MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVD, The Rest: Somewhere, Gulliver’s Travels, Country Strong, Birdemic, Mirage, The World in His Arms

CURRENT AND RECENT DVD RELEASES: Somewhere (Also Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Sofia Coppola, 2010 (Universal) Sofia Coppola’s film Somewhere, the Golden Lion winner at the last Venice Film Festival, is about a star Hollywood movie actor named Johnny Marco (played with deceptively lazy-looking grace and expertise by Stephen Dorff) who lives a pointless…

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Wilmington on Movies: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants  (Three Stars) U.S.: Francis Lawrence, 2011 Water for Elephants is an old-fashioned romantic picture done in new-fangled ways, and it‘s so good for such a long time, that it seems a shame, at the end, to feel so let down by it. But that’s how it goes… Director Francis Lawrence’s show, co-starring…

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Wilmington on Movies: African Cats

That might not be a tone some adults would prefer in their movies. They might rather have Morgan Freeman, today’s movie narrator of choice: a wonderfully mellow tale-spinner who combines wisdom, gravity, vocal resonance and warmth with earthiness and street smarts — though maybe Freeman, in our increasingly nasty and divisive, Birther-ridden post-Obama era, would have been also attacked for too much ghetto jive.

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Wilmington on DVD, Picks of the Week: The King’s Speech, Le Cercle Rouge, Legends: Bette Davis

“The movie, thanks largely to Rush and Firth and the sparks of language they strike together, becomes an ode to expression and friendship and the English language, and to the power of the human voice, in the right hands.”

“The title of Le Cercle Rouge refers to an alleged saying and story of Buddha, who supposedly draws a red circle with red chalk and explains to his students that those who are destined to cross paths, will do so within the circle, no matter what.”

“Ah, if only we had more Bettes today: actresses battling to bring more quality and beauty and fierce snap and idealism and sparkling adult intelligence and unforgettable moments to our movies: fighting to make them better, fighting to make them good, fighting to make them great, by whatever means necessary.”

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Wilmington on Movies: The Conspirator

Redford obviously made this movie with all his heart. The picture, economically shot, has a grim, dusty look, and, for me, it also looks a little too TV-historical-dramatic-ish. But the story and the actors are so good, it doesn’t matter.

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WILMINGTON ON DVD (PICKS OF THE WEEK): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One, White Material, Topsy-Turvy, The Mikado, The Norman Conquests

CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One U.S.; David Yates, 2010 (Warner Home Video) The beginning of the end for a very long, mostly gratifying, often magical and sometimes splendiferous cinematic journey on a constantly twisting fantastical/literary road, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One splits the last…

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Wilmington on Movies: Rio

Rio (Three Stars) U.S.: Carlos Saldanha, 2011 Rio is a big, coruscatingly colorful feature-cartoon love-letter to Rio de Janeiro from Brazilian director/writer Carlos Saldanha (director and co-director on the Ice Age movies), and it’s full of spectacular computer-cartoon images of Saldanha’s legendary city of samba, aswarm with funny animals acting wild and crazy in Carnival time….

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Wilmington on Movies: Scream 4

“I was glad they had some more adults in this one. In fact, that’s an idea: Why don’t they make the next one, Scream 5, with a lot of horny or fornicating, slaughtered adults instead of, you know, the usual horny or fornicating, slaughtered teenagers? Broaden the audience. Just an idea.”

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WILMINGTON ON DVDS: Tangled, Fair Game, Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Casino Jack, Little Fockers, Skyline, Helena from the Wedding, Safe…Not Sorry

“Tangled — for all its jokes about its cutie-pie heroine’s multi-purpose hair (used variously in the movie as manacles, whip, lash, escape-rope, mop, blanket, hideaway and erotic come-on), is cleverly written and visualized, inventive, well-acted, and mercifully devoid of cute little bunnies, and tricksy little pixies.”

“If Dawn Treader doesn’t quite succeed, it’s not for want of effort and some talent, and even a determination to stir things up.”

“Little Fockers not only didn’t make me laugh. It didn’t even make me fantasize about laughing.”

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Wilmington on Movies: Potiche

“Movies can be works of art. (This one isn’t.) But they can also be, in a way, fantasy bistros where we meet and re-meet people we love to watch.”

And – A DP/30 w/ Ozon

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Wilmington on Movies: Arthur

After the sheer lousiness or mediocrity of so many Hollywood romantic comedies, it’s depressing to see the memory of a good old one go blotto, in the hands of a lot of talented people. Why did this happen? Where is there a romantic comedy touch today anything like Lubitsch’s? Or Wilder’s? Woody Allen some time again, maybe?

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Wilmington on Movies: Hanna

“All the characters, in fact, have more fullness, personality and surprises than the action movie norm. They’re reminiscent at times of the more psychologically detailed or richly eccentric lead and secondary characters in an old style British thriller by Powell & Pressburger or Alfred Hitchcock, or a classy American or international thriller by John Huston or Orson Welles (or by the expatriate Hitch).

We haven’t had many literate thrillers lately (The “Bourne” movies excepted, of course), and it’s a non-guilty pleasure to see one here, to see filmmakers who are trying to please us on a multitude of levels and not just trying to smash us out of our seats and blow us out of the back of the theatre — filmmakers who want to give us, as they do here, explosive action, fairytale romance and grim suspense, solid character and exciting adventure, good acting and writing, exotic locales and splashy technique, and both visual beauty and visual shock.”

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Wilmington DVD Picks of the Week: Black Swan, Raging Bull, The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, Farley Granger

“Like Red Shoes, Black Swan is a movie that seems to adore art and creativity. It also seems terrified of both, scared silly of the worlds they open up.”

“The violence and the brutality and the language (are) done in Raging Bull not just to shock us or give us ugly jolts or show us how streetwise these filmmakers can be, but to reveal to us with lacerating clarity what this world and its people are really like. ”

“Rathbone and Bruce, though: Nobody beats them, as a pure team.”

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Wilmington on TV: Mildred Pierce

“If you’re a hard core movie lover, and you haven’t already sampled the curious and perverse (and sometimes classic) delights of HBO’s current mini-series adapted from James M. Cain’s novel Mildred Pierce, you probably owe it to yourself to start turning it on and gobbling up this archetypal tale of a woman who loves her daughter not wisely but too well.”

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Wilmington on Movies: Source Code

“A friendly warning: No SPOILER ALERTS here because THE WHOLE REVIEW IS A SPOILER, and so is every other review of this movie.”

“Some reviewers who don’t like Source Code, and even part of the vast majority who do, think that the movie just doesn’t make sense. Well, yeah. Of course it doesn’t make sense. Neither does a magic carpet, or a genie with his three wishes, or the Man With No Name gunning down a barroom gang, or Orpheus descending into hell to bring back Eurydice. You want sense, take the Metra Rail.”

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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