MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs. Man on a Ledge; Kill Bill, Volumes One and Two; Run for Cover; The Lawless

Quentin Tarantino’s forte is probably his mastery of tough guy dialogue; in movies like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (and, courtesy of Elmore Leonard, in Jackie Brown), he reaches heights of wise guy film noir grandeur.

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Wilmington on DVDs: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Certainly Kevin is at his cutest when he finally listens to Eva, as she reads him the tale of Robin Hood, champion Saxon archer — and his father, whom Kevin plays like a bassoon, later buys him a bow and arrow, and he becomes a crackerjack archer, who can always hit his target.

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Wilmington on Movies: Men in Black III

A good sequel can increase our pleasure, sweeten our memories. “Men in Black III” is third in the series that started back in 1997 and has now produced one bad sequel (“Men in Black II”) and one good one (“Men in Black III”). Win a few, lose a few, as Agent K might say.

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Wilmington on Movies: Chernobyl Diaries

“Chernobyl Diaries” is an awful picture, but it has, I swear, a great setting and premise for a horror movie. It takes place in the abandoned city of Pripyat: grey, desolate, strange, the site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Plant disaster — a meltdown that sent the populace fleeing from the immediate area, and closed down the plant for good. I repeat: great location — and part of this movie was reportedly even shot in the real place.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Red Tails; This Means War; Pony Express

  RED TAILS (Also Blu-ray) (Three Stars) U. S.: Anthony Hemingway, 2012 (2oth Century Fox)       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…

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Wilmington on DVDs: A Night to Remember

It‘s a masterly historical reconstruction — and despite its typically British, somewhat staid cinematics, an absolutely thrilling film. As gripping and excitingly visual as Cameron‘s movie may have been, this picture, even more, is the movie Titanic to remember.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Secret World of Arrietty

The everyday beauty and transcendent charm of The Secret World of Arrietty — the latest feature cartoon import from Japan’s master animator/writer/director Hayao Miyazaki ) — is a balm to the restless spirit, a tonic for the troubled heart.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Woman in Black

“The Woman in Black” is an old-style British horror movie with some new-style violence, a film that takes advantage of the new screen freedoms and technology, but that also employs, often pretty effectively, a lot of the familiar archetypes and tropes of British literary and movie horror, particularly the ones for the haunted house sub-genre.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Dictator

Of course the Marx Brothers were partial to non sequiturs too, and several crtics have compared this film to both Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, and the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup.” But in their greatest films, Groucho, Chico and Harpo made their comedy work through sheer brazenness, through adroit asides and clever playing to the audience. That kind of wacky genius isn’t really a Cohen forte.

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Wilmington on Movies: Battleship

Gallantly, Alex rushes out to get her said burrito, which he does by breaking into a nearby convenience store, tearing up the ceiling, stealing and (I presume) microwaving a chicken burrito and then resisting arrest, a feat of insane derring-do that so impresses the hottie, Samantha Shane (Decker) that she falls madly in love with Alex. Samantha, incidentally, turns out to be the daughter of Stone’s boss, Admiral Shane, the commander of the entire Pacific Fleet (played by Liam Neeson).

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Wilmington on Movies: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

The movie, which tries hard to leaven its sunny comedy and advice with a little darkness and realism, succeeds only in dredging up unwelcome memories (to me) of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, and unpleasant thoughts of a possible “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Musical.” Is that likely? Is that conceivable? I’m afraid to ask.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Certified Copy, The Report

The story of “Certified Copy,” according to Godfrey Cheshire’s exemplary notes, comes from a tale of two people that director Kiarostami once told to Binoche in Tehran: a story he initially claimed was true, and had actually happened to him, but which he later confessed was a fabrication.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Devil Inside; My Perestroika; Who’s Minding the Store?; Who’s Got the Action?; The Spiders

Jerry Lewis, that’s who. Without Dean. And since this Frank Tashlin-written-and-directed farce — set in a department store that Jerry, as the well-meaning but accident-prone Norman Phiffler, systematically demolishes — dates from Lewis’ biggest commercial (and even artistic) period, the early ’60s, that means we’re going to see plenty of the man doing his thing: all-out slapstick, spazzy chaos and wild mugging.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Grey

Fitting that this movie is called The Grey, because grey it certainly is—cold, and bitter, and sunless, a suspense picture full of existential terror, untamed nature, overwhelming anxiety and relentless death, always a step or two behind. And wolves. And Liam Neeson.

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Wilmington on Movies: Dark Shadows

Most interestingly the filmmakers take a lead character, Barnabas C., whom I remember as something of an epicene icon, and they let Depp (who has said that he interprets many roles with a gay slant) make Barnabas so unabashedly heterosexual with his lady loves — Eva Green in Lara Parker’s old role of witch/bitch Angelique Bouchard and Bella Heathcote as both eternal 18th century love Josette Duprez and ’70s governess Victoria Winters — that they either die or kill for love of him.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Alambrista!

“Alambrista!”– a moving and perceptive cinematic tale of a Mexican illegal immigrant and his odyssey over the border — is a movie that almost defines American film realism in the ‘70s.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Mel Brooks Collection

It’s good to be the King… But sometimes, it‘s better to be the Kaminsky.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Haywire

Steven Soderbergh is smooth, and he’s never smoother than when he’s engaged in some big crime thriller — whether it’s one of the Oceans or something brainier and more realistic, like “Traffic.” I had mixed feelings about “Haywire,” though. I liked it okay, I guess. But I should have liked it more, since it’s the same type of rock-’em-sock-’em wish-fulfiller as “The Limey.”

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Wilmington on DVDs: Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie

TIM & ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Also Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with Digital Copy) (One Half Star) U.S.: Tim Heidecker-Eric Wareheim, 2012 (Magnolia) I have just one thing to say about this sorry excuse for a movie — this nauseatingly taste-challenged, almost putrefyingly preposterous goulash of scatological gags, failed nonsense, barf jokes, poop jokes, piddle jokes, and…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The movie — based by director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker on Deborah Moogach‘s novel, “These Foolish Things“ — is a nice little comedy-drama, intelligently made and beautifully designed and shot. But the acting is what makes it special. That glittering cast of British senior stars are a magnificent seven.

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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