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Rehabbing Tonto: THE LONE RANGER as Picaresque Tale

In steering "The Lone Ranger" away from the point of view of its hero, John Reid (Armie Hammer), to the first-person narrative of his Indian sidekick Tonto (Johnny Depp), the tired pulp story becomes a postmodern picaresque.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • July 9, 2013 8:35 AM
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  • 2 Comments

THE GAME (1997): Fincher Flips MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE on Its Head

Long unavailable (domestically) in a proper home edition, David Fincher's unsung puzzle thriller "The Game" finally gets its due this week thanks to Criterion's shiny new Blu-ray upgrade of their own 1998 laserdisc release.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • September 25, 2012 9:25 AM
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  • 0 Comments

The Assassination of Sterling Hayden by the Auteur Francis Coppola

This morning, I was pondering the mini-movie-marathon TCM will be dedicating to one of my favorite actors, Sterling Hayden, on his birthday, March 26th. The tall, Nordic-looking blond was often relegated to heading up B-Westerns and crime stories in the 40s and 50s,  like Arrow in the Dust and Suddenly, before finding a fan in director Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick first used Hayden in just that type of film, 1956's The Killing, an early genre piece that really didn’t set the box office on fire. Hayden's reputation didn't really begin to attain a certain stature until a few years later. By then, Stanley Kubrick had become Kubrick™, the reclusive, one-named auteur who’d buck the Hollywood establishment and direct Hayden in the slightly bent role of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). This atypical, blackly comic role helped Hayden get darker, pivotal roles from many of the top auteurs who'd come after Kubrick, as they ascended in the New Hollywood's director-led artistic revolution, filmmakers like Robert Altman (The Long Goodbye), Bernardo Bertolucci (1900) and most notably, Francis Coppola. It was then, while thinking of Hayden’s role in Coppola’s The Godfather, that something wild occurred to me.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • March 16, 2012 3:45 PM
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  • 5 Comments

TONY DAYOUB: The many faces of George Smiley

Though Gary Oldman came up empty at the BAFTAs this past weekend, he still stands a chance of being recognized at this year's Academy Awards for his career-best turn as graying spymaster George Smiley in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. This is Oldman's first nomination, and to my mind the most deserving of any of the performances cited in the Best Actor category this year. For Oldman – usually a kinetic and, at times, even bombastic performer – the role offered the challenge of playing a man accustomed to fading into the background. Projecting a face so passive it could almost be labeled a mask, Oldman allows a glimpse into Smiley’s inner life through his aqueous eyes, which betray volatility more in line with the rest of the actor’s notable roles.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • February 16, 2012 6:06 AM
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  • 0 Comments

TONY DAYOUB: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY is a worthy remake filled with lonely characters

The tall, athletic man introduced earlier in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as British Intelligence officer Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) walks into a classroom and begins to write his name on the chalkboard. Only he does not write the name we’ve come to know him by. The typically garrulous young males attending the tony prep school remain blissfully unaware of their new teacher’s identity as he starts handing out the class assignment. But the viewer is all too keenly aware of who Prideaux is if only for the fact that we saw him shot in the back at the start of Tomas Alfredson’s film adaptation of the John le Carré novel. Is this a flashback? Or did Prideaux somehow survive the shooting? Prideaux’s mild demeanor belies his efficiency, a fact his students become aware of when a bird trapped in the chimney suddenly flies into the classroom in confusion. Prideaux rapidly pulls out a club from his desk drawer and swats the bird down to the ground where it continues to squeal in pain. As Alfredson directs the camera to capture the students’ horrified reactions, the sound of Prideaux beating the bird to death comes from off-screen.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • December 9, 2011 12:35 PM
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  • 3 Comments

The Chicago Way: Crime Story back on DVD for its 25th Anniversary

On September 18, 1986, director Michael Mann (Heat) made good on his promising career in TV and film with the debut of his new period cops-and-robbers saga, Crime Story. Not only did Crime Story’s feature-quality production design live up to that of its TV antecedent, Mann’s stylish Miami Vice; Crime Story also fulfilled its aim to present a morally complex world in which it was often difficult to tell those who broke the law from those who upheld it. Set in 1963, the show explores the multiple facets of a young hood’s rise to power in the Chicago Mob through the viewpoints of its three protagonists. Ray Luca (Anthony Denison) is the pompadoured criminal quickly ascending the ranks of the “Outfit.” Lieutenant Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) is the cop in charge of Chicago’s Major Crime Unit (or MCU) who bends the law in the service of justice. And David Abrams (Stephen Lang) is the idealistic young lawyer caught between the two men and their obsessive cat-and-mouse game. Today, a little over 25 years since its premiere, Crime Story: The Complete Series (Image Entertainment) comes out on DVD. At press time, review copies were not made available, so it’s impossible to ascertain if any improvements have been made over the questionable video quality of previous iterations. But this short-lived series, an influential precursor to the well-written serials littered throughout cable this decade (i.e., The Sopranos, Mad Men, Justified, and others), is worth owning despite any potential issues with its digital transfer.
  • By Tony Dayoub
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  • November 15, 2011 7:15 PM
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  • 0 Comments

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