We have two art titles and three mainstream ones this week — and it's an interesting array. Neither of the art titles are exactly what you think of as art titles, and one of the mainstream titles seems a very odd choice for the mainstream. I can't say there's anything as magnificently heady as Cloud Atlas this round, but the week is not without its points.
I've seen the art titles and they are an interesting pair. The Fine Arts is opening the Swedish crime thriller Easy Money, which is the kind of movie that's mostly in the art column because it's not in English. That's not a knock, because it's miles ahead of anything of this sort coming from Hollywood these days, but — apart from a complex construction and a downbeat tone — it's not what you immediately think of as an art film.
Much the same — though for different reasons — can be said of Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, which opens Friday at The Carolina. It is, I suppose, a kind of art film — assuming you consider great trash to be art. And really, since such filmmakers as Fritz Lang, Josef von Sternberg, and Pedro Almodovar are all — to varying degrees — known to be drawn to stories that are on the pulpy or trashy side, it's hard to argue against the idea. (In fact, Almodovar had considered making a film of the source novel for his English language debut.) Now, personally, I adored the uber-trashiness of The Paperboy -- on most weeks it would have gotten the Weekly Pick — but it's definitely the kind of movie that is guaranteed to frighten the horses. Back when I had a subscription to the Village Voice there was a long-running ad for a porn film in the movie section. The film was called The Pizza Boy and the tagline was, "He delivers." I really think The Paperboy ought to have appropriated that claim. It truly is...something else.
And so, on to the mainstream.
There seems to be a good bit of enthusiasm over the prospect of Robert Zemeckis returning to the world of the live-action film after years of wandering through the wilderness of motion-capture animation. I agree that given the option of live-action Zemeckis and another one of those animated things where all the characters look like the Wayans Brothers in White Chicks, live-action wins out. That said, I've been under the impression that Zemeckis is in fact the Antichrist ever since I sat through Forrest Gump. In other words, I'd really rather just not have any Zemeckis at all, but that's just me. He's certainly hedged his bets with Flight by having Denzel Washington as his star, since Washington carries a certain gravitas with him wherever he goes. And bringing in Don Cheadle can only help. The story about an airline pilot (Washington, of course) whose flying skills save a lot of lives in a crash — making him a hero till it's learned he has alcohol and drugs in his system — has immediate appeal of the high concept kind. The addition of an apparently spectacular, special-effects extravaganza opening will be a plus — assuming the rest of the film can live up to it. The reported 93 minute running time ought to help.
Next up is something that looks like a true long-shot oddity for mainstream appeal. It's The Man with the Iron Fists — an R rated martial arts affair. It appears to be of the over the top R variety. (Yes, that does appear to be a flying eyeball in the picture to the right.) The picture was co-written (with Eli Roth, no less), directed by, and stars RZA. (I am told one pronounces that like a word — improbable as that may seem.) The cast also includes Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu. For some reason or other, the posters claim, "Quentin Tarantino presents." That may or may not explain why the trailer looks like a Kill Bill Vol. 1 knock-off — well, that combined with the TV commercial where the two women bust-up a coffee house fighting over an electrical outlet for their laptops. Actually, the whole thing looks on the agreeably ridiculous side -- though for the life of me, I do not understand why the trailer uses lettering that recalls Sucker Punch.
Bringing up the rear we have former TV animation director Rich Moore's Wreck-it Ralph. This appears to have been pushed forward by Disney because Pixar's Monsters University won't be ready till summer. That said, the early word on this is surprisingly good -- and, no, I don't mean those TV blurbs from sources you can't figure out that call it "the most inventive movie in years." The idea of a video game villain, Wreck-it Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly, the biggest name in the cast), who gets tired of being a villain and goes AWOL into other games to attempt to be a hero is OK. Well, it's not all that original, since it shares ideas found in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), but it's at least serviceable. With Halloween over, the mystifyingly popular Hotel Transylvania has probably reached the end of its run, so this stands a chance of filling the kiddie movie void.
This week we are losing Hello I Must Be Going, which isn't much of a surprise, since it was steamrolled as predicted. Liberal Arts did considerably better, but is still being reduced to only one show (4:20) a day at the Fine Arts. Expect this to be the final week for both it and Samsara (which will be replaced by something that looks pretty tasty next week). Surprisingly, both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Seven Psychopaths had brisk increases in business (especially Perks) this weekend and are here for at least another week. That's actually rather encouraging.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening William Cowen's Kongo (1932) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 1 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Pedro Almodovar's Dark Habits (1983) on Fri., Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Mel Brooks' Silent Movie (1976) on Sun., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening Leo McCarey's Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) on Tue., Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles -- with expanded coverage in the online edition -- in this week's Xpress.
The best thing coming to DVD this week is Safety Not Guaranteed, but Ruby Sparks isn't all that far behind it. There's a lot to be said for the documentary First Position, too. Considerably less can be said in favor of The Campaign, but it's coming out regardless.
Notable TV Screenings
On Halloween, just start your day with The Ghoul (1933) at 7:30 a.m. on TCM, and you can pretty much just stay there all day, though most of the best stuff starts at 8 p.m. with James Whale's Frankenstein. On Sun., Nov. 4 at midnight, you might want to take a look at G.W. Pabst's Pandora' Box (1929). It's probably a little on the overrated side, but not by much.