Finally — it's the weekend we get Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, a movie bound to polarize just about everyone, and a movie fairly certain to be mauled by a lot of critics, which perhaps makes it that much more interesting. At the same time, we get three new art titles and a kind of stealth attack from Tyler Perry.
I know I'm in the minority, but last week didn't do all that much for me — and, yes, that means I thought Iron Man 3 was pretty bad. This week, however, boasts two films I'm pretty high on and one film I've been waiting to see for what seems like forever. There's also one other art title that I haven't seen (Mr. Souther tackled it) and something produced — but not made by — Tyler Perry.
The big picture of the week is, of course, Baz Luhrmann's take on The Great Gatsby, which I know a lot of people are just waiting to pounce on because it doesn't show the proper respect for a novel most of us were forced to read in high school. I think we may be fairly certain this isn't going to be your high school teacher's Gatsby.We may also be pretty sure — judging by the stills, the trailers, Luhrmann's established over-the-top style and the bleating of purists — that this is a film that is in for some pretty rough seas. Some of the very few early reviews bear this out, while the more gossip-minded online pontificators are wallowing in delighted expectation of an impending disaster (it gives them something to talk about). Myself, well, I'm pretty jazzed about the film based on Luhrmann's track record and the fact that I tend to admire filmmakers who are capable of bridging art and commerce — a feat that has few practitioners left standing. Let the outraged rage, I'll be at The Carolina for the first 3-D showing on Friday. (Come on, if anybody can make 3-D really soar, it's Luhrmann.)
Along with Gatsby, there are three noteworthy art titles — all of which are reviewed in this week's paper. For me, at the top of the list — but only by a hair — is Renoir (opening at the Fine Arts), a film about the last days of the painter, the early days of his filmmaking son and the model who entranced them both. It's more lyrical than, shall we say, action-packed, though there are certainly fires burning beneath its surface. But its greatest appeal to me is that it's just so damned beautiful to look at. As I said to Ashevegas critic Edwin Arnaudin, "It's certainly not the greatest movie I've ever seen, but, God, I'd like to live in it." (Of course, then I realize that the folks in this film have a staff of servants to set up — and clean up after — those elaborate picnics and outdoor dinners.)
Nearly as good is Disconnect (opening at The Carolina), and it's perhaps a little superior in terms of content since it explores the ways in which social media and our constant need for electronic connectivity drives us further apart than it brings us together. The stories used to tell this is a little on the melodramatic side, but the characters ring true and the drama is compelling. First-rate performances — including a straight dramatic turn from Jason Bateman — help a lot. It has no big advertising push and I doubt if many of you have even heard of it, but it's certainly worth your time. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it should be seen, but I suspect — as is often the case with such films — those most in need of seeing it never will. Check out the review.
Also check out Justin Souther's review for Lore (also opening at The Carolina). This drama about the children of an arrested Nazi war criminal having to make their way across occupied Germany at the end of World War II — which I haven't seen — is apparently pretty strong stuff.
And then, there's this other thing...
While Peeples — which may actually be called Tyler Perry Presents Peeples — wasn't written or directed by (nor does it star) Tyler Perry, it was produced by him and has all the earmarks — possibly minus the dose of religion — of a Tyler Perry picture. Just look at its too-good-for-this-movie cast: Craig Robinson (well, maybe he's not too good for this), Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkeson, Melvin VanPeebles, Diahann Carroll. That's pure Perry. Otherwise, the film has all the appearances of being an all-black knock-off of Meet the Parents — with Robinson as the poor schnook at the mercy of his fiancée's upscale family. The movie was written and directed by Tina Gordon Chism, who previously wrote ATL (2006) and Drumline (2002), but has never before directed a movie. Mirth may or may not ensue.
This week, the Fine Arts is dropping The Place Beyond the Pines, but it's holding at The Carolina. The Carolina is dropping (predictably) Beyond the Hills and Room 237.
Before getting to the main event, I want to remind readers of the Asheville Film Society's screening of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! — on Wednesday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. If I had to make a list of movies that have to be seen on the Big Screen, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! would be in the top five. Sure, all movies are better in a theater on a large screen. Some, however, just plain don't work anything like they were intended anywhere else. Moulin Rouge! is one such film. Now, I'm not saying I shun the DVD. In fact, I drove 20 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart to get my hands on it as soon as it was available at midnight. But I realize that the DVD is not the film -- it is at best a souvenir of the film. That's to say, that I'm pretty darn jazzed at the prospect of seeing it onscreen for the first time in 12 years this coming Wednesday.
When Moulin Rouge! came out in 2001, the musical was considered a dead genre — even more than the western. There hadn't been — so far as I can recall — a big musical since Milos Forman's Hair in 1979 and it had flopped. No one wanted to risk one. They were just too expensive and the public wasn't buying them. Then — almost out of nowhere — came Luhrmann's new take on the moribund genre, one that took advantage of new technology and Luhrmann's ability to talk musicians and music companies into letting him use their back catalogues for very little money. Suddenly, the musical — in a transformation no one had foreseen -— was back with a vengeance. And now, it's back on the big screen for one show only. Join us on Wednesday and see it for yourselves. Tickets are $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.
Also out of the ordinary is the Fine Arts Asheville Jewish Film Festival showing of the comedy Let My People Go! (2012) at 7 p.m. on Thu., May 9 and at 1 p.m. on Fri., May10. And Pack Memorial Library is showing the Cary Grant comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) at 3 p.m. on Tue., May 14.
The Hendersonville Film Society is on hiatus this week, owing to Mother's Day. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening John Barrymore in Archie Mayo's Svengali (1931) at 8 p.m. on Thu., May 9 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Jacques Tati's Trafic (1971) on Fri., May 10 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society is running the classic Jean Harlow-William Powell-Myrna-Loy-Spencer Tracy comedy Libeled Lady (1936) at 8 p.m. on Tue., May 14 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Probably the most interesting title to come out this week is Mama, but we also get Jack Reacher and the latest Nicholas Sparks soaper Safe Haven. Also up is the art title Upstream Color — a film that should have played here, but didn't. This is the one I most want to see myself.
Notable TV Screenings
Not much out of the ordinary this week, though on Tuesday, May 14 TCM appears to be having a festival of movies made from Edna Ferber novels. That's not all that interesting or out of the ordinary in itself, but this round they've opted to show the James Whale version of Show Boat (1936). There's a movie that is always worth catching — and wondering why it's not on DVD.