Next week is when the new James Bond picture comes out, and that means the studios have — for all intents and purposes — come up with some floor sweepings for us. No one expects this week’s three mainstream titles to make a nickel, so no one much minds sacrificing them to the 007 juggernaut bearing down on them.
Last week was supposed to be the week of Steve Jobs, and it was anything but, provoking all manner of speculation as to why it failed — along with the usual blather from the studio about how it’s going to have staying power. I’ve heard everything from the claim that it was just one Steve Jobs movie too many (possible), to the belief that the marketplace was too crowded (also possible), to the idea that people were boycotting the movie because Seth Rogen said mean things about Ben Carson (seriously?). I have a simpler notion — especially in light of the lackluster performances of Everest and The Walk, movies the studios tried to force viewers to see in premium-priced venues or wait a week. We live in a world of short attention spans and a demand for instant gratification, and no one wants to hear about a movie opening, only to find out it’s not opening where they can see it. It’s one thing to do this slow roll-out with art films — we’re conditioned to it from the era when there weren’t many prints of such films — but with mainstream releases? I don’t think it’s a crowd-pleaser.
This week we do get one art title, James Vanderbilt’s Truth –opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. Starring Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, and Stacy Keach, it’s certainly not wanting for a name cast. If you don’t know, it details the events — over the 60 Minutes report on George W. Bush’s National Guard service — that would destroy the careers of producer Mary Mapes (Blanchett) and CBS News anchor Dan Rather (Redford). And if you can’t guess, it’s a polarizing film. CBS has denounced it and refused to run ads for it. The right-wing bloggers hate it, and so do the conservative movie reviewers (yes, they do exist). Without getting into that (I address it in the review), I was surprised by how much I liked the film — and not just because it plays to my political leanings. I was surprised by how entertaining it was, how compelling, and how suspenseful. That last is particularly impressive since we’re dealing with a story where you know the outcome. It gets a little preachy, yes, but on balance I recommend it highly. Blanchett is brilliant and Redford hasn’t been this good in years.
Then there’s John Wells’ Burnt — doing the Thursday evening/Friday release thing at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. Not so long ago (like last week), this was a prestige picture — art house fare being groomed by the Weinsteins as Oscar-bait. It certainly has the cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Alicia Vikander, Omar Sy. It has the screenwriter: Steven Knight (Pawn Sacrifice, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Locke). It even sort of has the director: John Wells (August: Osage County). For that matter, it taps into the whole food-film craze. Then suddenly, it’s tossed to the wolves in wide release on a bad weekend. Why? The easy answer is that the reviews are bad, but there are so few of them — 18 with 11 negative and seven positive. So who can say?
Next we have David Gordon Green’s Our Brand Is Crisis — opening Friday (no Thursday evening shows here) at The Carolina and presumably other theaters, but none are confirmed. Here we find a political satire that’s “inspired by” a documentary about an election in Bolivia. Somehow this has become a highly fictionalized comedy with Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton as warring political strategists. And it’s directed by David Gordon Green — not the first name that comes to mind when comedy is mentioned. (In fact, my usual feeling after his films is, “Why did I sit through that?”) It’s about in the boat as Burnt when it comes to early reviews.
Last and perhaps least is Christopher Landon’s Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse — opening Thursday evening/Friday at The Carolina (the only confirmed venue yet). If the name Christopher Landon is unfamiliar to you, he worked on the screenplays for three of the Paranormal Stupidity movies and their offshoot The Marked Ones. The title is self-explanatory — boy scouts vs. zombies. Presumably, this is a movie with a two day shelf-life, since its appeal probably ends with Halloween. The only surprise here is that it went for the R rating — for zombie violence and gore, sexual material, graphic nudity, and language throughout. Whether the graphic nudity involves zombies or scouts is not revealed.
This week we lose Freeheld and Grandma at the Fine Arts.
Before getting to the usual suspects, let’s note that the Fine Arts has a free showing of Bogart and Bergman (and Raines and Lorre and Greenstreet, etc.) in Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 29.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977) for Halloween at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 29 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954) on Fri., Oct. 30 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Errol Flynn in Michael Curtiz and William Keighley’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) on Sun., Nov. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts its November calendar with James Cagney in Billy Wilder’s Coca-Cola and Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961) on Tue., Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Easily the most notable release this week is The Gift, but I suppose we should mention Max, Pixels, and Southpaw, too. Maybe.