Five—count ‘em—movies hit town this Friday—and that’s assuming there’s nothing hiding in the woodwork like last week’s sudden appearance of Rob Reiner’s Flipped (and I don’t think there is). Factor in the three-day Ricochet Film Festival at The Carolina this Friday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 19, and there’s a whole lotta movies going on. Now, how good most of those are may be another matter.
The only of the films opening that I’ve seen is I’m Still Here, Casey Affleck’s documentary (if it is one) on his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix. That opens on Friday at The Carolina. My review of it, on the other hand, appears in Wednesday’s Xpress. All I’ll say here is that I left the movie with just as many questions about Phoenix’s career change from actor to rapper as I went in with. OK, I had some new suspicions, but that’s about it.
That leaves us with Alpha and Omega, Devil, Easy A and The Town. As a group, it’s certainly not lacking in diversity. Let’s tackle them alphabetically.
Alpha and Omega is a 3-D (in some theaters, on some screens) animated romcom for kids. They may not realize it’s a romcom, but since it deals with a boy wolf (voiced by Justin Long) and a girl wolf (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) who meet cute and fall in love on a cross-country trip, it’s pretty much a furry quadruped version of It Happened One Night (1934), no matter how it’s packaged. The premise has them relocated and determined to get back to where they came from. Also, she’s a stuck-up wolf and he’s a poor schnook of a wolf. Predictability must surely ensue. The trailer does nothing for me. If I were 5 years old, I might feel differently. My hope is to palm this off on Justin Souther, but at one point there was some talk of having a kid also offer a short kid’s point-of-view review—and if that happens, I’ll be tackling the adult’s point-of-view portion.
And then we have PG-13 horror with a picture called Devil, which finds a bunch of people stuck in an elevator whereupon they discover that one of them is the devil. This news alarms them. Presumably paranoia and mayhem—albeit mayhem in a confined space—follow. The big thing about Devil is that it’s based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan (and sounds like it, if you think about it) and was produced by him. The screenplay, however, is by Brian Nelson, who (along with a couple other guys) wrote 30 Days of Night (2007), which is admired in some quarters. Devil is directed by John Erick Dowdle (who made Quarantine (2008)) and his brother Drew (who co-wrote Quarantine). None of this changes the fact that every time I’ve seen the trailer for Devil the audience has laughed the minute they see Shyamalan’s name. And judging by some on-the-set photos, it looks like some back-seat Shyamalan driving took place.
Easy A is a high-school comedy of the sex variety, but with a PG-13 rating. It was made by Will Gluck, who brought you the execrable Fired Up! last year. Oddly, this tale of a girl (Emma Stone) who deliberately “ruins” her reputation by pretending to lose her virginity—and inadvertently discovers that there’s a lucrative market for pretending to have slept with guys who are desperate not to be thought of as virgins—has been getting good reviews. Well, Stone’s an appealing actress and there’s an interesting supporting cast: Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Malcolm McDowell, Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kudrow. Of course, there’s also Cam Gigandet, but you can’t have everything.
Ben Affleck’s The Town may be the best bet this week. Affleck got a career boost with his last Boston-set crime drama Gone, Baby, Gone (2007), but he stayed off the screen for that. So how will he fare with another Boston crime drama where he’s on-screen? Well, that remains to be seen, but the early reviews are generally good. The supporting cast—Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper, Pete Postlethwaite—is sound. The trailer looks good. And there’s no Cam Gigandet and I’ve yet to see anyone laugh at inappropriate moment.
Still with us at the Fine Arts are both The Girl Who Played With Fire and Mao’s Last Dancer, but look for one or the other to be gone after this week. Restrepo, Get Low, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone are hanging in at The Carolina, though Winter’s Bone is being cut back to two shows a day—and you know that means this is probably its last week. Also take note that some films are not playing this weekend at The Carolina because of the Ricochet Film Festival. Other things may have changed, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is in the 10 p.m. slot at Asheville Pizza and Brewing for another week.
Special screenings this week start on Thursday, Sept. 16, with a double-feature of Man Made Monster (1941) and Night Monster (1942) courtesy of the Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. This Friday, Sept. 17, World Cinema is offering Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata (1978) at 8 p.m. at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Gabriel Over the Whitehouse (1933) on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Asheville Film Society will screen Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Also on Tuesday, Sept. 21, there’s a special screening of Flight of the Cardinal at 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts. Short reviews of all five are in this week’s physical Xpress, with full-length reviews in the online edition at www.mountainx.com/movies.
And, of course, there’s the Ricochet Film Festival—running from Friday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 19, at The Carolina. The schedule of films will be available in this week’s Xpress, as well as two articles on the event.
The very enjoyable Queen Latifah romantic comedy Just Wright didn’t fare too well at the box office. Here’s hoping it finds a more congenial home on DVD. Also up are Prince of Persia and Letters to Juliet. You already know if either of these are for you. In the realm of cult/classic, we find another week that mostly matters if you’re in the market to upgrade to Blu-ray.
Notable TV screens
The doldrums more or less continue on TCM—at least so far as I’m concerned (someone—naming no names—will doubless point out that Killer of Sheep is on). The brightest spot for me is an evening of Maurice Chevalier movies—or part of that evening. (I could—and plan on it—go the rest of my life without seeing Gigi (1958) again.) However, come 10:15 p.m. on Saturday, Sept.18, we have Billy Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon (1957), followed by René Clair’s Man About Town (1947) at 12:15 a.m. Neither may be prime Chevalier, but both have their charms. Man About Town is particularly interesting, because it’s the English-language version of Clair’s love letter to the early filmmakers, Le Silence Est D’or (literally: “Silence is Golden”). Well, people were resistant to subtitled films back in 1947, too, so they tried an experiment: Instead of subtitles, Chevalier would narrate the film in English and tell the viewer what was going on. It’s an interesting experiment, but how well did it work? Well, I don’t know another movie that tried the approach.