Another week, another five movies — and nothing that appears to offer a serious threat to Furious 7. Word is that the Big Opener this week is going to be Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. (How depressing is that?) But no one has yet to claim it will knock Furious 7 to curb. Time will tell.
The week is a little odd in that neither of the films that might be classed as art titles were screened for local critics. The why of this is vague. Once again Fox Searchlight insisted that their film — True Story — could only be screened if the theater provided security. (Asheville being such a hotbed of film piracy, I guess.) That’s probably why the film has so few reviews for a limited release. It’s also possible they think that the presence of Jonah Hill and James Franco make it mainstream. Summit’s Child 44 is a different proposition. It’s been barely reviewed and while it’s listed as wide release, it’s only confirmed for one theater here at this point. So what this means is that the week’s new titles are as big a crapshoot for me as they are for anyone else.
Sight unseen, I’m leaning toward Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44 — only slated for The Carolina at this point. That’s certainly not based on Espinosa’s last movie, Safe House (2012), but more on his Swedish film, Easy Money (2010). But really more than that, it’s because of the presence of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, and Gary Oldman that intrigues me. Plus, the story is more potentially intriguing than the other opening films. Here’s the studio version: “A politically-charged serial killer thriller set in 1953 Soviet Russia, Child 44 chronicles the crisis of conscience for secret police agent Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy), who loses status, power and home when he refuses to denounce his own wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), as a traitor. Exiled from Moscow to a grim provincial outpost, Leo and Raisa join forces with General Mikhail Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to track down a serial killer who preys on young boys. Their quest for justice threatens a system-wide cover-up enforced by Leo’s psychopathic rival Vasili (Joel Kinnaman), who insists ‘There is no crime in Paradise.'” I realize it’s no Paul Blart.
Next, there’s this year’s DisneyNature’s annual Earth Day documentary. This one is Monkey Kingdom — opening at The Carolina. Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. Its subject should be fairly obvious. Tina Fey narrates. I cannot deny it has simian value, but whether I want 85 minutes of simian value is open to question.
After that there’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 — opening at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. When the original Paul Blart: Mall Cop opened in 2009, I wrote, “There’s nothing quite like the words ‘Happy Madison Productions’ appearing on the screen to diminish my expectations concerning the movie about to unfold. Unfortunately, the pall of gloom that settled over me the moment prior to the actual start of Paul Blart: Mall Cop wasn’t quite sufficient to brace me for the spectacularly unfunny 80-odd minutes that followed.” Of course, that was before I saw the even worse, similarly-themed Observe and Report. It being worse doesn’t actually improve Paul Blart. (Clapton knows I don’t want to open the Observe and Report fight up again — the one mostly spearheaded by a guy it turned out was trying to get a job with the director.) I see no reason to think this rather late-in-the-day sequel will be any better just because it’s set in Las Vegas.
That bring us to the aforementioned True Story — opening at The Carolina and Regal Biltmore Grande. I honestly don’t know why this is opening at two theaters — unless someone thinks the names James Franco and Jonah Hill are a bigger draw than I do. The fact that this a drama is another matter. From the studio: “When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) meets accused killer Christian Longo (James Franco) — who has taken on Finkel’s identity — his investigation morphs into an unforgettable game of cat-and-mouse. Based on actual events, Finkel’s relentless pursuit of Longo’s true story encompasses murder, love, deceit and redemption.” This has garnered 17 reviews — 12 of them positive, but few exactly over the moon.
Bringing up the rear is the R rated horror movie Unfriended — opening at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. Strangely, this has gotten a dozen reviews — and ten of them are positive. It’s typical low-budget horror — made by and starring people you likely never heard of (unless you’re related to them). It’s all about some supernatural force using the internet connection of a dead friend to seek revenge on this chatroom group. In other words, it’s a haunted computer movie. That’s not entirely new, nor is the gimmick that we see everything as if we were looking at the main character’s computer screen. (Nacho Vigalondo did something like this last year with Open Windows, except that had no supernatural component.) I’ll probably see it simply because it’s a horror picture. I have no real expectations.
This week we lose Serena, Seymour: An Introduction (sorry to see that), and (at least at The Carolina) Kingsman: The Secret Service. The Carolina is splitting It Follows and The Second Best Marigold Hotel.
Since we’re running an article on Lisi Russell (Ken Russell’s widow) in this week’s paper, I’m going to go ahead and mention that the Asheville Film Society brings back the Budget Big Screen series with Ken Russell’s Mahler (1974) at 7:30 p.m. on Wed. Apr. 22 at The Carolina. Tickets are $6 for AFS members and $8 general admission. The film will be introduced by special guest Lisi Russell, who is returning to Asheville for the event.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Gerard Johnstone’s critically-acclaimed horror-comedy Housebound (2014) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Apr. 16 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Turtles Can Fly (2004) on Fri., Apr. 17 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Gregory Ratoff’’s Black Magic (1949) on Sun., Apr. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running William Dieterle’s Love Letters (1945) on Tue., Apr. 21 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with full reviews in the online edition.
Some choice stuff this week — The Babadook, Big Eyes, Maps to the Stars, but there’s also The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. I’d skip that one, if I were you.