While there’s certainly nothing as embarrassing as last week’s Dumb and Dumber To, it’s also a week that clearly is being given over to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1. No major release is sufficiently foolhardy to go up against it, though locally we do get one documentary and an animated art title as alternative programming. Still, considering the fact that The Carolina alone has four screens devoted to Mockingjay — that’s 20 shows a day — it’s obvious where all the attention is directed. It’s even opening at the Flat Rock Cinema.
The documentary Citizenfour — opening Friday at The Carolina — is the only title I’ve already seen. If you don’t know, it’s about Edward Snowden and the idea behind it is to present the origins of his legal troubles in an “as they happened” fashion. Personally, I didn’t find this all that suspenseful since I knew from the onset where this was going. It’s also a little too much on the hagiographic side for my taste. You may well feel differently — a great many critics have — and it is at the very least interesting. The review is in this week’s Xpress.
So everything else is an unknown quantity.
The inescapable The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 actually rolls into town (most places) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, but “officially” opens on Friday. What is there to be said? This is no longer a movie, it’s an Event. It’s as inevitable as Christmas, I suppose. Of course, it’s taking a leaf from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and splitting the one book into two movies. (Nevermind that Mockingjay is about half as long a book as Deathly Hallows.) So what you’re getting here is essentially the set-up for Part 2. It hardly matters, it’s so presold that it’s a shoo-in for success. The early reviews — if that concerns you — have been largely positive.
The other film is Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya — also opening Friday at The Carolina. It’s the sort of film that probably would have benefitted from a press screening and a review, but that didn’t happen. The film — which has a 100% approval rating (45 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes — is mostly being sold on its Studio Ghibli origins and the fact that it’s based on the oldest recorded folk tale in Japan. The thing is that Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki and has made some highly regarded animated films — Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Pom Poko (1994) — of his own. Will it be a hit here? I guess we’ll find out.
This week all we really lose is Laggies, which was a foregone conclusion. The Carolina cut Whiplash to two shows a day, but it has a full set upstairs at the Fine Arts — at least through Tuesday.
First off, there’s the Asheville Film Societies Budget Big Screen showing of Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 19 at The Carolina. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public. The Great Dictator is the boldest and possibly most personal film Charlie Chaplin ever made. It may not be his best, but this comedic on Adolf Hitler — here Adenoid Hynkel — is perhaps the most important film of Chaplin’s career. Admitting the inevitability of a second World War in a period when the U.S. was still staying out of it was itself a daring move. (It had only been a year or two since Hollywood studios had been tailoring movies so as not to offend the Nazis.) But it was him brazenly presenting Hitler as a raving megalomaniac — not to mention painting Mussolini (Jack Oakie) as a crude, jumped-up, loud-mouthed blowhard with a Chico Marx dialect — that made the film take flight. Being a comic, Chaplin opted to tackle his look-alike dictator in comedic terms, walking a fine line between the hysterically funny and the deadly serious. The humor is often quite dark and Chaplin never loses sight of the fact that the character is an evil maniac, no matter how funny. The results are a unique and uniquely funny movie that belongs on everyone’s must-see list.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Edward D. Wood’s Bride of the Monster (1955) starring Bela Lugosi in his last major role at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 20 in Theater Six at The Carolina. (This qualifies as the THPS Thanksgiving “turkey,” since there’s no show on Thanksgiving.) World Cinema is showing Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1967) on Fri., Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Paul Bonesteel’s The Day Carl Sandburg Died (2011) on Sun., Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its November calendar with Will Rogers in John Ford’s Judge Priest (1934) on Tue., Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with full reviews in the online edition.
Probably the best thing going this week is Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Die For. Otherwise you’re left with And So It Goes, Into the Storm, and If I Stay. Not a pretty line-up.