Owing to the untimely demise (is there a timely demise?) of my computer yesterday morning, I fear this is going to be a Weekly Reeler that is somewhat limited in nature. As unfortunate of an occurrence as that may be in and of itself, it’s really far worse than you can imagine, because I can tell you that the quality of the writing of the original version—now a disintegrating bunch of bytes reposing on a dead hard drive—of this edition of Weekly Reeler was absolutely exemplary. I assure you that we’re talking real literature here—quite possibly the finest thing I’ve ever written, but you’ll have to take my word for that under the conditions that prevail. I won’t even attempt to duplicate it. The results would taste of wax fruit. So let’s muddle through as best we can.
Is there anything else opening this week besides Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox? Well, yes, there is, but who really cares? Certainly, I don’t. It’s been two years since Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited came out and that’s too long—even if this is actually a smaller gap than usual (three years seems to be the average). In any case, Mr. Anderson is back among us—and this time with something that’s both a little different (a stop-motion animated film) and yet appears very much the same to judge by the trailer. Yes, I’m a little bothered by the fact that it’s gotten better reviews than his previous movies, but this seems to be less because Anderson has in any way compromised his unique vision than more the result of his detractors feeling that the animated film is a better venue for that vision. The trailers certainly promise a film very much in the tone of what we expect from the filmmaker—and with the possible exception of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, I’m not sure there’s anything on the horizon that excites me nearly so much. I plan on being there on opening day—probably at the first show.
Otherwise, this week brings us Walt Becker’s Old Dogs with John Travolta, Robin Williams and Seth Green. It’s a pretty obvious attempt to duplicate the mystifying popularity of Becker’s Wild Hogs—as evidenced by Travolta’s presence, the rhyming title and the utterly unoriginal sitcom-infested plot that finds Williams and Travolta playing inept dads to a pair of 7-year-olds. The trailer is mind-boggling in its sheer awfulness. Seth Green being cuddled by a gorilla as one of the film’s big gags? Really? Bob Hope did this way back in 1952 in Road to Bali where it was simply a throwaway joke. I feel certain it will be a tremendous hit.
More interesting to me—but probably not destined to be a hit—is James McTeigue’s Ninja Assassin. McTeigue, after all, made V for Vendetta, which wasn’t bad. Once again the Wachowski Brothers are involved as producers. I’m ambivalent about the film starring Korean pop star Rain, but pleased to see the splendid Naomie Harris (28 Days Later …) in the cast. Early word is very mixed, but makes it clear that the film indulges its R rating in terms of blood and violence. That’s usually a plus in this kind of movie. Expect over-the-top action and a good deal of stylish camerawork—I have no quarrel with either one, especially since I’m not expecting high art here.
Also up—exclusive to the Carolina Asheville—is The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day. Early word is, well, not kind. Still, the original—which I’ve never seen—does have a cult following, so it’s likely that there may be some interest in this 10-years-on sequel, regardless of the reviews.
I’m happy to be able to report that Richard Curtis’ Pirate Radio has survived, especially since it was set for the chop at the Carmike 10 this week. That was before attendance for this film rose 47 percent this past weekend. So in its stead, The Fourth Kind met a well-deserved death. With one notable exception, I have yet to talk with anyone who did not love Pirate Radio, so now you have more time to find out for yourself—and I get to see it on the screen at least once more. It’s also hanging on at the Carolina.
Still around and very worth a look are both An Education and A Serious Man (the review of the latter is in this week’s Xpress) at the Fine Arts.
One of the more obnoxious 2009 releases, Judd Apatow’s seemingly interminable comedy/drama Funny People is out on DVD this week. The film badly underperformed at the box office. You may find it of more interest as a rental at home. I will not be joining you. Once was more than enough. Surely Four Christmases was already out on DVD before, but this holiday stinker is listed as being a new release. I cannot imagine that it’s improved with the passage of time. Also up is Eddie Murphy in family-friendly mode with Imagine That and Robert Rodriguez’s Shorts. I’ve seen neither, though I might catch Shorts simply because I’ve never found Rodriguez to be devoid of interest.
There seem to be various incarnations of Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons—including one mysteriously identified as a “special 70th anniversary edition,” which gives new meaning to the concept of time flying. (I think some copy-pasting from the big release of Gone with the Wind sneaked in here.) It’s not a good movie, but it’s engaging nonsense. I simply can’t bring myself to dislike any movie with a parachuting priest, nor can I resist poor Ewan McGregor having to yell, “Illuminatus!”—which gets my vote for most unintentionally funny moment of 2009.
Notable TV screenings
Owing to time constraints this week (see dead computer remarks at the beginning of this column), I’m having to give this short shrift. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that TCM gives us no less than seven Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies on Thanksgiving, starting with Flying Down to Rio (1933) at 4:30 in the morning. (Obviously, this is geared for the poor shnook who’s up early to start working on the holiday meal.) This is followed by Roberta (1935), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938) and Top Hat (1935). With the exception of Carefree (it’s really not very good), all of these come under the heading of pure pleasure and essential viewing.