A documentary! Animation! Science Fiction! Heart-warming comedy! No, they're not all in one movie (but, boy, there's an idea for you). They are, however, all coming our way this week. They do say that variety is the spice of life. Now we shall see if it's the spice of moviegoing.
Both the documentary — First Position — and the heart-warming comedy — Darling Companion — fall into the art film category (both opening at The Carolina). That, as is often the case, means that they've both been seen and reviewed and the reviews are in this week's paper.
Though it may sound like it, First Position is not some kind of Kama Sutra for beginners. No, this is a documentary about a ballet competition. And while I've already viewed it, I would like to note that since it is a film about a competition — following six young dancers — it also has something a great many documentaries are shy on, and that's a dramatic arc. Indeed, the film generates a good deal of suspense in its final scenes, since by then we have an interest in who makes good and how good they make. I suspect this is one of those documentaries that will appeal to people who don't generally go for documentaries.
Darling Companion you may have heard of. It's from director Lawrence Kasdan and has a strong cast including Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard. And it also has some of the more blistering reviews of the year — mostly, I think, because its pedigree suggests a much better film than is delivered. I won't defend the movie, but I didn't think it was as bad as has been said in many quarters, and I think there's an audience who will like it.
Now, on to the mainstream.
I'm sure there's a market for this latest Madagascar entry, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. There always seems to be a market for kiddie movies — even the mediocre ones, and this particular series is at least on the high end of mediocrity. I don't see how it can fail, actually. It has the same voice cast — Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer — and it's virtually the same story. In other words, it has the core cast trying to get back to the zoo in New York ... again — or maybe it's still. The oddest thing here is that the screenplay was co-written by Noah Baumach. Then again, he did co-write the screenplay for Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), so perhaps it's not that strange after all. The fact is I have nothing against the idea of another one of these movies — not even in 3D — but I'm certainly not excited by the prospect.
Most of the excitement this week appears to be centered on Ridley Scott's much-ballyhooed return to science fiction with Prometheus. Is it a prequel to Alien? Or is it not a prequel to Alien? That seems to have been the question — and it doesn't seem to be exactly settled by the film's appearance overseas or by U.S. critics. The closest we have gotten is that it's "sort of" a prequel. The biggest question should be, is it any good? Well, the reviews thus far are mostly good — or at least positive (there is a difference). Now, that only includes three of what Rotten Tomatoes calls "Top Critics," which actually refers to the source of the review (e.g., New York Times), not the critic. And only one of those three is someone I'd pay any attention to (naming no names). The most intriguing review I've read is from Luke Y. Thompson — go here. I should probably admit that I know Luke — we've hung out on the back platform of the Carmike and he's commented occasionally on the Xpress site. (This doesn't mean we always agree, mind you.) That to one side, his is the first review (he actually ID's it as an Alien prequel) to get me genuinely interested in seeing Prometheus — and to see it in 3D for that matter.
This week changes very little as concerns what we lose in the art/indie titles. That's no big surprise, since neither The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, nor Bernie are likely to make quick exits. The only departing title is the documentary Undefeated, which is also not that surprising, since it's a documentary.
Since The Carolina's transition to digital projection will be a fait accompli by Friday, we're back to a full set of the usual special screenings this coming week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening Roman Polanski's ("No one does it to you like Roman Polanski") The Tenant (1976) on Thursday, June 7, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema closes out the Twin Rivers Media Festival with A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 8, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Oscar-winning Babette's Feast (1988) is this week's film from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, June 10, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Mitchell Leisen's Easy Living (1937) on Tuesday, June 12, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress with expanded content in the online edition.
This week you get the chance to see whether or not you think John Carter actually deserved its fate at the box office — also whether or not Bad Ass ought to have had more screen life locally than at ActionFest, and possibly why Machine Gun Preacher got virtually no release at all. Also coming out we have Act of Valor, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and Safe House. It's even more worth noting that Yellow Submarine is finally out again and on Blu-ray, too.
Notable TV Screenings
Starting at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6, TCM has a full day of classic horror — Frankenstein (1931), Doctor X (1932), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Freaks (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Mad Love (1935), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). I'm not sure why, but I'm not complaining. And if that's not enough they have The Black Cat (1934) on at 11:15 p.m. on Friday, June 8.