Before getting down to the full offerings of the week, I want to take this opportunity to remind — or tell — readers that this Wednesday there is one showing of David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg's science fiction classic The Man Who Fell to Earth in its only playdate in the area. This is the newly restored 35th anniversary print of the full director's cut. It shows at 7:30, Wed., Nov. 9 at The Carolina. And then there are four new films opening this week. Three of them — Immortals, J. Edgar, Jack and Jill — are mainstream releases and open at most area venues. The fourth — Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life — is in the realm of art house and is at The Carolina. Offhand, I'd say that three of the four have the potential of being at least interesting.
The reviews for The Man Who Fell to Earth and Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life are in this week's paper, so there's not a lot of reason to go into them here — presupposing, of course, you'll actually read the reviews, which may be wishful thinking on my part. With that in mind, I will pause to note that The Man Who Fell to Earth showing is one of those things that comes under the heading of "once in a lifetime" — and I'm not really exaggerating, since the likelihood of this coming around on the big screen again is pretty darn slim. Gainsbourg, while not a one-time affair, is such an unusual and even unorthodox approach — at least for these days (35 to 40 years ago, it wouldn't have seemed so odd) — to the biographical film that I want to recommend it very highly. That's kind of a roundabout way of saying you might want to catch it while you can.
OK, on to the mainstream stuff.
Back in 2006, Tarsem Singh (under the name Tarsem) made a pretty terrific movie called The Fall, which finally got a very small release by Roadside Attractions in 2008. It did not play Asheville — and I'm not sure why because several less likely Roadside releases have (House, anyone?). I'm not sure who got the worst end of that deal — Tarsem or audiences. Well, now he's back with a big-budget, heavily CGI mythological fantasy called Immortals, which is being touted mostly on the strength of it being "from the producers of 300 — not my idea of a recommendation, though it will be in some quarters. There's an irony to all this in that one of the big claims about The Fall was its lack of CGI. (I suppose it's like the 1970s when Queen albums boasted using no synthesizers — an idea that hardly stood up in the next decade.) I'm not four-square against CGI — it's a tool like any other — but I can't say the trailers for this ancient Greece dust-up between Theseus (Henry Cavill, Whatever Works) and the unstoppable army of King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke — well, why not?) don't quite enthuse me.
Any doubts that award season is upon us are dispelled by the arrival of a new Clint Eastwood picture — especially, a historically significant one with Leonardo DiCaprio in heavy-duty Oscar-bait make-up as J. Edgar Hoover. No doubt mantles are being cleared for awards even as we speak. (Not wishing to be cynical, but Oscar does dearly love a heavy make-up. It clues the voters in that you're acting.) OK, I'm not a big fan of Eastwood's movies. They don't tend to be to my taste, but I respect his tenacity in terms of sticking with his own style and I would never question his sincerity or his craftsmanship. With all that in mind, I'm at least very curious about J. Edgar. It will be interesting to see how Eastwood — and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) — handle the story of J. Edgar Hoover with his very public publicity and his very private (but heavily rumored) private life. It will also be worth seeing how the film manages to work up much in the way of sympathy for the man.
What on earth is there to say about the latest Adam Sandler assault on popular culture Jack and Jill? Damned if I know. It's yet another apparently witless Sandler vehicle directed by Sandler's pet Christmas Tiger, Dennis Dugan. (If Dugan ever had an opinion beyond saying, "That's great, Adam!" I'd be stunned.) The trailer is far and away the most God-awful thing I've seen all year, and that's saying something. I mean, isn't it enough that we've already had one Adam Sandler movie — Just Go with It — this year? We needed a second? And we needed one in which Sandler plays his usual character and his identical twin sister? Really? Aren't there laws about this sort of thing?
It looks like everything of note with the the exception of The Black Power Mixtape is going to stick around for another week. Blackthorn and Margin Call will still be at The Carolina (with Blackthorn on a split bill), and The Way and Margin Call at the Fine Arts. Yes, I know I expected The Way to be phased out this week at the Fine Arts, but that didn't happen. Next week, however, expect something pretty tasty in its place. I can say no more.
Apart from the already mentioned The Man Who Fell to Earth, we have the usual run of films this week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Larry Cohen's The Stuff (1985) on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. This week's film from World Cinema is Sergei Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Edgar G. Ulmer's Carnegie Hall (1947) is this week's Hendersonville Film Society presentation on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing, Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in Frank Borzage's Desire (1936) on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More information on all films in this week's Xpress.
The big deal this week is, I suppose, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part: 2. Actually, considering the fact that the other two "mainstream" releases are Atlas Shrugged and The Change-up, there's no supposing about it. Generally, this looks like a pretty good week to go to the movies — you know, in a theater.
Notable TV Screenings
The folks at TCM have some pretty choice offerings this week, which makes for a nice change. On Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m. they're running Rouben Mamoulian's gangster film City Streets (1931). This is one of the most stylish gangster pictures ever made and it doesn't get enough recognition — even within the confines of Mamoulian's richest period (1929-1933). At 9:30 that evening, they're showing Ernst Lubitch's Trouble in Paradise (1932) , a film I unhesitatingly will call Lubitsch's masterpiece.
On Sunday, Nov. 13 starting at midnight they have another brace of Laurel and Hardy silent short films — Habeas Corpus (1928), Big Business (1929), Double Whoopee (1929), Angora Love (1929). Generally, Big Business is considered the best of their silent films, though I confess I'm partial to Angora Love, which we are told (via a title) is "The dramatic story of a goat — a strong dramatic story." The goat in question attaches himself to Stan and Ollie when Stan feeds it a doughnut. (The wildlife roaming the streets of Culver City in those days was peculiar.) Unable to get rid of the animal, they have to sneak it past their landlord, who apparently has a strict "no goats" policy. Not only does this turn out to be more difficult than it might seem, but the goat seems to be rather fragrant ("There sure is a tang in the air tonight") and in need of a bath.
Monday, Nov. 14 is a particularly good day. It starts with the George Arliss comedy The King's Vacation (1933) at 10:30 a.m., followed by The Glass Key (1942). The latter is a film that all admirers of the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing (1990) really do need to see. And at 10 p.m., they're showing Josef von Sternberg's Shanghai Express (1932) — a film that's welcome at my house any day of the week.