MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Man on a Ledge

Man on a Ledge has that slick, self-satisfied gleam movies can get when they cost too much and they’re stuffed with formula and clichés and stars, and nobody can do anything about it. It also has a plot so preposterous, motivations so inane, and an ending so bonkers that the only possible way to play them may be for laughs, if the show were good at comedy.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Grey

At its best, The Grey reminds you of such classics as Boorman’s and Dickey’s Deliverance, or Lev Kuleshov‘s London-derived Russian silent Outside the Law, or even a flawed but exciting show like Lee Tamahori’s and David Mamet’s The Edge, The Grey makes the wilderness a terrifying place. And it works, sometimes smashingly.

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Real Steel, Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), Welcome to L.A.

PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC
Identification of a Woman (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars)
Italy: Michelangelo Antonioni, 1982 (Criterion Collection)

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: Classic. Identification of a Woman

  PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC Identification of a Woman (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars) Italy: Michelangelo Antonioni, 1982 (Criterion Collection) 1. Identification of a Woman. Antonioni. Why? 2. Michelangelo Antonioni, maker of Identification of a Woman (1982), L’Avventura (1960) and Blowup (1966), one of the great international filmmakers  of the 20th century, is an exemplar of that era…

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Wilmington on Movies: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

          EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Stephen Daldry, 2012   I don’t want to come across as mean and heartless here, but, though there were parts of it I liked a lot,  the movie Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close affected me something like a persistent urchin…

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Wilmington on Movies. Red Tails

            RED TAILS (Three Stars) U. S.; Anthony Hemingway, 2012   There are two ways to look at Red Tails, producer George Lucas’s long-gestating  World War II movie about the storied all-black Air Force unit, The Tuskegee Airmen. You can see the show as a big spectacular action movie, with incredible…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: New. The Ides of March

  Despite my low-to-moderate rating of The Ides Of March, I still believe it’s a movie that should be seen by all movie types. Which is why it’s a co-pick.   The Ides of March (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: George Clooney, 2011 (Sony Pictures)   Why in Hell did George Clooney make a movie…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. Mysteries of Lisbon

    MYSTERIES OF LISBON (Four Stars)  Portugal: Raoul Ruiz, 2010-11 (Music Box Films) Take the book down from the shelf. Open the pages. Interesting title. “‘Mysteries of Lisbon”…    Raoul Ruiz’s mesmerizing movie Mysteries of Lisbon, which was adapted from Camilo Castelo Branco’s 19th century novel about psychological/romantic torment in the Portuguese upper classes,…

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Wilmington on Movies: Joyful Noise

        JOYFUL NOISE (Two Stars) U.S.: Todd Graff, 2012  Joyful Noise — in which squabbling small town Southern gospel divas Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton take their small town Georgia church choir to the improbable finals of the National Joyful Noise Competition in Los Angeles — is really two movies: one good, one bad.  …

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Wilmington on Movies and DVDs: Beauty and the Beast. Movie: Truesdale/Wise. DVD: Cocteau/Clement.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D (Four Stars) U.S.: Gary Truesdale, Kirk Wise, 1991-2012 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (La Belle et la Bete) (Blu-ray) (Four Stars) France: Jean Cocteau/Rene Clement, 1946 (Criterion Collection) The new 3D version of the Disney Studio’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast — which is called by some the best animated feature of…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Iron Lady

      THE IRON LADY (Three Stars) U.K.-U.S.; Phyllida Lloyd, 2010 Love her or hate her — and there were plenty of strong feelings on both sides of the fence —Margaret Thatcher remains one of the most fascinating and influential Western world leaders of the 20th century, richly deserving of the classy dramatization she gets…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Killer Elite, What’s Your Number?, Jane Eyre, The Adjustment Bureau

  Killer Elite (Two Stars) U.S.: Gary McKendry, 2011 (Universal) 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…

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

     Moneyball (Also Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Four Stars) U. S.: Bennett Miller, 2011 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)  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…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Devil Inside

      The Devil Inside (One Star) U.S.: William Brent Bell, 2012 Just how bad can a movie be that grosses 34 million dollars on its first weekend? Pretty damned bad, as you’ll find out quickly if you dip into The Devil Inside — the latest entry in the found-footage horror or mocko-shockumetary sweepstakes that began…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: Classic. The Four Feathers (Korda)

The Four Feathers (Three and a Half Stars) U.K.: Zolta Korda, 1939 (Criterion Collection) Four adventure-loving upper class British soldiers — best friends who are about to leave for the 1896-98 colonial wars in Sudan — symbolically exchange four white feathers, plucked from  the plume of the beautiful Ethne (June Duprez), daughter of the harrumphing and…

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Rest: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark; I Don’t Know How She Does It; Devil’s Angels

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Three Stars) U.S.: Troy Nixey, 2011 (Sony Pictures Home Entertaiment)    What’s that noise over there? What’s that knocking in the walls? Those ashes stirring in the fireplace? Ah, it’s nothing, it’s nothing. Don’t worry. Even though you’re all alone and I know you’re anxious…that there may be something…wrong….

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: New. Mildred Pierce (Haynes), Mildred Pierce (Curtiz)

  Mildred Pierce (Also DVD/Blu-ray Collector’s Edition) (Two Discs) (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Todd Haynes, 2011 (HBO Home Video) Mildred Pierce (Four Stars) U.S.: Michael Curtiz, 1945 (Warner Bros.) 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 Tv mini-series adapted…

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Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: New. Contagion

Contagion (Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with UV Digital Copy) (Also Movie Only) (Two Discs) (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.: Steven Soderbergh, 2011 (Warner Home Video)   Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion begins with a cough in the dark — something mundane, and ordinary, if irritating, that soon grows into something else: an explosion of fear, death, lawlessness and hysteria….

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Wilmington on Movies: We Bought a Zoo

  We Bought a Zoo (Also Blu-ray) (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Cameron Crowe, 2011 (20th Century Fox)   1. Once Upon a Time, There were all these animals…   In Cameron Crowe’s new movie We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon — using every bit of nice guy vibes at his disposal — plays…

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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