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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas