Another fairly heavy week at the movies comes our way with four mainstream offerings and one art title. That, of course, refers to quantity, not quality. Quality looks a much less reliable consideration. Much less. Oh, yes.
The one art title is The Kings of Summer (opening Friday at The Carolina) and I caught this little coming-of-age comedy last week. The review is in this week's Xpress. It's a nice movie. Sometimes it's more than nice — when it gets very near a spot-on depiction of what summer seems to feel like when you're 14 or so. No, it won't change your life or anything, but it makes for a mostly pleasant hour and a half at the movies. And it just might remind you of when the world seemed to be full of possibilities.
I have to admit that the film that most intrigues me is Lee Daniels' The Butler — intrigues me and worries me. First of all, if you haven't been following this, no, Daniels doesn't suddenly think he's Fellini and that his name should be part of the title. This was originally just The Butler. Late in the day — after trailers were made and posters printed — someone at Warner Bros. discovered that they own the rights to a 1916 movie made by the Lubin company called The Butler. (I'm really skeptical that anybody actually own the rights to this.) Well, you can't copyright a title, but the MPAA has some strange rules that seem to be mostly overlooked. However in this case — mostly to annoy the Weinsteins, it seems — Warner Bros. pressed the issue and the MPAA sided with them. (Perhaps the MPAA doesn't like the Weinsteins either.) The awkward solution was to retitle it Lee Daniels' The Butler. (Do we now refer to it as Lee Daniels' Lee Daniels' The Butler? This is very confusing.)
Anyway, the movie stars Forrest Whitaker as the fictionalized version of a man who served as butler to eight U.S. presidents. The story has been configured to contrast his days at the White House against his son's militant role in the fight for equality. Yes, it sounds pretty high-minded, but Daniels has an interesting record as a filmmaker who dearly loves trashy melodrama — and he handles it well. Even his highly-acclaimed Precious (2009) was really trashy melodrama that had the sheen of some kind of respectability. The idea of Daniels making a PG-13 movie — let alone one that smacks more than a little of Oscar-bait — is odd. And it makes me apprehensive, but I'm more than willing to give it a chance — especially with Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan (that's already set some folks a-fuming).
Of much less interest — at least to me — is Jobs which offers us Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. That casting has a lot of people in a dither, too. I'm not particularly bothered by it. I'm just not that interested in a biopic about Steve Jobs, but then I've never understood the general deification of the man. The film was directed by Joshua Michael Sterns, whose last movie was Swing Vote from back in 2008. If you don't remember it, that's OK. It wasn't very memorable. In any case, he and Mr. Kutcher have teamed up to bring us Jobs — and they've brought Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine and J.K. Simmons with them. Your interest may be greater than mine.
In 2010 Matthew Vaughn had a modest success with Kick-Ass, a surprisingly dark comic book movie that mostly upset people because of Chloe Grace Moretz heavy-duty swearing. (The violence bothered them less than her dropping the "c" word, which is in itself a little troubling.) So now we get Kick-Ass 2, which looks like more of the same, but Vaughn (still around as one of the army of folks with a producer credit) has been replaced by Jeff Wadlow. If the name means little to you (and it should), cast your mind back 2008's Never Back Down (you know, the movie with the immortal line, "There's only one way for this to end — with you looking like a bitch"). He also wrote and directed Cry_Wolf (2005), one of the dullest horror pictures in living memory. This does not bode well, but we'll see. We'll also see if theater marquees will spell out the title this time. (People are so antsy.)
Finally, there's this thing called Paranoia from director Robert Luketic. Luketic remains best known for making Legally Blonde, which, of course, makes him the perfect choice to direct some kind of thriller. This movie came in completely out of nowhere so far as I'm concerned. All of a sudden, it was just there. It stars Liam Hemsworth (not exactly a big box office name), Amber Heard, Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. It would seem that this is some sort of corporate thriller — one that the studio assures us is "high-stakes." Make of that what you will.
Going out the door this week in the art realm — Lovelace (which didn't do so well) and Stories We Tell. Everything else is holding steady.
Before getting to the usual things, let's take note of local filmmaker Jack Eagen's first feature, Ringside Rosary, which is making its bow at 7 and 10 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 15 at Fine Arts Theatre.
There is no Thursday Horror Picture Show this week, since the venue is otherwise occupied, but it will return next week. World Cinema is screening Jean Renoir's The River (1951) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 16 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing The Tourist (2010) with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie on Sun., Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will run Mitchell Leisen's pre-Code mystery musical Murder at the Vanities (1934) on Tue. Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
On the plus side, this week finds Emperor (which I find has not really stayed with me) and What Maisie Knew coming to DVD. On the other hand, we also get The Big Wedding and Olympus Has Fallen. Oh, well, life's like that.
Notable TV Screenings
We are in the midst of TCM's "Summer Under the Stars," meaning that we get 24 hours of movies featuring whoever the star of the day is. This can be good or bad — depending on the stars and the chosen titles. I can't say that Wallace Beery is one of my favorite actors, but Saturday, Aug. 17 does fine some of his best films (not always because of him). King Vidor's The Champ (1931) is on at 12:30 p.m., followed by Victor Fleming's Treasure Island at 2:15 p.m. and Clarence Brown's Ah, Wilderness! (1935) at 4:15 p.m. That evening we get a double feature of Edmund Goulding's Grand Hote; (1932) and George Cukor's Dinner at Eight (1933) starting at 8 p.m.
On Tue., Aug. 20 we get Hattie McDaniel. That inevitably means the first four hours of the evening are taken up with Victor Fleming's Gone With the Wind (1939), but if you stick around James Whale's Show Boat (1936) comes on at midnight.