Now we know that Fantastic Four wasn’t, which I guess surprised someone (you know who you are). Actually, I found last week generally kind of dispiriting — at least till Sunday’s press screening restored my faith in movies. This week…well, we’ll see.
I should explain. I didn’t actually hate last week’s movies (I didn’t see Fantastic Four). Well, I close to hated Ricki and the Flash. I admired much about The Gift and was mostly indifferent to Shaun the Sheep Movie, but nothing excited me — and The Gift is too dark to actually like. It’s more something you might appreciate.
Before getting to the week’s mainstream offerings, let’s start with the Sunday press screening that boosted my sagging cinematic spirits. That was James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour — opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. This was by no means a sure thing for me. I’m am not familiar with the film’s subject — David Foster Wallace — have mixed feelings about Ponsoldt, and was apprehensive about Jason Segel in a dramatic role. But my misgivings fell away pretty quickly and I found myself completely sucked into this film based on David Lipsky’s interviews with Wallace the last five days of Wallace’s book tour promoting Infinite Jest in 1996. How much I really learned about Wallace is open to question. The film is upfront about the fact that his interview answers are at the very least guarded. But I didn’t care. What held me was the interplay between interviewer and subject — between established literary star and the far-from-established writer doing the interview. Plus, the conversations — honest or not — are fascinating from beginning to end. The review is in this week’s Xpress.
I’d also seen Jon Watts’ Cop Car — opening Friday at The Carolina. Though I didn’t find this story about two 10-year-old boys who “steal” a corrupt sheriff’s (Kevin Bacon) patrol car — while, unbeknownst to them, the sheriff is disposing of a body — entirely successful in its apparent aim to evoke the Coen Brothers, I did find it a nicely nasty throwback to a ’70s drive-in movie. It’s unadorned — there are no more than five actual characters and not many more people even glimpsed — and astonishingly unsentimental. That’s its strength, but it may also be off-putting to some viewers. It’s also reviewed in this week’s paper.
First of the mainstream titles is Guy Ritchie’s big screen take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E — starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. This one is finally getting some reviews — 11 out of 15 positive — but I didn’t care. It’s Guy Ritchie, so I’m there. The fact that it’s actually set in the same era as the old TV series is also a huge plus. (This, for me, is the central problem with James Bond movies still soldiering on.) I watched the show when it was on, but I can’t say I was a big fan (I liked my spy stuff with a British flavor), even though I did go see the so-called features, too. (In reality, these were two part episodes spliced together and released as movies.) But the ’60s vibe and look seem like natural fits for Ritchie’s style — and I’m fine with the cast of Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and, maybe most of all, Hugh Grant in the old Leo G. Carroll role as the head of U.N.C.L.E. In other words, you can find me at the 11:15 show at The Carolina on Friday morning.
Finally, there’s F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton — also starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. This supposed to be the week’s big winner. The blurb tells us, “In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation.” Right now, it has 13 reviews — 12 of which are positive. I suspect the timing of the movie will help it, since it’s unfortunately just as relevant as ever.
This week the Fine Arts drops Infinitely Polar Bear and cuts Mr. Holmes to one show (1:20). The Carolina is losing Dark Places (no shock there) and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which still had some life left in it. But let’s face it, it did far better than anyone expected.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Rex Ingram’s The Magician (1926) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 14 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963) on Fri., Aug. 14 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 Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) on Sun., Aug. 16 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Fred Allen (with guest stars Jack Benny, Jerry Colonna, Don Ameche, William Bendix and lots more) in Richard Wallace’s It’s in the Bag! (1945) on Tue., Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
This week brings us Unfriended and Hot Pursuit. In short, go to the movies.