It's official: Wednesday openings no longer have any meaning whatsoever. I mean when something called The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure scores a showcase mid-week release...yes, well. However, this is generally a pretty heavy week of releases -- three art titles, two mainstream ones, and the Oogieloves. Truly, there is something here for everyone -- in virtually every rating known to man, including the rarely seen NC-17.
It'll come as no shock, I'm sure, that I've already seen the art titles. The Fine Arts is getting Robot & Frank. The Carolina is getting Killer Joe. And they're both getting Celeste & Jesse Forever. (And, no, I do not understand why the title least likely to draw an audience is the one on two screens.) All three are reviewed in this week's Xpress -- and all three have their merits and their respective audiences. There's no doubt that Robot & Frank has the greatest chance of becoming a crowd-pleaser. It's certainly more user-friendly than Killer Joe and has broader appeal than Celeste & Jesse Forever.
With all that in mind, though, William Friedkin's Killer Joe made the greatest impact on me. I do not think that this was related to seeing it in all its NC-17 glory at 9 a.m., though that may have played a part. My viewing companion noted, "I love the smell of NC-17 in the morning," and it is probably not the hour most suited to an unflinchingly violent and sexually twisted movie. It will, however, wake you right up. While I don't necessarily gravitate toward NC-17 movies for their own sake, I'm always pleased when someone dares to release one, since it indicates a certain commitment to the film at hand in that some newspapers will not advertise movies with that rating, and some theater chains will not book them. (Carmike Cinemas likes to strike a moralist pose as a "fanily theater," for instance.)
As a result, it's in the best interests -- financially speaking -- of the distributor to cut the film down to an R rating. That doesn't nexessarily mean that it's in the film's favor. In fact, it usually isn't -- and I don't see how it could have been here. Looking at the film, I was put in fact of the situation as the MPAA saw it back in 1984 (when the rating was still an X) with Crimes of Passion -- that it wasn't so much any one specific thing that needed cutting, as it was that the material itself was inherently X rated. That, I think, is the case here. (And I think Friedkin shot the film in such a way that deliberately precluded toning it down for a softer rating.) Whatever the case, here it is in all its overheated glory -- and it's not for the easily offended.
Now, let's wander into the unknown region.
Probably the most anticipated mainstream release this week is John Hillcoat's Lawless, a Depression-era backwoods crime drama about bootleggers and corrupt cops. It returns Hillcoat to the realm of collaborating with Nick Cave as screenwriter. The pair were responsible for the extremely violent Aussie art film The Proposition (2005), which was at the very least an interesting movie. (I never saw Hillcoat's 2009 film of The Road, though I recall Justin Souther thought pretty highly of it.) The biggest problem I see -- and the thing I've heard a lot of people express reservations about -- is that this latest film -- despite an otherwise impressive cast -- stars Shia LaBeouf (or "Sleepy LaBeef" as at least one person tagged him), who is pretty far from the accolade of "impressive." I suppose one might hope that this will be the film where he proves himself as an actor. Well, you can find out on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday you can catch the new film from the marketing team that brought you the Teletubbies. Honest, that's the best thing they could think of to draw people in to see The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. (I think they should be arrested for the Teletubbies, for that matter.) Take a hinge to your right and gaze in wonder at the Oogies themselves and Jaime Presley (one of the numerous C listers being embarased in the film) in a shot from the film in all its eye-searing colors. (Really, doesn't it look like some unfortunate person ate a bag of dayglo Skittles and was violently unwell? If that seems a little strong, I'll settle on The Banana Splits on Acid, but that's it. I'll go no further.) I'm basically of the opinion that the only way this made it into theaters -- even if only for matinees -- is that somebody somewhere lost a bet. Now, you may be of the opinion that I will fob this off on Justin for purposes of review -- and I wish that was the case. Unfortunately, you see, my wife thinks this looks cute and...negotiations are underway. I suspect I will lose. (And after dragging her to Hit & Run, she has a case.)
Now, on Friday -- along with all the art titles -- we also get something called The Possession from the Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal. It's ostensibly "based on a true story" (smack your forehead now) and has something to do with an antique box containing a dybbuk that pops out to possess a child. OK, so dybbuks (a Jewish wandering spirit that goes around possessing people) are not much used in the movies. If we take away the story at the beginning of the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (2009) and the 1937 Polish film, The Dybbuk (I've never known anyone who's actually seen it), we're left with the cheesy 2009 horrors of The Unborn -- and now this. The suuposed selling point -- apart from the whole true story angle -- appears to be that Sam Raimi's name is on the film in a "Sam Raimi presents" manner. OK, so, yes, he's one of the many credited producers (so is Joe Drake, the man who murdered The Midnight Meat Train), but it's not like he actually made this movie.
So what's leaving this week? Well, for starters, Moonrise Kingdom is gone come Friday. Also departing is Beasts of the Southern Wild (both the Fine Arts and The Carolina are dropping it). Queen of Versailles and Ruby Sparks are sticking around The Carolina, but they're being split, meaning this will probably be their final week. And if anyone who missed it wants to catch To Rome with Love, it's been picked up (almost certainly for a single week) by the Flatrock Cinema.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror (2007) on Thu., Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the Greek film Iphigenia (1977) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Four Marx Brothers star in Horse Feathers (1932) from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 2 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley's Footlight Parade (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Sept. 4 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in the Xpress with extended coverage in the online edition.
There's quite a bit coming out this week. In the mainstream area we have Battleship, The Lucky One, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and Think Like a Man. (I didn't say all of it was good -- just that there was a lot of it.) In the art realm we get Darling Companion (doesn't suck as much as you may have heard) , Monsieur Lazhar, and Headhunters. But the real kicker for me is the release of Paul Fejos Lonesome (1928) -- a movie I've been waiting to see for over 40 years. (Now, can it live up to that kind of expectation?)
Notable TV Screenings
Thursday, Aug. 30 is (of all things) Warren William day on TCM. Personally, I'm cool with that, because I think William is unjustly overlooked. If you don't know him, check out The Mouthpiece (1932) at 9:45 a.m., The Mind Reader (1933) at 3:45 p.m., and Golddiggers of 1933 (1933) at 5 p.m. At 8 p.m., there's Lady for a Day (1933) to consider. Actually, the whole 24 hours wouldn't be a bad bet.