“50/50,” “Tucker & Dale vs Evil,” and Andy Warhol Documentaries: Movie Tickets

Plus: Ballet films at the Kennedy Center and “Carlos” hits DVD/Blu-ray

By: Ian Buckwalter

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen star in 50/50, opening in theaters on Friday. Photograph courtesy Summit Entertainment

50/50
Comedy writer Will Reiser discovered at the age of 24 that he had a rare spinal cancer. He managed to beat it, and out of the experience came 50/50, a film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man with a cancer diagnosis, and Seth Rogen (a real-life buddy of Reiser) as his best friend. Reiser looks to mine the material both for the more serious elements of dealing with one’s own mortality and fighting for life, as well as the dark humor inherent in the varied reactions of his friends and family upon hearing the news. Advance reviews would indicate that the film’s biggest challenge is managing to balance amid the push and pull of those two sides, but most come to the conclusion that it manages to do so without too many falls.

View the trailer. Opens Friday at theaters all over the area.


Tucker & Dale vs Evil
A group of smug, preppy, ill-prepared college kids heading to West Virginia for a weekend camping trip. Creepy backwoods hillbillies. Murder and mayhem. You’ve seen the ingredients for this film plenty of times before, but what if the hillbillies were just a couple of regular guys, and the death and blood was just a series of misunderstandings and horrible coincidences exacerbated by the prejudices of the college kids? That’s the premise, taken to comedic territory, of Tucker & Dale vs Evil, in which two guys just want to head up to their cabin to do some fishing when circumstances lead the campers across the lake to think that Tucker and Dale have kidnapped one of their group. This much gore probably hasn’t been combined with this many laughs since Shaun of the Dead.

View the trailer. Opens Friday at West End Cinema.


Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film and Soap Opera
There are Andy Warhol exhibits going on at both the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery of Art this fall, and both museums have films related to the icon on tap this weekend. At the Hirshhorn, the exhibit is “Andy Warhol: Shadows”, a group of paintings and silk-screens created in the latter portion of Warhol’s career, and first exhibited in 1979. To accompany that exhibit, they’ll screen Ric Burns’ comprehensive four-hour public television documentary, Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, an exhaustive look at Warhol’s life and work. The film will screen again on November 6.

Over at the National Gallery, their exhibit is “Warhol: Headlines”, which concentrates on works from a number of different mediums, all of which were inspired by newspaper headlines and tabloid covers. The associated film program focuses on Warhol’s prolific output as a maker of experimental films. A dozen programs will screen over the next few months, mostly his 16mm films, as well as a few screen tests with established stars, and one discussion of his work in both film and video. The series kicks off this weekend with Warhol’s 1964 16mm film Soap Opera.

Soap Opera screens at the National Gallery of Art on Saturday at 12:30 PM. The Warhol documentary screens on Sunday at the Hirshhorn, in two parts. Part one begins at 11 AM, and part two is at 2 PM. All programs are free.


Ballet Films at the Kennedy Center
In advance of the opening of the tenth anniversary season of the Suzanne Farrell ballet at the Kennedy Center next month, the center’s free daily Millennium Stage program is screening three films associated with the dancer starting this Saturday. The first is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a 1967 feature film ballet of Shakespeare’s play, using the various pieces of music Felix Mendelssohn wrote for the play over the course of his career. It was directed by legendary New York City Ballet co-founder and choreographer George Balanchine (with Daniel Eriksen), and stars Farrell in the role of Titiana. This is followed on Sunday by Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse, a 1996 documentary about Farrell and her personal and professional relationship with Balanchine, which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature that year. The series closes on Monday with a recent restoration of Balanchine’s landmark 1965 staging of Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote, which also starred Farrell, and which is discussed in more detail in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. Free.


The Liberties
Directors Tom Burke and Shane Hogan put together a series of 15 short films about the history, people, and daily life of the Dublin neighborhood known as the Liberties. Among their subjects: actress Brenda Fricker, Oscar winner for her role in My Left Foot, who is a resident of the neighborhood; a stone sculptor nearing retirement after 50 years working his craft; and an old-fashioned butcher shop, run by the same family since 1950. Another film asks women on the street about what they’ve got in their shopping trolleys. Solas Nua is presenting a screening of these films all together in their feature-length documentary form next week.

You can sample the individual short films that make up the Liberties on the production company’s YouTube page.

Monday at 7 PM at the Renaissance Washington, DC Dupont Circle Hotel. Free.


Blu-ray/DVD Pick of the Week: Carlos
Ostensibly a miniseries, but really a single, gargantuan feature film, Olivier Assayas’s biopic of notorious Venezuelan terrorist has ambitions as outsized as its subject; only Assayas, unlike Carlos successfully pulls off his audacious plans. Originally made as a three-part TV movie for French cable network Canal+, the 5½-hour sprawl of the original version was edited down to a brisk 140 minutes for theatrical release. Surprisingly, the complete version ended up being so engrossing, that a number of theaters ended up screening the full-length film as a single piece.

Assayas’s film seeks to explain the cult of personality that Carlos created around him, and uses the huge canvas the long format provides to delve deeply into the man’s character. The director’s vision is hypnotic and riveting, but what’s truly thrilling is watching Édgar Ramírez’s dynamic performance in the title role. Even at nearly six hours in length, there rarely feels like there’s a wasted moment here, and the challenge isn’t sitting in one place for so long to watch the whole thing in one stretch; the challenge is tearing yourself away.

Special Features: This is out on Criterion, and their release gives it their usual comprehensive treatment. Extras include video interviews with Assayas, Ramírez, and cinematographer Denis Lenoir; Lenoir also offers commentary on selected scenes; an hour-long documentary about Carlos; archival interviews with his real-life associates; a feature-length documentary about one particular bombing orchestrated by Carlos that was not featured in the film; a 20-minute documentary about one particularly dazzling scene in the film, Carlos and his group’s raid on an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meeting; the original theatrical trailer; a booklet featuring essays by Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus.

View the trailer.