Since it’s Thanksgiving, everything opens on Wednesday this week. The idea is not merely to cash in on the fact that school will be out, but also it serves the public function of providing something that families can do together without the need for actual interaction. In this regard, Hollywood probably prevents thousands of murders a year. That’s admirable. I cannot, however, pretend any great personal excitement over the bill of fare this year.
For a change, there are no art/indie titles this week—only a quartet of mainstream offerings designed to tempt every possible moviegoing taste. We have animation from Disney. We have a musical. We have an action picture. And we have a sort of romantic comedy. If we are wise, we also have Alka-Seltzer—and will remember that Tamara Drewe, Fair Game and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 are also still out there.
At the top of the list—mindful of the family market and its attendant kiddie quotient—there’s Tangled, a computer-animated rethinking of the Rapunzel story. The early reviews are filled with words like “awesome” and phrases like “one of the best films of the year.” The handful of nay-sayers are folks I rarely agree with, so maybe there’s something to it. We’ll see. Nothing about the trailer does it for me, though. It looks like it’s Disney doing the Shrek postmodern snarky thing. Considering that I have a hunch I’m reviewing it (Mr. Souther and I have not yet finished carving up who gets what with the week’s assortment), I would dearly love to discover that it truly is worthy of all the early praise.
Assuming Tangled is too tame for you, we also have Christina Aguilera in her dramatic debut—with a little assistance from Cher—in Burlesque. I can’t help it—I have visions of a Glitter (2001) for the 2010s here. And it doesn’t help in the least that I find the appeal of this whole neo-burlesque thing perplexing. The fact that this is a stock rags-to-sequins yarn about the proverbial green kid from the sticks who comes to the Big City to make good does suggest that there could be some kitsch value to it all. But again, I’m not feeling it—at least not from the trailer. In fact, I’m thoroughly sick of the trailer and its uncanny ability to cram every backstage musical cliché imaginable into two-and-a-half minutes.
Now I like Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, and I’ll concede that the trailer for Love and Other Drugs doesn’t look bad. I’m actually more interested in the film since it’s provoked such wildly divergent—and mostly negative—early reviews. I’m fully prepared for the fact that it mixes the romcom with soap and satire, and I’m not especially bothered by that. What worries me is the fact that it was directed by Edward Zwick—a man who can usually be counted on to bleed the fun out of anything through some weird compulsion to make an Important Statement. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him fail to accomplish this. The upshot is that I’m approaching this with extreme caution.
On the other hand, there’s always Faster—an R-rated actioner that pits Dwayne Johnson (we’ve totally dispensed with “The Rock,” I guess) as a venegeful ex-con, called simply “Driver” in the IMDb credits, against Billy Bob Thornton as a veteran cop, listed simply as “Cop.” In other words, you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get here. And as far as people who opine about such things on message boards are concerned, the return of Mr. Johnson to the realm of R-rated action fills a long-felt want. Judging by the character names—or lack thereof—this must be some sort of existential thriller involving archetypes rather than characters. Well, it’s either that or no one thought such frippery was necessary and that may be true. Personally, I’m fascinated by Johnson’s ability to keep his head neatly shaved but apparent inability to accomplish the same with his face.
While all this is going on, I should state that Four Lions ends today at The Carolina, but, as noted, Tamara Drewe remains. Both Fair Grame and Inside Job are sticking around the Fine Arts for one more week. Though this is almost certainly the last week for Inside Job, since both the Fine Arts and The Carolina are slated to open one of the biggest art titles of the year next week. (Yes, I know what it is. And, yes, I’ve seen it. And, no, I won’t tell you.)
In the area of special screenings we find World Cinema taking the Thanksgiving week off. The Thursday Horror Picture Show, however, serves up some seasonally appropriate fowl with Bride of the Monster (1955) and The Devil Bat (1940) on Thursday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. In the same turkey-centric vein, the Hendersonville Film Society closes out its year (they shut down for December) with The Story of Mankind (1957) on Sunday, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society offers Ernst Lubitsch’s One Hour With You (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Short reviews of all these can be found in this week’s Xpress, with full reviews available in the online edition at www.mountainx.com/movies.
I’m not whelmed by this week’s releases. I didn’t mind sitting through Eat Pray Love in the theater, but once was certainly enough. I kind of did mind sitting through the bogus documentary I’m Still Here, and I am most assuredly not doing it twice. The Expendables expended its minimal value on one viewing. And I am more than willing to accept Justin Souther’s view that Flipped was to be avoided. But cheer up: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse comes out next week.
Notable TV screenings
Absolutely nothing jumps out at me on TCM this week, so you’re left to your own devices.