Something tells me this week isn’t likely to be as strong in the mainstream department, but there’s a joker amidst those three that might surprise on starpower. (I seriously doubt there’ll be as pleasant a surprise as Gone Girl.) Maybe. The art side of the ledger is a harder call, but there are only two of those.
We’re back to the status quo on the art films this week, which is to say I’ve seen them both — and it wasn’t easy, I can tell you. After a series of issues about getting the movies here, it ended up that there was a double feature press screening on Sunday morning — beginning at 7 a.m. This is not something I want to see become a normal occurrence, I can tell you.
First up was Peter Chelsom’s Hector and the Search for Happiness, which, even at 7 a.m., I liked. Possibly I liked it more than I should have, and it took me a while to warm to it. It is undeniably too long, and most of that excess lies in the first half of the film. On the other hand, Simon Pegg gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as the psychiatrist (Hector) out to find out what happiness is. The film is very well made, has a nice message, and is very pleasant. Plus, it’s really interesting to follow up seeing Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl by seeing her as Pegg’s girlfriend in this. In any case, it’s a sweet little movie that manages to never cross the line into being cloying. It starts Friday at The Carolina.
This was followed by Michael Cuesta’s Kill the Messenger, which stars Jeremy Renner as the newpaper reporter who blew the whistle — and paid dearly for it — on the CIA’s involvement in trafficking drugs to finance anti-communist forces in Nicaragua. It’s a solid, straightforward movie with a good central performance from Renner. My biggest issue with it is that is was exactly the movie I expected to see and nothing more. It opens Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts.
On into the mainstream and things unseen…
For starters, we have Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which title-wise makes it something like the Marat/Sade of family movies, I guess. Frankly, the scene pictured above tells me far more about this movie than I ever wanted to know. Just imagine actually seeing it…oh, wait, I may well have to. It is based on something from the bottomless supply of “beloved” children’s classics out there. I have no doubt of the veracity of these claims, but unless it was part of your childhood, or of your children’s childhoods, the sales pitch is not effective. Apparently, this is all about a kid who thinks his entire family leads a charmed life while he has nothing but trouble, so he wishes they could have a day like his. They do. The big names here are Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. The best news is that it’s 80 minutes long.
Then we have Dracula Untold — one of those unfortunately titled movies that suggests its own critical response (“Dracula Untold should have stayed that way.”) It’s from first time director Gary Shore and stars Luke Evans as the gent whose untold story is being told. The idea seems to be that we needed an origins story for Dracula. Funny how well the character worked for so many years without one. Plus, we’ve had all this Vlad the Impaler stuff in various forms for years. The difference here seems to be that he drinks the blood of Charles Dance in order to gain the dark powers of CGI in order to save his people. At least, that’s what the trailer suggests.
Last up is the one that might win the day through the combined star power of Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. This is The Judge from director David Dobkin (Fred Claus), which weighs in at a dauting 142 minutes. It’s all about a city slicker lawyer (Downey) who ends up defending his estranged father, the Judge (Duvall), on a murder charge. It looks like something that was written specifically with these actors in mind — with everything that suggests. Right now, the critics are divided on it. My favorite negative blurb so far comes from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club — “It’s better than one would expect from the director of Shanghai Knight and Fred Claus, without being especially interesting in any regard.” Not having seen it, I can’t say, but the trailer does very little for me.
This week the Fine Arts splits My Old Lady and The Skeleton Twins to make room for Kill the Messenger. The Carolina also cuts The Skeleton Twins to two shows a day, while dropping Boyhood, The Drop, and Love Is Strange. Expect this to be the final week for The Skeleton Twins.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Roy Del Ruth’s The Alligator People (1959) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 9 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 10 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Don Sharp’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) on Sun., Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month of mysteries with a double feature of John Rawlins’ Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) and Roy William Neill’s Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) on Tue., Oct. 14 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.
You remember the surprisingly good Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow? Well, it’s coming to DVD with a new ad campaign that virtually changes the title to Living on the Edge. Whether or not this will get people to watch it is a separate question. Also out is the very agreeable indie comedy The Grand Seduction, which did pretty good art house business here.
Notable TV Screenings
Time has gotten away from me, so you’ll have to fend for yourself.