It’s another four-movie weekend where I’ve already seen half of the movies. That means that Another Year and Biutiful—both starting Friday at The Carolina—are reviewed in this week’s Xpress. What does that leave? Well, there’s what looks like bargain-basement horror with The Roommate and underwater 3D suspense with Sanctum. The former is so far only down for the Carmike and Epic, while the latter will be everywhere except the Beaucatcher. I can’t say either one sets my pulse pounding with anticipation.
Once again, we seem to be in that pattern where all the good titles are really from last year and all the actual new releases are—well, the sort of thing that opens in the dead of winter. The one rather notable difference in this year’s leftovers is that they’ve so far been a largely gloomy lot. I marginally exempt Another Year, but it’s not the happiest movie I’ve ever seen, as it at least wears its humanity on its sleeve and believes in the possibility of redemption. On the other hand, Biuitiful—whatever its undeniable merits—makes last week’s Blue Valentine look like what’s known as a “laff riot.”
I’m not sure what to make of The Roommate, but it doesn’t look all that promising. I’m unfamiliar with director Christian E. Christiansen (his parents certainly had no imagination), but he came all the way from Denmark to make this movie starring a couple of TV actresses and the ever-popular Cam Gigandet. That seems an awfully long trip for such a project. The fact that it’s coming out through Screen Gems—the house of tepid horror and movies not good enough for the Columbia logo—bodes ill. The studio’s publicity release is either lacking in enthusiasm, or they realize that there simply isn’t anything to promote. Hell, they haven’t even bothered with shills on the IMDb (not one single “I got to see a preview of this” posting!). This speaks volumes.
Sanctum, however, has, well, nothing that much obvious going for it, unless you’re a 3D fanatic (somebody’s gotta be keeping this gimmick going). Since names like Richard Roxburgh (the Duke in Moulin Rouge! and Dracula in Van Helsing) and Ioan Gruffud (Reed Richards in those Fantastic Four things) have never been known to have audiences line up at the box office, and almost no one has heard of director Alister Grierson, the whole draw is James Cameron’s name on the movie as a producer. That also means that audiences are being primed to expect Avatar-level 3D. We’ll see. But 109 minutes of folks trapped in a underwater cave? Well …
All of the big Oscar titles—127 Hours (Carolina), Black Swan (Carolina, Epic, Biltmore Grande, and, come Friday, Beaucatcher), The Fighter (Carolina, Carmike), The King’s Speech (everywhere but Carmike and Beaucatcher), True Grit (everywhere but Carmike and Fine Arts)—are still with us. Blue Valentine is staying at The Carolina and Fine Arts. However, I Love You, Phillip Morris departs The Carolina after Thursday and Tiny Furniture is being put out its misery there after a single week. Also worth noting is Asheville Pizza and Brewing bringing in The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in the 10 p.m. slot for its 20th anniversary, and showing The Princess Bride (1987) at 1 and 4 p.m. because second -un pickings are pretty darn lean just now.
David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie (1962) at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, in the Railroad Library at the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening John Ford’s Four Sons (1928) on Sunday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter (1955) is this week’s Asheville Film Society title at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.
Also of note is a special preview showing of Mike Leigh’s Another Year for Asheville Film Society members only on Wednesday, Feb. 2, at The Carolina. Folks who aren’t members can, of course, rectify that for $10 at the theater.
Far and away the best thing on DVD this week is Never Let Me Go, but be warned that this fine—and unusual—sci-fi film is a major downer. Let Me In died at the box office, so here it comes on DVD. It’s fine, but it’s not a patch on the original Swedish Let the Right One In. Despite the Oscar-bait presence of Hilary Swank, Conviction scored neither with critics, nor ticket-buyers. Now it’s on DVD. I won’t be revisiting it. While Monsters wasn’t bad, once was enough. No one went to see The Tillman Story when it briefly played here. I was among them. It might—as documentaries often do—find a more congenial reception on DVD.
Notable TV screenings
Well, here it is: TCM’s “31 Days of Oscar,” which usually translates into “31 Days of Boredom,” or at least “31 Days of the Usual Suspects.” It is not the most adventurous programming, though occasionally something that never got past a nomination or won for sound recording gets through. There’s a lot of good stuff, but it’s mostly good stuff that gets heavy play on TCM all year long.
That said, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Love Parade—a 1929 Best Picture nominee—with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald shows up on Thursday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m. It’s good—especially as Lubitsch’s first talkie—but it’s the weakest of his Chevalier-MacDonald films. They’re fine and there are some great songs, but the film is constantly brought crashing down by the insistence of bringing in unnecessary and unfunny comic relief from Lillian Roth and Lupino Lane. Whenever they show up, take a bathroom break, make coffee, something. If you do that, you’ll be fine. And Saturday, Feb. 5, at 3 p.m., there’s Lubitsch’s best Chevalier-MacDonald film, One Hour with You (1932). If you missed it when the AFS ran it, well, here it is.
Sunday at 8 p.m. is F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), which is always welcome. Some have called it the best film ever made. Judge for yourself. Probably the most unusual offering comes on Monday at 10 a.m. with House of Rothschild (1934) starring George Arliss. I’m pretty sure this hasn’t played TCM before, and it’s certainly worth a look. It may be Arliss’ best movie. Now, whether or not they’ll show it with the Technicolor scene at the end—it exists, I’ve seen it—remains a point of interest to be seen. I note with some amusement that The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), a movie about which MGM whiz kid Irving Thalberg cynically remarked, “It’s crap like Madelon Claudet that wins Oscars.” Well, it won one for Helen Hayes.