Diversity abounds this week: three mainstream titles, two “art” films and a something-or-other (I’ll get to that in due course). There’s a lot to be said for diversity, though from the looks of it, some of this particular batch of diversity looks pretty darn dubious from here.
The only of the movies opening that I’ve seen is one of the art titles—the very excellent Farewell, which opens on Friday at the Fine Arts, and the review for which appears in this week’s Xpress. That means, of course, that I’m saying no more about it here, and that I’m approaching the week’s other offerings on a purely speculative basis.
All things considered, the best bet this week looks like the indie comedy/drama It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which opens Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. The film is the latest collaboration of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who brought us Half Nelson (2006), and while it appears to be a bit more of a bid for mainstream acceptance, it’s worth remembering that Half Nelson for all its grittiness contained some strong doses of humor. It’s also interesting to see Zach Galfianakis broadening his range by tackling a more serious role. (In light of this, The Carolina is running Galifianakis movies this weekend in the Cinema Lounge.) The challenge is going to be whether the film can navigate that tricky area of not utterly romanticizing mental illness—and there’s a definite risk of that in a coming-of-age, young-romance movie set in a psych ward. Still, I’m more than slightly curious—and hopeful.
The next most interesting title for me is Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take. OK, sure, it’s a pretty obvious attempt to develop another franchise à la A Nightmare on Elm Street. And, yeah, it’s been a long time since Craven came up with anything especially worthwhile—or, in many cases, even bearable. Plus, it’s in the “new” wonder gimmick of 3-D. Now, all that does weigh against the movie, but I’m interested all the same. After all, maybe Craven is due for a hit—not just a hit, but a good picture (the two are not the same thing in a lot of cases). There’s also the fact that the best—and most effective—3-D I’ve seen is still the My Bloody Valentine remake from 2009. (Sorry Avatar fans.)
Fans of uplifting sports movies may be interested in the fact-based uplifting horse movie Secretariat. I admit I’m not excited. Yes, the cast is good—though I swore some time ago that I was finished feeling sorry for Diane Lane invariably ending up in not-very-good to downright awful movies. And this may be another of those. It’s obviously being positioned as a “crowd pleaser” and Lane as the possible successor to Sandra Bullock in the Best Actress Oscar sweepstakes. And for whatever reason, Disney has taken to hawking the movie to churches for its moral values or its PG rating or who knows what. My guess is that if you liked Seabiscuit (2003), you’ll go ga-ga over this, too. But, yes, that’s only a guess.
OK, I find Katherine Heigl off-putting for some reason. I find Josh Duhamel lackluster. I don’t expect much from movies that try to elicit laughs by focusing on people so completely lacking in common sense that they can’t manage to change a diaper. As a result, my level of interest in the new romcomdram known as Life As We Know It is way, way below sea-level. This, of course, means that my co-critic Justin Souther will be seeing this. Hey, he’s going on vacation this month and I’m getting the good out of him before that happens.
And then there’s this family-oriented thing called Like Dandelion Dust. Like last week’s apparently egregious Chain Letter (which will be gone by Friday after its disastrous opening weekend), this sneaked in late in the day. And like Chain Letter, it’s another of those Carmike exclusives—and there’s usually a good reason for that exclusivity. This does have some recognizable names—Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper, Cole Hauser (I said “recognizable,” not desirable)—and it comes with some film festival awards. But it smacks of low-rent fare that couldn’t snag a real release. Choose for yourself.
About the only thing of note holding on this week is Get Low at The Carolina. A lot of titles—Animal Kingdom, The Girl Who Played With Fire, Mao’s Last Dance at the Fine Arts, The Extra Man, The Kids Are All Right—are taking their leave this week. If any of those interest you, you only have through Thursday to see them. My top recommendation would be The Extra Man, a film that truly benefits from being seen on the big screen. Worry not, much art film fare is in our near future.
Special movies this week start with Michele Soavi’s Cemetery Man (1994) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina as this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show. World Cinema has Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. The Montford Park Players’ presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is on Saturday, Oct. 9, at The Carolina (and will happen every Saturday this Halloween month). The Hendersonville Film Society is offering Lemon Tree (2008) on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has the Mervyn LeRoy-Busby Berkeley musical comedy Golddiggers of 1933 (1933) on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 8 p.m.
So far as I’m concerned the best and most interesting release this week is Splice—a flawed but fascinating sci-fi horror allegory that I hope receives a warmer welcome on DVD than it did in theaters. It most certainly deserves one. Whether or not The Karate Kid remake deserves a warm reception, I don’t know, because I haven’t seen it. I definitely know that the reboot/remake/rehash of A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn’t any good in theaters and isn’t likely to improve at home. Of course, there’s The Human Centipede—about which the least said perhaps the better.
Notable TV screenings
Things are a little more interesting this week. On Friday, Oct. 8, starting at 11:30 a.m. TCM offers a run of five films from Rouben Mamoulian: Queen Christina (1933), We Live Again (1934), The Gay Desperado (1936), Golden Boy (1939) and Silk Stockings (1957). The first and last are the best of that set of titles. Queen Christina is quite possibly the best movie Greta Garbo ever made. It’s a surprising film to come from MGM and its pretty straightforward depiction of Garbo’s character as bisexual is surprising even for a pre-code movie. Today, it’s perhaps best remembered for its amazing long close-up of Garbo’s impassive face at the end, or possibly for the “room stroking” scene that Bertolucci referenced in The Dreamers (2004). All of the films, however, are worth a look.
That same evening, TCM continues its weekly Friday dose of Hammer Horror starting at 8 p.m. This week they have Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Devil’s Bride (a U.S. title for The Devil Rides Out) (1968), The Reptile (1966) and The Gorgon (1964). It’s an interesting set—and The Gorgon is perhaps my favorite Hammer of all time.
On Sun. Oct. 10 at 12:15 a.m.—or late-night on Sat. Oct. 9 TV Guide time—TCM offers the rarely seen Roy Boulting film The Family Way (1966) with Hayley Mills, John Mills, Hywel Bennet and Marjorie Rhodes. This is a gentle, sweet, finally quite moving film that was most famous originally for former child star Hayley Mills’ brief nude (from the back) scene and for having a Paul McCartney score. The nudity turned out to be no big deal and Paul’s score was totally unremarkable. The movie, on the other hand, is quite good.