Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: November 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review: Hammer Glamour

Hammer Glamour by Marcus Hearn (160 pp. Titan Books $29.95) profiles fifty of Hammer Films' most famous beauties. It is a paean to the lovely starlets that populated not just their well-known horror flicks but also their comedies, prehistoric action romps, and more. The book is frank in its glimpse into the publicity machine that selected these women, developed their sexy personas for appearances in one or two films, then dropped them in favor the next fresh face.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blu-ray Review: Gomorrah (2008)

by Tony Dayoub



Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah is one of the films I missed at last year's New York Film Festival. Too bad, I thought, since it had won the Grand Prix at Cannes—one of the few awards I put some stock in—earlier that year. It has been MIA on home video for quite a long time, relatively speaking. But tomorrow it debuts on Criterion DVD and Blu-ray, as part of a larger distribution deal between IFC Films and Criterion that will include such other festival favorites like Hunger, and two of my personal favorites, Che and A Christmas Tale. This is an excellent boost for IFC Films, of course. But is this a good deal for the Criterion brand, long thought of as the most prestigious home video company?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Best Films of the 00s: 2001

by Tony Dayoub



Continuing my series of posts assessing the best films of the decade, today I spotlight my favorite films of 2001. Some reminders: I cannot judge movies I haven't seen, so if you feel a film you like was unjustly left out, it might be that I haven't seen it; also, if I already wrote a review for it, I'll simply link back to the review. Since I was late with this one, I'll be posting these once a week or so (2002 is scheduled for early December) up until the end of the year. In January, I'll post my ten best for 2009, culminating with a follow-up announcement of my 10 best films for the past decade. And that list won't necessarily feature one picture from each year.

And now, in alphabetical order, the best films of 2001...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview: Author Mark Cotta Vaz on STAR TREK The Art of the Film

by Tony Dayoub



Earlier this week, I reviewed the lavishly illustrated STAR TREK The Art of the Film, which was released yesterday. I had the opportunity to ask its author, Mark Cotta Vaz, a few questions about what it takes to put a book like this together.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review: STAR TREK The Art of the Film

by Tony Dayoub

Coinciding with tomorrow's home video release of one of 2009's most surprising film successes (both critically and financially) is the debut of a handsome coffee table book that illustrates the movie's fantastic art design, STAR TREK The Art of the Film by Mark Cotta Vaz (160pp. Titan Books $29.95). Full disclosure: I am a longtime Star Trek fan, so I've really been looking forward to this book. Trek was what inspired me to explore cinema. And starting back in 1980, I began collecting Simon and Schuster's occasional books on the making of the series, its movies, and subsequent spinoffs. Their best volumes for someone interested in the filmmaking process—like I used to be—were the ones that avoided any puff-piece promotional angles, and instead, went for transparency. I'm talking about books like The Making of STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, The Making of STAR TREK DEEP SPACE NINE, and STAR TREK PHASE II The Lost Series. These books didn't pull any punches when it came to discussing failures at any stage of the process, and demonstrated how such failures could often become learning experiences for the Trek production team. J.J. Abrams acknowledges his own trepidation when it came to rebooting the venerable science fiction franchise in the new book's foreword. He states he was conscious of how he "might have—and probably already had—screwed it all up." But Abrams avoided any such pitfalls by relying on his production design team, led by Scott Chambliss. Author Cotta Vaz and Titan Books have also avoided any missteps, emulating those old Simon and Schuster books by thoughtfully fashioning a gorgeously illustrated book that celebrates every step of Star Trek's design, from genesis to execution and beyond.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

UPDATED: Gone With the Wind DVD Giveaway

by Tony Dayoub



On Tuesday, Warner Home Video will release the 70th Anniversary 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of Gone With the Wind (1939) (there's an extra nice package on Blu-ray as well). It includes the newly remastered film and commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer. I have one copy of the DVD available to give away (courtesy of Warner Home Video) to the first person who can answer the following question correctly. But first, the rules:

The Most Unusual Flash Mob You'll Ever See

by Tony Dayoub



Yesterday, a beautifully crisp fall day here in Atlanta, I was invited to attend the kickoff for Marietta's weekend celebration of Gone With the Wind (1939). The event—organized by Chris Sutherland's Gone With the Wind museum, Scarlett on the Square—heralds the upcoming 70th anniversary of the film's original release, and 175th anniversary of the quaint suburban hamlet of Marietta. It also precedes this Tuesday's rerelease of the Civil War-era melodrama on DVD—and for the first time ever, Blu-ray—remastered from the original Technicolor film elements.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Movie Review: The Last Command (1955)

by Tony Dayoub



There is no way to describe The Last Command except as earnest in its inaccuracy. Still, this 1955 western, unavailable on DVD, is likely the most accurate and best depiction of the Battle of the Alamo as seen through the eyes of one of its heroes, Jim Bowie. In fact, the film begins with the song "Jim Bowie," lyrics by Sydney Clare ("On the Good Ship Lollipop") and music composed by the great Max Steiner. The Austrian Steiner was Warner Brothers go-to composer in the early days, responsible for the famous themes for Gone With the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1942) among others (by the time he composed the score for this Republic film he was working freelance). As sung by Gordon MacRae—the very same year he hit his career peak in the movie Oklahoma!—"Jim Bowie" immediately sets the reverential tone for the picture.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Movie Review: Uncertainty

by Tony Dayoub



Something of a dilemma exists between Kate Montero (Lynn Collins) and Bobby Thompson (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Standing on the Brooklyn Bridge on the morning of July 4th, they resolve to decide what to do about their predicament by flipping a coin. From that moment on, Uncertainty splits into a film with dual narratives. As Kate—wearing a yellow sundress—runs to one end of the bridge, Bobby—in a green shirt—runs to the other end. Each end up in a parallel reality: Kate in a sulfur-tinged thriller concerning a lost cell phone that she and Bobby find in a cab in Manhattan; Bobby in an emerald-hued drama in which he and Kate attend a party at her family's Brooklyn home.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Slamming The Box

by Tony Dayoub



Those who follow me on Facebook may notice I can be a little less erudite in my critical reactions. But sometimes that leads in some unexpected directions, as when I made a bad joke on my Facebook status update which went something like this:
[Tony] Dayoub thinks it's too bad The Box doesn't exactly rhyme with "sucks!"
Here is an edited reprint of the exchange that followed, guest starring some other bloggers you may already be familiar with:

Movie Review: The Box (2009)

by Tony Dayoub



The Box starts with a concept that appeals to most people's love for mystery: an anonymous gift left on a suburban doorstep belonging to the Lewis family. Wrapped all in brown paper, it arrives just before the moment private school teacher Norma Lewis (Cameron Diaz) discovers her son's tuition will no longer be a discounted perk. That same morning, husband Arthur (James Marsden) is floored by the news that he will not be accepted into NASA's astronaut program. Later that day, Norma stares at the unwrapped gift—a large brown box gilded in silvery aluminum with a big red button locked under a glass dome—waiting for the arrival of a Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) to give her the key and explain what this gift is for. Mr. Steward tells Norma pushing the button will kill someone in the world—who she doesn't know—and reward her with $1 million in exchange. With these early scenes, director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) has masterfully opened enough avenues in the dense plot to provide a puzzle as suspenseful and intriguing as the mysterious box of the film's title.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movie Review: Bright Star

by Tony Dayoub



Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

—John Keats

Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water

—the epitaph Keats requested on his deathbed

A return to form for Jane Campion (The Piano), the ethereal Bright Star proves simpler films with a narrower scope can be just as rewarding as the more ambitious ones.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

UPDATED: Bright Star Soundtrack Giveaway

by Tony Dayoub



I just saw Jane Campion's beautiful and tragic romance, Bright Star, the story of poet John Keats' (Ben Whishaw) love affair with his young muse, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). My review should be posted here tomorrow. Right now, I have three official soundtracks to give away to the first three readers who can answer the following question correctly. But first, the rules:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Movie Review: The Informant!

by Tony Dayoub



Steven Soderbergh gives us what may be one of the lightest, frothiest creampuffs of the year, The Informant! This description may not do the film justice, though. Peel through the layers of deception that the director has stacked up high, apropos of the inscrutable Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon)—the title character at the heart of the film—and you shall be rewarded with a satire of inescapable incisiveness.