Another week and another array of choices for our viewing pleasure—or so the ever-hopeful studios would like to believe. Last week absolutely everything got its nose rubbed in the dirt. This week? Well, only time will tell, but the buffet this week includes three mainstream titles—Colmbiana, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Our Idiot Brother—two art titles—A Better Life (Carolina), Tabloid (Fine Arts)—and something called The Caller (Carolina), which has the distinct aroma of “four-waller” about it.
I’ve seen both A Better Life and Tabloid— and, in fact, did something unusual in this week’s reviews by giving them both “Top Pick” status. Look, here’s the thing—one is a narrative drama about the plight of an illegal immigrant, and the other is a puckish documentary about British tabloid journalism and “The Case of the Manacled Mormon.” How do you weigh those two things against each other? The answer is that you really can’t. This isn’t merely apples and oranges, it’s apples and zucchini. The only similarity is they’re both movies. Well, they’re both probably hard-sells, too, since one doesn’t have all that much curb appeal and the other is a documentary. Pity too, because they’re among the better films I’ve seen this year—and chances are they’re the best things opening this week.
So what else do we have? Well, let’s get The Caller out of the way. I didn’t even find out about this one till long after the “Upcomers” had been done—that’s why you’ll not find it listed among things opening this week in the paper. That’s also one of the reasons that the film has all the earmarks of a “four-waller” (a movie that the distributor pays theaters to show). The lack of reviews—except from horror specialty sites—and the lack of stills on the IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes reinforces the notion. What is it exactly? Well, it appears to be a spooky yarn about a divorcee (Rachelle Lefevre) who moves into a new apartment and starts receiving calls from … someone. That someone turns out to be calling “from the past,” which not surprisingly unnerves the divorcee. However, her efforts to break off contact only serve to make the caller peevish. Horror ensues—or so they say.
Then there’s Colombiana—another in the seemingly non-stop parade of relatively generic actioners from writer-producer Luc Besson that come out about once a year. This one is directed by the delightfully named Olivier Megaton and stars Zoe Saldana (Avatar) as a young woman from Bogota who becomes a revenge-driven “stone cold assassin” because she witnessed her parents’ murder by some mobster or other. The idea, it seems, is that she will eventually track down the murderer. The trailer looks stylishly silly, which is about on par for these movies.
Probably the most intriguing of the unknown quantities this week is Troy Nixey’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark—a remake of the 1973 “ABC Movie of the Week” TV film of the same name. That film seems to have a number of admirers—or at least the admirers it has are very vocal about it and, yes, they’re outraged that anyone would dare to remake it. In all honesty, I can’t remember if I’ve seen the TV movie—the fact that it starred Kim Darby might have been the mitigating factor. (In its favor, it was directed by John Newland, who made the “Pigeons from Hell” episode of Thriller back in 1961.) The interest here is less the director of the remake than the presence of Guillermo del Toro as producer and co-writer. The premise—about small demons in an old house—is roughly the same, but the new film makes their target a young girl (Bailee Madison), something that makes the film better fit del Toro’s other works. Plus, the kid’s almost certainly a better actress than Kim Darby. Her parents are played by Guy Pearce and—oh, well—Katie Holmes. No reviews have either increased or decreased my interest, but I don’t trust reviews on horror pictures—not even if they’re by people I trust.
Paul Rudd plays the title character in Our Idiot Brother, while Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel play the idiot’s sisters. The movie was directed by Jesse Peretz, who was last theatrically responsible for the dismal and quickly vanishing (taking Zach Braff’s big screen career with it) The Ex in 2007. It appears that Rudd’s character isn’t so much an idiot as he is sweetly naive to the point of stupidity. In fact, his latest predicament came about when he took pity of a uniformed cop complaining about a hard week and gave him some pot—landing him in jail. Out on parole, he ends up invading the lives of his sisters, creating havoc. Of course, since he’s in one of those movies that insists that stupid people are much nicer than smart ones (I’ve seen no evidence of this myself), it will transpire that all this will be for their own good. It all sounds—despite an R rating—a little too saccharine and Forrest Gumpy for me.
I am not in the least surprised to find If a Tree Falls making its departure from The Carolina after a single week, nor am I shocked to find The Future being split with Midnight in Paris at the Fine Arts. Midnight in Paris keeps its full set of showings at The Carolina. It’s amazing how that little picture has outlasted every blockbuster that’s come down the pike this summer.
Before getting down to the usual titles, there’s a screening of a documentary called The Marketing of Madness at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 29, at Firestorm Cafe and Books, 48 Commerce Street (255-8115). According to the press release the film is “the definitive documentary on psychotropic drugging—this is the story of the high-income partnership between drug companies and psychiatry which has created an $80 billion profit from the peddling of psychotropic drugs to an unsuspecting public.”
Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 25, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. On Friday, Aug. 26, World Cinema shows Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934) at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library of the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Robert Fuest’s Wuthering Heights (1970) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society concludes its month long “Five Reasons Why Paramount Was the Greatest of All Studios” with the Four Marx Brotherts in Horse Feathers (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 30, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all four titles in this week’s Xpress.
First and foremost this week is Win Win, closely followed by Troll Hunter—both of these are well worth your time if you missed them in theaters. The Beaver, on the other hand, probably isn’t, except for unintentional laughs. Then there’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which I haven’t seen and which I’m keeping it that way.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” continues—with variable results. Wednesday is a winner with Joan Blondell being featured. Thursday is Burt Lancaster. Friday is Peter Lawford—God knows why. Saturday is Linda Darnell. Sunday is Carole Lombard, who is almost always welcome. Monday is Anne Francis—that makes Peter Lawford seem slightly more reasonable. And Tuesday is Howard Keel—no comment.