So, are there two or three movies opening this week? Well, that’s still not clear—thanks to the Monday holiday. In other words, what I know at this point is that No Strings Attached and The Way Back are opening, and The Company Men either is or it isn’t. I’m not in the least sure that anyone cares that much. All in all, this simply doesn’t look like a week designed to set the box office ablaze.
Considering that neither The Carolina nor the Epic of Hendersonville are opening The Company Men, I’m leaning toward the belief that it’s not opening. If it does: It’s a drama about three corporate men—Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones—who find themselves suddenly out of work thanks to downsizing. The “American Dream” quickly becomes a nightmare, especially for the oldest of them. No, it doesn’t sound like a lot of laughs, but according to the reviews it’s garnered, it is apparently moderated by a streak of humor. Whether or not we’ll find out, only the Weinstens know—and either they, or the corporate theater bookers haven’t parted with that information yet.
On the other hand, the Ivan Reitman R-rated rom-com No Strings Attached is a grim certainty. Yes, it stars Natalie Portman, but she’s co-starring with Ashton Kutcher. You know, if anyone had told me 10 years ago when I reviewed Dude, Where’s My Car? that I would still be dealing with Ashton Kutcher movies today, I’d have burst out laughing. I am not laughing now. Then too, when was the last time Ivan Reitman had a hit? Ghostbusters II in 1989? No reviews have shown up for this yet. If you care, the stars play “just friends,” who have casual sex with each other and try to not get emotionally involved. (I can’t imagine how that will work out.) It’s supposed to be edgy, you see, and was, as I understand it, originally called F**k Buddies (like anyone ever thought that would end up on the movie).
More notable is Peter Weir’s The Way Back—which appears to be opening exclusively at The Carolina—starring Jim Sturgess (from Across the Universe), Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong. It’s a (disputed) fact-based story about an escape from a Soviet prison camp in Siberia, followed by a 4,000 mile trek to freedom. It’s apparently pretty grim stuff, but the reviews make it sound like it might be worthwhile, especially appealing is the idea that Weir is back at the top of his game with this one. Also, it’s nice to see an indie film that is very much not the usual sort of fare we’ve been trained to think indie films are going to be. A crowd-pleaser? Unlikely, but it has the appearance of being worth a look. Plus, it promises Collin Farrell as a psychotic Russian gangster.
If none of those entice you, it’s certainly worth noting that Black Swan and The King’s Speech are both holding strong at the Fine Arts and The Carolina. I Love You, Phillip Morris is still at The Carolina, as is Made in Dagneham. And, of course, True Grit is still just about everywhere. In other words, there is still good news to hear and fine things to be seen.
More than usual is up this week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show has a double bill of 1940s horror—one with Boris Karloff, one with Bela Lugosi—by showing The Devil Commands (1941) and Return of the Vampire (1944) at 8 p.m., Thu., Jan. 20, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 21, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. On Sun., Jan. 23, at 2 p.m. the Hendersonville Film Society screens the Oscar-winning Nowhere in Africa (2003) in the Smoky Park Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running the Deanna Durbin musical-comedy First Love (1939) on Tue., Jan. 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on these films is in this week’s Xpress with more in-depth reviews available in the online edition.
Also up this week is Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) on Mon., Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Wine Studio of Asheville (169 Charlotte St.). For more info call (828) 255-5955. Here’s a link to an earlier review of this title.
And there’s this month’s Potluck Cinema. Every Third Thursday of the month, bring your favorite side, entrée or dessert and break bread with the local community. They provide dinnerware, beverages and seating. Then sit down for a collection of award-winning films, including animation, documentaries and dramas, from the Twin Rivers Media Festival collection of Courtyard Gallery. The event takes place in the upstairs library of the Phil Mechanic Studios in the River Arts District. This month they’re serving up No Such Thing as Color, The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi and Teabag Sucker. The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. The films start at 7 p.m. Thu., Jan, 20.
Not an exciting week, though it’s worth noting that no less than two of the movies from Justin Souther’s 10 Worst list make their appearance—The Virginity Hit and Takers. I’m content to take his word for it, though I’ve heard rumor from other quarters that Takers is “off-the-hook good.” Also up is Jack Goes Boating, which isn’t bad—in fact it’s good, but not great—and which died here when it played theatrically. And there’s the Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom, which I liked, but didn’t love. Other people whose opinions I respect, however, loved it.
Notable TV screenings
First off, don’t forget that TCM’s 24-hour tribute to producer Hal Roach starts Tue., Jan 18, at 8 p.m. continues throughout the day on Wed.—and whatever you do, catch the Charley Chase short Public Ghost No. 1 at 10 a.m. to see the ever-popular Edwin Maxwell demonstrate his Simplex Fly Exterminator. (After you’ve seen it, you’ll understand one of the reasons Edwin Maxwell is ever-popular.) There’s another Peter Sellers-athon on Thu., Jan. 20 starting at 8 p.m. These are The Pink Panther (1964), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Murder by Death (1976), Casino Royale (1967), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). I don’t care what anybody says, Casino Royale—this one—is the best James Bond picture ever.
The big title for me this week is on Fri., Jan. 21, at 8 p.m. with the showing of Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets (1931) starring Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney. I believe this is the first time TCM has run this rarely shown work. The only copies of this early gangster film I’ve ever seen all appear to have been (badly) made from the 16mm prints that circulated in the early 1970s as part of the Mamoulian restrospective that played at colleges after its New York premiere. This is from Mamoulian’s greatest period—1929-1933—and I was impressed by it even in a barely watchable VHS copy. Even murk couldn’t disguise its no-holds-barred stylization or sense of creativity. The prospect of seeing a good print has me pretty darn jazzed. It’s followed by Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932), which is not slouch in the stylization department itself—and is almost certainly the most violent of all early gangster movies.
Nothing else seems that exciting or out of the ordinary, but it’s always worth checking the listings.