We have what you might call a pretty full slate this week -- especially, if you consider the 3D re-issue of Beauty and the Beast. Otherwise we're faced with two mainstream releases -- Contraband and Joyful Noise -- one borderline art title -- The Iron Lady -- and one bonafide art title -- Carnage. This is that point in the year where the backlog of art titles is going to start flowing and keep hitting us in rapid succession. (There are two more art titles coming our way next week.) This year it's even more intense since the studios pretty much stiffed us on the art titles at Christmas -- even the more popular ones. Last year on Christmas Day you had your pick of The King's Speech, Black Swan, True Grit, and even I Love You, Phillip Morris. This year it was down to My Week with Marilyn and The Descendants -- and the latter had been out for a few weeks.
Once again, I've seen the art title and the borderline art title. In fact, I've seen them both twice. The reviews are in this week's paper. I was fascinated by Meryl Streep's performance in The Iron Lady (opening at most theaters, except Fine Arts and Carmike), but not so much the film. Roman Polanski's Carnage, on the other hand, I found to be a wholly riveting film -- and that actually surprised me, since films of plays are often a dicey proposition. I'll leave the review to do the explaining on both of these, but I suggest beating a path to Carnage if you're interested in seeing, because (and I hope I'm wrong) I don't see it as having a lot of staying power at the box office.
So let's take a squint at the other titles.
I don't imagine there's much that needs to be said about the Disney Beauty and the Beast, except to note that the 1991 film has been given the 3D treatment (though there are some limited 2D showings). These retrofits are not the best examples of 3D, though they work a little better with animated films. I doubt we'll review this one, though I might actually see it at long last. Then again I've heard Robby Benson do his Beast voice in person and that may be enough for me. We'll see.
Contraband is pretty completely in the realm of the unknown quantity -- at least as far as I'm concerned. I've never seen any of Icelandic director Baltasar Kormak's previous work. In fact, I'm not at all sure I've ever encountered his name before. It seems that Contraband is a remake of a 2008 film from Iceland called Reykjavic-Rottedam and that Kormak played the role in that film that goes to Mark Wahlberg in this one. The film has something to do with reformed smuggler Wahlberg having to return to a life of crime in order raise money to square his brother-in-law's (Caleb Landry Jones) debt to a crime lord (Giovanni Ribisi) over a drug deal gone awry. The bad signs are it's January and this has neither been screened by critics, nor even select audiences.
I'm on slightly surer ground with Joyful Noise if only because I have some familiarity with writer-director Todd Graff's work from the film Camp (2003), which I liked well enough -- or at least as much as anyone who isn't that keen on show tunes can. (And, no, despite the fact that I once had a record-store clerk shout across the store, "Do you like show tunes?" -- which I think was some kind of pick-up line, honestly -- I really don't much.) That one was a sweet-tempered movie that was kind of like Fame (1980) -- with the ratio of gay to straight kids reversed, his next film, Bandslam (2009) I didn't see, but it sounded in a similar vein. So now he turns his attention to gospel music in a comedy that pits traditional-minded choir instructor Queen Latifah (yes, well) up against progressive-minded Dolly Parton in a contest of wills about who can best get their choir to win the National Joyful Noise competition. It has not been shown much either, but neither of the trades liked it.
Since the Fine Arts is holding their schedule this week, that's under control. The Carolina isn't actually dropping anything of note, but they are cutting Young Adult to one show (the last of the day), so expect that to be leaving next week. I'm actually pleasantly surprised that it lasted as long as it has.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is Peter Medak's The Changeling (1980) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Guillame Canet's Tell No One (2008) is World Cinema's title on Friday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Edmund Goulding's Grand Hotel (1932) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues their Ken Russell tribute with The Boy Friend (1971) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's Xpress.
The big title this week is Moneyball, which I finally caught up with and liked OK, but I was nowhere near crazy about it. Also up are Higher Ground, a worthy, but not very exciting movie that almost no one went to see, and Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen (and his weedy mustache) and Robert DeNiro. I've seen worse. I haven't seen What's Your Number?, but I strongly suspect it would be one of those worse ones if I had.
Notable TV Screenings
There's not a lot this week on TCM, but because they're doing a tribute to cinematographer Jack Cardiff, we get an entire night of films from Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger on Thursday, Jan. 12, starting with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) at 8 p.m. and going on all through the night with A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Red Shoes (1948), and Black Narcissus (1947). Sensory overload? Maybe. But worth risking just to drown in the sea of Technicolor.