Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: March 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Movie Review: Noah (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

If I were to review a film simply for its ambition, then Noah would get some of my most positive praise. Director Darren Aronofsky offers some truly enlightening perspective on the story. He also continues to explore themes present in all of his work. His Noah (Russell Crowe) is a true believer whose fervent passion not only flirts with madness but is consumed by it. Then there are the visual touches that serve not only to illustrate the vaguest portion of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, but also double as a means of marrying our contemporary knowledge of evolution to the more fantastic element of creationism in a way that asserts one need not necessarily exist independently of the other. There is a lot to chew on in this new, grimmer take on Noah and the ark he built to save his family and the animal kingdom from a flood meant to blot out the men. But if I were only to grade a film on ambition then I'd have to ignore the problematic mistakes of other bold films that try tackling complex narratives—movies like The Bonfire of the Vanities, Dune, and Heaven's Gate—spectacles which fail spectacularly.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Movie Review: Sabotage (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Sabotage is a visceral (literally) new white-knuckler that often turns on some fairly surprising plot twists. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John "Breacher" Wharton, a legendary DEA agent who leads a squad of unruly undercover agents that also happen to be about the best there are at what they do. The nervy prologue shows us the team in action. Lizzy (Mireille Enos) has infiltrated a party at a drug lord's mansion pretending to be a hooker. Breacher makes the requisite macho joke to her husband "Monster" (Sam Worthington) about how she may be the one with the bigger balls. The rest of the roughneck crew—Grinder (Joe Manganiello), Neck (Josh Holloway), Pyro (Max Martini), and Sugar (Terrence Howard)—all have a laugh before they get to work breaking in after her to confiscate the cash. They funnel $10 million of it down into the sewer by way of a toilet filthier than the one in Trainspotting, burn the rest, and manage to exit with the loss of only one life. Which is to say, drug enforcement is the dirtiest of jobs, and it takes this type-A boys club and the kind of woman that can keep up with them to get it done. But before they can retrieve the cash and tag it for evidence, it's already gone missing. Someone on their team can't be trusted.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Movie Review: Le Week-End (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

Shot digitally by Nathalie Durand, Le Week-End is a cut above the usual romances directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill). The freedom offered by using a lighter, more mobile camera has also loosened Michell up creatively. It's no wonder Le Week-End reminded the director that there's a whole history of lighter, run-and-gun cinema that stretches at least as far back as the French New Wave.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

You want Divergent to be a better movie than it is, if only for its up-and-coming young star, Shailene Woodley. With its Twilight franchise gone and nearly forgotten, Summit Pictures has been grooming a couple of Young Adult novel adaptations as potential money-making successors. The first, Ender's Game, was a complex, male-oriented sci-fi war picture burdened by the troublesome politics of both it and its author. The second, Divergent, has the luxury of showcasing a new female star even more appealing than Jennifer Lawrence, the lead of its most successful rival, The Hunger Games. It's also helmed by possibly the most talented director a YA movie series has attracted yet, Neal Burger (The Illusionist). Even with all of these winning components in place, Divergent still feels half-baked.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Unless you're one of the multitude of Wes Anderson detractors—I lump these in with critics of directors like Tim Burton, the Coens and other filmmakers who mistake their unique, oddball aesthetics, clarity of vision, and consistency for laziness and a failure to evolve—then you probably subscribe to the idea that there are no bad Anderson films, just lesser ones. (This was sort of my answer to a recent poll inquiring about the best/worst Anderson films.) In fact, though I'm partial to The Royal Tenenbaums myself, The Grand Budapest Hotel might possibly be even better than that. It will take some time to fully grasp whether that's really the case or not. But it's really an argument of degrees, isn't it? This is to say that The Grand Budapest Hotel is a refinement of what Wes Anderson has always focused on in his films.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Time is a Flat Circle or: Haven't I Seen True Detective Before?

by Tony Dayoub

When True Detective promos started popping up on HBO months ahead of its debut, it was difficult to figure what it was all going to be about. About all one could dig up was that it was an 8-episode series, shot in Louisiana (employing a few of the actors of HBO's just-cancelled Treme), starring two well-established stars, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson—neither of whom were on the usual descending trajectory movie stars travel when they decide to move to television—with a title that evoked the pulpy aesthetic of the mystery magazine that ran for decades.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Movie Reviews: Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014) and The Lego Movie (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

With one unorthodox animated feature (discussed at the end of this post) capitalizing on parental nostalgia at the box office, it's expected that another more conventional one would try and do the same. And Mr. Peabody and Sherman is that... conventional. Admittedly, it is funny, with many of its jokes sailing over younger heads and right towards the hearts of their gen-x parents. But they aren't anywhere near as dryly hilarious as the one-liners which seemed to fly out a mile-a-minute in the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1959-1964).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Rainmaker or: A-Coppola-pse Now Redux

The Reinvention of Francis Ford Coppola

by Tony Dayoub

The whup-whup-whup sound of helicopters filled the Egyptian Ballroom at Atlanta's Fox Theatre Monday evening, as the opening strains of The Doors' "The End" played over the opening image of 1979's Apocalypse Now. More scenes from that film were followed by sequences from other films, from The Rain People (1969) to Tetro (2009) in random order, until it all built to the emotional crescendo of Michael Corleone closing the door on his wife Kay at the end of The Godfather. Then a door adjacent to the stage opened and out strolled out the filmmaker responsible for all of these films, Francis Ford Coppola.