The studios seem to be taking the week off. We get exactly one movie that could be called mainstream — and it’s a borderline case that no one is expecting anything out of, and not everyone is bothering to book at all. On the other hand, we do get two new art titles of a certain interest — one of them bordering on the notorious.
The two art titles are Blue Is the Warmest Color and Great Expectations — both opening at The Carolina. And, yes, I’ve seen them both, and they’re both reviewed in this week’s Xpress. Undoubtedly, the more anticipated of the two is the NC-17 rated French film, Blue Is the Warmest Color, if only by virtue of all the furor that has surrounded it. We have seen it hailed as masterpiece (well …), damned as pornography (it really isn’t), and generally dissected by just about everybody. Some online publication even got some “real lesbians” to weigh in on the movie’s infamous sex scenes. (They deemed them as looking like straight girls playing lesbians.) Well, let’s step back for a minute and realize that this is a nearly three-hour French movie with a definite arty bent — not everyone is going to want to undertake such a thing, no matter how much Sapphic sex it dishes out. As you’ll see in the review, I recognized it as a serious film, but … well, I won’t be watching it again. (I’d far rather watch About Time a second time.) Your feelings may well differ. An awful lot of critics are over the moon about it.
I much preferred Mike Newell’s Great Expectations, which was a very pleasant surprise. Bear in mind, I actually like Charles Dickens, and I like this particular book a lot. I liked it when I was made to read it in ninth grade, and I’ve read it at least twice since then (including just a year ago). But because of that, I’m probably not an easy sell on film versions. I find much to admire in Stuart Walker’s little-seen 1934 version and in David Lean’s famous 1946 one. And I find just about as much — albeit in a somewhat different key — to admire here. It’s not updated or radicalized in any way, but it’s a solid, straightforward, atmospheric take on the book with some inspired casting. Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as Miss Havisham is quite the most fascinating interpretation of this role I’ve ever seen. This is definitely worth catching.
Otherwise, the only thing going this week is Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man Holiday — and I really don’t know why. If Lee’s name is unfamiliar to you, he’s Spike Lee’s cousin, and he’s been knocking around as a filmmaker since The Best Man back in 1999. It remains his best-reviewed film. I’ve never seen it, but I have seen Undercover Brother (2002), Roll Bounce (2005), Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins (2008), and (Clapton save me) Scary Movie V (2013). Roll Bounce was the pleasant surprise in that set. Anyway, he’s obviously trying to return to his biggest success (and maybe make amends for Scary Movie V) with this sequel to The Best Man. He’s reassembled his original cast and tapped into a holiday theme. The forecast is for largely empty theaters, though.
This week all we lose is How I Live Now, which doesn’t surprise me, but it should have done better. It also shouldn’t have gone head-to-head with 12 Years a Slave and All Is Lost. However, it’s worth noting that The Carolina is splitting Enough Said, so this is probably the least week it will be in town.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) on Thu., Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 15 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening the little seen Hammer suspense drama Cash on Demand (1962) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 17 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Frank Tuttle’s Bing Crosby musical-comedy Waikiki Wedding (1937) on Tue., Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
The big release this week is probably Man of Steel, but the release for discerning viewers is Frances Ha. Also out are Ip Man: The Final Fight, Turbo, Blackfish, and the not locally seen Prince Avalanche.
Notable TV Screenings
Unusual pickings are pretty slim on TCM this week, but there are a pair of choice titles in their very loosely defined spotlight on “Screwball Comedies” this Fri., Nov. 15. Howard Hawks’ Twentieth Century (1934) — the very definition of screwball comedy — is on at 9:45 p.m.. It’s followed at 11:30 p.m. by Mitchell Leisen’s delicious film (from a Preston Sturges script) Easy Living (1937). The rest of the week may be negligible or overly familiar, but these are worth catching.