MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: 50/50

50/50 (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Jonathan Levine, 2011   Your best friend looks you in the face and tells you that he’s dying. Wait a minue, it’s not quite like that…He tells you that he has a rare form of spinal cancer and that his chances of survival, according to the doctors, are 50/50….

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classic, Blu-ray. Strike

     PICK OF THE WEEK: Classic/Blu-ray Strike (Stachka) (Four Stars) U.S.S.R./Russia: Sergei Eisenstein, 1925 (Kino Classics) 1. Eisenstein  In 1925, Sergei Eisenstein, a rich architect’s son who had become a passionate convert to Communism during the Russian Revolution and afterward a brilliant theatrical director with the Proletkult Theatre of Moscow, directed two silent films…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Transformers Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Also Blu-ray) (Three Stars) U.S.: Michael Bay, 2010 Mindless, soulless, heartless, mechanical, and shamelessly mercenary as it might be, director Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon — the latest in the often obnoxious movie series, starring Shia LaBeouf and a lot of Hasbro toys — is still one of…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. Carlos

  Carlos (Three and a Half Stars) France: Olivier Assayas, 2010 (Criterion Collection) In his excellent political thriller/biographical drama Carlos, Olivier Assayas makes an epic of 20th century revolution, an incendiary subject, but a film hot at heart yet cool on the surface, out of the ugly, exciting  story of the terrorist “Carlos,” a would-be political idealist who became a killer…

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Wilmington on Movies: Love Crime

  Love Crime (Three Stars) France: Alain Corneau, 2010 Movie murder mysteries can sometimes get too tricky and convoluted for their own good, and that’s pretty much what happens in Love Crime (Crime d’Amour),  a fine, itelligent, neatly made little French film neo-noir that would have been even better if it didn’t try so hard to outsmart us…

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Wilmington on Movies: Moneyball

   (Four Stars) U. S.: Bennett Miller  It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you read the spreadsheet.     For many Americans, baseball is a great American game, and a great American sports myth as well — and it’s also, at times, a business, a gamble, a crud-boatload of media hype, and, last…

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Wilmington on Movies: Killer Elite

  (Two Stars) U.S.: Gary McKendry, 2011 There are lots of reasons to get irritated with Killer Elite — a big-bucks, big-star, mucho-macho, heavy-duty actioner that throws up several hours of murkily photographed violence, preachy dialogue and byzantine plot twists, while wasting three good actors — Jason Statham, Clive Owen and, sadly enough, Robert De…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Captain America: The First Avenger, Dziga and His Brothers, The Killer is Loose, The Song of Songs,This is the Night

“Captain America: The First Avenger” (Two Stars) U.S.: Joe Johnston, 2011 I don’t mean to be a grouch, but Captain America — stalwart crime and monster-buster of  the  new Marvel epic Captain America: The First Avenger — struck me as one of the duller superheroes I’ve seen recently. That’s despite one of the more amazing special effects…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Box Set/Blu-ray. Visions of Europe

 (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; Roy A. Hammond (aerial director/executive producer), Sam Toperoff (producer/editor/writer), 2001-9 (Acorn Media) One of the most visually stunning travelogue series ever, the “Visions” sets from WLIW in New York offer spectacular aerial tours of the great sights of Europe, shot in gorgeous high definition cinematography, accompanied by fairly typical…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classic/Box Set. The Complete Jean Vigo

  (Two Discs) (Four Stars) France: Jean Vigo, 1930-34 (Criterion Collection)   I. Jean Vigo, The Rebel  He died at 29: Jean Vigo, in many ways, the spirit of youth, of art, of cinematic rebellion, of France between the wars. He was the sacred enfant terrible and the laughing rebel and grand martyr of French…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Picks of the Week: New. Bridesmaids, Le Quattro Volte

  Bridesmaids (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Paul Feig, 2011 (Universal) Kristen Wiig is one funny lady, and Bridesmaids — in which she is both star and co-writer — is one funny movie.  That’s hardly news. “Bridesmaids” is one of the best reviewed, best liked Hollywood comedies of the year. By current consensus, it’s…

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Wilmington on Movies and DVD; Straw Dogs (Peckinpah and Lurie)

  Film: Straw Dogs (Two Stars) U. S.: Rod Lurie, 2011 DVD: Straw Dogs (Blu-ray) (Three and a half Stars) U.S.: Sam Peckinpah, 1971 (MGM) I. Bloody Sam Straw Dogs, Rod Lurie‘s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 classic — with Dustin Hoffman as a Vietnam era intellectual forced to face the beast in himself and…

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Wilmington on Movies: I Don’t Know How She Does It

    U.S.: Douglas McGrath, 2010 (Two Stars)   I Don’t Know How They Do It     Summary You think you’ve got problems? Let me tell you, you don’t know what “problems” mean until you’ve had a peep at the Perils of Parker in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, Sarah Jessica’s…

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Wilmington on Movies: Drive

  Drive (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011  Drive is an L. A. action movie that can really tighten your throat and twist your guts. Story-wise, it’s lean, mean and stripped to the bone, but it’s also drenched with visual style. Directed by Nicolas Winding-Refn, the flashy Dane of The “Pusher”…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: X-Men The First Class, Thor, The Colossus of New York, Monkey Business

  X-Men: The First Class (Also Blu) (Two Discs) (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Matthew Vaughn, 2011 Maybe I’m getting tired of super-heroes and super-heroines. Or maybe X-Men: First Class just has too many of them. In any case, the latest Marvel movie, by my reckoning, puts a first-rate cast into a third-rate story,…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Picks of the Week: New. Meek’s Cutoff, Secret Sunshine

  Meek’s Cutoff (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Kelly Reichardt, 2011 Meek’s Cutoff, like the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, is an art film Western for a contemporary audience, and an unusually good one — made by a director and writer (Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond), who show a real feeling for what it must have been…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Blu-ray. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

  CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: BLU-RAY   O Brother,  Where Art Thou?  (Four Stars) U.S.: Joel and Ethan Coen, 2000 (Touchstone/Disney)      O Brother, Where Art Thou? — for whose title alone Joel and Ethan Coen deserve a medal — is an outrageously entertaining and inventive movie that still hasn’t gotten its due. The Coen…

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Wilmington on Movies: Mozart’s Sister

  (Three and a Half Stars) France: Rene Feret, 2010 Mozart’s Sister, a film often lovely to see and hear, by French writer-director Rene Feret, is the fictionalized semi-biographical tale of a remarkable girl, her extraordinary family and of the beautiful music they all made together. But it’s also a very sad story, as stories…

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Wilmington on Movies: Contagion

 (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Steven Soderbergh, 2011   Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion begins with a cough in the dark — something mundane, and ordinary, if irritating and unhealthy, that soon grows into something else: an explosion of fear, death and hysteria. As the movie proper begins, a title soon informs us that it‘s Day…

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Wilmington on Movies: Warrior

  Warrior (Three  Stars) U.S.: Gavin O’Connor, 2011 Improbabilities won’t necessarily knock out a good fight film, if the feeling and the footwork are there. Warrior is a movie about a high profile, multi-million-dollar TV Mixed Martial Arts tournament in which too long-estranged brothers are both competing, and in which they finally meet in the ring….

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Wilmington

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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire