Frankly, any week coming after The Grand Budapest Hotel is apt to taste like wax fruit, but we do have four movies opening this week — two mainstream, two art titles (sort of). At least one of the art titles I know to be good, even if it’s the kind of film for which the phrase “not for everyone” was coined. And how.
The one art film in question is Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy — a title fully as ambiguous as the movie it festoons. And let me tell you, this was one tough movie to screen last week. It was supposed to be screened Wednesday morning. After about 10 minutes, it was announced there was a problem and that it might have to be moved to Thursday. Then about an hour was spent trying to get the hard-drive containing the film to work. No dice. So it was back to the theater on Thursday morning — only to hear those blood-chilling words, “We have no reason to believe it won’t work.” Uh huh. And it almost didn’t — at least to the degree that it took about 30 minutes of technical jiggery-pokery to beat the damned thing into submission. (Whether or not a virgin was sacrificed, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me.) By this time, I was in a mood best described as “this better be worth two early morning trips to town.” It was — in its way.
Enemy — opening Friday at The Carolina — is a movie for people who like something out of the ordinary — something not wholly explicable that will attach itself to your brain and not easily let go. It’s a disturbing psychological thriller. It is unsettling. It does not give up its mysteries easily. Frankly, I’m not sure it ever can — or should — give up all its mysteries. Saying that it’s a film about a man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who either accidentally discovers — or is led to discover — that he has an exact double (also Jake Gyllenhaal), and what happens when he pursues meeting this other self is not telling you much about the film or its deep strangeness. I can easily imagine that Enemy will anger some viewers, especially with its abrupt and (maybe) inconclusive ending. It’s definitely a film for people who like to be challenged by what they watch. The review is in this week’s Xpress. It will hopefully give you a better idea of whether or not you want to tackle a double dose of Mr. Gyllenhaal in a difficult film. You are warned — and cautiously encouraged.
Now, on to these things I have not seen.
First up is Jason Bateman’s Bad Words — the actor’s directorial debut — which is expanding from its limited release this week. (So far as I know at this point, it’s only at The Carolina.) I am somewhat hesitant about this title, mostly because it’s the sort of film that is usually screened for Asheville critics. However, it is from Focus Features, which does not always court the critics. Considering the fact that the reviews from the places where it has already been released are mixed (but leaning positive), it may have been a deliberate move not to screen it. (I am only guessing.) The film is an R-rated comedy that the studio is calling “subversive.” That it’s called Bad Words is an apparent attempt to evoke the idea of Bad Santa (not an immediate plus for me). Bateman plays a foul-mouthed 40-year-old who takes advantage of a loophole (he never got past eighth grade) to enter a national spelling bee designed for children. Some say it’s funny — with a dollop of sentiment — and others say it just plain doesn’t work or that it quickly wears out its welcome. I’m curious at least.
And then there’s Darren Aronofosky’s Noah — the far-from-mainstream filmmaker’s attempt at a Biblical epic on his own terms. That’s why the studio was quick to try to assuage the ire of Christian groups by insisting the film was “inspired by” the Bible story and not a literal depiction of the events. (I have no idea what that literal depiction would be, but I keep seeing quaint images in my mind from the Bible Stories for Children book I had as a young child.) The early reviews are a fascinating mixture. They’re mostly positive, but they all seem to be positive for different reasons or voice hesitation for different reasons. The whoever-they-are that write up upcoming movies on the IMDb are all a-dither that this Noah might be too much like Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006). Actually, I’d consider that a plus (though I doubt Paramount would agree). Whatever it is or is isn’t, it’s the one thing opening this week that I haven’t seen that I’m determined to see. Even if it’s a disaster, I expect it to be a magnificent one.
The good thing about Der Arnold being governor of California was that it kept him off movie screens. Now, we seem destined to see the 67-year-old action star party like it’s 1989 in a stream of cheesy action movies. At least, most of them seem to have the good sense to go for the full R rating. (Why not? His original core audience is certainly over 17.) This one — which also stars Sam Worthington and Terrence Howard — is called
Sabotage, comes to us from hack director David Ayer (Street Kings) and, despite its high-octane firepower and all the cleverly nicknamed characters (“Breacher,” “Monster,” “Grinder,” etc.), actually appears to be yet another variation on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. (Didn’t Renny Harlin try this with Mindhunters back in 2005?)
OK, we lose lots of things this week — some of them due for it. I mean, it’s time for 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle to take their leave. (They’re out on DVD.) But The Wind Rises is perhaps premature. I’m not surprised that Better Living Through Chemistry is leaving, since it was already cut to one show a day (to make room for Veronica Mars, which tanked and is also leaving).
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show returns with Edgar G. Ulmer’s Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Yasujiro Ozu’s Good Morning (1959) on Friday, March 28, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Orson Welles’ The Stranger (1946) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 30 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts its April calendar with Federico Fellini’s The White Sheik (1952) on Tuesday, April 1, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Notable TV Screenings
They’re not all good, but this Friday, March 28, TCM has a run of silent movies — Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) at 6:45 a.m., Orphans of the Storm (1921) at 8 a.m., Sherlock Holmes (1922) at 10:45 a.m., and The Racket (1928) at 12:15 p.m. As I say, these aren’t all great — or maybe even good — movies, but they’re at least a break from the usual suspects.