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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Film: Poltergeist / When Marnie Was There

One thing you can say in favor of the latest Poltergeist is that at least nobody in it gets tortured, hideously maimed, eviscerated, eaten, or chopped to screaming bits. Children may take their parents to this picture, without fear of nightmares.

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Wilmington on Movies: Tomorrowland

Watching Tomorrowlan—a great big film hunk of love and optimism and confusion from the Walt Disney Studio—you sometimes get the idea that director-writer Brad Bird and company are trying not just to create a new movie but maybe to found a new movement; Dianetics for Disneyphiles, or Pessimists Anonymous or Worldmakers. (Just kidding.)

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Wilmington on Movies: Pitch Perfect 2 / Pitch Perfect

Any movie sequel that starts out by having its costar moon the President of the United States and the First Lady at Lincoln Center obviously doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-confidence.

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Wilmington on Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road

Head-banging, car-crashing action movies with minimal dialogue and maximum carnage may make a lot of money, but they’ve also gotten (deservedly) a bad odor for some film-lovers, including, sometimes, me

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Wilmington On Movies: Maggie

Maggie (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Henry Hobson, 2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t made many movies you could describe as art films, and that may be one of the reasons his new picture, Maggie, seems like such an anomaly. It’s at least half of an art film — an attempt at a sensitive genre piece that‘s…

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Wilmington on Movies: Hot Pursuit

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergera play two gals on the run in South Texas in the new movie Hot Pursuit: Reese is a diminutive fussbudget blonde by-the-book cop named Cooper and Sofia is a statuesque sexpot drug cartel wife named Daniella Riva. And they’re so much better than the movie itself that you wonder if the two costars might be deliberately outshining their own vehicle. Watching this nitwit show (as Todd McCarthy accurately described it), I wouldn’t put it past them.

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Wilmington on Movies: Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me suffers from personality disorder too: an inability to tell all these potentially funny jokes with the joyous buffoonery that would make them ignite on screen—say, to explode with some of the wild devilish relish that an old-fashioned make-‘em-laugh comedian like Red Skelton put into his classic media satire: the ‘40s mock radio commercial for “Guzzler’s Gin.” (“Smooth! Smooth!”)

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Wilmington on Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron

What should I say about Avengers: Age of Ultron? Is it too much of a good thing? Maybe. But consider the possibilities that stretched before it, as well as all the doors that were already closed when all the deals were struck.

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Wlmington on Movies: Black Souls

Dark, stark and bleak, and filled with a sense of impending disaster, Francesco Munzi’s Black Souls is an anti-romantic Italian mob drama—a great brooding powerhouse of a film that reminds you of violent mob classics like The Godfather and Goodfellas, and more recent Italian crime gems like Gomorrah, only to veer off into a shocking climax that’s more reminiscent in tone and impact of a Greek tragedy.

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Wilmington on Movies: True Story

Truth may not always be stranger than fiction, but it sometimes seems to sell better—even though that “truth” may be ambivalent and the reporting questionable. True Story, a true-crime movie which has some very good scenes and performances, and also some that are disturbingly dubious, supplies a couple of juicy fact-based roles for real-life buddies Jonah Hill and James Franco, and both dive right in, taking over the screen joyously, both when they’re together and sometimes when they aren’t. That doesn’t mean that the movie is entirely or even largely satisfying. It’s not, though the two lead actors give it everything they can.

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Wilmington on Movies: Ex Machina

We’re in something of a golden age for movie science fiction—or at least a gold-plated one at least—and Ex Machina is a good example how that genre can be worked and reworked by a bright filmmaker who knows the form and how to play with it.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Salvation

The movie Western is a durable genre that has sometimes fallen on hard times. But that genre gets a powerful reworking from a couple of knowledgeable foreigners—not-so-gloomy Danes Kristian Levring (director-writer) and co-screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen—in the Go-Eastwood-Young-Man revenge shocker The Salvation.

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Wilmington on Movies: Run All Night

Why doesn’t Liam Neeson make movies today like Schindler’s List or Michael Collins?

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Wilmington on Movies: Fifty Shades of Grey

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Two Stars) U.S.: Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015 Based on the wildly popular bestseller by E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey takes what sometimes seems a teenager’s view of S&M, and turns it into erotic kitsch for so-called grownups. The movie, co-written and co-produced by James, asks us to play voyeur to a…

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Wilmington on DVDs: A Christmas Carol (1951)

Perhaps critics and movie lovers treasure it because they can see how deftly Hurst and Langley have resisted the obvious temptations of the material. This is the one of the most faithful of all “Christmas Carol”adaptations and also one of the least sentimental, one of the most stylishly crafted and one of the more psychologically acute. It’s beyond question a film for adults more than for children, which is almost never how “A Christmas Carol” is played.

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Wilmington on Movies: Foxcatcher

When a movie comedian goes dramatic, the results can be devastating—as Steve Carell proves again in Foxcatcher.

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Wilmington on Movies: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler is a movie mostly about Los Angeles at night, mostly about the times when a lot of the city closes down and the streets go black, and freelance newshounds and videographers come crawling out of the dark corners and racing through the dark streets to take pictures of disaster and bloodshed and mayhem — which they peddle to the noisier TV channels and news programs: all those second or third tier (or less) stations whose (not always) unspoken motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s a good movie: tough, eloquent, very well-shot (by Robert Elswit)—a rousing little show that tries to tap the same sort of sleaze-scraping, unsparing vein as Ace in the Hole (about newspapers and sensationalistic journalism), Sweet Smell of Success (about newspaper gossip columnists) and A Face in the Crowd (about populist rightwing TV). A lot of the time, it succeeds. Sometimes sweetly, and sometimes with a spray of acid.

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Wilmington on Movies: Gone Girl

Even if you’ve never read the book or seen the movie (which may well be the case), you probably think you sort of know what’s going to happen next. But you probably don’t. Gone Girl, which Flynn has cunningly imagined and craftily, stunningly wrote, and which Fincher has visualized with all the eerie expertise which usually marks his high-style crime movies (including Fight Club, Se7en, The Game, Zodiac, Panic Room, and even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is, like many another thriller of its type, dependent on how far we’re willing to suspend disbelief. But, in the realms of bestseller-turned-moviedom, Gone Girl is a cut or two above and definitely better than most — full of not always guessable tricks and twists, told in a tense, taut, racy, mostly engrossing style and boasting a lot of tangy, sharply drawn characters, very well played by a very good cast.

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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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“We don’t defy the laws of physics: There are no flying men or cars in this movie. So it made sense to do it old-school: real vehicles and real human beings in the desert. We shot the movie more or less in continuity, because the cars and the characters get really banged up along the way. The biggest benefit of digital technology for me was that the cameras were smaller and much more agile, so you could put them anywhere. We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness—making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening. There has to be a strong causal connection from one shot to the next, just the same way that in music, there has to be a connection from one note to the next. Otherwise it’s just noise. Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting. We storyboarded the movie before we had a script: We had 3,500 boards, which helps the cast and crew understand how everything is going to fit together. Movies are getting faster and faster. The Road Warrior had 1,200 cuts. This one has 2,700 cuts. You have to treat it like a symphony.”
~ George Miller

“I was having issues with my script for It’s All About Love, so I called Ingmar Bergman and we ended up talking about everything but the script. He said, “Well, Festen is a masterpiece, so what are you going to do now?” At that point, I had not decided if I was going to make It’s All About Love, so I answered, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe this, maybe that.” There was just a long pause, and then he said, “You’re fucked.” I said, “Well, how can you know?” “Well, Thomas, you always have to decide your next movie before the movie you’re doing presently opens.” And I said, “Why is that?” “Well, two things can happen. One thing is that you fail, and then you’ll feel scared and humiliated. It’ll get into your head. Second, and even worse, you have success, and then you’ll want more of it, or you’ll want to maintain it. But if you decide on your next film while you’re in the middle of editing, it becomes a very nonchalant choice. And then it’s shorter from the heart to the hand.”
~ Thomas Vinterberg

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