Yes, it’s another over-stuffed week at the movies. The notable difference is that a lot of it is easier to dismiss out of hand. Of the six movies opening this week, I’d call four of them marginal at best. That, of course, is subjective and has no relation to whether or not they will make money.
The great Netflix experiment with Beasts of No Nation appears to have been close enough to a box office disaster of sufficient note that the claim now is that the theatrical release was only so the movie will qualify for Oscar nominations. Well…
I still don’t understand exactly why we had a press screening this past weekend for Barry Levinson’s Bill Murray picture Rock the Kasbah — opening in the usual Thursday evening/full schedule Friday configuration at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This is a wide release and Asheville is rarely on the radar for those except around Christmas. And it’s most certainly not an awards contender. In fact, having seen it, I’m not exactly sure what it is. That’s not to say that it’s bad…exactly. In point of fact, it’s about half of a pretty darn entertaining movie. Unfortunately, the whole first half is something of a mess, because it takes that much time wandering around to actually get to a story. And it’s not like that meandering first section is all that funny or entertaining. It’s more perplexing than anything, and I don’t think that was the aim. However, I really warmed to it once it got to the story of Murray’s talent agent getting this young Afghan woman — and her all-Cat Stevens repertoire — on the Afghan Star TV show. Up to that point, though — well, you can check out the review later.
On the other hand, the Austrian horror film Goodnight Mommy — opening Friday at the Fine Arts — can only be classed as a specialized item. Now, before I say anything about this movie, I want to note that it did really well on the festival circuit and boasts a raft of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes — 59 positive vs. 15 negative. OK? I will also say that I will not be adding to those positive reviews. I found it slow and unpleasant with the most laughably bad “twist” I have ever encountered. Your take may well be different. The review goes live at 1 p.m. today.
Now, these unknown quantities start with something from Jon M. Chu (Step Up Revolution) called Jem and the Holograms — doing that Thursday evening/Friday thing at The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This is based on some 1980s TV cartoon I have managed to never even hear of. The studio plot synopsis is as follows: “Jem and the Holograms rock their way to the big screen in this live-action adaptation of he popular 1980’s cartoon. Nashville star Aubrey Peeples takes front stage as Jerrica Benton (aka Jem) with Stefanie Scott jamming the keyboard as Kimber, Aurora Perrineau slapping the bass as Shana, and Hayley Kiyoki on lead guitar as Aja. Jon M. Chu directs from a script by Ryan Landels for Blumhouse Productions and Scooter Braun Productions.” Blumhouse? Blumhouse? Is Jason Blum redefining the face of horror again?
You probably don’t remember Breck Eisner from Sahara (2005) or The Crazies (2010) — one might conclude he only appears every five years — but he’s back with The Last Witch Hunter — starting Thursday/Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. This, one assumes, is our PG-13 Halloween offering. It stars Vin Diesel as the title character out to save the world from the most powerful witches in history. The idea that all that stands between us and the supernatural is Vin Diesel is deeply troubling. It looks like the modern version of that Nicolas Cage Season of the Witch movie — the one that managed to make ninja zombies boring. Somewhere in all this are Elijah Wood and Michael Caine.
Ah, but we get R rated Halloweeniana with editor-turned-director Gregory Plotkin’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension — which is on the slate for Thursday/Friday at The Carolina at this point, but will surely pop up elsewhere. What is there to say about this? That it’s in 3D? Surveilance footage in 3D? Seriously? Otherwise, all I can say about these cynical cash-grabs? That they make me nostalgic for the Saw series?
The big gun is the last (alphabetically) and it’s Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs — expanding to our realm on Thursday/Friday at The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher (no word on Epic). Again, I feel at a loss about what to say. Yes, it’s a big deal. Yes, it’s got a lot of good reviews. Yes, I love Danny Boyle. But I am not the Aaron Sorkin fan everyone else seems to be. However, the big, bigger, biggest stumbling block for me is that I just do not find Steve Jobs endlessly fascinating. Oh, I’ll be at The Carolina Friday morning to see it first thing, but I’m not excited. If Messrs. Boyle and Sorkin can change that…well, it’ll be great.
This week we lose Beasts of No Nation and He Named Me Malala (which in all honesty would have gone last week, but it had a two week guarantee). The Fine Arts is once again holding Grandma for limited shows (this time at 1:20 with a 9:30 late show Fri-Sat).
On Wednesday, October 21 at 8:00 p.m., the Asheville Film Society will screen the brand new DCP of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist as the Halloween Season Budget Big Screen offering. Though often — no, endlessly — imitated, The Exorcist has never been equalled — certainly not in popularity. It remains the top grossing supernatural horror movie ever made. When first released, it was pretty much a pre-sold item, owing to the immense popularity of the William Peter Blatty book. People just had to see if the movie would dare to show the events depicted in the novel — and it did. Seeing it was almost a badge of honor (assuming you made it to the end). Today, the novelty value of a mainstream film going so far has long worn off, but the power of the film — especially, in the director’s cut — to shock, to startle, and most of all to make you believe what you’re seeing (at least while it’s happening) has not dimmed. Seeing it with an audience in a darkened theater…well, that’s the only way to see it.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Ishiro Honda’s Gojira (Godzilla) (1954) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 22 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) on Fri., Oct. 23 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 Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961) on Sun., Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out the month with its Halloween movie Bob Hope in George Marshall’s The Ghost Breakers (1940) on Tue., Oct. 27 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 title this week is Jurassic World. Also up are Paper Towns and San Andreas.