Reviews Archive for November, 2012

The DVD Gift Guide

Now that we’ve put Black Friday and Cyber Monday in our rear-view mirrors, it’s time to consider the gift that keeps on giving: entertainment. The DVD/Blu-ray economy is such that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas no longer is reserved for the release of special and collector’s editions, boxed sets and videos with toys attached to them. Neither did one need to wait until Black Friday for the best deals. Here are few titles that have arrived recently or didn’t arrive for the normal consideration. If the recipient of your generosity doesn’t yet own a Blu-ray player, however, I recommend starting there.

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Wilmington on DVDs: ParaNorman; Lawless; The Apparition

    PARANORMAN (Also 3 or 2 Disc Blu-ray/DVD and/or 3D Combo) (Three Stars) U. S.: Chris Butler/Sam Fell, 2012 (Focus) ParaNorman, a.k.a. Norman Babcock, mini-hero of the entertainingly creepy new 3D stop-motion animated feature that bears his name, not only has three dimensions but a sixth sense to boot.  He sees the dead —…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Umberto D.

Italy. The early ‘50s. The Post-war era. On a crowded Roman street, a group of old men who live on pensions from the Italian government, try to demonstrate for a raise in their meager incomes. Police break up the march, and the old men scatter, including the neatly-dressed, white-haired man whom we will follow for 88 minutes in the story that has just begun. He is an elderly ex-government worker named Umberto Domenico Ferrari, or “Umberto D.“ for short. Umberto has a threadbare dark suit and sad, watchful eyes and he takes with him, almost everywhere, his little white-and-brown-haired dog, Flike. Like most of the other old men, his situation has become desperate.

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The DVD Wrapup: MiB3, Lawless, Beijing Punk… More

Seven years ago, director John Hillcoat collaborated with writer-composer Nick Cave and actor Guy Pearce on the excellent Outback Western, “The Proposition.” They combined their talents again on “Lawless,” a slick hillbilly gangster flick set during America’s Prohibition experiment. Like “The Proposition,” “Lawless” is a smart and exciting genre that isn’t afraid to ratchet up the violence when things get too contemplative and self-consciously hip. Even more so than Hillcoat’s revisionist Western, though, his moonshine drama probably would be a better fit at a drive-in theater than an arthouse.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Men in Black 3

  PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW MEN IN BLACK III (Three Stars) U.S.: Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012 (Sony) Movie Sequels don’t always work, and the bad ones tend to diminish our fonder memories of the originals. But a good sequel can increase our pleasure. Men in Black III is the third in the series that started…

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Wilmington on Movies: Silver Linings Playbook

Chemistry isn’t lacking here. Cooper plays Pat Jr. with a mix of obstinacy and nervous intensity, plus a phony bravado and a disguised vulnerability that belies the qualities he put into the unshakably self-confident stud he played in The Hangover. As for Jennifer Lawrence, she adds naturalistic comedy to her resume to go along with the mastery of naturalistic drama she showed in Winter‘s Bone and the heroic young womanhood she put into The Hunger Games. And she does it with a panache that justifies at least some of the critical mash notes she’s received for this movie.

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Wilmington on Movies: Red Dawn

Red Dawn, a thoroughly idiotic movie, is an amazingly daffy remake of John Milius’ Cold War bang-bang fantasy of the same title. That 1984 jaw-dropper was an action teen movie about high school guys and footballers turned anti-Red guerillas: a band of letterman brothers led by Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell, battling a Soviet invasion in Colorado. 1984, in the height of the Reagan era, was probably a good time for the original movie. I doubt a good time exists for its feckless, dopey, off-the-wall cinematic progeny.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Sparkle; Greed in the Sun, Abraham Lincoln

I think we’re wrong when we say the story doesn’t matter in shows like this, because the audience just comes for the music. (People say the same kind of thing about action and horror movies, and they‘re wrong there, too.) The story does matter, always, and when we start getting more great musicals again — and I hope we will — it’ll be because all of the movie will click and not just a part of it. The high notes as well as the low. The words as well as the music. The dirt as well as the Sparkle.

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The DVD Wrapup: Nicholas Ray, Rolling Stones, Dust Bowl, Speechless… More

Whenever the roll of movie mavericks is read up yonder, no one has to wait very long before Nicholas Ray’s name is called. Like Sam Fuller, he stuck out like a sore thumb in Hollywood, if only because he’d already lived a hugely eventful life before committing to film and understood the power of the medium to separate the truth from fantasy. In what some of his peers probably considered a fatal flaw, Ray had very little interest in compromising his artistic vision for the sake of commercial and personal gain. Even so, he made movies for mass consumption, not strictly for the arthouse crowd familiar with his past connections to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, folk-music archivist Alan Lomax, Dust Bowl balladeer Woody Guthrie, producer John Houseman, director Elia Kazan and other key players in the progressive New York theater scene in the 1930s. If he somehow managed to avoid being rounded up in Red Scare dragnet, his sentiments remained clearly on the side of outcasts, the downtrodden and rebellious youth.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

Some movies become mass cultural lollapaloozas and pop ultra-phenomena — and they assume an importance they may not quite deserve. So it is with the cinematic Twilight Saga, a series that zillions adore, but to which some critics (including me) remain unhappily immune.

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Wilmington on Movies: Holy Motors

As far as I could glean or remember, M. Oscar impersonates, with Celine’s help — and thanks to a well-stocked supply of makeup and costumes in the back of the limo — a financier, an old beggar-woman, a motion capture lover/dancer in a black unitard, a wild sewer-dwelling hooligan named M. Merde, a dying father, a charismatic accordionist, a hired killer and his victim/double, and the lover of a heart-breaking chanteuse played and sung (to the hilt) by Kylie Minogue.

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Wilmington on DVDs: 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 French Palace of Versailles and the Las Vegas Paris Hotel and built by time-share resort hotel czar David Siegel — one of the things that bothered me most was the seeming fact 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 did not spot a single book.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Savages; The Watch; The Game; Private Hell 36

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 muss up — 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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The DVD Wrapup: Brave, Dark Horse, Weekend, Pasolini … More

No one makes movies quite like Todd Solondz and that’s probably a good thing. It takes a special talent to find the humanity in characters most of us would consider to be despicable, while also exploring how they’ve managed to fit into mainstream society as long as they have.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Lawrence of Arabia 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Few adventure films ever have boasted such astonishing physical beauty. As shot by cinematographer Freddie Young (and his second unit photographer Nicolas Roeg), there’s a scintillating clarity in the city and village scenes (done mostly in Seville, Spain, and Morocco) and even more the vast Saudi Arabian landscapes: movielands as haunting as John Ford’s Monument Valley: a Xanadu of boys’ adventure, dune after dune sliding off toward the blinding sky.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Brave

Brave has been criticized for being too much like classic Disney, which is true, and what of it? Even so, the movie deliberately subverts and plays with the very traditions it celebrates. Brave’s heroine, Merida, may be a princess, but she isn’t waiting around for the someday her prince will come.

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Wilmington on Movies: Skyfall

Did I like it? Sure. Has it lost some or all of its Ian-Flemingish savoir faire and pizzazz, it’s sense of fun and immaculate violence? Not yet, Any movie with Javier Bardem as a villain (or as a non-villain for that matter), has my vote. And Skyfall is not only a classy production on every level — well-acted, well-written, well-shot –but a good rip-roaring action movie too.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection

I’m not a Bond-olator, by any means, but this set seems a beauty: a real pop movie treasure trove. It’s an essential Blu-ray box set — even if a number of the movies are disappointing. (Has anyone ever cared to mount a defense of the 1985 A View to a Kill?)

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The DVD Wrapup: Sister’s Sister, Even the Rain, Kerouac, [REC]3, Arthur Christmas … More

Just when it seemed as if Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” was going to turn into a really long version of a dopey Gen Y sitcom, it switched into a higher gear and became something far more unexpected, sophisticated and interesting.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Eating Raoul… More

I’ve always thought that this nightmarishly building, wackily compassionate road comedy — with straight, wired-tight Steve Martin being driven progressively crazy by his unwelcome road partner, blowhard John Candy — was John Hughes’ best movie (just ahead of Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off), and one of the best American film comedies of the ‘80s.

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Reviews

https://bestwatches.club/ on: The DVD Wrapup: Diamonds of the Night, School of Life, Red Room, Witch/Hagazussa, Tito & the Birds, Keoma, Andre’s Gospel, Noir

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

GDA on: The DVD Wrapup: Bumblebee, Ginsburg, Buster, Silent Voice, Nazi Junkies, Prisoner, Golden Vampires, Highway Rat, Terra Formars, No Alternative … More

Larry K on: The DVD Wrapup: Sleep With Anger, Ralph Wrecks Internet, Liz & Blue Bird, Hannah Grace, Unseen, Jupiter's Moon, Legally Blonde, Willard, Bang … More

Gary Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

gwehan on: The DVD Wrapup: Shoplifters, Front Runner, Nobody’s Fool, Peppermint Soda, Haunted Hospital, Valentine, Possum, Mermaid, Guilty, Antonio Lopez, 4 Weddings … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup: Peppermint, Wild Boys, Un Traductor, Await Instructions, Lizzie, Coby, Afghan Love Story, Elizabeth Harvest, Brutal, Holiday Horror, Sound & Fury … More

Gary J Dretzka on: The DVD Wrapup & Gift Guide III: Venom 4K, The Super, Snowflake, Marie Curie, Gamechangers, Who We Are Now, 40 Guns, De Palma-De Niro,, Starman and more

aniban83 on: The DVD Wrapup & Gift Guide III: Venom 4K, The Super, Snowflake, Marie Curie, Gamechangers, Who We Are Now, 40 Guns, De Palma-De Niro,, Starman and more

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin