Weekend Preview: Skip the Multiplex, Head to the Art House

There's so much good stuff happening on the fringes of the movie world this weekend, outside the multiplexes and beyond the wide releases, that I'm not even moved to snark too much about the crap opening at the multiplexes. So what if the Resident Evil franchise won't stay dead and is back with its third installment, Resident Evil: Extinction. And so what if this, the biggest release this weekend -- 3,500 screens at 2,828 locations -- wasn't shown to critics? We all know what to expect from it, don't we?

Who cares if Good Luck Chuck, the second widest release today, arriving on 3,100 screens at 2,612 locations, is yet another pointlessly vulgar comedy about the adolescent fear of sex and women men of all ages appear to suffer from (and which has been all over the movies all summer)? Who cares if Sydney White, at 2,102 venues, is the result of someone's bizarre idea to transplant Snow White to college?

I don't care. Because look: the intense and riveting Eastern Promises expands from 15 screens to 1,404 screens today. The wicked satire The Hunting Party expands from four screens to 329. The indescribably wonderful Beatles musical Across the Universe adds 253 screens. The mournful drama In the Valley of Elah adds 308 screens. The fascinating Apollo-era documentary In the Shadow of the Moon adds 42 screens.

But wait! There's more! Opening small today are the sweet romantic drama The Jane Austen Book Club, on 25 screens; the meditative revisionist Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, on 15 screens; and the intriguing (if not entirely successful) road drama Into the Wild, on four screens.

So, yes, there is the horror of the Disneyfication of the Rock to ignore with The Game Plan, which will have 808 public sneak previews on Saturday. But with so much else good stuff around to check out -- even if too many folks may have to drive a bit to find a theater showing that good stuff -- ignoring it won't be hard.

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MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

reviews, reviews, reviews! at FlickFilosopher.com