Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: June 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Magic Mike (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

Is there any actor out there whose skills as a performer have improved faster than Channing Tatum? Not since Tom Cruise went from pudgy hanger-on in The Outsiders to superstar in Risky Business has there been a slab of beefcake as underestimated as Tatum. While I all but wrote him off as the lead in 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I saw a glimmer of burgeoning talent when he played a dense but likeable hitman in Haywire and a mopey, outcast cop in this year's 21 Jump Street (just out on Blu-ray and DVD). In Steven Soderbergh's stripper drama, Magic Mike, Tatum carries a thin, vaguely familiar story to another level by sheer force of charisma, obliterating any thoughts that he is just a pretty boy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brave and the Rest of 2012's Kid Flicks

by Tony Dayoub

This past weekend's release of Brave is occasion enough for a recap of the year's kid-oriented movies—some fairly good, some bad. More on Brave and the rest, after the jump.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

If you're going to call your movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then it damn well better be as surreal as its title suggests. Therein lies the underlying defect of the film. In its attempt to concoct a clever spin on both horror movies and historical dramas, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter forgets that it is, or at least should be, just a goofy exercise. That screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (on whose novel the movie is based) takes the exercise so seriously—even if director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) seems incapable of doing so—actually robs the movie of any measure of credibility.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Patang (The Kite) (2012) and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

The lushness and spirituality characteristic of India has long been a source of inspiration for filmmakers. But with few exceptions, the sometimes reductive nature of cinema has proven ill equipped to capture the gorgeous country in all of its complexity. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire often come closer to depicting a squalor and cultural dissonance one could confuse with a type of neorealism but is in fact closer to a kind of "poverty porn." Two recent movies take up the challenge of illustrating contemporary India, and, though both are deeply flawed, it's not surprising that the one directed by an American of Indian descent comes closer to success.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

This weekend, if you want to see a movie about popular indigenous music, skip the ridiculous Rock of Ages. Instead, find out if Ice-T's new hip-hop documentary, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is playing in your local theater. Something from Nothing at once demystifies and mythifies its subject, padding its inquiry into the process of rapping (or more precisely, emceeing) with legendary tales of how some of the most notable names in hip-hop began their careers.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

Who would have thought that Prometheus, Ridley Scott's triumphant return to science fiction, is not necessarily designed to evoke the picture it shares the most connective tissue with? 1979's Alien, only Scott's second film, was a horrific variation on the traditional haunted house movie trope in which a small crew of seven miners slowly gets picked off by an indestructible monster in the outer reaches of space. Alien's grungy, shopworn technology, its motley crew of unlikeable and all too human antiheroes, and the emergence of the spaceship Nostromo's whiny, female second officer as the film's lead were among the movie's innovative twists, spicing up a once moribund genre. Eventually, Alien inspired so many copycats it all seemed kind of old hat again. While ostensibly a tangential prequel—explaining a few of the more mysterious elements of AlienPrometheus takes off on a different course, one especially familiar to those of us around in the '70s.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman and Turn Me On, Dammit! (Få meg på, for faen) (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

At times it soars and other times it just kind of lays there, but all in all, Snow White and the Huntsman is a great deal better than I had been led to believe. It comes down to whether you are the type of viewer who can forgive a film's flaws if its visuals are as stunning as this movie's are. This is the second film this year to update the Grimm fairy tale. But Snow White and the Huntsman is a darker retelling than this year's kiddie-oriented Mirror Mirror, a lot more frightful and intense. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Let Me In) and director Rupert Sanders (helming his first feature) run right at Snow White's derivative script, embracing its influences. However, it is unlike other films which wear their homages proudly on their sleeve, like, say, last year's Drive. That movie blatantly lifted from progenitors like Thief and The Driver to worse effect, highlighting its own inferiority if you will, while Snow White and the Huntsman improves on many of the concepts which inspired its production design.