This week we get one theoretically “big picture,” one specialty mainstream movie and three art titles, one of which seems to be already written off judging by its limited showtimes. However you look at it, that means five new movies hit town this week.
Actually, the way last week shook out in terms of reviews — eight total of which I tackled six (and I’m getting too old for that) — this week is your proverbial walk in the park so far as I’m concerned. Indeed, if I can’t get a press screening of Hello, My Name Is Doris, I might not review any new movie this weekend, since I am highly unsuited to the two I haven’t seen (that is perhaps understating the case).
I’ve seen — and reviewed — all three of the art titles, so let’s start with the best, Ciro Guerra’s Oscar Nominated Embrace of the Serpent — starting Friday at the Fine Arts. This rich and strange film — shot in gleaming black and what — is a mystical journey of unusual quality. And it’s a journey in two senses of the term — literal and figurative — as it traces the parallel journeys — 40 years apart — of two ethnographers — traveling the Amazon in search of a plant with magical healing properties. In both cases, the guide is a shaman named Karamakate. Rather than telling the stories sequentially, Guerra intercuts the two journeys to good effect. This is a densely textured work that’s heavy on symbolism and metaphyics — perhaps a little too heavy. But it’s still a compelling and beautiful film.
Next up is Bryan Buckley’s The Bronze — opening Friday at The Carolina. This is a very R rated comedy starring (and co-written by) Melissa Rauch (TV’s The Big Bang Theory) and it has not been treated kindly in its early reviews. In fact, when I add my guardedly positive review to the mix that will bring its good reviews up to three. Truthfully, I understand the film’s chilly reception, since it spends almost half its length making Rauch’s emotionally stunted bronze medal winner thoroughly unlikable — something that’s funny for a while, but quickly wears out its welcome. However, the second half is an entirely different proposition — and a pretty pleasant one.
Then we have Benjamin Dickinson’s Creative Control — starting Friday for two shows a day (2:55, 7:45) at The Carolina. Like Embrace of the Serpent, this is also (mostly) in black and white — and it’s visually stunning. It has a formal, classical beauty that is very seductive. Whether or not the content is equally seductive is another matter. It’s set “five minutes in the future” in New York — specifically in gentrified Brooklyn and is almost entirely populated with hipsters. It is apparently meant to be a social satire on these people and this whole scene — tied to advertising and technology, especially a new kind of virtual reality, or augmented reality. It’s undeniably clever, but it’s very cold and it seems (to me anyway) to be wholly a part of the world it supposedly mocks.
In the unknown realm, we start with Robert Schwentke’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1 — opening Friday (with the usual Thursday night…) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. As you can guess from the title, here we have another example of splitting the last installment in a series into two films in order to milk as much cash out of the thing as possible. This is already out in foreign markets and the early reviews are on the brutal side. I have no real opinion, since I’ve managed to miss this series altogether. I will say that I remain mystified that either Shailene Woodley or Miles Teller qualify as movie stars. I am curious as to why Summit is releasing this the week before it is almost certain to be trounced by Batman v. Superman. And I am amused that next week’s video release of the final Hunger Games movie is being promoted this week — an attempt to put the Divergent movies in their place?
Finally we have Patricia Riggen’s (The 33) Miracles from Heaven — starting Wednesday (for no apparent reason) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande. (It’s not listed as being at Epic of Hendersonville, but I suspect it is.) Jennifer Garner stars in this fact-and-faith-based drama being promoted as “From the Producers who Brough You Heaven Is For Real.” (I guess this is what happend to you when you break-up with Ben Affleck.) Sony tells us: “When Christy discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired. Based on a true story.” Take it as you will.
The bad thing in the losing department this week is the too, too rapid demise of Only Yesterday, which will depart The Carolina after tonight (Tues., March 15). The Fine Arts is splitting The Lady in the Van (1:20 only) with Where to Invade Next. Expect this to be the final week for both. Hail Caesar! (12:20, 7:00) and The Revenant (3:15, 9:25) are being split at The Carolina.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Robert Siodmak’s Son of Dracula (1943) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 17 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 18 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Fred Niblo’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) on Sun., Mar. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003) on Tue., Mar. 22 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.