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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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“We don’t defy the laws of physics: There are no flying men or cars in this movie. So it made sense to do it old-school: real vehicles and real human beings in the desert. We shot the movie more or less in continuity, because the cars and the characters get really banged up along the way. The biggest benefit of digital technology for me was that the cameras were smaller and much more agile, so you could put them anywhere. We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness—making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening. There has to be a strong causal connection from one shot to the next, just the same way that in music, there has to be a connection from one note to the next. Otherwise it’s just noise. Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting. We storyboarded the movie before we had a script: We had 3,500 boards, which helps the cast and crew understand how everything is going to fit together. Movies are getting faster and faster. The Road Warrior had 1,200 cuts. This one has 2,700 cuts. You have to treat it like a symphony.”
~ George Miller

“I was having issues with my script for It’s All About Love, so I called Ingmar Bergman and we ended up talking about everything but the script. He said, “Well, Festen is a masterpiece, so what are you going to do now?” At that point, I had not decided if I was going to make It’s All About Love, so I answered, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe this, maybe that.” There was just a long pause, and then he said, “You’re fucked.” I said, “Well, how can you know?” “Well, Thomas, you always have to decide your next movie before the movie you’re doing presently opens.” And I said, “Why is that?” “Well, two things can happen. One thing is that you fail, and then you’ll feel scared and humiliated. It’ll get into your head. Second, and even worse, you have success, and then you’ll want more of it, or you’ll want to maintain it. But if you decide on your next film while you’re in the middle of editing, it becomes a very nonchalant choice. And then it’s shorter from the heart to the hand.”
~ Thomas Vinterberg

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