Despite the not insignificant tumble Batman v Superman took in its second week, the mainstream fare remains on the lackluster side this week with only two new titles in that column, neither of which are particularly high-end. On the other hand, the art side of things is looking pretty good with no less than three new titles hitting town this week, which is a little surprising with Eye in the Sky opening strong and Hello, My Name Is Doris more than holding its own.
That those new art titles are all opening at The Carolina goes a long way toward allaying fears that the theater’s acquisition by the large Cinemark chain would mean a slacking off in art titles. Whether it will stay that way is, of course, an open question — and there are definitely some teething troubles in terms of getting these movies reviewed — but it’s undeniably encouraging.
Two of the three art titles have been seen — and one of them reviewed in this week’s Xpress. Let’s start with that one, which is Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition — starting Friday at The Carolina. This film — starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, and newcomer Judah Lewis — was screened for critics this past weekend and it’s definitely an offbeat charmer. The key word is “offbeat.” In fact, the film is something of an oddity, but a delightful and delightfully human one. It all starts when Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is in a car wreck that kills his wife, but leaves him unharmed. What he feels might be guilt for being the one who lived, but it manifests itself as a complete lack of feeling — a state he realizes he’s been in for the past 10 to 12 years. His answer to this — more or less — is to disassemble his life and put it back together. There’s much more to it — including his relationship with the customer service rep (Naomi Watts) who respomds to his letters about a faulty vending machine in the hospital — but that’s the core. It’s quirky without being forced and it constantly veers off in unexpected — and maybe not entirely realistic — directions. I pretty completely loved it and its humanity. The review appears in the paper and online later today.
Then there’s Laura Gabbert’s City of Gold — also starting Friday at The Carolina. This was seen, but not reviewed because there was some confusion over whether or not it was actually opening. (Turns out it is.) This is a documentary about Pulitzer Prize winning LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. At least that’s what it is on the surface, but it’s also a portrait of Los Angeles and its diverse food scene, as evidenced in the city’s unassimilated neighborhoods. One thing that sets it — and Gold — apart from most is that it has little to do with elite upscale restaurants, and instead focuses on the delights of little known mom and pop restaurants tucked away in those most disdained of structures, the strip mall. It’s entertaining, charming — and certainly not lacking in tempting food. (Well, maybe not the fried grasshoppers so much.)
Last on the art side is Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special — opening Friday at The Carolina. (This is an expansion by Warner Bros. and may be at other area theaters, but that’s as yet unconfirmed.) This is the kind of film that normally would be opening locally with a review, but I’m not sure anyone new it would be making it to town till Monday afternoon. In any case, it stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard. In many respects, it appears to be very similar to Nichols’ other rural-setting films — but with a sci-fi twist. (I guess that makes 2011’s mystical Take Shelter it’s closest relative.) The story is centered on a boy (Lieberher) with unusual powers. (“He’s not like us,” says the advertising.) It comes with 88 positive reviews and only 17 negative ones. It undeniably looks more interesting than either of the unseen mainstream offerings.
First up in the mainstream is Ben Falcone’s The Boss — starting Friday (and Thursday evening) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This is the latest in the seemingly endless run of R rated comedies starring Melissa McCarthy. The Boss re-teams her with Tammy (2014) director, co-writer (and husband) Ben Falcone, This probably tells you as much as you need to know to make a decision, but the studio informs us that McCarthy plays “a titan of industry who is sent to prison after she’s caught for insider trading. When she emerges ready to rebrand herself as America’s latest sweetheart, not everyone she screwed over is so quick to forgive and forget. McCarthy is joined in The Boss by an all-star cast led by Kristen Bell, Peter Dinklage and Kathy Bates.” (One assumes she’s supposed to be Martha Stewart. Or maybe Leona Helmsley.) It has not been screened for critics, which is unsurprising.
Finally, we have Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry — opening Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltomore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. The director is known for a video short called (I kid you not) Biting Elbows: Bad Motherfucker. Yes, well…Here we have to “world’s first” first person movie. (Someone needs to ask Robert Montgomery about this, since he tried this back in 1947 with Lady in the Lake.) This, however, probably is the world’s first first person shooter game movie. The folks bringing us the film tell us, “Hardcore Henry is one of the most unflinchingly original wild-rides to hit the big screen in a long time: You remember nothing. Mainly because you’ve just been brought back from the dead by your wife (Haley Bennett). She tells you that your name is Henry. Five minutes later, you are being shot at, your wife has been kidnapped, and you should probably go get her back. Who’s got her? His name’s Akan (Danila Kozlovsky); he’s a powerful warlord with an army of mercenaries, and a plan for world domination. You’re also in an unfamiliar city of Moscow, and everyone wants you dead. Everyone except for a mysterious British fellow called Jimmy (Sharlto Copley.) He may be on your side, but you aren’t sure. If you can survive the insanity, and solve the mystery, you might just discover your purpose and the truth behind your identity.” In other words, it’s a big screen video game starring the viewer — well, more or less. It should be noted that it’s rated R for “non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use” — in short, the very raison d’etre of cinema. The funny part is…it comes to us with 17 positive early reviews and only four negative ones. That, of course, is not an overwhelmingly large sampling.
This week we lose The Witch at The Carolina, and Sony Pictures Classics kills another one by opening I Saw the Light on too many screens — at least as far as The Carolina goes. It’s not sure at Regal Biltmore Grande and UA Beaucatcher, but it’s probably a good bet.
With the Asheville Film Society and the Thursday Horror Picture Show on hiatus for a while, these listings are apt to be a little scant for a few weeks. World Cinema is screening Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Apr. 8 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Apr. 10 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville.