Here we are with the “special limited two week engagement” of the 3D-ified Lion King entering its third big week and five new films entering the fray. We have three mainstream titles—50/50, Dream House, What’s Your Number?—and one art title—Senna—and one specialized title—Courageous. The mainstream titles appear to open everywhere except the Beaucatcher. Senna opens at The Carolina. And Courageous will be at the Carmike and Regal Biltmore Grande. On top of all this, there’s Qfest—Asheville’s first annual LGBTQ film festival—running from Thursday night through Sunday at the Fine Arts. In short, there is no shortage of cinematic options this week. And it’s going to get more crowded next week when two new art titles—Restless and The Whistleblower—open.
Of the opening titles, the only one I’ve seen is the documentary Senna—about the Brazilian Formula One race-car champion Ayrton Senna. This is a film that has been doing surprisingly well all over the country—and in fact it opened in the number one position in the U.K., despite being a limited release. You can read my take on it in this week’s Xpress.
Now, about these other movies that are headed our way…
First up is Jonathan Levine’s 50/50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who stepped in at the last minute when James McAvoy dropped out) and Seth Rogen. Levine has two previous features—All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) and The Wackness (2008)—neither of which made it into the provinces and neither of which I’ve seen, so as far as I’m concerned, he’s an unknown quantity. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt is always a welcome presence, I can’t quite say the same about Seth Rogen, who is hit or miss at best. And the plot—involving Gordon-Levitt being diagnosed with cancer (and given the 50/50 survival chance of the title) and best friend Rogen trying to help him cope—sounds not only potentially gooey, but a little too in the Funny People mode for comfort. However, the early reviews—quite a few of which are from credible sources—indicate that this is much more than it might seem. In fact, it sounds like it could be something rather special. Friday will tell.
Then there’s Alex Kendrick’s Courageous. If the name is unfamiliar to you, then you’re probably not the target audience for this. Kendrick—and the Sherwood Baptist Chrurch—brought us Facing the Giants (2006) and Fireproof (2008). These are what is known as faith-based films. They aren’t films made for movie fans. They’re made for people interested in the religious views being espoused—a great many of whom otherwise don’t even go to the movies. They have a presold audience. I’ll also note that the two films I’ve seen were pretty poorly made and done in a tone that makes Tyler Perry’s preachiness look positively restrained. This round it’s all about some tragedy (the press notes are very vague as to its nature) that will test the faith of a group of law enforcement officers. Look, you already know whether or not this is for you. Nothing said here is going to alter that.
Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan has some pretty impressive credentials—ranging from My Left Foot (1989) through In America (2002)—though his last two films—Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005) and Brothers (2009)—have dimmed his luster a bit, though Brothers was a move back toward something more solid. Now he’s back with a seemingly much-troubled horror thriller called Dream House. Rumor has it that Universal was unhappy with the film and took it away from him. Somewhere along the way stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts threatened not to do publicity for the resulting film. Then there’s the business of whether or not the trailer gives away an important plot point. (If nothing else, this has given rise to much internet nerd fighting.) And to top it all off, the film has been carefully kept away from critics.
The signs for Dream House are quite simply not the most promising you’re likely to encounter. And the ones listed don’t even take into account the usual red flag of PG-13 rated horror—though in all honesty that rating didn’t in the least hurt The Ring (2002) or this year’s Insidious, so I don’t consider that the immediate kiss of death. I’m personally perplexed by the poster with the little girls that looks like a gag from Garden State (2004). Whatever the case, I’m too intrigued by the director and the cast to write off Dream House sight unseen. I’ll be there—for better or worse—this Friday.
That brings us to what has all the earmarks of being the lox of the week—TV director Mark Mylod’s What’s Your Number? starring Anna Faris and Chris Evans. OK, Anna Faris is talented, but she’s yet to get a movie that’s worthy of those talents. And this—despite the presence of Chris Evans—looks to be no different. (Why does every still from this insist on showing Faris with her mouth either open in surprise, or suggesting she’s gone to the Corey Haim School of Acting?) Faris plays a woman who learns that after a certain number of boyfriends, it’s unlikely a woman is going to find the right one—and, in fact, that the “right one” is probably one of those back numbers. So, of course, she wades back through her relationships to figure out which one it was. And, it’s been raunched-up for an R rating in keeping with the apparent mood of the moment. It has also not been screened for critics, which is hardly a surprise.
Now, while all this is going on, it would be well for viewers to remember Asheville Qfest, which is happening this weekend—starting on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. with the opening night film Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together—at the Fine Arts. (The Guard will still be playing upstairs, but Sarah’s Key won’t be showing Fri-Sun.) It’s a very interesting selection of films—of which I’ve seen five titles: Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together, 3, Wish Me Away, Over the Edge, and the closing night film Romeos. You can find more on those titles in the article I wrote in this week’s paper. The full schedule is here: http://gastonpictures.com/qfest.html#schedule
Nothing of note is leaving this week. The Guard stays at the Fine Arts, though Sarah’s Key gets bumped over the weekend. Sarah’s Key keeps its full schedule at The Carolina, but Point Blank and Midnight in Paris are playing a split schedule there, so check the listings for time changes on those.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is The Night Strangler (1973)—the sequel to The Night Stalker (1972)—showing at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. It’s preceded by (at 7:40) chapter one of Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938). World Cinema is running Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1957) is this week’s Hendersonville Film Society offering at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985)—the director’s cut—is the film this week from the Asheville Film Society at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 4, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper.
Unless I’m missing it, I don’t find anything in the realm of mainstream—or even major art house—new titles coming out this week other than Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which doesn’t appear till Friday. The less said about it, the better,
Notable TV Screenings
Pickings are kind of slim for rarities, but the notorious pre-code Baby Face (1933) is on at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and it’s followed by something called Two Heads on a Pillow (1934) at 11:30 p.m. I am intrigued only because I’ve never heard of it—the cast (Neil Hamilton, Miriam Jordan) and director (William Nigh) may be why—and there aren’t many 1930s films I’ve just plain never heard of, so I’m mildly intrigued. It’s also worth noting that John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967)—which has nothing whatever to do with the current French film—is on at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30.
At 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, TCM has the delightful mystery-comedy Penguin Pool Murder (1932) starring Edna May Oliver and James Gleason. Sunday starting at 8 p.m. with The General (1927) there’s a whole night of Buster Keaton, including quite a few of his lesser seen short films.
Monday night—starting with something called TCM Night at the Movies: Horror, which is presumably a documentary, though it’s mystifyingly listed as a musical—TCM starts its October orgy of horror titles. There’s nothing surprising here, but I’m not complaining about Frankenstein (1931), Freaks (1932), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Nosferatu, and The Phantom of the Opera (1925).