Reviews Archive for June, 2013

Wilmington on Movies: The Heat

The Heat is a crude, violent, often tasteless, clichéd and outrageously foul-mouthed buddy-buddy cop comedy that also happens to be funny—sometimes screamingly funny.

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Wilmington on Movies: White House Down

I hate to admit this, but I sort of enjoyed White House Down. This doesn‘t mean that I‘m ready to forgive producer -director Roland Emmerich and his latest landmark-basher all their cinematic sins (among them Emmerich’s last movie raid on Washington D. C., and the White House, the 1996 Independence Day) , or that I think that moviemakers with outlandishly big budgets at their disposal should keep attacking and blowing up the White House on screen until they get it right —which may never happen until they hire Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco for the job — or that I‘m getting soft in my old age. It’s just that White House Down, defying all my expectations, made me laugh a little.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Ballad of Narayama (1958 and 1983)

The 1958 film version of The Ballad of Narayama is one of the masterpieces of Keisuke Kinoshita, a great Japanese writer-director—peer and friend of Kurosawa and Ichikawa—who, these days, sometimes seems as unfairly marginalized as his main character in Narayama: Orin, the elderly woman who will be left alone on the mountain Narayama by her children.

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The DVD Wrapup

Black Pond, Burt Wonderstone, Phantom, Rambler, Supporting Characters, Lesser Blessed, Storming Juno, Place at Table… and so much more.

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

The Roman Empire falls for Russell Crowe. And Hollywood fell for his movie. Am I being too sarcastic? Well, to be finicky about it, Gladiator may not really have deserved the Best Picture Oscar.

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Wilmington on Movies: World War Z

A lot of the film’s quality, or at least its sometimes entertaining excess, is probably due to producer-star Brad Pitt, for whom this disaster epic was obviously a labor of zombie-love, as much as of zombie-commerce. Pitt is one actor whose good looks you tend not to hold against him. He’s a guy who, like Paul Newman and Robert Redford (two fathers of some of his performances) kids himself enough to remove what might be a taint of narcissism.

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Wilmington on Movies: Monsters University

That’s the problem: You can write most of it yourself, whereas you’d be hard-pressed to come up with half the humor and emotion, the twists and turns of Pixar’s Toy Story Trilogy, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Up, and this movie‘s dazzling post-prequel Monsters Inc.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Things to Come

The two great Godfathers of literary science fiction were the fanciful Frenchman Jules Verne and the immensely-well-read Britisher H. G. Wells. But though both of them have been adapted endlessly for the movies, only one of them actually wrote a science-fiction screenplay, adapted from one of his own books.

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The DVD Wrapup

Jack the Giant Slayer, It’s a Disaster; Brass Teapot; Movie 43, Let My People Go, Come Out and Play, Rectify… And so much more.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Two Mules for Sister Sara; Of Human Bondage; Jack the Giant Slayer

Of Human Bondage is an important part of film history for several reasons. It’s director John Cromwell’s faithful, intelligent (if severely shortened) adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s best-selling and much-admired semi-autobiographical novel about the sad early life of a sensitive and idealistic London medical student named Philip Carey, who falls ruinously in love with a pretty, yet selfish and sadistic waitress named Mildred. The movie is a classic — not just because it’s a fine version of a powerful novel with a very moving lead performance by Leslie Howard in the Maugham-ish role of Philip—but because it’s the movie that made a star of the acrtess who played Mildred, 26-year-old Bette Davis.

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Wilmington on Movies: Man of Steel

Man of Steel is one of the loudest movies I’ve seen recently. Or maybe ever. In this almost constantly erupting show guns fire, buildings topple, planets explode. Watching the picture—which revives Superman for the movies on the 75th anniversary of his first appearance in Action Comics (April 1938)—I felt as if I were being continually blasted out of my seat, and it wasn’t always an enjoyable feeling. It’s got a lot going for it. It’s not a bad or indifferent movie. But it’s not a particularly good one either.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Bling Ring

They were a gang of four wannabe-fashionista girls, and one computer geek boy from the San Fernando Valley. Based on real life kids who were the subjects of a Vanity Fair article about their crimes, they became famous for going on joy-raids into the homes of the celebrity rich of Los Angeles-and-thereabouts, and stealing their bling: that is, their jewelry, shoes, objets d’art and fancy clothes and occasionally wads of dough the owners just leave lying around the place.

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Wilmington on Movies: This is the End

Just when I’d practically given up buddy-buddy movie comedy for dead, after the wipeouts of The Hangover III and The Internship, along comes This is the End, from writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, to revive your faith in bad taste and arrested development.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Badlands

What really disturbed, and disturbs, some people about both these films are the ways that Malick and Penn make their deadly protagonists beautiful—make us like them, even get crushes on them. All four pretty miscreants—Bonnie, Clyde, Kit, Holly—are stunningly attractive, which gives them all the classic movie short-cut to sympathy, something we also see in other Bonnie and Clyde-inspired films like Gun Crazy. But they’re also almost cripplingly naïve and childlike—and that’s why we tend to like all of them, right up to the very last moments of their stories.

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The DVD Wrapup

The Great and Wonderful Oz, Hansel & Gretel, Taste of Money, Vivan Los Antipodans!, Manson, Clip, Labor of Love, Monk, House of Cards, Allen Ginsberg… And so much more.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Enforcer; Les Visiteurs du Soir; Oz, the Great and Powerful; Snitch

The Enforcer, the last movie Humphrey Bogart made for Warner Brothers, begins with one of the grimmest scenes in all of film noir. It’s night, deadly night…

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Wilmington on Movies: The Internship

Vince Vaughn is an actor who tends to work better with partners—Jon Favreau in Swingers, for example. Still, when it came to 2005’s Wedding Crashers, he and Owen Wilson hit the motherlode of buddy-buddy comedy. It’s one of the funnier movies of the millennium, and Vaughn and Wilson, as two swinging young lawyers who crash weddings for the goodies and the women, had sizzling early-Martin & Lewis-style chemistry. Like all comedy teams that click, they were, are, a study in contrasts. Vaughn was fast-talking; Wilson was slow. Vaughn was tall and hunky; Wilson was average and clunky. Vaughn was tart; Wilson was sweet. Vaughn was something of a cynic; Wilson was something of a romantic. We liked Wilson; we were a little leery of Vaughn.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Purge

What happens on Purge night? The people, including everybody but some select national leaders (of course) are unrestrained but also unprotected. They can do anything, break any law—because for those 12 hours, no police will patrol the streets or make arrests or even gather and keep evidence, no doctors will tend the injured in the hospitals, and every violation of the law, no matter how heinous, will be forgiven automatically, in advance—including armed robbery, murder, rape and green-lighting violent movies with potentially terrific ideas that wind up making no sense and indulging the violent fantasies they seem to be criticizing.

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The DVD Wrapup

El Sicario, Warm Bodies, Identity Thief, Die Hard, In Old Arizona, Mosquita, James Dean, Last Ride, Mad Max and so much more.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Odd Couple, Warm Bodies; A Good Day to Die Hard; Identity Thief

Nervous, punctilious white collar fussbudget Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) and wise-cracking slob sports writer Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) are long time poker buddies thrown together as temporary roomies in Oscar’s N.Y.C. apartment, thanks to Felix’s marital troubles. Can these two mismatched friends, with several failed (or failing) relationships between them, survive their own semi-conjugal non-bliss together? Or will they clamor for a divorce, when the magnitude of Oscar’s laissez-faire housekeeping sinks in?

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Reviews

Woody on: The DVD Wrapup: ET, Vietnam, Big Sick, Glory, Certain Women, The Hero, Hana-Bi, By the Time It Gets Dark, The Prison, The Flesh, Moderns … More

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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

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The sad and painful truth is that pretty much everyone in this town knew who Harvey was. I have had long talks with my most liberal friends. Did we know he was a rapist? We didn’t. But did we know that for decades he has been offering actresses big careers in exchange for sexual favors? Yes, we did — and make no mistake, that is its own kind of rape. And did we all — or did any of us — refuse to do business with him on moral grounds? No. We ALL STAYED IN BUSINESS WITH HIM. I have never done business with Harvey but I can tell you with certainty that I would have — because I was recently approached by a film festival he sponsors. They asked me to submit my short film for their consideration and I did it without thinking twice. I am a dyed-in-the-wool feminist and a vocal one at that. So why didn’t I think twice? Because this entire town is built on the ugly principals that Harvey takes to an horrific extreme. If I didn’t work with people whose behavior I find reprehensible, I wouldn’t have a career.”
~ Showrunner Krista Vernoff

From AMPAS president John Bailey:

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

Danish director Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is not only one of the visual landmarks of the silent era, but is a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman’s persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order. The actress Maria Falconetti gave one of the most profoundly affecting performances in the history of cinema as the Maid of Orleans.

Since the decision of the Academy’s Board of Governors on Saturday October 14 to expel producer Harvey Weinstein from its membership, I have been haunted not only by the recurring image of Falconetti and the sad arc of her career (dying in Argentina in 1946, reputedly from a crash diet) but of Joan’s refusal to submit to an auto de fe recantation of her beliefs.

Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom’s most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry—and hopefully in our country, where what happens in the world of movies becomes a marker of societal Zeitgeist. Their decision to stand up against a powerful, abusive male not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti’s Joan but gives all women courage to speak up.

After Saturday’s Board of Governors meeting, the Academy issued a passionately worded statement, expressing not only our concern about harassment in the film industry, but our intention to be a strong voice in changing the culture of sexual exploitation in the movie business, already common well before the founding of the Academy 90 years ago. It is up to all of us Academy members to more clearly define for ourselves the parameters of proper conduct, of sexual equality, and respect for our fellow artists throughout our industry. The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.

Yours,
John