It’s Michael Myers vs. Death Incarnate at the movies this week for what should be the grudge match of the year. My money is on Michael Myers. He’s got the brand name and Rob Zombie at the helm. On the other hand, Death is all dolled-up in a nice 3-D suit. Should be an interesting bout. And if that doesn’t excite you, Ang Lee is on hand with a little 40-year-old nostalgia. In other words, the Basterds are being asked to move over for Halloween II, The Final Destination and Taking Woodstock. I can’t say I’m expecting any of these to be as exciting as Inglourious Basterds turned out to be, but I’ve seen worse lineups—and at least Post Grad (ye gods) isn’t opening again.
Even admitting the fact that Mr. Zombie’s original Halloween (2007) reboot was a less-than-satisfying affair, I like the trailer for the sequel. My inner geek definitely responds to Zombie recreating the scene from Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) where Janet Ann Gallow asks Lon Chaney’s Frankenstein Monster, “Are you a giant?” It’s not a surprise if you remember the heavy use of clips from other Universal horrors like The Old Dark House (1932) and The Wolf Man (1941) in Zombie’s first feature, House of 1000 Corpses (2003). Beyond that, I’ve yet to find Zombie uninteresting—and I’ve often found his work fascinating.
Other aspects of Halloween II are also more intriguing looking than anything that was in Halloween. There are definite signs of the kind of heavy stylization that marked 1000 Corpses, which would be a big plus in my book. I’ve tagged—though not with ill-will—Zombie in the past as more a fan who gets to make films than as an actual filmmaker. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but what I’d like to see is that fan cross over into the realm of filmmaker, while not losing the fan aspect. I don’t really expect that to happen here, but I’m certainly up for giving it a shot. Interestingly, David Edelstein of New York Magazine chose Halloween II (sight unseen) as a possible movie of interest this week.
What should be Final Destination 4 is coming at us as The Final Destination—it’s that “the” up front that sets it apart from the original Final Destination (2000). Otherwise, what sets it apart is its 3-D-ification. Granting that this year’s My Bloody Valentine 3-D was perhaps the best-looking 3-D movie to emerge from this outpouring of RealD 3-D technology, I’m not sure this bit of tarting-up is enough to put The Final Destination over. The series is cheeky and fun, but it’s essentially the same thing over and over again. A psychic flash causes someone to manage to escape certain death with a few friends in some impending spectacular accident. This invariably annoys the unseen Mr. Death, who engineers colorful ways to settle the score. Here we have more of the same to judge by the trailer. I’ll admit that man-eating escalator looks pretty juicy, though.
I wasn’t able to get a confirmation that anyone was opening Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock—announced as a limited release—yesterday, so it didn’t make it into the paper as an upcomer. Well, it’s upcoming this Friday after all. I really question the wisdom of putting this movie on at least three area screens, however. Right now I know it’s opening at the Carolina Asheville, the Beaucatcher and the Epic (I’m betting that the Biltmore Grande will get it, too). That strikes me as overkill for what is essentially art-house fare of the indie variety with its fact-based story that combines a young gay man (Demetri Martin) coming out of the closet and the event known as Woodstock. The film doesn’t actually depict Woodstock, however, but deals instead with the atmosphere and aura of the thing. The critical response has been mixed, but it’s also pretty bereft of reviews from the more reliable sources. I’m certainly more than slightly interested.
Of course, Inglourious Basterds is still around and certainly warrants your attention, as do District 9 and (500) Days of Summer. So if this week’s crop has no appeal, there are certainly some worthwhile options out there.
To me the big mainstream attraction is the release of Sunshine Cleaning—a terrific little movie that you really should check out if you missed it in the theater. Even if you saw it in the theater, it’s worth checking out, come to think of it. On the other hand, Justin Souther is very keen on Adventureland, which he gave high marks to and which I didn’t see. The fact that he’s anxious for me to watch the film is interesting to me, simply because a.) he’s not exactly prone to gush, and b.) I can recall no occasion where he saw something first and said he “wanted” me to see it. (Granted, he doesn’t get handed all that many good movies.) My curiosity is certainly piqued. Whether I can get past the distaste I’ve developed for Kristen Stewart thanks to Twilight is another matter.
Also up is the underrated Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. This didn’t perform nearly as well at the box office as it ought to have, so maybe it’ll fare better on DVD. The surprisingly good little film Goodbye Solo from Winston-Salem filmmaker Ramin Bahrani. This only did so-so business theatrically, but it’s the kind of film that will probably find a warmer welcome on video. At least I hope it does. The less said about The Informers (just watch The Rules of Attraction again if you need a Bret Easton Ellis fix) and Fighting the better.
Perhaps Marc from Orbit will stop in to speak of the TV offerings—and possibly the (to me) fairly lackluster cult/classic offerings that are up this week.
Notable TV screenings
The notable TV screenings this week just aren’t all that notable. What this means in the case of Turner Classic Movies is that there’s good stuff, but there’s nothing much there that isn’t in pretty standard play on the channel. In the case of Fox Movie Channel, I guess it’s notable that Dunston Checks In isn’t playing, but they attempt to make up for the glaring omission by showing How I Got Into College three times in a row. I’m pretty sure that’s a Constitutional violation of some sort.
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Sunday, Aug. 30, 10:15 p.m., TCM
This is part of 24-hours worth of Jean Arthur movies—and 24 hours of Jean Arthur is a good thing, even if I don’t entirely agree with the choices. Only Angels Have Wings, yes, but otherwise, not so much. If nothing else there’s Stephen Roberts’ The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, a 1937 mystery/comedy that teams Arthur with William Powell. As you may well guess, this is one of those movies that lived in hope of being another “Thin Man” picture. In that regard, it’s better than most—and Arthur and Powell have better chemistry than Powell had with Ginger Rogers in Star of Midnight (1935), another “Thin Man” wannabe. The mystery is not bad, the comedy is OK and the stars—plus the 1930s studio sheen—make it pretty worthwhile.
That’s really the only film that I’d single out this week—though those of you still trying to figure out how you feel about Citizen Kane (1941) will find it playing at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept 1. Otherwise, this would be a good week to start working through those stacks of DVDs you’ve been meaning to get around to watching.