Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Movie Review: At Middleton (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Opening today at Atlanta's Plaza Theatre, At Middleton has a whiff of vanity project as it concerns its star, Andy Garcia. The little seen Cuban American actor has long deserved stronger vehicles for his talent than the gangster parts he often plays in movies like those of the Ocean's series. But he's usually had to seek the kind of roles that can afford him a good stretch himself, which can often lead to a bit of blindness to the projects' flaws. At Middleton is just one of those films, an indie produced by Garcia that showcases his rarely seen understated side in a romantic comedy lensed and scored by frequent collaborators Emmanuel Kadosh (The Lost City) and Arturo Sandoval (For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story), respectively.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Best Movie of 2013: Inside Llewyn Davis

by Tony Dayoub

As I write this in a coffee shop, the wind chill outside makes it feel a number of degrees below 0°. That's chilly enough to remind me that I still haven't shared my thoughts on my favorite film this year, the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis. A musical that's not a musical, Inside Llewyn Davis is set in the kind-of-blue/kind-of-snowy, early 60s folk scene of Greenwich Village. And its eponymous protagonist is not a character you easily... pardon the pun... warm up to. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a talented singer-songwriter, and we know it not just because of his excellent performance of the traditional "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" that opens the film.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Movie Review: The Nut Job (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

You're looking for a family movie this long weekend, but you've seen Frozen one time too many. Or maybe you're just tired of taking in another awards contender and would prefer something light and fluffy. Either way, The Nut Job should do the trick. By no means an instant classic or even what I'd call a pretty solid film, The Nut Job is an animated heist comedy that occasionally surprises.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nominations for the 86th Academy Awards (and Brief Analysis)

by Tony Dayoub

The Dayoub household is under a flu quarantine of sorts, so it was hard to muster any kind of my usual enthusiasm for the Oscar nominations announcement this morning as I lay watching them from my sickbed. But here's the most complete list of nominees I could find. I'll chime in with my thoughts as necessary (in italics), primarily in the form of pointing out any major snubs. Highlighted in red are the nominees I'm rooting for, not my predictions. I know there are many who try to predict Oscar winners, but this way lies madness, in my humble opinion. Feel free to leave your thoughts or tell me who you're rooting for in the comments section.

Here's the list of nominees, all in all, not a bad one in this very competitive year:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blu-ray Review: Thief (1981)

by Tony Dayoub

"Lie to no one. If they're somebody close to you, you're gonna ruin it with a lie. And if they're a stranger, who the fuck are they you gotta lie to?" In Michael Mann's Thief, this advice from imprisoned master thief David "Okla" Bertinneau (Willie Nelson) is given to his protégé Frank (James Caan) from behind a glass separating the two during a visit at Joliet Correctional Center. And Frank not only heeds it; one could say he can't deviate from its straight, simple line for very long. A highline safecracker who only steals uncut gems, the "true blue" Frank is also quick to cut and run if his operation is endangered. He keeps any sort of attachments to a minimum because of how unguarded they make him to the men on both sides of the law who often come around extorting him for a taste of his action. It's a nihilistic defense mechanism Frank learned after a gang rape in prison left him so dejected that he realized he literally had nothing left to lose; his lack of vulnerabilities made him impervious to any further retribution.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movie Review: Lone Survivor (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

Adapted from the book of the same name, Lone Survivor is the story of US Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and SEAL Team 10's failed mission to apprehend a notorious Taliban leader nearly 10 years ago in Afghanistan. Only the most insensitive would lack any empathy for Luttrell and his fellow soldiers if the brutal ordeal they go through occurred as depicted onscreen. Discovered on a treacherous mountaintop by shepherd's loyal to the Taliban, they are soon surrounded by greater numbers and the film proceeds to show how they are mowed down over the course of the next 40 minutes. But only the most jingoistic would celebrate this punishing endurance test, as anything more than a kind of cruel Passion of Private Ryan.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Movie Review: Her (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

"Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It's like a socially acceptable form of insanity." That's Amy (Amy Adams), a close friend of Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) who is in the throes of what feels like a full-blown romance with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) in Her. Much like the viewer, Amy is essentially giving her approval to the strange love affair Theodore conducts with a disembodied voice, a variation on the long distance relationship that many of us in this age of globalization have experienced or are familiar with. It comes an hour deep into Spike Jonze's film, at a point when we've made peace with its science fiction-y premise, that Samantha is really an artificially intelligent operating system marketed as OS1. Amy speaks for us, the disconnected millions who have more Facebook friends than actual ones, keep up with their life events without ever having to reach out to them in person, go through entire cycles of relationships on dating sites like or eHarmony without ever having to leave our seat in front of a screen.