Man of Steel opens this week. It will be at nearly every theater that could get it and on as many screens as possible -- both 2D and 3D. That is all an awful lot of people probably need to know. For those with a penchant for guys with large and sinewy muscles in tights, this is probably what summer is all about this year -- at least where movies are concerned. It isn't all that's opening, however. There's another mainstream release and one of the most anticipated art titles of the season.
The art title is Richard Linklater's Before Midnight (opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts) -- the third film in a series that started in 1995 when Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) first met. Here we are 18 years on with the pair at 41. Nearly all the local critics saw this last Saturday morning, so we've got the jump on you.
Not having been as taken by the first two films as most of the world, I was surprised by how much I liked this third one. Of course, I've grown fonder of Linklater in recent years, but the selling point for me is most of those pseudo-profound conversations in those first films is pretty scarce here. In its place, we have what seem like real people dealing with real problems -- with wit and some elegance and a filmmaker who seems to be at the peak of powers.
My review of the film is in this week's Xpress, but this really is a rather special film -- one that deserves the support of discerning audiences.
And then, there's what can only be called a curio headed our way.
The curio comes on Wednesday. Why does it come on Wednesday? I have no earthly idea -- unless it's to mint some coin before it gets trampled by Superman. It's the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and it's called This Is the End (note: redband NSFW trailer). I don't know if it's high concept stuff or merely a vanity project made by people for no very good reason except that they could. It originated as a short film back called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse (2007). It has now been expanded into an (apparently hard) R rated feature in which a great many famous and quasi-famous people -- James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson -- play joke versions of themselves, while other famous people -- Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Chrisopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, etc. -- make guest appearances as jokey versions of themselves. It all takes place at a party at James Franco's house -- a party that happens to coincide with the end of the world (or its appromixation). Think of it as Melancholia with added weed and bodily fluid jokes. Surprisingly, it's gotten pretty positive reviews. I think I'm going to use Mr. Souther as cinematic food taster on this.
The biggie, of course, is Man of Steel, which has surprisingly drawn a few negative reviews -- and a good many reservations in the positive one. I've been skeptical of it since the first trailer with all the laundry blowing in the breeze of a golden idyllic world -- like Terrence Malick meets the superhero movie, or Tree of Superman. But apparently it's a lot bigger and noisier than that with property destruction aplenty. Through it was directed by "visionary" filmmaker Zack Snyder, it would seem to owe a great deal to producer Christopher Nolan. (Well, after the fascinatingly dumb disaster that was Sucker Punch, it's hardly surprising that Snyder's vision might be reined in a bit.) That will bring much gladness to those who adore Nolan's joyless Batman movies -- while worrying the rest of us. But it doesn't matter, nearly everyone is going to see the movie -- out of curiosity, if nothing else.
Leaving us this week are both of last week's art title openers at The Carolina -- The Sapphires and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I am frankly puzzled that the former tanked -- it had all the earmarks of a crowd-pleaser. But the crowd never came. The Fine Arts is dropping Renoir and Mud. Mud, however, is sticking around The Carolina, especially after it took an unexpected jump in attendance over the weekend.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running T. Hayes Hunter's Boris Karloff classic The Ghoul (1933) at 8 p.m. on Thu., June 13 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Fritz Lang's M (1931) on Fri., June 14 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. On Sun., June 16 at 2 p.m. the Hendersonville Film Society is screening Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Whit Stillman's Barcelona (1994) on Tue., June 18 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week's paper -- with full reviews in the online edition.
It's a tepid week for DVDs. We get Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which the IMDb is mystifying sure I'm interested in), Oz the Great and Powerful, and Snitch. I'll pass.
Notable TV Screenings
Admirers of the incredibly strange should check out Bela Lugosi in his only color vehicle, Scared to Death (1947) at 6 a.m. Wed., June 12 on TCM. Afterwards, you can ponder if the entire cast and crew were on drugs. Unfortunately, this amazing oddity is about the only thing on TCM this week that doesn't come under the heading of The Usual Suspects.