MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: The Skeleton Twins

Many American plays and movies about families are horror stories of a sort. That’s true of some of the masters of the form, like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill—and it also goes somewhat for Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins, in which Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, two brilliant comic actors taking a whirl at drama, play a pair of New York-born suburban twins, Milo and Maggie, who’ve been alienated for a decade (since their mid-‘20s) and are now drawn together by what was very nearly a double tragedy: near-simultaneous near-suicides of both because of unhappy love lives.

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Wilmington on Movies: Honeymoon

Suppose you drove off for a romantic rendezvous in your parent’s isolated cabin in the woods, and the honeymoon quickly degenerated from an idyll into something…else. Suppose you went off together to be alone and wild and erotically indulgent and your lover began behaving like someone or something….else.

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Wilmington on Movies — Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

The first movie was better. Or it played better. Based on Miller’s “Sin City” graphic novels–which took the tricks and tropes of film noir (both the literary and cinematic varieties) to a point of stylistic near-meltdown—the movie was a shadowy, violent, blisteringly cynical comic book rock ‘n roll parody-melodrama hoot: an orgy of movie lust and celluloid violence and pulpy eloquence that was all about the crooks, thugs, lonely men, strippers, whores, men with guns or hotly-pursued dames and femme fatales who hung out at Miller’s evil Neverland.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Hundred-Foot Journey

Helen Mirren, of Great Britain is a great movie actress and Om Puri, of India, is a superb actor—and together, as they share the stage and the kitchens for their new film The Hundred-Foot Journey, they whip up quite a tasty dish: a lip-smacking love story and a culinary comedy treat.

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Wilmington on Movies: A Most Wanted Man

Bachmann is a cynic, a spoiled idealist, an addict who chain smokes cigarettes, downs whiskey after whiskey and speaks in a rumbling monotone glib growl laced with world-weary innuendo. For his sins, he’s been assigned to the anti-terrorist office in Hamburg, a snake pit of spying and double-dealing in which murder runs rampant and catastrophes like the 9/11 World Trade Center attack are planned. You could not possibly see this part performed better than Philip Seymour Hoffman does here.

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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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I wondered how different it would be to write a novel and it’s totally different. It’s very internal. The weird thing about it is that I found that novel-writing was much more like directing than it is like screenwriting. You’re casting it, you’re lighting it, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing the locations, you’re doing it all yourself as a director would. In screenwriting, you don’t do that stuff. You don’t describe the face of the actor or the character when you’re writing a screenplay because Tom Cruise is going to do it and he doesn’t look like that, whereas in the novel to describe what he is is what he is. The actual act of writing, just like shooting on a set, is a slow slog. It’s going to work every day.”
~ David Cronenberg On Screenplay vs. Novel

“I was fortunate to be in the two big film epics of the last part of the 20th century: Godfather and “Lonesome Dove” on television, which was my favorite part. That’s my “Hamlet.” The English have Shakespeare; the French, Molière. In Argentina, they have Borges, but the western is ours. I like that.”
~ Robert Duvall