I hate weeks like this. Oh, I'm not complaining that I have zero interest in seeing Non-Stop or Son of God (though I do). No, what distresses me is that there are three truly excellent art titles opening this week. Each of them was completely worthy of being the "Weekly Pick." But more than that, they're going to get in each other's way at the box office. Terrific movies are likely to get overlooked for no reason other than there are too many of them opening on the same weekend. My suggestion is see them all, but I know that's not practical in terms of time or expense for most people.
These art titles are Kill Your Darlings — opening at The Carolina — and Omar and The Wind Rises — both opening at the Fine Arts. Though I plopped for Kill Your Darlings for the Weekly Pick online (where there can only be one pick thanks to way the website works), I had both it and The Wind Rises as picks in the print edition. I feel better about that, but I still feel like I'm selling Omar short. Like I said, these are three terrific movies. Moreover, they don't really lend themselves to comparison.
My preference for Kill Your Darlings is based solely on the fact that it has the most resonance for me personally. Plus, it's always exciting to see something fresh and vibrant from a new filmmaker, which is the case here from first-time feature director and co-writer John Krokidas. His film grabbed me immediately and held me for its entire length — which was especially noteworthy given the disappointing attempts at bringing the Beat Generation writers to the screen in the past few years. Where those were flaccid at best, Kill Your Darlings really soars with life and filmmaking imagination. And, yes, Daniel Radcliffe — playing the young Allen Ginsberg — completely obliterates any trace of Harry Potter. Read the review in this week's Xpress for more on the film.
Also reviewed in this week's paper are Omar and The Wind Rises – both of which are exceptional films of very different kinds, and both of which are Oscar-nominated. Omar is from Hany Abu-Assad who made the remarkable Paradise Now back in 2005, and is almost as intense as that film. (And, it's very likely a little more accessible.) The Wind Rises, of course, is the latest — and supposedly the final — film from Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, making it a must-see for those who love animation. One thing I didn't know at the time of writing the review is that the Fine Arts will be showing The Wind Rises in its English language version at 1:00, 4:00 and 7:00, and running it in Japanese with subtitles for the Friday and Saturday late shows at 9:30.
Now, these so-called mainstream titles are...well, another thing all together.
Non-Stop reteams director Jaume Collet-Serra with Liam Neeson (the two made Unknown in 2011 — another February offering). Presumably, this is Neeson defending his aging action star supremacy against last week's interloper, Kevin Costner. (At least, these boys have yet — mind you, I said yet — to descend to the level of signing up for an Expendables movie.) In its favor, Neeson does not appear to be rescuing his daughter in this. No, he plays an air marshall on a transatlantic flight where the passengers are threatened unless the airline ponies up $150 million in ransom. For reasons best known to her agent, Julianne Moore is also onboard. It has not been reviewed except by two British and one Australian sources.
The other offering this week is Son of God, the topic of which is pretty self-evident. Less evident is the fact that this "major motion picture event" (that's what 20th Century Fox are calling it) is in fact carved out of the 2013 History Channel TV series The Bible. Maybe I'm just jaded, but this raises the question in my mind as to whether this can really be called a movie at all, let alone a "major motion picture event." (They did this with two part Man from U.N.C.L.E TV episodes back in the 1960s, too.) Of course, this is aimed at the faith-based niche market more than the average moviegoer. In other words, it isn't designed with viewers who are interested in film for its own sake, but strictly the subject matter. It has not been reviewed, but it's working on the assumption of a built-in audience.
I suppose it should also be noted that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is resurfacing in an R-rated cut that weighs in at either 138 or 143 minutes. In either case, that's a unconscionable length for a film that was already pushing it at 119 minutes.
So what departs our realm this week? Well, the Fine Arts wipes its slate clean, meaning we say goodbye to both The Great Beauty and The Past (you have through Thursday to catch them). The Carolina is dropping The Oscar-Nominated Short Films and relegating In Secret (which was on borrowed time anyway) to two shows a day. On the other hand, it's worth noting that Asheville Pizza and Brewing is running Saving Mr. Banks at 1:00 and 4:00 and Nebraska at 7:00 p.m.
This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is showing Arthur Lubin's Phantom of the Opera (1943) — in a gorgeous restored version — on Thursday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria (1957) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Russell Rouse's The Thief (1952) on Sunday, March 2 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society begins its month long tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous (2000) on Tuesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles — with full reviews in the online edition — in this week's Xpress.
It's a pretty busy week with the DVD releases of Gravity, Nebraska, Muscle Shoals and Blue Is the Warmest Color heading the list. Thor: The Dark World is also out.
Notable TV Screenings
TCM is bringing out the last of their "31 Days of Oscar this week, but the relief isn't really felt till next week. Check back with me then.