Lots of titles this week—six of them, in fact. We have four mainstream ones—The Help, 30 Minutes or Less, Final Destination 5 and Glee: The 3D Concert Movie—and two art/indie films—The Last Mountain (Fine Arts) and Snowflower and the Secret Fan (The Carolina). I’ve no earthly idea why The Help opens on Wednesday, but it’s perhaps just as well with this much. Then again, except for movie critics, I don’t see a whole lot of crossover appeal here.
Now, this week I haven’t seen a single thing. However, Justin Souther saw and reviewed The Last Mountain and his review of it is in this week’s paper. With that in mind, let’s move on to the so far unseen.
Since it opens on Wednesday, we’ll break with alphabetical order and take a look at The Help. It has the built-in audience cache of being based on a popular book. It also has a nice cast—Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson and Allison Janney. What it doesn’t have is a known-quantity director on Tate Taylor (who also wrote the screenplay), so it’s impossible to make any prognostication on that basis. The story is all about racism in Mississippi in the 1960s as seen through the eyes of “the help,” whose stories comprise the book written by journalism graduate and fledging reporter Skeeter (Stone). Yes, it does sound just a bit like The Long Walk Home (1990) and if it wasn’t for the odd August release, it’d look like Oscar-bait, too. The reviews, however, are starting to come in from some reliable critics and are generally good, which makes you wonder why Disney and company felt it necessary to get seven dubious “I just came from an advance screening” user reviews on the IMDb.
30 Minutes or Less (warning: the trailer is the F-word strewn red band one) is Ruben Fleischer’s follow up to Zombieland (2009) and once again his star is Jesse Eisenberg. The premise here is that Eisenberg is a stoner pizza delivery man who gets snagged by a pair of fledgling criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to him and give him only a short time to rob a bank for them—or be exploded. Now, I liked Zombieland for the most part, but this doesn’t have the same kind of quirky feel—at least the trailer doesn’t. OK, I freely admit that the names Danny McBride and Nick Swardson don’t fill me with anything but dread.
What exactly is left to be said about a Final Destination picture? This one is Final Destination 5 and in some venues it’s in 3D. (So what? So was the last one.) These things are the most generic movies going. It’s mostly a bunch of people you’ve never heard of being killed off in creative ways because they’ve cheated death and that you just don’t do. The only thing in these movies’ favor is that all their very splattery nonsense is rather cheerfully silly. But still, do we need another? And, yeah, the studio claims it’s the last in the series, but these days that usually means we can look forward to a reboot in the next year or so.
All right, I’ve never seen an episode of Glee and this Glee: The 3D Concert Movie means absolutely nothing to me, but judging by the fact that it is finding its way into every venue in town with 3D there is apparently a perceived market for it. According to the press notes—“The multi-generational phenomenon that has inspired millions to embrace their inner-Gleek will soon bring them together to experience Glee a whole new way.” I have nothing against it, and I liked Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors (2006) a good bit, though I have no illusions that this is going to be anything like that.
I’ve more or less—and casually at that—followed Wayne Wang’s career since I caught Chan Is Missing in New York City way back in 1982. It’s been an uneven—actually rather strange—career, but it’s often been an interesting one. It’s also been one marked by strong visuals and that may prove the saving grace of his latest, Snowflower and the Secret Fan, an adaptation (apparently a rather free one) of a popular novel by Lisa See. There’s simply no getting around the fact that the reviews on the film have been anything but tepid or even downright bad. But even its strongest detractors have noted that it’s visually appealing and stylish. I’m curious to see it, despite the reviews.
A lot of things are leaving this week. Beginners leaves the Fine Arts to make room for The Last Mountain The Carolina is losing Buck, Page One: Inside the New York Times and, yes, Project Nim, which simply did not draw much business, even though nearly everyone who saw it liked a lot. If you’re interested, they’re around through Thursday. The only things that are hanging around are The Trip (at The Carolina) and Midnight in Paris (at The Carolina and the Fine Arts).
Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Woman in the Dunes (1964) on Friday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The 1954 version of Romeo and Juliet is this week’s Hendersonville Film Society offering on Sunday, Aug. 14, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its “Five Reasons Paramount Was the Greatest of All Studios” series with Leo McCarey’s Mae West film Belle of the Nineties (1934) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 16, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress.
The big one (for me) this week is Paul—a terrific film with the worst title imaginable, and it appears to be out in an unrated director’s cut, which might make it even better. The title still smells from herring. The very good and more than a little disturbing Super didn’t get the love it ought to have at the box office. With any luck people will discover it now.Also up are Mars Needs Moms, Your Highness, and Jumping the Broom—not that I’m recommending them, mind you.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM is, of course still in the “Summer Under the Stars” mode, and I spotted nothing that set my pulses racing, but, for the record: Wednesday is Shirley MacLaine, Thursday Ben Johnson, Friday Claudette Colbert, Saturday James Stewart, Sunday Ralph Bellamy, Monday Lon Chaney Sr., and Tuesday Joanne Woodward.