This week, we have walking octopi from outer space, a pontificating lion, a duped Johnny Depp and a soccer documentary. The last two give rise to the prospect of the terms “duped Depp” and “soc-doc,” which you’ll be glad to know I’ve now gotten out of my system. Actually, from my perspective it’s another kind of slack week. I’ve seen and reviewed Monsters (that’s the octopus movie) and my partner in perfidy, Mr. Souther, has seen and reviewed Pelada, both of which open Friday at The Carolina, and both of which you can read about in this week’s Xpress. That leaves the new Narnia picture and The Tourist, which are opening all over the place.
When The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian showed a sharp drop in Narnian box office back in 2008, Disney pulled the plug on further installments in the series, leaving Aslan (aka “Jesus the Lion”) and his friends wandering in the wilderness. None too surprisingly, they found their way to Walden Media and 20th Century Fox, who decided there was still some potential in continuing to bring the C.S. Lewis books to the screen. Their first attempt is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which has the added possible potential of Michael Apted as director. It also has 3-D in some venues—for those of you not a little burned out on the process.
So how does this revitalization look in terms of prospects? Well, there are some good reviews from Australia (I’ve yet to determine what critics from Down Under are credible) and a mixed smattering of reviews from some U.S. sources I don’t tend to pay much attention to. The one notable review is from Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter, who calls the new film ” a full-on belly flop.” That sadly matches up with my response to the trailer. Exhibitors apparently feel otherwise, since Dawn Treader is on what seems to me an inordinate number of screens. Considering Walden’s involvement, there’s probably a big push with churches promoting the film, so that may play a role. This weekend will tell the tale.
But what to make of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? You may not recall the German filmmaker’s name (and I will never learn how to spell it without checking), but you might recall that his The Lives of Others got the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2006 and garnered a good bit of attention. Here we find him making his “Hollywood director” debut with a Hitchcockian thriller and a pair of (somewhat oddly matched) high-powered stars. Fine. It sounds reasonable. Depp playing a poor guy who gets bamboozled into a web of intrigue by Jolie is at the very least workable. Plus, the trailer looks pretty good. So why the media blackout? Columbia seems to have pulled one off, which is no mean feat these days. Not only are there no reviews floating around yet, but almost no one appears to have seen it—or they aren’t talking. OK, I’m curious—but, yeah, this sort of unscreened situation is rarely good news.
This week is a little convoluted in the “what stays and what goes” realm. Fair Game leaves the Fine Arts to make room for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (also reviewed in this week’s Xpress), which leaves the Epic in Hendersonville. However, Fair Game opens this Friday at The Carolina, so it’s not vanishing, just relocating. Definitely departing are Tamara Drewe (The Carolina) and Inside Job (The Carolina). If you wanted to catch either one—and you should, especially the former—now is the time. 127 Hours is holding at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture is the drive-in masterpiece Phantasm (1978) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has the Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast (1988) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. And this week’s Asheville Film Society screening is A Night at the Opera (1935) with the Marx Brothers at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. There’s also something new happening at The Wine Studio of Asheville (169 Charlotte St.), which is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) on Monday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m.
The big news this week is Inception—a film I probably don’t have to tell you anything about. I’m anxious to see it again myself, because as much as I liked it when it came out, I have to say it really hasn’t stayed with me. Another film that didn’t stay with me was Shrek Forever After—though it was at least better than Shrek the Third—and that’s out, too. Somewhere they found some benighted soul who gushed, “The best Shrek yet!” over this one (probably so his quote would find its way to the studio for this very reason). Do not be fooled. Also out is a mighty pricey ($500 list) 75-movie set of what can only be called a mishmash of titles from 20th Century Fox in celebration of their so-called 75th anniversary. It’s actually only the 75th anniversary of Darryl F. Zanuck’s 20th Century Pictures merging with (or taking over) Fox Film Corp., which had already been around for 20 years. Oh, well.
Notable TV screenings
Another week made up mostly of the usual suspects, so once again, let the overall listings be your guide.