This should have been an easy week. All there was to deal with was a simple two and two split — two mainstream titles and two art house ones. In some ways, it still is simple. The Weinsteins didn't change their minds this week and the mainstream titles are going pretty much everywhere (with the usual exceptions in competing areas) — but there is some last minute confusion on the other art title.
Here's what's afoot. Yes, The Oscar Short Films 2013 do indeed start on Friday at The Carolina. That much is set, but whereas I'd been told that the documentary shorts were not being shown this year, it now appears that they are. The question is when and how. As of this morning, that question has yet to be answered. So, yes, we are getting The Oscar Short Films. The review in the paper (and here), however, is strictly for the Live Action and Animated films, not the documentaries. (Frankly, that suits me fine, because I don't have any desire to sit through over three hours of docs.) So far as I know, the documentaries will be a separate event. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I do highly endorse the narrative films — particularly the live action ones, and most especially Curfew and Death of a Shadow.
In other, more settled, news, yes, both The Carolina and the Fine Arts are actually getting Dustin Hoffman's Quartet — a most pleasant little movie set in a musicians' retirement home. Maggie Smith plays an aging diva — but still very much a diva — fallen on hard times and forced to take up residency in this (very posh) home where she meets many old friends — including her ex-husband (Tom Courtenay). Also on hand are Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, and a thoroughly delightful, scene-stealing Michael Gambon. It doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but it's certainly a nice way to spend a couple of hours at the movies.
A more dicey way to spend two hours at the movies — at least from the looks of the trailer and the film's pedigree — is Identity Thief with Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. The film is Hollywood's answer to how to cash in on McCarthy's sudden popularity after Bridesmaids. Well, at least that's the idea. She plays the title character — a seemingly innocent woman, who has been living it up on Jason Bateman's identity. As a premise it might be OK. But look at the trailer. Then look at the fact that while Bateman is an agreeable performer, he fares much better in quirky indie films — and often not as a lead. Consider, too, that his last mainstream starring role was the absolutely dreadful The Change-Up. That brings us to the next reservation — director Seth Gordon, who directed Bateman in Horrible Bosses, which apparently wasn't awful, but who also directed the incredibly awful Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn. There's also a screenplay by Craig Mazin — Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4, Superhero Movie, The Hangover Part II — and this is looking pretty perilous indeed.
Altogether better looking is Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects — the movie that Soderbergh promises is last (last, really last, no foolin') picture. That's actually something of a pity if it's true. Soderbergh may be an uneven filmmaker, but he's made some pretty terrific movies — and a few clunkers — over the years. Even when he's turned out a lox — The Good German, Full Frontal — it's usually an interesting misfire. My feeling here is that the man's more likely than not going to go out on a high note. As a result, I'm more than a little interested in this suspense thriller about what happens when Rooney Mara's psychiatrist (Jude Law) prescribes anti-anxiety medication that has unexpected side effects. Also starring are Channing Tatum (who Soderbergh made respectable with Haywire and Magic Mike) and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The early reviews are very encouraging, too.
This week we lose Hyde Park on Hudson (from both the Fine Arts and The Carolina) and A Royal Affair.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is Stuart Gordon's From Beyond (1986) on Thu., Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu (1953) on Fri., Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Leslie Arliss' The Wicked Lady (1945) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 10 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will screen Richard Wallace's comedy-mystery A Night to Remember (1942) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Feb. 12 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all movies in this week's paper, with full coverage in the online edition.
This strikes me as a kind of slack week. The biggest title is the grotesquely overrated Flight. After that, we're seeing things like Alex Cross, Here Comes the Boom and Celeste & Jesse Forever. The best of the lot is A Late Quartet, and that's nothing I can get too excited about.
Notable TV Screenings
We're in the depths of TCM's yearly Oscar orgy, so the pickings are pretty much of the usual stuff nature. However, there's a pretty great line-up on Wed., Feb. 6 when you get Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front (1934), John M. Stahl's Imitation of Life (1934), and James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (1935), all lined up in a row starting at 8 p.m. And Fri., Feb. 8, they have F.W. Murnau's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) at 6 a.m.