Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 17-23: Wild Hobbit Annie at the Museum

In Theaters. And so it begins. The first flood of Christmasiana — clogging theater screens with Hobbits and Ben Stiller, a trickle of singing tots and one art title. And don’t forget, there’ll be another six titles hitting us on Christmas Day. These are perilous times we live in.     Unsurprisingly — especially since […]

New Movie Releases

Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul

Exodus: Gods and Kings

The Story: The story of Moses with CGI.  The Lowdown: Theologically dubious, dramatically inert and just plain boring even with all its state-of-the-art effects. And it goes on for two-and-a-half very long hours.
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco

Top Five

The Story: A comedian and actor — who’s trying his best to be taken as a serious artist — spends the day with a New York Times reporter on the weekend of his wedding to a reality star and the opening of his new, big film. The Lowdown: While it takes its time to get its footing and has the occasional misstep, the parts that work soar, making for an intelligent, raunchy, adult and genuinely funny film.

Special Screenings This Week

Starring: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, Marcel Dalio

Donovan’s Reef

In Brief: John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef (1963) is a bona fide Christmas movie if ever there was one — but with the unusual setting of a South Seas island (played by Kauai, Hawaii, with studio work at Paramount in Hollywood). The truth is that while this is housed in a John Wayne vehicle in the John Ford barroom brawling mode, it is also a deeply felt statement on racial tolerance. The plot revolves around “Guns” Donovan (Wayne) and “Boats” Gilhooley (Lee Marvin) trying to prevent snooty Bostonian Amelia Dedham (Elizabeth Allen) from discovering that her estranged father, Dr. William Dedham (Jack Warden), married a Polynesian woman and had three children by her. Of course, things go somewhat awry, especially when she and Donovan become romantically involved. At the heart of the film is the most charming, touching and funny Christmas pageant ever made. The mere spectacle of Lee Marvin as “the King of the United States of America” bringing the baby Jesus a windup gramophone and Dorothy Lamour gravely singing “Silent Night” in a very leaky chapel is enough to put it over, but the whole movie is a delight. The Asheville Film Society will screen Donovan’s Reef Tuesday, Dec. 23, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Claude Rains, Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel, David Manners, Francis L. Sullivan, Valerie Hobson

Mystery of Edwin Drood

In Brief: Somewhere between a really creepy mystery and a prestige picture, Stuart Walker’s Mystery of Edwin Drood was an attempt to match Walker’s film of Great Expectations (1934), and it is a part of the little known director’s best works that also included The Eagle and the Hawk (1933) and Werewolf of London (1935). Universal took Charles Dickens’ final — and unfinished — novel and gave it an ending. Actually, they also removed much in the way of a mystery element — at least for the viewer, since there’s never much doubt as to who murdered the title character. At the same time, the screenplay manages to capture some great Dickens characters and a genuine sense of the author’s work. Surprisingly, the film was allowed to completely paint John Jasper (Claude Rains) as an opium addict (drug use of any kind was forbidden by the Production Code). What Walker brings to the film is a pervasive sense of unsettling atmosphere — so much so that the film earned its position as part of the Shock Theater package of Universal horrors. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Mystery of Edwin Drood Thursday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yôko Tsukasa, Isuzu Yamada


In Brief: Yojimbo (1961) is one of Akira Kurosawa’s most entertaining films — and it was his biggest hit in Japan. I suppose you could say that’s because it’s one of his most accessible, though how a dark-humored Japanese Western based on an American hard-boiled crime novel became accessible is something of a puzzlement. Nonetheless, its story of a slightly seedy — and utterly cynical — wandering Samurai cleaning up a rough and tumble town by letting the bad guys do all the work for him had, and still has, immediate audience appeal. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Yojimbo Friday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com