Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Blu-ray Reviews: Under the Skin, Nymphomaniac, Volumes I and II, and Criterion 2x: Picnic at Hanging Rock and Red River
by Tony Dayoub
I'm playing catch-up with some of the Blu-rays I've been asked to review recently. So here's a selection of summer releases that's kind of evenly divided between experimental narratives and a couple of classics from the Criterion Collection. (One could argue that Picnic at Hanging Rock belongs in both categories.) Keep in mind the 50% off Criterion sale at Barnes and Noble is in its last week (it ends on 7/28).
(Except where listed, all screen captures are my own. Click on each photo to see it in its actual size.)
Sunday, July 20, 2014
by Tony Dayoub
"My father has never let any of this 'Hollywood' hype go to his head. He has never forgotten where he came from. It does not matter to him if you are the head of the network or you are a grip, he is going to treat everyone with the same amount of respect and kindness. Actually, truth be told, he would probably treat the grip a little better."
- daughter Gigi Garner in The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur
Ever heard the story of how Steve McQueen stole the show right from under the better known Yul Brynner in 1960's The Magnificent Seven, directed by John Sturges. Despite considerably less dialogue, McQueen made the most of his screen time by overindulging in some attention-getting physical tics and actor "business" to divert viewers away from Brynner. Flash-forward to 1963 and now it's McQueen who leads an ensemble cast in Sturges' The Great Escape. And while the McQueen isn't quite in danger of having the movie stolen out from under him, TV star James Garner—soft-spoken but no less competitive—does more than just hold his own. Whenever he's on screen with McQueen, notably in that scene where the prisoners all congregate in the camp's yard to celebrate the 4th of July, the two seem to be in a competition to see who can outdo the other with as little dialogue as possible. Each mugs it up for the camera, allowing their natural charm—these were not the actors with a capital A that came out of New York's Method school—to do their work for them.
Friday, July 18, 2014
Let's talk about Frank Grillo. For years, Grillo has been toiling at the edges of the screen in many noteworthy movies. In the first movie I remember seeing him in, Warrior, he was That Guy Who Trains the Boxer Brother. So natural was he in the part that I thought this was some MMA fighter making the jump to movies. In The Grey he was That Guy Who Keeps Mouthing Off. And in Captain America: The Winter Soldier he was That Paramilitary Thug Who Betrays the Good Guys. Apparently, Grillo's been acting for years, gradually coming to the foreground. Yeah, he's still kind of That Guy Who _______, but with The Purge: Anarchy Grillo gets his best opportunity yet to show he's up to carrying a major motion picture.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
"Who has sex for three hours? That's the length of the movie Lincoln. You did the full Lincoln." That's the usually hilarious Rob Corddry as Robbie talking to his friends Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel), a couple who try to rekindle their once passionate sex life in the movie Sex Tape. That line got the biggest laugh at my screening. But the guffaws felt Pavlovian, like the canned laughter on a TV sitcom designed to entice the viewer into yukking it up as well. Even the very title, Sex Tape, indicates how out of step this movie is with the times. It's not a tape anymore, guys.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
French biopic Yves Saint Laurent is at once sincere and reductive. Framed as a reminiscence by his business and life partner Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne), the movie sometimes plays like a telefilm truncated for a pre-arranged timeslot on Lifetime. The majority of its running time is allotted for the most interesting part of course, the meteoric rise of Saint Laurent (Pierre Niney). Before becoming a famed couturier in his own right he was an assistant to another fashion icon, Christian Dior, whose untimely death placed Saint Laurent atop the House of Dior as head designer at the unprecedented age of 21. Other formative experiences, such as a hospitalization that included electroshock therapy after his aborted conscription into the French Army, are elided over in a manner not unlike that of a footnote in a magazine profile.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Things were looking up for Caesar (Andy Serkis) when last we left him at the close of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He had just shepherded his followers through a fierce battle on the Golden Gate that, though not without its fair share of deaths, didn't claim as many casualties as the revolt did in Rise's 1972 iteration, Conquest. If you stayed for Rise's closing credits, you'd have seen that the story's worst news was saved for a quick stinger depicting the spread of a genetically engineered virus that would soon wipe out most of humanity. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves (notable for somehow improving the noteworthy Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In with its American remake, Let Me In) picks up from there, quickly explaining the state of civilization in a world purged by plague. Humans have all but disappeared. And the super-intelligent apes led by the regal Caesar (Andy Serkis) are thriving peacefully in a forest outside of San Francisco.