MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Hop

“I still hadn’t wised up when E.B. decamped to Hollywood, where he hooks up with Fred, and starts pooping jellybeans and trying to come up with so-called humor (lame zingers and amazingly laugh-challenged wisecracks), and where the movie definitively revealed its true agenda: bad jokes and L. A. clichés, mixed with elaborate animation, TV trendiness and loud, bright icky-poo cutes.”

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Wilmington on Movies: The Afterlight

“I liked the movie very much, and when some of its early festival admirers compared it to Michelangelo and Ingmar Bergman, they had some justification. The Afterlight is obviously made by filmmakers who know and admire Antonioni and Bergman, and who would probably be pleased by the comparison — and the images, scenes and emotions often suggest those two masters.”

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Wilmington on Movies: Sucker Punch, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Monogamy

“Snyder has a very classy cast, but nevertheless, he dresses and photographs them most of the time like hookers and action-cuties, even in the thick of battle.”

“Let’s hope these kids stay happy and don’t start feuding, like Martin and Lewis.”

“This movie is too often reminiscent of other, much better films.”

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Wilmington on DVD: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Tourist, The Twilight Zone Season Two, The Clowns, Exit Throught the Gift Shop, Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed.

Appropriately bracketed as a classic pick this week with Fellini’s I Clowns Alexander Kluge’s Artists at the Top of the Big Top: Perplexed is also a European art film about circuses and circus people. But this is a film in black-and-white, where the filmmakers would have answered the question Fellini dodged in The Clowns about symbolism, and then done something symbolic to illustrate the answer, and had an illustrated lecture on symbolism and the history of art, and the politics of circuses.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Lincoln Lawyer, Paul

“It’s a tough story, hard-nosed and audience-savvy: a neo-noir in settings both glamorous and salty, and a movie that gives you a tingling shot of L. A. style.”

“Suppose you were to rethink E. T. as a combination 70s road movie and Three Days of the Condor-style paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller.”

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Wilmington on DVD: The Fighter, Hereafter, Last Tango in Paris, TCM Greatest Classic Legend John Ford Westerns

“Bale looks and acts something like a Dead End Kid on crack, an elongated mix of Huntz Hall and the younger Mean Streets De Niro, oscillating frantically between the goony and the near-tragically self-destructive.”

“What’s most impressive about Hereafter is, first of all, that Eastwood had the guts to do it.”

“The torrid memento of a time — post-Sexual Revolution, pre-herpes outbreak, pre-Aids plague — when quick anonymous sex between partners who barely knew each other.”

“He was John Ford. He made Westerns.”

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Wilmington on DVD: Inside Job, Senso, TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Jean Harlow & more…

“Inside Job is an essential movie. It shows, pretty conclusively I think, why documentaries are such an important cinematic and journalistic form these days. After you see this picture, you won’t be able to say you weren’t informed, won’t be able to see you weren‘t warned. You’ll know, if not the whole story, a big important part of it.”

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WILMINGTON ON DVD: 127 Hours, Bambi, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, Burlesque, Faster

“Watching Franco here, as he plunges himself into a part so taxing physically, psychologically and even spiritually, and does it so brilliantly, you tend to forgive him for that awful, howlingly embarrassing turn he gave as co-host at the last Oscar Show.”

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Wilmington on Movies: Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, Red Riding Hood, Certified Copy, Uncle Boonmee…

“I can’t say some audiences won’t enjoy this — some people will enjoy anything, including staring into the toilet, maybe waiting for little green men to pop up and start water-skiing.”

“Maybe if the villagers had gotten together, and somebody had shown Tex Avery‘s cartoon Red Hot Riding Hood in the town square.”

“Fogler, whom I had ignorantly sort of dismissed as a mini-Jack Black, has the stuff, totally. Gribble is a great job.”

“A jewel of that director‘s special brand of stylized cinema realism”

“As we watch, a world opens up. This is life, this is cinema.”

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WILMINGTON ON MOVIES: Rango, The Adjustment Bureau, Take Me Home Tonight

“Up until Rango, I can’t think of many great cartoon Westerns, other than the Czech puppet animator Jiri Trnka‘s little masterpiece Song of the Prairie (1949)”

“While this script is a perfectly nice, competent, good-hearted job, and I would probably be happy to vote for Nolfi for the U.S. Congress, this movie just doesn’t say Dick to me.”

“One problem about nostalgia for the ’80s. The ’80s sucked. The ‘80s blew. The ‘80s were horrible.”

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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