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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Columns By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVD: Red Riding Trilogy, Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Errol Flynn Adventures … and more

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW The Red Riding Trilogy (Four Stars) U.K.; Julian Jarrold/James Marsh/Anand Tucker, 2009 (IFC Films) Easily one of the most ambitious and best films of 2009 is writer Tony Grisoni‘s three part adaptation of David Peace’s Red Riding novels. This is noir times three, with the three films spanning a decade…

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DVD Wrap: 9th Company, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, Drive in Cult Classics, Squeal, Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire … and more

9th Company: Blu-ray It took several years before American filmmakers could get a sufficiently tight grip on the enormity of the Vietnam War to produce historically accurate and psychologically coherent portraits of our soldiers as they fought in it. Several anti-war documentaries had been released in the wake of the gradual pullout of U.S. forces,…

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DVD Geek: The Runaways

Not as tightly composed or as carefully devised as the most popular rock biography films, The Runaways, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, is nevertheless a satisfying production. It tells the story of one of the earliest all-female, hard rocking bands, which got started in the mid-Seventies with Joan Jett. Later, the band broke up and…

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Frenzy on the Wall: 10 Movies to See This Fall/Winter

I write this column every year. In fact, I write this column three times a year, with the changing of the movie seasons. The interesting thing about writing this particular column at this particular time in this particular year is: 1) this has been such an unfathomably terrible year at the movies that the fall…

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Voynaristic Review: Takers

Takers won’t win any awards or set a new watermark for spectactular heist films, but for what it is — a rather generic heist film with a mostly decent ensemble cast and one very good performance by Matt Dillon — it’s mostly harmless. If you’re a particularly passionate fan of any of the ensemble cast,…

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Voynaristic Review: The Last Exorcism

Up until about the last eight or so minutes, I was really into The Last Exorcism. Then it all fell apart at the end, but in a way that was actually kind of interesting to dissect. Director Daniel Stamm, who previously made suicide mockumentary A Necessary Death, uses a similar style here, in an interesting…

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Wilmington on Movies: Flipped, Takers, Vampires Suck and Centurions

For the past few years, I’ve been looking, yearning even, for a few American studio movies that would make me feel the way I sometimes did as a movie-going kid: searching for smart, realistic dramas or thrillers or comedies (or comedy-dramas), good solid movies that had the warmth, sensibility and humanity of the classics of…

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Vincent Cassel on His Portrait of a Gangster

In gangster circles, here and abroad, there are three sure ways for a criminal to know he’s made the Big Time: 1) his mug shot is on display in post offices across the nation; 2) the cops and media have honored his nefarious achievements by giving him a cool nickname; and 3) he’s been awarded…

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Arthouse Redux: Claire Denis: A Little Restraint Goes a Long Way

There are filmmakers who use their medium purely to entertain, or to preach a particular message, or to guide their audience down the path of a particular story, tightly controlling and manipulating their audience’s reactions to what’s on the screen: milking the laughs, exagerrating the conflicts, torquing up both the actions and the reactions of…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Me and Orson Welles, Ajami, Mona Lisa, Elvis 75th Birthday Collection, and more …

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW Me and Orson Welles (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; Richard Linklater, 2009 (Warner/Target) In Me and Orson Welles, Richard Linklater, a director whose films I usually like, takes on a highly ambitious subject that really, really appeals to me — a portrayal of the astonishing youthful theatrical triumphs of…

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The DVD Wrap: City Island, The Back-Up Plan, $5 a Day, Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, The Square, Abandoned and more …

City Island: Blu-ray If Leo Tolstoy had written Anna Karenina in the 1970s, instead of the 1870s, and as a screenplay, instead of a novel, it might have begun thusly, “Happy families are all alike; every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way.” Or to put it another way, “Happy families belong in TV…

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Is Angelina Jolie the First Female Action Hero?

I finally caught up with Salt this weekend and I’m surprised it’s gotten a pass from most of the critical community (61% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s not that it’s an awful movie, but it’s certainly not a very good one. In fact, it’s a ridiculous and outlandish film that feels twenty minutes too long…

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Wilmington on Movies: Nanny McPhee Returns, Mao’s Last Dancer, Eat Pray Love and Lottery Ticket

Nanny McPhee Returns (Three Stars) U.S.; Susanna White, 2010 I love Emma Thompson, even snaggle-toothed and warty. And this Thompson-written, Thompson-starring way-beyond-Mary-Poppins WW2-era film of the Matilda books of Christianna Brand — who also wrote that wonderful WW2-set thriller Green for Danger (which became one of Alistair Sim‘s finest hours) — is a little loud,…

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The DVD Wrap: Date Night, The Joneses, Triage, Helen, Multiple Sarcasms and more …

Date Night In anticipation of Date Night, some longtime fans of Tina Fey and Steve Carell might have wondered if the Second City alums and NBC sitcom stars would be more credible playing siblings, instead of husband and wife. While no one could confuse them for identical twins, they share a lot of creative DNA….

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The DVD Wrap: Furry Vengeance, The Last Song, Orlando, Skellig: The Owl Man, L’enfance Nue and more …

Furry Vengeance: Blu-ray As much as I would enjoy seeing Brendan Fraser stretch beyond what’s required to meet the minimum standards of today’s kiddie comedies and adventure epics, it’s tough to begrudge an actor an opportunity to make another few millions of dollars. Fraser was so good in the role of an amoral CIA agent…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The City of Your Final Destination, Black Orpheus, Hamlet, The Last Song, and more …

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW The City of Your Final Destination (Three and a Half Stars) U.K.-U.S.; James Ivory, 2009 (Screen Media) In The City of Your Final Destination — maybe the last of the lovably old-fashioned, classically constructed, deeply literate and beautifully wrought Merchant Ivory films, in the string that began back in 1963…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

PICK OF THE WEEK: Blu-Ray The Magnificent Seven (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; John Sturges, 1960 (MGM) Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 battle epic, Seven Samurai was originally distributed in the U.S. under the title The Magnificent Seven. So that’s the title MGM used when John Sturges made the seemingly inevitable Western remake — in…

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Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: Less Than Perfect, But That’s Okay

I hate to repeat the beginning of my Inception column, but Scott Pilgrim Vs the World is neither the best nor the worst movie ever. What is it about us as a culture these days? It seems like every film, album, painting, ballet, etc. has to be categorized as either “amazing” or “terrible.” Art runs…

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MW on Movies: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and The Expendables

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Three Stars) U.S.; Edgar Wright, 2010 Oh, to be a kid again. To feel the juices running madly, to get wildly excited about comic books and top ten hit-lists and about the last good new teen movie you saw (the canon from A Hard Day’s Night to Superbad) and maybe even a (No!…

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Cop Out

Kevin Smith constructs an epic picture-in-picture commentary on the Warner Home Video Blu-ray release of Cop Out, stretching the 107-minute film to 175 minutes with asides, deleted scenes, outtakes and so on. At times, he not only delivers his spiel for the film, but he doubles or even triples his image to talk to himself about…

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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