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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch