OK, so last week wasn’t pretty and this week has its issues — can it really be time for another goopy Nicholas Sparks adaptation? — but it does afford us one quality movie for the adults among us and a new Coen Brothers film. This is clearly a step up from January with its YA sci-fi and Marlon Wayans and bargain basement horror. How much of a step up (partly) remains to be seen.
In retrospect, I don’t really mind having been snowbound the week before last. What did I miss by not seeing The Boy, Dirty Grandpa, and The 5th Wave? My guess is — not much. But I do resent thawing out in time for Fifty Shades of Black, though maybe I shouldn’t since it gave me an early front-runner for Worst Film of 2016.
This week’s known quantity is Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years — starting Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. As just about everyone — well, everyone who’s paying attention — knows, this is the movie for which Charlotte Rampling has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. It’s also the film I was referring to as a quality movie for adults — by which I mean that it’s a mature film about mature characters. It’s also that rare film that ought to work whether or not you’ve reached — more or less — the age of the characters. If you have, you may well recognize yourself and your relationships in the characters. If you haven’t, you may realize that you’re getting a possible look in on your future. It’s the kind of film that gives you something to take away with you. And, if you like it, it may be worth your while to check out Haigh’s gay love story, Weekend, which is currently on Netflix,
First up in the unknown realm is that latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Choice — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. If the fact that it’s Yet Another Nicholas Sparks movie isn’t enough to keep you away, the advert pictured above ought to do the trick. And if that doesn’t, there’s the presence of an unknown director and a low-rent cast (apart from Tom Wilkinson). Now, let’s add the fact that near as I can tell, the heartthrobs at the center of this sudsy affair appear to “meet cute” when one of their dogs impregnates the other. If you’re still determined to see it, well, you are made of sterner stuff than I am — or your name is Justin Souther.
Things look up with the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. In fact, this stands a chance of being the first really good — maybe even great — movie of the year. If you’ve missed the trailer (assuming that’s possible), it’s a Hollywood satire — something like a more good-natured Barton Fink, perhaps — set in the waning years of the studio system and Hollywood’s so-called “Golden Age.” There’s a mix of reality (Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix was a real person) and thinly-veiled parodies of real people. It’s easy to peg the real-life counterparts of much of the cast. For that matter, early cast lists identified Tilda Swinton’s gossip columnist as Hedda Hopper, but I see that’s changed. (She’s still pretty obviously Hedda Hopper.) The cast list alone is impressive. It’s not just Brolin and Swinton, but George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, and of course Frances McDormand. Some seem concerned over the lack of early reviews, but since I’ve yet to see a Coen Brothers picture that wasn’t worth at least one viewing, I remain optimistic. I may even catch it on Thursday night.
And then we have Burt Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (or Pride + Prejudice + Zombies) — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. Here is a case where the title tells it all. It really does seem to be Jane Austen’s Regency rom-com with zombie action added. It’s based on the mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also gave us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Jane Austin (who had no direct involvement). I have nothing against the idea as such — though I have never cared for the brain-eating zombie sub-genre, which this seems to follow. My issues lie with: general zombie burn-out (enough already), the suspicion that this is one joke affair, that PG-13 rating, and the presence of Burt Steers (Charlie St. Cloud, 17 Again) as writer-director. We shall see.
Finally, there’s Alejandro Amenabar’s Regression — which is getting the bum’s rush Weinstein contractual release on a split bill (12:25, 5:15, 10:00) starting Friday at The Carolina. This is another case of a movie with a notable director and a fairly impressive case — Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis — that the Weinsteins seem to have acquired for no clear reason and don’t know what to do with. (See also last year’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.) There is perhaps more reason for this being dumped in this manner, since it was a flop in the UK where it got one good review out of a scant 18. That said, I have a pretty good history of not being in accord with Brit critics, so I remain mildly curious. The studio blurb says: “Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) investigates the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father, John Gray (David Dencik), of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.” Interested parties should note that this is not likely to last more than a week.
This week we lose Carol and Trumbo.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm II (1988) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 4 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is having a make-up screening of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 5 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Lewis Milestone’s’ Ocean’s 11 (1960) on Sun., Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has W.C. Fields in Norman McLeod’s It’s a Gift (1934) on Tue., Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.