MCN Originals Archive for October, 2012

The DVD Wrapup: Campaign, Americano, This Waltz, Ruby Sparks, Upstairs Downstairs … More

Trust me on this: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ modern-day fairy tale, Ruby Sparks, is the best movie almost no one has bothered to see in 2012 … so far, at least. Fixing blame, however, would require too lengthy a post-mortem than there’s space for here. The characters could hardly be any more appealing and the directors were able to prove that their first feature, Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t a fluke. Writer-star Zoe Kazan’s screenplay is smart, funny and frequently irresistible. That’s why it’s so difficult for me to see how young-adult viewers, especially those who embraced (500) Days of Summer and other similarly quirky rom-coms, missed Ruby Sparks in its limited release.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Campaign

My name is Mike Wilmington, and I approved this review. Are politicians whores? Are movie comedies whorehouses? Are whores and poets and comedians the great unacknowleged legislators of mankind—and East Canarsie? Then why don’t they all get together and count votes more often?

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The Weekend Report

A strong hold finally put Argo atop the weekend box office chart with an estimated $10.3 million in an otherwise soft marketplace distracted by presidential politicking, hurricane Sandy and pre-Halloween heebie jeebies.

A quartet of new releases bowed to disappointing results with many already pegged at a low bar. Best of the bunch was the epic adaptation of Cloud Atlas that ranked third with an estimated $9.4 million while the chill of the week, Silent Hill: Revelation, was two notches behind with $8 million. Debuting out of the top 10 were the kid-centric Fun Size with $3.9 million and the not too hip Chasing Mavericks roping in $2.2 million.

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Wilmington on Movies: Cloud Atlas

I loved it. And for once, I’m speechless. But I promise to get to it at greater length, next week. It’s a movie, after all, that can probably be watched repeatedly, and discussed endlessly. It’s divided the critics — some are fervently pro, some contemptuously con — in a way that usually only the more interesting pictures can and do. It’s long, it’s complex, and it violates about half the rules for a big-budget big-audience movie, while following (and triumphing in) about half the others.

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Friday Estimates

Paranormal‘s not-so-normal drop of 71% takes it from the top to the 4-spot, leaving the strong holding Argo on top of the pack. None of the 3 major newcomers could deliver much, with Cloud Atlas hoping for a $10m weekend, Silent Hill: Whatever praying for $9m, and Fun Size chasing $4.2m.

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The Torontonian Reviews: Skyfall

More than making up for the dog’s breakfast that was 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Skyfall–James Bond’s 23rd film adventure–sets the bar high: not only is it 2012’s best blockbuster screened thus far, but it is also one of the strongest films in Bond history. Director Sam Mendes knows what makes a great Bond movie.

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Wilmington on Movies: Chasing Mavericks

Jonny Weston has curly-frizzy blonde locks and a ripped torso and he even does most of his own surfing. But he also has amiable but vacuous pretty boy looks that suggest blonde actors like Troy Donahue or Christopher Atkins — that summon up less a great, driven surfer on a date with destiny than a male model with a date at the Santa Monica pier. I’ve seen Weston at least one other time recently, in the lousy behind-the scenes porno industry movie About Cherry, but I can barely remember what he did in it. I can and will remember him in Chasing Mavericks. But that’s mostly because of his role, and because he’s playing, at least part of the time, with those incredible waves — the awesome rolling towers of water and spray and curling doom that better men (and women) than I am, conquer or fall before.

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20W2O: 18 Weeks To Go – Surprise!

I would love to tell you that I thought there would be as big a surprise in the awards races as, say, Ben Mendelsohn in Killing Them Softly. Great, memorable performance. But that momentum is just not there. But there are some cases that I do think could upset the apple cart as we move through the next six weeks… and in terms of Oscar nominations, that’s about all that’s left, folks, thanks to the bizarre choice by The Academy to institute “early voting” and a harshly short window on all nomination voting of January 3.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Blade Runner

Blade Runner was one of the two favorite movies of a girl I loved once named Marji Sirkin, a friend with whom I laughed and played and watched movies, and whom I watched slowly die of Hodgkin’s Disease two decades ago in a much sunner, smoggier. and even sadder, Los Angeles. She looked, I thought, like Moira Shearer crossed with Tina Louise. We had fun. She watched Blade Runner and Beauty and the Beast and her other favorites over and over again. She wanted to be a film editor. She was working her way through UCLA Film, and she had won an award with one of her student films (about the dangers of cigarette smoking).Then her body’s clock began to stop and it was painful for her to walk, and her beautiful red hair fell out.

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The DVD Wrapup: Magic Mike, Blade Runner, Invisible War, Abraham Lincoln, Sunday, Kovacs, Tinker Bell, Peter Gunn … More

With the exception of the “Ocean’s” trilogy, Steven Soderbergh doesn’t seem to have made the same movie twice. He refuses to be confined by genre boundaries and never tires of surprising anyone who tries to pigeonhole his work. Neither does he limit his output to potential commercial successes.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; Quantum of Solace; Secret Beyond the Door

I didn’t read the book — and believe me, I never will — but it seems to me that the only way you could possibly make an entertaining show out of a title and a concept as dumb as this, is to do it as a five minute sketch for “Saturday Night Live,” maybe starring Will Ferrell as Lincoln, Tina Fey as Mary Todd Lincoln and Adam Sandler as Adam, the vampire. Get in and get out, fast.

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20W2O: 19 Weeks (minus 5 days) To Go – Season Of The Switcheroo

I’ve been noticing a trend this award season. There are movies – from the best to not-the-best – that suggest that you’re going to see one movie… and end up seeing something altogether unexpected.

This doesn’t mean that the audience suffers. There is something wonderful about going in one direction and then being pushed somewhere else unexpectedly. The audience has to do some work. They have to be on their toes.

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The Weekend Report

The debut of Paranormal Activity 4 led weekend movie sales with an estimated $29.9 million. The session’s other national deb, a re-boot of James Patterson’s popular detective Alex Cross, struggled to $11.7 million to rank fifth overall. Considerably more buoyant were newcomers in the niches including a pair of Indian imports. Telugu Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu grossed a solid $503,000 at 79 locations while Hindi Student of the Year opened to $342,000 at 106 venues. Even more dynamic was This Guy’s in Love with U Mare from the Philippines with $182,000 at a mere 15 screens.

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Friday Estimates

Paranormal Activity 4 is on top and will probably stay there for the weekend, though the opening day gross (including late Thursday showings) is off 44% from the last film in the series. Still, if this projects out to a $60m domestic gross, the dirt cheap series is still profitable enough to assure that we will see the release of PA 5 at this time next year. Argo hold yourself. Just 15% by Friday estimates. Meanwhile the $100m mark has been crossed by Hotel T and Taken 2 will be there in less than 17 days. And Lionsgate’s Alex Cross re-boot with Mr Madea looks like it will be Tyler Perry’s worst opening as an actor. On the other hand, it will be in the top half of the last 10 Lionsgate openings. Also, Searchlight’s Oscar-chaser The Sessions is looking at about $25k per on 4 screens.

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DVD Geek: This is Cinerama

Cinerama is dead. It died before our grandmothers did. To see the Cinerama format in a movie theater as a child, however, was to associate its startlingly wide image with life’s future, the grand possibilities that are spread out before one. And so to relive that experience now, on Blu-ray, is to grasp, with all the fleeting, orgiastic thrill of grasping a ghost, the hopes and dreams and safety and anticipation of childhood. By the time the helicopter was flying over Niagara, the tears were flowing from our own eyes with a fervor equal to the Falls.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Sessions

The Sessions (which was called “The Surrogate” when it played at Sundance) carries us through Mark’s determination to have a sexual life, to his decision to hire a sex surrogate — Helen Hunt as the real-life surrogate Cheryl Cohen-Greene — and their sessions together, in a motel room, facilitated by Mark’s caretaker Vera (Moon Bloodgood) and an inquisitive desk man (Ming Lo). Alone together in the bare-looking motel room, Cheryl tries to teach and gentle him into his heart’s desire. It’s not easy.

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Wilmington on Movies: Sinister

These home snuff movies are creepy and ragged-looking. The real-life scenes are creepy stylized horror stuff. And the professional reality makes the amateur “reality” movies look spookier. (Kudos to cinematographer Chris Norr for the way he lights both of them.) Derrickson, who also directed The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the overblown 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, works with Norr to keep everything shadowy and grim and unsettling — never more so than when we witness those murders, especially the one in the tree.

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The Torontonian Reviews: The Paperboy

t’s understood that exceptionally bad movies will attract an audience of camp enthusiasts, but Lee Daniels’ third directing credit is not a “trashterpiece” or “so bad it’s good” or “there’s nothing else on television, honey”. No, it’s just trash: garbage that has been pissed on by raccoons or crocodiles or whatever animal your locale attracts and glossed with the veneer of star power and intriguing trailers. Stay away. Let it die. Just let it shrivel up and die.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson makes pictures that are like big beautiful whimsical toys, few more than this. He and his co-writer, Roman Coppola (son of Francis) swim out into a dream and a storm, and they wave to us. The children behave like….grownups. The grownups behave like children. (I said that.)

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The DVD Wrapup: Forgiveness of Blood, Neil Young, Legendary Amazons, Excision, Last Ride, Broadway, Check It Out! … More

Say what you will about Enver Hoxha, the Communist dictator of Albania who died in 1985, but he was able to do something about the country’s tradition of blood feuds that previous leaders hadn’t been able to accomplish in many centuries. After taking control of the country after its liberation from Germany in 1944, Hoxha declared an end to quasi-legal vendettas, especially in rural areas. Although widely accepted as a way to maintain order in lawless regions, Kanun had always been something of an inexact science when it comes to adjudicating everything from trespassing to murder. Basically, though, Kanun law can be boiled down to, “Whoever kills will be killed. Blood is avenged with blood.”

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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