Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Gonzo doesn't even begin to describe Mad Max: Fury Road. The fourth entry in the Mad Max series comes thirty years (!) after the last film, with the broken, post-apocalyptic highway patrolman formerly played by Mel Gibson now re-interpreted by Tom Hardy. And one of the things writer-director (and franchise mainstay) George Miller does with a better actor at the helm is give road warrior Max Rockatansky an inner life. Whereas Gibson's Max was filled with rage at the world of "fire and blood" that took his wife and child, Hardy's Max is literally mad. This Max tries to stay busy to keep the voices in his head at bay, voices belonging to those he has encountered in his travels through the desert that he failed to save. While Max's first inclination is to retreat into himself, Fury Road implies that the only thing that keeps his madness in check is his continuing to help others.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Avengers: Age of Ultron begins in media res, with the usually fractious superheroes seemingly having evolved into a well-oiled, super-powered machine as demonstrated by a coordinated attack on HYDRA and its new leader Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is beating whole flocks of HYDRA soldiers with one swing of his hammer, Mjolnir. Captain America (Chris Evans) uses his motorcycle the way a gymnast would a balance beam, pushing off into acrobatic flips and bowling his enemies over before meeting the cycle again further down the line. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, or a CGI version of him) simply barrels through the bad guys like a runaway train while the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) follows close behind, prepared to execute a secret "lullaby" protocol that mysteriously calms the green behemoth in nearly an instant. All of this unfolds while Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is at his most detached, ordering his new Iron Legion of robots to do most of the dirty work while he flies overhead, trying his best to break through an invisible force field surrounding Strucker's castle.
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Who knew that the usually brutish Russell Crowe could be sensitive enough to fashion a film as lyrical as The Water Diviner? By turns epic and intimate, The Water Diviner is a low-key directorial debut for the macho Australian actor who stars as Joshua Connor, a man who lost three sons on the same day in the Battle of Gallipoli. Determined to bring their remains back to Australia, Connor sets out for Çanakkale, Turkey and encounters a larger number of Turks sympathetic to his mission than anyone could imagine. Among them is the beautiful young Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who also sacrificed a great deal during the war. As conventional as the story reads on paper, Crowe instills it with an unpredictability and earnestness that seem damn near inventive. From a hauntingly surreal opening through a dewy, personal second act and onto a grand, epic conclusion, The Water Diviner frequently confounds, not just because of who Crowe is and what one expects from the forceful actor. But also because Crowe shows a remarkable self-confidence, letting the film meander in a way one associates most with the most unpretentious classic films.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
by Tony Dayoub
My apologies to anyone still interested in reading my musings on cinema after my long absence from this site. I started a new job in November. I'm deep in its busy season (which began right after my busy season as a film critic and continues on through mid-April). But I feel like I can't really take any kind of temporary sabbatical without first posting my list of last year's best films (and definitely before the Oscars air).
For your consideration, my top films of 2014, followed by the winners of the respective polls I voted in.
Labels: Best of 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Director Ava Duvernay smartly avoids the usual obstacles filmmakers have encountered when bringing the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the screen. Selma avoids all the pitfalls of the traditional biopic by instead focusing on a particularly reprehensible flashpoint in the American Civil Rights struggle, the events surrounding March 7, 1965, "Bloody Sunday," and how they ultimately led to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. By homing in on this historical moment, Duvernay is able to give us a snapshot of the era, put us in the shoes of African American activists, the Southern whites hanging on to their fading power structure, even the President himself, Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). In Selma, Duvernay has crafted a singular cinematic experience that stands alone among those attempting to communicate the turmoil of the Civil Rights era and the power of the Reverend Dr. King, powerfully played by David Oyelowo. Selma is absorbing, measured, and eloquent, much like the man at its center.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Blu-ray Reviews: Barker Lost & Found, a Pair of Sci-Fi Epics, Criterion x 3, and a Twilight Time Bonus
by Tony Dayoub
Wow, it's been a long time, even for me. I just started a second gig which is keeping me away from these pages more than I'd like, but hopefully this will be the first of a number of posts that will appear here with more regularity. Anyway, here are some Blu-rays I've been watching while I diligently fulfill some of my end-of-year critic vote duties. Except for Nightbreed's, all of these entries sport actual screen captures by moi.