It would take almost superhuman determination for this week's crop of movies -- four mainstream and one art title -- to come anywhere near the toxic crumminess of last week's dismal duo, and hopefully that determination doesn't exist. However, it must be admitted that some of this stuff looks very sketchy. Very sketchy indeed.
Before getting into the realm of prognostication, let's note that the single art title -- the documentary A Place at the Table (opening Friday at The Carolina) -- has already been reviewed and is in this week's paper. I haven't seen it myself, but Justin Souther has and you can read his take on it.
Now, about these mainstream offerings...
First on the list -- at least, alphabetically -- is something called 21 & Over. What is it? Well, the fellows who wrote The Hangover -- Jon Lucas and Scott Moore -- have added directing to their resume with this one. Now, regardless of how you feel about The Hangover, I think it's only fair to point out that these boys also wrote Four Christmases, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and The Change-Up -- a more shameful line-up would be hard to find. (I'm sure it could be done, but it would take work.) This round they've cooked up a story about a medical student of promise (Twilight alumnus Justin Chon) who goes out to celebrate his 21st birthday with a couple friends (Miles Teller from Project X and Skylar Astin from Pitch Perfect). R rated drunken ribaldry ensues. I'll be blunt -- anyone who willfully subjects himself or herself to this deserves whatever he or she gets.
Far more promising -- and something I'm actually looking forward to (with some caution) -- is Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer. Even granting that Valkyrie (2008) was no great shakes and Superman Returns (2006) barely shook at all, Singer is not an uninteresting director and his X2 (2003) is in the running for best comic book movie of all time. As a result, I'm more than willing to give this a shot. The cast doesn't hurt. You've got Nicholas Hoult (who just proved his ability to carry a film with Warm Bodies) in the title role, and the supporting cast is unusually strong -- Ewan McGregor (sporting a very unperiod looking coif), Stanley Tucci, Eddie Marson, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy. Ewen Bremner. That's a pretty impressive roster. No guarantees, of course, but it certainly has possibilities. In your choice of 3D or 2D (check your showtimes).
Daniel Stamm's The Last Exorcism (2010) may not have been perfect, but it was still one of the few "found footage" movies I enjoyed (either in spite of or because it cheated on its gimmick). It also would seem -- by virtue of its title -- to have been the final word on the topic, but now we have The Last Exorcism Part II (I guess The Really Last Exorcism was out of the question). For whatever reason (good sense maybe?), Stamm is not involved in this. Since a good deal of the cast at least appeared to have died by the end of the first movie, this one follows the story of the previously possessed Nell (Ashley Bell) trying to get her life back together. Evil forces, of course, have other ideas -- otherwise there'd be no movie, which might have been a good thing. Who can tell? I'm curious, but without Stamm, I'm not expecting much.
Kind of out of nowhere (by which I mean some company called RCR Distribution) comes something called Phantom. It was made by someone called Todd Robinson -- I am unfamilar with his work, most of which seems to be in the documentary realm -- and it's said to be a thriller. Ed Harris stars as a Soviet submarine commander with some kind of past haunting him, who is forced to lead a secret mission that we are told could lead to nuclear war. David Duchovny, William Fichtner, and the ever-reliable Lance Henriksen also star. Considering it's a period piece and there wasn't a nuclear war, it seems the tension would be minimal. The big question in my mind is whether or not the cast will adopt Boris Badenov accents. (The trailer indicates they don't, which is rather unfortunate.)
There's not much departing this week of note, except the Oscar shorts, though a lot of films now require searching for as they've become less widespread.
Bofore turning to the usual things, we should note that there's seemingly a new kid on the block, tentatively calling itself Orbit at The Admiral, which, of course, means that it's Orbit DVD running movies at The Admiral. The first offering is exactly the kind of tasteful thing one has come to expect from Marc -- the 1982 "version" of She starring Sandahl Bergman, and it shows on Sun., Mar. 3 at The Admiral. I confess I have not seen this movie. I don't really think I regret that.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is Bert I. Gordon's The Magic Sword (1962) on Thu., Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is undertaking the three part Olivier Assayas' film Carlos (2010) with Part One showing at 8 p.m.on Fri., Mar. 1 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Builing. The Hendersonville Film Society is running the 1978 British TV film of Les Miserables at 2 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 3 in the Smoky Mountain Library at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Victor Fleming's Clark Gable-Jean Harlow classic Red Dust (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Mar. 5 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's paper -- with extended coverage in the online edition.
Forget everything else, the Big News on DVD is Leos Carax's absolutely amazing -- and confounding -- Holy Motors. Of course, there's also Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. Also of note is Chicken with Plums -- a film that didn't play here, but damn well should have. I suppose I need to point out that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 and Chasing Mavericks also come out this week, but I hate to bring things down to that level.
Notable TV Screenings
The "31 Days of Oscar" is winding down on TCM, and as it does so, it's worth noting that Billy Wilder's Witness for the Prosecution (1957) is running late night Fri. at 12:45 a.m. What's notable is that this is currently not available on DVD, Unfortunately, that's about the only unusual item going.