MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Puss in Boots

    Puss in Boots (Four Stars) U.S.: Chris Miller, 2011 This review is dedicated to my friend Pica. Another Shrek movie, or, more accurately, a series spin-off? Another super-spectacular feature cartoon? Another big studio lollapalooza, this time from DreamWorks? In 3D yet? Didn’t sound artistically promising, even when the receipts started pouring in. But…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary (Three Stars) U.S.: Bruce Robinson, 2011   The movie The Rum Diary, which I liked, is based — loosely, but that’s all right — on the novel that Hunter S. Thompson wrote when he was 22, a young guy, before “Hell’s Angels,” before “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” before “The Great Shark…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Picks of the Week: Classic. Le Beau Serge, Les Cousins

Two by Claude Chabrol: Le Beau Serge, Les Cousins France: Claude Chabrol, 1958/1959 (Criterion Collection) Le Beau Serge (France: Claude Chabrol, 1958) (Four Stars) With Gerard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michele Meritz, Philippe De Broca, Jacques Rivette. (In French, with English subtitles.) Les Cousins (France: Claude Chabrol, 1959) (Four Stars) With Gerard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michele…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. City of Life and Death

  City of Life and Death (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars) China: Chuan Lu, 2009 (Kino International) I. The Rape of Nanking In December, 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army invaded Nanking (now “Nanjing“), the erstwhile capital city of beleaguered China. Hell followed them. For the next few weeks, that army went on one of the worst massacres,…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Blu-ray. Winnie the Pooh

“Winnie the Pooh” (Two disc Blu-ray/DVD; Also Three disc Blu-ray 3D/DVD/Digital) (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall; 2011 (Walt Disney)   Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin… A. A. Milne   He was one of the boon…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers (Two Stars) U.S.: Paul W. S. Anderson, 2011 Tous pour un, un pour tous. Alexandre Dumas pere “The Three Musketeers” — Alexandre Dumas’ quintessential swashbuckling adventure tale of three crack swordsmen and lusty comrades (Athos, Porthos and Aramis) and the hothead/country bumpkin (D’Artganan) whom they befriend and help turn into a world-class,…

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Wilmington on DVDs, The Rest: Bad Teacher; Page One: Inside the New York Times

Bad Teacher (One and a Half Stars) U.S.: Jake Kasdan, 2011 (Columbia) Seen any good movies lately? Good movies? Not really. But I saw a bad movie last Wednesday. I mean, a really bad movie. This movie was  sooooo bad…. How bad was it?… So bad that they put “bad” in the actual title! Like they were…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life (Also Three Disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Combo) (Four Stars) U.S.: Terrence Malick, 2011 (20th Century Fox) I. The Tree In The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick, an artist/perfectionist who never rushes a movie, dares the cinematic heavens again and, as far as I’m concerned, he wins the bet. The movie, still best American film…

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Wilmington on Movies. The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas

  The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.-U.K.: 1978-2011          It was 1964, the summer after my senior year in high school, and the song blasting out of the juke box at the Arctic Circle, a frozen custard drive-in and major high school hang-out in Williams Bay,…

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Wilmington on The Chicago International Film Festival 2011: The Prize-Winners

Here’s my announcement story for the awards of the 47th annual Chicago International Film Festival — brainchild and passion of festival founder and longtime artistic director Michael Kutza, who started the show back in 1965 and has headed it up ever since. This year’s, many thought, was one of the best, and there were lots of…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: New. The Princess of Montpensier

The Princess of Montpensier (Four Stars) France: Bertrand Tavernier, 2010  (MPI Home Video) The Princess of Montpensier is a splendid French historical drama, a movie in the tradition of  sumptuous, intelligent epic-makers like Jean Renoir, Luchino Visconti, or Jean-Paul Rappeneau — and of course, in the best tradition of the filmmaker who made it, the usually good,…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Green Lantern; Horrible Bosses; Zookeeper; Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer

Green Lantern (Two Stars) U.S.: Martin Campbell, 2011 (Warner Bros.) Maybe I’m just getting really, really tired of Superhero movies —  but I had trouble sitting through Green Lantern. A half an hour or so into the show, I started checking my watch, and soon I was checking it every few minutes or so– even though…

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Wilmington on Movies: Dream House

  Dream House (Two Stars) U.S.: Jim Sheridan, 2011  In Dream House, an almost mystifying misfire of a would-be classy, smart horror movie, Daniel Craig plays Will Atenton, a New York City publishing house editor who quits his job and moves out of the city — with his angelic wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and their two…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Ides of March

The Ides of March (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: George Clooney, 2011   Why in Great Caesar’s Ghost did George Clooney make a movie like The Ides of March now? That question kept needling me as I tried to enjoy this suave but dispiriting drama about a Democratic presidential primary gone rotten. I could never really…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Scre4m (Scream 4)

    (Also 2 Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three Stars) U.S.: Wes Craven, 2011 Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay. (Also Amazon Instant Video)   What’s your favorite scary movie? Excuse me? Who is this?   I said: What’s your favorite scary movie? Well, Psycho, of course. Though M and Vertigo and The Night of the Hunter and Nosferatu and…

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Wilmington on DVD. Pick of the Week: New. African Cats

(Four Stars) U.S.-U.K.: Alastair Fothergill & Keith Scholey, 2011 (Walt Disney/Buena Vista) African Cats, a wildlife documentary from Disneynature, shot in Kenya on the savanna —  with real lions and cheetahs as its main characters — strikes me as 2011’s best family movie so far. But why be limiting? Why ghettoize this film by calling it a…

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Wilmington on Movies: What’s Your Number?

  What’s Your Number? (One Star) U.S.: Mark Mylod, 2011 When an Anna Faris movie is so bad it makes you yearn for the good old days of Scary Movie 2, you know you’re in trouble. What’s Your Number?, a Faris rom-com of flabbergasting silliness and an awful smirking cheeriness that sets your teeth on…

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Wilmington on Movies: Weekend

  Weekend (Three Stars) U.K..: Andrew Haigh, 2011 Weekend, a sometimes remarkable low-budget British movie about a pickup in a Nottingham disco bar and its aftermath, starts out as a movie frankly about sex and one (or two) night stands, and winds up being closer to a classic love story. I haven’t mentioned that the…

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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