I'm not going to mince words, gloss things over or put a brave face on it. This week is pathetic. There are two movies opening — one of limited audience appeal (it's a documentary) and one about which there is cause for some skepticism. It's a good thing that there's still a large quantity of good things that are still playing. That's the most comfort I can give. I can't even bring myself to use an image from this week's crop and have settled on a movie from 10 years ago, which is a special screening this week.
The documentary — Spinning Plates (opening Friday at The Carolina) — I've seen and reviewed. It's good. In fact, it got the Weekly Pick, which is not common with documentaries. But while it's good and while it attained that accolade ... well, let's just say the competition wasn't great. (This all probably looks more dire to those of us who vote in critics' groups and publish ten best lists. We're being courted by the studios right now and are seeing much more interesting things than are opening here yet.) Still, I've nothing against Spinning Plates. It's a good documentary and all that. It will make a nice break for those wanting to get away from the big movies. It's just that I really can't get excited about it.
Otherwise, there's one new movie coming out, though I suppose I should note that the Weinsteins have decided to bring back Lee Daniels' The Butler (I think it's been gone for two weeks now). This is apparently some kind of Oscar push. I don't know why. I mean, it's not like the average Oscar voter is going to be wandering into a theater in Asheville to see it. (Anyway, if I've received a screener — and I have — all the Oscar voters have received one, too.)
That leaves us with Scott Cooper's (Crazy Heart) Out of the Furnace — a film that the studio refused to let local critics see, which is simply not a good sign. It is a sign that makes more sense today — with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65 percent -- than it did yesterday when the rating was 90 percent. In any case, it stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Sheppard, Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker in some sort of backwoods crime yarn. Just exactly why they wouldn't let us see this before it opened may be abundantly obvious come Friday morning.
Since so little is opening this week, very little is leaving, but one departure of note is Blue Is the Warmest Color. It takes its final bow Thursday evening at The Carolina.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture is Jacques Tourneur's Cat People (1942) — the first of the famous nine horror films from producer Val Lewton — on Thu., Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m., World Cinema will be showing Karel Reisz's cult classic Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) — with David Warner in the role that made him a star. The film is screening in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society will screen Richard Curtis' Love Actually (2003) on Tue., Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
I suppose the big deal this week is The Wolverine. Clapton knows it isn't The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or The Smurfs 2. The documentary Good Ol' Freda is worth a look for Beatles fans. I see Drinking Buddies, which did not play locally, is out. I made it 20 minutes into this one before having a "life is too short" moment.
Notable TV Screenings
This the month's star on TCM is Fred Astaire and they're starting off on Wed., Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. with Flying Down to Rio. It's followed by The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), and Second Chorus (1940). Personally, I'd skip that last one.
Friday, Dec. 6 the day starts at 6 a.m. with Fritz Lang's The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). That evening at 8 p.m. we get Josef von Sternberg's Blonde Venus (1932).