This week we have the good, the potentially good and the almost certainly dismal. At one point yesterday, we had a fourth option. Then we didn't. Then we did again. Finally we didn't. If that confuses you, just be glad you didn't have to deal with the flurry of calls and e-mails that surrounded the movie that isn't opening. Anyway, let's look at what we do have.
First up is easy. It's the very entertaining music documentary 20 Feet from Stardom (opening Friday at the Fine Arts), which takes a very tuneful look at the world of backup singers. This, I have seen and reviewed — it's in this week's paper — and I have no reservations about recommending it. It sheds a light on a largely overlooked aspect of pop music — and does so with warmth and some fine songs. It also gives a lot of people whose work you've admired without knowing it their moment in the spotlight.
The theoretical big movie this week is Guillermo del Toro's modern day rethinking of the kaiju film — you know the Japanese giant monster movies that started with Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954. The film is Pacific Rim and the story is all about mankind attempting to save itself from destruction by constructing giant robots to duke it out with the monsters — sort of like Godzilla Meets Robot Jox, but with money. It's depressing to realize that this is del Toro's first film since Hellboy II back in 2008 — most of the last five years eaten up with not making The Hobbit, producing other people's pictures and watching projects like At the Mountains of Madness fall through. The question here is whether or not this is really worth del Toro's time and talent. It's also debatable whether audiences will flock to this, since it has no brand name (like Transformers) to entice them. We shall see. The early reviews are mostly positive, but after the blistering reviews for The Lone Ranger I'm putting little stock in reviews at the moment. (I probably oughtn't say that.) I'm interested and I'm hopeful, but I have to say that the trailers haven't whelmed me.
We also have Grown Ups 2. The only thing I can find in favor of this latest assault from Adam Sandler is that Rob Schneider is not in it. The claim is that he couldn't make it due to "scheduling conflicts." That Rob Schneider even has a schedule comes as a surprise to me. The studio, on the other hand, seems to be impressed by the fact that this is the first time Sandler has made a sequel The studio is more easily impressed than I am. The premise is that Sandler and his family move back to his hometown where hilarity will ensue. You know, back in the early 1930s was a hit song, the title of which can no longer be mentioned, but it espoused the view that there was a reason why a certain ethnic group was born. Well, films like this is why Justin Souther was born. (I'd feel more smug about this if I didn't know that The Smurfs 2 was looming in my future.)
This week we lose Much Ado About Nothing at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts. The Fine Arts is also dropping Before Midnight, but it's being split with Love Is All You Need at The Carolina. The East and We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks are both taking their leave from The Carolina.
We're back to a full set of showings this week. The Thursday Horror Picture is screening Michel Soavi's The Church (1989) on Thu., July 11 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Kaneto Shindo's Kuroneko (1968) on Fri., July 12 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain (1952) at 2 p.m. on Sun., July 14 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) on Tue., July 16 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.
We may have actually been better off last week when nothing came out. This week foists some real ... uh, rubbish on us — the odious fever dream of Spring Breakers, the boring silliness of The Host, the Tyler Perryness of Tyler Perry's Temptation. It's pretty darn grim. Also up are Admission and the documentary The Gatekeepers, neither of which I've seen, but which Mr. Souther seemed to like.
Notable TV Screenings
On Wednesday, July 10 TCM offers us a day of John Gilbert movies, starting at 6:30 a.m. with Bardelys the Magnificent (1926). By mid-day they've moved into his talkies. It's a chance to see that it wasn't Gilbert's voice that did his career in, but rather the lackluster movies Louis B. Mayer forced him into. The Phantom of Paris (1931) at 3:30 p.m. is one of his better ones. That same evening, they have Max Ophuls' The Reckless Moment (1949) at 8 p.m., followed by Tay Garnett's quirky and enjoyable Trade Winds (1938) at 9:30.
Friday evening, TCM continues its Francois Truffaut series, starting at 8 p.m. with The Bride Wore Black (1968). Probably the best one — Shoot the Piano Player (1960) — doesn't come along till 4 a.m., though.
Monday, July 15 finds Bryan Forbes' always welcome The Wrong Box (1966) at 9 p.m., followed by an evening of Forbes' movies.