Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: August 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TV Review: Houdini (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Houdini begins with master escape artist Harry Houdini (Adrien Brody) in chains, plunging into a frozen river from St. Louis's Eads Bridge. It's a representative flashpoint the miniseries will go back to at the end of its first half and at the start of its second. In between, Uli Edel's miniseries scrutinizes the enigmatic Houdini's personal life more than previous projects. Using the framework of a relatively obscure book, Houdini: A Mind in Chains - A Psychoanalytic Portrait, it tries to explain some of what actually motivated the man.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Richard Attenborough

by Tony Dayoub

...the cost of promoting movies, the advertising and promotion of a movie, the budget is almost as large as the cost of the movie. And these huge blockbusters that you see have tens and hundreds of millions of pounds and dollars spent promoting them. And if you don't have something which they believe will reach an enormous audience, then they won't go for it.
- Sir Richard Attenborough, actor-director and a potent behind-the-scenes force in bringing less marketable British films to the forefront

As expected, Variety has posted a couple of nice tributes to Sir Richard Attenborough, an important British film industry figure. But for those Americans who only know him as POW leader Roger Bartlett in The Great Escape, kind old industrialist John Hammond of the Jurassic Park films, or the director of 1982's Gandhi, let me offer a couple of suggestions that might enlarge your appreciation of the actor-director.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Courtesy of SLIFR: Professor Dewey Finn's Ostentatiously Odd, Scholastically Scattershot Back-to-School (of Rock?) Movie Quiz

by Tony Dayoub

And now for another elucidating exam by that spectacular cinephile, Dennis Cozzalio, up since August 15th at his wonderful blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Visit his site to post your answers. My answers appear after the jump.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie Review: Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Less dense than its already thin predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For feels like a vast improvement nonetheless. Almost a decade ago, Sin City seemed almost revolutionary in the way it capitalized on then innovative digital technology that allowed directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller to shoot their movie on virtual, green-screen sets. Based on Miller's own graphic novel series, the film carried a certain irony. It was a black-and-white film noir homage with a stripped down, DIY sensibility despite hosting a cast of hip actors and utilizing cutting edge filmmaking techniques.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Movie Review: Calvary (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Both film noir and philosophical exploration of the current state of Catholicism, Calvary is curiously resonant in spite of, or maybe because of, its fusion of widely discordant elements. Reflecting its fractured nature, Calvary could be said to work as either a black comedy or a grim drama, a character study with a definitive central performance by Brendan Gleeson as Father James or an ensemble piece featuring the eclectic cast of oddballs that make up his congregation. Whatever the case, it is quite powerful in all respects, setting out to delineate the beleaguered priest and his not so loyal flock through a passion story of a sort, propelled by an arresting opening scene.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Movie Review: Land Ho! (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

While it hasn't been too hot a summer around most of the U.S., a bracing dose of clean, icy winds might still do you some good. The Icelandic road comedy Land Ho! is just the kind of small indie ready to usher them in. In just about every way, it is the antithesis of the majority of films currently playing in theaters. It stars two relative unknowns, Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn as Mitch and Colin, two ex-brothers-in-law on a journey through Iceland's beautifully austere countryside. That's it. No explosions. No chase scenes. No sexual situations... save for Mitch's incredibly raunchy jokes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Movie Review: The Expendables 3

by Tony Dayoub

Anyone looking for The Expendables 3 to provide summer's final hurrah at the box office might want to look elsewhere. Where the first Expendables played like a shaggy, small-scale reprieve from career oblivion for former action stars Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Jet Li, this one feels like it's lining up the burial plots. Where the second and best film in the series raised the stakes by bringing in Jean-Claude Van Damme as its villain and Chuck Norris as comic relief, The Expendables 3 overplays its hand amassing a cast of has-beens and future never-will-bes of such an unwieldy size that few get a chance at making any kind of impression.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

RIP Lauren Bacall

by Tony Dayoub

"I remember my oldest son, Steve, saying to me once, 'I don't ever remember seeing you with an apron on.' And I thought, 'That's right, honey, you did not.' That was his concept of what a mother should be."
- the once shy, quiet Betty Joan Perske, who made her mark in the world as the hard-talking, politically active, outspoken, alluring actress, Lauren Bacall

Recommended Films - The Big Sleep, Harper, Murder on the Orient Express, Misery, Dogville, Birth

And an even better list of titles I haven't seen but should - To Have and Have Not, Dark Passage, Key Largo, Young Man with a Horn, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Cobweb, Written on the Wind, Designing Woman, Sex and the Single Girl, The Shootist, The Fan, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Manderlay, The Walker

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

by Tony Dayoub

"If you watch it backwards, it has a plot."
- Robin Williams describing 1980's Popeye and, in
retrospect, a profoundly revelatory description of his own life.

Robin Williams made me laugh since I was a kid. The first time I saw him he appeared as Mork from Ork on Happy Days. How or why an alien would ever even cameo on an otherwise fairly realistic nostalgia show set in Eisenhower's 50s never even crossed my mind because Williams' rat-a-tat-tat style of humor was so absurd, so surprising and, of course, so hilarious, that it didn't really matter. The shock of seeing his brand of edgy, improvisational humor on a family-oriented network sitcom felt akin to someone throwing a confetti bomb into a crowded theater. It's an explosive prank that is ultimately harmless. But it was memorable... and powerful enough to get Williams his own TV show, Mork and Mindy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Movie Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Neither the lush, poetic expression of everything its target audience of foodies and mature movie-lovers might hope for nor the cloying, overripe romance other critics accuse it of resembling as they all gleefully pile on, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a pleasant diversion from the excess provided by the usual summer blockbusters. That our screening was preceded by a taped message from producers Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey hinting how much they want you to really, really like it, signaled that the movie would try very hard to be inoffensive, a kind of paradox if you think about it. The selection of Lasse Hallström as director, the man behind such vanilla fare as Chocolat and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, all but underscores that the movie will be devoid of surprises. Predictable as it might be, though, The Hundred-Foot Journey does possess some charm, emanating mostly from its offbeat cast and its surprisingly frank approach to racism in the otherwise alluring French countryside.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Nearly every instance of a Guardians of the Galaxy trailer shown for the past six months at multiplexes nationwide is immediately followed by the same whispers. "Who are those guys?" "Have you ever heard of these superheroes?" "Are they related to the Avengers?" Don't beat yourself up if you've never heard of the Guardians. Even the most diehard geek only has a passing familiarity with these characters. Marvel Studios, well aware of this, takes this as an opportunity to cut itself loose from comic book continuity, giving director James Gunn a considerable amount of creative license to come up with a bouncy, hilarious bauble, an almost $200 million near-throwaway that also happens to be one of the best cinematic adventures of the year.