Four new movies come wafting into town this week. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing mostly remains to be seen. While two of the titles qualify as art/indie, I’ve only seen one of them — and I recommend it. I shall explain.
Under normal circumstances, just about anything from Fox Searchlight gets a press screening. The idea — not unreasonably — is that people who go to art titles are the same people who read reviews (and I don’t mean just count the number of stars). Occasionally, they just throw a movie away — like Dom Hemingway last year — and don’t bother. This, however, is different. They’re most certainly not throwing The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel away. In fact, they’re pushing it so hard that it’s already jumped the art theaters and making its way into the Big Box theaters, which only take the safest of art titles. As for a screening…well, FSL insisted on having security guards (seriously?), yet they wouldn’t pay for them. So it didn’t get a screening.
Now, I have seen — twice in fact — Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows. That I’ve seen it twice probably tells you that I liked it — a lot. And, boy, was that against the odds. Horror comedies are tricky. Vampire comedies are trickier still. In fact, the only really successful one I can think of is Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). Even harder to pull off — at least for me — is the mockumentary format, which is normally just an easy way of not bothering with production values or plot. This is different. It has production values and a story! Moreover, it’s actually funny — and it remembers to be a horror movie. Oh, it’s an offbeat one, and a mostly goofy one with oddly charming characters, but it contains some moments of real horror. And, yeah, it’s also kind of bloody. OK, it’s a good bit bloody, but mostly in the splatstick vein. It is definitely worth your time. See the review in this week’s paper.
And then, there are the unseen — starting with Neil Blomkamp’s Chappie. I have no earthly idea what to make of this. I was an early supporter of Blomkamp. I thought his District 9 (2009) was very good, though I admit I haven’t revisited it. Elysium (2013) wasn’t bad. The concept was terrific. The execution was uneven and the ending unwieldy, though. The very fact that it — like District 9 — was actually about something was a plus. Interestingly, to judge by the comments (from people who haven’t seen the movie) on the IMDb, the fact that it is suspected that Chappie is “about something” makes it look “pretentious.” (Some people need dictionaries.) My problem — potential problem, since I haven’t seen it either — stems from the fact that it looks for all the world like a serious-minded — and R rated — version of the 1986 family-friendly sci-fi comedy Short Circuit. (My first thought on seeing the trailer was, “Number Five is alive.”) I’m also troubled by the fact that such a high-profile movie has not been screened for…well, anybody. (That will likely change over the next couple of days.) The best I can say at this point is, I’m curious.
That brings us back to John Madden’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Here we have a movie where the very title seems to suggest sequel fatigue in that it’s already “second best.” Of course, there’s no surprise to be had with this kind of sequel. You have the same director and the same writer and most of the same cast (Tom Wilkinson’s character is absent for obvious reasons) — with the addition of David Strathairn and Richard Gere. I’m guessing they’re for Yank value. For some of us — possibly including me — the mere presence of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, and Dev Patel (who’s also in Chappie) will be enough. The original was certainly a pleasurable, well-crafted, generous movie. Let’s hope this will be, too.
I am not in the least curious about Ken Scott’s Unfinished Business. The trailer looks ghastly — stock R rated raunchy-com. I imagine it helps if you think Vince Vaughn is funny and still (if he ever really did) qualifies as a star. Both ideas mystify me. I suppose this is Tom Wilkinson’s punishment for dying in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Bad move on his part, if this was the option. I do not plan on seeing this if it can be at all avoided.
This week we lose Maps to the Stars — a great pity, but not entirely unexpected. It did OK at The Carolina, but not OK enough. The Fine Arts is dropping The Imitation Game and splitting Mr. Turner and Still Alice.
Well, things appear to have thawed, which should be a boon to these. I’ll certainly be glad to get out to this week’s AFS and THPS films. This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has James Whale’s original Frankenstein (1931) — you know, the one that made Boris Karloff a star — at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 5 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema returns this week with Ken Russell’s Song of Summer (1968) on Fri., Mar. 6 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Joe Wright’s The Soloist (2009) on Sun., Mar. 8 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointed Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Ernst Lubitsch’s classic comedy Design for Living (1933) with Fredric March, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins on Tue., Mar. 10 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.
Near as I can tell, the only thing of note coming out this week is Foxcatcher. Steve Carell’s fake nose didn’t do it for Oscar voters, but may for you.