Let me break this to you gently: This is going to be the special bare bones down-and-dirty edition of the “Weekly Reeler.” I am coming to you from the bedroom I grew up calling “my room” in Lake Wales, Fla. I hardly recognize it, which is to say that my old 12-by-12 foot private domain from age six to 18 bears little trace of my presence these days. (In honor of the experience, however, I am “sneaking” cigarettes back here and using a Coke can for an ashtray. I will not have to hide it behind the radio as I did when I was 16, which is a good thing because there’s no radio in sight.) I am also working on a computer that dates back to…well, let’s put it this way — it stops just shy of being hand-cranked. (We will not even discuss the fun I’ve had putting in the photos for this week’s reviews. Some things are too terrible to contemplate, but you damn well better appreciate every photo in this week’s crop — and the ones in here, too.) Though it mayn’t seem like it, all of this has curbed my natural loquaciousness.
I should probably tell you that the reason for my presence here is not a happy one (some of you know it already). My mother passed away last week (the funeral was this morning). Someone asked me if I was going to write about her, but since she was not really a public figure, I hadn’t planned on it — though after 25 years managing a school lunchroom, she certainly had her following, and one that has shown up in some pretty unusual places. When I first moved to Asheville in 2000 and was even broker than I am now, I ended up taking a floor monkey job at the Carmike (crosses self and spits twice). A girl from Florida was working there — and it turned out that she had been a student at my mother’s school. (More remarkably still, my mother knew who the girl was when I described her.) Well, we’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, that is why I am in my old bedroom on this computer from hell and using a Coke can for an ashtray. However, being nothing if not dutiful, I will soldier on through a rough version of the Reeler before calling it a night and crashing in preparation for that long drive home tomorrow. (That’s also why I’m throwing this together now, because I’ll be pretty much incommunicado until sometime on Wednesday.)
We have four movies opening this week and as is often the case, I’ve already seen and reviewed (in this week’s paper) the art title. In this case, the timing is excellent because the film in question — which opens this Friday at The Carolina — is A Royal Affair, and it snagged an Oscar nomination last week for Best Foreign Language Film. (The language in this case being Danish.) You can read the review, of course, but I do want to point out that the film really is excellent — much, much better than its dumb generic title and rather vapid poster suggests. It also is a much better looking film than the stills convey. Go see it.
Now, about these other three titles — well, I’m going to really cheat here and at least start from the write-ups I did for the “upcomers” in the paper (you know, those things we pretend appear by magic without benefit of an author?). I crave your indulgence in this matter, ‘cuz my stamina is dwindling rapidly.
First up we have something called Broken City.Allen Hughes (one half of the Hughes Brothers) goes solo as director on this Mark Wahlberg crime drama that also stars Russell Crowe (fresh from largely embarassing reviews for Les Miserables). Probably the most interesting thing about it is that as a team the Hugheses have style to burn — and so it’s possible that some of that will be in evidence here. There’s been little push on this, which the studio describes with, “An ex-cop-turned-private eye (Mark Wahlberg) is thrown headfirst into a hotbed of trouble after a mayor (Russell Crowe) hires him to look into his cheating wife.” That peculiarly gynecological-sounding sentence is more amazing than the movie sounds, but, hey, it’s January, folks..
Next we have the return of Der Arnold. The problem with Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving politics is that he’s back making movies. (This is probably seen as a good thing in some quarters.) So here we have Der Arnold playing a character with the improbably un-Austrian name of Sheriff Owens in a film from Korean filmmaker Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil). The story — concerning smalltown sheriff Arnold trying to stay out of a showdown between the feds and a drug lord on the run — seems to have its roots in High Noon (of all things). With this star and this director, it’s safe to assume this will have a significantly greater body count. The problem is I’ve never had all that much patience for Schwarzenegger’s clunky acting (I know, some call it charm), and I’ve never had any patience of any kind for his co-star Johnny Knoxville. At the same time, I’ve liked — or admired, since it’s not possible to actually like I Saw the Devil — the films by Jee-woon Kim that I’ve seen. It poses a conundrum.
Potentially — and I mean potentially — the most interesting is last up and is called Mama.This is described thus: “Guillermo del Toro presents Mama, a supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their mother was murdered. When they are rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night.” It is being classified as an art house horror picture — no doubt on the strength of Guillermo del Toro as “presenter” and Jessica Chastain as its star. This has also primed viewers — a little. The last time del Toro got mixed up in producing somebody else’s horror movie, the results were Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which didn’t exactly set the world on fire. (I actually thought it was pretty good, but I was in the minority — and I admit I’ve never been inclined to see it again.) Plus, a PG-13 rating always ups the skepticism over a horror picture where the horror fanbase is concerned. I’m still interested.
The only thing of note (well, semi-note — I thought it was fairly dismal) that’s leaving us is Promised Land. The Fine Arts is holding steady and the art titles at The Carolina are still hanging in there.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is doing a double bill of 1940s horror with Lon Chaney in The Frozen Ghost (1945) and Bela Lugosi in Invisible Ghost (1941) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 17 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema will be screening Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac (1966) on Fri., Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film society has the Agatha Christie Miss Marple mystery The Mirror Crack’d (1980) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Jan. 20 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Leos Carax’s The Lovers on the Bridge (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf) (1991) on Tue., Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with expanded coverage in the online edition.
Now, as far as this week’s DVD releases and the notable screenings on TCM are concerned, you’re on your own this week.