We are still in the fall doldrums, and once again there is some doubt over just what we’re getting in the mainstream realm, which once again is pretty darn anemic in any case. We are on surer ground on every level in the art world. In fact, if it weren’t for art titles, the current state of cinema would be bleaker than the first week in January.
As is often the case, I’ve seen — and reviewed — the two art titles. Both are good, but I give the edge to Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Italy (opening Friday at The Carolina), which is the follow-up to The Trip (2011). Like the first film, it stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves, and it focuses on a tour of restaurants — this time, as the name indicates, in Italy. To a large degree your enjoyment of the film can be gauged by how much you liked the last one, since it follows the same basic template — including its stars trying to one-up each other on the quality of their respective celebrity impressions. However, the deep undercurrent of a more serious side, a sense of sadness, and a profound feeling of the realization of mortality on the part of its aging stars that raises the film to an entitrely higher level.
The other film, The Drop (opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts), is also of merit — and will probably have broader general appeal. It’s also notable for containing the final performance of James Gandolfini (to whom the film is dedicated). Along with Gandolfini, the film stars Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace, and mark the English language directorial debut of Michaël R. Roskam, whose Belgian film, Bullhead, made his mark on international film. Moreover, it’s from a screenplay by Dennis Lehane (based on his short story “Animal Rescue”). All this is very impressive — and that might be something of a problem. I was expecting a remarkable film and only got a good one. To some degree, it’s also not really a type of movie I tend to like all that much, so that may play into my reaction. In any case, I recommend you see for yourself.
In the mainstream offerings, the one film we are sure of is Dolphin Tale 2. Yes, everybody of note — Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsorff, Harry Connick, Jr., Kris Kristofferson — is back for round two. So, for that matter, is director Charles Martin Smith. In other words expect more heartwarming, family-friendly, aquarium antics. I will be the first to admit that the first one wasn’t actively painful, but making a second one seems spectacularly unnecessary — possibly a downright affront to common courtesy.
I’d say there’s fair chance that No Good Deed is opening somewhere in town. At this point, all I know is that it’s not opening at The Carolina. Much as I like Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson (who badly needs a good movie again), this looks pretty awful. The fact that it’s from Screen Gems — the bargain arm of Columbia that handles all the stuff they don’t want to put the Torch Lady on — bodes ill. The plot about convict Elba terrorizing housewife Henson doesn’t sound any better.
What do we lose this week? Well, the Fine Arts is dropping Boyhood and Magic in the Moonlight, but both are hanging steady at The Carolina. Mood Indigo, however, is being cut to three shows a day. Everything else is status quo.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has a vampire double-bill, Frank R. Strayer’s The Vampire Bat (1933) and Sam Newfield’s Dead Men Walk (1943) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Sept. 11 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Lina Wertmüller’s Ciao, Professore (1992) on Fri., Sept. 12 at 8 p.m.in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Tony Richardson’s Hamlet (1969) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 14 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will screen Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998) on Tue., Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina.
The only thing of note this week is Ida, which had a fairly successful run here recently.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM’s Pre-Code festival has a stellar line-up on Fri., Sept. 12, starting at 8 p.m. with Victor Fleming’s Red Dust (1932). It’s followed by Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) at 9:30 p.m., Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise (1932) at 11:15 p.m., Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932) at 12:45 a.m., Stephen Roberts’ The Story of Temple Drake (1933) at 2:30 a.m., Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932) at 3:45 a.m., and William Dieterle’s Jewel Robbery (1932) at 5 a.m. There’s not a clunker in the lot.