This, of course, is the week that “belongs” to Fifty Shades of Grey — which is expected to pull down $70-75 million this weekend. How you feel about that is something else entirely. It, however, is not the only thing opening this week — which is good news if low-wattage S&M is not your particular thing. We also get one — maybe two — art titles and one other mainstream release.
When I say “maybe two” in terms of art titles that refers to the fact that one of the films in question is only maybe an art title. That remains to be seen. It is, however, definitely slated to open, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The one art title that I’ve seen is Still Alice (reviewed in this week’s paper), which, of course features Julianne Moore in her Oscar-nominated (and supposedly shoo-in for the win) performance as a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. (It opens Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts.) It’s a good picture — or more correctly, it’s a pretty good picture that’s raised a notch or two into the realm of something like a must-see by the performannces of Moore and (yes) Kristen Stewart. The movie itself is rather prosaically made, though its script offers some keen insights that might have been better explored.
In the unknown area we have, of course, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, Taylor-Johnson — when she was Sam Taylor-Wood — made the excellent Nowhere Boy back in 2009, but I have little reason to hope that this will be in that league. I am sure, however, that she was paid a lot more to make this. I have never read the source novel, nor can I say I have the slightest desire to do so — in part, because every time I’ve ever read a supposedly “racy” book, I could never understand what the fuss was all about. The film appears to be a kind of soft-core porn affair with some S&M. I’m guessing it’s very soft since star Jamie Dornan has adamantly stated that he did no frontal nudity. This seems to be badge of honor with him — despite the fact that better actors than he (Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Ewan McGregor, for a start) have gone all a-dangle in movies. Honestly, both Mr. Dorman and his co-star Dakota Johnson — based on the trailers — look like either one alone could suck all the charisma out of a movie. Together, the mind reels. Will you see it? You already know if you intend to. Will I? Yes, I feel I need to — just to see what everyone is so ga-ga about…maybe.
Of much greater interest to me is Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service starring Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, and a newcomer named Taron Egerton, who plays the uncouth street kid Firth recruits into the secret service. I’ve liked all of Vaughn’s films that I’ve seen, which is a big plus. The film appears to be a very bloody and violent spoof of the kind of spy pictures that were defined by the early Sean Connery James Bond films in the 1960s. (There’s a production still of Firth firing an umbrella gun, which seems a pretty sound evocation of that era.) The early reviews — and the trailer and that cast — are very encouraging. I will be there Friday morning first thing, I assure you. Mr. Grey can wait till the second show.
Last up is the maybe-an-art-film, Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea. It’s the sort of specialized movie that usually gets a press screening, and I’ve no idea why it didn’t. The early reviews are almost entirely on the glowing side. There is, in fact, only one dissenting voice. Some of you may remember Moore’s The Secret of the Kells (2009), which was an Oscar-nominee. That was a film I found it easier to admire visually than to actually like. This — to judge by the stills — seems very much cut from the same cloth and looks to be spinning a similar kind of Celtic myth (this times it’s selkies — you know the seal shape-shifters).
This week we lose A Most Violent Year (which never really took off here) and Foxcatcher (which lasted longer than I expected). It is, however, worth noting that Birdman is down to two shows a day (5:45 and 10:15 p.m.), Two Days, One Night to one show (1 p.m.), the animated Oscar shorts to two shows (11:05 a.m. and 8:20 p.m.) and the live action Oscar shorts to one (3:15 p.m.). All of those are at The Carolina.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture show has Fred F. Sears’ flying buzzard puppet classic The Giant Claw (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 12 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Richard Lester’s How I Won the War (1967) on Fri., Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will screen Herbert Ross’ The Turning Point (1977) on Sun., Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Rouben Mamoulian’s Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical film High, Wide and Handsome (1937) on Tue., Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with extended reviews in the online edition.
For my money, the big release this week is Laggies, which opened here on the wrong week and was pretty completely ignored. It deserved more attention and maybe it will get it on DVD. Also up are Nightcrawler (which a lot of people liked a lot more than I did) and the tiresome Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.