I think the big hope this week is simply that it will be better than last week — and that shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish. I say that even with a Nicholas Sparks adaptation looming on the horizon. That’s to say that last week was pretty grim. We have three mainstream titles, one art title, and one borderline title this round.
I’ve seen the art film — Art and Craft (opening Friday at the Fine Arts) — and the borderline case — Men, Women & Children (opening at The Carolina). Of the two, Art and Craft is the clear winner, though the fact that it’s a a documentary will undoubtely weigh against it. However, it’s no ordinary documentary — at least in terms of its subject. As filmmaking, well, yes, it is pretty ordinary, but the mere fact that it focuses on a really unusual character and, to a lesser degree, his equally unusual nemesis, it becomes something extraordinary. Its subject is an unassuming, seemingly befuddled little man of about 60 who spends his time forging art works — and giving them to museums. (In this regard, he hasn’t actually broken the law.) Seems he just decided to be a philanthropist and this was the peculiar path he chose. If that sounds kind of daffy, wait till you see the movie. The review is in this week’s paper.
Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children is better in theory than in actuality. There’s undoubtedly a great film to be made about the pitfalls of social media and general electronic connectivity. This, unfortunately, is not that film. Last year’s low-profile Disconnect was nearer that accolade, and even it had problems. What we have here is a lot of good intentions, some good scenes, some good performances (including one from — Clapton save us — Adam Sandler), and an excess of characters and stories that do none of the good points any favors. It’s not without merit — just not enough of it. It is also reviewed in the paper.
And now, the unseen…
First up is Michael Hoffman’s film of Nicholas Sparks’ The Best of Me. That probably tells you absolutely everything you need to know as concerns whether or not you have any desire to see this. It is true that Michael Hoffman has made some pretty good movies like The Last Station (2009) and even Soapdish (1991), but those had the advantage of not being taken from a Nicholas Sparks novel. This particular outcropping of Sparksiana involves a pair of former high school sweethearts (Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden) meeting years later and — with the assistance of flashbacks (with Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato playing their high school incarnation) — presumably rekindle their love, but with complications. At times like these, I’m glad I’m the resident Tyler Perry specialist and not the Nicholas Sparks one.
It is my guess that Jorge R. Gutierrez’s animated The Book of Life — produce by Guillermo del Toro — may well be the best thing going this week. I freely concede that the trailer looks a little bit like a South of the Border Nightmare Before Christmas, but I’m not sure that’s entirely a bad thing. Plus, it clearly has a color scheme all its own. The story details a young man (voiced by Diego Luna) who has to journey through three magical worlds to rescue his great love and secure his village. Other voice actors include Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Christina Applegate, and Ice Cube. I’m officially interested.
Not being a fan of David Ayer — whose career seems mostly the result of having written Training Day about 13 years ago — I have a healthy skepticism of his new picture, Fury, a WWII movie starring Brad Pitt. Oh, I have little doubt of its box office success, but its actual quality may be another matter. The cast is okay without being exactly outstanding (Shia LaBeouf?). Interestingly, the very early reviews were not very good, but more and more positive reviews have been building. In essence, the sense is that it’s a very violent, but not particularly inspired WWII picture — with everything that entails. Still, it’s expected to take the weekend box office, dethroning Gone Girl.
This week we lose Hector and the Search for Happiness (who decided this should be in two theaters anyway?), which is no big surprise. This week, The Carolina is also dropping The Skeleton Twins, though it’s hanging on in a split-schedule with My Old Lady at the Fine Arts.
Before getting down to the usual things, let me remind you that on Wednesday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m., the Asheville Film Society will be showing Ken Russell’s most outrageous film Lisztomania at The Carolina — with Special Guest Lisi Russell (Mrs. Ken Russell). It was originally billed as “The erotic, exotic electrifying rock fantasy…it out-Tommy’s Tommy,” and all those things are unquestionably true, but they hardly scratch the surface of the cornucopia of creativity that is Lisztomania. It’s a wild and woolly mix of musical biography, rock music, classical music, horror movies, sci-fi, comic books, satire, nudity, and sometimes plain silliness — and Ringo Starr as the Pope. It’s a dazzling Roman candle of a movie — packed with enough ideas and incidents for a dozen ordinary movies. But Lisztomania is no ordinary movie. It is a movie that was ahead of its time in 1975, remains ahead of its time today — and may very well always be ahead of its time. Settle back and let the imagination of Ken Russell take you to heaven — and beyond. Tickets are on sale now and are $6 for AFS members and $8 general admission.
This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls (1932) with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 16 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the Iranian drama Daughters of the Sun (2000) on Fri., Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Ken Russell’s film of D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow (1989) on Sun. Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will be running Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution (1957) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Oct. 21 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress with complete reviews in the online edition.
The big — and indeed only mainstream — title this week is X-Men Days of Future Past, but it’s also the week that Alex De La Iglesia’s Witching & Bitching (which did not play here) comes to DVD (in fact, my copy should be here any minute).
Notable TV Screenings
Slim pickings on TCM this week, but it’s worth noting that George Marshall’s Bob Hope comedy thriller The Ghost Breakers (1940) is on at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 16. That, however, is about it — unless you’re in the market for the rather strange Conspiracy (1930) starring Ned Sparks in the damnest role (and wig) of his career).