Slim pickings this week — not that there was much of anything to get excited about last week, but there was more of it. Actually, we get one really good art title this week, but I fear it's going to be of limited appeal. There is one mainstream(ish) title, too. It is an unknown quantity, but the indications are that this might be a good week to start filling in the blanks of those Oscar contenders you've missed. Come to think of it, the art title in question is an Oscar contender — albeit it's a contender in the realm of costume design, which is not quite the sort of thing that people choose movies for. Well, not most people.
The week's art title is The Invisible Woman, which, despite that moniker, is not a horror picture. No, it is Ralph Fiennes' second directorial effort — and much better than his Coriolanus, which was a noisy, obnoxious movie somewhat redeemed by Vanessa Redgrave. This is neither obnoxious, nor noisy. Rather, it is a densely layered biographical film about Charles Dickens' mistress. It is, in fact, one of the most interesting biographical films I've seen in a very long time. But having said that, I think it should be understood that it is also a very deliberately paced film that may well bore some viewers. At first, I thought I might be among those viewers, but the film paid handsome rewards for sticking to it (not that I had a choice). Fiennes makes a compelling Dickens, but the real star of the piece is Felicity Jones as the mistress. The review is in this week's Xpress.
Otherwise, well, there's this ...
The only thing I've ever been able to say in favor of the Underworld movies is that they're probably better than the Resident Evil ones. That is faint praise indeed. Well, it seems that the folks responsible for those cheese fests that started ruining the vampire and werewolf sub-genre of horror, before Twilight wrestled them to the ground and finished the job, have attempted a similar cinematic libel on the Frankenstein Monster called I, Frankenstein. The Monster now appears to be a beefy Aaron Eckhart festooned with lots of scars from Frankenstein's patchwork quilt approach to surgery a couple hundred years ago. (The Monster appears to have spent most of those years at the gym.) Somehow or other he becomes enmeshed in some potentially world-destroying dust-up (say, aren't they all?) between two supernatural armies. Sounds like an Underworld reboot. The trailer looks like a cartoonish CGI-athon (kind of Constantine without a sense of humor). Yes, I know Bill Nighy is in it. He was in some of those Underworld things, too, so that's no guarantee.
What do we lose this week? Near as I can tell, nothing of any note at all, though I believe The Carolina has cut Saving Mr. Banks (Emma Thompson was robbed in the Oscar noms) to one show a day.
This week's Thursday Horror Picture Show is Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Shoedsack's The Most Dangerous Game (1932) on Thursday, Jan. 23, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Carl Theodor Dreyer's final film Gertrud (1964) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Anthony Harvey's The Lion in Winter (1968) on Sunday, Jan. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lakepointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its January screenings with Stephen Frears' My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles — with full reviews in the online edition — in the Xpress.
The best thing this week is Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, but Lake Bell's In a World is not that far behind it. I won't make a case that Machete Kills is actually good, but it's trashy fun — just not as much fun as the first one (I knew killing off Cheech was a huge mistake). Many people are looking forward to Captain Phillips — and they can have it.
Notable TV Screenings
It's not exactly good, but David Butler's Bright Eyes (1934) is the essential Shirley Temple picture. Every cliché associated with the child star is in this one, but damned if they mostly don't work. This is also the movie where Shirley introduced "On the Good Ship Lollipop" to the world. And if you can't tell me what kind of ship it is, you need to see this movie. It's on TCM on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 8 p.m.
D.W. Griffith's misnamed The Battle of the Sexes is on at 6 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23. It's hardly prime Griffith, but there's a lot to like about this marital drama. It's followed by Frank Capra's part-talkie hybrid The Younger Generation (1929) at 7:45 a.m. — more interesting than good, but worth a look.
Saturday at 8:30 a.m., TCM has W.S. Van Dyke's screwball comedy Double Wedding (1937), which gets my vote for the second best of William Powell and Myrna Loy's non-Thin Man films. As a bonus, you get a pre-Charlie Chan Sidney Toler as a magnificently stupid butler who fancies himself a detective. Hang around and catch Edna May Oliver and James Gleason in their third (and final) pairing as Hildegard Withers and Oscar Piper in the mystery-comedy Murder on a Honeymoon (1936).