Well, last week proved rather dreary and it’s not at all certain that this week is going to be all that much of an improvement. There are three mainstream titles — one of which is expected to finally dethrone Deadpool — and no art titles (but that’s another story that I’ll explain below).
This week was originally slated to add a quasi-art title at the Fine Arts, but The Lady in the Van and Where to Invade Next did too well to change the bill. I call the film in question (The Wave) quasi-art because honestly it’s a pretty mainstream movie that just happens to be from Norway and has subtitles. I believe it will open next week.
Now since there are no art titles — unless you count The Carolina bringing back Spotlight for two shows a day (12:15 and 10:30 p.m.) on the strength of its Best Picture win — everything coming at us this week is of the unknown quantity kind. First up is Babak Najafi’s London Has Fallen — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening stuff) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. If you can’t guess, this is a sequel to Antoine Fuqua’s appalling 2013 Olympus Has Fallen (or as I think of it A Limp Moose Has Fallen). Since that experiment in proving that H.L. Mencken was right about the American public was successful, we are being rewarded with this. Gerard Butler returns — fresh from his stint as an Egyptian god of apparent Scottish extraction — as U.S. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (also seemingly of Scottish extraction). The amazing thing is that the plot manages to also bring back President Aaron Eckhart, Speaker of the House Morgan Freeman, and Secretary of Defense Melissa Leo — despite its London setting. (No word on whether or not Melissa Leo will get dragged across a floor in her underwear screaming something patriotic this time.) According to Focus Features: “The story begins in London, where the British Prime Minister has passed away under mysterious circumstances. His funeral is a must-attend event for leaders of the western world. However, what starts out as the most protected event on Earth turns into a deadly plot to kill the world’s most powerful leaders, devastate every known landmark in the British capital, and unleash a terrifying vision of the future. Only three people have any hope of stopping it: the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), his formidable Secret Service head (Gerard Butler), and an English MI-6 agent who rightly trusts no one.”
Then we have Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s (the guys who gave us Crazy Stupid Love and I Love You, Philip Morris) Whiskey Tango Foxtrot — opening Friday (with the usual Thursday evening…) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. Yes, the title means WTF, but it at least looks like this R rated (for pervasive language, some sexual content, drug use and violent war images) fact-based comedy drama will be more coherent than the 2015 attempt to milk laughs out of the situation in Afghanistan, Rock the Casbah. (That is not a major accomplishment.) Paramount puts it this way: “Tina Fey steps into the well worn shoes of journalist Kim Barker in Paramount Pictures’ adaptation of Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which details her years as a reporter in Pakistan and Afghanistan beginning in 2002.” It also stars Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, and Alfred Molina. Early reviews are…limited, but decidedly mixed.
The week’s big deal is Disney’s CG animated Zootopia — opening Friday (with the usual Thursday blah,blah, blah) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. It currently sits with a 100 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (How seriously I’m taking a reviewer who thinks “definitely” is spelled “definately” is another matter.) Surely by now you’ve seen the trailer with the sloth. It was directed by Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), and Jared Bush (credited with “Creative Leadership” on Big Hero 6). The voice cast includes Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, Tommy Chong, J.K.Simmons, and Octavia Spencer. Disney’s longish blurb reads as follows: “The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together-a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.” In both 2D and 3D flavors.
This week, the only art title casualty on Boy and the World, which is no great surprise. However, Son of Saul — exclusively at The Carolina — is being cut to two shows a day (5:15, 9:15), despite its Oscar win for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Brian De Palma’s cult classic Phantom of the Paradise (1974) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 25 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty (1974) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 4 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Edward Dmytryk’s Murder, My Sweet (1944) on Sun., Mar. 6 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus (1932) on Tue., Mar. 8 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.