Here we have one of those weeks used to more or less just keep things going by plugging in some kind of product to keep us vaguely interested until the Next Big Thing when Batman and Superman punch the crap out of each other on March 25. As a result this week we get four mainstream titles of varying levels of … well, ho-humdom. We also get one art film that sneaked in at the last minute, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Last week had one bright — very bright — spot thanks to Zootopia, which was much better than its trailer had led me to expect. But otherwise it was a week that ranged from the mediocre to things to terrible to contemplate. Of course, there were the holdovers with The Lady in the Van still going strong (well over the national average) at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts. At the same time Hail Caesar! (despite generating hate mail and negative comments) seems to have taken root at The Carolina and Where to Invade Next has found a niche at the Fine Arts.
This week’s sole new art title is Isao Takahata’s Studio Ghibli production Only Yesterday — opening Friday at The Carolina. This is the sort of movie that would normally be accompanied with a review in this week’s Xpress, but it didn’t show up on the radar till late Monday afternoon, so it opens without benefit of review. And that is a great pity, because this film is truly something special, and would have been ushered in with a full five star review. I was able to see it last night — in its brand new (splendidly done) English language version with Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley providing the adult (and narration) voice of the main character and Dev Patel doing the voice of male lead. It is altogether remarkable — an animated film for adults and older children. Oh, there’s little in it that could be offensive for younger viewers, but it’s a movie that requires a little life experience to work. The premise is a 27-year-old woman (Ridley) looking back on her life as she tries to find her place in the world. The film effortlessly moves between time frames in a cross-referencing manner that you might find with triggered memories. It’s touching and funny and very, very real. Plus, the film’s pastoral scenes have a strangely soothing, pastoral quality. The oddity is that Only Yesterday is actually from 1991 and is only now making its way to the U.S. Even without seeing this week’s other openings, I have no qualms saying that the best new film this week is 25 years old. But, hey, all movies are new till you’ve seen them. Oh, and if you go — and you should — sit through the credits. If you don’t you’ll miss the ending of the story.
To go from the sublime to the rest of this week we come to 10 Cloverfield Lane — opening Friday (with the ubiquitous Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is the apparently anticipated (by someone) follow-up to 2008’s Cloverfield (which I thought was rubbish), but it is not (they say) a sequel. The trailer — such as it is — suggests that this new one is at least not found-footage shaky-cam stuff. Then again, the trailer tells us little and there’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the whole thing. We know that it stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. We know that they are holed in a bunker with seemingly endless food, a jukebox, and puzzles. We know that there’s something nasty outside…well, we sort of know that. The whole promo is based on what we don’t know. One thing we do know is that it either hasn’t been screened for critics or that there’s an amazingly effective embargo on their reviews.
Next we have Louis Leterrier’s (The Transporter) The Brothers Grimsby — opening Friday (with Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This is the latest affront to good taste and cinematic artistry from Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s some kind of spy/action comedy (R rated variety) that finds Cohen as a “dimwitted English football hooligan” who becomes involved with his MI6 agent brother (Mark Strong) in a plot about preventing a terrorist attack. Now, this has its share of reviews — mostly from the UK — and they range from “wholeheartedly and proudly stupid, silly, grotesque, outlandish, vulgar, and over-the-top” to “A soul-crushing experience.” The first of those, by the way, is from a good review. The MPAA promises “strong crude sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, language, and some drug use” — all in 83 minutes. Sounds like a winner.
Then there’s Billie Woodruff’s (Beauty Shop) The Perfect Match — which appears to be exclusively at Regal Biltmore Grande starting Friday (with Thursday evening…yeah, yeah). This is a movie devoid of promotion and apparently interest. (No one on Rotten Tomatoes even wants to “Guess the Tomato Meter.”) It’s some sort of romantic comedy and is described thus: “Charlie is a playboy who’s convinced that relationships are dead even though his sister, a therapist, tries to tell him otherwise. His best friends bet him that if he sticks to one woman for one month, he’s bound to fall in love. Charlie takes the bet because he believes that he’s immune to love…that is until he crosses paths with the beautiful and mysterious Eva. Turning on his irresistible charm, Charlie coaxes Eva into a casual affair but soon finds out that Eva has turned the tables on him. Now Charlie is questioning whether he may actually want more than just a one night stand.” Charlie is played by Terrence Jenkins and Eva is played by Cassie Ventura — neither of which I’ve ever heard of.
Finally, we encounter Cyrus Nowrateh’s (The Stoning of Soraya M.) The Young Messiah — opening Friday (with Thursday evening, yadda yadda) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This might be called Jesus: The Early Years, since that’s what it is. (Maybe we should think of it as the prequel to Risen.) It’s based on a novel by Anne Rice (who knows a thing or two about resurrections, I guess) called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. The trailer looks like standard picture book stuff that takes place in a world where most ancient peoples sound suspiciously English — some possibly even RADA graduates. It has not been screened for critics.
This week we lose Son of Saul and the one week re-release of the Oscar-winning Spotlight comes to a close.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter (1936) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 10 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 11 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Alan Rickman in Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock (2008) on Sun., Mar. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Greta Garbo in Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina (1933) on Tue., Mar. 15 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.