Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Movie Review: Drive Angry (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

It's extremely rare for me to go into a movie and have next to no idea what it's about. It's kind of fun, actually. It makes me realize how many plot points are given away by today's trailers; often to the film's detriment I should add. So the only thing I knew about Drive Angry going into it was what I had seen on the poster at a quick glance: Nicolas Cage, hot "girl du jour," fast cars. It looks like a fun, shallow riff on Gone in Sixty Seconds, I thought. Whoa, was I wrong! Watching the trailer post-movie confirmed what I suspected; anyone going into Drive Angry after seeing its preview can't possibly be surprised by any of its plot machinations, which is sad, really.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Who Are you Wearing Tonight?"

by Tony Dayoub

...that's what everyone wants to know because, let's face it. This year's Oscar recipients are a fairly foregone conclusion. Sure, The King's Speech and The Social Network are in pretty close competition for the top prizes. But I'm sure once we are about 30 minutes into tomorrow night's Academy Awards Show, we'll be able to tell which way the wind is blowing and for who. Still, this year's Golden Globes show was quite a surprise, and though I'm fairly certain the more tightly controlled Oscar ceremony won't go that far, wouldn't you like to be watching if it does? And wouldn't you like to be sharing your thoughts (snarky or not) whichever way the show turns out?

Join in tomorrow evening on Twitter where me and every other film blogger will be live-tweeting the Oscar show. I'll be on (you can follow me here) as soon as ABC's Red Carpet show starts at 7pm EST. I'll be popping the leftover champagne (TWO full bottles) from New Year's so who knows what I might say?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Need to Catch Up on 2011's Oscar Nominees?

by Tony Dayoub

The Academy Awards show is this Sunday. If you had trouble getting to the theater in time to see some of the Oscar nominees which came out in 2010, I discuss some of them in the new Wide Screen digital weekly. The three I select are recommended highly not just for the high quality picture and sound which any home theater owner would be proud to showcase to their friends; I also pick them for their bountiful special features, sure to inform you of why they are among 2010's frontrunners for best picture. But is that the only reason their respective DVD/Blu-ray's are bursting with extras?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

DVD Review: Warner Archive is Too Big to Contain Here

by Tony Dayoub

The Warner Archive Collection continues to impress with the breadth and depth of movies they release using their made-to-order (MOD) model. It's also fascinating the way they market these DVDs—tying them to holidays, anniversaries, and the like—with relative ease because of their decision to keep increasing their library (as of this writing, 818 titles and counting) at the rapid rate of 5 - 10 releases A WEEK.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Kansas City Confidential (1952)

by Tony Dayoub

And now, for an almost ran... I almost contemplated running a review of the wickedly clever Kansas City Confidential, out on Blu-ray this week, for the Film Noir Preservation Blogathon (see my previous post), sort of "kill two birds with one stone" kind of thinking since I was obligated to write about a review copy anyway. When I suggested it to an editor of mine at another publication—before having watched it for myself, mind you—the guy almost strung me up by my you-can-guess-what. And rightfully so. The quality of this Blu-ray issue from a company called Film Chest is highly questionable, despite being labelled an "Essential" disc by another respected publication I've written for (which also gets it wrong in stating it's a Region 1 disc; it's actually Region 0). True, the film itself is unquestionably essential. Not only is it a perfectly executed example of the web-of-deception-closing-in-on-itself trope so often found in the best films noir; it is an outstanding example of director Phil Karlson's brutal stylings; it's a fine showcase for thuggish character actors like Neville Brand (Birdman of Alcatraz), Jack Elam (Once Upon a Time in the West) and Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly); and it has historical interest due to its obvious influence on Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992).

Monday, February 14, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir) - Mystery Street (1950)

by Tony Dayoub

This is a contribution to For the Love of Film (Noir): The Film Preservation Blogathon being led by Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy on Films and the Self-Styled Siren, Farran Smith Nehme, with assistance by Greg Ferrara of Cinema Styles.

John Sturges' Mystery Street is often cited as more of a police procedural than a straight film noir. But because of my own Hispanic background I feel particularly attuned to why this is an oversimplification. It's the unusual choice of a Latino for the lead that firmly ensconces the movie in the realm of noir. Mexican actor Ricardo Montalbán plays Boston police lieutenant Pete Morales, a compelling hero who seemingly plays by the book. In some distinct ways, though, he is as much of an outsider as your typical noir hero, marginalized by institutional racism both external and internal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Alice in Wonderland (1951) at Nomad Editions: Wide Screen

by Tony Dayoub

Sometimes the two hats one wears can be at rather stark odds with each other. In the case of Disney animated films, being a cinephile and being a parent of very young children can provide some interesting counterpoints. The 60th-anniversary edition of Alice in Wonderland (1951), released in a high-def Blu-ray/DVD combo pack for the first time last week, proves to be a great example. On the one hand, the inclusion of rather superfluous features for the kiddies can seem like a space-waster, even given the volume of memory available on a Blu-ray disc. But on the other hand, the film’s brilliant transfer provides a glorious demonstration of the heights that a dedicated DVD production team can reach with not just a relatively old film but the now-dying art of hand-drawn animation.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Free Streaming of Secret Service of the Air (1939)

by Tony Dayoub

Some news for fans of the Gipper in honor of his centennial tomorrow. It's one of the few times this arch-conservative would make an appearance on this site (hey, he's the only president to ever serve as president of a labor union... surprising, eh?). But I've been watching a preview copy of the Brass Bancroft series for an upcoming review and enjoying it quite a lot. Maybe some of you readers will want to check this out in anticipation of said review.

From a press release:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

RIP Maria Schneider

by Tony Dayoub

"Maria Schneider’s freshness—Jeanne’s ingenuous corrupt innocence—gives [Last Tango in Paris] a special radiance. When she lifts her wedding dress to her waist, smiling coquettishly as she exposes her pubic hair, she’s in a great film tradition of irresistibly naughty girls. She has a movie face—open to the camera, and yet no more concerned about it than a plant or a kitten. When she speaks English, she sounds like Leslie Caron in An American in Paris, and she often looks like a plump cheeked Jane Fonda in her Barbarella days. The role is said to have been conceived for Dominique Sanda, who couldn’t play it, because she was pregnant, but surely it has been reconceived. With Sanda, a tigress, this sexual battle might have ended in a draw. But the pliable, softly unprincipled Jeanne of Maria Schneider must be the winner: it is the soft ones who defeat men and walk away, consciencelessly. A Strindberg heroine would still be in that flat, battling, or in another flat, battling. But Jeanne is like the adorably sensual bitch-heroines of French films of the twenties and thirties—both shallow and wise. These girls know how to take care of themselves; they know who No. 1 is. Brando’s Paul, the essentially naive outsider, the romantic, is no match for a French bourgeois girl."

- Pauline Kael
Last Tango in Paris review, The New Yorker, October 28, 1972

Recommended Films - Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Underrated: Constance Towers

by Tony Dayoub

A stunning blond prostitute is engaged in a fight with her procurer, what we'd call a pimp nowadays. She slaps him about with her handbag, as he, half-drunk, staggers backwards with each blow to his face. The scene unfolds in a series of alternating point-of-view shots, the camera (and by extension, the viewer) by turns leering at the scumbag and knocked around by the hooker's purse. Then, something shocking occurs. In all the commotion, this woman flips her wig... literally. Her hair falls to the ground leaving a bald snarling Fury in the woman's place, any measure of civility that may have existed quickly vanishing from her as she finally brings the pimp down to the floor. Straddling him, she takes money owed to her—and no more—from the groaning worm. She stands, looks straight into the camera as she dons her wig again, and straightens it forcefully as the film's title card flashes onscreen: The Naked Kiss (1964).