Last week was pretty slack -- at least as far as the box office was concerned (I'm of the opinion that Jack the Giant Slayer was a lot better than its reception would seem to indicate). This week is rather stronger looking -- both in terms of box office and in general. We've got one highly-anticipated mainstream release and three art -- or at least not quite mainstream titles.
Two of the art titles I've seen -- the documentary Chasing Ice (opening at the Fine Arts) and the historical drama Emperor (opening at The Carolina) -- and their reviews are in this week's Xpress. Briefly, Chasing Ice -- about climate change and melting glaciers -- has some truly stunning, even breathtaking, images, and Emperor -- a drama about (in part) whether or not to prosecute Hirohito for war crimes at the end of WWII -- is truly compelling drama. In fact, I'll go further and say that Emperor is the first film I've seen in 2013 that stands a chance of ending up on my Ten Best list at the end of the year. I realize that may not sound like much of an accolade, considering what the year has been like so far. But it's not something I say lightly. This was something that sounded like nothing I would care for -- and two viewings later, I'm still very pleasantly surprised by how good the movie turned out to be. Of course, it's early in the year and it remains to be seen how it'll look to me by December -- and what else is headed our way. Right now, however, it's certainly in the running.
The other movies coming out this week are in the realm of unknown quantities.
Up first, there's Niels Arden Oplev's Dead Man Down, which may be considered in the art film category. (At the moment, I only have it down as opening at The Carolina, though I suspect it's not exclusive.) It's the first American feature from Oplev, who is best known for having made the original -- and vastly surperior (sorry, Fincherites) -- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It also reunites him with star Noomi Rapace, and it adds Colin Farrell, Dominic Cooper, and Terrence Howard to the mix. These are not credits to be sneezed at. The fact that Oplev is still working in the thriller mode is also encouraging. Somewhat less encouraging is the fact that it's not been screened for critics -- or seemingly screened at all. But that cast and that director make it pretty hard not to remain at least cautiously hopeful. (For those wanting a stronger dose -- i.e., a bit of skin and language -- here's the red band trailer.)
The big deal this week is, of course, Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful -- a film I wish I could feel as jazzed about as I'm supposed to. It's not because I consider the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz holy writ, because I don't. (It has been suggested that I am unfit to judge anything -- and am generally a bad person -- since I merely like the 1939 film, and mostly in parts.) I don't even mind that it's a prequel -- an apparent origins story (what hath the comic book movie wrought?) that has to bend over backwards not to emulate the old movie's copyright holders. I'm more or less OK with cast -- no qualms about Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, or Michelle Williams, though James Franco is hit-and-miss with me. And, yes, the movie obviously has simian value -- albeit CGI simian value, and that's not quite the same thing. But what really has me is the trailer and the fact that Raimi's Oz looks way too much like Tim Burton's Wonderland. Still, I'll remain hopeful. Hell, I'll even go out of my way to see it in 3D. So there.
This week, the Fine Arts is dropping Quartet for Chasing Ice. Quartet, however, is holding on at The Carolina. However, The Carolina is send the documentary A Place at the Table packing. Also of note is the fact that they're bringing back Argo (which is also still playing at the Carmike) and splitting it with Amour -- that suggests strongly that Amour will be a casualty next week.
Before getting down to the usual films, let's pause to at least mention this "Best of Rural Route Film Festival" being run at the Courtyard Gallery by Mechanical Eye Microcinema. I have seen none of the films, but here's the press release:
"On March 9th, Mechanical Eye Microcinema (MEM) will host the best of Rural Route Film Festival at Phil Mechanic Studios with festival director Alan Webber making an appearance in Asheville for the first time. Rural Route takes place during the summer in New York City and tours the country screening selections from the festival during the rest of the year. Rural Route highlights work that deals with rural people and places and MEM is excited to host this 'best of' program consisting of 11 short films.
Phil Mechanic Studios
109 Roberts Street, Asheville
Saturday, March 9th at 8 p.m.
$5 (No one turned away for lack of funds)"
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is the giant insect fear film The Deadly Mantis (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 7 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Part Two (of three) of Carlos (2010) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 8 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Rowland V. Lee's Tower of London (1939) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 10 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening Victor Fleming's Hollywood satire Bombshell (1933) on Tue., Mar. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week's Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.
I wouldn't call this the best week ever, but here's the layout -- Wreck-It Ralph, Playing for Keeps, Red Dawn, and The Intouchables. I'd suggest going with The Intouchables.
Notable TV Screenings
I'd been looking forward to the end of "31 Days of Oscar," but I hadn't reckoned on the "star of the month" being Greer Garson (once described as Louis B. Mayer's ideal of "antiseptic sex"). Oh, well. It is, however, notable that at 10:15 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 7 we do get Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (1932) -- a film that should be seen as often as possible. It's followed by Roy Del Ruth's Folies Bergere de Paris (1935), Maurice Chevalier's last American starring film -- and one I keep trying to warm to. Otherwise, I'd largely call it business as usual -- and Greer Garson.