's best known heavyweight champion into a film with a scant 111-minute running time, and it depends too much on his closest friends and family to do so. On the plus side, it is the first film to revolve so heavily on personal recordings of interactions with his family made by Muhammad Ali himself. The result is a substantially whitewashed account of the life of the Greatest. At best, I Am Ali is a primer for the few that a long line of documentaries about this extremely well documented sports and Civil Rights figure has thus far eluded. At worst, I Am Ali is a forgettable CliffsNotes-style profile that hits many of the landmark moments in Ali's life while avoiding the dissenting points of view concerning his controversial stances on the Vietnam war and the Black Muslim movement.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NYFF52 Reviews: Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014) and Iris (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Two of the best documentaries playing at the 52nd New York Film Festival couldn't be more different except that they are each by titans of their field, the creepy Tales of the Grim Sleeper by Nick Broomfield and the ebullient Iris by Albert Maysles.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

NYFF52 Centerpiece Review: Inherent Vice (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Inherent Vice is possibly the most confusing of all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films. That's saying something considering he directed the enigmatic The Master and Punch-Drunk Love. At least in the case of those films one feels like one can get some kind of a grip on their respective themes because Anderson is a pretty accessible person and wrote the material himself. Inherent Vice is a different animal altogether. Adapted from a Thomas Pynchon novel, one can guess (I haven't read it) that coherence was sacrificed in favor of faithfulness to the book's feel, consistency maybe never having existed on the page in the first place. In any event, the incoherence is the least of one's concerns. When Anderson makes a film, he plays the long game, knowing... no... insisting that one see the movie again and again. It's what makes Inherent Vice so compelling. One wants to wallow in its noirish, surfer-gone-to-seed, atmosphere and revisit the movie again and again, with the hopes that its central mystery might be clarified in an eventual viewing.