Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RIP Davy Jones

by Tony Dayoub


"Daddy's Song"(Harry Nilsson), performed by Davy Jones in Head (1968), directed by Bob Rafelson, choreographed by Toni Basil.

Monday, February 27, 2012

TV Review: Luck: Season 1, Episode 5

by Tony Dayoub


After the emotional high points reached in last week's installment of Luck, it's only natural that this week's episode, written by Scott Willson and directed by Brian Kirk, feels a bit like a come-down. But the seeming pause in the action allows for revelatory moments of introspection which will inform the plot developments that arise as the first season heads into its backstretch. Characteristic of such introspection is the opening shot, trained on a reflection of Ace (Dustin Hoffman) before reframing on the man himself. Using mirrors both literal and figurative, this episode reminds us that three of Luck's characters, Ace, Joey (Richard Kind), and Marcus (Kevin Dunn), each bluff their way through many of their personal dealings considering their hidden good nature.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Movie Review: Wanderlust (2012)

by Tony Dayoub


When recent coverage of the Judd Apatow/David Wain comedy Wanderlust turned to the age-old subject of whether Jennifer Aniston had gone topless in the movie, I was sure the comedy was a dud. After all, last time that subject came up, it turned out to be a last ditch publicity stunt to drum up a larger audience for Aniston's truly witless Horrible Bosses. This kind of fruitless bait-and-switch tactic (she keeps her shirt on in both films) is usually good for only a short-term bump; disappointed pervs start slamming a movie that much harder after failing to score a look at the actress's boobs. And for the more discerning of us, reliance on such promotions are a tip-off that a bad movie is desperate for attention, any kind of attention. Before Wanderlust started, one woman sitting behind me commented to her prudish friend, "I hope you're prepared for this. I hear it's got lots of nudity," a distracting disclaimer that's never encouraging. Happily, I can report that, though she was right, the ample nudity in Wanderlust is rightly played for laughs, and any temptation to shock audiences into submitting to the movie's charms by way of Aniston's breasts are largely ignored.

Monday, February 20, 2012

TV Review: Luck: Season 1, Episode 4

by Tony Dayoub


For the past few weeks, those unfamiliar with David Milch's style have probably been scratching their heads, wondering what, aside from the lush visual rubric established by Michael Mann, critics and fans see in Luck. As far as Milch shows go, Luck's characters, at least initially, are a good deal less likeable than, for instance, Dennis Franz's alcoholic, racist Andy Sipowicz was in Milch's NYPD Blue. Because the writer incorporates horse-racing terminology into his trademark stylized slang, Milch-speak as it's referred to, is made more impenetrable in Luck than it is in his period-accurate Deadwood—never mind the surfer-infused dialect of his failed John in Cincinnati. Tonight's revelatory episode, written by Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey and directed by Phillip Noyce, marks the turning point that should put any detractors' criticisms to rest.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Many Faces of George Smiley

by Tony Dayoub


Though Gary Oldman came up empty at the BAFTAs this past weekend, he still stands a slim chance of being recognized at the upcoming Academy Awards for his career-best turn as graying spymaster George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. His first nomination, it is perhaps the most deserved one of all the performances nominated for Best Actor this year. For Oldman – usually a kinetic and, at times, even bombastic performer – the role of Smiley offered the challenge of playing a spy accustomed to fading into the background. Projecting a facial expression so passive it could almost be labeled a mask, Oldman allows a glimpse into Smiley’s inner life through his aqueous eyes which betray volatility more in line with the rest of the actor’s notable roles. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about a Secret Service in which aging lonely spies fight for dominance in the landscape of the Cold War, a field of battle over which they long ago chose to sacrifice any kind of private lives. Oldman’s Smiley is, then, a perfect distillation of director Tomas Alfredson’s rethink of John le Carr√©’s 1974 novel. But Oldman is following in the footsteps of many famed British actors who’ve assayed the role before him. Sir Alec Guinness’ depiction of Smiley is the most well-known, but many will be surprised to discover there were others.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TV Review: Luck: Season 1, Episode 3

by Tony Dayoub


If I had to select one image that best represents the central theme of this week's episode of Luck, it would be a medium shot of Marcus (Kevin Dunn), Jerry (Jason Gedrick), Renzo (Ritchie Coster), and Lonnie (Ian Hart), all holding carrots while they stand, befuddled, in Turo's stall. The episode's director, Allen Coulter, is known for the menacing edge he brings to his other projects for HBO, like The Sopranos. But what's often ignored is his ability to leaven such dark material with a healthy dose of humanity, and this week, Bill Barich's script provides just the right opportunity for Coulter to display his talent in this respect. A good number of our main characters are closer to catching on to what Luck's horse trainers, old Walter (Nick Nolte) and Turo (John Ortiz), seem to know already: These horses aren't just lucky talismans; they also possess a purity of spirit that rehabilitates many of the show's jaded characters.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

DVD Review: Marlene Dietrich Directed by Josef von Sternberg

by Tony Dayoub


The collaboration between director Josef von Sternberg and his muse, Marlene Dietrich, is one of cinema's most fruitful. One can actually see Von Sternberg build the slight, tentative Dietrich from a starlet to a tempestuous, formidable screen icon over the course of seven films between 1930 and 1935. And neither artist would quite hit the career highs they did when they worked with each other. Von Sternberg would only be credited with eight more films before retiring in the late fifties. Dietrich would appear in many more, but her output was a relatively paltry one compared to actors of her day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

TV Review: Luck: Season 1, Episode 2

by Tony Dayoub


Last week, Luck's introductory episode concluded with an exhilarating race that ended badly. The horse that "bug boy" (named for the bug-like asterisk that follows the jockey's name in the racing forms, signifying his apprentice status) Leon rode was put down after its front legs broke. That tragedy still hangs over the main plot of this episode (unlike most shows, Luck isn't naming its episodes). But it also thrusts Leon into a kind of limbo reflective of all of the show's characters. It's in this episode where one is first able to grasp how the different permutations of fortune (good, bad, indifferent) have washed the show's ensemble ashore onto the pretty and slightly desolate beach that is Arcadia's Santa Anita Park.

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