This is one of those rare weeks where the most interesting prospect — so far as I'm concerned — is the Big Release. Of course, there are only three movies — two mainstream and one "art" — opening and the "art" title is a documentary that I've already seen.
The "art" title is Alex Gibney's We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (opening Friday at The Carolina) — and I saw this at an all-too-early hour last Saturday morning. It's a good documentary — though definitely overlong — but, as with all documentaries, a lot depends on your level of interest in the subject. In this case, that means Julian Assange (who gives me the creeps) and Wikileaks — and my interest is fairly minimal. Yours may well be greater. See the full review in this week's Xpress.
The big title this week, of course, is Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. Yes, I know, the (often blistering) negative reviews keep piling up. But I have liked everything Verbinski has made from The Ring (2002) to date. I know it's unfashionable to speak well of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels — and they're definitely inferior to the original — but I liked the later films fine for one-time viewings. (Full confession: I saw the last half hour of Dead Man's Chest numerous times when I was working at a theater that was running it.)
Frankly, I expected The Lone Ranger to suffer a pretty rocky critical reception. It's too obviously an attempt to create another Pirates-like franchise. It's obviously over-produced. And it transgresses on a mystifyingly revered 1950s TV series. Yeah, it was part of my childhood, too, but even as a kid I realized this was quite simply not very good — and by the age of 12 I'd had more than enough. I remember seeing the 1958 feature film The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold at a drive-in in the early '60s and being bored stiff. In other words, I'm not in the least bothered by whatever liberties this film takes. Justin Souther managed to sneak an early peak and told me that it was "too damn long," which I'd already figured, but he added that it was "the most inventive mainstream thing to come out in awhile. If they chopped 30 minutes off it'd be legitimately great." That is more encouraging to me than the amassed negative reviews are off-putting. We shall see.
The other opener is Despicable Me 2, which is getting much better press, but that's not surprising. Quite honestly, animated movies have to be pretty God-awful not to slide by with the critics, and it's unlikely that this is God-awful. The first film was at the very least likable. In a moment of rare lucidity, this sequel retains the first one's writers and directors. This one has the formerly villainous Gru (Steve Carell) recruited by the Anti-Villain League to track down a new villain. The critical response mostly is of the "good, but not as good as the original" variety. (Peter Debruge, writing for Variety, says it's "not quite as charming or unique." Since when are there levels of unique?) My guess is that it'll be a pleasant diversion.
The only thing in the art/indie realm leaving this week is The Bling Ring (at The Carolina).
The week's special screenings are on the slack side. There is no Thursday Horror Picture Show this week and nothing from World Cinema. Both are taking the week off because of the July 4th holiday — and both will be back next week. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Robert Aldrich's Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) on Sun., July 7 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month of movie musicals with Al Jolson in Lewis Milestone's Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tue., July 9 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on both titles in this week's Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Remarkably, there is not a single new mainstream title hitting DVD this week.
Notable TV Screenings
On Fri., July 5, starting at 8 p.m. TCM is running the entire Francois Truffaut saga of Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) from the landmark The 400 Blows (1959) through Love on the Run (1979). It's an unusual opportunity to see all the films in one sitting — and definitely worth your time.