Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: April 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three (1989-1990)

by Tony Dayoub

Remastered in high definition, Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three arrives on Blu-ray today. This is the season when the fledgling revival of the 60s science fiction classic finally took flight, in fans eyes at least. The addition of showrunner Michael Piller seemed to elevate the quality of the storytelling. Piller's penchant for giving young writers a chance injected some new blood behind the scenes. But among the fascinating extras included in the new six-disc set are a panoply of featurettes focusing on the growing pains of the new writing staff that tell a different story.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blu-ray Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Best of Both Worlds" (1990)

by Tony Dayoub

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), the cerebral sequel series to the 60s science fiction classic, was just wrapping up its third season after an extended shakedown cruise when the behind-the-scenes tumult in the writer's room finally started to subside under the watchful aegis of new showrunner Michael Piller. Since taking over at the start of season 3 (reviewed here), Piller had completely overhauled the staff. He pushed out many still carrying grudges over bruises incurred in previous years in favor of new, relatively inexperienced writers (many of whom would one day go on to create their own notable sci-fi shows). The results were apparent onscreen. Many of the third season's episodes were among the franchise's best ever, shows like "The Offspring" and "Yesterday's Enterprise." (A review of Season 3's Blu-ray set is forthcoming.) But despite the new blood behind the scenes and a cast whose camaraderie offscreen was legendary, TNG still suffered from a noticeable stodginess.

Monday, April 22, 2013

TV Review: Top of the Lake Episodes 6 & 7: Die to Yourself

by Tony Dayoub

Top of the Lake wrapped up with a special 2-hour airing of its final two episodes last week. And you may be asking why it's taken so long for me to post a recap. I apologize, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to see the series finale before I speak about some of the show's revelations freely. More importantly, I wanted to re-watch Top of the Lake in its entirety in order to gain better perspective on what I discovered was its excellent, airtight construction. So if you haven't watched the series conclusion yet, read no further as this is the final spoiler warning I'll offer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Movie Review Briefs: The Lords of Salem, Trance and Bert Stern:Original Mad Man

by Tony Dayoub

One basic lesson filmmakers would be wise to learn is not to put their significant others in their movies. There are exceptions of course. Michael Powell was in love with Deborah Kerr, and yet they made two of their best films together, the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp before their breakup and Black Narcissus many years afterwards. But we're talking about Kerr, who could enchant anyone if she were simply reading the phone book, and Powell, who could film said reading and have us anticipating the next name to be read. None of the directors of the last three films I've seen come within miles of approximating Powell's talent, nor would they claim to. However, a particular kind of hubris can blind artists both high and low. With this group, it' fairly obvious that their movies would likely improve significantly if the relationship between them and their muse were... less intimate? Read on, and see if you agree.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blu-ray Picks for March-April 2013

by Tony Dayoub

Spring Break is over. My boys are back in school. So things should get back to normal around here in the lead up to the summer blockbuster season. In the meantime, here are just a handful of Blu-rays that stood out from the ones I watched over my hiatus. (All stills are taken directly from their source Blu-ray and can be enlarged if you click on them.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TV Review: Top of the Lake Episode 5

by Tony Dayoub

The Sundance Channel has wisely decided to wrap up Top of the Lake next week, airing its last two episodes on Monday night. Hopefully, this might stave off some of that Are-we-there-yet feeling which creeped into this week's episode. I've championed the series so far, despite criticism from some quarters that the mystery has been too drawn out. After all, the point is hardly the puzzle concerning the missing Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe). When pressed, I'm sure even the most naïve viewer could tell you beat for beat the way in which Top of the Lake's plot will unfold. What makes a show such as this so rewarding is the unique alchemy between the cast of characters populating Laketop, Paradise, and the police force investigating Tui's disappearance, which we find out in this episode occurred two months ago. Perhaps that story point explains why this episode felt so static, not just from a story standpoint but in terms of exploring the central characters.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Movie Review: Evil Dead (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

That's what I get for listening to you guys. Yeah, all of you bloggers filing out of the SXSW premiere of the Evil Dead remake declaring, "This time, they got it right," I'm looking at you. I know you weren't necessarily saying this time they got The Evil Dead right since Sam Raimi's 1981 film, though admittedly amateurish in its execution, is still about the most inventive first-time horror film this side of David Lynch's Eraserhead. I get that what you really meant is that 2013's Evil Dead does right by its predecessor in ways that the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and umpteen other recent horror remakes never have. Raimi himself produced the new Evil Dead along with Bruce Campbell, the cult actor who made his name with the series, so it's certain they'd shepherd their baby through the often callous reboot process. But with each successive film of his, it seems more and more apparent that Raimi is making financial decisions not artistic ones. How else to explain the blatant inferiority of the new Evil Dead?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert

by Tony Dayoub

There will always be those who love old movies. I meet teenagers who are astonishingly well-informed about the classics. But you are right that many moviegoers and video viewers say they do not "like" black and white films. In my opinion, they are cutting themselves off from much of the mystery and beauty of the movies.

Black and white is an artistic choice, a medium that has strengths and traditions, especially in its use of light and shadow. Moviegoers of course have the right to dislike b&w, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate.

I have been described as a snob on this issue. But snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude b&w from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.

--Roger Ebert's response to someone fearing the demise of black-and-white films

Rest in peace, Roger, without whom none of us would be here in quite the same way we are today.

More on Mr. Ebert at the newspaper he wrote for, the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

TV Review: Top of the Lake Episode 4 - Triggering History

by Tony Dayoub

A conventional noir begins to take shape in this week's episode of Top of the Lake. It's a hallmark of such detective thrillers that the very thing that makes their heroes strong enough to have unique insight into the central mystery is often their Achilles' heel. Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) seems less in control of than ensnared by the web of deceit surrounding pregnant 12-year-old Tui Mitcham's disappearance from the small town of Laketop. Al Parker (David Wenham) correctly diagnoses Robin when he judges her as too close to the case because of her personal history, specifically the rape she survived in her teenage years.