Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and Three Better Ways to Spend Your Money at the Movies

by Tony Dayoub

No big surprise. A Nightmare on Elm Street, the unnecessary remake of Wes Craven's 1984 hallucinatory slasher film opening tomorrow has nothing new to offer. You know this film is headed in the wrong direction literally from the start, with a misguided opening credit design that looks like it started as near-illegible chalk scrawls on a sidewalk, but ends up visually echoed by redundant white on black credits as a corrective. And the film goes downhill from there. My frequent criticism of remakes is, why revisit a decent film if it won't be improved? In Samuel Bayer's reboot, the overt sexual paranoia of the original's promiscuous kids is neutered into a hollow exploration of pedophilia simply to give the illusion of topicality.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Criterion's Vivre Sa Vie (1962) and Summer Hours (2008)

by Tony Dayoub

Were you one of the mob who rushed to buy the movie-only Avatar (2009) disc oh so cannily released on Earth Day? Why would you when it's already been announced that Cameron plans a more extensive edition containing extra footage within a year, and a 3D Blu-ray by 2012? Especially the last one since the science fiction film is so inextricably dependent on 3D immersion to tell its story effectively. In this age of double—and now triple—dips by Hollywood studios in order to maximize the profits they see vanishing as the whole business model of film distribution and release changes, it is gratifying to see one label, Criterion, hone in on films which advance the art of telling a story over productions which simply accelerate the visual technology used to illustrate the bare minimum of a plot. And Criterion usually gets it right the first time, double dipping only in rare cases where a better quality print has been restored for a film in often dire need of such a thing. Two of the most recent examples of Criterion's concern with its product presentation, Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live) and Summer Hours (L'Heure d'été), have only one tenuous tie (they're both in French) but are fully deserving of one's attention over the most recent Hollywood blockbuster.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FIRST LOOK - TV Review: You Don't Know Jack

by Tony Dayoub

HBO's You Don't Know Jack follows the rise and fall of "Dr. Death" in the media as he championed the cause of doctor-assisted suicide in the 1990s. It is probably director Barry Levinson's most memorable film since Wag the Dog (1997). But the real triumph belongs to the marvelous Al Pacino (Carlito's Way) who, as Dr. Jack Kevorkian, gives his most nuanced performance in nearly twenty years.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Review: The Ghost Writer (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

In The Ghost Writer, the British Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former prime minister under attack for playing crony to the U.S. and its interests in the Iraq War, is beset by protesters who attack him for aiding and abetting the torture of Muslim POWs. While contending with the suspicious death of writer Mike McAra who was ghosting his memoirs, Lang rides out the tempest in Cape Cod with his wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams); his assistant and possible mistress, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall); and new to the mix, the unnamed ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) who replaces McAra.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dede Allen

by Tony Dayoub

We often speak of the auteurial era of the seventies that was ushered in by director Arthur Penn and actor-producer (and future direcor) Warren Beatty with their collaboration on Bonnie and Clyde. But surely one of the seminal moments in the launch of that chapter is the explosive, grim, and finally violent, finale of this "lovers-on-the-run" landmark. In honor of Dede Allen, the editor who crafted some of the most suspenseful sequences in film (the recommendations I list at the end are only the ones I've actually seen; her filmography is even more illustrious than what I give her credit for), here is the sequence she is best known for (if you've never seen it, viewer discretion is advised)...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Why revisit a great movie when there are so many lesser movies that could be improved by a remake? Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans is a huge improvement on its predecessor. And let's be honest, whatever feelings of nostalgia get stirred up when thinking of Ray Harryhausen's 1981 version, the designation of "classic" hardly applies. The acting in that one is wooden even by fantasy genre standards, with Laurence Olivier slumming as Zeus (no doubt after Alec Guinness' appearance in Star Wars made such a thing acceptable) and Siân Phillips generously wearing a permanent grimace on her face in order to not outdo the stiff Judi Bowker who plays her daughter. Concessions to the trends in fantasy at the time—like the requisite robot sidekick, in this case a metallic owl named Bubo—only served to highlight the great expanse between Harryhausen's increasingly antiquated effects technology and the ILM visual FX burgeoning at the time. Eight-years-old at the time, I saw the original on opening day in 1981 and recall it fondly much less for its story or visuals than for its two scenes of gratuitous nudity (not unusual in a PG-rated film back then). Ironically, today's political climate allows Titans to retain a PG-13 rating by eschewing the nudity but amping up the violence.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blu-ray Review: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

by Tony Dayoub

Originally reviewed here at the time of its theatrical release, Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is now out on Blu-ray and DVD. The film is a testament to the skewed sensibilities of its director and star who here seem to strike a level of attunement which had been missing in Herzog's narrative films since his last collaboration with Klaus Kinski. Some of the credit should go to Nicolas Cage, who manically apes Kinski to some extent, twisted in pain and hunchbacked like the German actor's character in For a Few Dollars More (1967).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Holidays and a Preview of Things to Come

by Tony Dayoub

First of all, whatever belief system you subscribe to, I wish you and yours a peaceful and safe weekend. I will be taking a short break with my family to visit some loved ones in Los Angeles. In the meantime, I'll still be watching movies (watching the Blu-ray for one of my favorites from last year as you read this, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, April 6th) so you might see an unexpected review here or there. For those who wish to keep up with the conversation, here are some films you can expect me to cover when I return on April 12th:
Feel free to keep commenting on any reviews already posted. I do read every comment and will be responding as soon as possible throughout my leave.