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

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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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook