I thought I had good news for you this week, but then the good news got moved to next Friday and that leaves us with three—well, not that exciting-looking movies opening on Friday. Try as I may, I can’t seem to work up much enthusiasm for Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, or Red Riding Hood. Maybe I was spoiled by last week.
Well, let’s look at them anyway.
First up is Battle: Los Angeles, which promises mayhem from alien invaders in the City of Angels—and presumably elsewhere, since I can’t imagine them only attacking L.A., unless they’re really pissed off over James Franco at the Oscars. I’m not even sure why they’re attacking, except that it suits the needs of the movie. It comes to us from Jonathan Liebesman, the director of the hysterically bad Darkness Falls (2003), the appalling sequel to an appalling remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and something called The Killing Room (2009), which never snagged a U.S. distributor. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, who apparently learned nothing by appearing in The Core (2003). I’ll be happy if this is anywhere near as funny as that.
Then there’s Mars Needs Moms, which marks the first time H.G. Wells’ great-grandson Simon Wells has been allowed to helm a movie since The Time Machine “underperformed” in 2002. Here he’s back to his original medium of animation, since this is at least quasi-animated. That’s to say this is one of those Robert Zemeckis-produced Polar Express-like creepy motion-capture things where all the characters look Shawn and Marlon Wayans in White Chicks (2004). Anyway, its plot is pretty much summed up by the title, though it contains some message about learning to appreciate your mother once she’s whisked away by Martians. (Mine never was, so I don’t know.) The voice casting is on the inexpensive side—Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler being the big names.
And finally we have Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, which somehow turns the old fairy tale into medieval horror with werewolves and Amanda Seyfried. Let’s face it, the whole idea is all about Hardwicke coming up with another franchise like she did with Twilight in 2008. I suppose that all depends on whether or not we have a beefy boy shirtless lycanthrope to make the heart pound and the loins tingle. My problem—apart from the lame trailer—is that I have never seen a Catherine Hardwicke movie that I even remotely thought was worth a damn. And the fact that this drags in respectable actors like Gary Oldman and Julie Christie isn’t that strong of a selling point. I would love to be wrong on all this.
Before going into what’s still around, I want to make it clear that after Thursday Drive Angry 3D will be history on a local level. Otherwise, all the art titles are pretty much staying put, including Rabbit Hole at the Fine Arts, which performed much better than anyone expected—or had any reason to expect, based on the national averages. (Well, Asheville isn’t average.) The biggest difference this week is that there’ve been time changes on a number of the art titles. Also, at least two—Rango and The Adjustment Bureau—of the titles from last week are worth checking out.
This Thursday, Mar. 10, the Thursday Horror Picture Show has dug up the 1960 Hammer horror The Brides of Dracula at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 11, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Francis Ford Coppola’s early musical Finian’s Rainbow (1968) is being screened by the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Mar. 13, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. This week’s Asheville Film Society presentation is Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her (2002) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 15, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.
Documentaries seem to the thing this week on DVD with both the Oscar-winning Inside Job and the Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop come out this week. Also up is the rom-com Morning Glory, which has good things in it, even if the movie overall doesn’t quite work. And there’s The Next Three Days, which I haven’t seen, but which I don’t recall Justin being exactly enthused by.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM is recovering from the Oscar orgy, and on Saturday, Mar. 12, at 8 p.m. have not only slated Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) as one of their “essentials” (for once, I agree with them), but they’ve turned the whole night into a Mamoulian-athon. They’re following Love Me Tonight (his masterpiece) with The Gay Desperado (1936), We Live Again (1934), City Streets (1931), and Queen Christina (1933). It’s not quite the line-up I’d have gone with, but it’s a nice one. The Gay Desperado is a pretty funny musical and it’s done with a lot of style. The downside is that the songs are unmemorable. We Live Again is a good film of Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection with a screenplay by such notables as Maxwell Anderson, Preston Sturges, and Thornton Wilder. If you watch it, notice how Mamoulian reworks the “awakening” scene from the end of Love Me Tonight in dramatic terms here. City Streets was on recently, but it’s one of Mamoulian’s best. Queen Christina is a very good film that’s mostly remembered for not overlooking the Swedish queen’s lesbian streak, the famous “bedroom stroking” sequence, and the even more famous final shot of star Greta Garbo.
If you missed Shanghai Express (1932) when the AFS showed it last week, it’s on Sunday, Mar. 13, at 9:30 a.m. It’s better on a screen and it’s better with an audience, but it’s still pretty wonderful.