Well, we were down for one art/indie title this week, but it got pushed back to Aprill 22, leaving us with three mainstream titles. One of these is in the Next Big Thing category. The others are…less anticipated — possibly not anticipated at all. I freely confess to being unable to work up a great deal of enthusiasm over any of them. I am perhaps in Full Curmudgeon mode.
Last weekend was pretty lightweight at the box office. Even the art titles were at best tepid. In the case of City of Gold (which should never have opened without a review), tepid is being kind. (Yes, I know it’s a documentary, but still…) Hopefully, Demolition and Midnight Special perk up this week. It’s too late to save City of Gold.
Taking this roster alphabetically, we start with Malcolm D. Lee’s Barbershop: The Next Cut — starting Friday (and Thursday evening) at The Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. In its favor: The original Barbershop was one of 2001’s pleasanter surprises. For that matter, neither its sequel Barbershop: Back in Business, nor its spinoff Beauty Shop were awful. Most of the original cast is back. And while the only Malcolm D. Lee movie I’ve seen and liked was Roll Bounce, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. However, none of this answers the question of why this movie exists. Why now all these years later? It’s not like Ice Cube needs a hit in the wake of those Ride Along movies. What I’d like to believe is that everyone had such a great time making the first one (and maybe the second) that they just wanted to get together for a new one. Well, it could happen.
And then there’s Ariel Vromen’s Criminal — doing that Friday opening (Thursday evening) thing at Carmike 10, The Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. Much as I dislike review aggregator sites — more for trying to reduce criticism to a mathematical formula than for collecting a bunch of unfiltered reviews — there’s always a grim fascination with movies that get that dreaded Zero Percent rating, and at this moment that’s where Criminal sits. Granted, that’s based on a very small number of reviews, but when you encounter phrases like “nothing short of an unmitigated disaster” and “The fact it’s all played completely straight only makes it funnier,” well that’s perversely tantalizing. It’s even more so when you read the premise that’s being “played completely straight.” It says, “The memories and skills of a CIA agent are implanted into the brain of a dangerous criminal in order to stop an international terrorist.” Wow! What could possibly go wrong? I am so there based on the plot alone. The bad reviews are merely seasoning, as is the prospect of watching Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, and Michael Pitt in anything this absurd.
The big title is Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book — starting Friday (and Thursday evening) at Carmike 10, The Carolina Cinemark, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is the polar opposite of Criminal — sitting at a 100 percent approval rating (26 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes. Even folks I know personally — and more or less trust — are enthusing over this high-priced live-action (well, sort of) remake of the 1967 animated film. I’m not entirely sure that a movie in which all the performers but one are CGI contrivances really qualifies as live-action, but no matter, especially since the 1967 take on Rudyard Kipling’s story was Disney at his most cartoonish. There’s no denying that the studio has gone all out on voice casting for its talking critters — Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, the late Garry Shandling. And there’s no doubt this can wrestle the box office to the ground and take the weekend. Personally, I’m just not that interested. I didn’t much care for the animated version when it came out, and I still resent having sat through 2003’s animated The Jungle Book 2 (with those “ch…ch…chattering monkeys”) — a film everyone (not unreasonably) seems to forget happened.
This week we bid farewell to The Lady in the Van (two months is a healthy run) and, as mentioned, City of Gold.
World Cinema is screening Jean-Pierre Melville’s The Army of Shadows (1969) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Apr. 15 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Apr. 17 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville.