I’m not claiming that this marks the full start of the fall-into-awards season, but goodness knows it looks better than the last few weeks. Well, at least it looks like a partial improvement — and there’s one pretty terrific art title, too — so we can say things are looking up. In their way.
It’s difficult to say just how mainstream the four mainstream releases are, since one two of them are in semi-limited release — 500 and 800 screens — and one of them seems to be of the faith-based niche varieties. I’ll make an attempt to sort this out — as much as is possible anyway.
However, there’s one thing I know is good and that’s Paul Weitz’ Grandma — opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. This is the starring role that Lily Tomlin has long deserved, but never gotten. It seems that Paul Weitz — for whom she appeared in 2013’s Admission — wrote this specifically for her. It certainly seems that the role of a feisty, outspoken (frequently at inappropriate times) 70-something lesbian was tailor-made for her — and she plays it to the hilt. But don’t mistake this for a simple old-folks-acting-up comedy. It’s anything but, even though it has funny lines and occasional outright gags. In many ways, this story of a grandmother attempting to help her granddaughter get the money for an abortion is closer to tragedy. And though she’s funny, Tomlin’s character is deeply imbued with melancholy. Still, don’t get the idea that Grandma is a downer. Not at all, but it’s more than a comedy — much more. Read the review, but I’ll go ahead and say, I put it in the must-see realm.
Probably the week’s best bet in the mainstream realm is Scott Cooper’s Black Mass — starting Friday (with obligatory Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, and Regal Biltmore Grande. (It may be at Epic of Hendersonville, too, but it hasn’t been confirmed there.) This is the film that is supposed to “redeem” Johnny Depp — maybe even snag him an Oscar — and the mostly positive (87 percent at this moment) reviews suggest that both may be true. Since I’ve never been part of the bash-Depp brigade, I can’t say I ever felt he needed redeeming, but others do. And let’s be frank playing a bad guy — and a real-life one, too — in an unflattering make-up is the sort of thing Oscar gets into a tizzy over, so…Anyway, this biopic on gangster Whitey Bulger — which also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, and Peter Sarsgaard — looks like the top choice for adults in mainstream titles this week.
Next up is Captive — starting Friday (with Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. This is the least certain film of the week. It was made by 80-year-old veteran TV director Jerry Jameson and stars Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, and Mimi Rogers. It has not been reviewed or apparently screened at all (apart from a couple of never-reviewed-anything-else enthusiasts on the IMDb). Paramount’s blurb says, “A thrilling drama about the spiritual collision of two broken lives. When Brian Nichols — on the run as the subject of a city wide manhunt and desperate to make contact with his newborn son — takes recovering meth addict Ashley Smith hostage in her own apartment, she turns for guidance to Rick Warren’s best-selling inspirational book, The Purpose Driven Life. While reading aloud, Ashley and her would-be killer each face crossroads where despair and death intersect hope.” It appears to double as some kind of faith-based thriller and promotion for Warren’s book.
UPDATED UPDATE: OK. here’s the deal — Everest is only opening in IMAX and RPX (Regal Cinema’s kind of IMAX-Lite) theaters. That limits it to only opening at the Regal Biltmore Grande (and at a premium rate and in 3D). It goes to other theaters on Sept. 25. Then we have Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest — starting Friday (with Thursday evening, etc.) at Regal Biltmore Grande. This one is puzzling. It’s a big release of the epic variety. It has mostly positive reviews (albeit not that many total). It has name cast — Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, and (with special “and” billing) Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s a fact-based story. So why is it only in 500 theaters? Is it supposed to go wider next week? Who can say?
Last up is Wes Ball’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials — starting Friday (with, you know…) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This next entry The Maze Runner series is pre-sold pop culture. On that basis, it’s the Next Big Thing, though how big remains to be seen. The first film was better than average and the trailer for this looks to be at least on par. Anyway, you already know if you’re going to see it.
This week we lose Mistress America, Phoenix, and Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. While both Jimmy’s Hall and Mr. Holmes are still with us, I doubt they will be next week.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Tod Slaughter in George King’s The Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Sept. 17 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (2007) on Fri., Sept. 18 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 William Dieterle’s The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) on Sun., Sept. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running a restored version of Lewis Milestone’s original 1931 version of The Front Page on Tue., Sept. 22 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 biggie — and it is a biggie — this week is Love & Mercy. If you didn’t see it, see it now. If you did, see it again. Also out are Furious 7, Cinderella, and The Overnight.