We have a fairly busy week — three mainstream titles of unknown quality and three art titles (one of unknown quality). It is, of course, the unknown quality aspect that’s the kicker in all this. But, say, isn’t that always the case with these things?
Let’s get what I’ve seen and reviewed out of the way first as usual. Those are the documentary Finding Vivian Maier and David Gordon Green’s Joe. Of the two, I am much more enthused about Finding Vivian Maier — and that’s saying something considering the fact that hearing the word “documentary” tends elicit an audible groan from me. This one is different. It is, in fact, only a dreary, distracting, generic musical score away from having earned the full five stars. It is unusual in that it works as both an examination and appreciation of Vivian Maier’s recently discovered street photography from the 1950s and 60s. It’s also a detective story that tries to unravel the mystery of just this very private woman was and why she never showed her work to anyone. Almost every documentary I’ve ever seen could have been improved by being made shorter. (Documentarians tend to think the viewer is just as fascinated by their topic as they are, and they’re frequently in error on this point.) At the end of Finding Vivian Maier‘s brisk 83 minutes, I actually wished it had gone on longer. Starts Friday at The Carolina.
I wish I was nearly as keen on Joe. But the truth is, I’m just not on David Gordon Green’s wavelength — whatever it is. I originally liked his All the Real Girls (2003), but on seeing it a second time, I realized that most of what I liked was second unit footage shot by cinematographer Tim Orr. His more mainstream offerings did nothing to improve my view and his 2013 return to indies, Prince Avalanche, left me wondering why I’d bothered watching it. This latest I liked better — and it does have a good Nicolas Cage performance — but I was definitely not blown away by it, though others certainly have been. It is very much predicated on one’s fondness for Southern gothic melodrama, so bear that in mind. You may well get more out of it than I did. Starts Friday at The Carolina.
Now, there are these other things, starting with Brick Mansions — yet another in the seemingly endless procession of action thrillers from producer-writer Luc Besson. This one, however, eschews the geriatric action hero formula and instead stars the late Paul Walker. No doubt his presence in this, his penultimate film, will serve to goose the box office. The trailer is pretty dismal and the plot … well, here’s what studio tells us: “In a dystopian Detroit, abandoned brick mansions left from better times now house only the most dangerous criminals. Unable to control the crime, the police constructed a colossal containment wall around this area to protect the rest of the city. For undercover cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker) every day is a battle against corruption. For Lino (David Belle), every day is a fight to live an honest life. Their paths never should have crossed, but when drug kingpin, Tremaine (RZA) kidnaps Lino’s girlfriend, Damien reluctantly accepts the help of the fearless ex-convict, and together they must stop a sinister plot to devastate the entire city. With stylized action featuring thrilling Parkour stunts (David Belle is the co-founder of this physical training discipline), Brick Mansions puts an entertaining twist on the action genre.” There you have it. It is guaranteed to be noisy at the very least.
Much more interesting looking is Richard Shepard’s (The Matador) latest, Dom Hemingway starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant. The stars alone are enough to get me into the theater. It’s a Brit crime comedy of the darker variety. The story concerns the title character (Jude Law) — described as “funny, profane, and dangerous” — getting out of prison after a 12-year stretch and setting out with his friend, Dickie (Grant), to try to collect what he’s owed for not ratting out his old boss (Demian Birchir). At this point, the critics are fairly even divided — 63 positive reviews to 45 negative ones — on its merits. That doesn’t bother me. In fact, that sounds about right for this kind of movie. What does bother me a bit is that it’s from Fox Searlight and they didn’t bother screening it for the local critics, which is unusual for them. Whether this was an oversight or deliberate, I don’t know. I do know that I plan on being there first thing on Friday when it opens at The Carolina.
I have nothing against the idea of a comedy in which a wife (Leslie Mann) teams up with her philandering husband’s (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) girlfriends (Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton) to get back at the lying three-timer. Nothing at all. Oh, sure, it’s not the freshest idea to come along, but it’s the sort of thing that might prove workable. However, I have grave misgivings about Nick Cassavetes as director. This is the man who gave us John Q, The Notebook, Alpha Dog, and My Sister’s Keeper. What in Clapton’s name makes him — or anyone else — think he should make a comedy? I guess we’ll find out. The reviews so far, all of which seem to be British or Australian, are pretty much split down the middle.
Bringing up the rear is the PG-13 horror movie The Quiet Ones, coming to us from the people acquired the rights to the name Hammer Films. (Mind you, they have no actual connection to Hammer apart from owning the brand name.) It stars Jared Harris (Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) as one of those paranormal researches who unleashes far more than he bargained for. (Don’t you hate it when that happens?) Its director, John Pogue, is an unknown quantity to me. I will say that trailer looks pretty creepy. My biggest qualm is the tag “inspired by true events.” That’s almost never a good sign, but we’ll see.
This week both the Fine Arts and The Carolina hold steady on the art titles (in fact, The Grande Budapest Hotel had an upward surge this past weekend). I would not expect Under the Skin (at The Carolina) to be there next week, however.
Apart from the usual offerings, this week marks the final film in this year’s Asheville Jewish Film Festival at the Fine Arts. The final film, Aftermath will screen on Apr. 24 at 7 p.m. with an encore showing on Friday, April 25 at 1 p.m. Admission is $8.50.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux sans Visage) (1960) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 24 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema finishes their monthlong Alain Resnais tribute with his My American Uncle (1980) on Friday, April 25 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Lewis John Carlino’s The Great Santini (1980) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society concludes its April calendar with Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) on Tuesday, April 29 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with full reviews in the online edition.
Believe it or not, there doesn’t appear to be a single new mainstream release this week.
Notable TV Screenings
When your star of the month on TCM is John Wayne, you’re not likely to see much out of the ordinary, but on Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m. TCM is showing Jean Cocteau’s sublime Beauty and the Beast (1946), which has absolutely nothing to do with John Wayne.
On Monday, April 28 at 6:15 a.m. they start the day with Tod Browning’s late-period silent (with synchronized musical score) Lon Chaney film West of Zanzibar (1928). It’s followed by an array of early talkies, the most interesting of which is Jack Conway’s Arsene Lupin (1932) about a gentleman thief (John Barrymore) and the detective who pursues him (Lionel Barrymore) at 12:30 p.m. Also of note is Clarence Brown’s Night Flight (1933) starring John Barrymore and Clark Gable at 3:30 p.m.