MCN Originals Archive for August, 2012

A colonial dandy gets more than he bargained for in ‘Ambassador’

At first glance, you’d think that making a film documenting crime and corruption in central Africa, and exposing the underground trade in passports and other official documents, would be as difficult as fishing with hand grenades. It pretty much is, but no one told Mads Brügger that the hard part would be staying alive long enough to see it finished.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Pre-Toronto International Film Festival 2012

The Gurus are back for the new season. A few Gurus have gone back to the modern world, but when we’re back in November, we should have a few new recruits.

In the meanwhile, this pre-fest (Venice/Telluride/Toronto) chart is a basic guide to the titles that The Gurus see as being in the race for Best Picture. We each selected 20 films without ranking them. Seven films lead, with votes from all the participating Gurus.

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Wilmington on Movies: Lawless

Directed and written by the team of John Hillcoat and rocker-scenarist Nick Cave (who also joined forces on the nerve-jangling 2006 Aussie western The Proposition), Lawless is also a very arty film about a rustic underworld — and it’s arty in both good and grating ways.

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The DVD Wrapup: Battleship, Lonesome, Monsieur Lazhar, Penumbra … More

Those fans of the movie “Battleship” born after Nintendo and Sega were introduced to American consumers might find it difficult to believe that one of Hollywood’s most expensive movies was inspired by one of the least costly pastimes of all. Back in the day, all it took to play the Battleship guessing game was a pencil; illegally mimeographed sheets of papers replicating the grids on the Milton Bradley board; and a folded-over checker board to prevent cheating. Players used their pencil to indicate where various sized warships are located and guess the location of their opponent’s fleet, using a bingo-like alphanumeric system. It provided simple, time-consuming and free fun on a rainy day.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Darling Companion; Headhunters; Down by Law… more

The movie has its flaws — an outlandishly implausible ending chiefly among them — but compared to most of the un-naturalistic, unfunny, unserious, totally phony and sometimes obnoxiously ageist and condescendingly smart-ass gloppy stuff that often passes for American movie comedy-drama these days (and that sometimes gets a pass from the same people who pile on movies like Darling Companion), it’s a movie that deserves some encouragement.

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Wilmington on DVDs: High Noon, 60th Anniversary Edition

High Noon became one of the most influential of all movie Westerns, exerting lasting effects even on films and filmmakers you wouldn’t expect it to, like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (four men, like the Miller gang, walking alone at the end, instead of one), Clint Eastwood‘s hip, dark High Plains Drifter (which might have been the last vengeful nightmare of a dying Will Kane) and Sergio Leone‘s operatic Once Upon a Time in the West.

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The Weekend Report

The Expendables 2 coined an estimated $13.3 million to once again take top spot on the weekend movie going chart. The trio of new national releases didn’t get much more than a toe-hold on audience interest. Premium Rush carried on the tradition of 1986’s Quicksilver as it peddled into eighth with $6.3 million despite allegations of doping while Hit and Run skidded on the rail with $5.7 million. The horror entry The Apparition had a semblance of $2.9 million.

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Wilmington on Movies: Samsara

One of the tasks of art is to create beauty. (I’ll call it a sacred task, since I lived most of my life with an artist and treasure her memory, and it‘s what she would have said.) Another is to reveal the truth, or to give us both, together. I wouldn’t be so pretentious as to say that Samsara achieves all or any of these. But it tries. Honor to it then, and praise to all cinema that reveals a world to us — worlds upon worlds, the wheels of death and the Wheel of Life as well.

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Friday Estimates

Who says the American moviegoing public doesn’t know when they are being fed leftovers? The Top Seven grossers yesterday were holdovers, pushing the three new openers to the bottom of the Top 10, none able to muster as much as $2m yesterday.

The closest thing to news is the relatively big number for 2016: Obama’s America, a piece of right-wing propaganda now creating good ol’ fashioned revival meetings amongst the true Kenyan Socialist Anti-American President haters all over America.

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Wilmington on Movies: Hit and Run

Part of Hit and Run — a hell-on-wheels car-chase comedy-actioner from actor-writer-co-director Dax Shepard — is playful, funny and even sweet-tempered. And part of it is hard and raunchy and a little mean. The two parts don’t always jibe or mix well, but at least they provide a little variety and at least some entertainment — more than most shows of this kind do.

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Wilmington on Movies: Premium Rush

It’s a smart movie that sometimes goes off the track. Writer-director David Koepp has scripted some of the biggest grossing action or adventure films ever, including “Jurassic Park” and the first “Spider-Man,” and he has a definite flair for rapid-fire clichés D.D.F. (done damned fast). His own directorial efforts haven’t been as good. But “Premium Rush” is probably the best of them.

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The DVD Wrapup: Porno Gang, A Separation, Dictator, Chimpanzee, Bernie … More

Even before the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and subsequent wars for self-determination, the country’s filmmakers could be counted on to deliver closely observed tales of a society driven insane by Cold War politics and the realization that any freedoms they’ve enjoyed could disappear overnight. Now that an uneasy truce appears to have taken hold in Bosnia, Kosovo and once-disputed parts of Croatia, the savagery that marked those struggles continues to haunt the cinemas of the newly independent states.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Dictator; The War Room; Simba: The King of Beasts

Sacha Baron Cohen is no Charlie Chaplin, and he probably never will be. But at least he‘s willing to give his comedy a shot of social and political consciousness, like Charlie did

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DP/30: Director Tony Scott, Unstoppable

One of the greatest visual filmmakers ever. We talked in 2011 about what turned out to be his last film, Unstoppable.

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The Weekend Report

“The Expendables” opens to 28… or half the average age of the cast. “Paranorman” opened about 18% off “Coraline.” And “Sparkle” at $12 million looks like a break-even proposition for Sony.

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Friday Estimates

“The Expendables 2″ opens about 29% off of the original, even with more muscular help. “Bourne” takes a hit. “Sparkle” opens softly. And “Paranormal” opened almost exactly as “Coraline” did.

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#TheMaster70mm: Chicago

“You’re the bravest boy I’ve ever known,” is one of many memorable, belittling endearments Philip Seymour Hoffman’s “Master” issues to his singular and ultimate protégé Freddy Sutton (Joaquin Phoenix). He’s practically beaming after one of Freddy’s frenzies of violence: “Naughty boy, okay! All right?” There are memorable mouthfuls galore, but will any of them turn out to be an “I drink your milkshake?”

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Wilmington on Movies: Sparkle

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.

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‘Compliance’ stirs emotions by putting viewers in hot seat

At a time when most mega-budget movies are forgotten 10 minutes after the final credits have rolled, it’s interesting that a no-frills indie has kept serious movie buffs talking since it was screened last January at Sundance. Based on a series of actual events, “Compliance” describes just how hideously wrong things can go when otherwise level-headed Americans think they’re doing the right thing.

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Wilmington on Movies: ParaNorman

I liked it a lot more than any of the “Paranormal Activity” movies — which I suppose isn’t saying much, because I dislike the “Paranormal Activity” series in toto. But ParaNorman activity, you know: that can be cool — as long as those undead guys don’t litter too many body parts on the sidewalks, when they‘re running away from the solid citizens.

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MCN Originals

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“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. It’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on Batman v Superman I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful. People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
~ Brett Ratner Has A Sad

“The loss of a local newspaper critic is a real loss. People who know the local audience and know the local cultural scene are very important resources. You can’t just substitute the stuff that comes in from nowhere through syndication or the wire. I think at the same time, some of the newer outlets have really beefed up and improved their coverage and made room for criticism. The real problem is in the more specialized art forms — fine arts, classical music, dance and jazz, say. There is a real slowing of critical voices, partly because those art forms have smaller audiences. Newspapers and magazines can say that doesn’t get enough traffic, so we don’t have room for that. To me, that’s especially worrisome. This is the opposite of what newspapers are supposed to do, which is not to try to figure out what people are already interested in and recite that back to them, but to hopefully guide them to something that they should be interested in, connecting potential audiences with more interesting work.

“Then again, not everyone needs a critic. People have been going to movies for more than 100 years now, and probably the vast majority of those people have not read movie reviews or cared what critics thought. But there has always been an important subset that wants to know more, that wants to think about what they’ve seen and what they’re going to see, and wants someone to think along with. I think critics are important, not just as dispensers of consumer advice — though that’s certainly part of it, too — but as trusted voices and companions for people to argue with in your head when you’re going to movies or afterwards.”
~ A. O. Scott