It is, I think, safe to conclude that the art films have it this week. We have two of those (it was three, but the third got wisely moved to next week) and two mainstream titles. The art titles are very choice indeed. The others — one I'm skeptical of, the other I'm confident will be just plain ghastly.
On both Friday and Saturday morning last week, I was rudely wrenched from my bed to attend screenings of the two art films — Derke Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines and Danny Boyle's Trance (both opening this Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts). Rarely have I been less resentful of being dragged out into the world. But these are movies worth getting up for. Hell, I'd do it again.
The reviews for the two are in this week's Xpress. I took Trance and Justin took The Place Beyond the Pines, but we both went to the screenings. I wasn't in the least surprised that I loved Trance. After all, it's from Danny Boyle who hasn't let me down since The Beach in 1999. You will perhaps note that the critical response to both films has been somewhat mixed — generally positive, but mixed. It is my belief that this has more to do with the unfortunate tendency — present in critics and the general public alike — to want to take down those they've built up. With Cianfrance, it's the usual business of finding fault with a second film. With Boyle, it's more of the same on a grander scale. Frankly, I find the tendency tiresome.
The big surprise for me is how much I liked — maybe even loved — The Place Beyond the Pines, especially since I'd respected, but definitely didn't like Cianfrance's Blue Valentine. This is a very different proposition. Blue Valentine was merely depressing. This is shattering — and yet a lot less hopeless. Rather than being a kind of unpleasant chamber piece of desperation, The Place Beyond the Pines is a sprawling, expansive work — yet one that remains intimately human. That sounds contradictory, but if you see the film, you'll see that it isn't. It's definitely flawed, but the further away I get from it, the less those flaws matter to me. My advice is to see both it and Trance.
And then there are the mainstream releases...
First up is Brian Helgeland's 42 — a sports biopic about Jackie Robinson. Generally speaking, I just don't do sports movies. (When they do one about badminton, I'm there. I'd even consider croquet.) Plus, it's a biopic — probably the trickiest of all genres to pull off. In addition, this is an important biopic because it's about breaking the color barrier in baseball. That's a worthy topic, sure, but it has several built-in pitfalls — not the least of which lies in the probability of shameless manipulation. But the biggest stumbling block for me is Brian Helgeland. OK, I liked A Knight's Tale (2001) a good bit, but his next film, The Order (2003), was an unmitigated disaster. Not surprisingly, this propelled Helgeland back into the realm of screenwriting. His last effort was the so-so 2010 Robin Hood. This does not fill me with confidence about 42. But I freely admit that the movie is simply not my line of country — and that's why Mr. Souther will be watching it.
But do I get away scot-free? Oh, my, no. And since I cannot claim that horror pictures are not my line of country — even spoof ones — that means I'm going to go see Scary Movie 5. I don't even know why there is a Scary Movie 5. It appears that it covers the same ground as the recent A Haunted House. (How did I dodge that one? Oh, right, my mother died.) Anyway, here we go again. This one is directed by Spike Lee's cousin, Malcolm D. Lee, who has actually made some reasonably pleasant movies — most notably Roll Bounce (2005). I doubt he can do much with this. It was co-written by David Zucker whose last movie — the uber-right wing comedy An American Carol — tanked so badly that its more zealously conservative admirers came up with the theory that unscrupulous liberal theater chains were ringing up tickets to other movies to insure its failure. (That shows what they know about the politics of most theater chains.) Anyway, this looks just awful. I mean Meet the Spartans awful. Its big hook is a parade of has-been guest stars, most of whom are better known as tabloid fodder than stars these days. On the plus side, it's only 85 minutes. I suspect it's a very long 85 minutes.
What do we lose this week? Well, the Fine Arts is wiping its slate clean, so Chasing Ice and The Gatekeepers are gone, and so is their single show of Stoker. Stoker, however, is hanging on at The Carolina, but has been split with West of Memphis, so chances are both will leave after this week. And that reprieve that On the Road got last week (mostly due to a dearth of product) has ended, so it's gone come Friday. Of course, Silver Linings Playbook and Quartet are still hanging on at The Carolina, but I think they've taken root.
Before getting to the usual run of screenings, I should note that local filmmaker Joe Chang's new movie, Present — reviewed by Justin Souther in this week's paper — is being shown on Wed., April 17 at 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is the off-the-wall Mexi-horror The Brainiac (El Baron del Terror) (1962) at 8 p.m. on Thu., April 11 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Fists in the Pocket (1965) on Fri., April 12 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Robert Mulligan's To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) at 2 p.m. on Sun., April 14 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing William Dieterle's pre-code comedy-drama Lawyer Man (1932) — preceded by the Little Rascals short The Pooch (1932) — on Tue., April 16 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week's paper with expanded reviews online.
Here's a slack week with the only major new title being Hyde Park on Hudson, which proved inexplicably popular on local screens.
Notable TV Screenings
It's not really a great film, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film of Sleuth (1972) is certainly entertaining — and it's still not available on DVD. TCM is showing it at 8 p.m. on Wed., April. 10.
They're not especially rare, but it's worth noting that Tue., April 16 finds an entire day of Charlie Chaplin films, ranging from his first feature Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) to his final starring film, the infrequently revived and underrated A King in New York (1957). It all starts at 6 a.m. (A King in New York is at 2:45 p.m. and is followed by Jim Jarmusch's appreciation of the film.)