MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

WILMINGTON ON MOVIES: On the Bowery

“It is no exaggeration to say that Ray and Gorman, two amateurs with no film experience at all, give two of the most extraordinary and moving performances in the history of the American cinema.”

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WILMINGTON ON MOVIES: Hall Pass, I Am Number Four, Certifiably Jonathan, Poetry

“Anyway, when I say forgettable, I mean forgettable. I’ve actually forgotten the whole movie, and I had to struggle to write this synopsis.”

“Aren’t they a little ashamed of filming scripts like this, where the very best line of dialogue — by a crush — is ‘I am Number Six!'”

“Critics have not been too kind to it. Well, that’s their opinion.”

“The sorrows, pains and occasional beauties of old age have rarely been more movingly portrayed than they are here.”

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WILMINGTON ON DVD: Fish Tank, Sweet Smell of Success, Megamind, The Steig Larsson Trilogy, Due Date

Mike goes from the UK to New York to Sweden to Jeffrey Katzenberg & Will Ferrell’s brains to give you the 4-1-1 on this week’s DVD releases…

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Wilmington on Movies: Unknown, Just Go With It, The Woodmans

UNKNOWN (Two and a Half Stars)

“This is all part of a nightmare movie thriller — Hitchcockian, Polanskian — that starts well and later collapses into utter balderdash, a movie vaguely reminiscent of Polanski’s 1988 Harrison Ford-in-Paris suspense picture, Frantic (in which Ford lost his wife), of the classic, fact-based 1950 British period thriller So Long at the Fair (in which Jean Simmons lost her brother), and of the great Alfred Hitchcock suspense comedy The Lady Vanishes (in which Margaret Lockwood lost Dame May Whitty‘s Miss Froy). The movie’s Dr. Harris, or whomever, has stumbled into an alternate movie life, full of skeptical witness, hired assassin thugs, bemused scientists, arrogant putzes like the false Dr. Harris, and people who just don’t know who the hell you are (or say they don’t).”

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WILMINGTON ON DVD

This Week: Unstoppable, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Thelma and Louise, TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Errol Flynn

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Wilmington on Movies: The Eagle, Gnomeo and Juliet

“That’s what the best of The Eagle gives us. As a twelve year old, I know I would have liked it, maybe loved it. And that twelve-year-old is still somewhere inside me as I watch it now, applauding and yearning for a swift horse, the wild frontier and the beautiful, stormy territory ahead.”

Gnomeo & Juliet – “I never thought I’d say it, but Michael Caine and Maggie Smith make pretty good lawn ornaments.”

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Wilmington on DVD: From Tillman to Amarcord

This week, Mike’s New Picks are The Tillman Story and Kore-eda’s Still Walking, the Classic Pick is Amarcord, the Blu-Ray pick is Broadcast News, the Box Set is Alien Anthology, and his Knock Of The Week is Paranormal Activity 2. Plus reviews of The Princess & The Frog, Life As We Know It, and You Again.

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Wilmington

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Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

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

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin