Four movies open this week: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Waiting for “Superman,” Hereafter and Paranormal Activity 2. Of these, I’ve only seen Waiting for “Superman”, which is an exceptional documentary opening on Friday at the Fine Arts, and about which you can read more in this week’s Xpress. The other three are all of interest of one kind or another, so we’ll take a look at those possibilities.
OK, I admit I’m a major Woody Allen fan, so top of the list for me is You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger with Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas and Josh Brolin, which opens at The Carolina. (And for which they’re also running a selection of free Woody Allen movies in the Cinema Lounge all weekend. See “Special screenings,” below, for details.) Yes, it’s gotten mixed reviews—but what Woody Allen film for the last 20 years hasn’t? With Allen—though there are exceptions—I think it’s more a case of whether or not you’re in tune with his particular sensibilities. Certainly, a number of the major critics—David Denby, Joe Morgenstern, Betsy Sharkey—seem to be in that realm, but an equal number are not. Personally, my money is on Allen and what someone said to me outside The Carolina the other evening, “Even if it’s lesser Woody Allen, it’s still probably better than most filmmakers’ best work.”
It’s interesting to see the spin Rotten Tomatoes puts on films sometimes. They assess the 49-percent approval rating of the Allen picture with, “It’s sporadically amusing, and typically well-cast, but You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger isn’t one of Woody Allen’s more inspired late-period efforts.” But then they turn around and make the following claim for the 56-percent approval rating on Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, “Its supernatural story line may seem like an odd fit for Eastwood, but Hereafter‘s meditative pace and poignant script highlight his strengths as a director—and help make this one of the most unique films of the year.” That may well be true, but it certainly indicates a degree of bias—especially in the case of a movie that’s caused Eastwood to be likened to M. Night Shyamalan, which a few critics have said about this supernatural yarn starring Matt Damon as a reluctant psychic. All the same, I’m personally intrigued by the prospect of Eastwood working this far out of his normal realm.
And then there’s Paranormal Activity 2. OK, I never really got the amazing level of interest in Paranormal Activity. I thought it was certainly creepy enough, but I never found it terrifying, which some apparently did. What Paramount is hoping for here—aside from giving the Saw franchise another black eye—is to build interest by telling us almost nothing about the new film. Will it work? Hard to say. There’s a certain degree of Internet interest over “secret images” embedded in the online trailer. But if Snakes on a Plane taught us anything, it’s that interest on the Internet doesn’t automatically generate sales. That said, it’ll probably do OK on opening weekend, because it’s not opening against anything aimed at the same market. Whether it can withstand the new Saw entry—with its promise of being the final film and shot (not retrofitted) in 3-D—is an entirely separate issue.
In the land of still playing, Get Low remains at The Carolina, as does It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Never Let Me Go. The latter are also hanging on at the Fine Arts, but in split shows. Farewell will be leaving the Fine Arts come Friday. More art/indie and borderline titles are in the offing—and will probably only pick up as we enter awards season.
Something new has been added this week with World Cinema’s planned monthly “Potluck Cinema” screenings, which are detailed in a press release: “Every third Thursday of the month, bring your favorite side, entrée or dessert and break bread with the local community. We’ll provide dinnerware, beverages and seating. Then sit down for a collection of award-winning films, including animation, documentaries and dramas, from the Twin Rivers Media Festival collection of Courtyard Gallery. The event takes place in the upstairs library of the Phil Mechanic Studios in the River Arts District.” This starts Thursday, Oct. 21, with the dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the films starting at 7 p.m.
This particular Potluck collection is made up of films suitable for the Halloween season: DemiUrge Emesis, O Acidente, Moondance, Prayers for Peace, Red Revenge, Fruitless Efforts and Summer Trip. More information is available at www.ashevillecourtyard.com.
In the regular list of special screenings, we have Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond (1986) on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. from the Thursday Horror Picture Show in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Till Human Voices Wake Us (2003) on Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. Under Milk Wood (1972) is being shown by the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society screening on Tuesday, Oct. 26, is the Bob Hope version of The Cat and the Canary (1939) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.
Also this week, The Carolina is offering free showings of a number of Woody Allen films in the Cinema Lounge. The schedule is:
Friday, Oct. 22:
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) at 1 p.m.
Love and Death (1975) at 4 p.m.
Annie Hall (1977) at 7 p.m.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) at 10 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23:
Manhattan (1979) at 7 p.m.
Whatever Works (2009) at 10 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 24:
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) at 1 p.m.
Bananas (1971) at 4 p.m.
Stardust Memories (1980) at 7 p.m.
Please Give and Predators are the two biggest titles coming out this week, which probably says something about the titles coming out this week. Also of note is a three-disc “collector’s edition” of Apocalypse Now.
Notable TV screenings
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 11 p.m. TCM is running William Dieterle’s odd and overlooked post-WWI comedy/tragedy The Last Flight (1931). This often elegant little movie stars Richard Barthelmess, David Manners, John Mack Brown and Elliott Nugent as four damaged young veterans hanging around Paris after the war. Helen Chandler—in a peculiarly ethereal performance—plays a young woman who takes up with them. It’s something of a slighter, more graceful The Sun Also Rises. Plus, you’ll learn all sorts of euphemisms for excusing yourself for a bathroom break. It’s simply a really good movie that deserves to be better known.
Continuing their Hammer Films Friday-night horror movies, TCM starts at 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 with X the Unknown (1956) and follows it with Five Million Years to Earth (1968), These Are the Damned (1963) and The Stranglers of Bombay (1960). None of these are quite traditional horror. In fact, the first two are science fiction, while the third is Joseph Losey’s very strange science fiction political allegory—and with a young Oliver Reed as a kind of hooligan/teddy boy. The last is a film that “monster magazines” used to claim “horrified even its director,” Terence Fisher. I’m not at all sure how Fisher—if he even said it—meant that. The intrepid might stick around in the very small hours for The Boogens (1982) and the notorious Night of the Lepus (1972)—the only film I know of that had the presence of mind to present giant rabbits as monsters.
On Saturday, Oct. 23, TCM has a run of Alec Guinness movies that departs from the usual suspects come 11:45 p.m. with Last Holiday (1950), a very fine film that isn’t shown nearly enough, followed by the even finer The Horse’s Mouth (1958), which may just contain the finest of all Alec Guinness performances—and he wrote the screenplay as well.