This is one of those “thank goodness for the other movies” weeks. There are a grand total of two mainstream titles coming to town this week — The Other Guys and StepUp 3D — both of which would come under the heading of “You couldn’t pay me to watch this,” if I hadn’t given up my right to say that by proving that, yeah, you can pay me to sit through just about anything. All right. But I wouldn’t watch either of these for free. So there.
Fortunately, there’s at least one alternative — Neil Jordan’s Ondine, which opens on Friday at the Carolina (and which Asheville Film Society members can see Wednesday at 8 p.m.). That’s fortunate for the rest of you, but I’ve already seen it and the review for it is in this week’s Xpress, so that doesn’t actively help me out that much. In other words, The Other Guys is in my future.
I’m sure there are those who are looking forward to a re-teaming of Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay. This, after all, is the team that brought the world Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) and Step Brothers (2008). The first of these I found fitfully amusing. The other two considerably less than that. But the films have their admirers and there’s just no getting around the fact that this almost has to be better than Ferrell’s last opus, Land of the Lost (2009). Then again I’ve had cat-scans that were more enjoyable than Land of the Lost. Perhaps I will be surprised and find myself confronted with a new comedy classic.
The alternative would be Step Up 3D and not only does that look and sound grimmer, but Justin Souther is our resident expert on Step Up movies and I — well, I just don’t feel qualified to come into the series cold like this. It simply wouldn’t be fair to the Step Up movies. Obviously, these stand in need of a knowledgeable viewer who can assess the nuances that connect this one with the last one. (I learned this line of chatter from Mr. Souther, who uses it on me every time a Tyler Perry movie comes out.)
However, in a very odd move — especially considering that it’s slated to open at the Fine Arts on August 27 — The Girl Who Played with Fire, the sequel to the immensely popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is also slated to open this weekend at the Flatrock Cinema in Flatrock. Granted, rumor has it that the sequel isn’t nearly in the same league — different writer and screenwriter — as the first film. But it’s still an alternative to The Other Guys (or in my case, an addition to it).
Of course, there’s still a lot of good stuff hanging around local screens. The Kids Are All Right (review in tomorrow’s paper) did really solid business at both the Carolina and the Fine Arts and is certainly holding at both theaters. Winter’s Bone is sticking around area theaters as well. I Am Love, Solitary Man and (for whatever reason) Cyrus remain ensconced at the Carolina. And, of course, Inception is just about everywhere.
Special screenings this week start on Thursday, Aug. 5 with Night of the Demon (1957) (or Curse of the Demon, if you prefer) at 8 p.m. as this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. This may well be my favorite horror picture ever, so I’m pretty jazzed about this., World Cinema in the Phil Mechanic Building has the documentary The Atomic Cafe (1982) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6. Local filmmaker David Kabler’s Wanderlost makes its debut at 9:45 on Friday and Saturday night (Aug. 6 and 7) at the Fine Arts. The Hendersonville Film Society offers Tony Richardson’s The Charge of the LIght Brigade (1968) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Retirement Community in Hendersonville. And Robert Altman’s Short Cuts on Tuesday, Aug. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. There’s more info on all these in this week’s Xpress — and even more in the online edition.
This is a much better week in the DVD realm. Top of the list for me is Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. You may have seen this in the theater — it certainly stuck around long enough — but multiple viewings on this one may pay dividends. I saw it twice theatrically and am certainly getting the DVD. And I’m looking forward to catching up with Kick-Ass, which I managed to miss. I also missed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I’m more ambivalent on that. Now, whether or not I want to see A Prophet again, I’m not sure, though I feel like I should. If you didn’t — and judging by the slack attendance, I’d guess that’s most of you — I’d certainly recommend it.
Notable TV screenings
On Wednesday, Aug. 4 at midnight TCM is running Richard Boleslawski’s Raputin and the Empress (1932) as part of a tribute to Ethel Barrymore. The film is notable for several reasons, not the least of which is that it’s the only time all three Barrymore’s — John, Lionel and Ethel — appeared together in a movie. It’s also the film where MGM found themselves being sued over libeling a living person by taking liberties with reality. It didn’t matter that they’d changed the names; it was obvious who the characters were. It cost MGM a pile of settlement money and resulted in that disclaimer that appears to this day where the movie calls itself a “work of fiction” and asserts that any similarity to real folks is “coincidental” (even when it isn’t). Raputin and the Empress is pretty interesting as a movie, too. Ethel is subdued, but the two boys are in their two-fisted prime, especially Lionel as Rasputin. John, however, has his moments, especially in the scene where he murders the “holy father.”
On Thursday, Aug. 5, TCM turns the evening over to Woody Strode, which means the evening kicks off at 8 p.m. with one of John Ford’s most interesting—- and least revived — films Sergeant Rutledge (1960) where Strode plays a black man accused of rape and murder. What’s interesting is that it’s the first of several Ford pictures to tackle the issue of race — something that might seem out of keeping with the generally reactionary Ford, and something that attests to the fact that he was a lot more complex than might be casually assumed. It’s followed at 10 p.m. by Sergio Leone’s mammoth Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) — a work that may be the director’s masterpiece.
On Saturday, Aug. 7, they give us a full day and night of Errol Flynn starting at 6 a.m. with Virginia City (1940). The highlights come later with The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) at 6:15 p.m. Is this Flynn’s best film? Maybe. It certainly gets my vote as the best Robin Hood movie ever made and it’s an always welcome film — especially in glorious three-strip Technicolor. And if it isn’t Flynn’s best movie, the other major candidate, The Sea Hawk (1940), is on at 8 p.m. (And this one has Flynn with a pet monkey for Elizabeth I as a bonus.) You can’t go wrong with either, but together they make for one hell of a double feature.
Sunday, Aug. 8 offers us just about the most mixed bag imaginable with 24 hours of Bob Hope. It starts off grim at 6 a.m. with the appalling Bachelor in Paradise (1961). It follows this with A Global Affair (1964), a film that makes Bachelor in Paradise start to look pretty good. By the time they’ve gone through I’ll Take Sweden (1965) and Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966), Bachelor in Paradise is starting to look like a classic. Fortunately, things take another road come 1:15 p.m. In fact it takes five of them with Road to Singapore (1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Road to Utopia (1945), Road to Bali (1952) and Road to Morocco (1942). This is more like it, as are the rarely shown Nothing But the Truth (1941) at 9:30 and Where There’s Life (1947) at 11:15.
Monday, Aug. 9 brings a few choice titles starring Warren Beatty. Take particular note of the rarely shown Mike Nicholls film The Fortune (1975) that was a huge flop at the time, despite teaming Beatty with Jack Nicholson. It has its problems, but it’s also worth a re-evaluation. At 6 p.m. there’s Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967), about which there’s little left to be said by this point in time. To say it shook up American film 1967 is putting things mildly. At 10:30 p.m. we have Beatty’s own Reds (1981), a long movie (195 minutes) that almost justifies its running time. If you’re up to it. there’s a pretty good thriller, The Parallax View (1974), at 2 a.m. and the notorious Ishtar (1987) at 4 a.m. — a flop that does not need re-evaluation. Trust me, I tried.