Reviews Archive for April, 2012

Wilmington on Movies: The Raven

But wait a minute. This isn’t the kind of horror that puts money in your pockets. A loser roaming the streets and expiring in a hospital? Not in our bottom-line, money-obsessed, failure-hating age. Let’s imagine something more horrible — and certainly more modern, more suitable to contemporary tastes.

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The DVD Wrapup: Contraband, Camelot, Return, Young Goethe, Innkeepers, Hollis Frampton … More

Like JFK’s legacy, the movie version of “Camelot” hasn’t aged well in the succeeding nearly 50 years. In fact, after knocking ’em dead on Broadway in the early 1960s, the movie version failed to overwhelm Oscar voters or attract nearly the same number of fans as “My Fair Lady.”

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Wilmington on Movies: Headhunters

Slick and fast and gorgeously shot—if sometimes almost criminally over-the-top.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Godzilla

I’ve never visited Japan, and probably I never will. But if I get there, I know I’ll dream of seeing several things, all of which, to me, signify “Japanese cinema“ and “Japan.” A furious Kurosawa swordfight caught by three cameras. Two Ozu characters sitting on tatami mats, musing on the sadness of life. A geisha or wife suffering while Mizoguchi’s camera tracks slowly and beautifully around her. Something tragic or transgressive caught lucidly by Ichikawa or Imamura. And, rising up from the ocean, while the sun sets, Honda’s Godzilla (excuse me, Gojira), staring toward Tokyo and licking his chops.

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Innkeepers

Ti West’s movie is loaded with seedy atmosphere and cracked wacko personality, and I much preferred it to the over-expensive blood-drenched massacres they usually give us. Paxton’s Claire and Healy’s Luke are engagingly scarable protagonists. The cellar is a doozy.

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Wilmington on Movies: Darling Companion

The movie has its flaws — that 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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The DVD Wrapup: Ghost Protocol, Shame, Last Rites of Joe May… More

Even if “Shame” doesn’t offer many answers and fewer resolutions, it can’t be said that we don’t know these people after 101 minutes in their presence. It feels like a fully realized short story or novella. The acting is terrific and McQueen’s direction delivers a real punch. It’s not an easy movie to watch, though, so viewers not looking for a challenge may want to think twice before renting it.

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Wilmington on DVDs. A Streetcar Named Desire

The young Adonis-like Brando was the actor whom critics and Britons believed would be the American stage and screen’s great Hamlet. (But he never even tried.) He was the player for whom Tennessee Williams wrote play after play year after year. (But Brando turned them all down, except for the Sidney Lumet movie of “Orpheus Descending,” retitled “The Fugitive Kind)”.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Shame

I can’t recall a single smile crossing Brandon’s mouth, or a single joke passing his lips (if there were, they were lonely), or much tenderness at all, during the course of the movie.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

This is the best action movie out this year not just because it has the best action, but because the characters are interesting too.

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The DVD Wrapup: Iron Lady, Conquest, Sleeping Beauty, Streetcar, Dark Shadows … More

In the mid-’60s, the demographics of daytime TV were significantly different than those associated with prime-time sitcoms. Fewer women worked in full-time jobs and they tended to control buying patterns at the supermarket. Romance in the afternoon was blooming and it didn’t include fangs and capes. Even so, Dan Curtis’ brainstorm would enjoy a six-year run, thanks, in large part, to support from teenagers who rushed home from school – or, so we’re told – to enjoy the kinky storylines and handsome undead characters. “Dark Shadows” was as different from “The Guiding Light” and “The Days of Our Lives” as “American Bandstand” was to “Lawrence Welk.”

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Wilmington on DVDs. Casablanca

You think Michael Curtiz is a hack? It‘s only because he made so many movies. But his list of hundreds includes two or three dozen genuine classics. And the other several hundred aren’t bad either. In fact, director-movie-lover Rainer Werner Fassbinder ranked Curtiz at the top of his list, next to Luchino Visconti and Douglas Sirk.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Chinatown.

It‘s a picture that seems close to perfect of its kind and one of the ‘70s films I love best. Gorgeous and terrifying and sometimes funny as hell, Chinatown tells a romantic/tragic/murder mystery tale of official crimes and personal corruption raging around the real-life L. A. Water scandal, with private sin and public swindles steadily stripped bare by J. J. Gittes (one of Jack Nicholson‘s signature roles), a cynical, natty, smart-ass Hammetesque shamus, with a nose for corruption and a hot-trigger temper

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep, the American movie star who plays/ impersonates/ inhabits/ incarnates Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” is not only one of the greatest movie actresses of the 20th and 21st centuries, an artist of confounding competence, flawless mimicry and consistent brilliance, but a smart student of life and humanity who who can vanish into her parts totally. And here, she’s giving what is certainly one of her most impressive performances.

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Wilmington on Movies: American Reunion

Just the reintroduction of Jim‘s pop and The Stiffmeister alone is enough to raise a litle indecent notalgia in this movie. Or bonhomie, maybe. Not enough to make it a good movie, but at least enough to avoid it being an irredeemably bad one.

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Wilmington on DVDs. A Trip to the Moon; Melies, First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913)

Méliès’ great little show was first released in the black-and-white prints most of us know, but also in an original hand-tinted color version that was missing for nearly a century. But that second version, discovered in a Spanish film library in 1995, has now been definitively restored in colors as radiant and luscious as ice cream melting in a silver tureen.

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Wilmington on DVDs. We Bought a Zoo, No Man of Her Own

If only “We Bought a Zoo” could do for zoos what “Sideways” did for wine, we’d all be in clover and up to our knees in humane enclosures. Although I’m a big fan of zoos myself (especially San Diego’s and the giraffe and bear enclosures at the Lincoln Park Zoo) and though this is a likable movie, full of likable people, and likable animals and though star Matt Damon is a very paragon of likeability, the movie just vanishes out of your mind (or mine at least) after you leave.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. War Horse.

The script of “War Horse,” a heart-crusher, is rife with coincidence, pulsing with melodrama. Violence and tragedy are often close to overwhelming it. But it’s also a good story, an often gripping one.

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The DVD Wrapup: War Horse, Zoo, Miss Bala, Chinatown, Tyrannosaur…

Gerardo Naranjo’s “Miss Bala” describes how weird things can get when the trajectories of a violent drug gang and contestants in a beauty pageant cross paths in Tijuana, one of the world’s most dangerous cities. “Miss Bala” is an extremely violent movie, as befits the times in Mexico’s drug war, but Lino’s determination to give Laura her shot at stardom borders on the hilarious. By the time she gets to the interview stage, Laura can barely remember her name. Naranjo uses Tijuana as well as Steven Soderbergh did in “Traffic” and the cruelty of the perpetrators of the violence is palpable throughout the movie.

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“Yes, good movies sprout up, inevitably, in the cracks and seams between the tectonic plates on which all of these franchises stay balanced, and we are reassured of their hardiness. But we don’t see what we don’t see; we don’t see the effort, or the cost of the effort, or the movies of which we’re deprived because of the cost of the effort. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice may have come from a studio, but it still required a substantial chunk of outside financing, and at $35 million, it’s not even that expensive. No studio could find the $8.5 million it cost Dan Gilroy to make Nightcrawler. Birdman cost a mere $18 million and still had to scrape that together at the last minute. Imagine American movie culture for the last few years without Her or Foxcatcher or American Hustle or The Master or Zero Dark Thirty and it suddenly looks markedly more frail—and those movies exist only because of the fairy godmothership of independent producer Megan Ellison. The grace of billionaires is not a great business model on which to hang the hopes of an art form.”
~ Mark Harris On The State Of The Movies

How do you make a Top Ten list? For tax and organizational purposes, I keep a log of every movie I see (Title, year, director, exhibition format, and location the film was viewed in). Anything with an asterisk to the left of its title means it’s a 2014 release (or something I saw at a festival which is somehow in play for the year). If there’s a performance, or sequence, or line of dialogue, even, that strikes me in a certain way, I’ll make a note of it. So when year end consideration time (that is, the month and change out of the year where I feel valued) rolls around, it’s a little easier to go through and pull some contenders for categories. For 2014, I’m voting in three polls: Indiewire, SEFCA (my critics’ guild), and the Muriels. Since Indiewire was first, it required the most consternation. There were lots of films that I simply never had a chance to see, so I just went with my gut. SEFCA requires a lot of hemming and hawing and trying to be strategic, even though there’s none of the in-person skullduggery that I hear of from folk whose critics’ guild is all in the same city. The Muriels is the most fun to contribute to because it’s after the meat market phase of awards season. Also, because it’s at the beginning of next year, I’ll generally have been able to see everything I wanted to by then. I love making hierarchical lists, partially because they are so subjective and mercurial. Every critical proclamation is based on who you are at that moment and what experiences you’ve had up until that point. So they change, and that’s okay. It’s all a weird game of timing and emotional waveforms, and I’m sure a scientist could do an in-depth dissection of the process that leads to the discovery of shocking trends in collective evaluation. But I love the year end awards crush, because I feel somewhat respected and because I have a wild-and-wooly work schedule that has me bouncing around the city to screenings, or power viewing the screeners I get sent.
Jason Shawhan of Nashville Scene Answers CriticWire