Reviews Archive for June, 2012

Wilmington on Movies: The Graduate

Sometimes a movie comes at exactly the right time. Like The Graduate — director Mike Nichols’ and screenwriters Buck Henry’s and Calder Willingham’s marvelously edgy and arousing romantic comedy about plastics and family affairs and life in California, with one of those heroes, or anti-heroes, who strike a chord: young, nervous, recent college graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who’s a little worried about his future and also torn between his clandestine affair with a married lover, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and his seemingly genuine open-air love for her beautiful college-age daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross).

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Wilmington on Movies: Ted

Listen, I’m like almost everybody else. If you make me laugh, I’ll forgive you. I’ll forgive almost anything. In fact, I feel here like the priest with the Mafia guy on the other side of the screen. There’s a lot to forgive and expiate: a lot of Hail Marys here. But what the hell. It made me laugh. I forgive it. Bring it in, yuh bastid. Where’s the brewskis?

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Wilmington on DVDs: The 39 Steps

CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC THE 39 STEPS (Also Blu-ray) (Four Stars) U.K.: Alfred Hitchcock, 1935 (Criterion Collection)  Back in 1985, I wrote these liner notes for one of the earliest Criterion Collection releases: a videotape, in a silver-colored box, of Alfred Hitchcock’s love-on-the-run spy-story masterpiece, The 39 Steps. (The original is still on their website.)…

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Wilmington on DVDs: 21 Jump Street; Spider-Man; Spider-Man 2; Spider-Man 3; Erin Brockovich; Sister Act; Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

The first two Spider-Man movies were such smash critical hits (Spider-Man 2, co-scripted by Alvin Sargent, has been hailed as the acme of the whole genre, until The Avengers), that an inevitable backlash plagued the vulnerable and tearful Spider-Man 3. (Seen by itself, most critics would have probably liked it fine – just as the public liked all three). But some smasheroos deserve their popularity and this is one (excuse me, these are three) of them.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Deliverance

   CO-PICK OF THE WEEK: CLASSIC DELIVERANCE (40th Anniversary collector’s edition) Four Stars U.S.; John Boorman, 1972 (Warner Bros.) Four Southern businessmen, searching for the joys of youth, join together for a Georgia canoe trip on the beautiful but often dangerously turbulent Cahulawassee River. Soon however, after a violent confrontation with two evil backwoodsmen, they find themselves…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Artist

It’s a cinematic feast in the style of the old time silent movies that flourished from the time of film‘s invention in 1895 — or at least since Georges Méliès started telling stories with them before the turn of the century — until 1927, when Al Jolson and The Jazz Singer made the screen speak and croon and told us we ain’t heard nothing yet and, unmaliciously of course , drove a nail in the coffin of the old technology, while ushering in the new.

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The DVD Wrapup: Oranges & Sunshine, Bullhead, Spalding Gray, Deliverance … More

Michaël R. Roskam not only uses steroid smuggling as a device to advance the plot, but his protagonist is addicted to them physically and psychologically, as well.

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Wilmington on Movies: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The whole movie is nervous and over-loud and expensive-looking, full of tacky jump-at-you 3D effects; and watching it sometimes makes you feel as if the country was under attack by a conspiracy of blood-sucking idiots. Even though it was shot by the sometimes marvelous Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Black Stallion), the film’s visual style seems like a mistake.

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Wilmington on Movies: Brave.

“Brave” is a beautifully visualized, sometimes blisteringly funny and exciting Pixar cartoon fairytale about a wee Scottish lassie who grows up into a feisty, flame-haired young adventuress who shoots off great big arrows and battles bears and witches and boisterous clansmen.

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Wilmington on DVDs: And Everything Is Going Fine; Sex and Death to the Age of 14.

He’s dead now, and his friends suspect he threw himself off the Staten Island Ferry and drowned, took his life because he was suffering the pain from a bad traffic accident on a lonely road in Ireland that left him with a smashed skull and some brain damage, and, according to Nell Casey “an orbital fracture, a broken hip, and a permanent limp“ — unable to swim, unable to ski. Unable… So he jumped, maybe. Drowned, maybe. As the Manhahttan skyline approached or receded — maybe. Unless he was on the other side of the ferry. We don’t know because he isn’t around to tell the story.

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The DVD Wrapup: Jeff at Home Project X, The FP, Nine Muses … More

A decade ago, Mark and Jay Duplass helped create a niche in the indie world commonly referred to as “mumblecore.” Generally speaking, these are low-budget, largely improvised productions, populated by characters that would be considered unexceptional and treated as invisible, unless, perhaps, they lived in the apartment next door, occupied a cubicle beside you at work or dated one of your kids. This isn’t to imply these people lead meaningless lives; only that almost everything they do falls under the loose heading of “normal.” If there’s been a hipster cachet attached to mumblecore titles, it’s because what’s considered commonplace by most mainstream standards can be revelatory when observed by viewers in similar circumstances and when photographed in credibly natural fashion.

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Wilmington on Movies: Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” is a rock movie for people who still have their old Foreigner and REO Speedwagon album collections intact, but can’t really feel the beat.

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Wilimington on Movies: Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding

Jane Fonda plays Grandma Grace, whom you might describe as the permanent ambassador from Woodstock Nation. A devotee of sex, drugs and rock n’roll — as well as peace, love and understanding — and a still sexually adventurous old gal who claims she was once in a threesome with Leonard Cohen, Grace lives in Woodstock in a combination pot farm and upscale painters studio that looks as if it were designed by somebody rich and famous for somebody like Jane Fonda.

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Wilmington on Movies: That’s My Boy

Say one thing for Adam Sandler: He isn’t afraid of looking like an idiot on screen. Or a boor. Or a horny dude. Or a comedian who doesn’t give a damn what the the critics think of him. In Sandler’s outrageously uninhibited, defiantly obnoxious but good-natured new movie, That’s My Boy, he plays, to the hilt, Donny Berger, an outrageously uninhibited, defiantly obnoxious, good-natured guy who became famous in the ’80s — or had fame thrust upon him, as his classmates colorfully put it — when, as a lippy 13-year-old eighth-grader, he had an affair with his sexy junior high (or middle school) teacher, Mary McGarricle (Eva Amurri Martino), had a baby with her, and became a tabloid sensation.

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Wilmington on DVDs: La Terra Trema; Conversation Piece

La Terra Trema is an almost didactic and preachy leftist film, which often tells you how it feels. (Visconti, along with Antonio Pietrangeli, writes and speaks the narration himself.) But there‘s a majesty in the images of landscape and sea, and an unforced naturalism in the performances, by the actual villagers of Aci Trezza, that both pull you deeply into the human side of the story.

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The DVD Wrapup: In Darkness, Sherlock Holmes, Accident, Ghost Rider … More

Try to imagine a Hitchcockian thriller, as choreographed by Rube Goldberg, and you might have an idea what to expect from Pou-Soi Cheang’s perversely clever “Accident.” Set largely in the bustling streets of Hong Kong, the award-winning import describes how a tightly-knit gang plots elaborate hits on people targeted by a mastermind known as the Brain.

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Wilmington on DVDs: In Darkness

The sewers of Lvov are small and inky black and steeped in an airless-looking gloom, cramped and comfortless, wet with sewage and slime. These sewers look like real sewers. They are true hellholes, and the people hiding there are a mismatched crowd of businessmen, operators, snobs, adulterers, ordinary people, families and even children, all escaping from the Lvov ghetto, crowded together on the walkways and pressed to the breaking point.

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Wilmington on Movies: Children of Paradise

Prevert’s script has never been surpassed as sheer literature for the screen. The cast is a great one too, from that ultimate femme fatale Arletty as the irresistible beauty Garance, to the four superb actors who play the four men who adore her unto death: lively, cheerfully seductive Pierre Brasseur as the commanding virtuoso classical actor Frederick LeMaitre; cold Louis Salou as the reptilian Count Edouard de Montray; Marcel Herrand with his evil smile, as the nihilist/dandy/playwright/thief/murderer Lacenaire; and melancholy-looking genius Jean-Louis Barrault as the great sad-eyed mime.

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Wilmington on Movies: Prometheus

The template for both the first Alien and Prometheus — movies about small, isolated groups of humans besieged by a malignant space alien or aliens — is probably John W. Campbell’s famous story “Who Goes There?” which was later made, not very faithfully, into Howard Hawks’ and Christian Nyby’s zingy 1951 pop classic The Thing from Another World, and later, more faithfully, into John Carpenter’s gory and generally underrated 1982 The Thing. The 1979 Alien sort of reset that template for all time, at least for movies. (It’s still much used and abused).

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Reviews

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Ray Pride on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

RAY WEIKEL on: The DVD Wrapup: Founder, Punching Henry, Paris 05:59, Apocalypse Child, Donnie Darko, Woman of the Year, Tampopo, Handmaid’s Tale and more

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

estes1963 on: The DVD Wrapup: Drive Angry, Once Upon a Time in the West, Adua & Her Friends, A Clockwork Orange, Undertow, The Joke, Passion Play, Kaboom, Harvest ...

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

gurley1986 on: The DVD Wrapup: Blood Simple, Cat People, Shallows, Neon Demon, Sirk X 2, Warcraft, Kamikaze '89 and more

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook