Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: November 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a noticeable upgrade from the franchise's previous movie in nearly every way. The odd pacing of director Gary Ross's The Hunger Games often meant the inherent thrills of a premise involving arena games in a dystopic future often took a back seat to YA melodrama at the oddest of moments. The tacky otherness of this futuristic society's attire and florid names of its characters were made unintentionally distracting by Ross's inexperience directing what in essence is just a dressed-up action film. Successor Francis Lawrence (I am Legend) instantly proves a better fit as director, darkening up the visuals, accentuating the filthiness of the coal-mining District 12 that heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) hails from, concealing the flamboyance of the class-divided country Panem and its Capitol if not entirely burying it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

What is it like when you find out you've got less than a month to live? Is everything you see or hear a marker signifying the dwindling amount of time you have in the face of impending death? According to director Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club it just might be. The Canadian director's last film, Café de Flore, displayed a penchant for magical realism even in the context of profound grief, perhaps overly so. But Dallas Buyers Club tempers Vallée's predilection for the whimsical while still allowing him to indulge in some not inappropriate lyricism. Small details like the perfectly timed but tangential Billy "Crash" Craddock lyric "...he loves her so much he wants to die..." playing on a car radio or a bright, bold "30" on a blank calendar after doctors inform shitkickin' electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) of his terminal condition bolster the story of this irreverent antihero, on a quixotic quest to extend the lives of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS, including his own. But it's the sober, strong performances by McConaughey and costar Jared Leto that keep Dallas Buyers Club firmly anchored in reality.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

The superhero fan in me often gets excited about sequels because they aren't restricted by the initial film's overrated need to spell out their characters' origins. Though the first Thor took a bit of a drubbing by critics for this, director Kenneth Branagh actually did a really nice job of weaving in the dense Norse mythology and Marvel Comics lore into the god of thunder's introduction. It was the actual story on Earth and the romance between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) which was tedious. But considering the copious amount of world-building the sequel still has to do, Thor: The Dark World should really be called Thor: The Exposition Continues. In fact, The Dark World almost feels like a reintroduction, a Thor 1.5 rather than a Thor 2.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

Forget the external controversies regarding homophobic statements made by author Orson Scott Card, on whose novel the new science fiction film Ender's Game is based. The movie itself is problematic for a myriad of other reasons inherent to its source material. Ender's Game advocates fascism for a major portion of its nearly 2-hour running time. What makes this somewhat disturbing is the story's approach. It plays less like your usual Joseph Campbell-type hero narrative and more like a Young Adult novel with elements of authorial projection/wish-fulfillment fantasy. With most of its military characters being children played by children, it's not unlikely that kids are its target audience. This begs the question, is this the kind of deceptively benign space saga you'd want your kids exposed to?