This is not the most exciting week for new movies, though we do get three new mainstream titles and two art ones. Two of the three mainstreamers are sequels that I’m not sure anyone was asking for. The third I’m not sure anyone anywhere at any time ever asked for. One of the art titles is a documentary — though of more general interest than most — and the other is a much maligned movie that seems to be considered dead in the water before it opens. At least Snowpiercer is still with us after an unusually strong opening.
The art titles — Life Itself and Third Person (both opening at The Carolina) — have been reviewed in this week’s paper. Of the two, Life Itself — the documentary on movie critic Roger Ebert — is the better film, and it has a greater chance of finding an audience. But I wouldn’t write off Paul Haggis’ Third Person, even if The Carolina’s booker apparently has. (The film is opening on a two-show-a-day, evenings only, basis.) It has also been pretty soundly trounced by most critics — with a few notable defenders. I am not entirely one of its more ardent admirers, but I do think it has much to recommend it. It dares to be challenging. It’s thought-provoking. Yes, it has some serious issues, but the one most cited — that it cheats the viewer with its ending — is, I think, wholly unfounded. The cast is first-rate, and the movie looks great. Check out the review, and definitely give the film some consideration.
The mainstream titles, however … well, these look pretty grim to me.
First up is Planes: Fire & Rescue. Yes, this is the sequel to last year’s minor hit Planes — Disney’s Pixar rip-off. “It’s like Cars, but with planes!” (Why, if you’re going to imitate Pixar you’d choose Cars is a mystery of some note.) Well, since it didn’t cost too much, and kids — and their parents — are none to choosy, the thing made money. A sequel was inevitable. This time the planes are fighting forest fires. It’s the sort of thing mostly of interest to parents with children and luckless movie critics (the latter may describe the whole weekend). I, alas, fall into the second category.
Then there’s James DeMonaco’s The Purge: Anarchy, the sequel to last year’s The Purge, which DeMonaco also made. It was a fairly awful movie with an intriguing — albeit totally dopey — premise that kind of went by the wayside early on to become yet another home invasion yarn. The idea is that in the not-too-distant-future there’s been some kind of Tea Partyesque revolution, and the “New Founding Fathers” have declared that one night a year all crime — including murder — is legal. (At least so long as it doesn’t target the politicians.) OK, that’s interesting, but it was, and probably still is, poorly thought out on so many levels. The sequel promises more of the same, except that this round it appears that the most jaded of the one percent auction off captive victims to well-heeled would-be purgers who don’t want their prey to have a chance to fight back. It’s like The Purge Meets Hostel, I guess.
Finally, we get to Jake Kasdan’s Sex Tape — and good Clapton, does this look bad. Here’s the idea: Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel try to spice up their sex lives by making a “sex tape.” (OK, it’s really a digital file, but I guess Sex Digital File didn’t test well.) Naturally, this somehow gets uploaded to “the Cloud” and goes viral. (No one involved seems to have the first clue about technology.) Hilarity ensues. Also mirth. And possibly a faint wave of despair for the human race.
This week we lose Hellion (possibly the most embarrassing tankage I’ve ever seen) and A Hard Day’s Night at The Carolina. The Fine Arts drops that one show of Obvious Child. Otherwise, the art titles are holding steady.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Ishiro Honda’s Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 17 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965) on Friday, July 18 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Wedge Brewery is having their annual show of Thunder Road (1958) starting at 15 minutes after sundown on Saturday, July 19. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Pieter Jan Brugge’s The Clearing (2004) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 20 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is having a make-up screening (the one last winter was called on account of snow) of Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) on Tuesday, July 22 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.
This week we get the most overrated film of the year (to date) Under the Skin and Rio 2. Oh, well.
Notable TV Screenings
On Wednesday, July 16 at 10:30 p.m. TCM is running Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), Capra’s one attempt at making an art film (specifically, a Josef von Sternberg one) in the mistaken belief it would snag him an Oscar. It’s not entirely successful, but it’s pretty interesting.
On Friday, July 18 at 6 a.m. they have Abel Gance’s strikingly odd J’Accuse (1919) — all 166 minutes of it. It’s an ambitious work — way ahead of its time — and an amazing indictment of a war that had only just ended. Stick around, and at 11 a.m. you’ll find Frank Borzage’s A Farewell to Arms (1932). If you’ve only seen those old Public Domain copies that floated around for years, you’ve never really seen the film. Its restored version is a revelation.