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Friday, October 24, 2014

Movie Review: Stonehearst Asylum (2014)


by Tony Dayoub

"Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see." That's a piece of advice offered in Stonehearst Asylum to the film's ostensible hero, Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess). It's also the most important suggestion made by author Edgar Allan Poe to his reader in the droll short story that the movie is loosely based on, "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." Directed by Brad Anderson (The Call), Stonehearst Asylum is more clever than scary. But there's a lot to be said for a well plotted thriller in a time when too many horror movies hinge more on shocking their audiences instead of getting under their skin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Movie Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)


by Tony Dayoub


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a rare and unexpected delight from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, a filmmaker who has made a habit of producing dense, multi-plot storylines that converge in their final moments to offer some Great Truth. Birdman somehow feels both narrower and more transcendent. When the score's percussion takes over, a stifling anxiety sets in. When its symphonic sounds take precedence, Birdman soars. There is no need to clumsily converge at the conclusion because the linkage between Birdman's subplots is already baked into its script, a tale of the backstage chaos that ensues when former blockbuster action star Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) mounts a serious comeback in a new venue, Broadway.

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.