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In Theaters

First off, I want to thank those of you who saw Only Lovers Left Alive over the weekend.  Given the death sentence of opening in a sofa cinema at the Carolina, it managed to earn enough to warrant a second week of screenings.  Job well done and if you’ve yet to check out Jim Jarmusch’s superb film, make time this week to do so.

There’s only one new art title this week, but it’s a good one.  Belle is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a British Naval Admiral, and is anything but a stuffy costume drama.  The beautifully shot film features a cast of established and new English talent, and though it’s wholly predictable, the writing and performances keep you invested.

On the mainstream side, the clear favorite is X-Men: Days of Future Past, director Bryan Singer’s return to the mutant franchise.  His X2: X-Men United (2003) ranks up with The Avengers as Marvel’s best and this time-traveling story that brings together that film’s cast with their younger counterparts from Matthew Vaughn’s excellent X-Men: First Class has me looking forward to Thursday night with great anticipation. (And yes, I know the titles aren’t quite the same, but I can’t help thinking about The Moody Blues when I see it.  Perhaps there will be a full-cast singalong to “Nights in White Satin,” a la Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” in Magnolia?)

Blended, the week’s other mainstream option, has me less enthused. The film reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, this time as single parents who had one bad date and wind up, respective children in tow, on the same African safari.  Sandler and Barrymore’s first teaming, The Wedding Singer, remains one of the better rom-coms in my lifetime, but I’ve avoided 50 First Dates like a high school bully and don’t think Blended will be much better.

Fleeing the Scene

Seeing how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has vacated the cultural conscience in a hurry while Captain America: The Winter Soldier has remained a talking point, it hit me this past week that despite being in theaters a month longer, Cap had a shot at outlasting his Marvel brethren.  At least at the Carolina, that won’t be the case come Thursday night.

Joining it on the way out is God’s Pocket, whose posthumous Philip Seymour Hoffman performance and strong cast should have made for a tenure longer than a week.  While that’s somewhat of a surprise, it’s less of a shock that the too-subtle-for-its-own-good Fading Gigolo is out, as is shrug-worthy doc Walking the Camino and the creepy animation of Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.  More amusing than the latest Oz story, though, is its investors’ conspiracy theory that Hollywood and its “army of top paid critics” embarked on a smear campaign to make the film a flop.  That these rubes haven’t paused to consider that their little money pit could maybe possibly be a bad movie seems to have escaped them.

(Paramount Pictures)
Star Trek Into Darkness
(Paramount Pictures)

On DVD

By making you thankful that your life isn’t as bad as theirs, the morose characters of In Secret are practically guaranteed to improve your daily outlook.  Elsewhere, your grandparents will love love love Monuments Men, George Clooney’s bland WWII film, though beyond that things get dicier.  While About Last NightPompeii, Vampire Academy, and 3 Days to Kill escaped the dreaded “F” grade, neither have improved their standing with distance and still have the potential to land on the year-end Ten Worst list.

On Netflix Instant

Despite its final act wonkiness, 95% of Star Trek Into Darkness is entertainment of the highest class.  If you can handle food puns and rampant goofiness (e.g. James Caan hanging out with a gang of pickles), I suggest the surprisingly funny Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.  If you prefer your humor more refined, I suggest Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, featuring one of the few Amy Adams performances where she’s not playing mousy or brassy, but somewhere in the middle.

Of the unseen additions, there are a couple of direct-to-DVD titles with intriguing casts: the romantic drama Last Love (starring Michael Caine) and the thriller Frozen Ground (Nicolas Cage and John Cusack: Con Air reunion alert!).  Also of interest is the “Calvin and Hobbes” documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, which comic fans sadly inform me is 90 minutes of squealing praise and little else.  That still sounds better than revisiting most of this week’s new DVDs.

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