Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer opens this week, and so far as I’m concerned that’s all you need to know, but the dictates of the job require that I mumble a few words — in Esperanto as a preference (except I don’t know it) — about the three other movies that come our way this Friday. These amount to two other art titles and one mainstream one.
Under normal circumstances all three of the art titles would have been seen and reviewed, but as it stands that number has been reduced to two — Snowpiercer (at The Carolina and Fine Arts) and Hellion (at The Carolina). The third film — John Carney’s Begin Again (opening at The Carolina and Fine Arts) — has the distinction of being released by a company known for its erratic behavior. (Does the name Weinstein ring a bell?) This round is something of a doozy, since they informed bookers of its expansion on Thursday, July 3 and then appear to have promptly headed off to get a start on the holiday, effectively killing any chance of a last minute press screening. Oh, well. No matter how good it is, the chances of it being as good as Snowpiercer are so slim that they verge on the microscopic. We’ll get back to this.
As should be clear by now, I’m pretty darn jazzed on Snowpiercer. I’ve seen it twice and plan on seeing it on the Big Screen come Friday. Though this sci-fi political/sociological parable is nothing at all like it, it’s the most exciting and compelling film I’ve seen since The Grand Budapest Hotel. Right now it sits as my number two film of 2014 — and I’d be surpised to see it move much by the year’s end. I say this despite the presence of new Roman Polanski and Woody Allen movies in the offing. This is not just intellectually stimulating, but it’s a film that never forgets to be a suspenseful and exciting science fiction film at the same time. It’s also brilliantly made, amazingly clever (truly, you wonder what’s going to happen or be revealed next for its entire length) and solidly cast. (That Tilda Swinton is now in all three of my favorite films this year is kind of interesting.) It’s also a rare case of a filmmaker making his English language debut and nothing getting lost in the translation. Potential downsides? It may displease more politically conservative viewers, and others may find it too violent, but I say, risk it. It’s worth it. Check out the review.
I wish I could be as enthusiastic — or enthusiastic at all — about Kat Candler’s Hellion. It’s not a bad film as far as what it means to be. It is in fact very good at being that. The thing is I am so over watching cookie cutter indies about disaffected, inarticulate people I’d go out of my way to avoid in real life. And hand-held camerawork, lensflare, sullen kids and stir. Some, however, have loved its realism and found it very profound indeed. As you can tell from the review, I was not so blessed.
Then there’s the unseen art title, Begin Again, which is the new film from John Carney, who gave us the estimable and critically-praised Once (2007). This apparently has a similar vibe that the Weinsteins describe as “a soul-stirring comedy about what happens when lost souls meet and make beautiful music together. Gretta (Keira Knightley) and her long-time boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) are college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York when he lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his new-found fame soon tempt Dave to stray, and a reeling, lovelorn Gretta is left on her own. Her world takes a turn for the better when Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced record-label exec, stumbles upon her performing on an East Village stage and is immediately captivated by her raw talent. From this chance encounter emerges an enchanting portrait of a mutually transformative collaboration, set to the soundtrack of a summer in New York City.” It also cost more than Once and has some actual movie stars in it — Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo. Predictably, it’s also not getting the love that was showered on the earlier film, though the reviews are largely positive. Anyway, I’m inclined to ignore the kind of rush to criticize out of hand that comes with such efforts.
That brings us to the new Next Big Thing, Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This latest bout of simian cinema is, of course, the sequel to Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), which I liked well enough, but not so much as to be morbid about it. A sequel was, of course, inevitable. The human cast is new, though some of the simians are the same. Also new is the director, Matt Reeves. While Wyatt’s direction didn’t particularly impress, it didn’t come with the weight of Cloverfield (2008) and Let Me In (2010) to consider. As a fan of neither film, I am skeptical of the choice. That said, its early reviews are almost absurdly strong — 19 positive and only one naysayer. That, however, is a light sampling, and, honestly, no one who has weighed in (including the lone detractor) is likely to sway me.
Before getting down to what we’re losing, I’d like to pause to note the surprise hold-over of Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) with The Beatles. Last weekend it played two shows — and that was supposed to be it. But when those two shows were packed, it was granted another two shows (at The Carolina) this weekend — Sat., July 12 at 7 p.m. and Sun., July 13 at 2 p.m. So here is another chance to catch this classic on the Big Screen and as the communal experience it was meant to be.
Now, I am sorry (but hardly surprised) to announce that Jodorowsky’s Dune underwhelmed at the box office (though not embarrassingly) and will be taking its leave come Friday — and probably taking with it much chance for us getting the Jodorowsky’s new film The Dance of Reality. Also leaving at The Carolina is The Immigrant. The Fine Arts is dropping Chef (which keeps a full set of shows at The Carolina), but they’re holding Obvious Child on a split bill (one show a day at 4:20 p.m.) with Snowpiercer.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Terence Fisher’s The Gorgon (1964) at 8 p.m. on Thu., July 10 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the winner of this year’s Twin Rivers Media Festival, Confessions of a Womanizer (2014) on Fri., Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Wedge Brewery continues their summer of Coen Brothers films with Blood Simple (1984) starting at 15 minutes after sundown on Sat., July 12 (rain date is Aug. 2). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Harry Lachman’s Dante’s Inferno (1935) at 2 p.m. on Sun., July 13 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will show The Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers (1930) on Tue., July 15 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.
This week the best thing coming out on DVD is Le Weekend, but The Raid 2 (which mystifyingly died in theaters) and Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 are also noteworthy. Less so is Bad Words.
Notable TV Screenings
You are on your own this week.