It’s no good glossing o’er the facts — last week was either a disappointment or a tough slog or both. As if to make up for it this week the movie gods are treating us to three mainstream titles, two art titles, and one of those faith-based pictures. The word overkill comes readily to mind. Six movies can only mean that by Monday the floor will be littered with the victims of the overlooked.
This week also marks the big grudge match between the biggest of the big box theater chains — Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike — and Netflix, or that was the case last I knew. The big corporate boys are boycotting Netflix’s theatrical release of Beasts of No Nation because Netflix is offering it on their premium service the same day. (It’s not like IFC, Magnolia, and the Radius division of the Weinsteins haven’t been doing this for ages.) Truly, this is an empty gesture of sabre-rattling, since Beasts is clearly an art title most of them were never going to book in the first place
That brings us to Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation — opening Friday at The Carolina. Interestingly, this was a film that Netflix (or maybe Bleecker Street, who is handling theatrical distribution) insisted on screening for critics in a theater. Why? Because they know something the VOD aspect ignores. Whatever power the film has needs to be experienced on the big screen in a theater. Fukunaga shot the film (literally, since he’s also the cinematographer) in gorgeous widescreen that requires size. Moreover, Dan Romer’s score is an integral part of the film and it needs theater sound. Now, I’m not saying that this is a great movie. (Read the review and you’ll see why I say that.) But I am saying that it flirts with greatness, has great things in it, and is a harrowing experience that cries out for the theater experience.
Now, on to the unseen with Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies — opening Friday (with Thursday night screenings) at The Carolina, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. Here Spielberg — and Tom Hanks — take on the Cold War with a fact-based story (the studio calls it an “historical drama”) from a script that includes the talents of the Coen Brothers. To date it has 30 reviews — 27 of which are positive, and some of which say that Brit character actor Mark Rylance as the Russian spy Hanks is called on to defend is the real reason to see the film. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest Spielberg fan (insert polite laughter here), but I confess to some degree of curiosity here.
Next up is Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak — opening Friday (with Thursday night…you know the drill) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. OK, here it is. I don’t care that it hasn’t any reviews yet. It’s Guillermo del Toro with an R rated horror picture starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chatain, and Tom Hiddleston. I am there. A Guillermo del Toro haunted house movie — how can it fail? I’m hoping it’s a return to form of the Pan’s Labyrinth variety. It is, in fact, one of the year’s few movies I’ve actually been waiting for. Maybe it’s the film that rekindles the idea — tarnished of late — that we are in a horror renaissance. Remember when that notion burned rather brightly a few months back?
After that we have Peter Sollett’s Freeheld — opening Friday at the Fine Arts. By all rights, this is a film that ought to have been screened for critics — something the regional distributor refused. Whether or not that was because the early were often unkind (35 negative to 27 positive on Rotten Tomatoes), I don’t know. Most of them did, however, single out Julianne Moore’s performance — and noted that the fact-based film was well-intended. My own reservations stem from the presence Peter Stoller as director. His last theatrical film was Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which is pretty high on my list of excrutiating movegoing experiences. The studio says: “The true love story of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree and their fight for justice. A decorated New Jersey police detective, Laurel is diagnosed with cancer and wants to leave her hard earned pension to her domestic partner, Stacie. However the county officials, Freeholders, conspire to prevent Laurel from doing this. Hard-nosed detective Dane Wells, and activist Steven Goldstein, unite in Laurel and Stacie’s defense, rallying police officers and ordinary citizens to support their struggle for equality.” Moore plays Laurel, Ellen Page plays Stacie. Michael Shannon is Wells and Stever Carell is Goldstein. With that cast and this material, it should be worth a look.
Then there’s Rob Letterman’s Goosebumps — starting Friday (with Thursday, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. Oddly — or perhaps as a barometer of taste — this mash-up of R.L. Stine Goosebumps books stitched together with a framing story is thought to be the week’s best bet to dethrone The Martian. I have nothing against the film as such. I even like the idea that it may function as a kind of cinematic gateway drug to hook youngsters on the horror genre — though I’ve seen little evidence that any such thing is needed with kids and horror movies. I don’t dislike the concept of the film — that Stine’s stories are real and the originals have to be kept in locked volumes that (of course) get accidentally opened. I don’t even mind Jack Black playing Stine’s onscreen incarnation. For that matter, I can mostly overlook the CGI-athon of the trailer. But when I recall that the last time Black and director Letterman teamed up and the result was Gulliver’s Travels…well, my enthusiasm wants to go hide in the corner.
Finally we have the Erwin Brothers’ Woodlawn — starting Friday (and Thusday evening…) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. This is the faith-based opus. More correctly, this is the fact-faith-football-based movie, advertised as “The Undeniable True Story.” I actually saw the Erwins’ October Baby, and while it wasn’t the worst faith-based movie I ever saw, it didn’t make me change my basic view that sibling filmmakers should probably be limited to the Coens and the Wachowskis. Of course, I’m not the target audience for these Pure Flix movies, but combining the faith-based drama with the uplifting sports drama is enough to send me screaming into the night.
This week the losses are pretty severe. The Fine Arts is dropping Finders Keepers and splitting He Named Me Malala with Grandma. The Carolina is dropping Mississippi Grind, Grandma, and 99 Homes (I don’t know if Regal Biltmore Grande is dropping 99 Homes, but since their grosses were even worse, I’d suspect it.) The Carolina is also splitting He Named Me Malala.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 15 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) on Fri., Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Rudolph Valentino in Joseph Henabery’s Cobra (1925) on Sun., Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing W.C. Fields, Burns and Allen, Bela Lugosi, Cab Calloway, and Baby Rose Marie in A. Edward Sutherland’s International House (1933) on Tue., Oct. 20 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.
The big news is Dope comes to DVD this week. I suppose we should note that so do Tomorrowland and The Gallows, despressing though that is.