This is a week of riches where the art titles are concerned. It's not all that unusual that we get three art movies in one week. It is unusual when we get three of them I'd classify as being in the "must-see" realm. And it's even more unusual when it happens in April. For that matter, there are also four other movies of the mainstream variety headed our way. Offhand, they seem likely to be shy of the "must-see" realm.
This is also one of those weeks where I hate, loathe and despise the shortcomings of the star ratings and the inadequacy of the "Weekly Pick." In the case of the latter, I suppose I have only myself to blame. It was my idea because I was tired of seeing good movies buried by alphabetizing and columns leading off with things like The Adventures of Pluto Nash. It was, to say the least, discouraging. Now, I've occasionally side-stepped this by trying to have two picks. That works pretty well in print. Online? Well, that causes universes to shrink, stars to collapse — and very likely the complete disappearance of the second film. It ain't pretty. And this week, it would be three "Weekly Picks." Rather than risk the explosion of the entire Miles Building, I just went with one pick, but I wasn't happy about it. I'm not happy about it. I do not expect to ever be happy about it. In short, I am displeased.
Here's the thing — on Friday, Footnote opens at the Fine Arts, while Being Flynn and The Kid with a Bike open at The Carolina. These are all very good films. They all deserve to be seen. Comparing the three is simply an absurdity. All three have one similarity (apart from being movies, that is), and that's their approach to the manner in which they end. Otherwise, setting the films against one another is an aardvarks and zebras situation. I gave Footnote the pick, but only because I think it was probably the most accomplished of the titles in terms of filmmaking. My personal favorite is Being Flynn — and it's also the most flawed. My real advice? Go see them all — and, no, don't assume that they'll be here three weeks from now, because with art titles that's not a given. It would certainly be a weekend well spent at the movies. The reviews for all three are in this week's paper.
Of course, there are other titles coming to town. I suppose we should examine them — or at least what they look like.
When people see the names Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller together, they might immediately think of the modest pleasures of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), which Segel wrote and starred in, and which Stoller directed. That film remains probably the high-water mark where Judd Apatow-produced R-rated rom coms are concerned. But let's not forget that Segel and Stoller then penned Get Him to the Greek (2010), which Stoller also directed. This time with The Five-Year Engagement they've collaborated in like manner, except Segel is back as the star, Russell Brand is nowhere to be seen, and Emily Blunt has been brought in as the female lead. Somebody in marketing at Universal thinks that the self-explanatory title means that this is something fresh and new and vital. I am less convinced at this point and the fact that this is another two-hour-plus comedy (has everyone forgotten editing?) makes me groan.
Then there's Pirates! Band of Misfits, which is the latest animated film from Aardman (the Wallace and Gromit folks), and which marks a return — at least in part — to traditional claymation. It heads our way with a lot of good reviews from the Australian and British critics. The former frankly mystify me (at least the ones who aren't obvious quote whores) and the latter ... well, let's say I'm not sure it isn't a punishable offense to speak in other than glowing terms about Aardman in the UK. The idea here seems to be that audiences will line up to see a film where Hugh Grant is the lead voice actor. That remains to be seen. I have nothing against the film, but I will freely admit that I cannot work up any great enthusiasm for it based on the trailer. Maybe I'm simply pirated out, or maybe my last memory of animated pirates was that thing with Christian vegetables and I'm scarred for life on the subject.
The foreign reviews for James McTeigue's The Raven — which stars John Cusack as no less a personage than Edgar Allan Poe himself. This, however, is not Poe as we might imagine, but presents him as a man of action, who is pressed into the detective biz when a madman starts copying murders out of Poe's stories. These early reviews from abroad seem to take this very seriously — like some kind of revisionist approach to the writer. Combine the ire that raises with a distaste for McTeigue's V for Vendetta (2005) and his association with the Wachowski Brothers and you get some pretty scathing reviews. It never occurred to me that this was meant to be taken seriously, but was more in the nature of an historical romp. Even granting that a portion of the audience will believe it's true — after all, we live in a world where some people believe that Forrest Gump (1994) was a documentary — the trailers suggest a movie that isn't meant to be taken as fact. And the idea of someone duplicating Poe's stories isn't all that new, since it dates back to 1935's The Raven (and it's sheer happenstance that the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running that this week). To me, it looks like a silly amusement — one I'll be checking out. But then I go to most of the horror movies — often to my chagrin afterwards.
That brings us to Safe — an R-rated Jason Statham picture. And that probably tells the whole story. (Look, the photo might be from any of a dozen Statham movies.) This one centers on Statham protecting some little girl who has some important information locked away in her tiny noggin — information that all the bad guys in the world are after, of course. Naturally, these would-be evildoers have not reckoned on having to contend with the unstoppable Mr. Statham. Now, I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. I've probably liked more of Statham's movies than I haven't — particularly the outlandish Crank pictures and the first two Guy Ritchie movies — but in general, we're not talking about especially weighty material. And Safe looks like it's anything but weighty.
This week we lose Jiro Dreams of Sushi (The Carolina) and We Need to Talk About Kevin (Fine Arts). The Carolina is also dropping The Raid: Redemption, but it's hanging on at the Carmike (owing more to a dearth of product than big box office). And it's worth noting that In Darkness (The Carolina) goes to evening only shows come Friday.
The Thursday Horror Picture has a Bela Lugosi double feature with Robert Florey's Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and Louis Friedlander's The Raven (1935) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Ted Kotcheff's Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? is this week's World Cinema offering on Friday, April 27, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing the offbeat comedy Kitchen Stories (2003) on Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) kicks off the May movies for the Asheville Film Society at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.
A somewhat less than overwhelming week in DVD releases, though perhaps those of you who didn't make it to the theater to see Pariah will give this fine film a look at home. I didn't see Contraband, but I can't say that Justin Souther's review makes me all that anxious to correct this oversight in my cinematic education on DVD. I admit to a certain curiosity about The Innkeepers, which didn't play here. And I see that Let the Bullets Fly — a pretty terrific movie that was screened at ActionFest — is also out. I may have to break down and buy that one.
Notable TV Screenings
Alas, it's one of those weeks on TCM, which means you're on your own.