Reviews 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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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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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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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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Wilmington on DVDs: Magic Mike; The Little Shop of Horrors

   MAGIC MIKE (Two and a Half Stars) U. S.: Steven Soderbergh, 2012 (Warner Bros.)   The art and commerce of striptease — at least as we see it in director Steven Soderbergh and producer-star Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike — is entertainment in a very elemental (let’s say “stripped down“) form. The performer takes off her/his clothes…

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Wilmington on Movies: The 48th Chicago International Film Festival Awards

48th CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL   Holy Motors Holy Motors, Leos Carax’s  surreal French fantasy-drama-thriller-romance (and then some) about a chameleonic actor and his weird limousine journey through nearly a dozen alternate lives, was the big winner at Friday night’s award ceremony for The 48th  annual Chicago International Film Festival. Carax’s film, his first since…

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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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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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Wilmington on DVDs: That’s My Boy; Chernobyl Diaries

  THAT’S MY BOY (One and a Half Stars) U.S.: Sean Anders, 2012 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) Say one thing for Adam Sandler: He isn’t afraid of looking like an idiot on screen. Or a boor. Or one horny dude. Or a comedian who doesn’t give aadamn what the some critics think of him. More…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Avatar

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW Avatar (Four Stars) U.S.; James Cameron, 2009, 20th Century FoxAvatar, James Cameron’s planet-shaking, moon-rocking, eco-boosting, dragon-riding new science fiction fantasy epic-and-a-half, may not be a perfect movie. But it’s sure as all blazes an incredible movie-going experience. Cameron’s long-time labor of love and money is a genre-movie knockout, a technological marvel, whose…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Strangers on a Train, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

This classic portrayal of murder, guilt, transference and homoeroticism is one of Hitchcock‘s best: a superb film noir adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s classic literary thriller, with an amazing performance — blood-chilling, hilarious and strangely moving — by Walker as Bruno, that charmingly twisted rich boy who won’t take “no” for an answer.

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Wilmington on Movies: Seven Psychopaths

That’s sixteen characters (and one Shih Tzu) altogether, including the four psychopaths we already mentioned. You’ll just have to figure out who the other three psychos are yourself, or wait until McDonagh shows one of them in the movie, and flashes the title “Psychopath One” (or whatever) on screen. There are some surprises. But I’d go see a movie with any three of the seven actors playing actual psychopaths in this one, in a trice. Or a movie just with Chris Walken and any two others, even the dog.

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The DVD Wrapup: Rock of Ages, Little Shop, Prometheus, Cat in Paris, People Like Us … More

As so often happens when Broadway goes Hollywood, the musical was edited to please studio executives who probably hadn’t attended a live musical since high school. Geffen told the director to expect heat on the apocalyptic ending, but let him shoot it anyway. To his credit, Oz doesn’t waste any time on the commentary track complaining about something that happened 25 years earlier. He agrees that the changes helped at the box office and is happy viewers finally will be able to see the original ending, which he still defends. Even the opinions of a test audience and studio suits couldn’t screw up this bullet-proof gem, however. Neither was “Little Shop” damaged by expanding its scale. The skid-row sets, which were built in several soundstages at Britain’s Pinewood Studios, look terrific and the production numbers take up as much space as they need. The songs remain wonderful, as well, even with the fresh level of gloss and polish applied to them.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Prometheus

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW Prometheus (Also 3 or 4 Disc Blu-ray Combo Packs) (Four Stars) U. S.: Ridley Scott, 2012 (20th Century Fox) I. PART ONE, THE SET-UP John Hurt, anyone? Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s first science fiction movie since Blade Runner three decades ago, and a prequel of sorts to his first…

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Wilmington on Movies: Frankenweenie

Two of the best things horror-comedy prodigy Tim Burton ever did were a couple of black and white cartoons he made for Disney back in the early ‘80s, when he was a lad in his 20s. One of them, Vincent (1982), was the tale in rhyme of a little boy who adored Vincent Price. Narrated in his inimitable evil-ish sneer by Mr. Price himself; it was a critical hit, and deserved to be. (I remember seeing it in a theater in the early ‘80s, with mingled bemusement and delight — and filing away Burton‘s name in my noggin.) The other gem, the black and white stop-motion featurette Frankenweenie, was a Frankenstein parody set in a black-and-white sit-commy stop-motion suburb, about a child named Victor Frankenstein who revives with electricity his dead pet dog.

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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