So with one week of the movie year — and a Chainsaw movie — behind us, we're looking at two new releases this week — one of which might make Texas Chainsaw look pretty good. The other — who can say? Also in the offing are two expansions with a degree of anticipation attached to them.
Since both of the titles going into wide release — The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty — came under the heading of award contenders, those of us who vote in critics' groups have already seen them. In our case in particular, that means that the reviews will appear in this week's paper. I confess that neither title exactly whelmed me, especially the much-praised Zero Dark Thirty, which I reviewed. Mr. Souther tackled The Impossible — which I think I liked better than he did, but that's anothher matter. Regardless, neither of these are films that I would not recommend — if only for the sake of 2012 cinematic literacy. Both are, I think, too big — in very different ways — to ignore.
The likelihood of Zero Dark Thirty not being up for several major Academy Awards is pretty slim. The Impossible ought to be a shoo-in for special effects (though you never know with those Academy pranksters). In other words, if you want to know what you're rooting for — or against — come the Oscars, you need to give these movies a look. Also, while I personally only know one person who was actually bowled over by Zero Dark Thirty, it's worth noting that the general run of criticism is significantly more enthused than that suggests.
Now, about these other titles...
First of all, there's Ruben Fleischer's Gangster Squad starring a pretty high-powered cast that includes Sean Penn (brandishing a machine gun no less), Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone (looking perfectly at home in period fashions), and Nick Nolte. This apparently fairly expensive (judging by the stills) production about 1949 LAPD officers out to bring down a mob kingpin (Penn) was once slated for an award season berth, but the film was pulled for recutting in order to deal with a scene in a movie theater it was felt was too close to the Colorado shooting. As a result, it's being shunted into view in the lackluster dead of winter. Whether or not that's the kiss of death remains to be seen. After all, Shutter Island survived a February releae — not that I think it all likely this is going to be in the same league as Shutter Island.
Gangter Squad, however, is almost certain to be a masterpiece in comparison to Marlon Wayans in A Haunted House. As you might suspect, this appears to be a horror movie spoof a la Scary Movie and its interminable string of sequels. In fact, there's a Scary Movie 5 heading our way in a few months (mark your calendars!), and it, like this, ostensibly parodies the Paranotmal Stupidity movies. I'm not arguing against those "movies" needing a good skewering, but I've seen too many of these spoof movies to expect much. As usual, it appears that there's not a whole lot of actual focus here. A quick glance shows influences of everything from Insidious to Ghostbusters (really?) to American Horro Story (season one). Oh, yeah, and a good dose of flatulence humor for the intellectual crowd. In addition to Mr. Wayans (who also co-wrote the movie), we also get Cedric the Entertainer, David Koechner, and Nick Swardson. (Just gets better and better, doesn't it?) The really scary thing here is I owe Justin big time for him reviewing Parental Guidance.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening David Cronenberg's film of Stephen King's The Dead Zone (1983) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 10 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959) on Fri., Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Paul Bonesteel's documentary The Day Carl Sandburg Died (2011) is this week's film from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sun., Jan. 13 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Tay Garnett's One Way Passage (1932) on Tue., Jan.15 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's paper with extended coverage in the online edition.
The highlight of this week's offerings in Tim Burton's Frankenweenie. After that, it goes to hell pretty fast with Dredd, Hit & Run, and, worst of all, House at the End of the Street. There's also Samsara, a film that would seem to lose its primary interest on the small screen.
Notable TV Screenings
Folks who have seen the current musicalized Les Miserables might want to check out Richard Boleslawski's 1935 non-musical Les Miserables with Fredric March and Charles Laughrton on TCM Sun., Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. That same evening at 10:15, they're running the little seen John M. Stahl version of the "inspirational" soaper Magnificent Obsession (1935). If you hang around you can catch Chaplin's The Pilgrim (1923), Jacques Tati's Jour de Fete (1949). and Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971) all starting at 1 a.m. A more unusual grouping would be hard to find.