Reviews Archive for July, 2012

Wilmington on Movies: Step Up Revolution

This is a ludicrous example of what you might call the “Hey Kids! Let’s put on a flash mob, and get it on You Tube!“ musical, a slick-quick-and-dumb-as-a-brick movie, shot in Miami, that has no apparent rationale except to get a bunch of buff kids, led by Guzman and McCormick, slithering and hopping and flash mobbing and dirty-dancing away to recorded music by talent like J.Lo, M.I.A., M83 and Far East Movement (all news to me).

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Wilmington on Movies: The Queen of Versailles

Of all the amusing, depressing and jaw-dropping things in “The Queen of Versailles”—Lauren Greenfield’s documentary about the construction and deconstruction of the largest one-family dwelling in the United States, a domicile modeled on both the original French Palace of Versailles and the Las Vegas Paris Hotel and built by time-share resort hotel czar David Siegel (and a film with many amusing, depressing and confounding things in it) — one of the two that bothered me most was the impression I had that in this entire massive, outlandishly ornate yet fundamentally cheesy edifice, intended as a glorious Got-rocks celebration by Siegel and his family (including wife Jackie, seven children, one niece and 19 servants), I could did not spot a single book.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Watch

I can only think of one logical explanation for this screenplay (which isn’t much interested in logical explanations itself), and that‘s that, before these three guys started writing it, monstrous aliens from outer space burst into their working rooms, took their places and wrote the script themselves — as part of a sinister conspiracy to befuddle moviegoers, and then, while everybody was wandering around flabbergasted, conquer the earth. Maybe they already have.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Brooklyn’s Finest/Stone; Babes in Toyland (March of the Wooden Soldiers); The Saphead

    BROOKLYN’S FINEST/STONE (Three Stars) U.S.: Antoine Fucqua/John Curran 2010 (Starz/Anchor Bay) Two-Pack Contains: BROOKLYN’S FINEST (U.S.; Antoine Fucqua, 2010.  (Three Stars) Brooklyn’s Finest, the new cop thriller from director Antoine Fucqua (Training Day), is a neo-noir with lots of punch and  swagger. Swooping along through mean streets and dingy hallways, propelled by Fucqua’s gaudy repertoire of crane and tracking shots, it‘s…

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Last Days of Disco

Whit Stillman‘s best film — a portrayal of the latter days of the New York Disco scene, and of a club that looks suspiciously like Studio 54 — is a movie that manages to let us enjoy the sensuality and fun of the era, and a lot of the then-trashed but still danceable disco music, and at the same time, see why it fell and why it prompted outraged middle or working class rockers to insist “Disco sucks.”

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The DVD Wrapup: Three Stooges, Margaret, Metropolitan, Institute Benjamenta, Footnote… More

Typically, movies with a gestation period of more than five years bear the fingerprints of far too many studio meddlers and investors hoping to return a dime on the dollars they put into the project. Some have been edited and re-edited to the point where they’re unrecognizable from the concept originally green-lit and are disowned by their parents. By the time they’re accorded a limited release, more lawyers have seen the movie than critics. “Margaret” has just such a backstory.

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Wilmington on DVDs: La Haine

La Haine (or Hate) is the legendary 1995 feature debut of the young French actor turned writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz (in his 20s when it was released, as were his three leads), who based his story on the chaos and death of real shootings, and real riots, and real deaths in the early ‘90s, which he witnessed. It is a remarkable movie, with a hypnotic grip. It burns itself into your memory.

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Wilmington on Movies: To Rome With Love

I laughed more than I did at the last three or four alleged Hollywood romantic comedies (or rom-coms) I’ve seen — several of which even got good reviews, or at any event, better than a lot the reviews for “To Rome With Love.” It deserved much better.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Dark Knight Rises

This review of The Dark Knight Rises was written yesterday, before I had heard the news of the tragic shootings and twelve deaths at the movie theatre showing the film at Century 16 Theatres in Aurora, Colorado. I had intended to write several more paragraphs on the movie today, and maybe I will later. But not now.

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The DVD Wrapup: Friends With Kids, Singin’ in the Rain, Here, Salmon Fishing, 4:44, Johnny Carson, Julia Child, InBetweeners … More

Shot almost exclusively in rural Armenia, “Here” is the kind of movie whose scenery almost overpowers the story, whose existential conceits are extremely fragile.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Casa de mi Padre

  CASA DE MI PADRE (Two Stars)  U.S.-Mexico; Matt Piedmont, 2012 (Lions Gate) In Casa de mi Padre, Will Ferrell and some friends from Mexico, including those two talented fugitives from Y ti mama tambien, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal,  make fun of bad Mexican movies —  especially lurid telenovela serials about obsessive romance and…

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Wilmington on Movies. Ice Age: Continental Drift

  ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Steve Martino/Mike Thurmaier, 2012 Animated features have gotten so generally good these days, so surprisingly witty and adult , that it’s almost reassuring to run into one that’s just as poorly written, confusing and juvenile as a lot of  the live action movies for…

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Wilmington on Movies: Red Lights

The first half of this movie is pretty good — which may be a case of digging yourself a beautiful hole and then getting trapped in it. Cortes mercifully doesn’t direct like a rock-video maker and he knows how to tighten knots and turns screws. But he’s not that good yet.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Organizer (I Compagni)

The Italian title of The Organizer, I Compagni, means “The Comrades,” and Monicelli was in fact a lifelong socialist deeply committed to the Italian labor union movement, and if that seems strange — given the comical ways he portrays both Professor Sinigaglia and his great strike, we should recognize that it’s Monicelli’s blend of comedy and tragedy, realism and wit that’s responsible for this film’s remarkable depth and the complex emotions it arouses, the way it generates poignancy and humor and many shadings in between.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Silent House

SILENT HOUSE (Also Blu-ray) (Two Discs) (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.: Chris Kentis & Laura Lau, 2011 (Universal)  Thrillers thrill us because they make us believe them — even if we probably shouldn’t. I didn’t really believe most of Silent House, even though there were reasons I wanted to. It’s a contemporary variation on…

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The DVD Wrapup: Twins of Evil, Black Limousine, Kassim, Quill, Making Plans for Lena, Cherry Bomb, Chariots of Fire … More

The gimmick attraction was the casting of identical Maltese twins, Mary and Madeleine Collinson, as the vampire-bait siblings, Maria and Frieda. Having recently posed for the centerfold pictorial of Playboy magazine and being cast in a short stag film, they were pretty marketable. After 40 years, however, “Twins of Evil” can stand on its own merits… not that Collinsons don’t retain their allure.

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Wilmington on Movies: Savages

These three lead a sort of idyllic hippie-outlaw-rich-druggie existence (like young, successful moviemakers maybe), with lots of money to spend, lots of ganja to smoke, and lots of sheets to get tangled in — in paradisiacal surroundings on Laguna Beach, drenched in the blazing colors and the lush foliage of beachside life on the Pacific, as shot by cinematographer Dan Mindel. Then their dream world begins to crumble.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Amazing Spider-man

So Tobey Maguire, who apparently became obsolescent at 32 (or at least too old for playing angst-ridden teenagers), gets sent off to the Old Superheroes‘ home, to be replaced by 28-year-old brooding British cutie-pie and critic’s pet Andrew Garfield, who played Mark Zuckerberg‘s (Jesse Eisenberg’s) college chum/partner Eduardo in The Social Network — not my idea of an American teenager, but we‘ll let that pass.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Carol Channing — Larger Than Life

I never saw Carol Channing perform live, but the new documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life convinced me I missed something very, very special — a great talent and a great lady and a great good time.

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The DVD Wrapup: American Dream, Joe + Belle, Barbarella, Chesty Morgan, Kirk Douglas … More

If there’s anything that brings out the high-school sophomore in adult men, it’s a bust that measures 73 FF. That vital statistic, alone, made Chesty Morgan (a.k.a., Lillian Wilczkowsky) a name recognized in frat, fire and grind houses throughout North America from 1972 to 1991. And, yes, her breasts were – and continue to be, at 75 – 100 percent real.

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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

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Dear Irene Cho, I will miss your energy and passion; your optimism and joy; your kindness towards friends, colleagues, strangers, struggling filmmakers, or anyone who randomly crossed your path and needed a hand. My brothers and I have long considered you another sibling in our family. Our holiday photos – both western and eastern – have you among all the cousins, in-laws, and kids… in the snow, sun, opening presents, at large dinner gatherings, playing Monopoly, breaking out pomegranate seeds and teaching us all how to dance Gangnam style. Your friendship and loyalty meant a great deal to me: you were the loudest cheerleader when I experienced victories and you were always ready with sushi when I had disappointments. You had endless crazy ideas which always seemed impossible but you would will them into existence. (Like that time you called me and suggested that we host a brunch for newly elected mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti because “he is going to president one day.” We didn’t have enough time or funding, of course, only your desire to do it. So you did, and I followed.) You created The Daily Buzz from nothing and it survived on your steam in spite of many setbacks because you believed in a platform for emerging filmmakers from all nations. Most of all, you were a wonderful mother to your son, Ethan, a devoted wife to your husband, and a wonderful sibling and daughter to your family. We will all miss how your wonderful smile and energy lit up the room and our lives. Rest in peace, Irene.
~ Rose Kuo Remembers Irene Cho on Facebook

“You know, I was never a critic. I never considered myself as a film critic. I started doing short films, writing screenplays and then for awhile, for a few years I wrote some film theory, including some film criticism because I had to, but I was never… I never had the desire to be a film critic. I never envisioned myself as a film critic, but I did that at a period of my life when I thought I kind of needed to understand things about cinema, understand things about film theory, understand the world map of cinema, and writing about movies gave me that, and also the opportunity to meet filmmakers I admired.

“To me, it was the best possible film school. The way it changed my perspective I suppose is that I believe in this connection between theory and practice. I think that you also make movies with ideas and you need to have ideas about filmmaking to achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve through your movies, but then I started making features in 1986 — a while ago — and I left all that behind.

“For the last three decades I’ve been making movies, I’ve been living, I’ve been observing the world. You become a different person, so basically my perspective on the world in general is very different and I hope that with every movie I make a step forward. I kind of hope I’m a better person, and hopefully a better filmmaker and hopefully try to… It’s very hard for me to go back to a different time when I would have different values in my relationship to filmmaking. I had a stiffer notion of cinema.”
~ Olivier Assayas