Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Movie Review: Thor (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

Shoving exposition into a summer blockbuster is quite a feat when it consists of years of mythology, both of the comic book kind and that of Norse folklore. In Thor, director Kenneth Branagh not only manages to accomplish both quite expertly, he also leaves room for the larger backstory of the interwoven Marvel films. Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet, and Much Ado About Nothing) is, not too surprisingly, a great fit at the helm of the latest Marvel Comic-inspired movie. At its core, Thor is a tale built of legendary battles, palace intrigue, and sibling rivalry on a grand Shakespearean scale.

William Campbell

by Tony Dayoub

Recommended Films - The High and the Mighty, Love Me Tender, The Naked and the Dead, Dementia 13, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Pretty Maids All in a Row

Recommended TV - Star Trek

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Criterion's Eccentric and Ignored

by Tony Dayoub

Three of April's Criterion releases feature strong central performances by actors portraying outsiders. All are directed by filmmakers with a distinct auteurial stamp (although the first one discussed wouldn't feel comfortable being categorized that way). And all are out in pristine transfers on Blu-ray (two of which are—at the time of this writing—on sale at Amazon for over 50% off; follow the links to purchase).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

Compared to the couple of adaptations I've seen in the past (neither of which I remember well enough to dwell on) the most recent Jane Eyre best captures the spooky dread of Charlotte Brontë's Gothic novel. Between the previous adaptations' focus on the title character's early feminism and the romance which attracts many of the book's most ardent fans, the first thing to usually go is the story's eerie atmosphere. Not in this film version, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Parade

by Tony Dayoub

In the spirit of Passover and Easter, here's an excerpt from my latest feature for Nomad Editions Wide Screen:
...Done right, the restored versions of classic films often look better, sharper, and truer to their original film elements than they may have ever looked before, particularly on something with the deep and wide visual range of a Blu-ray disc. More specifically, the movies that look best are the larger formatted blockbusters of the 1950s and ’60s — shot on CinemaScope, VistaVision and other rival formats to compete with the growing popularity of television.

Of these, the most popular and critically acclaimed were often the biblical epics. They had proven to be quite successful during the silent era, making the name of directors like the one most closely associated with the genre, Cecil B. DeMille. It was he who famously responded when asked why he liked to make such films, “Why should I let 2,000 years of publicity go to waste?” So when studios began developing large-scale films to compete with TV, the biblical epics were among the first to be mounted for production...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DVD Review: Square Grouper (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

When I was growing up in South Florida in the '70s and '80s, it seemed like—whether that person was on the law enforcement side, the criminal side, or often times straddling both—everyone knew someone who knew someone in the drug game. So I was familiar with the cocaine-fueled drug wars that played out on our streets, even if much of what I knew was a combination of hearsay, myth, and actual reportage. In 2006's mesmerizing Cocaine Cowboys and its 2008 sequel, documentarian Billy Corben exhaustively covered the story, talking to former dealers, smugglers, and cops about the reality behind the tales perpetuated by movies like Miami Vice and Scarface. Stories about Miami's marijuana trade were relatively less well-known. Corben remedies that with his pot triptych, Square Grouper. Though South Floridians are familiar with the titular term, most others who know it at all probably heard it in Cocaine Cowboys, where it was first uttered by smuggler Mickey Munday. There he used the street slang to describe bales of reefer found at sea after smugglers abandoned them while evading the law.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michael Sarrazin

by Tony Dayoub

"...[Michael] was very upset when he came offstage and everyone in the crowd was laughing. He thought they were laughing at him. They were laughing with him."
- producer Pierre Sarrazin on his brother's first high school play

Recommended Films - Journey to Shiloh, The Sweet Ride, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

Friday, April 15, 2011

Movie Review: Potiche (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

It's 1970s France and Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve) is content. Her husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) is the director of her late father's umbrella factory. He's having some trouble with striking workers, but that's okay because Robert avoids sharing his troubles with her. Instead, he dumps his problems on his secretary (and mistress), Nadège (Karin Viard). Daughter Joëlle (Judith Godrèche) belittles Suzanne for being a simple potiche—a trophy wife—confessing she is about to ask for a divorce from her own freeloading husband. And son Laurent (Jérémie Rénier) is a student still undecided about his plans for the future. No one is happy, least of all Suzanne, but she's content. Nobody's perfect, right? This is the way life should be. And at least she's happy enough that when she goes for a jog in the morning, the forest animals are attracted to her cheerfulness, surrounding her and serenading her with their soft chirps and purrs like they would Sleeping Beauty. Wait... say what?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Coterie

by Tony Dayoub

Let's play catch up with the Criterion Collection. Today, we look at the label's most recent releases, from March 15th on through this week. All are on Blu-ray, two are brand new to the collection, three are reissues, and the remaining two I profile in my regular DVD column over at Wide Screen, so I'll link to that at the end of the post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sidney Lumet

by Tony Dayoub

The first time I ever visited New York City, relatively recently in 2003, my very first impression was that I had finally found the place where I belong. There was an energy coursing through my veins as I climbed up the stairs of Penn Station and onto a noisy Eighth Avenue. I didn't need a map. I knew how to get around (admittedly, Manhattan's geography is fairly easy), and more than that, knew where the neighborhoods, even specific buildings, business establishments, and places of interest were located. My education had mostly come from all of the New York films directed by Sidney Lumet. "If a director comes in from California and doesn't know the city at all," he said, "he picks the Empire State Building and all the postcard shots, and that, of course, isn't the city." Lumet was arguably the finest filmmaker to have ever captured the feel of the city, beautiful in its griminess, alluring yet, at times, frustratingly deadly.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movie Review: Hanna (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

One online review compares Hanna, the new actioner by Joe Wright (Atonement), to the story of "Little Red Riding Hood," a rather facile analogy based on the appearance of a giant Big Bad Wolf's head at a Grimm's Fairy Tale-themed amusement park in the film. But one need only look at the film's eponymous albino heroine to see that the more apt analogy is to Grimm's "Snow White." Like in that story, a heroine must initially depend on the protection of a huntsman in order to evade an evil stepmother who plots to kill her. Where it differs is that the self-reliant Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) never needs a dashing prince to rush to her rescue. She, instead, capitalizes on the survivalist education imparted to her by a rogue spy, Erik Heller (Eric Bana), in order to outmaneuver her pursuer, Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), a lethal CIA operative who holds the key to Hanna's genesis.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fox in the First Person

by Tony Dayoub

When it comes to recent theatrical releases, it's becoming harder to critique their corresponding Blu-rays on a technical level. So much high definition digital work is done, either at the production or post production stages (or both), that by the time a home release rolls around a company has to almost deliberately botch a digital transfer in order to produce an inferior Blu-ray. Consequently, for this reason (among many others) I am most thrilled when exploring a Blu-ray for an older, pre-digital, theatrical release, one in which there is a lot more potential for failure or success based on the application of the various digital cleanup processes. Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that when I receive three Blu-rays from Fox Home Entertainment over the past month, 127 Hours, Black Swan and Love & Other Drugs, I can generally rest assured there's not much to complain about in terms of how they look or sound.