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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: The Campaign

My name is Mike Wilmington, and I approved this review. Are politicians whores? Are movie comedies whorehouses? Are whores and poets and comedians the great unacknowleged legislators of mankind—and East Canarsie? Then why don’t they all get together and count votes more often?

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Wilmington on Movies: Cloud Atlas

I loved it. And for once, I’m speechless. But I promise to get to it at greater length, next week. It’s a movie, after all, that can probably be watched repeatedly, and discussed endlessly. It’s divided the critics — some are fervently pro, some contemptuously con — in a way that usually only the more interesting pictures can and do. It’s long, it’s complex, and it violates about half the rules for a big-budget big-audience movie, while following (and triumphing in) about half the others.

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Wilmington on Movies: Chasing Mavericks

Jonny Weston has curly-frizzy blonde locks and a ripped torso and he even does most of his own surfing. But he also has amiable but vacuous pretty boy looks that suggest blonde actors like Troy Donahue or Christopher Atkins — that summon up less a great, driven surfer on a date with destiny than a male model with a date at the Santa Monica pier. I’ve seen Weston at least one other time recently, in the lousy behind-the scenes porno industry movie About Cherry, but I can barely remember what he did in it. I can and will remember him in Chasing Mavericks. But that’s mostly because of his role, and because he’s playing, at least part of the time, with those incredible waves — the awesome rolling towers of water and spray and curling doom that better men (and women) than I am, conquer or fall before.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Blade Runner

Blade Runner was one of the two favorite movies of a girl I loved once named Marji Sirkin, a friend with whom I laughed and played and watched movies, and whom I watched slowly die of Hodgkin’s Disease two decades ago in a much sunner, smoggier. and even sadder, Los Angeles. She looked, I thought, like Moira Shearer crossed with Tina Louise. We had fun. She watched Blade Runner and Beauty and the Beast and her other favorites over and over again. She wanted to be a film editor. She was working her way through UCLA Film, and she had won an award with one of her student films (about the dangers of cigarette smoking).Then her body’s clock began to stop and it was painful for her to walk, and her beautiful red hair fell out.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; Quantum of Solace; Secret Beyond the Door

I didn’t read the book — and believe me, I never will — but it seems to me that the only way you could possibly make an entertaining show out of a title and a concept as dumb as this, is to do it as a five minute sketch for “Saturday Night Live,” maybe starring Will Ferrell as Lincoln, Tina Fey as Mary Todd Lincoln and Adam Sandler as Adam, the vampire. Get in and get out, fast.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Magic Mike; The Little Shop of Horrors

   MAGIC MIKE (Two and a Half Stars) U. S.: Steven Soderbergh, 2012 (Warner Bros.)   The art and commerce of striptease — at least as we see it in director Steven Soderbergh and producer-star Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike — is entertainment in a very elemental (let’s say “stripped down“) form. The performer takes off her/his clothes…

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Wilmington on Movies: The 48th Chicago International Film Festival Awards

48th CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL   Holy Motors Holy Motors, Leos Carax’s  surreal French fantasy-drama-thriller-romance (and then some) about a chameleonic actor and his weird limousine journey through nearly a dozen alternate lives, was the big winner at Friday night’s award ceremony for The 48th  annual Chicago International Film Festival. Carax’s film, his first since…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Sessions

The Sessions (which was called “The Surrogate” when it played at Sundance) carries us through Mark’s determination to have a sexual life, to his decision to hire a sex surrogate — Helen Hunt as the real-life surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene — and their sessions together, in a motel room, facilitated by Mark’s caretaker Vera (Moon Bloodgood) and an inquisitive desk man (Ming Lo). Alone together in the bare-looking motel room, Cheryl tries to teach and gentle him into his heart’s desire. It’s not easy.

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Wilmington on Movies: Sinister

These home snuff movies are creepy and ragged-looking. The real-life scenes are creepy stylized horror stuff. And the professional reality makes the amateur “reality” movies look spookier. (Kudos to cinematographer Chris Norr for the way he lights both of them.) Derrickson, who also directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the overblown 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, works with Norr to keep everything shadowy and grim and unsettling — never more so than when we witness those murders, especially the one in the tree.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson makes pictures that are like big beautiful whimsical toys, few more than this. He and his co-writer, Roman Coppola (son of Francis) swim out into a dream and a storm, and they wave to us. The children behave like….grownups. The grownups behave like children. (I said that.)

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Wilmington on DVDs: That’s My Boy; Chernobyl Diaries

  THAT’S MY BOY (One and a Half Stars) U.S.: Sean Anders, 2012 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) Say one thing for Adam Sandler: He isn’t afraid of looking like an idiot on screen. Or a boor. Or one horny dude. Or a comedian who doesn’t give aadamn what the some critics think of him. More…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Avatar

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW Avatar (Four Stars) U.S.; James Cameron, 2009, 20th Century FoxAvatar, James Cameron’s planet-shaking, moon-rocking, eco-boosting, dragon-riding new science fiction fantasy epic-and-a-half, may not be a perfect movie. But it’s sure as all blazes an incredible movie-going experience. Cameron’s long-time labor of love and money is a genre-movie knockout, a technological marvel, whose…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Strangers on a Train, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

This classic portrayal of murder, guilt, transference and homoeroticism is one of Hitchcock‘s best: a superb film noir adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s classic literary thriller, with an amazing performance — blood-chilling, hilarious and strangely moving — by Walker as Bruno, that charmingly twisted rich boy who won’t take “no” for an answer.

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Wilmington on Movies: Seven Psychopaths

That’s sixteen characters (and one Shih Tzu) altogether, including the four psychopaths we already mentioned. You’ll just have to figure out who the other three psychos are yourself, or wait until McDonagh shows one of them in the movie, and flashes the title “Psychopath One” (or whatever) on screen. There are some surprises. But I’d go see a movie with any three of the seven actors playing actual psychopaths in this one, in a trice. Or a movie just with Chris Walken and any two others, even the dog.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Prometheus

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW Prometheus (Also 3 or 4 Disc Blu-ray Combo Packs) (Four Stars) U. S.: Ridley Scott, 2012 (20th Century Fox) I. PART ONE, THE SET-UP John Hurt, anyone? Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s first science fiction movie since Blade Runner three decades ago, and a prequel of sorts to his first…

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Wilmington on Movies: Frankenweenie

Two of the best things horror-comedy prodigy Tim Burton ever did were a couple of black and white cartoons he made for Disney back in the early ‘80s, when he was a lad in his 20s. One of them, Vincent (1982), was the tale in rhyme of a little boy who adored Vincent Price. Narrated in his inimitable evil-ish sneer by Mr. Price himself; it was a critical hit, and deserved to be. (I remember seeing it in a theater in the early ‘80s, with mingled bemusement and delight — and filing away Burton‘s name in my noggin.) The other gem, the black and white stop-motion featurette Frankenweenie, was a Frankenstein parody set in a black-and-white sit-commy stop-motion suburb, about a child named Victor Frankenstein who revives with electricity his dead pet dog.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Master

I watched an hour of The Master, and decided that (along with IMAX), that was one of the main ways I wanted to look at movies from now on. The Master catches the ’50s as well as most of the great color movies of and about that decade—Vertigo, Some Came Running, Written on the Wind, A Star is Born, and of course, Rebel Without a Cause. It’s an expose’ of the Eisenhower era, but it’s also a 70mm poem to it.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Peace, Love and Misunderstanding; Red Lights

    PEACE, LOVE, & MISUNDERSTANDING (Two and a Half Stars) U.S. Bruce Beresford, 2011 (MPI Home Video) In Peace, Love & Misunderstanding — a cinematic salute/love ballad to the survivors of the ’60s — Jane Fonda plays Grandma Grace, whom you might describe as a permanent ambassador from Woodstock Nation. A devotee of sex, drugs…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Dark Shadows

    DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW DARK SHADOWS (Three Stars) U.S.: Tim Burton, 2012 The original TV “Dark Shadows” was a hell of a soap, a classic of ‘60s-’70s pop/trash culture. When you watch it today, you can almost hear a ghostly backdrop chorus  of  Nixon and McGovern speeches, Walter Cronkite reporting the Vietnam…

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Wilmington

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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