Let's admit it — last week was between lame and painful. (If you had to sit through The Smurfs 2, you'll know how painful.) This week looks better. It's certainly more movie-packed — four mainstream and two art titles hit town. No complaining about dearth of product at least.
As is usually the case, I've seen and reviewed the art titles — Lovelace and Unfinished Song (both opening at The Carolina). You can read the reviews in this week's Xpress. I have mixed feelings about Lovelace — not to mention serious questions about a market for it (apart from those who just want to see Amanda Seyfried take off her shirt) — but I'm four-square sold on Unfinished Song.
Sure, it's what we call "geezer bait" (being a geezer myself, I can say that). In other words, it's squarely aimed at those of us whose mailboxes bulge with offers from the AARP and who aren't shy about using our Long John Silver's senior-discount cards. It not only has two "vintage" stars — Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave — but it's about old folks. So what? Some of us don't need to see the older crowd in ridiculous fare like RED 2 and like something a little more human. It also stars two great actors. For that matter, it has a couple of pretty darn respectable younger performers in Gemma Arterton (her best role since Tamara Drewe) and Christopher Eccleston. Plus — and I think this is key — it's honest in its emotion and sentiment. Will it change the way you think about film? No, but it doesn't attempt to.
Now, I fear we must plunge into the mainstream ...
First up is the most promising — Neill Blomkamp's Elysium. This is his first film since his modestly-budgeted sci-fi hit District 9 (2009). Now, we get his first movie with real stars — Matt Damon and Jodie Foster — and at about three times the expense. It's still sci-fi with a socio-political bent, which means it's already annoyed those rare creatures, the right-wing movie critics. And since this movie puts forth a future where the one-percent have relocated themselves to the Elysium of the title (a kind of gated-community in space) and left the riff-raff (meaning most of us) to make do with a planet that's been almost totally depleted of natural resources, it's even more of a lightning rod. (Being the more typical lefty movie critic, I have no issues with the premise, though I can see it possibly sending out a message it doesn't intend. We'll see.) The plot concerns earthling schlub Matt Damon trying to infiltrate Elysium. Right now, the critics seem mixed, leaning positive. I'm interested, but cautious.
Then there's Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. Apart from the fact that the studios are still looking for the next Harry Potter, I don't get why there's a sequel to the "underperforming" Percy Jackson film from a few years back. Do they really think that replacing the innocuous director Chris Columbus with Thor Freudenthal is going to turn things around? Sure, he made a modest success of the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie in 2010, but he also made 2009's mind-numbing Hotel for Dogs. (I'm still hoping for Eli Roth's Hostel for Dogs, but I don't guess that's on tap.) Mind, I have nothing against the idea of this franchise. Logan Lerman is certainly an appealing young actor (see The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and I understand the first film wasn't bad. I just don't understand why it was made.
The reason for our next movie is simple: Greed. I refer to Disney's Planes — like Cars, but with planes. The fine folks at Disney — who I've always tended to think would knock your kids' teeth out on Main Street USA if there was a profit in it — are hoping against hope that the similarity (not to mention the poster) will hornswoggle you and your children into thinking this is from Pixar. Well, it ain't. It's from DisneyToons. Its idea of a big name voice actor appears to be Dane Cook. More interesting — that may not be the best word — is that this wasn't even made for theatrical release. It was supposed to go straight-to-video. Then someone seems to have decided that a faux-Pixar ad campaign could make it theatrically profitable.
Last — and quite possibly least — we have Rawson Marshall Thurber's (Dodgeball: An Underdog Story) We're the Millers. This supposedly a real rib-tickling, knee-slapping bout of R-rated raunch-com. I say "supposedly" because the trailer isnt, the poster isn't and so far it's gotten the kind of reviews normally reserved for Adam Sandler pictures. The idea is that Jason Sudeikis is a pot dealer out to make a big score, but to do so requires him having what appears to be a "normal" family. So he does what any pot dealer in a movie would — he assembles one with the aid of a stripper (Jennifer Aniston), a nerdy virgin (Will Poulter) and a runaway (Emma Roberts). As you can tell, the possibilities for mirth are almost endless. Well, maybe not. And, no, Jennifer Aniston is not going to pop her top (who cares?). I thought we settled that last year when she backed out of doing it in Wanderlust.
This week we predictably lose Fruitvale Station (boy, did that flop here!) and we finally say goodbye to Mud. Come on, it's been playing since April and it comes out on DVD today. Otherwise, the art stuff is holding steady.
Before getting to the usual things, let me note (I'm not sure it made it into print) that Pack Memorial Library is running David Lean's Summertime at 3 p.m. on Tue., Aug. 13 in Lord Auditorium.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Ti West's The Innkeepers (2011) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 8 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Ingmar Bergman's Sawdust and Tinsel (1953) on Fri., Aug. 9 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Building in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Julien Duvivier's Anna Karenina (1948) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Aug. 11 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has George Marshall's Murder, He Says (1945) on Tue., Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's paper — with complete reviews in the online edition.
As already noted, this week brings us Mud, but there's also The Place Beyond the Pines. In addition, we get On the Road, West of Memphis, Oblivion — and your chance to see Terrence Malick's To the Wonder, which may or may not reveal why it didn't play here.
Notable TV Screenings
Unfortunately, the TCM website has been down all morning, so you're really on your own this week.