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Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: The Graduate

Sometimes a movie comes at exactly the right time. Like The Graduate — director Mike Nichols’ and screenwriters Buck Henry’s and Calder Willingham’s marvelously edgy and arousing romantic comedy about plastics and family affairs and life in California, with one of those heroes, or anti-heroes, who strike a chord: young, nervous, recent college graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who’s a little worried about his future and also torn between his clandestine affair with a married lover, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and his seemingly genuine open-air love for her beautiful college-age daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).

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Wilmington on Movies: Ted

Listen, I’m like almost everybody else. If you make me laugh, I’ll forgive you. I’ll forgive almost anything. In fact, I feel here like the priest with the Mafia guy on the other side of the screen. There’s a lot to forgive and expiate: a lot of Hail Marys here. But what the hell. It made me laugh. I forgive it. Bring it in, yuh bastid. Where’s the brewskis?

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Wilmington on DVDs: The 39 Steps

CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC THE 39 STEPS (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars) U.K.: Alfred Hitchcock, 1935 (Criterion Collection)  Back in 1985, I wrote these liner notes for one of the earliest Criterion Collection releases: a videotape, in a silver-colored box, of Alfred Hitchcock’s love-on-the-run spy-story masterpiece, The 39 Steps. (The original is still on their website.)…

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Wilmington on DVDs: 21 Jump Street; Spider-Man; Spider-Man 2; Spider-Man 3; Erin Brockovich; Sister Act; Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

The first two Spider-Man movies were such smash critical hits (Spider-Man 2, co-scripted by Alvin Sargent, has been hailed as the acme of the whole genre, until The Avengers), that an inevitable backlash plagued the vulnerable and tearful Spider-Man 3. (Seen by itself, most critics would have probably liked it fine – just as the public liked all three). But some smasheroos deserve their popularity and this is one (excuse me, these are three) of them.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Deliverance

   CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC DELIVERANCE (40th Anniversary collector’s edition) Four Stars U.S.; John Boorman, 1972 (Warner Bros.) Four Southern businessmen, searching for the joys of youth, join together for a Georgia canoe trip on the beautiful but often dangerously turbulent Cahulawassee River. Soon however, after a violent confrontation with two evil backwoodsmen, they find themselves…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Artist

It’s a cinematic feast in the style of the old time silent movies that flourished from the time of film‘s invention in 1895 — or at least since Georges Méliès started telling stories with them before the turn of the century — until 1927, when Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer made the screen speak and croon and told us we ain’t heard nothing yet and, unmaliciously of course , drove a nail in the coffin of the old technology, while ushering in the new.

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Wilmington on Movies: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The whole movie is nervous and over-loud and expensive-looking, full of tacky jump-at-you 3D effects; and watching it sometimes makes you feel as if the country was under attack by a conspiracy of blood-sucking idiots. Even though it was shot by the sometimes marvelous Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Black Stallion), the film’s visual style seems like a mistake.

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Wilmington on Movies: Brave.

“Brave” is a beautifully visualized, sometimes blisteringly funny and exciting Pixar cartoon fairytale about a wee Scottish lassie who grows up into a feisty, flame-haired young adventuress who shoots off great big arrows and battles bears and witches and boisterous clansmen.

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Wilmington on Movies: Andrew Sarris (1928-2012)

Andy Sarris was my favorite movie critic because, in “The American Cinema,” he opened up a world for me, for all of us. That’s what a good critic, or a great one, does.

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Wilmington on DVDs: And Everything Is Going Fine; Sex and Death to the Age of 14.

He’s dead now, and his friends suspect he threw himself off the Staten Island Ferry and drowned, took his life because he was suffering the pain from a bad traffic accident on a lonely road in Ireland that left him with a smashed skull and some brain damage, and, according to Nell Casey “an orbital fracture, a broken hip, and a permanent limp“ — unable to swim, unable to ski. Unable… So he jumped, maybe. Drowned, maybe. As the Manhahttan skyline approached or receded — maybe. Unless he was on the other side of the ferry. We don’t know because he isn’t around to tell the story.

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Wilmington on Movies: Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” is a rock movie for people who still have their old Foreigner and REO Speedwagon album collections intact, but can’t really feel the beat.

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Wilimington on Movies: Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding

Jane Fonda plays Grandma Grace, whom you might describe as the permanent ambassador from Woodstock Nation. A devotee of sex, drugs and rock n’roll — as well as peace, love and understanding — and a still sexually adventurous old gal who claims she was once in a threesome with Leonard Cohen, Grace lives in Woodstock in a combination pot farm and upscale painters studio that looks as if it were designed by somebody rich and famous for somebody like Jane Fonda.

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Wilmington on Movies: That’s My Boy

Say one thing for Adam Sandler: He isn’t afraid of looking like an idiot on screen. Or a boor. Or a horny dude. Or a comedian who doesn’t give a damn what the the critics think of him. In Sandler’s outrageously uninhibited, defiantly obnoxious but good-natured new movie, That’s My Boy, he plays, to the hilt, Donny Berger, an outrageously uninhibited, defiantly obnoxious, good-natured guy who became famous in the ’80s — or had fame thrust upon him, as his classmates colorfully put it — when, as a lippy 13-year-old eighth-grader, he had an affair with his sexy junior high (or middle school) teacher, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino), had a baby with her, and became a tabloid sensation.

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Wilmington on DVDs: La Terra Trema; Conversation Piece

La Terra Trema is an almost didactic and preachy leftist film, which often tells you how it feels. (Visconti, along with Antonio Pietrangeli, writes and speaks the narration himself.) But there‘s a majesty in the images of landscape and sea, and an unforced naturalism in the performances, by the actual villagers of Aci Trezza, that both pull you deeply into the human side of the story.

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Wilmington on DVDs: In Darkness

The sewers of Lvov are small and inky black and steeped in an airless-looking gloom, cramped and comfortless, wet with sewage and slime. These sewers look like real sewers. They are true hellholes, and the people hiding there are a mismatched crowd of businessmen, operators, snobs, adulterers, ordinary people, families and even children, all escaping from the Lvov ghetto, crowded together on the walkways and pressed to the breaking point.

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Wilmington on Movies: Children of Paradise

Prevert’s script has never been surpassed as sheer literature for the screen. The cast is a great one too, from that ultimate femme fatale Arletty as the irresistible beauty Garance, to the four superb actors who play the four men who adore her unto death: lively, cheerfully seductive Pierre Brasseur as the commanding virtuoso classical actor Frederick LeMaitre; cold Louis Salou as the reptilian Count Edouard de Montray; Marcel Herrand with his evil smile, as the nihilist/dandy/playwright/thief/murderer Lacenaire; and melancholy-looking genius Jean-Louis Barrault as the great sad-eyed mime.

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Wilmington on Movies: Prometheus

The template for both the first Alien and Prometheus — movies about small, isolated groups of humans besieged by a malignant space alien or aliens — is probably John W. Campbell’s famous story “Who Goes There?” which was later made, not very faithfully, into Howard Hawks’ and Christian Nyby’s zingy 1951 pop classic The Thing from Another World, and later, more faithfully, into John Carpenter’s gory and generally underrated 1982 The Thing. The 1979 Alien sort of reset that template for all time, at least for movies. (It’s still much used and abused).

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Wilmington on DVDs. Coriolanus

Here we have another film treasure taken from the vast and wonderful dramaturgy of William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright who ever lived: “Coriolanus,” bitter, bleak, murderous play of the hell of warfare, of deadly comrades in arms, of the masses and the few, of the ties of blood and the evils of politics — now made into a movie set in the age of bombs and the land of ethnic cleansing (Serbia), directed by and starring, in the title role, that fine melancholy actor Ralph Fiennes, with a performance so extraordinary by Vanessa Redgrave, as Volumnia, the ultimate warrior‘s mother, that it takes your breath away to watch her, and to hear her — as it must have staggered Fiennes while he watched and directed and acted with her, and said the words above, with feeling.

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Wilmington on DVDs.The Woodmans

One problem with being a great artist, or a hugely gifted artist, is that the temperament isn’t always easy to live with — especially for the artists themselves. Another problem: You have to depend on perceptive critics and audiences to earn your living or win recognition, and they aren’t always available.

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Wilmington

Johanna Lynch on: Wilmington on DVDs: The File on Thelma Jordon; Adua and her Friends; Bullet to the Head

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

Quote Unquotesee all »

Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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