This week we get three art titles (well, sort of three) and three mainstream offerings. It’s certainly a broad mix, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say those mainstream titles have more than a faint aroma of January clinging to them. I think you know what I mean by that, but I haven’t seen them so that’s just a guess.
On the other hand, I have seen the art titles. The big deal here is probably J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year (opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts). It is certainly the most anticipated thing coming this week — despite the fact that its big Oscar campaign came to naught. The review is in this week’s paper. It’s a good film, but it’s not the great film it clearly wants to be. It’s worth seeing, but it might be better to temper your enthusiasm a little.
Then we have The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films 2015 and The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films 2015 (opening Friday at The Carolina.) It’s two separate films, but they’re very much aimed at the same crowd. I like the fact that in recent years — mostly due to The Carolina — we’ve been able to see the short films. Among other things, it gives some meaning to those awards when they’re handed out on Oscar night. This year — and I think this was the case last year — the live action films are a lot more impressive than their animated brethren. In fact, the live action shorts are an unusually strong set. I admit that I was less taken with this year’s animation than I have been in past years. It’s not that the animated films are bad — a couple of them are very good — but I wasn’t blown away by any of them. Animation fans may feel differently. Full reviews of the sets of both are in this week’s Xpress.
So into the unknown region…first off there’s Mike Binder’s Black or White starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. This is a drama with Costner and Spencer fighting each other in a custody battle over their granddaughter. It’s been hanging around a while — waiting for the right moment to be released. The fact that that moment is in January is…suspect. The early reviews — all ten of them — are split down the middle. I’ve only seen two of Binder’s films as writer-director — The Upside of Anger (2005) and Reign Over Me (2007) — and neither made me anxious to see more.
Next we have Erik Van Looy’s remake of his own 2008 Belgian film Loft — this time called The Loft. The film also seems to have been remade in the Netherlands in 2010. (All share Bart De Pauw as a screenwriter. The man seems to be in a rut.) The difference here — apart from “The” — is that this is in English and has recognizable names like Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, and Eric Stonestreet as four of the five friends with a key to the title domicile (used for a extra-marital flings). The fifth is played by Matthias Schoenarts (The Drop), who played the same role in the original. The plot in all versions centers on a body being found in said loft — and they all think one of them did it. It frankly sounds pretty cheesy. And very January.
Finally, there’s Project Almanac from producer Michael Bay (strike one). It was directed by newcomer Dean Israelite and stars people I assume are mostly known for TV work, though I did see Jonny Weston in Kelly & Cal (2014) and John Dies at the End (2012). Here he plays a 24-year-old teenager (hey, it’s the movies), who — along with some friends — finds the plans for a time machine. Being nerds naturally they build the thing. Bad stuff happens because of this. For me, strikes two and three occurred when I read the most dreaded words in the cinema lexicon attached to it: found footage.
This week we lose Inherent Vice (which I find unfortunate in the extreme) and Wild. Foxcatcher departs the Fine Arts, but hangs on at The Carolina split with Birdman. Cake (which did better than I expected) is also being split.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Phil Rosen’s Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) — theoretically, adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe story — at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 29 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) on Fri., Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) on Sun., Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts its February calendar with Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves (Snow White) (2012) on Tue., Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
This week the best thing out is The Book of Life. Also up are Fury and The Judge.