MCN Originals Archive for August, 2010

Wilmington on DVD: Red Riding Trilogy, Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Errol Flynn Adventures … and more

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW The Red Riding Trilogy (Four Stars) U.K.; Julian Jarrold/James Marsh/Anand Tucker, 2009 (IFC Films) Easily one of the most ambitious and best films of 2009 is writer Tony Grisoni‘s three part adaptation of David Peace’s Red Riding novels. This is noir times three, with the three films spanning a decade…

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DVD Wrap: 9th Company, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, Drive in Cult Classics, Squeal, Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire … and more

9th Company: Blu-ray It took several years before American filmmakers could get a sufficiently tight grip on the enormity of the Vietnam War to produce historically accurate and psychologically coherent portraits of our soldiers as they fought in it. Several anti-war documentaries had been released in the wake of the gradual pullout of U.S. forces,…

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DVD Geek: The Runaways

Not as tightly composed or as carefully devised as the most popular rock biography films, The Runaways, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, is nevertheless a satisfying production. It tells the story of one of the earliest all-female, hard rocking bands, which got started in the mid-Seventies with Joan Jett. Later, the band broke up and…

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Excuse Our Dust

Nothing like living in a hotel that has major construction going on… even if your room is brand new and perfect, the dust in the hallways can be distracting. Welcome to MCN Gen 2, where we are still hard at work. So sit back, relax, and pretend you don’t hear hammering.

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Frenzy on the Wall: 10 Movies to See This Fall/Winter

I write this column every year. In fact, I write this column three times a year, with the changing of the movie seasons. The interesting thing about writing this particular column at this particular time in this particular year is: 1) this has been such an unfathomably terrible year at the movies that the fall…

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Weekend Box Office Report

Call it a tie with horror vs. heist. Estimated weekend box office for the frame’s two national releases gives a razor-thin edge of less than $100,000 to The Last Exorcism with $22.2 million to Takers’ $22.1 million.

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Friday Estimates – August 27

Two new films lead the pack heading into the weekend, as The Last Exorcism and Takers battle it out for first place …

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Voynaristic Review: Takers

Takers won’t win any awards or set a new watermark for spectactular heist films, but for what it is — a rather generic heist film with a mostly decent ensemble cast and one very good performance by Matt Dillon — it’s mostly harmless. If you’re a particularly passionate fan of any of the ensemble cast,…

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Voynaristic Review: The Last Exorcism

Up until about the last eight or so minutes, I was really into The Last Exorcism. Then it all fell apart at the end, but in a way that was actually kind of interesting to dissect. Director Daniel Stamm, who previously made suicide mockumentary A Necessary Death, uses a similar style here, in an interesting…

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Box Office Hell – August 27

The Guessers see The Expendables dropping into third place this weekend, with newcomers The Last Exorcism and Takers leading the way…

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Wilmington on Movies: Flipped, Takers, Vampires Suck and Centurions

For the past few years, I’ve been looking, yearning even, for a few American studio movies that would make me feel the way I sometimes did as a movie-going kid: searching for smart, realistic dramas or thrillers or comedies (or comedy-dramas), good solid movies that had the warmth, sensibility and humanity of the classics of…

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Vincent Cassel on His Portrait of a Gangster

In gangster circles, here and abroad, there are three sure ways for a criminal to know he’s made the Big Time: 1) his mug shot is on display in post offices across the nation; 2) the cops and media have honored his nefarious achievements by giving him a cool nickname; and 3) he’s been awarded…

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Arthouse Redux: Claire Denis: A Little Restraint Goes a Long Way

There are filmmakers who use their medium purely to entertain, or to preach a particular message, or to guide their audience down the path of a particular story, tightly controlling and manipulating their audience’s reactions to what’s on the screen: milking the laughs, exagerrating the conflicts, torquing up both the actions and the reactions of…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Me and Orson Welles, Ajami, Mona Lisa, Elvis 75th Birthday Collection, and more …

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: NEW Me and Orson Welles (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; Richard Linklater, 2009 (Warner/Target) In Me and Orson Welles, Richard Linklater, a director whose films I usually like, takes on a highly ambitious subject that really, really appeals to me — a portrayal of the astonishing youthful theatrical triumphs of…

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The DVD Wrap: City Island, The Back-Up Plan, $5 a Day, Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, The Square, Abandoned and more …

City Island: Blu-ray If Leo Tolstoy had written Anna Karenina in the 1970s, instead of the 1870s, and as a screenplay, instead of a novel, it might have begun thusly, “Happy families are all alike; every dysfunctional family is dysfunctional in its own way.” Or to put it another way, “Happy families belong in TV…

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Is Angelina Jolie the First Female Action Hero?

I finally caught up with Salt this weekend and I’m surprised it’s gotten a pass from most of the critical community (61% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s not that it’s an awful movie, but it’s certainly not a very good one. In fact, it’s a ridiculous and outlandish film that feels twenty minutes too long…

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Wilmington on Movies: Nanny McPhee Returns, Mao’s Last Dancer, Eat Pray Love and Lottery Ticket

Nanny McPhee Returns (Three Stars) U.S.; Susanna White, 2010 I love Emma Thompson, even snaggle-toothed and warty. And this Thompson-written, Thompson-starring way-beyond-Mary-Poppins WW2-era film of the Matilda books of Christianna Brand — who also wrote that wonderful WW2-set thriller Green for Danger (which became one of Alistair Sim‘s finest hours) — is a little loud,…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The City of Your Final Destination, Black Orpheus, Hamlet, The Last Song, and more …

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW The City of Your Final Destination (Three and a Half Stars) U.K.-U.S.; James Ivory, 2009 (Screen Media) In The City of Your Final Destination — maybe the last of the lovably old-fashioned, classically constructed, deeply literate and beautifully wrought Merchant Ivory films, in the string that began back in 1963…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

PICK OF THE WEEK: Blu-Ray The Magnificent Seven (Three and a Half Stars) U.S.; John Sturges, 1960 (MGM) Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 battle epic, Seven Samurai was originally distributed in the U.S. under the title The Magnificent Seven. So that’s the title MGM used when John Sturges made the seemingly inevitable Western remake — in…

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Scott Pilgrim Vs the World: Less Than Perfect, But That’s Okay

I hate to repeat the beginning of my Inception column, but Scott Pilgrim Vs the World is neither the best nor the worst movie ever. What is it about us as a culture these days? It seems like every film, album, painting, ballet, etc. has to be categorized as either “amazing” or “terrible.” Art runs…

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MCN Originals

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin