Fall is upon us, and with it comes that increasingly vague line between art titles and mainstream that marks the beginning of awards season. As a result, this week we get one art title, one mainstream title, one niche film, and one of those on the line movies. It’s also an unusual week for me in that the one undisputed art title sneaked in at the last minute and has been neither seen, nor reviewed. In other words, I have no inside information on the four films that are opening.
With this in mind, let’s just take the whole lot alphabetically.
For starters we have Annabelle, the prequel to James Wan’s immensely popular 2013 horror film, The Conjuring. The potential problem here is that following last year’s Insidious: Chaper 2, Wan announced his retirement from the horror genre. (We’ll see how that plays out.) This means that while he has produced this origin story of the demonic doll seen in The Conjuring, he’s handed over the direction to John R. Leonetti, whose directorial credits are hardly inspiring — Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) and The Butterfly Effect 2 (2006). But it’s worth noting that Leonetti worked as cinematographer with Wan on Dead Silence (2007), the regrettable Death Sentence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring, and Insidious: Chapter 2. In that respect, Leonetti makes more sense — maybe. Frankly, I found The Conjuring to be overrated, though this one has the advantage of not dealing supposed real-life “demonologists,” Ed and Loraine Warren. And quite the creepiest thing about The Conjuring was its use of this doll. (Only Don Mancini knows creepy dolls better than James Wan.) I guess we’ll find out this weekend how this plays out — and how much Wan Leonetti brings to the proceedings.
Next up is David Fincher’s Gone Girl — the film that (maybe) straddles the line between mainstream and art movie. Certainly the early reviews suggest this. There are currently 39 positive and only six negative reviews. That said, a significant portion of those positive reviews are not from people I would call…well, credible. On the other hand, five of the six naysayers I not only consider credible, but they address the very things I tend to have issues with in David Fincher’s work. But it’s worth bearing in mind that I am not in the least sold on Fincher’s greatness as a filmmaker. Even so, looking down the barrel of a nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie, believe me, I’m hoping for the best, hoping that it’s everything its supporters say it is. If, like me, you’re one of the 15 or so people who have never read the source novel, the folks at Fox inform us that the film “unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?” I am at least cautiously intrigued. For that matter, I’m more than a little intrigued by the prospect of Tyler Perry in a dramatic role that is getting positive comments.
Then there’s the niche title. The new version of Tim LaHaye’s Rapture-sploitation novel Left Behind in which Nicolas Cage confirms the already pretty solid evidence that he has the kind of career sense for which Bela Lugosi and John Carradine were so rightly famous. This comes to us courtesy of Freestyle Releasing, who, after years of bringing out low-rent art titles secured at low-end film festivals, discovered they could actually make money with faith-based movies like God’s Not Dead. Now, I did once try to read the novel, but I drew the line at seeing the first version of the story with Kirk Cameron. (I have a strict policy of avoiding movies with Kirk Cameron if at all possible.) Were it logistically possible, I’d actually see this out of morbid curiosity, but it isn’t practical, meaning, of course, that Mr. Souther is in for it.
Last, but hardly least, is the art title My Old Lady, which is opening on Friday at the Fine Arts. The critical response to this has been pretty evenly divided, but the fact that it stars Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristin Scott Thomas should make for more than passing interest with a certain portion of the art crowd. It’s a yarn about New Yorker Kline inheriting an apartment in Paris, which the down-on-his-luck Kline thinks is a windfall. The problem is it’s inhabited by an elderly English woman (Smith) and her daughter (Scott Thomas), and by French law he’s stuck with them. Worse, the quirk in the law means that Kline has to make monthly payments to the tenant.
Now, this week, the Fine Arts drops Love Is Strange, but that film remains at The Carolina. However, they are dropping Kelly & Cal, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Tusk. I would, however, urge making a path to most of the holdovers, since some of them are only there due to a lack of product.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running the Tod Browning-Bela Lugosi Dracula (1931), the movie that launched the Golden Age of the horror film, at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 2 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Michel Ocelot’s animate film Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 3 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Terence Fisher’s Stolen Face (1952) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 5 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts a month of mysteries with a double bill of Charlie Chan movies from director Harry Lachman, Dead Men Tell (1941) and Castle in the Desert (1942) on Tue., Oct. 7 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 guess the big release this week is the mystifyingly popular Chef, but there’s also the understandably little seen Hellion.
Notable TV Screenings
This is another those weeks where there’s a lot of good stuff on TCM, but none of it is out of the ordinary run of titles.