If it weren’t for the “art” titles, this would be the sort of movie weekend that the pages of history teach us might be better spent in bed (or even under the bed). The good news is that there are more movies headed our way on July 1 — not that they look all that much more inspiring.
Yes, I realize that all this is subjective. That’s the nature of movies. But this week’s mainstream offerings are the sort of thing that makes me wish I was on vacation — or it would if I ever actually went on vacation. Maybe I should consider that option. But at least there are some options — and some worthy things still playing.
Both art — well, one of them’s an art title — have been seen and are reviewed in this week’s paper. The clear winner is Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos — opening Friday at The Carolina. This largely fictional historical romance stars Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman (as Louis XIV), and Stanley Tucci. Except for the fact that the film has a rather large canvas — the court at Versailles — I’d call it a rather small movie, and its story is fairly intimate. The film is quite upfront about the fact that it’s far from historically accurate (which, of course, hasn’t kept people from complaining about that). It’s a slender story about a female landscape designer (Winslet) landing a job — in what is very much a man’s world — creating an outdoor ballroom in the gardens at Versailles. It’s a film with a good deal of charm and wit, and it affords Winslet the best role she’s had in years. For that matter, though it wasn’t shot there, it has a much better sense of being at court at Versailles than Marie Antoinette (2006) ever managed.
Also on tap is Andrea Di Stefano’s Escobar: Paradise Lost — also opening Friday at The Carolina, but on a split schedule (playing only at 5:05 and 10:25 p.m.). You can tell not much is expected of this. (In fact, this is almost certainly TWC Radius fulfilling a contractual obligation that the movie receive some kind of theatrical life.) This is every bit as fictional as A Little Chaos, but it’s not so honest about it. Yes, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was a real person. This thriller that bears his name, however, is otherwise populated with fictional characters and tells a fictional story. It’s actually pretty good, especially in its second half when it gets down to the business of actually being a thriller. That said, Benicio Del Toro’s performance as Escobar is compelling — by turns magnetic and horrifying — from start to finish. For this — and the effective thriller it turns into — it’s worth considering.
And then there are those mainstream titles. First up is Boaz Yakin’s Max — starting Thursday evening and going into full schedules on Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This may get some extra traction locally because it was partly shot in Asheville. It’s being touted as “from the director of Remember the Titans and a producer of Marley & Me.” That may be a selling point for some, but it sounds like warning to me — suggesting something that manages to combine the uplifting sports drama with the tug-at-the-heartstrings dog story. I can think of nothing I’d be less inclined to want to see. The poster is amateurish, the cast low-watt, and the trailer is no more encouraging. And it hasn’t been screened for critics. Your call.
I have to say I am not that much more enthused by the prospect of Ted 2 — starting Thursday evening and going into full schedules on Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This, of course, is the sequel to Ted — that movie about Mark Wahlberg and a horny, foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by director-co-writer Seth MacFarlane). I had kind of thought that we might have seen the last MacFarlane after his Oscar-hosting stint and last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, but, no, a sequel to a hit always trumps such things. The idea this round is that Ted wants to be a parent, but has to prove he’s a human being in a court of law in order to do so. I guess it’s kind of like having to prove Edmund Gwenn is really Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street — only with a libidinous, trash-talking teddy bear. This, too, has not been reviewed.
This week we lose When Marnie Was There (which is unfortunate) and the mystifying re-release of Woman in Gold (that seems to have been the Weinsteins’ opening move on trying to get an Oscar for Helen Mirren). Otherwise, we appear to be status quo — even Dope made it into a second week (deservedly so).
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Bela Lugosi in Ford Beebe’s Night Monster (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., June 25 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Sayajit Ray’s The World of Apu (1959) on Fri., June 26 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). (This title was not reviewed for lack of a viewable copy.) The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Nora Ephron’s Bewitched (2005) on Sun., June 28 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its June calendar with George Arliss in John G. Adolfi’s The Man Who Played God (1932) on Tue., June 30 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all in this week’s Xpress — with complete the online edition.
Interestingly enough, there is nothing hitting DVD this week that had any theatrical life — or even a hint of theatrical life — here. I suppose it might, however, be worth noting that critically-acclaimed Timbuktu is arriving.