Last week offered a pretty wide mix of the good and the not so hot — with the actual balance being more of the former (in some cases pretty surprisingly). This week’s list of two mainstreamers, two art titles and one Tyler Perry picture may well be another matter — and the probability of nice surprises seems on the dubious side.
The two art titles — The Gatekeepers (Fine Arts Theatre) andOn the Road (The Carolina) — you’ll find reviewed in this week’s paper. I’ve only seen On the Road myself (Mr. Souther took on The Gatekeepers). I’m not at all sure but that the bizarre release history of Walter Salles’ film of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road isn’t more interesting than the film itself. Here’s a movie that was first released in limited theaters back in December. After doing tepid business and receiving (at best) mixed reviews, the movie was pulled from release. At one point, it completely vanished from the schedules and the impression was that it was going to vanish altogether to turn up on DVD. Suddenly, here it comes again. No one seems to know just why.
The fact is that it’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s also just not a very exciting one. And that seems pretty curious. After all, here we have a story about sex, drugs and cool jazz with (mostly) attractive people getting (somewhat artfully and coyly) naked. It ought to at least be pretty rooty tooty, right? Well, it’s not quite that. I suspect that the degree to which you’re in tune with the whole beat thing will be a factor in your enjoyment. (I’m pretty ambivalent myself.) I’d definitely factor that in before making the trip to see it.
Otherwise, the week’s new offerings are … well, at lot less cerebral (and probably even less rooty tooty).
Going alphabetically, we start with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Now, I fobbed off the first entry in this toy-based series, G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, on Justin. (Will history repeat itself? Wait and see.) He was displeased (we’re talking half-star displeased). I knew it wasn’t for me. I had the original G.I. Joe (pre-“Kung Fu grip”) as a child. I covered him with tinfoil and stop-frame animated him into a giant robot. (Well, he had an advertised “21 moveable parts.”) Unfortunately, this idea has escaped to people making these movies. Instead, they have worked up live-action stories without an actual G.I. Joe character, but with some kind of special ops group called the G.I. Joes. So far, this new one — which drags Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis into the proceedings — has gotten some good reviews. It should be noted that these reviews are not from any particularly credible critics. One of them — from Simon Miraudo of Quickflix — contains the mind-reeling statement, “easily the best film produced under the Hasbro banner.” Yes, well. I remain unconvinced that replacing Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) with John M. Chu (the Step Up movies) is a…well, stepup. Your call.
Up next is a more awkward choice with Andrew Niccol’s The Host. Niccol has made some pretty interesting movies — Gattaca, S1m0ne, Lord of War. And he comes to this with an interesting cast — Saoirse Ronan, William Hurt, Diane Kruger. But — and this is big sticking point — this comes from a novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. OK, I haven’t read the book and I’m tying to keep an open mind about this sci-fi romance, but it’s not easy. It’s even harder with that word “romance” and a knowledge of what that meant in Twilight terms. Then too, the press blurb refers to it as “the next epic love story from the creator of the Twilight Saga.” If that doesn’t put the fear of Clapton into you, nothing will — or you’re a Twilight fan. I guess we’ll find out. Well, I will. You have free will in the matter.
And then we have Tyler Perry’s Temptation, which conjures up images of The Last Temptation of Tyler Perry, but turns out to come with one of those Perryesque subtiles — “Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.” Seems it’s not going to be about Mr. Perry’s temptation at all. In the blurb Perry explains it thus: “It’s about a woman who starts to get restless in her relationship and her choice to be with another man has a huge effect on the rest of her life. She goes on a journey — in her career and in her marriage — and she ends up in a very different place than she expected.” He also claims it’s one of the most provocative movies he’s made. Maybe, but it looks like the usual Perry soap to me. What alarms me more than anything — I mean I’m a seasoned campaigner and you can’t scare me with Tyler Perry — is the casting of Kim Kardashian in the film. Really? Say what you will about Perry’s movies, but — with the occasional exception of a generic Jesus-loving hunky guy to set the heroine right — he usually casts his films carefully and well. This is hard to fathom. Of course, as our resident expert in all things Tyler Perry, I’ll be there to find out.
What do we lose this week? Well, the Fine Arts is dropping Chasing Ice and 56 Up to make room for The Gatekeepers, and The Carolina is saying goodbye to Emperor.
Well, we have a kind of slight week here. Carlos Steward is out of town, so World Cinema is out of the picture this week. Easter intrudes and chases the Hendersonville Film Society out of the Smoky Mountain Theater till next Sunday. That leaves us with only the Thursday Horror Picture Show and the Asheville Film Society to carry on. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is showing Joseph H. Lewis’ Lionel Atwill chiller The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) on Thursday, March 28 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. The Asheville Film Society is offering William Keighley’s comedy adventure Torrid Zone (1940) on Tuesday, April 2 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on both in this week’s paper with expanded coverage in the online edition.
Up this week we have Lincoln (for the three remaining people who didn’t see it), KillingThem Softly, Parental Guidance, Easy Money, and, best of all (to me), A Royal Affair. Oh, yes, there’s also The Collection — a movie I actually forgot I’d seen.
Notable TV Screenings
Being that it’s Easter, TCM has an absolute orgy of Jesus movies on Sunday — with the Fred Astaire-Judy Garland Easter Parade (1948) for secular seasoning. But before that gets underway, I draw your attention to Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 a.m. for James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) — a more devout film than Ben-Hur (1959) for my money (and a lot shorter). They’re following it with what they’re calling Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956), but whether they’re showing that Americanized, Raymond Burrified version or the original 1954 Japanese Gojira is up in the air. In any case, at 10:45 a.m. we get Warren William’s last Perry Mason picture, The Case of the Velvet Claws (1936). I’m not saying this is a good movie, but it has a spot in my heart — and should have been detested by my mother if she’d known that it was seeing this film and Perry’s apartment that prompted my 17-year-old self to paint my bedroom in 12 inch horizontal stripes in two shades of green. She never did quite paint over that successfully.