There are five movies coming to town this week, which I guess puts us on equal footing with last week, at least in terms of quantity. There are two art titles. Those represent the feast, you see. Then there are three titles that -- from all appearances -- are about as far from art as one can imagine. That, then, is the famine. I grant you, I am making what can best be called and educated guess on the non-art titles, but I'm on much surer ground with the art titles, since I've seen them both. Twice.
The two art titles are David Cronenberg's A Dangeous Method -- opening at The Carolina and the Fine Arts -- and Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs (you know, the movie where Glenn Close plays a woman posing as a man in 19th-century Dublin) -- opening at The Carolina. Reviews for both are in this week's paper, of course, but I'll throw a few preliminary words around anyway. A Dangerous Method may well confound some Cronenberg fans. In other words, in this work of historical fiction about Freud and Jung, no one's head explodes (except maybe figuratively) and the two grand old men of psychology don't go at each other with linoleum knives. The tone is different. The themes are still Cronenbergian.
I'm actually a little sorry that Albert Nobbs is opening this week, because it's apt to be lost in the shuffle of A Dangerous Method, The Artist and The Descendants still going strong. That's a real pity, because Albert Nobbs is so much better than its poster -- and is so much more than its gimmicky-sounding premise might suggest. I urge you, if you can, to try to catch this very worthy little film. If not for the film, and if not for Close, then for Janet McTeer, who gives one of the best supporting performances of the year. Will the fact that both Close and McTeer have just been nominated for Oscars pique your interest? Maybe it should.
And then there are those other offerings...
One of the more perplexing (to me) things of recent years has been the rise of Liam Neeson as some kind of action star, though I'm not necessarily against it and I have no doubt that pays well. In any case, he's back with another one. This one's called The Grey and it's written and directed by Joe Carnahan, who was briefly a big deal -- in the critical sense at least -- in 2002 for Narc, a film I confess never struck me as anything to get excited about. Then Carnahan came crashing to earth with Smokin' Aces in 2006, only to somewhat re-establish himself commercially with The A-Team in 2010. That also starred Neeson. This round, Neeson and some others -- two of whom I recognize, Joe Anderson and Delmot Mulroney -- are stranded in the frozen wilds of Alaska and at the mercy of both the elements and a pack of wolves. If nothing else, I understand we get to see Neeson punch a wolf.
Now, the depressing news is that The Grey looks like it's probably the best of the three. Up next is Man on a Ledge from one-time documentarian Asgar Leth, who now becomes first-time narrative filmmaker. It's all about a former cop -- and now fugitive -- played by Sam Worthington threatening to jump off a ledge a la Richard Basehart in Fourteen Hours (1951). But rather than having good-hearted cop Paul Douglas trying to talk him out of jumping, Worthington gets police negotiator Elizabeth Banks. The trick here is that this supposed suicide bid apparently contains an ulterior motive. Also on board are Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and Edward Burns. Very little early word, but the reviewers for both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter panned it.
It gets potentially grimmer with One for the Money. This comes from director Julie Anne Robinson, a TV director whose only theatrical credit is The Last Song, which, if you've forgotten, is one of those seemingly non-stop films from a Nicholas Sparks novel -- and the one that starred Miley Cyrus. Yes, well. This round she brings us some rom-com suspense hybrid starring Katherine Heigl, the appeal of whom escapes me, as a down-on-her-luck woman who wrangles a job with her cousin's bail bond company. As luck and clever scripting has it, her first assignment is to bring in ex-cop Joe Morelli (TV actor Jason O'Mara) -- who seduced and abandonned her in high school. It's like The Bounty Hunter (2010) -- only, it's not, you see, because the genders are reversed. In Hollywood, this passes for creativity.
Now, all this also means that we're losing some things. The Fine Arts is dropping The Descendants, but it's staying at The Carolina. The Carolina, however, is losing Carnage and My Week with Marilyn. Plus, Hugo is absenting itself, meaning that Carmike is the only place still running that -- and only in 3D. The Artist is staying everywhere (of course) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sticks around The Carolina, though is losing its first show of the day.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is David Cronenberg's Scanners (1981) on Thursday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Sergei Eisenstein's Strike (1924) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. George Cukor's Gaslight (1944) is this weeks title for the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. And the Asheville Film Society concludes its month-long Ken Russell tribute with Lisztomania (1975) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's online edition of the Xpress.
This week sees 50/50 come to DVD, which is probably the most anticipated title, but don't overlook Gus Van Sant's Restless the way most of you did when it played here theatrically. Also up are Real Steel and Paranormal Activity 3. It's worth noting that a newly restored Blu-ray of William Wellman's silent film Wings (1927) is coming out.
Notable TV screenings
The big deal to me this week is TCM's tribute to James Whale on Friday, Jan. 27. It starts with a second-tier Whale film, The Great Garrick (1937) at 8 p.m. But at 9:45 we get Whale's One More River (1934), which, so far as I can tell hasn't been on TV in 20-plus years. The film is an intelligent adaptation of John Galsworthy's last book, which was also the final book in his nine-volume Forsyte Chronicles. The film by necessity only deals with one storyline from the book (you'd have to film the two previous novels to do the rest), but it works splendidly -- and is boosted no end by the appearance of the legendary Mrs. Patrick Campbell. It's Whale at his best -- film historian William K. Everson even argued that it was the director's best. I wouldn't go that far, but it's up there. If you stick around you'll see a couple of better-known Whale titles, The Invisible Man (1933) and Frankenstein (1931). The rest of the week is kind of negligible, but this is enough for me.