Last week may have been a little slack, but this week brings us three mainstream titles—Cowboys & Aliens (everywhere but the Beaucatcher), Crazy, Stupid, Love (everywhere but the Carmike) and The Smurfs (again, everywhere but the Carmike). Then there’s one art title—Page One: Inside the New York Times (at The Carolina)—and something or other called Assassination Games that promises the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme (also at The Carolina). People in search of something other than Bele Chere—or wanting to get out of the heat of Bele Chere—are not wanting for options.
Of these, all I’ve seen is Page One: Inside the New York Times—a documentary about (as you may have guessed) The New York Times. The review for it is in this week’s paper. But what of these others? Well, let’s see what we can tell or guess.
Assassination Games is something I confess I’d never even heard of till yesterday. This may have something to do with the fact that it’s only in ten theaters in the entire country. Then again, it may be because Jean-Claude Van Damme’s return to “the big screen” isn’t the most interesting news imaginable (which is also probably why it’s only on ten screens). Apparently, it has something to do with Van Damme as an assassin who teams up with another assassin (Scott Adkins) to battle a drug cartel. I know. I almost fell asleep typing that sentence. The trailer looks somewhat agreeably silly. It also looks like the entire movie was shot through a tobacco-colored filter. It definitely attests to the fact that Van Damme still can’t act.
Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens is slightly more high-profile. In fact, this one ranks high on the list of movies people keep telling me is the film they’ve been waiting all summer to see. Well, now they can and we can stop seeing the trailer before damn near every movie that comes along. The cast is strong—Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell—and the stunt premise has a simple appeal. (Not that cowboys haven’t had some pretty strange bedfellows over the years—like Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and its companion film Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, or Valley of the Gwangi where it was cowboys and dinosaurs.) The question is whether it’s more than a stunt idea and a catchy title. My guess is that if any filmmaker can pull it off, Jon Favreau is the one.
Those of us who saw I Love You, Phillip Morris this past Christmas (and a surprising number of Asheville moviegoers did) know that the directing team of Glenn Ficara and John Requa are names to watch. Now, they’re back with Crazy, Stupid, Love—a comedy drama starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The cast alone ought to be enough to get those who don’t know the filmmakers to consider seeing it. It’s apparently a pretty complex story—as the large cast suggests—that centers on the marital troubles of Carell and Moore and then branches off into those who become involved in the situation. The trailer looks smart and funny and the early reviews have been very positive.
Say what you will—after careful consideration of his filmography, I have concluded that Raja Gosnell is at the very least an emissary of Satan. Just look at his oeuvre—Home Alone 3, Never Been Kissed, Big Momma’s House, Scooby-Doo, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Yours, Mine and Ours, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. With the possible exception of Never Been Kissed—which I’ve never seen—a more distressing filmography would be hard to find. And now, this Beelzebub incarnate brings us The Smurfs. The trailer makes it pretty obvious that this is simply Alvin and the Chipmunks with Smurfs instead of rodents. This also means it will probably make a fortune. Grim tidings, indeed.
Leaving town this week—as predicted—is Queen to Play. Everything else is in the realm of status quo. Submarine, Buck and The Tree of Life are staying at The Carolina, as is Midnight in Paris, which is also hanging in at the Fine Arts along with Beginners. (Remember, the Fine Arts is closed this Friday, Saturday and Sunday due to Bele Chere.) Hard to say what will happen next Friday when at least two new art titles—Project Nim and The Trip—are slated to open.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later... (2003) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986) on Friday, July 29, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society concludes its month-long tribute to Roger Corman with Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) on Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society, on the other hand, starts its month-long “Five Reasons Paramount was the Greatest of All Golden Age Studios” with Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.
The only big name (mainstream) release this week seems to Source Code, which I didn’t see, but which Justin Souther thought pretty highly of. There’s also the very strange, bitter and slightly off-putting Life During Wartime, the solidly OK Mao’s Last Dancer, and the underwhelming Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.
Notable TV Screenings
Well, if nothing else TCM brings us Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973) 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27. There’s also a day’s worth of Joe E. Brown comedies starting at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28: On with the Show (1929), Top Speed (1930), Going Wild (1931), Local Boy Makes Good (1931), Sit Tight (1931), 6 Day Bike Rider (1934), A Very Honorable Guy (1934), Polo Joe (1936), Sons O’Guns (1936), When’s Your Birthday? (1937). These are all utterly dependent on your fondness—or lack thereof—for Brown. My own is variable. The most interesting here in some ways is On with the Show, which has Brown in an uncharacteristically unsympathetic role, but be warned it’s an otherwise rather stodgy early sound backstage musical. It does, however, offer the great Ethel Waters singing “Am I Blue?” and “Birmingham Bertha.”