We get two mainstream titles of largely unknown quality this week and two art titles of known and pretty darn high quality — and of far broader appeal than last week’s lone (and already leaving) documentary.
Before breaking out the crystal ball to look at the unseen mainstream offerings, let’s take some time with the art titles — both of which are reviewed in this week’s paper. One of these I truly loved and the other I liked a lot, which is to say my press screening weekend mornings came under the heading of time well spent. (That is not always the case. And as much as a bad movie sucks at any time, the pain seems much more pronounced at 9 a.m., I can tell you.)
First up is the one I truly loved, Matthew Warchus’ Pride, which opens this Friday at the Fine Arts. We’re talking loved here as in “candidate for Ten Best List” loved. Yes, I know, the title isn’t very good. It is, in fact, pretty generic — to the degree that it has already adorned quite a few (mostly forgettable) movies. This one, however, is most assuredly not forgettable. It’s a fact-based (calm down, this works) comedy-drama centered on a group of gay activists who, in 1984, decided to support and collect money for striking miners in a small Welsh mining town — whether the miners like it or not. The film ostensibly stars Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, and Paddy Considine, but — and not to diminish those fine actors or their contribution — the truth is this is truly an ensemble work. It is, in fact, the finest ensemble cast I’ve seen all year. It’s funny, charming, moving — and a crowd-pleaser in the best sense.
Next we have Theodore Melfi’s Bill Murray picture St. Vincent, which is also a crowd-pleaser — something its box office numbers already attest to. It opens on Friday at The Carolina. It isn’t as good a film as Pride, but it’s very good indeed, despite a certain amount of extraneous material and pretty predictable story. (If you don’t know the basics of a movie that pairs a crotchety old misanthrope and a 12-year-old boy, you don’t go to the movies enough.) It’s a film that works primarily because it is first and foremost a Bill Murray vehicle — and while it may go (just barely) a little off the beaten path for Murray, it’s smart enough to remember that it’s in the service of its star. He gets good support from the little boy (Jaeden Lieberher), as well as Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian “lady of the night,” Chris O’Dowd as a wordly priest, and — I never thought I’d say this — Melissa McCarthy as the boy’s mother. But is still Murray’s movie all the way.
Now, let’s see what the Magic 8 Ball has to say about the two mainstream titles…
First we have John Wick, which was made by a couple of former stuntmen — David Leitch and Chad Stahelski — and stars Keanu Reeves. It’s a revenge action movie that has Reeves a retired hit-man going on a rampage when some Russian gangsters — unaware of who he is — break into his house, beat him up, kill his puppy (the final gift from his dead wife), and steal his vintage Mustang. All of this was ill-advised to say the least. Mayhem ensues. Now, surprisingly, this movie has gotten 14 reviews — a pretty insignificant tally, but they’re all positive. I would not expect this trend to last.Also along for the ride are Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, and John Leguizamo.
Unsurprisingly, there are no early reviews for Stiles White’s Ouija, which is being touted as being from “the producer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (they mean that new one) and “the producer of Insidious.” The latter seems more the point, since the trailer looks like it was…well, inspired by Insidious. And Lin Shaye is in the cast. In fact, she’s the only name in the cast I recognized. (The ad campaign riffs on the old “keep telling yourself it’s only a movie” come on by making it “only a game.”)The thing is it doesn’t have to be any damned good because it’s the Halloween movie this year. (The banner tells us it’s “in theaters Halloween,” and it almost certainly still will be, but it opens this week.) I am pretty non-committal about it. It doubt if it will be nearly as amusing as the old cheesy Witchboard movies. Someone have me a Ouija Board when I was a kid and I could never get it to do anything. I’m sure the film will have more success — even if they have to cheat to do so.
This week we lose Art and Craft at the Fine Arts, and Kill the Messenger at both the Fine Arts and The Carolina. Men, Women & Children is hanging on — it has to be because a two-week contract with Paramount, since it tanked badly — for one show (10:30 p.m.) at The Carolina.
Before hitting the usual stuff, let’s note that this Thursday at 7 p.m. the Fine Arts has a single screening of the Nick Cave quasi-documentary 20,000 Days on Earth. I haven’t seen it, but there’s a short review by Justin Souther in this week’s paper — and a full review online.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running George Waggner’s The Wolf Man (1941) — the one with Lon Chaney as the Wolf Man — at the special time of 8:45 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 23 in Theater Six at The Carolina (please take note of the later starting time). World Cinema is showing Darren Aronofsky’s debut film Pi (1998) on Fri., Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has the classic British horror anthology Dead of Night (1945) on Sun., Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its October calendar with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard in Elliott Nugent’s The Cat and The Canary (1939) on Tue., Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.
The big news this week is that Snowpiercer comes to DVD. More than that knowledge, seems superfluous, but also up are Sex Tape, Step Up: All In, and Earth to Echo. See, I told you the others were superfluous.
Notable TV Screenings
On Thu., Oct. 23 at 10 p.m., TCM is showing Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited(1944), which is often cited as Hollywood’s first serious attempt at a ghost story. If you miss it at the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, TCM is playing Dead of Night (1945) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Oct. 28.