There is certainly no shortage of movies hitting town this week. There are, in fact, seven of the things. Seven, mind you. You could make a movie about Snow White with those. The question is whether this is an embarrassment of riches, or merely an embarrassment.
Three of the four new titles—Enough Said (opening at The Carolina and the Fine Arts), Salinger (The Carolina), and Storm Surfers 3D (The Carolina)—have been seen by either Mr. Souther, or myself and the reviews are in this week’s paper. Of the three the big one is easily Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Ganfolfini, which opened at four theaters last weekend and averaged nearly $60,000 per theater—an impressive total. So, for that matter are its reviews.
A great deal of the appeal for Enough Said obviously stems from the presence of James Gandolfini in his next to last performance. (His Animal Rescue is slated for a 2014 release by Fox Searchlight, who are also handling this film.) The question is whether that level of interest will be sustained over the run of the film. Hard to tell. It is a pleasantly amusing film that gets a good deal of mileage out of the easy charm and surprising chemistry of its stars. I would not, however, call it a great movie, and it has some flaws. But it’s good and I’d recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Gandolfini. He is very appealing in it.
The other two? Well, I didn’t see Salinger. (Having always rather felt that Holden Caulfield needed a good bitch-slapping, I thought Mr. Souther might be better suited to this one.) I did see Storm Surfers 3D. Let’s just say that this is a film that’s wholly predicated on your interest in surfing. And, if you are interested in it, some of the 3D surfing footage is pretty spectacular.
And then there are the other four…
First up we have Baggage Claim. That this film is from Fox Searchlight—generally associated with art fare—makes its fairly wide release unusual. Truth is that this romantic comedy is clearly targeting the Tyler Perry market. Its writer-director-producer David E. Talbert (who is adapting his own novel no less) has a long, long stream of direct-to-video titles, at least some of which are of the faith-based variety. Plus, he’s known for touring with his plays, and he apparently market himself pretty well. (There’s David E. Talbert Three-Pack of his video releases, built around his awkwardly titled He Say…She Say…But What Does GOD Say?.) His one theatrical release, the 2008 Ice Cube comedy First Sunday fared pretty well at the box office, but what about this? We shall see. It stars Paula Patton as a flight attendant determined to get married in 30 days (thereby beating her little sister in the matrimony stakes), who jets around the country (maybe the world) going back through her ex-boyfriends to see if maybe one of them was Mr. Right. (I could swear we had this plot not long ago, but I can’t call it to mind.) The choices appear to be Djimon Hounsou, Taye Diggs, Derek Luke, and Boris Kodjoe. The other choice is whether you want to see this or not.
Anyone who thought there wasn’t going to be a sequel to 2009’s hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has paid little to no attention to the way these things work. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is also being handled the same way most of these animated sequels are. That’s to say that the original voice cast has been largely reassembled, but the creative forces behind the film—the writers and directors—have been moved into a production capacity, while new, largely untried talent has been promoted from the ranks to take over those chores. Whether this is why no critics seem to have seen the film, I don’t know. I also don’t know why I saw the first one, since I didn’t review it. I do know it offers more of the same—with added hyrbrid food monsters—and that it will make a fortune.
The most interesting new film to me is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s writer-director debut, Don Jon, in which he also stars. I’m a little surprised that this is getting a wide release. It looks like something that would get a platform release—and Gordon-Levitt probably has greater clout with the art/indie crowd, despite his more mainstream work, though this is actually seen as a threat to Rush, which is interesting. Anyway, here it is. The early reviews are strong, but there’s not that much to them—especially, in terms or credibility. Gordon-Levitt plays the title character—so named because of the ease with which he can get girls. Problem is this upstanding guy with his allegiances to his family and friends and church is also addicted to internet porn. In fact, this addiction keeps him from being able to find personal happiness, because none of the women he meets live up to his porn-fed fantasies. Enter Scarlett Johansson, who isn’t so quick to tumble into the sack with him. She wants more—like commitment and him going back to college and, of course, losing the porn. I’m interested and I’ll be there on Friday to find out.
Bringing up the rear—at least alphabetically—is Ron Howard’s Formula One racing biopic Rush, which purports to give us the story of the real-life rivalry between champion drivers, James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl, Goodbye, Lenin!). It boasts a screenplay by Peter Morgan (The Queen, who also wrote the script for Howard’s Frost/Nixon (2008). The early reviews—a gracious plenty since this played major cities last weekend—are very good. It is also said that you needn’t care anything about Formula One racing to enjoy it. Well, maybe, maybe not. I can’t quite get away from the feeling that it’s basically going to be a fact-based variant on John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix (1966), but with skin, language, and no Cinerama. I hope to be proven wrong.
With this much coming out, yes, we are losing some things this week. The Fine Arts is dropping Blue Jasmine, though that’s holding at The Carolina. The Carolina, however, is dropping Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Spectacular Now, and The Way, Way Back. Also Still Mine is being cut to two shows a day. I would not expect another week out of it.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II (2002) on Thu., Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Volker Schlöndorff’s first film, Young Törless (1966) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 27 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing George Marshall’s Houdini (1953) on Sun., Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening a double feature of pre-Code mysteries, Michael Curtiz’ Private Detective 62 (1933) and George Archainbaud’s Penguin Pool Murder (1932), on Tue., Oct. 1 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress—with full reviews in the online edition.
This week’s big deal is obviously Iron Man 3 (though I was pretty underwhelmed by it). Also up is the very agreeable The Kings of Summer, the even better Unfinished Song, and the documentary Room 237.
Notable TV Screenings
On Wed., Sept. 25 TCM has an evening of King Vidor movies, starting at 8 p.m. with his WWI film, The Big Parade (1925). It’s followed at 10:45 by Street Scene (1931). The there’s Stella Dallas (1937) at 12:15 a.m., the fairly appalling Duel in the Sun (1946) at 2:15 a.m., and the overrated Ruby Gentry (1952) at 4:45 a.m.
Thu., Sept. 26 seems to be a day of movies with songs by George and Ira Gershwin, starting at 6:30 a.m. with William A. Seiter’s little seen Girl Crazy (1932) starring Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, which is nothing if not odd. Mark Sandrich’s Astaire-Rogers picture Shall We Dance (1937) follows at 8 a.m. Then there’s George Stevens’ A Damsel in Distress (1937)—which fans of Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress (2012) should see—at 10 a.m.. Norman Taurog’s MGM-ified remake of Girl Crazy (1943) is on at noon, if you feel the need to test your Mickey Rooney tolerance (I don’t). At 1:45 we get the patently silly George Gerswhin biopic Rhapsody in Blue (1946), which is entertaining in its way. Then—presumably because the Gershwins’ “Do, Do, Do” was shoehorned into this half-assed “adaptation” of No, No, Nanette—there’s David Butler’s Tea for Two (1950) at 4:15 p.m. And it all wraps up with Vincente Minnelli’s elephantine Gershwin-athon An American in Paris (1951).
I was wrong—it’s this week that TCM wraps up their “Sundays with Hitch” series. Truly, it cannot be said that they saved the best for last. It starts with the curio Rich and Strange (1932) at 10 a.m. Then we get Hitchcock’s only attempt at a plain comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) at noon—when you can see just why it was his only attempt at a plain comedy. It’s followed by Suspicion (1941) at 2 p.m., which is rather a mixed bag. The best film of the day is almost certainly Strangers on a Train (1951) at 4 p.m. Dial M for Murder (1954) shows up at 6 p.m, followed by the overrated, but good Rebecca (1940) at 8 p.m., and finally the good, but overrated (but certainly flashy) Notorious (1946) at 10:15 p.m.
Monday brings us the fifth episode of Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey: 1939-1952—The Devastation of War and a New Movie Language. I’m up to date on the series now, and I’m still finding it pretty engrossing. I’m probably more bothered by some of his omissions (French film in the 1930s with no mention of Rene Clair? Giving Josef von Sternberg no more than a passing glance? Calling Busby Berkeley merely a choreographer?) than anything. Cousins is certainly far keener on Dreyer and Ozu than I am—and I call bullshit on anyone who can enthuse over Chantal Akerman’s mind-numbing Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). But having said that, I’m still fascinated by the approach—and, no, not just because he heaped praise on Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932).