This week may have only three mainstream openers—Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, You Again and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole—but it outdoes itself when you factor in three new art-house titles—The Extra Man (Carolina), Life During Wartime (Fine Arts) and Bran Nue Dae (Carolina). I have the advantage of having already seen the art titles, but even if I hadn’t, I still believe I’d find them more enticing. That’s just a guess, however, since I haven’t seen the new mainstream fare yet.
Of course, the fact that I’ve seen the art titles opening this week means that the reviews for them will be in this week’s Xpress. And that means that I’ll say little about them here. I will taunt you, however, with the knowledge that I loved one of them, was fascinated by another and slightly perplexed by the remaining title. Consider yourselves taunted—at least till the online reviews pop up at www.mountainx.com/movies ‘long about midnight. So let’s look at the mainstreamers in a crystal-ball sense.
The most anticipated of these is probably Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to his 1987 Wall Street that gave us the phrase: “Greed is good.” It appears that Stone is trying to expiate the sin of having created a villain—Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas)—who accidentally became a warped role model to some people. (I guess the lesson of Norman Lear and Archie Bunker was lost on him.) That might be noble in some Oliver Stone-ian way, but it remains to be seen how interested the general public is in such a thing. And then there’s the Shia LaBeouf factor. While his presence is pretty much guaranteed to make everybody else look better, it’s unlikely to be in the film’s favor, but I guess we’ll see.
The Harry Potter franchise is winding down and Warner Bros. is desperately seeking a new one. Enter Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, a Zack Snyder-directed 3-D-ified animated film with a title no one can remember (it’s usually referred to as “you know, that owl movie” in my experience). It’s also based on some children’s books—in fact, this movie mashes three of them into its story. But are these books that are being read by adults, as well? Beats me, but I suspect that’s the missing ingredient, and the reason that this latest attempt will likely fare little better than all the previous attempts. Now, I like owls just fine—I even have some andirons in the shape of owls (the flames from a fire make their eyes glow and that’s pretty cool)—but I’m not sure I want a movie about talking owls. I am sure that the fact that the movie hasn’t been reviewed this close to its release is suspicious. If this attempt at a franchise fails, perhaps Warner Bros. will consider having Rob Zombie reboot the Potter franchise next year.
You Again—also unseen by critics, it appears—is a strange proposition. It has a director whose last three films—She’s the Man (2006), The Game Plan (2007) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009)—read more like a rap sheet than a résumé. The cast is OK—Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Chenoweth, Betty White—but I’m not sold on the promo claims about how hard they worked to assemble this cast. I mean, how difficult must it have been to lure Jamie Lee Curtis to take a break from those yogurt commercials about the wonders of colon health? And then there’s the PG rating. Yes, it’s perfectly possible to make a very funny film with a PG—or even a G—rating, but is this one of those cases?
Still around come Friday are The Girl Who Played With Fire and Mao’s Last Dancer—both at the Fine Arts on a split bill upstairs, which means this could well be their last week. Get Low is still bringing ‘em in at The Carolina (and deservedly so). The highly touted I’m Still Here won’t be here come Friday, which isn’t really much of a surprise after director Casey Affleck admitted the whole Joaquin Phoenix-turned-rapper madness was a hoax last week. Also departing are Winter’s Bone and Restrepo. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is hanging on for its third big week at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.
While The Extra Man doesn’t actually open till Friday, there’s a special free members-only Asheville Film Society screening of it on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m. Of course, you can become a member for 10 bucks, which is only 25 cents more than a ticket will cost you on Friday (and you make the 25 cents back—plus a 75-cent profit—next time you buy a ticket at The Carolina with your membership).
Special screenings this week are Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985) at the Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m., Thursday, Sept 23, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Koyaanisqatsi (1982) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening John Huston’s The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. This week’s Asheville Film Society feature is Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. As always, you’ll find more information in the online edition of the Xpress later this evening (Sept. 21) and in Wednesday’s print edition.
Neil Jordan’s very fine Ondine comes to DVD this week. If you missed it in theaters, it’s definitely worth a look. Equally worthwhile is Juan José Campanella’s Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes. Somewhat—well, a whole lot—less enticing is Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood in an “unrated director’s cut.” Wasn’t it long enough as it stood? Collectors of more esoteric material should take note of Kino’s release of Louis Feuillade’s crime serial Fantomas (1913-1914).
Notable TV screenings
A better-than-average week starts tomorrow on TCM, with an Erich von Stroheim day of movies beginning with The Merry Widow (1925) at 6 a.m. and followed by a “restoration” (using stills to fill in the missing parts) of his Greed (1924) at 8:30 a.m. The rest of the day is given over to movies he only appeared in, inclusing Sunset Blvd. (1950) at 6 p.m. You get one more Stroheim appearance at 8 p.m. when he plays Rommel (rethought in Stroheim terms) in Billy Wilder’s Five Graves to Cairo (1943), since it was one of guest programmer Bill Hader’s picks. The others are not Stroheim, but they are interesting: Rashomon (1950) at 8 p.m., Brewster McCloud (1970) at 11:45 p.m. and This Is Spinal Tap (1984) at 1:45 a.m.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Incubus (1965)—the world’s only Esperanto-language horror (or probably any kind) picture—with William Shatner pops up at 2 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25 (or late-night Friday if you’re working on TV Guide time).
Two great little murder mysteries starring Edna May Oliver as Hildegarde Withers and James Gleason as Inspector Oscar Piper—Penguin Pool Murder (1932) and Murder on the Blackboard (1934)—at 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. respectively will show on Saturday, Sept. 25. For the uninitiated, Hildegarde Withers is an acerbic “old maid” schoolteacher with a taste for crime—often to the exasperation of Inspector Piper, who actually functions as kind of a romantic interest for her in the bargain (very odd for that era to find middle-aged romance). They’re frankly kind of on the irresistible side.