Yes! The wait is over. It's finally here! I mean the new Tyler Perry picture with Madea, you understand. Not seriously -- although, yes, that's coming as well, along with several other things. What I really refer to is, of course, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. The question is whether or not it lives up to the praise that has preceded its arrival?
So have I already seen Moonrise Kingdom? Yes -- the ungodly hour of 9:30 a.m. this past Saturday found me comfortably ensconced at The Carolina for a press screening. And, yes, the review is in this week's Xpress. And, oh my, yes, does it ever live up to what's been said about it. And then some. Hell, I'd get up that early to see it again. If you're worried -- and I admit I was -- that it's going to be somehow less Andersonian than usual, the first five minutes alone will set those fears to rest. Is it Anderson's best film to date? I'm not sure I can go that far, but it's one of those movies that I like better day by day and I may eventually go that far. Time and repeat viewings will tell. You can see for yourself starting Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts.
Now, while Moonrise Kingdom is the only new art title (and I'm betting the best thing out there) this week, there's certainly no shortage of new movies -- none of which I've seen and some of which I may never see. Regardless, the week also offers Magic Mike, People Like Us, Ted, and, yes, Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection. I suppose we ought to take some kind of look at them.
Magic Mike is the latest from the movies' most chameleon-like filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh. With Soderbergh you just plain don't know what you're going to get. It might be art or it might be pure popcorn populism. Occasionally, it's both. And sometimes, it's just not very good. It's hard to tell where this story of male strippers starring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, and Matthew McConaughey is likely to land on the Soderbergh scale. If it comes anywhere near the claims made for it by David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter -- "Arguably the raunchiest, funniest and most enjoyably nonjudgmental American movie about selling sex since Boogie Nights, its obvious if considerably darker precursor." -- it could rank pretty high. I admit to being a little leery not only of the stars, but of the idea that the story is based on -- or "inspired by" -- Channing Tatum's real life. (I have to stop and ponder just to tell Tatum apart from Cam Gigandet.) But who can tell? In the main, Soderbergh's batting average is pretty high.
Somehow or other I completely missed that writer-producer-turned-director Alex Kurtzman's People Like Us opens this week when I was doing the upcomers for the print edition yesterday. Actually, I had thought -- judging by the trailer -- that this was a candidate for a limited release, but, no, it opens wide this Friday. What is it? Well, it's an "inspired by true events" (say, aren't they all?) comedy drama starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer -- with some assistance from Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, and Philip Baker Hall. According to the studio, it's all about "Pine as Sam, a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman, whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home, where he must put his father's estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. In the course of fulfilling his father's last wishes, Sam uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down: He has a 30-year-old sister Frankie whom he never knew about (Elizabeth Banks)." Frankly, the trailer looks a little on the predictable and gooey side.
Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane makes the leap to the big screen as writer-director and voice actor with Ted (warning: Red Band trailer), which is an odd kind of hybrid of fantasy and R rated raunchy comedy. The title character, Ted, is a living talking (with MacFarlane's voice) teddy bear with a taste for foul language, booze, dope -- and getting his owner, 30-something John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), in trouble. Seems that as a child John wished his teddy bear would come to life. It did and now he's saddled with the thing, much to the distaste of John's long-suffering girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). Honestly, this sounds pretty one-joke thin to support a movie with reported running time of 106 minutes, but it will likely have a certain built-in audience of Family Guy watchers. Since I have never experienced the show, I think the reviewing chore here will likely fall to Justin Souther, who has.
And that brings us to my own cinematic specialty, Tyler Perry. I'm not sure how it happened, but I've become our resident expert on all things Tyler Perry and have dutifully watched and reviewed every single one of his movies. (And people wonder why I'm called "Cranky?") The troubling thing about this is that I no longer even dread the damned things. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but somewhere along the way, Perry seems to have turned into some kind of really weird almost...well, friend. There, I've said it. I know the ins and outs of his oeuvre and have followed his progress (yes, there has been some) from rank amateur to professional and even to occasional bouts of inspiration. I don't expect this to be one of his better movies. Let's face it, the Madea movies are Perry's cash cows and they pander to a certain audience. This round it seems we have Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection with Perry as his lawyer character, Brian, finding himself placing a family (headed by Eugene Levy, no less) in a witness protection set-up with the outspoken Madea (also Perry) and her flatulent, pot-smoking brother Joe (also Perry). Hilarity will theoretically ensue. If nothing else, my wife will be happy. She decided a while back to see for herself about this Tyler Perry business. Unfortunately, she started with Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, which, as I told her, wasn't exactly full-force Perry. This, on the other hand, promises to afford her full-immersion baptism into Perryana.
We don't actually lose any of the more rarefied titles this week. Both The Carolina and the Fine Arts are holding onto The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. While the Fine Arts is dropping Bernie, it's holding pretty strong at The Carolina. Headhunters and Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding opened surprisingly strong last weekend at The Carolina, but they're being split this week (two shows a day of the former and three of the latter), owing to the large influx of titles.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is John Boorman's Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) at 8 p.m. on Thu., June 28 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. (And, of course, there's the exciting next chapter of the 1935 serial The Lost City at 7:40 p.m.) World Cinema is screening Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff (1954) at 8 p.m. on Fri., June 29 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing George Cukor's The Women (1939) at 2 p.m. on Sun., July 1 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. In honor of Ken Russell's 85th birthday, the Asheville Film Society is screening the director's first international hit Women in Love (1969) on Tue, July 3 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the online edition of the Xpress. (Special Screenings were cut from this week's print edition over space constrictions.)
I guess the big deal this week is the release of the big Oscar winner The Artist, so if you missed it in theaters you can catch up with it now. Also up are 21 Jump Street, Mirror Mirror, Wrath of the Titans, A Thousand Words, and my vote for the week's best new offering Bullhead. Most of you missed it in the theater, you know.
Notable TV Screenings
I have no idea why, but TCM has a run of sci-fi movies on Thu., June 28. The highlight of strangeness in the set is The Manster (1962) at 9:30 a.m. The highlight in a serious sense is Five Million Years to Earth (Quatermass and the Pit) (1967) at 4 p.m. And the highlight of cheese is The Green Slime (1969) at 5:45 p.m. Don't miss its groovy title song! Later that night -- as in 12:30 a.m., Sat. -- is Bob Rafelson's very strange deconstruction of the Monkees, Head (1968).
Late night on Sun., July 1 at 2 a.m. Vittorio De Sica's best movie Umberto D (1952) is on. For those of you who don't work on TV Guide time, that's really 2 a.m. on Mon. In either case, this is one of those real essentials.