From a serious moviegoing standpoint, the big titles opening this week are ones I’ve already seen: Four Lions and Inside Job. You’ll find reviews of both in this week’s Xpress (they were among the films I reviewed over the weekend from hell—10 movies in three days). Conviction, Morning Glory, Skyline and Unstoppable are also coming to town. That means six films will be vying for your moviegoing attention—not to mention your hard-earned spondulicks.
I’m hard-pressed to imagine that the last four films mentioned—with Conviction as a long-shot possibility—are going to be in the same league as Four Lions and Inside Job, but we can’t ignore their presence, I guess. When I think of a reason that we can’t, I’ll tell you. Four Lions (opening at The Carolina) and Inside Job (opening at the Fine Arts) are remarkable films—for very different reasons—but beyond that, I’ll say nothing more about them here.
Since it appears first thanks to an incomprehensible Wednesday opening date, let’s look at Morning Glory. First off, we might wonder just what Roger Michell (Venus) is doing helming this very processed-cheese-food-looking movie. We won’t get an answer, but we might wonder all the same. Rachel McAdams plays the producer of a morning TV news show. Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford play the show’s embattled anchors. The ever-bland Patrick Wilson seems to be on hand to provide some kind of love interest for McAdams. The trailer looks harmless and predictable. The few critics with a degree of clout who have weighed in have been underwhelmed. This will pop up at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande and United Artists Beaucatcher.
On the borderline of art/indie we have Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction, which opens more reasonably (as do all the other titles) on Friday at The Carolina. It’s based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), the working mother who put herself through law school in order to fight the wrongful conviction of her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) for murder. Please note the phrase “based on the true story”—a detail that seems to escape a lot of folks. I admit I’m not wild about Swank as a rule, but I like Rockwell and the supporting cast is solid (Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo). I’m more worried about directorial lightweight Tony Goldwyn (The Last Kiss) and the shamelessly manipulative Oscar-bait trailer. But I’m in the give-it-a-chance camp at this point.
And then there’s Tony Scott’s Unstoppable—and it probably will be. This runaway train epic is designed to warm the hearts of demographic researchers everywhere. It has cross-over stars with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. It has a trailer that promises scads of action and snappy one-liners. It has that viewer-friendly PG-13 rating. From a popcorn-movie and bankability standpoint, what’s not to love? Probably nothing. It has the typical heavily manipulated image look associated with Tony Scott, which is a little worn-out by now. And the trailer is so over-the-top in preposterous plot devices that it never fails to make me laugh. With this kind of movie, that’s not necessarily a downside. Opens Friday at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville and Regal Biltmore Grande.
Speaking of trailers that make me laugh, there’s also Skyline from Colin and Greg Strause—or “The Brothers Strause” as they call themselves. These boys are better known for their effects work than for their direction. Last time at bat as filmmakers they came up with the pretty execrable Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), which had the distinction of being brought out for Christmas of all things. Well, we’re getting close to Thanksgiving, which might be appropriate for Skyline. The sci-fi opus appears to be about vacuum cleaners from outer space that go around Hoovering up humankind (see photo at the right) for reasons the film will perhaps explain. This one wanders into The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande and United Arists Beaucatcher on Friday.
Departing theaters this week are The Tillman Story (yes, already) at the Fine Arts, and both Heartbreaker and Catfish at The Carolina. Waiting for Superman is staying at the Fine Arts for another week (I expect it to get bumped for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Next next Friday). You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is sticking around The Carolina one more week, but with Hornet’s Nest, Tamara Drewe, The Next Three Days and Harry Potter slated to open next Friday, I suspect this is the final week. Worth noting is the fact that Asheville Pizza and Brewing has picked up The Kids Are All Right for their 7 p.m. slot this coming week. Also, very worth noting is the fact that Nowhere Boy—which opened to no fanfare at all last week—has managed a second week at the Beaucatcher. Read my review in this week’s Xpress.
Though Conviction is opening there on Friday, The Carolina has a special screening of the film at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13. That showing will be introduced by Christine Mumma, executive director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence. The center investigates innocence claims and works to free the wrongly imprisoned, in coordination with the N.C. Law School Innocence Projects. At 9:30 p.m., there will be a separately ticketed reception ($10, with all proceeds going to the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence) with wine and snacks for Mumma in the Cinema Lounge. Most recently, Mumma served as co-counsel representing Gregory Taylor in his historic exoneration by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission. Taylor served 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Every third Thursday of the month (meaning Nov. 18 this month), bring your favorite side, entrée or dessert and break bread with the local community. The World Cinema folks provide dinnerware, beverages and seating. Following dinner, enjoy a collection of award-winning films, including animation, documentaries and dramas from Courtyard Gallery’s Twin Rivers Media Festival collection. The event takes place in the upstairs library of the Phil Mechanic Studios building in the River Arts District. This month’s films are: Transrexia, Lychee Thieves, Dinner Table and the feature film Fix (www.mountainx.com/movies/review/fix). Potluck dinner at 6:30 pm; films start at 7 p.m.
The regular slate of special screenings begins with the Thursday Horror Picture Show screening of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11, in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina on Hendersonville Road. World Cinema has the Danish film The Celebration (1998) at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic building. Young Sherlock Holmes is this week’s offering from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing E. Elias Merhige’s Shadow of the Vampire (2001) in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
For me, the big title this week is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film that badly underperformed—and undeservedly so—in theaters that might well find a more congenial atmosphere on DVD. At least I hope it will. Also out are Charlie St. Cloud (once was enough), Ramona and Beezus (not seeing it at all was sufficient for me) and Grown Ups (see previous parenthetical.)
Notable TV screenings
It’s a kind of lackluster week on TCM. Good stuff on occasion, but little out of the ordinary. Murder on a Honeymoon (1935)—which is also on today (Tuesday, Nov. 9) at 5 p.m.—shows up at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14. And for those who missed it when the AFS ran it, F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) is on at 9 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15. All in all, though, we’re looking at the usual suspects this round.