MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: The Heat

The Heat is a crude, violent, often tasteless, clichéd and outrageously foul-mouthed buddy-buddy cop comedy that also happens to be funny—sometimes screamingly funny.

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Wilmington on Movies: White House Down

I hate to admit this, but I sort of enjoyed White House Down. This doesn‘t mean that I‘m ready to forgive producer -director Roland Emmerich and his latest landmark-basher all their cinematic sins (among them Emmerich’s last movie raid on Washington D. C., and the White House, the 1996 Independence Day) , or that I think that moviemakers with outlandishly big budgets at their disposal should keep attacking and blowing up the White House on screen until they get it right —which may never happen until they hire Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco for the job — or that I‘m getting soft in my old age. It’s just that White House Down, defying all my expectations, made me laugh a little.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Ballad of Narayama (1958 and 1983)

The 1958 film version of The Ballad of Narayama is one of the masterpieces of Keisuke Kinoshita, a great Japanese writer-director—peer and friend of Kurosawa and Ichikawa—who, these days, sometimes seems as unfairly marginalized as his main character in Narayama: Orin, the elderly woman who will be left alone on the mountain Narayama by her children.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell’s Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

The Roman Empire falls for Russell Crowe. And Hollywood fell for his movie. Am I being too sarcastic? Well, to be finicky about it, Gladiator may not really have deserved the Best Picture Oscar.

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Wilmington on Movies: World War Z

A lot of the film’s quality, or at least its sometimes entertaining excess, is probably due to producer-star Brad Pitt, for whom this disaster epic was obviously a labor of zombie-love, as much as of zombie-commerce. Pitt is one actor whose good looks you tend not to hold against him. He’s a guy who, like Paul Newman and Robert Redford (two fathers of some of his performances) kids himself enough to remove what might be a taint of narcissism.

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Wilmington on Movies: Monsters University

That’s the problem: You can write most of it yourself, whereas you’d be hard-pressed to come up with half the humor and emotion, the twists and turns of Pixar’s Toy Story Trilogy, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Up, and this movie‘s dazzling post-prequel Monsters Inc.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Things to Come

The two great Godfathers of literary science fiction were the fanciful Frenchman Jules Verne and the immensely-well-read Britisher H. G. Wells. But though both of them have been adapted endlessly for the movies, only one of them actually wrote a science-fiction screenplay, adapted from one of his own books.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Two Mules for Sister Sara; Of Human Bondage; Jack the Giant Slayer

Of Human Bondage is an important part of film history for several reasons. It’s director John Cromwell’s faithful, intelligent (if severely shortened) adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s best-selling and much-admired semi-autobiographical novel about the sad early life of a sensitive and idealistic London medical student named Philip Carey, who falls ruinously in love with a pretty, yet selfish and sadistic waitress named Mildred. The movie is a classic — not just because it’s a fine version of a powerful novel with a very moving lead performance by Leslie Howard in the Maugham-ish role of Philip—but because it’s the movie that made a star of the acrtess who played Mildred, 26-year-old Bette Davis.

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Wilmington on Movies: Man of Steel

Man of Steel is one of the loudest movies I’ve seen recently. Or maybe ever. In this almost constantly erupting show guns fire, buildings topple, planets explode. Watching the picture—which revives Superman for the movies on the 75th anniversary of his first appearance in Action Comics (April 1938)—I felt as if I were being continually blasted out of my seat, and it wasn’t always an enjoyable feeling. It’s got a lot going for it. It’s not a bad or indifferent movie. But it’s not a particularly good one either.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Bling Ring

They were a gang of four wannabe-fashionista girls, and one computer geek boy from the San Fernando Valley. Based on real life kids who were the subjects of a Vanity Fair article about their crimes, they became famous for going on joy-raids into the homes of the celebrity rich of Los Angeles-and-thereabouts, and stealing their bling: that is, their jewelry, shoes, objets d’art and fancy clothes and occasionally wads of dough the owners just leave lying around the place.

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Wilmington on Movies: This is the End

Just when I’d practically given up buddy-buddy movie comedy for dead, after the wipeouts of The Hangover III and The Internship, along comes This is the End, from writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, to revive your faith in bad taste and arrested development.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Badlands

What really disturbed, and disturbs, some people about both these films are the ways that Malick and Penn make their deadly protagonists beautiful—make us like them, even get crushes on them. All four pretty miscreants—Bonnie, Clyde, Kit, Holly—are stunningly attractive, which gives them all the classic movie short-cut to sympathy, something we also see in other Bonnie and Clyde-inspired films like Gun Crazy. But they’re also almost cripplingly naïve and childlike—and that’s why we tend to like all of them, right up to the very last moments of their stories.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Enforcer; Les Visiteurs du Soir; Oz, the Great and Powerful; Snitch

The Enforcer, the last movie Humphrey Bogart made for Warner Brothers, begins with one of the grimmest scenes in all of film noir. It’s night, deadly night…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Internship

Vince Vaughn is an actor who tends to work better with partners—Jon Favreau in Swingers, for example. Still, when it came to 2005’s Wedding Crashers, he and Owen Wilson hit the motherlode of buddy-buddy comedy. It’s one of the funnier movies of the millennium, and Vaughn and Wilson, as two swinging young lawyers who crash weddings for the goodies and the women, had sizzling early-Martin & Lewis-style chemistry. Like all comedy teams that click, they were, are, a study in contrasts. Vaughn was fast-talking; Wilson was slow. Vaughn was tall and hunky; Wilson was average and clunky. Vaughn was tart; Wilson was sweet. Vaughn was something of a cynic; Wilson was something of a romantic. We liked Wilson; we were a little leery of Vaughn.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Purge

What happens on Purge night? The people, including everybody but some select national leaders (of course) are unrestrained but also unprotected. They can do anything, break any law—because for those 12 hours, no police will patrol the streets or make arrests or even gather and keep evidence, no doctors will tend the injured in the hospitals, and every violation of the law, no matter how heinous, will be forgiven automatically, in advance—including armed robbery, murder, rape and green-lighting violent movies with potentially terrific ideas that wind up making no sense and indulging the violent fantasies they seem to be criticizing.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Odd Couple, Warm Bodies; A Good Day to Die Hard; Identity Thief

Nervous, punctilious white collar fussbudget Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) and wise-cracking slob sports writer Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) are long time poker buddies thrown together as temporary roomies in Oscar’s N.Y.C. apartment, thanks to Felix’s marital troubles. Can these two mismatched friends, with several failed (or failing) relationships between them, survive their own semi-conjugal non-bliss together? Or will they clamor for a divorce, when the magnitude of Oscar’s laissez-faire housekeeping sinks in?

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Wilmington on Movies: After Earth

You’ve got to feel, a little, for Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan as you watch their misbegotten science-fiction movie After Earth—of which Will was the producer, co-star and original story writer, and his 14-tear-old son Jaden the star and which became a critical punching bag last week. It’s not a good movie, but its heart, or hearts, were in at least some of the right places.

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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 »

“When Bay keeps these absurd plot-gears spinning, he’s displaying his skill as a slick, professional entertainer. But then there are the images of motion—I hesitate to say, of things in motion, because it’s not clear how many things there are in the movie, instead of mere digital simulations of things. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there’s a car chase through London, seen from the level of tires, that could have gone on for an hour, um, tirelessly. What matters is that the defenestrated Cade saves himself by leaping from drone to drone in midair like a frog skipping among lotus pads; that he and Vivian slide along the colossal, polished expanses of sharply tilting age-old fields of metal like luge Olympians. What matters is that, when this heroic duo find themselves thrust out into the void of inner space from a collapsing planet, it has a terrifyingly vast emptiness that Bay doesn’t dare hold for more than an instant lest he become the nightmare-master. What matters is that the enormous thing hurtling toward Earth is composed in a fanatical detail that would repay slow-motion viewing with near-geological patience. Bay has an authentic sense of the gigantic; beside the playful enormity of his Transformerized universe, the ostensibly heroic dimensions of Ridley Scott’s and Christopher Nolan’s massive visions seem like petulant vanities.”
~ Michael Bay Gives Richard Brody A Tingle

How do you see film evolving in this age of Netflix?

I thought the swing would be quicker and more violent. There have been two landmark moments in the history of French film. First in 1946, with the creation of the CNC under the aegis of Malraux. He saved French cinema by establishing the advance on receipts and support fund mechanisms. We’re all children of this political invention. Americans think that the State gives money to French films, but they’re wrong. Through this system, films fund themselves!

The other great turning point came by the hand of Jack Lang in the 1980s, after the creation of Canal+. While television was getting ready to become the nemesis of film, he created the decoder, and a specific broadcasting space between film and television, using new investments for film. That once again saved French film.

These political decisions are important. We’re once again facing big change. If our political masters don’t take control of the situation and new stakeholders like Netflix, Google and Amazon, we’re headed for disaster. We need to create obligations for Internet service providers. They can’t always be against film. They used to allow piracy, but now that they’ve become producers themselves, they’re starting to see things in a different light. This is a moment of transition, a strong political act needs to be put forward. And it can’t just be at national level, it has to happen at European level.

Filmmaker Cédric Klapisch