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Friday, November 6, 2015

Movie Review: Spectre (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

A bravura, single-take shot launches Spectre, the latest 007 film. Sam Mendes helms this follow-up to his brilliant Skyfall, with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema stepping into Roger Deakins' big shoes. Van Hoytema certainly announces himself loudly with the shot that propels one of Bond's best opening sequences in some time. The camera snakes through Mexico City during a colorful Day of the Dead festival, first following a thug clad in a light colored suit, before switching over to a masked reveler dressed in a skeletal suit with a top hat whose distinctive walk soon makes it clear we are seeing Daniel Craig's superspy in medias res. Before long, Van Hoytema has taken us through a busy public square, up a palatial set of stairs, into and out of a cramped elevator, into a bedroom and out a window to a balcony where Bond sets up to assassinate the thug in question. For those brief minutes, Spectre soars higher than even Skyfall did. It all goes downhill from there sadly, with Spectre devolving into probably the most conventional of all the Craig flicks (yes, more so than even the unfairly maligned Quantum of Solace).

Friday, October 16, 2015

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

Director Steven Spielberg reunites with Tom Hanks for the cold war thriller Bridge of Spies. Based on fact, the film details the capture and arrest of Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), an otherwise unremarkable man who was passing on information to our enemies in the most nondescript way, as he painted landscapes in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is a formerly prominent attorney asked to take Abel on as his client in order to give the impression that Abel is getting the best defense there is. When Donovan begins to take his assignment more seriously than anticipated, saving his client from a death sentence, the CIA enlists him to negotiate the release of a downed U2 pilot standing trial in the Soviet Union. The kind of double-play Donovan then chases is a gambit that surprises everyone.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Movie Review: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

There is a sense that Netflix is venturing into new territory with this week's release of Cary Joji Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation. Fukunaga, whose greatest claim to fame so far is the much lauded first season of HBO's True Detective, trains his focus on the plight of African child soldiers, measuredly delivering his message by placing us in the shoes of Agu (Abraham Attah) as he comes of age in the war-torn jungle of some anonymous country. There he falls under the spell of the charismatic Commandant (Idris Elba), a nameless fighter who resembles pretty much every megalomaniac ever. And therein lies the problem with the film.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Docs x 2: Finders Keepers (2015) and Winter on Fire (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

Two wildly different documentaries worth your time go into wide release today. One is Winter on Fire, a sober chronicle of the early days of the unrest in the Ukraine that bows exclusively on Netflix today. But first, let's take a look at the gonzo, stranger-than-fiction story recounted by the far more intimate Finders Keepers, now playing in theaters (including Atlanta's Landmark Midtown Art Cinema) nationwide and available on iTunes and On Demand.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

News this week that liquid water has been discovered on Mars and that actor Matt Damon has repeatedly lodged his foot in his mouth (discussing whether gay actors should come out of the closet or not) almost begs for some kind of bad joke about outfitting a spacecraft and exiling the actor to the red planet ASAP. At worst, the news kinda overshadows promotional efforts for Damon's latest, The Martian, based on the novel by Andy Weir. At best, the two soundbites—one overwhelmingly positive, the other decidedly not—cancel each other out and give way to more discussion about this unlikely crowd-pleaser. I'm hoping for the latter, because The Martian fully deserves to be appreciated as a front-runner among the top films of the year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blu-ray Review: The Flash:The Complete First Season (2015)

by Tony Dayoub

Spinning off from it's popular sister show, Arrow, The Flash largely succeeded from escaping Arrow's long shadow within just a couple of episodes. Where it took nearly its entire first season for Arrow to fully embrace its comic book origins and leave behind the teen soap conventions of its home network, the CW, The Flash arrived fully formed, as its creators confirm in the new blu-ray set's only audio commentary. It has done so by turning its back on the dark, brooding atmosphere popularized by the Dark Knight epics that Arrow emulates. Instead, The Flash feels sunny and optimistic, largely a credit to the enjoyable bumbling geekiness of its nice-guy star, Grant Gustin, and his interpretation of CSI tech Barry Allen. It's a show whose occasional X-Files creepiness never really exceeds Goosebumps-level frights, making it ideal for family viewing, a fact which I can personally attest to (my wife and kids love it as much as I do).