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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: Step Up Revolution; The Hand That Rocks the Cradle; Dead Ringer



STEP UP REVOLUTION (Also Blu-ray/3D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo) (One and a Half Stars)

U.S.: Scott Speer, 2012 (Summit Entertainment)


You don’t have to be a nincompoop to want to see something like Step Up Revolution, but it probably helps. The fourth in the “Step Up” series, which gave the world Channing Tatum in its first outing, and this time settles for male model Ryan Guzman (as hunky Sean) and dancer Kathryn McCormick (as lissome Emily), this is a ludicrous example of what you might call the “Hey Kids! Let’s put on a flash mob, and get it on You Tube!“ musical, a slick-quick-and-dumb-as-a-brick movie, shot in Miami, that has no apparent rationale except to get a bunch of buff kids, led by Guzman and McCormick, slithering and hopping and flash mobbing and dirty-dancing away to recorded music by talent like J.Lo, M.I.A., M83 and Far East Movement (all new to me).

Excuse me, I completely forgot the revolution. Simultaneously, in the midst of all this hopping and slithering and deejaying, the movie tries to justify itself to picky (or gullible) audiences and critics, by including an allegedly socially conscious plot. All those (gifted) buff jumpers and butt wigglers, led by Guzman and his chum Eddy (Misha Gabriel) in a Miami Beach group and flash mob they call The Mob, are actually staging dance-protests, to prevent the destruction of their neighborhood by Mr. Anderson (Peter Gallagher), a greedy real-estate developer who wants to build a huge hotel complex over the ruins — and then maybe build himself a Miami home modeled on Buckingham Palace or Elsinore — and who conveniently turns out to be Emily’s dad and gosh, you know, not such a bad guy after all.

Oh, excuse me, I completely forgot the love story. In the midst of all this class warfare, Sean and Emily meet at the local resort, where he’s a waiter, and she’s daddy’s daughter and she wants to be a star dance student and dancer and thinks the Mob can teach her a few moves, and he wants to put on a few moves himself. It’s Romeo. It’s Juliet. It’s, I don’t know, fate. She’s a rich girl. He’s a poor boy — who just scrapes by on his waiter’s salary, enough to afford a huge loft, all kinds of elaborate electronics equipment (including video), and whatever they pay (or don’t pay) the rest of the Mob, and their choreographers, and their designers, and whoever plans their schedules so they can run around dancing at traffic jams and disrupting speeches by Gallagher the developer and the Mayor. (This guy either gets some tips, or he’s moonlighting with Tatum.)

It’s a classic love story, set to the pulsing beat of J.Lo and M83 and XQ81/2, or whomever — and I just couldn‘t wait to watch those heart-pumping hot-clinch Step Up revolutionary love scenes, or whatever they were. Not since Frankie and Annette and the Beach Parties of American International (whose crucial links to Step Up Revolution Roger Ebert has helpfully pointed out), have I been so moved.

It’s sometimes said that if you put a hundred (or maybe a million) monkeys on typewriters (computers now) and monitored the results, eventually they’d come up with the complete plays of Shakespeare, or at least Neil Simon‘s first five. I’ll go a step further (up). I think all those monkeys, on their very first try, could have written a better script than this, even if they could only manage zzzzzzzzzzzzz, repeated a million times. And I’m not trying to be  eman to the screenwriter, who was, I’m sure, doing exactly what they wanted.

Recently, I’ve been suggesting that Hollywood make more musicals, but what I had in mind were new movie adaptations of all the great Brodway shows they’ve missed (by Stephen Sondheim and others), or movies that were showcases for our best pop stars and dancers and singers and musical actors (what happened to the movie careers Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin should have had?) — not glorified underwear ads, rock video schlock and deejay spinups. Here, producer Adam Shankman (Rock of Ages) and director Scott Speer, enablers of a fairly swanky production (with good dancers), give us something that reminds us how many trivial, third-rate musicals Hollywood produced in its heyday. It’s a movie that makes Beach Blanket Bingo look like La Traviata.

Excuse me, I completely forgot myself. I exaggerate, of course, It makes Beach Blanket Bingo look like Viva Las Vegas.


U,S,: Curtis Hanson, 1992 (Hollywood Pictures Home Video).


We all have bad memories, and I’m sure that Curtis Hanson, director of the classic 1997 neo-noir L. A Confidential, doesn’t like to linger very long on thoughts of this atrocious 1992 suburban thriller — a poorly plotted, totally telegraphed, incomprehensibly illogical  Fatal Attraction knock-off, in which  Rebecca De Mornay plays a crazed but persuasive housekeeper who terrorizes or seduces a nice suburban couple (Annabella Sciorra and Matt McCoy), does evil things to the only smart neighbor around (Julianne Moore, before Short Cuts), alienates all kinds of affections and children. somehow manages to elude all scutiny and fool everybody, and tries to turn their perfect life into a perfect hell.

We’ll forgive Hanson. L. A. Confidential was only five years away. And De Mornay, despite the script, was actually pretty good,which shows how awful the movie was. One scary thought. A lot more movies like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle have been made since 1992, and most of them make Hanson’s peccadillo look almost good.

No Extras


DEAD RINGER (Also Blu-ray) (Two and a Half  Stars)

U.S.: Paul Henreid, 1964 (Warner Bros.)

Two twin siseters, one obscnely rich (named Margaret), and one financially struggling (named Edith) — both of whom have been off each other’s radar  for an unbelievably long time (because bitchy Margarer stole bitter Edith’s rich fiance and ruined her life) — meet up at the hubby’s L. A. funeral. Since both sisters — rich Margaret and (relatively) poor Edith, who runs a  jazz bar — are played by Bette Davis, we can expect the same kind of elegant switcheroo she pulled in 1948’s  A Stolen Life (with Glenn Ford). And since Davis is good at this kind of thing (better for example than Olivia de Havilland in the double role in a better movie, The Dark Mirror) we can expect to have some fun, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the whole story is so ridiculously implausible, even William Castle might have ducked it.

It’s a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane sort of movie, without the style or the suspense or a script, or Robert Aldrich, or Joan Crawford. Karl Malden plays an earnest cop (his kind of role), who is also bonkers about one of the Bettes. Peter Lawford plays an absolute  cur (not his type, but Camelot was over) who likes the other one. Jean Hagen (the sublime Lina Lamont of Singin in the Rain) steals a lot of the movie as the rich Bette’s wicked friend. Ernest Haller, one of Davis’s fvorite (and best) cinematographers, shot the show, as he also did Baby Jane. The score is by the very talented jazzman/movie composer turned classical conductor Andre Previn — whom I wish had stayed in Hollywood. (Remember The Apartment? Remember “Like Young?” Previn was a good conductor, but he was no Toscanini or Furtwangler.)

 Dead Ringer, by the way, has no connection whatever with Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg’s eerie horror/suspense film with Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists, except that one title is singular, the other plural.  Bette, meanwhile,  manages the double role of the twins with just what you’d expect from her: skill, style and that old “Bette Davis Eyes” pizazz, while her old Now Voyager co-star/chum Paul Henreid directs the whole thing without much inspiration or even some inspired silliness.  Then again, why ask for the moon, when you have the stars?

Extras: Commentary by Charles Busch and Boze Hadleigh; Conversation with Hadleigh; Featurette Behind the Scenes at the Doheny Mansion;  Trailer.




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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