MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: ParaNorman; Lawless; The Apparition

    PARANORMAN (Also 3 or 2 Disc Blu-ray/DVD and/or 3D Combo) (Three Stars) U. S.: Chris Butler/Sam Fell, 2012 (Focus) ParaNorman, a.k.a. Norman Babcock, mini-hero of the entertainingly creepy new 3D stop-motion animated feature that bears his name, not only has three dimensions but a sixth sense to boot.  He sees the dead —…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Umberto D.

Italy. The early ‘50s. The Post-war era. On a crowded Roman street, a group of old men who live on pensions from the Italian government, try to demonstrate for a raise in their meager incomes. Police break up the march, and the old men scatter, including the neatly-dressed, white-haired man whom we will follow for 88 minutes in the story that has just begun. He is an elderly ex-government worker named Umberto Domenico Ferrari, or “Umberto D.“ for short. Umberto has a threadbare dark suit and sad, watchful eyes and he takes with him, almost everywhere, his little white-and-brown-haired dog, Flike. Like most of the other old men, his situation has become desperate.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Men in Black 3

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW MEN IN BLACK III (Three Stars) U.S.: Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012 (Sony) Movie Sequels don’t always work, and the bad ones tend to diminish our fonder memories of the originals. But a good sequel can increase our pleasure. Men in Black III is the third in the series that started…

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Wilmington on Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

Chemistry isn’t lacking here. Cooper plays Pat Jr. with a mix of obstinacy and nervous intensity, plus a phony bravado and a disguised vulnerability that belies the qualities he put into the unshakably self-confident stud he played in The Hangover. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she adds naturalistic comedy to her resume to go along with the mastery of naturalistic drama she showed in Winter‘s Bone and the heroic young womanhood she put into The Hunger Games. And she does it with a panache that justifies at least some of the critical mash notes she’s received for this movie.

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Wilmington on Movies: Red Dawn

Red Dawn, a thoroughly idiotic movie, is an amazingly daffy remake of John Milius’ Cold War bang-bang fantasy of the same title. That 1984 jaw-dropper was an action teen movie about high school guys and footballers turned anti-Red guerillas: a band of letterman brothers led by Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell, battling a Soviet invasion in Colorado. 1984, in the height of the Reagan era, was probably a good time for the original movie. I doubt a good time exists for its feckless, dopey, off-the-wall cinematic progeny.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Sparkle; Greed in the Sun, Abraham Lincoln

I think we’re wrong when we say the story doesn’t matter in shows like this, because the audience just comes for the music. (People say the same kind of thing about action and horror movies, and they‘re wrong there, too.) The story does matter, always, and when we start getting more great musicals again — and I hope we will — it’ll be because all of the movie will click and not just a part of it. The high notes as well as the low. The words as well as the music. The dirt as well as the Sparkle.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

Some movies become mass cultural lollapaloozas and pop ultra-phenomena — and they assume an importance they may not quite deserve. So it is with the cinematic Twilight Saga, a series that zillions adore, but to which some critics (including me) remain unhappily immune.

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Wilmington on Movies: Holy Motors

As far as I could glean or remember, M. Oscar impersonates, with Celine’s help — and thanks to a well-stocked supply of makeup and costumes in the back of the limo — a financier, an old beggar-woman, a motion capture lover/dancer in a black unitard, a wild sewer-dwelling hooligan named M. Merde, a dying father, a charismatic accordionist, a hired killer and his victim/double, and the lover of a heart-breaking chanteuse played and sung (to the hilt) by Kylie Minogue.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Queen of Versailles

Of all the amusing, depressing and jaw-dropping things in The Queen of Versailles — Lauren Greenfield’s documentary about the construction and deconstruction of the largest one-family dwelling in the United States, a domicile modeled on both the French Palace of Versailles and the Las Vegas Paris Hotel and built by time-share resort hotel czar David Siegel — one of the things that bothered me most was the seeming fact that in this entire massive, outlandishly ornate yet fundamentally cheesy edifice, intended as a glorious Got-rocks celebration by Siegel and his family (including wife Jackie, seven children, one niece and 19 servants), I did not spot a single book.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Savages; The Watch; The Game; Private Hell 36

These three lead a sort of idyllic hippie-outlaw-rich-druggie existence (like young, successful moviemakers maybe), with lots of money to spend, lots of ganja to smoke, and lots of sheets to muss up — in paradisiacal surroundings on Laguna Beach, drenched in the blazing colors and the lush foliage of beachside life on the Pacific, as shot by cinematographer Dan Mindel. Then their dream world begins to crumble.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Lawrence of Arabia 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Few adventure films ever have boasted such astonishing physical beauty. As shot by cinematographer Freddie Young (and his second unit photographer Nicolas Roeg), there’s a scintillating clarity in the city and village scenes (done mostly in Seville, Spain, and Morocco) and even more the vast Saudi Arabian landscapes: movielands as haunting as John Ford’s Monument Valley: a Xanadu of boys’ adventure, dune after dune sliding off toward the blinding sky.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Brave

Brave has been criticized for being too much like classic Disney, which is true, and what of it? Even so, the movie deliberately subverts and plays with the very traditions it celebrates. Brave’s heroine, Merida, may be a princess, but she isn’t waiting around for the someday her prince will come.

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Wilmington on Movies: Skyfall

Did I like it? Sure. Has it lost some or all of its Ian-Flemingish savoir faire and pizzazz, it’s sense of fun and immaculate violence? Not yet, Any movie with Javier Bardem as a villain (or as a non-villain for that matter), has my vote. And Skyfall is not only a classy production on every level — well-acted, well-written, well-shot –but a good rip-roaring action movie too.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection

I’m not a Bond-olator, by any means, but this set seems a beauty: a real pop movie treasure trove. It’s an essential Blu-ray box set — even if a number of the movies are disappointing. (Has anyone ever cared to mount a defense of the 1985 A View to a Kill?)

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Wilmington on DVDs: Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Eating Raoul… More

I’ve always thought that this nightmarishly building, wackily compassionate road comedy — with straight, wired-tight Steve Martin being driven progressively crazy by his unwelcome road partner, blowhard John Candy — was John Hughes’ best movie (just ahead of Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off), and one of the best American film comedies of the ‘80s.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Sondheim! The Birthday Concert

Two mild objections. I understand the reason producer-director Lonny Price left the names of the singers off the concert program. He wanted to surprise the audience, who would have recognized most everybody. But the TV show and DVD’s potential audience includes many people who haven’t been to New York, and maybe never will get there. I’m sure they’d like to know, in every case, who was who, and who sang what. Also: It does seem to me, sorry, a little pretentious to leave off off the program the one Sondheim song almost everyone outside of New York City knows and wants to hear: “Send in the Clowns.” But then, isn’t a little pretentiousness part of what we love best about New Yorkers?

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Amazing Spider-Man

    THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN  (Also:Three or Four Disc Combo, with Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and 3D)  (Three Stars) U.S.: Marc Webb, 2012 (Sony)   Pity poor Spider-Man: He gets old, his webs get worn, and the movie guys just keep originating him, over and over. Ten years after the Marvel Comics movie that told the…

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Wilmington on Movies: Flight

Denzel Washington, as advertised, gives an extraordinary performance in Flight, a Robert Zemeckis movie about the limits and contradictions of heroism, the perils of celebrity, and the corrosive effects of lies and alcoholism. Its a very good film, at times an excellent one, and definite Oscar nomination material. It’s also a very welcome movie.

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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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