FREE March Movies at the Carolina

Carolina Cinemas

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m., the Asheville Film Society puts on a FREE movie at the Carolina in theater 6. Membership is not necessary to attend.

While membership is not necessary, it is only $10 for the year. Membership gives you a $1 off the price of your movie ticket Monday through Thursday (used to be every day sigh) and FREE refills on any size popcorn.

Thursday Horror Picture Show

Every Thursday night at 8, Ken Hanke & Justin Souther put on an absolutely FREE horror movie in movie theater 6.

Take the Donner Pass or The Dark Valley?

The Dark Valley (Das Finstere Tal) and Donner Pass are currently on instant Netflix

The Dark Valley

 

The Dark Valley (2014) – Not rated

A mysterious stranger arrives in an Alpine town and quickly wears out his welcome, but he won’t leave until he’s unleashed a series of deadly events.”

I do bemoan the fact that they just don’t make Westerns any more. I think the last good one I saw was Appaloosa. Well, the last good one until The Dark Valley. The Dark Valley is set in the Alps and is in German but don’t let that fool you, The Dark Valley is an old-fashioned revenge Western. It doesn’t break any new ground and plays out very much like two particular Eastwood westerns.

The Alpine scenery is spectacular and serves a useful purpose as the sheer monotony of winter there is an integral portion of the plot. I loved some of the winter touches such as the protagonist breaking the ice up in his bowl before he could wash and shave. The protagonist is suitably enigmatic.

As long as you don’t mind reading subtitles, The Dark Valley will fit your Western needs.

Donner Pass

 

Donner Pass (2012) – Rated R

More than 150 years after the gruesome incident at Donner Pass, a group of teens discover that someone in the area still has a taste for human flesh.

Definitely take The Dark Valley over Donner Pass. Donner Pass does have the sense to not overstay its welcome. It runs slightly less than an hour and a half and part of that is devoted to a brief retelling of the Donner party story (albeit with far fewer characters).

Unfortunately Donner Pass does rely way too much on the slasher formula as we have the obvious final girl, the sensitive loner, and pretty much everyone else you want to see die. These consist of a bunch of high school students in their 20s and some appear to be in their 30s. I understand low budget features have a smaller cast pool to choose from but the script could have been rewritten to accommodate these obviously older actors.

The old horror tropes are trotted out one-by-one. The jocks are very aggressive bullies. The three women break down into the standard triumvirate of final girl, nasty queen bee, and sexually active girl. The loner suffers in silence but could he be hiding a secret? Much alcohol is consumed, games are played, hot-tubbing occurs.

The unfortunate thing is that, amidst all this dross, there are things to like about the film. It is not a standard slasher, as you might guess from the setting. The winter setting is well used (though not as well as in The Dark Valley). There is a great idea for a subplot (no spoiler) that could have been better handled but was still interesting.

Donner Party is a passable waste of an hour and a half if you keep these things in mind but be aware that there is a (non-graphic) sexual assault that occurs in the film.

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage to a Killer Mermaid

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage is currently available on instant Netflix

A Good Marriage

 

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) – Rated R

With a serial killer on the loose and a stranger stalking her family, a woman unearths a sinister secret that threatens her marriage — and her life.”

Stephen King adapted this from one of his stories in Full Dark, No Stars. It is a very straightforward tale. What would happen if you discovered X? The storytelling in both the novella and the screenplay are very refreshing. The full focus is kept on the husband and wife. Direction is similarly straightforward and not at all flashy.

Three time Oscar nominee Joan Allen is wonderful as Darcy Anderson, our woman who discovers a sinister secret. She singlehandedly makes the movie what it should be. Anthony LaPaglia is quite good as the concerned husband. Stephen Lang is mostly window dressing as a mysterious stranger.

A Good Marriage is worth watching if you like a dark what if? character study. There is not much action and not much to the movie beyond the relationship between husband and wife but that is enough.

Killer Mermaid

 

Killer Mermaid (2014) – Not Rated

Two young women go on an exotic Mediterranean vacation and uncover the watery lair of a killer mermaid hidden beneath an abandoned military fortress.”

Obviously my first thought on seeing that this was on Netflix was “oh no Asylum is back at it again”. My plan was to skip it. I looked it up on imdb and because it wasn’t Asylum, I thought I would give it a shot.

First I’d like to rant a bit about the dumbing down of the title. This was originally titled “Mamula”, the location of the film. Apparently that was too esoteric so in the UK, it was titled “Nymph”. Not on the nose enough, U.S. audiences received it as “Killer Mermaid”. It just reminded me when Amicus’ horror anthology “Asylum” came over here, someone apparently thought that we wouldn’t know what an asylum was and retitled it “House of Crazies”.

Digression: The term Asylum apparently caught on in the U.S. as there was The Asylum in 2000 and 2013. Asylum (by itself) has been the title of movies in 1992, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2014. There have also been Stonehearst Asylum, The Amityville Asylum, Dark Asylum, Asylum Blackout, Asylum Days, Hell Asylum, and Doom Asylum.

Pardon my digressions but there isn’t much to say about Killer Mermaid. There is some gore but not enough and not creative enough for gorehounds. There are pretty young ladies but strangely the camera only focuses on one of them. They have a wonderful location to shoot at but not much is made of it. Most of the cast is Serbian but they have Franco Nero for some international appeal.

Compared to pretty much any Asylum picture, Killer Mermaid is good but really only by comparison. By any other metric Killer Mermaid is a slightly entertaining, forgettable waste of time.

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 2/24/15

Netflix seems to have figured out that I like horror movies as they emailed a recommendation for The Last House on Cemetery Lane. I guess I’ll have to check it out.

Anime: Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter (three seasons)

Comedy: Akmal: Life of Akmal, Arj Barker: Joy Harvest, Carl Barron: A One Ended Stick, David Strassman: Careful What You Wish For, The Fluffy Movie, Hello Kitty Flanagan, Jimeoin: Something Smells…Funny, Problem Child: Leslie Jones, The Umbilical Brothers: The Rehearsal

The Overnighters

Documentary: The Overnighters, Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers, Aim High in Creation

Drama: Save the Date, In Secret, Life’s a Breeze

Family: Earth to Echo

Fantasy & Science Fiction: RoboCop (2014), The Scribbler

Foreign: Traffickers, Septimo

Last House on Cemetery Lane

Horror: The Last House on Cemetery Lane, Housebound

Television: Goddess of Marriage, The Moon Embracing the Sun, Richie Rich, You’re All Surrounded

Felony

Thriller: Felony, The Heart Machine, White Bird in a Blizzard

Regal Starlight Stadium 14

We had to drive over to Charlotte this weekend to see my Florida daughter and granddaughter. A fun time was had by all and we arrived early enough to go visit a Charlotte theater I had not been to.

Regal Starlight

 

Regal Starlight Stadium 14 is an older Regal property that has been partially renovated. We arrived at opening and were pleasantly surprised to find that matinee tickets were only $5 for first run films. We headed in to my favorite part of Regal: The Icee machines. I don’t know why but a Coke Icee is my favorite movie treat.

Starlight seating

Well, my wife was happy. She got a blue raspberry and cherry Icee swirl. Those flavors were working but, sadly for me, Coke was not. Still, Starlight was quite a treat as we finally got to try Regal’s new recliner seats. All of the screens in this theater have been reworked for the new recliners. This means each theater seats far fewer people than it formerly did but it seats them all in comfort, thus encouraging return visits.

Starlight wife

 

Above is my wonderful wife, reclining in her seat with Butterfinger bites, popcorn, and Icee. The seats power-recline at the touch of an inside button and are quite roomy. My wife and I are large and find them quite roomy.

Starllight lounge

 

The screen in our theater was oddly small, partial evidence of a retrofit. I think their bigger screens were reserved for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 and Fifty Shades of Grey. We were there to see Kingsman and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I sincerely hope these seats become the norm. They are set up in pairs and you choose your seating when you purchase your ticket. Elbow room on the offside is plentiful but expect to be cozy with your seat partner.

It’s Cold Outside…

…There’s no kind of atmosphere. I’m all alone, more or less.

/sigh. It is currently below zero outside, nothing new to those in the northeast or midwest but quite rare up here in the Asheville area. My internet has slowed to a crawl – do bits travel slower as they get cold?

The inside of the house is in the 40s. We have a very energy efficient heat pump so our electric bills are quite reasonable but when it stays below freezing, the pump can’t keep up.

There are plenty of cold weather choices for you on Netflix. I strongly suggest

Snowpiercer

 

Snowpiercer (2013) – Rated R

The Earth’s remaining inhabitants are confined to a single train circling the globe as revolution brews among the class-divided cars.”

Quite simply one of the best films I saw last year and sadly neglected by the Academy. The Grand Budapest Hotel was better but I felt Snowpiercer should have been nominated. Turn off your phone and your iPad and go watch it.

The Taking of Deborah Logan Down by the Neverlake

Neverlake and The Taking of Deborah Logan are currently available on instant Netflix

Neverlake

 

Neverlake (2012) – Not Rated

A teen visiting her estranged father in Italy stumbles upon the Neverlake, an ancient body of water said to be guarded by the spirits of the dead.”

I sit through so much dreck. I watch so many horror movies that are just copies of other horror movies that themselves are also copies. Every once in a while a nice, refreshing change of pace comes around which recharges me enough to sit through more dreck. Neverlake is a refresher.

Neverlake is more in the model of a dark fairy tale than a straight out horror movie. The backstory and general plotting are well thought out, even if the final script could use some tweaking. I found the reveal and third act to be very satisfying.

Daisy Keeping is quite good as our teen in peril, Jenny. She is compelling enough to drag us through some of the laggier bits in the middle of the movie. Unfortunately the other children aren’t nearly as good. David Brandon, who plays Jenny’s father, Dr. Brook is a bit bland but that works in regards to the story.

The natural locations in Italy are quite lovely but could certainly be used to better effect. For a low budget film, Neverlake is quite good and I particularly appreciated that it had a good story to tell.

The Taking of Deborah Logan

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) – Rated R

For her Ph.D. thesis, Mia decides to film a woman’s Alzheimer’s battle, but when symptoms turn strange, the family suspects something more sinister.”

Ugh. Why? Why do we have to have nine out of every ten low-budget horror movies be a found footage film. I would be happy to track down the found footage ‘guy’ and drive a stake through his unbeating heart. As you might guess, this includes The Taking of Deborah Logan.

The found footage concept adds nothing to this movie and does not actually make the filming of this any cheaper. It allows for a few minor jump scares but really says that the director, Adam Robitel was not confident enough in his handling of the material or, for some reason, believed that it was necessary. The found footage aspect actually detracted from the film in several scenes, including ones that appeared to be direct ripoffs of the inexplicably popular Paranormal Activity series.

Having typed that, there is much to like about The Taking of Deborah Logan. The students filming the everyday life of an Alzheimer’s patient and her daughter appear to be just that. The film certainly portrays a much more realistic and believable portrayal of Alzheimer’s than Deep Blue Sea.

Acting from the crew is just okay but Anne Ramsay is quite good as the long-suffering daughter, Sarah. Jill Larson really sells the film as our titular Alzheimer’s (or is it?) patient, Deborah Logan (even though Jill isn’t really old enough to be Anne’s mother, so kudos to the makeup people as well).

Writing is above par for this type of endeavor. In addition to the meaningful Alzheimer’s related details in the first two acts, there is a significant backstory, gradually revealed amid the found footage shenanigans.

If you can stand sitting through one more found footage film, The Taking of Deborah Logan will fit the bill. It isn’t great but is certainly worth a watch.

 

 

New Netflix Streaming Releases for the Week of 2/17/15

A few morsels and a bunch of television dreck this week.

Action/Adventure: Avenged, Saints and Soldiers: The Void

Anime: Moonphase, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Star of Milos

Comedy: Scary Movie 5, Summer of Blood

Documentary: All This Mayhem, Dwight Howard: In the Moment, Virunga: Gorillas in Peril, Closure, Exile Nation: The Plastic People, Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Stephanie in the Water, Stop at Nothing

Lilting

Drama: Lilting, Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, I Am Not a Hipster, The Man on Her Mind, Prince of Broadway

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Family: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Dragonheart 3

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse, Young Ones

Foreign: The House at the End of Time, Chandni, Darr, Ek Tha Tiger, Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl, Tabloid Truth

Horror: Honeymoon

Television: Brain Games, Filthy Riches, Forecast: Disaster, Inside Secret America, Lords of War, Angel Eyes, Gu Family Book, Grounded for Life, Stella and Sam, Lab Rats, Land Girls, My Animal Friends, Wounded: The Battle Back Home, and new episodes of Mako Mermaids, and a slew of The Truth Behind specials

Thriller: Locked In, The Two Faces of January

Horror This ‘n’ That

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) and Don’t Blink are currently on streaming Netflix.

Town that Dreaded Sundown

 

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) – Rated R

Sixty-five years after the masked Moonlight Murderer terrified Texarkana, the mayhem begins again, and a shy teenage girl knows how to stop it.”

The original The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) was a rather odd hodgepodge of a movie involving a series of real-life murders in Texarkana. Part of it dealt with the murders from the murderer’s point of view and part dealt with the manhunt, ably aided by veteran character actor Ben Johnson as the lead Ranger in the investigation. It suffered from a low budget and some abrupt tonal shifts but was an interesting misfire for its time.

The new The Town That Dreaded Sundown is neither a remake nor a reboot. The old movie is actually part of the plot for the new movie (kudos to Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa). The new attacks actually stem from an incident at a drive-in movie showing – you guessed it – The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

As usual for a horror movie, the police here are rather clueless and our plucky heroine who survived the initial attack of our new killer investigates the new murders. There are a few other additional good ideas but there are also a lot of story beats stolen from various other horror movies, such as Scream. Other thoughts came to mind at various points such as Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo and these are not favorable.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown ends up being a passable waste of time, particularly those with knowledge of, though not necessarily reverence for, the original movie.

Don't Blink

 

Don’t Blink (2014) – Not rated

Ten friends are stranded at a secluded — and deserted — mountain resort, where they must solve the deadly mystery surrounding the abandoned lodge.”

Don’t Blink is another good idea gone awry. I am unsure as to how much credit to give writer/director Travis Oates. There are actually many good ideas in this movie but the central premise is one that has been done before. Don’t Blink is exceedingly similar to Vanishing on 7th Street.

On the other hand, Oates sets his film at a deserted  (or is it?) mountain resort, instead of an entire city, giving this a nice mystery vibe a la Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. The scenes are filmed effectively though the repeated, nonsensical gasoline problem gets old very quickly (what, absolutely NO ONE filled up at the nearest gas station? AND none of the cars at the resort had used the resort’s pumps?). The gas issue does work though if you view the entire movie as a metaphor about this issue.

For being a pretty young people in peril (or PYPIP) movie, the characters are distinguishable and not horrifically annoying. There is a bit of disbelief involving the choice to stay once events unfold but it is all slickly done. There are some very interesting events surrounding the lodge that subtly play out.

Jupiter Descending

Jupiter Ascending is currently playing in theaters

Jupiter Ascending

 

Jupiter Ascending (2015) – Rated PG-13

In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.”

I was blown away by Jupiter Ascending. Sadly it was not in a good way. I adored the Wachowskis’ Cloud Atlas and though it was one of the best films of that year even if the science fiction segments were the weakest link. This caused me to have hope for Jupiter Ascending and yet, where Cloud Atlas was imaginative and heartfelt, Jupiter Ascending is an utter mess.

We begin with the beautiful Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) scrubbing toilets. I mention beautiful because she in no way appears to be the destitute maid/cleaner that the movie would like to portray her as (and that toilet didn’t really need cleaning). This is the equivalent of the high school movies about the ugly duckling who takes off her glasses, lets down her hair, and is suddenly the prom queen.

Intergalactic Skate Boy (TM) Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) arrives to rescue her from mysterious space baddies out to capture or kill her. The Wachowskis clearly wanted to make this a Silver Surfer movie but lacked the rights. Finding himself outnumbered, he seeks help from former colleague, Stinger Exposition (Sean Bean).

Jupiter finds that she is the reincarnated heir to the galactic throne currently shared by three siblings, Female Exposition Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton), Male Exposition Abrasax (Douglas Booth), and Screaming Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne). As you might guess from my description, there is a LOT of exposition in the movie.

The movie flow is Exposition dump – action sequence – pretty scenery – rinse and repeat. There is actually only one scene that does not fit that mold and is so out of place, it feels lifted from another movie. That sequence is a wonderful Catch-22 involving the paperwork behind Jupiter’s birthright. It is surreal and good for a laugh. The problem with it is that it IS actually lifted from another film, Brazil to be precise. The Wachowskis can call it an homage though because they stuck Terry Gilliam in it with a wink and a nod.

I applaud them for replacing the Bondian unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism with an unnecessarily slow rising mechanism. Beam me up, Scotty but feel free to take several minutes to do so. I’m surprised that the characters didn’t look at their watches or tap their feet as they rose.

Also the villains are confounded by Caine’s shoes but never take them away from him. Why not let him keep a gun, too? Hilariously, in the third act (VERY VAGUE SPOILER), it appears that the villain has honestly, and ridiculously, chosen to live in what amounts to a glass house. How this person survived so long is a question for the ages.

The movie is very pretty but is effectively Cloud Atlas’ Matrix Revolutions. You know, the two Matrix sequels made by the Wachowskis that made you question whether The Matrix was actually as brilliant as you thought it was.