You know things are looking grim when the most promising mainstream release of the week is the third film in an animated series. OK, we do get the Oscar nominated short films, so that’s something, but we are clearly still in the winter of our discontent — again. Next week promises to be more interesting. Honest.
Judging by the reviews sent to me by Scott Douglas (see this week’s paper) there were indeed far worse things than being snowed in — and they were all infesting the barely open theaters. Mr. Douglas had the grave misfortune of being the only one who could make it to the movies. Really this was the worst weekend for theaters in the 15 years I’ve followed Asheville theaters. I don’t think a single theater was open on Friday — other than the Fine Arts, which managed a couple of matinees — and some weren’t open on Saturday. The grosses were…dismal. That said, I don’t think anyone missed much by not going to the movies.
The brightest spot this week comes in the form of The 2016 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films and The 2016 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films — starting Friday at The Carolina. These are all reviewed in this week’s paper. What I had not known until late yesterday is that they’re also showing The 2016 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films. Those never seem to draw many viewers, and they’re only being shown once a day (at 1:55) and only on Fri, Sat, Sun, Wed. They are not reviewed. As generally seems to be the case, the live action shorts (playing Fri, Sat, Sun, Wed 5:20, 9:30, Mon-Tue 1:00, 5:20, 9:30) are much stronger than the animated shorts (playing Fri, Sat, Sun, Wed 11:05, 7:35, Mon-Tue 11:05, 3:15, 7:35). This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple of good animated shorts — Bear Story is pretty darn fantastic — but they are definitely a mixed bag.
If further proof was needed that this is January, we have Fifty Shades of Black — starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. What is this? Well, it’s from the writers, director, and star of the A Haunted House movies. Yes, it’s the reteaming of Marlon Wayans (co-writer and star), Rick Alvarez (co-writer), and Michael Tiddes (director) — not a consummation for which anyone was devoutly wishing. But this time — instead of spoofing dumb horror movies — they’re spoofing Fifty Shades of Grey. The only thing I can see that’s possibly in its favor is that it’s shorter than our next offering.
Alphabetically speaking our next film is The Finest Hours — starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. Here we have a “based on a true story” affair from the nothing-if-not-erratic Craig Gillespie. (How do you work out a filmography that the God-awful Mr. Woodcock to the engagingly odd Lars and the Real Girl to the OK Fright Night remake to the gooey Million Dollar Arm? I can’t.) We are told: “Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias’ book detailing a daring 1952 Coast Guard rescue off the New England seaboard comes to the screen in this Disney film produced by Jim Whitaker .” Fine, I guess. When I first saw the TV trailer for this, I thought it was a promo for a TV special. I still think it looks like one. And the presence of Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, and Eric Bana doesn’t make it any more enticing, nor does the prospect of seeing it in 3D. It currently has only five reviews on Rotten Tomatoes — the single positive one is from Kam Williams, who seems to be giving Pete Hammond a run for his money in the…er quote business.
Finally we have Kung Fu Panda 3 — starting Friday (no Thursday shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This is also in your choice of 3D or 2D. Sure, you know pretty much exactly what this is, but the first two series entries were surprisingly good and the early word on this suggests this one is, too. The blurb from Fox reads: “When Po’s long-lost panda father suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible-learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas!” The voice cast once again includes Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, and James Hong. Is it going to be great? Well, probably not, but when you look at the last few weeks…
This week we lose just about all those titles that were brought back because of the Oscar nominations — Room Bridge of Spies, Spotlight, Brooklyn. The only hanger-on is Trumbo (4:20, Late show Fri-Sat 9:50) at the Fine Arts. Carol remains on splits at The Carolina (1:35, 9:50) and the Fine Arts (1:20, 7:20). The Big Short is now on a split (10:45, 4:20, 7:05) at The Carolina. No word on other theaters yet, but The Hateful Eight is leaving The Carolina.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show running Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 28 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Federico Fellini’s I Vitelloni (1953) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 29 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday (2006) on Sun., Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts Februay with David Bowie in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) on Tue., Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.