This week we get two new mainstream movies (big budget variety), four art titles and the “offcial” opening (with two of the art titles) of the Grail Moviehouse. It can fairly be called a week of some note in the local movie world. And one with its share of choices.
Of course, the Grail technically opened last week with a couple of special events last Thursday and three repertory titles — Cinema Paradiso, Sunset Blvd., Monty Python and the Holy Grail (of course) — that started on Friday and are playing through Thursday. But this week — along with the Thursday Horror Picture Show and the re-launching of the Asheville Film Society (May 31 at 7:30 p.m.) — they have two new art titles — High-Rise and Elstree 1976 — and one rep title — The Jerk.
First up among the art titles this week is Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship — starting Friday at Carolina Cinemark and Fine Arts Theatre. This is reviewed in this week’s Xpress, but I’m going to go ahead and enthuse a little over this delightful — and rather devilish — movie here. It’s Stillman’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s posthumously-published novella Lady Susan, and while it can be said to be faithful (in its own way) to Austen, it has both an Oscar Wilde tone to it and is pure Whit Stillman. The results are very funny, very perceptive, and so at one with Stillman’s other works that the characters here often seem interchangeable with ones we’ve met in previous more or less contemporary settings. I give this my highest recommendation. I already watched it twice.
Also reviewed this week — by Scott Douglas — is Elstree 1976, which starts Friday at the Grail Moviehouse. I haven’t seen this, but then I am not a Star Wars fan. It wasn’t made for me. I did read Scott’s review (and you should, too) and he liked it a good bit, while admitting that it is clearly one for the fans.
Not reviewed, but seen is Ben Wheatley’s endlessly stylish High-Rise — opening Friday at the Grail Moviehouse. This got to me too late to review for this week’s paper (I may get the review up online before Friday), but I watched it this morning and…Wow! This, this is a movie. Imagine if Ken Russell, Terry Gilliam, Stanley Kubrick (you can see that in the poster!), Luis Buñuel, Nicolas Roeg, John Boorman, and David Cronenberg all got together and made a film — well, it might be something like Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s supposedly unfilmable novel. This bleakly funny story of class warfare in a microcosm luxury high-rise (the higher up you are, the richer you are) as it descends into decadence, chaos, and barbarism is a bit of a nightmare — a compelling and stylized one. Though set in 1975 — with all the attendant trappings and the feeling of a movie of that era — it also is astonishingly relevant. Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, and Sienna Miller star. I’m still processing this movie. I’ll have more to say later — maybe after a second viewing.
Then — still in the art realm– we have Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash — opening Friday at Carolina Cinemark. This should have been screened for the local press, but for reasons known only to God, Cinemark, and Fox Searchlight that didn’t happen. It has a 90 percent approval rating (104 positive, 12 negative) on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s not that they’re afraid to let critics see it. Personally, I am already jazzed about a movie that re-teams director Guadagnino and his I Am Love star Tilda Swinton. And one that’s about a recuperating rock star (Swinton) and her lover (Matthias Schoenaerts) whose isolation on an island off Italy is shattered by the unexpected arrival of a flamboyant record producer and ex-lover (Ralph Fiennes) of the star and his daughter (Dakota Johnson)…hey, I’m there first thing Friday morning.
Over on the mainstream side we have Alice Through the Looking Glass — starting Friday (and Thursday evening) in your choice of 3D or 2D at Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. It hardly matters that Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland (2010) is one of the filmmaker’s least liked movies, since it grossed over a billion simoleons — an impressive haul. Hence, the sequel with most of the original cast back, but without Burton at the helm (he’s one of the producers). In his stead we get James Bobin, who is best known for The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014). The trailers are certainly colorful and energetic, but the story –Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returning to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) — looks thin. Is anyone really aching to know how the Queen of Hearts’ (Helen Bonham Carter) head acquired its distinctive shape?
And finally we find Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse — starting to Friday (Thursday evening) thing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is also in your choice of 2D or 3D (except at the Co-ed, where it’s only in 2D). What is there to be said? It’s bound to be the Big Winner this weekend. Now, I liked X-Men (first new movie I saw in Asheville back in 2000). I loved X 2 (2003), didn’t like X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but was OK with X-Men: First Class (2011), and more than OK with X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). That said, I think I’m sitting this latest one out. I think I’ve got the Spandex Collywobbles, the Superhero Blues. When I saw the trailer for this one on TV and didn’t realize it wasn’t for Captain America till the title appeared at the end, I concluded a break was in order.
This week the Carolina Cinemark drops The Man Who Knew Infinity and Sing Street, the Fine Arts keeps Infinity for one show (4:20) and Sing Street for the others (1:20, 7:20, Fri-Sat Late shows 9:30). The Carolina Cinemark also (inexplicably to me) cuts The Meddler to one show (10:30 a.m.).
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show shows the Tod Slaughter classic melodrama The Face at the Window (1939) on May 26 at 7:30 p.m.at the Grail Moviehouse (45 S. French Broad Ave.). World Cinema is showing Frantisek Vlácil’s Marketa Lazarová (1967) at 8 p.m. on Fri., May 27 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is running Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008) Sunday, May 29, 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 returns with William Powell and Carole Lombard Gregory La Cava’s screwball comedy classic My Man Godfrey (1936) on Tuesday 31 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.