It's two and two this week. We're looking at two mainstream titles -- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked -- and two art titles -- Take Shelter and Young Adult. Take Shelter -- which has been moved back several times -- is finally opening at the Fine Arts, and Young Adult is coming to The Carolina (it may be opening somewhere else, but that's the only confirmed venue). Of course, next week gets really screwy with some titles opening on Wednesday (or even Tuesday night), some on Friday and at least one film opening on Sunday. We can happily leave that confusion alone right now.
I've seen Take Shelter and Young Adult. In fact, it seems like ages ago that I saw -- and wrote the review for -- Take Shelter, but the film kept getting pushed back (in part due to the -- to me -- mystifying popularity of The Way). Now, it's finally, actually, really -- no foolin' -- opening. Young Adult I just saw and reviewed. And I have to say I was impressed, but I admit to some reservation about how it will play to a lot of viewers. The trailer makes the film look like a quirky comedy and is banking on the strength of reteaming of director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, whose last pairing resulted in Juno. OK? Well, yes, it's quirky and sometimes it's very funny, but it's also a very bitter, often uncomfortable movie, the aims of which are pretty far removed from the realm of "feel good."
And what of the two other titles? Well, let's do some prognostication on those.
First off, there's Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-wrecked, the very existence of which elicits a "Dear God, no!" from me. I find this particularly depressing because I saw the first one of these rampaging rodents reboot back in 2007. At that time, I was certain that no one would go see anything this lame, this bad, this cheesy, this abominable. Well, I was wrong. The only consolation was that I was able to foist the 2009 sequel -- pardon me, "squeakquel" -- on Justin Souther. And now ... here comes the third film in the series. And just guess whose turn in the barrel it is. Uh huh. I am the lucky one who gets to spend 87 minutes with the Chipmunks, the Chipettes (are those miniature chippies?), and the formerly rather likable Jason Lee. My guess is I won't even be able to hornswoggle some poor boob ... I mean good friend into sitting through it with me.
A much more pleasant prospect comes our way in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. I know that it's fashionable among certain devout Sherlockians to decry the very existence of the rethinking of Sherlock Holmes found in the first film, but I found it to be a great deal of fun. I admit, however, that it has not proved to be a film that called me back to revisit it. That's not necessarily a criticism, merely a sense that I got the good out of it in one sitting. (Others are at liberty to disagree.) However, I am more than ready to experience the Holmes and Watson chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law again. I'm also more than a little curious to see the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, in her first English-language film. Plus, the fact that Ritchie has indicated that he felt more free to be himself on this entry is intriguing. And before someone bitches about it, no, this is not the first time Sherlock Holmes has appeared in drag. High marks to anyone who knows where this happened before (no, it's not a parody film).
Leaving us this week are The Way and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which are departing the Fine Arts. The Carolina is divesting itself of Into the Abyss, Like Crazy and Margin Call. The Descendants is hanging on everywhere, while The Carolina is keeping Melancholia. It's worth noting, however, in the case of Melancholia that there are movies opening at least as early as Wednesday (possibly Tuesday evening), so dawdling is not recommended. I also expect J. Edgar to leave after this week.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse (1981) this Thursday, Dec. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Short Films by Maya Deren and Arthur Lispett is this week's screening at World Cinema. The films show at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society is showing Laurel and Hardy in Babes in Toyland (March of the Wooden Soldiers) as its Christmas movie on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Reviews and more information on all titles is available in the online edition of this week's Xpress.
The big title this week is probably Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though I wasn't as wild about it as some. Also up are Fright Night, Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975. That last named played here, but almost no one went to see it and that was a mistake on a lot of people's part. I hope it finds a more congenial reception on DVD.
Notable TV Screenings
I'm not at all sure if these are "notable," except in the sense of being unusual. I certainly cannot vouch for their quality because I've never seen them. Now, that's a much bigger statement than it might seem on the surface, because there just aren't that many extant movies from the early years of sound that I haven't seen -- albeit sometimes in crappy, multi-generation VHS dupes, which is often like not seeing them at all. That said, I have never seen even those ghostly whispers Paul Muni's debut film William K. Howard's The Valiant (1929) or Gloria Swanson's early sound hit Edmund Goulding's The Trespasser (1929). But both are on TCM on Wednesday, Dec. 14., The Valiant is on at 7:45 a.m. and The Trespasser at 10 a.m. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm getting up for them.