MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVD: The Rest. I Am Number Four, The Roommate, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, El Topo, Hurry Sundown, Grand Prix

I Am Number Four (One a Half Stars)
U.S.: D. J. Caruso 2011 (Touchstone/DreamWorks)

Sometimes, you look at a movie, and you know it’s going to give you a bad time. But what can you do?

I Am Number Four is a super-glossy, not very good science fiction teen thriller, produced by Michael Bay and directed by D. J. Caruso, about a striking-looking kid named John (Alex Pettyfer), who’s also known as “Number Four.” Four comes from another planet and is being shepherded around America — and protected from the bad Mogadorians of that same planet– by his helpful guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant). Those bad Mogadorians, who have evil-looking creases by their noses, and are led by their evilly grinning Commander (Kevin Durand), have already killed Numbers One, Two and Three, and their guardians. There’s another refugee from John‘s planet (Teresa Palmer), a striking looking blonde in black leather. She‘s wandering around. So is a cute little dog with an injured leg. (See, this movie has a heart.)

John, or Four, dyes his hair blonde too, and becomes even more striking-looking. But he‘s tired of hiding. He wants to go to high school, though Henri warns him he‘ll have to be inconspicuous. (How can he be inconspicuous? He looks like a movie star with dyed-blonde hair.) So, on the first days of school, Four attracts the prettiest girl in school, artsy photographer Sarah (Dianna Agron), alienates her ex-boyfriend, the school’s snotty star quarterback Mark (Jake Abel) and his hoodlum friends, and gains a Plato-like Sal Mineo sort of hanger-on buddy named Sam (Callan McAuliffe).

Inconspicuous? The picture’s just started and already, Four has used up half the setup of  Rebel Without a Cause, and he doesn’t even have a red jacket. The rest is the same old stuff, science fiction-ized, nowhere near as good as “Rebel,” but very well-shot by Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth), and juiced up with monsters and Mogadorians.

Flashback: Back in the good old days, teen-agers, as far as I know, just did their homework and ran around and danced to rock music and ate cheeseburgers and malts, and snuck smokes and tried to get laid, and occasionally went on chickie runs. (“You ever been on a chickie run?“ “Sure, that’s all I ever do.”)

Now, by God — at least if we can believe many of the teen movies we see — the new breed of high school kids are not only delinquents, but vampires and werewolves and sorcerer’s apprentices and vampire-slayers, and they’re bent on saving the world from super-robots and monsters that come from other planets, or, if they’re bad, destroying it. They’re supermen and superwomen (a fantasy I sometimes shared) and their cute little dogs turn into superbeasts and battle the local dragons, and the kids are being chased all over hell and gone by evilly grinning Mogadorians.

Damn! Don’t Michael Bay, D. J. Caruso and the screenwriters and original novelists of I Am Number Four worry that they may be arousing unrealistic expectations in the hearts and minds of the youth of America? (Nah, it’s only a movie.) Aren’t they a little ashamed of filming scripts like this, where the very best line of dialogue — by a crush — is “I am Number Six!”

When I was a teenager, if I’d gone to a movie like this, I would have felt like I was being played for a sucker, treated like an idiot, and that I should have my head examined for buying a ticket to it — even if the show had a striking-looking blonde or two, plus great dialogue like “I am Number Six!” What did I know? How could I have envisioned? The world can move in strange directions.

Did you ever have a rumble with a Mogadorian? (Sure, that’s all I ever do.) Well, it is only a movie. But of we keep making shows about adults who act like teenagers (See Hall Pass), and teenagers who are supermen who can rule the world (like this one), and we justify it all by how much dough the move makes, how can we complain when people act, and vote and govern, like suckers, idiots and dimwits who believe that they’re supermen? (“I Am Number One! I Am Number One!”)

And yes I had a collection of “Superman“ comics when I was younger than a teenager. And “Batman.” I loved them. The Man of Steel. He was Number One. This movie, however…

The Roommate (Also Blu-ray) (One Star)

U.S.: Christian E. Christiansen, 2011 (Screen Gems)

The psycho-roommate plot of Single White Female turned into teen-sex fashion porn. Minka Kelly is our heroine; Leighton Meester is the psycho. And they do their maniacal shenanigans at a school (“Los Angeles University”) unlike anything this side of Suspiria — which is far more fun. No books in the rooms, but plenty of blood on the floor. Don’t be too intrigued by the box office this one generated. (The movie somehow went to Number One.) The audience was suckered. Christian E. Christiansen directed, badly. Sonny Mallhi scripted, horribly. It’s awful.


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Blu-ray) (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Terry Gilliam, 1998 (Criterion)

From Hunter Thompson’s great mad chronicle of a wild druggie Voyage to the End of Vegas, inspired by Thompson’s attempt to cover a motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated, with his buddy, radical Latino lawyer Oscar Acosta, and a convertible full of controlled substances. Johnny Depp is Hunter Thompson (alias Raoul Duke). Benicio Del Toro is “The Samoan Attorney” (alias Dr. Gonzo). Supporting hallucinations are played by Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Harry Dean Stanton, Christina Ricci, Craig Bierko, Lyle Lovett, and so help me, Tobey Maguire, as a sensitive hippie hitchhiker, freaked out by his loony ride with Duke and Gonzo.

Gilliam, working from a Tony Grisoni/Alex Cox/Tod Davies/Gilliam script, makes no concessions to any civilized notions of a proper movie. Ralph Steadman’s fantastic original “Fear and Loathing” illustrations hover over the picture like a swarm of bats. And Depp and Del Toro score in their seemingly unlikely roles like you wouldn’t believe. (Johnny Depp? Hunter S. Thompson?) Fans of the book — the “Moby Dick” of drug tales — will probably like this. Normal people will be appalled. Gonzo me, baby!

Extras: Three commentaries, with Gilliam, with Depp and Del Toro, and with Dr. Hunter S. Thompson; Deleted scenes; Thompson correspondence, read by Depp; Documentary; Featurettes; Portrait of Acosta; Artwork by Steadman; “Fear and Loathing” recording with Jim Jarmusch; Booklet with pieces by Thompson and J. Hoberman.

El Topo (Blu-ray) Rating: Three Stars.

Mexico: Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970 (Anchor Bay)

The infamous head trip midnight movie about the Sergio Leon-ish zen gunslinger (Christ, Buddha, Glauber Rocha and Clint Eastwood tossed together), played by writer-director Jodorowsky, his barenaked sidekick (played by Jodorowsky‘s 7 year old son Brontis), and their desert ride to enlightenment and bloody massacre.

With Mara Lorenzio and Alfonso Arau (here a bandit, later the director of Like Water for Chocolate). Full of narrative chaos, bargain basement pseudo-Leone theatrics and weird symbolic allegorical binges. One of a kind; there could never be an El Topo 2. (Wait: I guess there could.) John Lennon  and the Easy Rider gang loved it. Yoko too, I suppose. It plays better stoned. So does “Revolution No. 9.”

Extras: Commentary and interview with Jodorowsky; English dub track; Script excerpts; Trailer.

Hurry Sundown (Three Stars)

U.S.: Otto Preminger, 1967 (Olive)

Starting in 1959, Otto Preminger, who had been discovered and celebrated by Cahiers du Cinema in the mid-’50s, directed a string of lengthy, often spectacular movies mostly based on big best-sellers, all of which might be described as social-political epics. These films  tended to focus on American or world institutions: U. S. courtroom law (Anatomy of a Murder), the creation of the Israeli state (Exodus), American national politics (Advise and Consent), the Catholic Church (The Cardinal), The U.S. Navy in World War II (In Harm‘s Way) and race and class in theDeep South (Hurry Sundown). The odd film in during this period was Preminger‘s stylish 1965 British-set film noir Bunny Lake is Missing.

All of these movies, except the generally acknowledged classic Anatomy of a Murder and maybe Exodus tend to be underrated now, and Hurry Sundown is so underrated that my three star rating may seem to some like addled enthusiasm. But this series may represent Preminger at his best, along with his earlier noirs Laura, Angel Face and The Man with the Golden Arm. Certainly, it shows him at his most ambitious.

Hurry Sundown, based on a K. B. Gilden novel and set in the immediate postwar period, is about two lower class Southern farmers, one white (John Phillip Law), one black (Robert Hooks), battling to keep their land out of the hands of greedy developers. They‘re especially wary of the mendacious saxophone player/speculator Henry (Michael Caine), a smooth operator who’s married to local belle Jane Fonda, whose family ceded part of the land to Hooks’ now-desperately sick mother, Beah Richards. Faye Dunaway, in the same year as her Bonnie and Clyde breakthrough, plays Law‘s wife. Diahann Carroll is a crusading schoolteacher, George Kennedy is a blowhard sheriff and, stealing most of his scenes as a snide, crooked, racist judge in a white suit, is one of Preminger’s favorite actors, Burgess Meredith.

The color cinematography is a little over-slick, but Preminger’s trademark long-take style — he once said the ideal film would be shot in only one take — works very well here. The scenes flow together Premingerishly and he avoids chopping the movie up into the helter-skelter fragments you might see today. The cast, sometimes ridiculed in 1967, look fine now, especially Meredith, Richards, Caine and Fonda.

Hurry Sudown, despite that cast, is often viewed as the start of a downward slide for the director, and indeed it once seemed a jinxed movie. Did Preminger toss away the catchy, even moving Peter, Paul and Mary title song “Hurry Sundown“ ( a minor 1967 pop hit) just as John Ford ditched the Burt Bacharach/Gene Pitney song “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (a major 1962 pop hit) from the credits of his last great Western classic?

This one‘s no classic, but it’s certainly underrated. (It was reviewed as an abomination in 1967.) Listen, I‘ve always liked those Preminger long takes. And the way he takes on establishments. And Michael Caine and Jane Fonda. And Burgess Meredith.

No extras.

Grand Prix (Blu-ray) (Two Disc Special Edition) (Three and a Half Stars)

U.S.: John Frankenheimer, 1966 (Warner)

I once asked John Frankenheimer what his own favorite among all his films was. He started to say The Manchurian Can…  But then he stopped, and said, “No. Grand Prix. I loved doing that one.”

In life, Frankenheimer really dug fast cars. And he’s right. Not about Manchurian Candidate necessarily, but about Grand Prix — which was photographed in 70 mm in a series of ravishing locations that include Monte Carlo — being a good, exciting, gorgeously shot, and sometimes very underrated film.

James Garner, Yves Montand, Antonio Sabato and Brian Bedford are among the cream-of-the-crop Formula One racers on the colorful European circuit. Toshiro Mifune is a big Japanese car nabob and racing team sponsor. Eva Marie Saint, Francoise Hardy and Jessica Walter are women who watch and maybe worry. William Hanley and Robert Alan Aurthur (Edge of the City) wrote it, and, whenever the cars rev up, Frankenheimer keeps us on the edge of our seats.

Grand Prix, his favorite, now often cited as one of the all-time best car-racing movies, was initially underrated. Those racing scenes (some in flashy split-screen) are among the best ever. Brian Bedford may be an odd choice for a Formula One racer. (Why not Michael Caine?) But the others are fine — though Frankenheimer originally wanted Steve McQueen as his star, and I wish they’d found a slot for Paul Newman. (Maybe in Jim Garner‘s role, with Garner as a more easy-going rival.) One thing‘s for sure: Blu-ray is the way to see Grand Prix. Especially in Monte Carlo.

Extras: Featurettes, Trailer.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon