It’s a two-fer kind of week in that we get two mainstream titles and two art titles, though one of those art titles is being foolishly (I think) treated as mainstream. (I could be wrong.) Neither of the mainstream titles excite me — your mileage may vary — but at least one of the art titles is choice.
Nothing this week stands even a ghost of a chance of duplicating the freakish success of last week’s Deadpool — a film that nearly doubled the most optimistic projection of the people who get paid to make those projections. I have nothing against that. I enjoyed the movie just fine and I’m amused by the way so much of it is built on the career of an actor who not only never quite made it, but who seemed to fall into bad career choices with almost supernatural accuracy. What I am not looking forward to is the likely rush of copycats churned out by studios that have only the vaguest notion of why this movie worked.
Now the best thing this week (as far as I’m concerned) is Nicholas Hytner’s film of Alan Bennett’s “mostly true story” The Lady in the Van — opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. My review for it is this week’s Xpress, and as I noted there, I liked this so much that I watched it twice and look forward to seeing it again. The big draw for many is going to be Maggie Smith in the title role — and that’s fine. She’s certainly exceptional in the part (she’d already played in onstage and in radio drama), but there’s more to the film than simply one role — a great deal more. Check out the review, but more importantly, go see the movie.
I’ve also seen Robert Eggers’ The Witch — starting Friday (with Thursday night shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is really an art film, but as often happens with horror titles, it’s being handled like a mainstream release. Personally, this strikes me as a mistake. This about as far as you’re likely to get from an action-packed horror picture. Though I saw it, I passed the reviewing of it on to Scott Douglas (his review is in this week’s Xpress), since he seemed to be much more in tune with the picture than I was. It is by no means a film lacking in merit. It is simply a film that didn’t appeal much to me.
First up on the unknown duo is Stephen Hopkins’ Race — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. (It may be at Carmike 10, too, but that’s unconfirmed.) I’m sure this biopic of Jesse Owens (Stephan James, Selma) — centered on his appearance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — is well-intentioned, but it strikes me as a hard sell. It hasn’t been screened for critics. It’s big names are supporting players — Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten (as Leni Rifenstahl!), William Hurt. Director Stephen Hopkins is best know (theatrically anyway) for things A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Predator 2 (1990), and The Reaping (2007). And it runs a whopping 134 minutes. Plus, there’s that poster — I know it’s not the intention, but it makes Owens look like he’s thumbing his nose at the camera.
And finally we have Kevin Reynolds’ Risen — starting Friday (with Thursday, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. I really have no clue why this faith-based picture is opening now. It would seem more suitable for an Easter release, but here it is. The picture stars Joseph Fiennes (Ralph’s less successful little brother) as the Roman Centurion put on the case of the missing body of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. Think of it as an ancient world police procedural, I guess. Of course, the whole thing is geared (the promos make this clear) to have it end up with Fiennes seeing the light. (A website called Godvine claims it’s the movie “Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See,” a debatable assessment at least as far as Sony Pictures is concerned.) I like the fact that it’s rated PG-13 “for Biblical violence.”
This week we don’t actually lose any art titles, but 45 Years and Where to Invade Next are being split at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts. Otherwise, we’re status quo.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running John Brahm‘s werewolf picture The Undying Monster (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 18 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 19 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing John Sayles’ The Secret of Roan Inish (1995) on Sun., Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Ernst Lubitsch’s anti-war classic Broken Lullaby (1932) on Tue., Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.