Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: April 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!

A shortlist of the best Marvel films on DVD and Blu-ray

by Tony Dayoub


Once unable to get many of its most iconic characters on the big screen, its superheroes tied up in litigation due to some bad business decisions, Marvel Entertainment now thrives thanks to much of the education it reluctantly received in courtrooms. Its rival, DC Comics (publishing home of Superman and Batman), is stuck in a sort of stasis, unable to capitalize on a stable of comic book characters that are arguably better known than Marvel's. (Remember the Super Friends, aka the Justice League?) Perhaps DC is a victim of "synergy" with parent company Warner Brothers. The conglomerate's natural tendency to play it safe resulted in this summer's Green Lantern, a homogenous piece of hokum that stunk of test-marketing. Just this past summer, as the annual geek convention known as the San Diego Comic-Con was raging, Warner announced that the release of Zack Snyder's all-star Superman feature, The Man of Steel, would be delayed until 2013. Meanwhile, the canny Marvel Studios keeps drawing its licensed characters closer under the roof of its new parent company, the Walt Disney Company. Disney purchased the distribution rights for the remaining features in the Iron Man and Captain America franchises, as well as this week's Avengers film, an experiment in which multiple franchise stars like Thor and the Hulk will unite with the aforementioned heroes to form a powerful mega-team.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blu-ray Review: ¡Alambrista! (1977) and Conversation Piece (Gruppo di famiglia in un interno) (1974)

by Tony Dayoub


Let's look at a couple of April Blu-ray releases that should be of interest to those who read this blog. The first is the Criterion Collection's ¡Alambrista!, directed by Robert M. Young (Dominick & Eugene). Originally a documentarian, Young didn't move into narrative filmmaking until 1977 with this film on the undocumented Mexican immigrant experience. Using realist techniques like hand-held camera-work and recording ambient audio while eschewing manipulative music cues, Young places the viewer close to Roberto (Domingo Ambriz). ¡Alambrista! follows Roberto as he makes his way from Mexico to Stockton, California and beyond in hopes of making enough of a living to support his family.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Movie Review: Get the Gringo (2012)

by Tony Dayoub


After ending up in a crowded Mexican jail cell, one is likely to think things can't get much worse for the titular American in Get the Gringo—an unlucky wheel-man known only as Driver (Mel Gibson). But Driver's release into the general prison population of "el Pueblito" is kind of a mixed blessing. For Driver, a natural con man who mainly survives more by his wits than any feats of strength, the prison is rightly intimidating. But this underworld has a social structure all its own. In a quick and efficient montage, director Adrian Grunberg follows Driver as he gets the lay of the land, sizing up who's in power, who isn't and everybody in between. Driver's only hope for getting back to the U.S. is to learn the societal norms of "el Pueblito," so called because it is the size of a small town with, surprisingly, its own population of women and children living alongside the sleazier dregs of humanity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For the Love of Film: 3rd Annual Film Preservation Blogathon Returns Next Month

by Tony Dayoub


My dear friend, Farran Smith Nehme (a.k.a. the Self-Styled Siren), is again co-hosting the For the Love of Film blogathon, from May 13-18. This year, the blogathon's focus is on Alfred Hitchcock. In her words:
...one of the recurring motifs here at Self-Styled Siren is access--the continuing quest to see movies that remain frustratingly out of our reach. Our friends at the [National Film Preservation Foundation] know how we feel, truly they do. They have streamed a number of the rescued films on their website, at no charge. It's part of their commitment not only to film history, but to bringing that history to as wide an audience as possible.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Something Like the Truth

Six underrated films by master director Sidney Lumet

by Tony Dayoub


One [year] ago, cinema lost director Sidney Lumet, "a leading American realist," according to David Thomson in his essay, "The Fugitive Kind: When Sidney Went to Tennessee." Thomson describes Lumet as "a master of complex working situations, of limited time and space, of plot intrigue, of real-life settings and natural drama." I'd add that Lumet was fascinated by iconoclasts and how they confronted injustice. In movie after movie, his heroes often found themselves at odds with societal norms despite the fact that they tended to stick to a moral code that society had itself established. Whether it was Juror Number 8 (Henry Fonda) in 12 Angry Men, the eponymous cop (Al Pacino) of Serpico, or producer Max Schumacher (William Holden) in Network, the protagonist demanded fairness while ensconced in a corrupted system that had long ago abandoned the notion. One finds this recurring theme in some form or another in all of Lumet's films.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On Judas in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

by Tony Dayoub


The recent Criterion Blu-ray release of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ was occasion for me to revisit a film I hadn't seen since 1990. Back then, I was neither mature enough to comprehend the full weight of its ideas, nor was I well-versed enough in Biblical lore to truly appreciate why fundamentalists might consider the film radical. Nor was my knowledge of cinema as comprehensive as it is now to understand the movie's place among the lineage of Christ films which precede and follow it. In truth, I'm not sure that even a lifetime of exposure to any of these topics might provide any further insight into this mysterious film than I possess now. So rather than address the movie in the form of a typical review, I've decided to simply introduce some thoughts that struck me as I watched it, with the hope that any readers might want to discuss these (or their own thoughts) in the comments section below.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Blu-ray in Your Bonnet

An Easter parade of religious-themed movies on disc

by Tony Dayoub


The upswing in catalogue titles (meaning everything that is not a new theatrical release) finally making it onto Blu-ray may be one indicator of the improving economy. While Warner Home Video has been the least reluctant to wade into these less commercial waters, most of the other labels have heretofore neglected a considerable backlog of older, but significant, films. Late [in 2010], Paramount Home Entertainment, the stingiest of the labels in this regard, finally released a restored version of 1951’s The African Queen, which had been missing on home video since the days of VHS tapes (!). This was a sure sign that any of the oft-quoted “consumer obstacles” frequently blamed for such notable absences had become less important.