So last week was grim in mainstream land. This week we’re looking at two sequels and one movie adapted from a videogame. On the other hand, we do get one terrific art title and one very good one. So all is not lost. In fact, quite the opposite — at least on one side of the ledger.
I was glad to see that there was a rallying of moviegoers where High-Rise at Grail Moviehouse was concerned in the latter half of last week. It wasn’t enough to buy it another week, but it was heartening nonetheless. Now that both the Asheville Film Society and the Thursday Horror Picture Show are pretty firnly ensconced at the Grail, I am becoming quite comfortable with the theater. I know we’re getting good numbers for those special screenings, but I’m hoping to see more people at their regular showings — you know, the ones that make those special screenings possible. The Grail needs and deserves your support.
That terrific art title is Xavier Giannoli’s Marguerite — starting Friday at Grail Moviehouse. So far as I was concerned this wonderful French film — yes, it has subtitles — came out of nowhere, and I was surprised to see that it is based on the same woman who was the source for Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins — the one starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant that we get late this summer. But this is more of a riff on the story where Frears’ film is a comedic biopic. Giannoli’s film moves the story to France and creates a very different main character. The only common ground seems to be that the characters in both films are wealthy patrons of arts with terrible voices (they are not themselves aware of this) who insist on singing in public anyway. Giannoli’s talent-challenged “opera star” is rechristened Marguerite Dumont (yes, like Margaret Dumont, the Marx Brothers’ foil) and is played by Catherine Frot — and she is pure magic. She’s foolish and deluded — and goodness knows she can’t sing — but she’s also appealing and touching. She is a marvel and so is the film. Go see it.
The very good art title is Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan — opening Friday at Carolina Cinemark and Grail Moviehouse. This quirky romantic comedy is pretty much a joy from start to finish, even if it isn’t quite as original and unusual as it seems to think it is. But it’s a lot of fun and provides a wonderful vehicle for Greta Gerwig, who continues to amaze me with each new film. She is a delight here. For that matter the movie does right by co-stars Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore — and it doesn’t do badly with Bill Hade and Maya Rudolph in support. Yes, the whole idea of an artificial insemination comedy sounds a little tired, but here it is just enough different and has the exact right star to pull it off. Try to make time for this, too.
First up in the unseen category is James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 — starting Friday (with those Thursday night shows) at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. Now here’s the thing, I’m a pretty major admirer of Wan’s horror movies starting with Dead Silence in 2007. I love the Insidious films and liked the first Conjuring, while feeling it was the least of his achievements. Yes, I know, it was a critical darling and made a whole lot of money, but I wasn’t quite onboard with it. Partly this was due to my feeling that the ending wasn’t big enough for the movie that preceded it, and partly, yes, because I think the real-life Ed and Lorraine Warren are either delusional or hucksters, and the film wants me to buy them as the Real Deal. That’s going to pose a problem with this new one, too. Another point to ponder is that The Conjuring 2 has a 133 minute running time. Seriously? That’s getting into Kubrick’s The Shining territory, and I very much doubt this is in that realm. All in all, I wary — the good reviews haven’t changed that — but I have enough respect for James Wan that I’ll be there.
Whether I’ll be there for Jon Chu’s Now You See Me 2 — starting Friday (with that Thursday thing) at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher — is another matter. I didn’t see the original and while I like the cast well enough — Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, Daniel Radcliffe — it just doesn’t really grab me. Even the studio’s promise that it’s “mind-bending adventure, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights” isn’t doing it. (And after all, it’s a lot easier to elevate the limits of stage illusions in a movie.)
Finally, we have Duncan Jones’ Warcraft — doing that Thursday evening and Friday thing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. (And, no, I don’t know what’s going on with this business of Carmike and UA Beaucatcher having the same movies.) There was a thought somewhere along the way that the fact that Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) was going to make this better than most videogame movies. Then there was the trailer. Then the reviews started rolling in — reviews that likened the film to Battlefield Earth. The CGI beasties are laughably cartoonish enough to make the comparison easy to believe. It stars Travis Fimmel (who I fear will always be the dorky artisanal pickle-maker of Maggie’s Way to me), Ben Foster, and Dominic Cooper. I admit to a kind of train wreck fascination to this one, but not enough to get me to see it.
This week we lose High-Rise (as previously noted) and the Elstree 1976 documentary. Everything else on the art side is status quo.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show shows the George Zucco in The Mad Monster (1942) on June 9 at 7:30 p.m.at the Grail Moviehouse (45 S. French Broad Ave.). World Cinema is showing Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre (2011) at 8 p.m. on Fri., June 10 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is running Norma Foster’s recently discovered film noir Woman on the Run (1950) Sunday, June 12, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening René Clair’s classic version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (1945) on Tuesday June 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Grail Moviehouse — note new time and new location. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.