MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Jersey Boys

Frankie Valli of Belleville, New Jersey had a voice that could melt a klieg light, hypnotize a hummingbird in full flight or just send shivers down your spine. You heard it — that inimitable nasal fire-alarm falsetto with its Jersey tinges and its wailing shrieks of passion and pseudo-teen horniness — and your own throat almost started aching in sympathy.

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Wilmington on Movies: A Million Ways to Die in the West

Hate to admit it, but I laughed fairly hard at parts of Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in The West, a sexed-up comedy Western with a foul-mouthed script and few inhibitions. Forgive me, John Ford. Forgive me, Howard Hawks. Forgive me, Sergio Leone. For that matter, forgive me, Mel Brooks.

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Wilmington on Movies: Neighbors

As they used to say in revolutionary France, or even in National Lampoon’s revolting Delta House, “Liberte, egalite, fraternite!“

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Wilmington on Movies: Bears

Three bears huddled on the snowy lopes of a vast white mountain as a raging avalanche crashes down alongside them. Fish fighting their way upstream in a glistening river, with one spunky salmon rising up from the spume and spray to nearly swat a waiting bear. A mama bear bravely standing between her two threatened cubs and a renegade clanless bear who circles and circles and wants to make a meal of them.

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Wilmington on Movies: 2014 COLCOA Film Festival — Truffaut, Lelouch

Here’s the bill of fare. The COLCOA Film Festival, a fixture in Los Angeles for 17 years, shows new and classic French films in two American movie theaters at the Directors’ Guild complex: plush theaters named for legendary French filmmakers, François Truffaut and Jean Renoir. They mean a lot to me — the filmmakers, the films, and especially those two directors (or cineastes), Renoir and Truffaut.

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Wilmington on Movies and DVDs: The TCM 2014 Classic Film Festival: How Green Was My Valley; Meet Me in St. Louis; Make Way for Tomorrow

Families, at their best, give us solace and they give us joy. At their worst, they tear us apart. Both extremes were visible on screen at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival: often the best (How Green Was My Valley) and sometimes the worst (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?), but always the crucial parts of a film to remember.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Hidden Fortress; Blue Jasmine; August: Osage County; Saving Mr. Banks

Like all the best Kurosawas — which encompasses most of his output — this is a beautifully crafted, tremendously exciting movie, and it features some of Kurosawa’s best action scenes, shot and cut in his characteristic vigorous three-camera set-ups. It’s better than Star Wars.

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Wilmington on Movies — Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A super-hero picture with a great two-faced super-villain, a super-jittery action camera, super-CGI tricks, super-credit teasers, a shrewdly super-paranoid script, and a sort of a heart, Captain America: The Winter Soldier definitely belongs in the upper echelon of Marveldom.

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Wilmington on Movies: Noah

Will Russell Crowe ever again get a part that so suits his special screen persona and gifts — that natural genius he seems to have for projecting awesome tormented heroics and mad obsessions — as the one he plays in his new film: Noah, the Lord’s visionary servant in Darren Aronofsky’s sometimes crazy and often wonderful version of the biblical story of The Great Flood? Or a film that so stupendously sets those gifts off ?

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Wilmington on DVDs: Nebraska; Foreign Correspondent; 2 Guns

Nebraska is a great funny-sad road movie full of all-American offbeat lives, oddball comedy and bleak black-and-white landscape beauty

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Wilmington on Movies: Muppets Most Wanted

There was never a TV puppet show quite like “The Muppet Show” — or a romantic couple of any kind quite like Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy the hamme fatale — or a supporting troupe like Fozzie the Bear, Gonzo, Animal, the Two Old Curmudgeons, and all their funny, fuzzy friends. And I’m happy to say that the new Walt Disney movie Muppets Most Wanted continues that splendid renaissance of Muppetry we saw in the 2011 Disney picture The Muppets. It’s not necessarily as good, because it doesn’t have the built-in emotional charge of being a Muppet revival movie about the revival of the Muppets — a storyline which, for those of us who’ve been familiar for years with the handmade troupe of the great late muppeteer Jim Henson (and Frank Oz and the rest) quickly became hilarious and touching and something to cheer for.

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Wilmington on Movies: Divergent

Despite the best efforts of Burger and of his cast and crew, this is an often-dull cliche-fest with unoriginal scenes and terse, unexciting dialogue, embedded in huge gray spaces of predictable plotting and flat dramaturgy. The book, by contrast, is smooth, fast, crisply written and emotional — and it benefits greatly from the fact that it’s dominated by Tris’ voice as the narrator. The story isn’t very original, and it’s basically the same in both book and movie (it may even be the same dialogue). But, in the picture, the moviemakers try to convey Tris’ inner life by focusing on close shots of Shailene Woodley’s face, as she tries to adjust to Dauntlessness, or gets a crush on Four, or jumps off or climbs up another building or reacts to all the dystopian stereotypes. I don’t think it worked — for the often minimally emoting Ms. Woodley or for the movie, which could really use a lot more voiceover.

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Wilmington on Movies: Catherine Deneuve — The Umbrellas of Cherbourg; On My Way

I met her finally at Cannes, as part of a roundtable discussion interview, and I sat next to her, and, for an hour, the beggared the college fantasies instilled by that face in the poster. At the end, I talked to her for a few more moments, and she smiled her smile, the one I never saw on my wall, and I left, happy for that brief moment. God, what a lovely smile!

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Wilmington on Movies: Need for Speed

Need for Speed—a movie based on a popular video game about outlaw street-and-highway racing—is a big, bad, flashy, terminally dopey muscle car of a movie, which tries to be a Fast and Furious-style actioner and ends up being Rushed and Ridiculous instead. Not that I’m filing any briefs for the Fast and the Furious movie franchise, an overwrought high-octane saga in which scowling, fiercely intent super-drivers whiz and careen and roar past each other in unlikely and dangerous racing locales and outrageous CGI-enhanced stunts. Smash hit as it may be, that is a movie series which has given me no pleasure at all despite its vast expenditures of cash, blistering road action, and apparently well-satisfied audiences.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is about trying to be a human being in a world that turns people into puppets and prisoners and corpses. It’s about trying to survive in a world teetering on oblivion and the brink of apocalypse. It’s about how all we admire most can be destroyed or lost, and how we may survive despite it all. And it’s about little pink and green pastries with saws inside, and how to keep the customers happy and how to remember your friends. It’s about how books and movies can preserve what we love.

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Wilmington on Movies: 300: Rise of an Empire

It may be preposterous–hell, it is preposterous–but it’s never boring.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Breathless; The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

A guy named Michel Poiccard steals a car, drives from Marseilles to Paris, ecstatically sings of a girl named Patricia (“Pa-Pa-Pa-Patricia!“), finds a gun, shoots and kills a cop on the road, tries to cash an uncashable check, stares at and mimics a Bogart still in front of a cinema, finds Patricia hawking New York Herald Tribunes on the street, goes to her room, bandies with her about love, art, philosophy and William Faulkner (“Between grief and nothing I will take grief“)…

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Wilmington on Movies: Non-Stop

If you’d like to fly but you’re not in the mood for the aeronautical poetry of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, if that’s just too arty and ambitious for you, there’s another airplane movie around now that, compared to Miyazaki‘s, is so non-artsy, so action-packed, so super-clichéd and so mind-bogglingly illogical, that it‘s almost entertaining.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Wind Rises

Miyazaki‘s The Wind Rises. A lovely name. A lovely film. A poem to flight, as soaring and lyrical as those of the sometimes heart-piercing French writer-artist-pilot Antoine de St. Exupery.

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Wilmington on Movies: Winter’s Tale

Any time you see a movie based on a hugely popular, critically-hosannaed, densely-populated epic romance novel like Mark Helprin‘s Winter‘s Tale—a prestige movie about endless, undying love boasting such first-class actors as Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt and Eva Marie Saint—and the picture gets stolen by a flying horse, you know the show is in some kind of trouble.

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Wilmington

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I have to interrupt you. No. the answer is no. I’m just a storyteller. Please don’t confuse the character in a story and the storyteller. Of course there is a connection and of course there is a human being that you sense behind the films, but don’t take it one-on-one that Herzog is Aguirre, the mad conquistador or something like that. This attempt has been made and it has failed all the time. Thank God, I’m not the central figure of my films.”
~ Werner Herzog To Mark Olsen

 

 

“I am just grateful I am still around. I would love to be Steven Soderbergh, but I am lucky to be Joe Swanberg. Actors want to work with me, people want to give me money, and my nightmare scenario remains: Getting in bed with a studio, spending years on a movie, and it turns out horrible, but now I’m rich.”

Actually, by Hollywood standards, you’re right, I said. That is unambitious.

“It is, and yet, if you can go to bed happy at night, doing what you want, isn’t that ambition for a lifetime?”
~ Swanberg On Swanberg By Borelli