If it weren’t for Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways opening at the Fine Arts and the Carolina on Friday, this would be one of those weeks where renting a movie, catching up on that stack of DVDs you’ve been meaning to watch, or finally taking in something that’s been around for a while would probably be your best bets. However, The Runaways does open—and though the review appears in this week’s Xpress, I will go so far as to say that it’s certainly worthwhile. Myself, I’m swamped with screening six of the movies that will be in next week’s ActionFest film festival at the Carolina, so I’m not hurting for things to see.
The other offerings this week are not that enticing.
First up is the only truly mainstream release, Date Night, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a couple who end up in trouble by claiming to be other people in order to snag dinner reservations at a crowded restaurant. As luck and convenient scripting would have it, the couple they’re impersonating are in bad with some mobsters. High jinks ensue. Actually, the trailer doesn’t look bad and the stars are certainly agreeable, as is the big-name supporting cast of guest stars: Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo etc. The movie was written by John Klausner, whose previous big credit involves “additional screenplay material” on Shrek the Third (2007). It was directed by Shawn Levy—just peruse Mr. Levy’s theatrical credits: Big Fat Liar (2002), Just Married (2003), Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), The Pink Panther (2006), Night at the Museum (2006), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009). My awe is not inspired by this.
Ah, but there’s also Letters to God—from a producer of Fireproof. This, as you’ve probably guessed, is a God-centric opus. It’s “inspired” by a true story (which always means that an awful lot of people will insist that it’s true). The cast boasts a lot of people I never heard of (though I’m glad to see that in 2008 one of them was in a straight-to-video affair called Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!) and some TV actors. Face it, this isn’t a movie made for people interested in movies. It’s strictly for audiences who are predisposed to its message. I think I’m going to pass on this one and let Mr. Souther tackle it.
Of course, The Ghost Writer is still with us at the Fine Arts and the Carolina, and has been picked up by Flat Rock Cinema this week. Alice in Wonderland is still loitering (in 3-D only at the Beaucatcher). Crazy Heart hits its second-run this week and is playing at Asheville Pizza and Brewing in the 7 and 10 p.m. slots. But we lose Shutter Island come Friday. If you haven’t seen that one, make haste. With the possible exception of The Ghost Writer, it’s far and away the best movie of 2010 so far.
It’s definitely a slack week for DVD releases when the most mainstream (and possibly only theatrically released title) the IMDb can find to showcase is Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Nothing against the movie—I think it’s pretty swell—but it’s not exactly all that mainstream. If you missed it in the theater, you should definitely check it out. It’s one of the quirkier things you’re apt to encounter just now. And it’s nice to be reminded every so often that Nicolas Cage doesn’t only make bad movies.
Personally, I’m mostly intrigued this week by the release of René Clair’s highly regarded silent comedy The Italian Straw Hat (1928). This is one of those films that I’ve read about for 40-plus years, but have never had the chance to see. No, I’m sure this isn’t apt to be a high-priority item on most lists, but it’s at the top of mine—even though I’m mindful of the probability that it won’t live up to years of expectation.
Notable TV screenings
Once again, I find that nothing jumps out at me on the Turner Classic Movies listings for this week. As usual, there are some fine films being run, but these are mostly films that they run with some frequency. For example, the Marx Brothers in The Big Store (1941) is on at 1:15 on Wednesday (April 7). Now, it’s not prime Marx Brothers, but it has its points—and it’s certainly an improvement over their previous film, Go West (1940). Still, it’s not infrequently shown and most hardcore Marxists probably own it as part of the box set. But if you’ve never seen it, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon—and it’s the only chance I know of to see Groucho dance the Big Apple. Check out the TCM listings. As I’ve said before, what’s old hat to me might be brand new to people who haven’t frittered their lives away watching movies.