MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Tomorrowland

Watching Tomorrowlan—a great big film hunk of love and optimism and confusion from the Walt Disney Studio—you sometimes get the idea that director-writer Brad Bird and company are trying not just to create a new movie but maybe to found a new movement; Dianetics for Disneyphiles, or Pessimists Anonymous or Worldmakers. (Just kidding.)

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Wilmington on Movies: Pitch Perfect 2 / Pitch Perfect

Any movie sequel that starts out by having its costar moon the President of the United States and the First Lady at Lincoln Center obviously doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-confidence.

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Wilmington on Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road

Head-banging, car-crashing action movies with minimal dialogue and maximum carnage may make a lot of money, but they’ve also gotten (deservedly) a bad odor for some film-lovers, including, sometimes, me

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Wilmington On Movies: Maggie

Maggie (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Henry Hobson, 2015 Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t made many movies you could describe as art films, and that may be one of the reasons his new picture, Maggie, seems like such an anomaly. It’s at least half of an art film — an attempt at a sensitive genre piece that‘s…

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Wilmington on Movies: Hot Pursuit

Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergera play two gals on the run in South Texas in the new movie Hot Pursuit: Reese is a diminutive fussbudget blonde by-the-book cop named Cooper and Sofia is a statuesque sexpot drug cartel wife named Daniella Riva. And they’re so much better than the movie itself that you wonder if the two costars might be deliberately outshining their own vehicle. Watching this nitwit show (as Todd McCarthy accurately described it), I wouldn’t put it past them.

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Wilmington on Movies: Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me suffers from personality disorder too: an inability to tell all these potentially funny jokes with the joyous buffoonery that would make them ignite on screen—say, to explode with some of the wild devilish relish that an old-fashioned make-‘em-laugh comedian like Red Skelton put into his classic media satire: the ‘40s mock radio commercial for “Guzzler’s Gin.” (“Smooth! Smooth!”)

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Wilmington on Movies: Avengers: Age of Ultron

What should I say about Avengers: Age of Ultron? Is it too much of a good thing? Maybe. But consider the possibilities that stretched before it, as well as all the doors that were already closed when all the deals were struck.

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Wlmington on Movies: Black Souls

Dark, stark and bleak, and filled with a sense of impending disaster, Francesco Munzi’s Black Souls is an anti-romantic Italian mob drama—a great brooding powerhouse of a film that reminds you of violent mob classics like The Godfather and Goodfellas, and more recent Italian crime gems like Gomorrah, only to veer off into a shocking climax that’s more reminiscent in tone and impact of a Greek tragedy.

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Wilmington on Movies: True Story

Truth may not always be stranger than fiction, but it sometimes seems to sell better—even though that “truth” may be ambivalent and the reporting questionable. True Story, a true-crime movie which has some very good scenes and performances, and also some that are disturbingly dubious, supplies a couple of juicy fact-based roles for real-life buddies Jonah Hill and James Franco, and both dive right in, taking over the screen joyously, both when they’re together and sometimes when they aren’t. That doesn’t mean that the movie is entirely or even largely satisfying. It’s not, though the two lead actors give it everything they can.

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Wilmington on Movies: Ex Machina

We’re in something of a golden age for movie science fiction—or at least a gold-plated one at least—and Ex Machina is a good example how that genre can be worked and reworked by a bright filmmaker who knows the form and how to play with it.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Salvation

The movie Western is a durable genre that has sometimes fallen on hard times. But that genre gets a powerful reworking from a couple of knowledgeable foreigners—not-so-gloomy Danes Kristian Levring (director-writer) and co-screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen—in the Go-Eastwood-Young-Man revenge shocker The Salvation.

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Wilmington on Movies: Run All Night

Why doesn’t Liam Neeson make movies today like Schindler’s List or Michael Collins?

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Wilmington on Movies: Fifty Shades of Grey

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Two Stars) U.S.: Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015 Based on the wildly popular bestseller by E. L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey takes what sometimes seems a teenager’s view of S&M, and turns it into erotic kitsch for so-called grownups. The movie, co-written and co-produced by James, asks us to play voyeur to a…

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Wilmington on DVDs: A Christmas Carol (1951)

Perhaps critics and movie lovers treasure it because they can see how deftly Hurst and Langley have resisted the obvious temptations of the material. This is the one of the most faithful of all “Christmas Carol”adaptations and also one of the least sentimental, one of the most stylishly crafted and one of the more psychologically acute. It’s beyond question a film for adults more than for children, which is almost never how “A Christmas Carol” is played.

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Wilmington on Movies: Foxcatcher

When a movie comedian goes dramatic, the results can be devastating—as Steve Carell proves again in Foxcatcher.

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Wilmington on Movies: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler is a movie mostly about Los Angeles at night, mostly about the times when a lot of the city closes down and the streets go black, and freelance newshounds and videographers come crawling out of the dark corners and racing through the dark streets to take pictures of disaster and bloodshed and mayhem — which they peddle to the noisier TV channels and news programs: all those second or third tier (or less) stations whose (not always) unspoken motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s a good movie: tough, eloquent, very well-shot (by Robert Elswit)—a rousing little show that tries to tap the same sort of sleaze-scraping, unsparing vein as Ace in the Hole (about newspapers and sensationalistic journalism), Sweet Smell of Success (about newspaper gossip columnists) and A Face in the Crowd (about populist rightwing TV). A lot of the time, it succeeds. Sometimes sweetly, and sometimes with a spray of acid.

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Wilmington on Movies: Gone Girl

Even if you’ve never read the book or seen the movie (which may well be the case), you probably think you sort of know what’s going to happen next. But you probably don’t. Gone Girl, which Flynn has cunningly imagined and craftily, stunningly wrote, and which Fincher has visualized with all the eerie expertise which usually marks his high-style crime movies (including Fight Club, Se7en, The Game, Zodiac, Panic Room, and even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), is, like many another thriller of its type, dependent on how far we’re willing to suspend disbelief. But, in the realms of bestseller-turned-moviedom, Gone Girl is a cut or two above and definitely better than most — full of not always guessable tricks and twists, told in a tense, taut, racy, mostly engrossing style and boasting a lot of tangy, sharply drawn characters, very well played by a very good cast.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Skeleton Twins

Many American plays and movies about families are horror stories of a sort. That’s true of some of the masters of the form, like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill—and it also goes somewhat for Craig Johnson’s The Skeleton Twins, in which Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, two brilliant comic actors taking a whirl at drama, play a pair of New York-born suburban twins, Milo and Maggie, who’ve been alienated for a decade (since their mid-‘20s) and are now drawn together by what was very nearly a double tragedy: near-simultaneous near-suicides of both because of unhappy love lives.

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Wilmington on Movies: Honeymoon

Suppose you drove off for a romantic rendezvous in your parent’s isolated cabin in the woods, and the honeymoon quickly degenerated from an idyll into something…else. Suppose you went off together to be alone and wild and erotically indulgent and your lover began behaving like someone or something….else.

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Wilmington on Movies — Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

The first movie was better. Or it played better. Based on Miller’s “Sin City” graphic novels–which took the tricks and tropes of film noir (both the literary and cinematic varieties) to a point of stylistic near-meltdown—the movie was a shadowy, violent, blisteringly cynical comic book rock ‘n roll parody-melodrama hoot: an orgy of movie lust and celluloid violence and pulpy eloquence that was all about the crooks, thugs, lonely men, strippers, whores, men with guns or hotly-pursued dames and femme fatales who hung out at Miller’s evil Neverland.

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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