Oh, it’s a busy week, but before getting to that, let’s have a moment of silence for the passing of an old friend. Yes, it’s finally happened after 20 weeks—Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is leaving us. You have till Friday to taken one last look. Otherwise, the week finds us with three for sure mainstream titles—In Time, Puss in Boots, The Rum Diary—and one possible mainstream title—Anonymous (it’s unclear whether its 250 venue release includes Asheville at this point). In addition, we have two art titles with Blackthorn opening at The Carolina and Love Crime opening at the Fine Arts. And then, there’s the impossible to classify The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) play late shows and midnights Friday and Saturday at The Carolina.
Yes, as per usual I’ve seen Blackthorn and Love Crime already. Reviews are in the paper, but I’m going ahead and saying that Love Crime is good, but Blackthorn is one of the best films I’ve seen all year—and a shoo-in for a spot on my Ten Best list, probably in the top half. I’ve already seen it twice and am looking forward to seeing it again at the special Asheville Film Society “members only” screening on Wednesday night (more about this later). I should note that I’ve also seen The Human Centipede II. The review is also in the paper, but let me caution you—once you’ve watched something, it cannot be unwatched. No matter how much you might wish otherwise.
Now, about these other movies …
Anonymous—which may or may not open here this week (if it does, it’ll be at the Beaucatcher or the Biltmore Grande)—is one of those “Shakespeare didn’t write those plays” conspiracy things, which are in the dime-a-dozen category and pretty ho-hum as conspiracies are concerened. But this has an interesting cast with Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford (the purported actual writer of the plays), Rafe Spall as the talentless front for those plays known as William Shakespeare, and Vanessa Redgrave as Elizabeth I. (Here’s hoping she gets more screen time than Judy Dench did in 1999’s Shakespeare in Love.) But the real kicker is that it was made on some kind of art house jag by Roland Emmerich, a man known for such big budget, effects-driven drivel as 2012 and 10,000 B.C.—not to mention the Matthew Broderick Godzilla. This has to be worth some amusement value. That said, both the trades liked it, but David Denby in The New Yorker said, “The Oxford theory is ridiculous, yet the filmmakers go all the way with it, producing endless scenes of indecipherable court intrigue in dark, smoky rooms, and a fashion show of ruffs, farthingales, and halberds. The more far-fetched the idea, it seems, the more strenuous the effort to pass it off as authentic.” However, David Edelstein called it “a well-polished cowpat that will confuse and bore those who know nothing about Shakespeare and incense those who know almost anything.” Kinda makes you regret that it might not be opening here, doesn’t it? Update: Well, Asheville wasn’t among the 250 markets to be blessed with this doubtless edifying work this week. Whether that alters next week—or the week after—probably depends on how well it does in its quasi-limited release. Watch this space!
Definitely opening is Andrew Niccol’s In Time, his first film since Lord of War in 2005, which like his previous film S1m0ne (2002) may not have been great, but neither was it bad. (I can’t weigh in on his 1997 film Gattaca, because I’ve never seen it.) This sci-fi thriller—the stills for which tend to show characters running a lot, which suggests it either is, or is being promoted as more action than anything—stars Justin Timberlake, Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried and Olivia Wilde and at least sounds interesting. The story is all about a society where no one gets old, but time is the coin of the realm and how long you get to live is determined by how much you have in time credits, which of course means that this “eternal” youth is enjoyed only by the wealthy. So far so good. There’s even a bit of scandal afoot with sci-fi scribe Harlan Ellison claiming copyright infringement and (and this is the good part) insisting the film not be released and, instead, be destroyed. I somehow don’t think this will fly, nor do I think this is why there have been no reviews yet.
I have nothing against Chris Miller’s Puss in Boots—apart from the fact that Miller made Shrek the Third, anyway. I mean, who doesn’t like Antonio Banderas as (at least in terms of voice) the title character? The character was what—or who—really put Shrek 2 over. The problem is that was seven years ago. There was talk at the time of a spin-off, but it didn’t happen till now. The question is whether there’s still a market for this—especially after the less than glorious Shrek sequels. Well, I guess we’ll see. The rest of the voice cast—Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Guillermo del Toro—are certainly interesting, but it’s debatable whether or not voice casts really sell these movies. The early reviews—at least three of which are from credible sources—are surprisingly strong.
And bringing up the rear is the film I’m personally most interested in—Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp. No disrespect to Mr. Depp—who, in fact, is the one who coerced Robinson back into the director’s chair for the first time since Jennifer 8 in 1992—but the real draw for me here is the return of Robinson to the screen. There are few films from the 1980s that I prize more than Withnail & I (1987) and How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989). That not only sounds like an overstatement, it is one, but I do admire and like them a lot. And I never thought—even truncated and mangled by the studio—that Jennifer 8 was that bad. But Robinson back writing and directing a film from Hunter S. Thompson’s book that stars Johnny Depp? Well, that’s pretty exciting. It’s impossible to tell anything from the early reviews, since no one I have complete faith in has reviewed it. Not that reviews would sway me one way or the other on this.
So what are we losing besides Midnight in Paris? Well, Sarah’s Key leaves The Carolina and Mozart’s Sister makes its (her?) departure from the Fine Arts. The Way hangs on at the Fine Arts, while Attack the Block and Higher Ground are still at The Carolina, though the latter is split, since its performance was rather underwhelming, which is a pity. I expect none of these to be around by next Friday.
Before getting to the usual things, there is the previously mentioned free members only Asheville Film Society screening of Blackthorn Wed., Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. Not a member? Well, $10 will rectify that and get you into a year of such screenings—along with other cool perks like $1 off regular admissions at The Carolina.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Trick ‘r Treat (2007) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Chapter Four of Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) precedes the film at 7:40 p.m. World Cinema is showing F.W. Murnau’s horror classic Nosferatu (1922) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, in the Railroad Library of the Phil Mechanic Building. Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) is being shown by the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts November with the first known existing Charlie Chan movie, Hamilton MacFadden’s The Black Camel (1931) at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 1, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress print and online editions (in some cases, even more in the online version).
The big news for most folks is probably Captain America: The First Avenger, which I haven’t seen, but which Justin Souther created quite a little fuss over by not liking it enough. Also up is Winnie the Pooh. And then there’s Attack the Block, which is still playing at The Carolina. While I wholeheartedly endorse the film, I really do suggest seeing it on the big screen first. It’s worth the trouble.
Notable TV Screenings
What’s this? Something a little unusual on TCM? Well, yes it is. First up at 11:15 on Thursday, Oct. 27, is Ken Russell’s The Boy Friend (1971) and it’s followed at 1:45 a.m. by Milos Forman’s Hair (1979). Saturday, Oct. 29, at 9:30 a.m. is Michael Curtiz’s wonderful Doctor X (1932). Sunday at 10:30 p.m. they have Richard Lester’s underrated A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966). Monday, of course, is given over to Halloween, but it’s mostly usual suspects stuff—and not titles I would have picked for the day.