Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

On Demand: Centurion (2010) and Don't Look Back (Ne te retourne pas) (2009)

by Tony Dayoub

More and more, films which don't necessarily get a fair shake at the box office are being released through the On Demand platform. Movies with well known names attached both in front and behind the camera can now be watched comfortably from home. Last year's Two Lovers, directed by James Gray and starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix, even made it onto my top ten list. The two films reviewed in this post don't come anywhere near being top ten material. However, each is of varying levels of interest and, though it doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement, both are at least as good as most of this year's theatrical offerings.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Underrated: John Hawkes in Winter's Bone

by Tony Dayoub

Embodying the danger, mistrust, sadness, hopelessness, provincial territoriality, and concern with kin found amongst all of the criminal colluders in Debra Granik's bleak Winter's Bone is Teardrop, the bitter crank dealer played by John Hawkes. That Hawkes steals every scene he is in despite playing every one of them opposite young Jennifer Lawrence (who has been rightly getting all of the notices a budding star-in the-making gets) is not necessarily such a big surprise. Hawkes has been a working character actor for just over twenty years now. It is how little mention is made of his work here which prompts me to address it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Movie Review: I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)

by Tony Dayoub

Director Luca Guadagnino's contrapuntally executed I Am Love might end up being the finest film I'll see this year. Quiet and understated in its performances while grand and operatic in its setting and musical score, it is all the more outstanding because it relies in part on the icy Tilda Swinton (Orlando) to communicate its passionate flourishes. This isn't to say Swinton has never seemed capable of such emotional intensity. But she isn't the first actress around which one thinks of fashioning such a succulent melodrama.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blu-ray Review: The Losers

by Tony Dayoub

When I got the Blu-ray for The Losers in the mail, I was interested in seeing what my reaction would be after seeing it a second time. It's a creampuff of a movie which I found enjoyable at the time of its release, with little aftertaste one way or the other. Seeing it again brings back one of the first thoughts I had back in April, I hope this quirky little action flick finds its audience on video.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ruminations on Inception

by Tony Dayoub

I've been told countless times, "I bet you're analyzing a movie the entire time you're watching it." My response is usually some variation on, "Well, if it's good, if I'm emotionally engaged, my mind is too wrapped up to spend any time picking the movie apart." Christopher Nolan's films are a conundrum then, because I do believe they are good, but I'm often not emotionally engaged, and always picking them apart. In this respect, the polarizing Inception is no different and, in fact, may be the epitome of just such a film.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Interlude With Sleeping Beauty (1959)

by Tony Dayoub

Happy Sunday. I caught Inception yesterday, so I'll have some thoughts on it in my next post. In the meantime, today's post is inspired by Tom and Mary Russell, two Michigan filmmakers who I follow on Twitter (@tomandmary). Of Sleeping Beauty, they recently tweeted:
It is the greatest animated film that Disney ever made: the apex of their artistry. Beyond beautiful. A formalist's delight.
Then subsequently:
Hey: my CPU can't do DVD screen captures. Would someone be willing to grab some specific SLEEPING BEAUTY shots for me & help a blogger out?
Since I am in complete agreement about Disney's underrated, ethereal classic, and because it serves as the perfect bridge between my look at The Red Shoes (1948) and Inception (all three of which share similar concerns)... Tom and Mary, here is a look at Sleeping Beauty.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blu-ray Review: The Red Shoes (1948)

by Tony Dayoub

I've always gravitated to escapist cinema, whether the genre is horror, science fiction, the surreal, the western, or in this case, the musical. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes is definitely the ultimate movie about dance, ballet in particular. But as David Ehrenstein points out at the start of a brilliant essay included in Criterion's upcoming Blu-ray reissue of the film:
It is a kind of musical, a mainstream favorite, as well as a Technicolor spectacular. But musical generally comes as a hyphenate with comedy attached to it. The Red Shoes is drama.
It precedes the colorful MGM spectacles so prevalent throughout the fifties, directly inspiring An American in Paris (1951) for one. However, it is the psychodrama at the root of this fairy tale adaptation which gives the film its weight, both visually and subtextually.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Movie Review: Predators (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Midway through the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators, when we meet Laurence Fishburne's shell-shocked Noland, an Air Cav relic who's managed to survive through seven, no, make that ten hunting seasons in the alien game preserve Adrien Brody's group of cutthroats now find themselves in, that's when I knew I could trust director Nimrod Antal (Armored) to steer this popcorn movie to a satisfying conclusion. Looking as bloated and vacant as Colonel Kurtz did in his earlier film, Apocalypse Now (1979), Fishburne borrows some of Brando's emotional baggage to tell us volumes about Noland in the short space of time he is allowed to bring his pivotal cameo to life. Antal underscores the references in this scene as if to concede that yes, he could cite other, better-known movies with the proper potency if he chooses. But he lingers in this mode only long enough to prove it's not what he's after.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Seventies Cinema Revival: Brewster McCloud (1970)

by Tony Dayoub

You've got to love a movie in which The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch, Margaret Hamilton, stops the opening credits, which then only restart on her command. Robert Altman's anarchic trifle, Brewster McCloud makes its long awaited debut on DVD Tuesday, July 13th, in an improbably nifty looking edition from the manufactured-on-demand Warner Archive label. Long one of the holy grails of many DVD collectors (I addressed its absence from DVD way back in 2008), Warner does right by the film, remastering it to just about the best I expect this forty-year-old oddity to ever look.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009)

by Tony Dayoub

This time it's personal.

During the mid-eighties, at the height of the suspense genre in America, when audiences would develop an attachment to a star like Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson over a span of several movies in some series of crime thrillers, this seemingly ubiquitous tag line usually resided somewhere on the poster for the sequel, implying we were going to find out more about our hero's background in the sophomore movie since we enjoyed the character so much in the first. The truth is I can only find one real reference to this tag line in cinema, and that is for the fourth entry in the Jaws series, Jaws: The Revenge (but it felt widespread enough that Back to the Future Part II makes a small joke about it with a Jaws 19 poster that reads "This time it's really really personal"). A sequel starring large-scale central characters inevitably turns inward to examine its own protagonists, let the audience know what makes them tick. So it's not unexpected that The Girl Who Played with Fire would follow suit, justifying the use of such a tag line by turning its focus on the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander. The second part in this Swedish suspense trilogy digs deeper into the pierced, emo-looking, kickboxing, computer-hacking basket case so intriguingly played by Noomi Rapace in the earlier The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009). But does it find anything there to sustain our interest?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Movie Review: The Outrage (1964)

by Tony Dayoub

Martin Ritt's The Outrage is one of the more offbeat stabs Hollywood has taken at westernizing (both in the literal and the genre sense) a Kurosawa film. Like The Magnificent Seven (1960) before it, as well as the former's Italian contemporary, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the change of setting from feudal Japan to the Old West may seem at first glance to be the only difference in this almost scene-for-scene translation of the Japanese director's Rashomon. But Rashomon's focus on the perception of moral responsibility subtly shifts to a study of class hierarchy in this ambitious, more deliberately-paced, dreamlike western.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Movie Review: The Killer Inside Me (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

Filmed once before in the seventies with the more imposing Stacy Keach in the role, Michael Winterbottom's new version of Jim Thompson's novel, The Killer Inside Me, feels creepier because of the casting of the relatively slight and soft-spoken Casey Affleck as the sociopathic Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford. True, the vacant-eyed Affleck played a murderer pretty effectively before as Robert Ford (no relation) in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). That film's killer, a weak-willed worm with a serious case of hero envy, is driven by emotional problems which are quite easy to quantify. What distinguishes Lou Ford is the lack of emotion behind his congenial nature. This is the coldest nice guy in cinema since Martin Sheen's skinny Kit in Badlands (1973).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Catching Up at the Movies

by Tony Dayoub

I've been a bit remiss in writing about some of the theatrical releases I've seen, but given the overall quality of mainstream cinema this summer that's to be expected. Between all of the 3D fluff, "pre-sold property" dreck, and mediocre indies, there just hasn't been much worth writing about at the cinema (this weekend yields more promising movies here in Atlanta). But if only to share, here are some capsule reviews for a mixed bag of movies... and a small tribute, after the jump.