Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wide Screen's Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor

by Tony Dayoub

Film lovers and readers of this blog may be interested in checking out this week's issue of Wide Screen. It's an all-Liz Taylor edition, a tribute to the superstar put together pretty quickly by our illustrious editor, Glenn Kenny, chief critic for MSN Movies. In this issue you'll find an auteurist's observations on Taylor's career by Kenny; a lovely remembrance by Farran Smith Nehme, The Self-Styled Siren; two galleries containing rare photos of the actress; Vadim Rizov's usual look at the media, in this case comparing its farewells to La Liz; and a survey of the actress's best films on DVD by yours truly. All of this, plus Simon Abrams's latest on this week's theatrical releases.

If you haven't yet signed up for the month-long free trial, I can't think of a better issue to start with.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farley Granger

by Tony Dayoub

Handsome and stiff-jawed, it was easy to mistake him for a traditional leading man at first glance. But a few minutes spent with him and a quiet uncertainty in his features would quickly give way to anxious desperation. That was why Farley Granger was often cast as someone with something to hide. Alfred Hitchcock took advantage of that in two of his films, so did Nicholas Ray, and Italy's Luchino Visconti. In Granger's best period, a short span of time from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, each director pushed the suave acting neophyte to subvert his angular features to the point where they seemed brittle, exposing a fragility which often told the viewer everything one needed to know about his character.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MIA since Out of Sight: Jennifer Lopez, Actress

by Tony Dayoub

Where is the actress who worked with Francis Ford Coppola, Bob Rafelson, and Oliver Stone, and seemed on the verge of something greater as US Marshal Karen Sisco in Steven Soderbergh's Elmore Leonard adaptation? March's Blu-ray release of Out of Sight (1998) is occasion for me to lament the disappearance of bright, rising star Jennifer Lopez (replaced full-time by pop star, J.Lo) from any challenging dramas.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

by Tony Dayoub

"Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye."
-Elizabeth Taylor as Angela Vickers in A Place in the Sun (1951)

One of cinema's most iconic stars is gone. Certainly there has never been an actor who had gained as much attention for her personal life as she had for her work like Elizabeth Taylor. Married eight times, twice to the volatile love of her life, actor Richard Burton, Taylor seemed to weather scandal easily. She had been in the public eye since childhood, when she starred in such movies as Lassie Come Home (1943) and National Velvet (1944). Perhaps it was the casual way she managed the lifelong attention she received from the press that helped her comfort damaged souls like Montgomery Clift and Michael Jackson, close friends of hers, through their own public trials and tribulations. Since many of the countless tributes yet to be seen in the next few days will focus on her personal life, I'd like to talk about several of her roles which have shone brightest for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Movie Review: Limitless (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

If a film's protagonist is supposed to be the smartest person in the world and the viewer is often one step ahead of him then something must be wrong with the movie. And so it is with the flawed Limitless, a cautionary bit of sci-fi addressing what could go wrong if an average man suddenly finds a means to becoming a super-intellectual for 24 hours at a time, provided he continues to take a "magic" pill. Even the casual moviegoer can figure the way most of the movie's situations will turn out without furrowing their brow too much.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Guess Why Young Lucille Bluth Is So Happy?

by Tony Dayoub

Jessica Walter in The Group (1966)

No, it's not because there is definitive word of an Arrested Development theatrical release.  And that isn't really Lucille, just the fetching young Jessica Walter, at the start of her career, playing the catty Libby in Sidney Lumet's The Group. It is one of nine discs I look at this week at Wide Screen in a brief consumer guide on all of the made-on-demand (MOD) collections sprouting up everywhere. I've been frustrated at the lack of information available comparing the quality of the various MOD lines (outside of the widely promoted Warner Archive). So I took it upon myself to create a central repository in which to discuss which collections give you the most bang for your buck, have the most interesting selections, and look and sound the best. I even throw links to sites where you can purchase discs from each of the lines (you can find those at the back of the issue). Now, you have a practical reason to start your free trial subscription.

Comment here on what you liked, anything I missed, or what I could have done better.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

Red Riding Hood, Catherine Hardwicke's uninspired take on the traditional werewolf tale (by way of the Brothers Grimm and Twilight) reminds me of those Syfy Original Movies which play round the clock on Saturdays. They are usually designed to capitalize on something familiar, like the recent Tin Man miniseries, a sci-fi twist on The Wizard of Oz. Their cast is usually an odd mix of fresh faces, has-beens, and character actors culled from Syfy's own original series. And the movies are often set in one barely adequate-looking studio set made to look even cheaper by the inclusion of horrible CGI effects work.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Excalibur: 30 Years Later, at Nomad Editions Wide Screen

by Tony Dayoub

"...Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha. Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha..."
- Merlin, reciting the charm of making

Today, I discuss one of my personal all-time favorites, John Boorman's Excalibur (1981) over at Wide Screen. It's a film I never get tired of watching, and the gorgeous new HD transfer on this week's Blu-ray release ensures all will enjoy it for years to come.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Movie Review: Rango (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

You know what's the best feeling for a moviegoer? Going to the multiplex with average to low expectations about a movie only to be greatly surprised by how much you enjoyed it. Though the buzz was starting to get around that the animated western Rango was the first great film of 2011, I still went into it with some trepidation. Animated movies seem to touch the heart of even the most stone-faced critics who often seem to give such pictures a pass simply for displaying a modicum of visual originality (I'm thinking of such mediocrity as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Despicable Me, Megamind, etc.). But with a glut of animation beginning to hit theaters as each studio tries to get into the game, it is harder and harder to predict which will be memorable and which won't be. I'm happy to report Rango exceeds expectations.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Three Women on the Verge...

by Tony Dayoub

Three recent Criterion Blu-ray releases—two new to the label, one reissue—focus on female protagonists on the cusp of change. For one, a mature woman of some importance, this change shakes her most fundamental beliefs, allowing her a brief moment of happiness before ending with a gradual descent into madness. For another, it is the beginning of an attunement to her spiritual life, and her connection to another woman hundreds of miles away. And for the youngest woman, trying to make the best out of her dismal surroundings, any change can only be a positive one.

Roman Polanski Blogathon Announced

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nicholas Ray's Run for Cover (1955) at Nomad Editions Wide Screen

by Tony Dayoub

Continuing my exploration of Nicholas Ray's films (which began last year), today I tackle the extremely hard-to-find Run for Cover, which stars James Cagney, John Derek, Viveca Lindfors, and he of the eponymous Academy Award for humanitarianism, Jean Hersholt. Peculiarly, I do this from my regular perch at Wide Screen's DVD column. I say "peculiarly" because this film is not yet available on DVD. But I hope to call attention to why it (as well as many other Ray movies I'll discuss here at Cinema Viewfinder in the future) deserves to be released on DVD.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RIP Jane Russell

by Tony Dayoub

"Culture is the ability to describe Jane Russell without moving your hands."

- Bob Hope

Recommended Films - The Outlaw, The Paleface, His Kind of Woman, Macao, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Hot Blood, Born Losers