Legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away; Howl’s Moving Castle) returns with The Wind Rises, reportedly his final film. The Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature is a biopic of engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed many of Japan’s WWII fighter planes. Far from a blind propaganda message (would Miyazaki ever resort to such tactics?), the film is epic in scope and never shies away from the government control that transformed Horikoshi’s innovative, innocent designs into war machines. The mess on ice skates known as Frozen is the favorite to win the Oscar, but isn’t close to being in the same league as this masterwork. (Also, if you don’t mind staying up late, the Fine Arts’ 9:30 p.m. shows on Saturday and Sunday are in Japanese with English subtitles. The other screenings are dubbed with the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci, but there’s a certain peaceful rhythm to the original words that adds to the film’s overall beauty.)
Omar is the long-awaited look at the life of beloved stick-up man Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) prior to the events depicted in the HBO program The Wire. Written by series creator David Chase…wait…err…apparently my research is incorrect. OK…Omar is Palestine’s Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film about the titular baker by day and freedom fighter by night. Tense, romantic, and beautifully shot, Hany Abu-Assad’s film is another recent film from the Middle East that focuses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a more powerful personal level. Look for my review in this Friday’s Asheville Scene.
Unsure of its distribution status since I first read about it around this time last year, I’m especially pleased that Kill Your Darlings is coming to the Carolina on Friday. John Krokidas’ film examines beat poets Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston, Boardwalk Empire), William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and their volatile comrade Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan, The Place Beyond the Pines). Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Elizabeth Olsen (hi again!) continue the impressive casting trend in this fact-based tale of a murder that challenges the dynamic between these soon-to-be-famous writers. Look for my review in this Friday’s Living section of the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Depending on who you believe, Liam Neeson was either too smart or too busy for last week’s craptacular 3 Days to Kill. For those who missed him brandishing various weaponry and growling (The Lego Movie wasn’t enough?), this week offers Non-Stop in which he reteams with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra. Neeson plays an air marshal whose transatlantic flight gets hijacked by a mysterious blackmailing party who taunts him with text messages and somehow frames him as the guilty party to the media. Three strong actresses (Julianne Moore, 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o, and Downton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery) fill out the supporting roles along with three strong actors (Argo‘s Scoot McNairy, Arbitrage‘s Nate Parker, and House of Cards‘ Corey Stoll).
Lent begins on March 5, so now is as good a time as any for Son of God. Comprised of relevant segments from last year’s History Channel miniseries The Bible, Christopher Spencer’s film follows Jesus (Diogo Morgado) from birth to death to resurrection. The usual cast of New Testamenters is here, though besides Roma Downey as Jesus’ mother Mary, there’s nary a recognizable name.
And for no apparent reason besides a money grab and admitting that the PG-13 cut wasn’t so good, Anchorman 2 returns in an R-rated version. Have at it; I will not be partaking.
Fleeing the Scene
The Past and The Great Beauty depart the Fine Arts to make way for what collectively are two better films (though neither newbie can individually top The Past).
Compensating for last week’s blank slate are Nebraska, Thor: The Dark World, Blue Is the Warmest Color, and Gravity, plus top-shelf documentaries The Crash Reel, Muscle Shoals, and Narco Cultura. That should hold ’em for a while.
On Netflix Instant
Whether you missed them or want to give them another go, the magnificent final 8 episodes of Breaking Bad are now streaming. Walter White’s AMC brother in dirty deeds Don Draper links up with Harry Potter as Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe (two times, two times) play the same character at different points of his life in A Young Doctor’s Notebook. Continuing the TV trend is season 1 of The Returned, the well-received French zombie program.
The movie realm offers perhaps a stranger assortment than usual. In addition to Blue Is the Warmest Color are all four Wishmaster horror films, the schlock-horror of Bad Milo!, and death-of-a-groomsman drama Best Man Down. And, just because it’s fun to say its complete title, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. If only it was as fun to watch.