This is the week that the much-praised and locally anticipated The Kids Are All Right makes it into town (Fine Arts and the Carolina)—along with less enticing titles Dinner for Schmucks, Charlie St. Cloud and, gods save us, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. I suppose this is what is known as “something for everyone.” Whether or not that’s a good thing is a separate issue altogether.
Personally, the only of these films that actually intrigues me is The Kids Are All Right, which, despite the spelling, appears to have some sort of connection to the Who song “The Kids Are Alright,” though I’ve yet to determine if the song itself is used in the movie. Considering the plot, the phrase, “I don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl,” will take on a whole new meaning in this context. The story concerns a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) whose teenage children (Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska) track down their sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo)—with unpredictable results. Some of this is comical and some of it is not so funny. There’s no denying, however, that the film comes with a Rotten Tomatoes level of 96 percent—and that’s rare indeed.
And then there are those other movies …
I don’t know how the rest of you are looking at Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, but I’m viewing it as The Revenge of Cranky Hanke. I’ve been awaiting the release of this ever since Justin Souther threatened to quit if he had to review Marmaduke, causing me to sit through that stinker. Now it’s his turn in the barrel (as we say down home). Of course, this is as yet unseen, and I suppose there’s a possibility that this is actually better than Marmaduke. However, it is anthropomorphic animals and I have seen the trailer. The trailer promises a level of torture that would shame the good ol’ Marquis de Sade.
Only slightly less dubious looking to me is Dinner for Schmucks, which takes a French movie and turns it into a vehicle for Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. Now, both of these performers can be very good. And it’s just possible that the trailer is doing it no favors. Certainly, the very few reviews—the trades and four far-from-heavy-hitter sources (I’m resistant to promises like “You’ll laugh ‘til it hurts”)—have been pretty darn positive. So, this is entirely a crapshoot of a movie at this point. I have to admit that I’m having a hard time getting past that trailer.
Charlie St. Cloud is also in the crapshoot realm—mostly because Me and Orson Welles made those who saw it (all six of us) think that just maybe there’s more to Zac Efron than his Disney Channel underpinnings would suggest. Otherwise—especially with its Tiger Beat poster of Efron looking all dreamy—this would simply be setting off the schmaltz alarm big time. The trailer looks pretty gooey, too, but since it’s a romantic fantasy with (apparently) ghostly manifestations of a departed loved one, a certain amount of slack can be—very tentatively—cut. We shall see. Well, I will anyway. I just don’t see this drawing a crowd.
Take note that Micmacs takes its leave (from the Carolina) on Friday, so there’s not much time left to catch this wonderful film. Also departing (from the same place) is Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. On the other hand, I Am Love, Solitary Man and (for whatever reason) Cyrus all remain at the Carolina, as does Winter’s Bone, which also stays at the Fine Arts. If there’s anyone left who hasn’t seen it, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is playing in the 10 p.m. slot at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.
Local special showings include three screenings of Lucky Days at the Fine Arts (Thursday, July 29, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1, at 1 p.m.). David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina (Thursday, July 29, at 8 p.m.). Europa, Europa (1990) plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 30, at World Cinema in the Phil Mechanic building. Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) is this week’s offering from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Aug. 1, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Next Tuesday, Aug. 3, the Asheville Film Society is showing Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game (1992) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. Asheville Film Society members get a bonus Neil Jordan film with a special members-only screening of his new film, Ondine, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 8 p.m. at the Carolina. (The film opens on Aug. 6.) More information on all these films are in this week’s issue of the Xpress. (Well, except for the review of Ondine, which will be in next week’s edition.)
If anyone really cares, the new Clash of the Titans hits DVD this week, as does Repo Men. It is not exactly an auspicious week for mainstream releases. And special releases aren’t much better. Next week, however, we can look forward to some tastier items, but that’s next week.
Notable TV screenings
On Wednesday, July 28, Broadminded (1931) shows at 10:30 a.m. on TCM as part of a long series of Joe E. Brown movies—mostly from his earlier work. Though he was an extremely popular comedian at the time, Joe E. Brown is probably all but forgotten today. A concentrated dose will probably explain why without too much trouble. In small doses, however, he can be amusing, and this is one of his better vehicles. It’s a very pre-code affair (the film makes no bones about the fact that the title refers to being obsessed with women), and for 1931, it’s a surprisingly slick offering. It’s also of more than passing interest in that it provides Bela Lugosi one of his larger non-horror roles—and allows him to demonstrate his flair for comic menace. Granted, he’s playing a South American, which is a little odd until you realize that in Hollywood all foreign accents were treated as being the same.
Thursday, July 29, TCM boasts a William Powell-a-thon starting at 6 a.m. So far as I’m concerned, One Way Passage (1932) at 6 a.m., The Kennel Murder Case (1933) at 7:15 a.m. and I Love You Again (1940) at 2 p.m. are the highlights, with Tay Garnett’s One Way Passage being the jewel in the set. It’s one of several films Powell made with Kay Francis as his leading lady—and it’s the absolute essential doomed romance yarn. He’s a sympathetic murderer being taken to America to be executed and she’s a socialite about to expire from an unspecific Hollywood heart ailment, so their shipboard romance is obviously limited. The setup is corny, but the characters, the actors and the screenplay really aren’t at all. Plus, there are splendid supporting performances from Warren Hymer, Frank McHugh and, especially, Aline MacMahon. If you watch it, stick around for Powell’s third, final and best performance as S.S. Van Dine’s Philo Vance in The Kennel Murder Case.
And speaking of Philo Vance, TCM has The Bishop Murder Case 1930 at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, Aug., 1. This early talkie finds Basil Rathbone playing Vance (an inability to settle on a studio or a Vance is probably why these mysteries are not too well known these days). It’s drawn from what is generally considered to be the best Philo Vance novel—and perhaps it’s the only novel that truly does live up to the standard opening where it’s always claimed that no Vance case was “weirder,” “more sinister,” more something than the one you’re holding. There’s no question that it’s a weird—even rather twisted—mystery, and the film lives up to that. In fact, it feels a lot like a horror movie. Some of that may be due to the creaky quality of its early talkie status, giving it a kind of otherworldly air. As filmmaking, it’s an odd mix of the horribly stagey and outbursts of somewhat peculiar cinematic flair. It’s probably more a curio than anything else, but as curios go, it’s a choice one.
On Monday, Aug. 2, TCM gives us a Julie Christie Festival: Billy Liar (1963) at 8 p.m., Darling (1965) at 9:45 p.m. and Petulia (1968) at midnight. (There are more through the small hours, but these are the most interesting.) John Schlesinger directed the first two, and Darling is probably Christie’s most famous film (at least of the era). Billy Liar, on the other hand, is a film that hints at the new vitality about to hit British cinema. But, for me, the biggie is Richard Lester’s Petulia, where Christie co-stars with George C. Scott. The American-born, but essentially British Lester (as concerns work), who had launched the whole British film invasion with A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, came to America for the first time for this film, which starts the serious deconstruction of the very form he helped to create. As a look at the underside of the swinging 1960s, it’s a key, harsh and somewhat depressing work.