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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

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 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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Quote Unquotesee all »

“The evening’s curious vanity and irrelevance stay with me, if only because those qualities characterize so many of Hollywood’s best intentions. Social problems present themselves to many of these people in terms of a scenario, in which, once certain key scenes are licked (the confrontation on the courthouse steps, the revelation that the opposition leader has an anti-Semitic past, the presentation of the bill of participants to the President, a Henry Fonda cameo), the plot will proceed inexorably to an upbeat fade. Marlon Brando does not, in a well-plotted motion picture, picket San Quentin in vain: what we are talking about here is faith in a dramatic convention. Things “happen” in motion pictures. There is always a resolution, always a strong cause-effect dramatic line, and to perceive the world in those terms is to assume an ending for every social scenario… If the poor people march on Washington and camp out, there to receive bundles of clothes gathered on the Fox lot by Barbra Streisand, then some good must come of it (the script here has a great many dramatic staples, not the least of them in a sentimental notion of Washington as an open forum, cf. Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington), and doubts have no place in the story.”
~ Joan Didion On Hw’d In 1970

CAMPION: We were driving around the countryside the other day, and we happened to chance upon a lone bull and cow going through some sex rituals. I was so surprised to see how lengthy the whole process was for this bull. He started licking the cow’s shin and worked his way quite laboriously up toward her ass. And every now and again, you thought, “Maybe she’s ready now—he’ll try a quick move.”
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: She wasn’t ready.
CAMPION: She made it clear that that wasn’t the case. We couldn’t even wait; it was like 15 minutes, but it was really adorable. Even when we came back, they were still at it. The foreplay was phenomenal.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: You don’t think of animal love in that way.
~ Jane Campion And Sam Taylor-Johnson in Interview

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