It's a two and two week again -- two art titles vs. two mainstream titles -- though you may notice that the distributors are doing their darndest to convince people that one of those art titles, Mud, has crossover potential. In fact, it probably does -- depending on whether or not they over-saturate the market by putting it on too many screens. We shall see.
I've seen both of the art titles -- Mud (opening at The Carolina and Fine Arts) and The Company You Keep (opening at The Carolina) -- and they're both worth a look. The mixed reviews on The Company You Keep shouldn't deter you. This is a much better film than those suggest -- and I'm not really sure why the reviews aren't more enthusiastic, unless the reviewers were expecting more of a thriller than the film really is. It's certainly a solidly made, entertaining and thoughtful movie -- more intelligent than most things that come down the pike. (Maybe that's the problem.)
Mud, on the other hand, at least flirts with greatness -- and this comes from someone who thought Jeff Nichols' much-praised last film, Take Shelter, was much over-praised. And the distributor is quite right to believe it has crossover potential. I can easily see Mud appealing to viewers who cringe at the word "art," but it's going to need time to build that audience. If they decide to thrust it into too many venues on opening weekend, they may well kill it off. It's also another movie that continues Matthew McConaughey's winning streak. (No, his relationship with a cast-against-type Reese Witherspoon here does not -- in any way -- edge him back toward the rom-com pit of hell. Far from it.) But in many ways, Mud belongs as much or more to the kids -- Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland -- as it does to McConaughey. This is definitely the movie to catch this week.
The mainstream titles, however, look to be a very different proposition.
The Big Wedding is up first. Before going any further, consider its title -- The Big Wedding. "Big" is the key word here. It's a red flag word, smacking of desperation when it appears in a title, suggesting that the filmmakers are trying to flim-flam you into thinking it's more than it is. Movies with "big" in the title are rarely good. (Cue the Lebowski contingent.) It's based on a French movie called Mon Frere se Marie (see the French for "big" in there? No). The French movie seems never to have made it to U.S., which may tell us something. This new -- star-encrusted -- take comes from Justin Zackham, who wrote The Bucket List, which ought to be a punishable offense in itself. Here, he directs, too. The premise appears to be that long-divorced couple (Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro) pretend to still be married for the sake of their adopted son at his wedding so as not to rile his conservative birth mother. (I can't help it -- and I don't believe it myself -- but that's what it says.) It's also stuffed with stars -- including Robin Williams as a priest. (Did these people see License to Wed? And did they learn nothing?) The aim is apparently farce. Did I mention that Mud and The Company You Keep are opening?
Then there's Pain & Gain from Michael Bay -- apparently taking a break from Transformers movies. This stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Anthony Mackie as a criminally-minded trio from a South Florida gym, who kidnap a rich customer (Tony Shalhoub) with ransom in mind. It's based on a true story, but we can assume it's been Bay-ed up to resemble some kind of Bad Boys opus. I am so not the audience for this. It is my good fortune, however, that Mr. Souther -- for reasons I do not pretend to understand -- actually wants to see this. To each his own torment this week.
Let's see what we're losing. The Fine Arts is dropping Trance, but it's holding at The Carolina (I wouldn't count on another week, though). The Carolina, however, is dropping Quartet -- and the short-lived Like Someone in Love.
This week, we have additional titles with the Asheville Jewish Film Festival starting on Thu., April 25 with the opening event showing Hava Nagila: The Movie with a reception starting at 6 p.m. at Blue Spiral 1. (The movie plays at the Fine Arts.) The film shows again on Fri., April 26 at 1 p.m.
Also, there's the Asheville Film Society's Budget Big Screen showing of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) is Wed., April 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Theater Eight at The Carolina. This is a special booking of the new, remastered and restored Digital Cinema Print, meaning it should look at least as good as -- and probably better than -- it did when it was first released. All movies benefit from being seen on the big screen in a theater (I don't care how good your home theater is), but Kubrick is one of those filmmakers whose work just cries out to be seen that way. So see it that way.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is a double feature of Bert I. Gordon's 1950s cheese at its cheesiest -- Earth vs. the Spider (1958) and War of the Colossal Beast (1958) -- at 8 p.m. on Thu., April 25 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout (1971) on Fri., April 26 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will screen John Hough's Brass Target (1978) at 2 p.m. on Sun., April 28 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running William A. Seiter's Wheeler and Woolsey comedy Diplomaniacs (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tue., April 30 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week's paper with complete coverage and reviews in the online edition.
Out this week we have The Impossible, Gangster Squad, Promised Land, and the undoubted classic A Haunted House. Also up is Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights, which didn't play here -- and which I turned off at the 20 minute mark when going through last year's award screeners.
Notable TV Screenings
On Thu., April 25 at 8:45 a.m. TCM is running the very enjoyable comedy-mystery Murder on the Blackboard (1934) starring the great Edna May Oliver and James Gleason. And late night Sat., April 27 (or early Sun., April 28) they have the special magnificence that is The Manitou (1978). Don't miss it!