As yesterday unfolded, my notions of what was opening on Friday kept being altered. At the time I sent in the list of upcomers, it consisted of Cairo Time, Let Me In, The Social Network and Animal Kingdom. According to every booking sheet I was familiar with at that point, that was it. Next thing I know I’m getting listings with Case 29 added, followed by information about something called Chain Letter—all long after the deadline for the print edition, of course. The late additions are probably negligible, unless you review movies, in which case they’re probably irritants.
The out-of-the-mainstream—in the art-house sense—offerings are limited to Cairo Time, which opens Friday at The Carolina with my review in this week’s Xpress, and Animal Kingdom, which opens Friday at the Fine Arts and which I haven’t seen. I’ll leave Cairo Time for the full review and look instead at Animal Kingdom. Here we have a highly regarded Australian crime thriller without much in the way of recognizable stars, other than Guy Pearce. But it does have 95 positive reviews out of 99 on Rotten Tomatoes—and it’s cited as a truly intense and pretty brutal crime picture. The problem is that movies like this don’t draw locally. We see it time and time again. Remember the last highly praised Aussie crime flick, The Square? It tanked here—and while I don’t know why, I expect the same will happen with this.
The likelihood of unspectacular returns on the art-title front this week is increased by the arrival of two highly anticipated titles—The Social Network and Let Me In—in the mainstream world. The fact that neither of these movies has gotten a negative review so far will also factor in. Of the two, The Social Network is by far the bigger deal. Directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, its pedigree is impressive. The fact that it’s about the founder—or one of them anyway—of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), makes it the timeliest title going. The “best film of the year” superlatives keep on coming—and not just from quote whores. Now, I’m not an admirer of David Fincher, but I admit the film intrigues me—not in the least because writer Aaron Sorkin isn’t an admirer or supporter of online as a social experience. That could make this interesting.
Let Me In, of course, is the Americanized remake of the brilliant Swedish horror film Let the Right One In (2008), and while the idea of making it over for people who won’t read subtitles sounds like a dumbing-down, the film apparently isn’t a dumbing-down in the least. It may not even be a redundancy, though I remain skeptical. The idea of an unvarnished remake—that is one that doesn’t try to make the film less disturbing—has a kind of appeal in that it now has a chance to disturb a much broader (and probably more easily disturbed) group of people. That’s even kind of amusing. The fact that the film was directed by Matt Reeves—of Cloverfield (2008) fame—sounded more alarming than it apparently is, since word has it that the Cloverfield style is nowhere to be seen.
And then there’s Case 39—another horror thriller of some sort—starring Renée Zellweger as a social worker who discovers (too late, one assumes) that a case of child abuse she is working on isn’t quite what it seemed. Ian McShane and Bradley Cooper are also on board, but note carefully, this thing played most of the world some time ago and to generally blisteringly bad reviews. It looks more silly than scary, but then this sort of claim—“This is a nasty and morally repulsive film,” from Ruth Hessey of “Movietime” on ABC Radio—certainly piques my interest just a little. Well, enough that I’m not actively dreading the experience—even though releasing it opposite Let Me In sounds like suicide on the part of the studio.
Now, Chain Letter just looks like crap. Believe it or not, the plot appears to be about someone who kills people if they don’t forward his chain letter. Most of the cast members are D-list names from way down the billing order of more well-known movies. Of course, Brad Dourif is in it, but—meaning no disrespect to Brad—when was the last time he said “no” to a script? It appears to have only been picked up locally by the Carmike, which, of course, means by their booking office. That should be a red flag right there, because these are the same people who booked such horror esoterica as Lynch Mob (2009), Malevolence (2004), C Me Dance (2009) and The 13th Alley (2008)—a more motley selection you will not find. Use your own judgment.
Still with us this week is The Extra Man at The Carolina, which is also holding onto Get Low and The Kids Are All Right in the art category. The offbeat Aussie musical Bran Nue Dae, on the other hand, flopped and will be gone after Thursday. Mao’s Last Dancer and The Girl Who Played With Fire are hanging on at the Fine Arts, but Life During Wartime found little life locally and departs after Thursday. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may have fared poorly elsewhere, but it keeps packing ‘em in at the 10 p.m. show at Asheville Pizza and Brewing—and so is still occupying that spot for another week.
Special screenings this week are an interesting array. The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Horror of Dracula—the 1958 film that established Christopher Lee as Dracula—at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 30, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) is this Friday, Oct. 1, at 8 p.m. from World Cinema at Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Trouble in Paradise (1932) on Sunday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. For more on all these titles, check out this week’s Xpress—full reviews in the online edition only at www.mountainx.com/movies.
And I want to go ahead and announce that on Friday, Oct. 29, the Asheville Film Society will be showing the complete Metropolis (1927) in one of the theaters at The Carolina. If you don’t know about this, Fritz Lang’s silent film was severely cut for its American release. Only a year or so ago, the missing footage was found in Argentina. It has since been restored and the film put back together as close as possible to the version Berlin audiences saw in 1927. This is truly an historic event. Tickets will go on sale soon. Keep watching for updates.
Well, the big title this week is Iron Man 2, but don’t overlook The Killer Inside Me (though you certainly did when it played theatrically) and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, which also come out. So, for that matter, does Get Him to the Greek, which I’ve not seen. It’s otherwise a fairly lackluster week unless you’re after Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951), one of the comic’s mid-range works—not great, but certainly watchable.
Notable TV screenings
It’s one of those weeks where you’re on your own, which is to say nothing leaped out at me.