Movie Review

The DVD Wrapup: Moonlight, Doctor Strange, Arrival, Before Trilogy, Chronic and more

Moonlight is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s semi-autobiographical text, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” written in 2003 to cope with his own mother’s death from AIDS. Never produced, it was ten years before Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) – who grew up only a few blocks from McCraney, in Miami’s poverty- and crime-wracked Liberty City projects – was pushed to begin work on a second film. The characters are informed by people who influenced both men at various times in their lives. If Moonlight feels hyperreal, it’s because McCraney and Jenkins endured many of the same powerful forces as Chiron and Kevin.

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Wilmington on DVD: Everybody Wants Some!!

Youth is wasted on the young. Maybe. But it definitely wasn‘t squandered on Richard Linklater, that wondrously humane American filmmaker (Austin, Texas-raised auteur of the “Before” Trilogy and Boyhood), who, in his best work, uses his own youth to potently amuse us and brilliantly illuminate the worlds we share.

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Review-ish: Ghostbusters (2016, non-spoiler)

Perhaps Ghostbusters won’t define your childhood. But I don’t think anyone on the team was after that. A good summer laugh at the movies? Absolutely.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Back in the 1970s, when the paradigms for shows like this were being set down — by Roger Corman and other ballsy independent producers — this kind of picture would have been a low- budget job, and it probably would have been better for it. If they were going to spend more money on The Purge: Election Year, they might at least have played around more with the idea of an entire nation plunged into chaos.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Shallows

The Shallows is a genuinely scary movie thriller that spooks you because, in a way, it seems so real — this tense, taut movie manage to get by without ghosts, monsters, supernatural maniacs or The Devil, indeed without almost anything that absolutely couldn’t happen (maybe) in the real world. Like Jaws, it’s the white-knuckle, full-throttle story of a battle between human vs. shark: a visually voluptuous thriller, set in a mostly deserted stretch of Australian coast, about a great white shark that traps a young surfer and medical student on an ocean-bound rock and buoy only about 200 yards from shore — a deserted beach near an ocean that is mostly empty except for that trapped girl and that toothy shark and one other creature we‘ll introduce later. (You’ll like him.)

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Wilmington on Movies: Central Intelligence

Central Intelligence surprises you — or surprised me, at any rate.

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Wilmington on Movies: Genius

Thomas Wolfe was an American literary phenomenon: a North Carolina-born novelist and prodigy who hoped to write books of Shakespearean verbal grandeur, of Tolstoyan dramatic scope and Dickensian humanity, and to live a life to fit those vast ambitions. He’s also an artist who tends to be ignored or underrated these days. A pity, because whenever you read one of his huge novels (especially “Look Homeward Angel” and “Of Time and the River”), his talent and his mixed but munificent literary gifts flame right off the page at you.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Conjuring 2

People who like scary ghost horror movies, from Frankenstein to The Haunting, probably are partial, at least a little, to that awesome, icky sensation of being plunged into sucking swamps of cinematic dread, then rescued (maybe spuriously, maybe not) at the very last possible millisecond—a sensation you may feel quite a few times in The Conjuring 2.

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Wilmington on Movies: Alice Through the Looking Glass

This new movie’s flaws seem to me less ruinous, its strengths less negligible, and its effect more enjoyable than naysayers have allowed. That doesn’t mean that you should rush out and see it, simply that the people involved did a better job than they have been credited.

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Wilmington on Movies: Forbidden Games

Forbidden Gamesis one of the great black-and-white French films of the post-war, pre-New Wave cinema era. But it‘s also one of a group of initially admired French post-war films that were later radically underrated by the New Wave critic-directors, including Truffaut and Godard.

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Wilmington on Movies: Sinister 2; Sinister

Sinister 2, one of the creepier horror movies I’ve seen recently, is an attempt to make an even more sinister sequel to the 2012 horror-sleeper. That earlier Sinister was a found-footage horror show that scared some audiences and grossed some dough back in 2012, and also inspired a lukewarm, semi-horrified response from, as Orson Welles was wont to say, your obedient servant. But this new Sinister is, like many mediocre and derivative gorefests so unengagingly gory and so unentertainingly sicko that it seems extremely unlikely that we’ll ever see a “Sinister 3.” For which we should all be grateful.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Third Man

There’s nothing wrong with The Third Man even if the world it describes is wrong to the core and bad to the bone.

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Wilmington on Movies: Jurassic World

Ever since Jaws made his name and fortune in 1975 Steven Spielberg has been the king of the summer movie, and his production of this weekend’s nearly-record-breaking mega-hit Jurassic World simply continues that tradition. Where would we be if we didn’t have a shark, a dinosaur, a U.F.O., or an E. T. to run from or play with or queue up for? Even when his movies aren’t released in summer, they can feel like summery treats.

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Wilmington on Movies: San Andreas

That famous Fault we Angelenos dread cracks apart and sends much of Los Angeles and San Francisco crashing down into the streets, the freeways, and the ocean and tsunamis rise and skyscrapers topple…

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Wilmington on Movies: Entourage

I never caught any of TV’s “Entourage” — the hit Hollywood-set comedy-satire about a movie star from Queens and the three hometown buddies who get dragged along (like Elvis’ Memphis Mafia) in the wake of his rise to fame and riches. But it always struck me, from its rep and reviews, as a show I might enjoy, just as the movie that‘s now been inspired by that TV series, struck me as something that might hand me a laugh or two (or even three). Which just goes to show how gullible I can be.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Apu Trilogy

The film, as much as any that I’ve seen in decades of watching movies, becomes an overwhelming experience. It stays with you, always: a work of art in the same vein and genre and of the same high quality as John Ford’s Depression America masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath and Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist Italian classic Bicycle Thieves (both among Ray‘s inspirations for his own films). In some ways, it is superior to either of them.

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Wilmington on Movies: Poltergeist / When Marnie Was There

One thing you can say in favor of the latest Poltergeist is that at least nobody in it gets tortured, hideously maimed, eviscerated, eaten, or chopped to screaming bits. Children may take their parents to this picture, without fear of nightmares.

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Wilmington on Movies: Tomorrowland

Watching Tomorrowlan—a great big film hunk of love and optimism and confusion from the Walt Disney Studio—you sometimes get the idea that director-writer Brad Bird and company are trying not just to create a new movie but maybe to found a new movement; Dianetics for Disneyphiles, or Pessimists Anonymous or Worldmakers. (Just kidding.)

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Wilmington on Movies: Pitch Perfect 2 / Pitch Perfect

Any movie sequel that starts out by having its costar moon the President of the United States and the First Lady at Lincoln Center obviously doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-confidence.

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Wilmington on Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road

Head-banging, car-crashing action movies with minimal dialogue and maximum carnage may make a lot of money, but they’ve also gotten (deservedly) a bad odor for some film-lovers, including, sometimes, me

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“TIFF doesn’t make attendance numbers for its Lightbox screenings publicly available, so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how many filmgoers the Lightbox is attracting (or how much money it’s bringing in). But the King Street West venue hasn’t become a significant draw for film enthusiasts. The Lightbox’s attendance has plunged – 49,000 fewer visitors last year, a drop of 27 per cent, according to figures recently reported in the Toronto Star. Its gallery space – designed to showcase the visions of cinema’s most iconic filmmakers – saw most of its exhibitions staff quietly axed this past fall. And its marketing barely escapes the Lightbox’s walls. Unless you are a TIFF member or one of the city’s most avid filmgoers, you could walk by the Lightbox and remain blissfully unaware of a single thing that goes on inside. TIFF “still has a world-class brand,” said Barry Avrich, a filmmaker and former board member, “but it’s going to take some fresh vision from retail, consumer programming and marketing experts, given how the lines have become intensely blurred when it comes to how people watch film. They will have to experiment with programming to find the right blend of function and relevance.”
~ Globe & Mail Epic On State of Toronto Int’l (paywalled)

“I’m 87 years old… I only eat so I can smoke and stay alive… The only fear I have is how long consciousness is gonna hang on after my body goes. I just hope there’s nothing. Like there was before I was born. I’m not really into religion, they’re all macrocosms of the ego. When man began to think he was a separate person with a separate soul, it created a violent situation.

“The void, the concept of nothingness, is terrifying to most people on the planet. And I get anxiety attacks myself. I know the fear of that void. You have to learn to die before you die. You give up, surrender to the void, to nothingness.

“Anybody else you’ve interviewed bring these things up? Hang on, I gotta take this call… Hey, brother. That’s great, man. Yeah, I’m being interviewed… We’re talking about nothing. I’ve got him well-steeped in nothing right now. He’s stopped asking questions.”
~ Harry Dean Stanton