From a pop-culture standpoint, this is the week when, like a plague of locusts, The Twilight Saga: New Moon arrives on way too many screens. What is there to say? The two most vapid “stars” of our age—Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson—are back. (I’m convinced I would really have liked Adventureland, if having seen Stewart in Twilight hadn’t so made me wish to see her meet the business end of a steamroller.) Expect lots of beefy werewolf boys—sans shirts—and the requisite amount of “soulful” close-ups of the leads. With any luck, the film will be as unintentionally funny as the first trailer (“Paper cut! Get her!”). Goopy vampires who sparkle in the sunshine. Ye gods. The faithful may wish to avail themselves of the special 9 p.m. screenings of the original Twilight at most of the theaters opening New Moon at midnight on Thursday.
Fortunately for those of us not afflicted with the Twilight ailment, there are several worthwhile alternatives out there—including one that opened last week, Pirate Radio, which you can read me enthuse over in this week’s paper. Do not miss this film if you like 1960s rock music.
Lone Scherfig’s (Italian for Beginners) An Education, which was the opening-night film at the Asheville Film Festival, opens on Friday at the Fine Arts. (Review is in this week’s Xpress.) Yes, it’s a coming-of-age movie, but it’s both an intelligent one and something a little bit different from the usual—thanks in no small measure to novelist Nick Hornby’s (About a Boy) screenplay and the lead performance by relative newcomer Carey Mulligan. See it and you can decide for yourself if Mulligan really might be the new Audrey Hepburn.
The big thing for cinephiles this week, however, is the arrival—also at the Fine Arts—of the new Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man. This has been out for a few weeks now in limited release, because the studio can’t quite seem to figure out what to do with it. Unlike the Coens’ more recent work, it has no stars to help promote it to mainstream audiences. Chances are, you’ve never heard of most of the people in it, and its only selling point is that the Coens made it. For some of us, however, that’s quite enough. And if that isn’t enough, perhaps this might be: It’s supposed to be a pitch-black comedy variation on the Biblical trials of Job set in 1967 Minneapolis. In any case, I’ll be watching it come Friday.
The week also brings us The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, which looks to combine the uplifting sports movie with a good deal of pure soap. I admit that the trailer is not ineffective—something I almost resent, since the film looks shamelessly manipulative and Bullock’s performance just screams “Oscar bait.” The thing is, I have to find out. You have a choice in the matter. The only bullet I hope to dodge this week is the animated film Planet 51, which I’m hoping Justin Souther will tackle. It merely looks noisy and irritating to me. (Now watch me end up sitting through it with him out of sympathy.)
Of course, all this new material means that some things are taking their leave. The most notable of these are Coco Before Chanel (through Thursday at the Fine Arts) and Paris (through Thursday at the Carolina). Catch ‘em while you can.
I was agreeably surprised by Star Trek when I saw it in the theater this summer, but it’s not a film I’ve any desire to actually own. A lot of other people will doubtless feel differently. That’s pretty much my take on Bruno, too, but in either case, that’s more than I can say for the gooey My Sister’s Keeper, which I’d actively avoid further contact with. Humpday, on the other hand, I might actually pay to never encounter again. That, however, leaves us with Park Chan-wook’s Thirst—a fascinating vampire picture that virtually no one went to see when it played here theatrically. Hopefully, it will find a better reception on DVD.
This week also sees a super-duper ultimate (for now) release of Gone With the Wind. As a high-point in the realm of corporate filmmaking, it’s a movie that’s hard to beat—however you feel about its politics. On any other level, it’s an admittedly entertaining, often gorgeous soap opera that spends four hours on a couple of folks with bad timing. Either despite that, or because of it, it still may be the most popular movie ever made.
Notable TV screenings
The Two Little Bears Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1 p.m., FMC
I have no idea what this is, but the write-up says, “A father (Eddie Albert) is confused to learn that his two young sons turn into bears at night in this comedy fable.” Confused to learn? That would seem to be an understatement of some note. One might hope that this means they turn into hairy gay men and cruise the bars, but I suspect one would be disappointed. If nothing else, it makes a break from FMC’s orangutan fixation.
Here Comes the Groom Wednesday, Nov. 18, 10 p.m. TCM
This late in the day Frank Capra’s film (1951) usually gets short shrift—not in least because Capra himself denigrated both it and his other Paramount opus, Riding High (1950), in his autobiography. There’s no denying that it isn’t one of the director’s more personal works—thanks in part to the studio’s interference—but, depending on how you feel about unfettered Capra, that may not be a wholly bad thing. Regardless, it’s a pleasant, albeit somewhat overlong, movie with a nice teaming of Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman. Better still, they get to introduce the Oscar-winning song “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,” and they—and the way Capra presents it—do so with winning charm. If you watch no other part of the movie, that’s worth it (it occurs at about the 50-minute mark). But there’s more than that—and any movie that can make me actually like Alexis Smith is doing something right.
Madame Du Barry Monday, Nov. 23, 7:15 a.m. TCM
Almost no one has ever even heard of this 1934 delight from the always underrated William Dieterle and that’s a pity. The title almost certainly makes you think you’re in for some heavy historical spectacle, but dismiss such thoughts from your mind. This is history-as-bedroom farce, with the delightful Dolores Del Rio playing Du Barry with much charm and humor. Is it historically accurate? No, probably not, but that may be what makes it so much fun. An exceptional supporting cast is a terrific plus, especially Reginal Owen as Louis V and Ferdinand Gottschalk as his much put-upon right-hand man.