Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 13-19: Magic in the Moonlight and Some Other Stuff

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In Theaters.

This week the new Woody Allen movie, Magic in the Moonlight, opens. There are also three mainstream titles — all of which look pretty dubious to me. I suppose we have to take a look at them anyway, but I’m not sure I’d care to make eye-contact with them.

 

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Magic in the Moonlight (opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts) marks the 13th new Woody Allen movie I’ve reviewed since I started writing for the Xpress (the 2007 Allen release, Cassandra’s Dream, didn’t play here). I found something to admire and like in all but one of the first 12 — the inexplicably highly-regarded Match Point (2005) — and I find a lot to admire, like, and even love in this newest film. Now, of course, I’m an unapologetic fan of Allen’s work. I consider him one of the best filmmakers working today. So it can fairly be said that I was primed to like Magic in the Moonlight. There’s some truth in that, sure, but I could have just as easily been setting myself up for a huge letdown. (I was sure Match Point was going to be great, and I disliked it intensely.) I think it is a witty, charming, magnificent-looking film with a lot more going on beneath its comedy surface than might be apparent. Read the review in this week’s paper — or in the online edition — for a more detailed assessment. But I really can’t see that there’s anything opening this week — or even still playing — that can touch it. Now, to go from magical to mainstream…

 

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The Expendables 3 the movie with the built-in excuse. If it crashes and burns, it can all be blamed on those apparently high-quality pirated copies that were downloaded by “millions” of people on the internet. Now, I’m not one of the purported millions — hell, I don’t even want to see the thing anyway — but I have a hunch that it’s less the direct loss of revenue from the piracy than it’s because so many of those miscreants who watched it illegally are going around loudly proclaiming that the movie smells from herring. That wouldn’t surprise me. The leak of the movie online is just the latest problem for a film that spent tons on publicity featuring Bruce Willis (it’s still all over the internet), who ultimately wanted more money than the 16 or so producers, executive producers, co-producers, and every other flavor of producer felt he was worth. Then there was the bone-headed fan-pissing-off decision to water the violence down to get a PG-13. Really — other than spectacle of AARP action stars in action — what other than excessive violence did these movies have going for them? The first was amusingly stupid. The second one, I dodged. The third one…I’m hoping to dodge.

 

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The Giver — one of those films based on the seemingly endless stream of Newberry Award-winning children’s books — has a pretty solid director in Philip Noyce (well, there was that unfortunate Salt movie a while back) and some impressive names (in support) with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. The main 25-year-old teenager Brenton Thwaites was alright in Oculus and pretty-but-pointless as the Prince in Maleficent. The story — about this young man (Thwaites) who discovers from “The Giver” (Jeff Bridges) that the bland utopian world they inhabit is really dystopian is hardly the most original-sounding thing I’ve ever heard. But let me tell you, it looks pretty darn good when you consider our final mainstream option.

 

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Up last alphabetically, but opening first thanks to the bizarre “need” for a Wednesday opening (maybe they’re thinking the twin anniversaries of Bela Lugosi’ and Elvis’ deaths on Saturday has the makings of a big movie weekend), is Let’s Be Cops. The premise for this R rated comedy sounds about as moronic as the title. Firm friends Ryan (Jake Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans, Jr.) go to a costume party as cops and end up somehow being mistaken for the real thing by mobsters and crooked cops. Now, I know Jake Johnson from Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) and I think I kinda saw this new generation Wayans in an episode of something called Happy Endings that I wasn’t really watching. Apparently, they’re best-known for a TV show called New Girl, which I have never seen. The movie was co-written and directed by Luke Greenfield, whose The Girl Next Door (2004) wasn’t bad,but that doesn’t excuse the miserable Something Borrowed (2011) and nothing will ever remove the blot of having made the Rob Schneider “comedy,” The Animal (2001). I view all this with grave misgivings and gloomy foreboding.

Now, that that’s over, let’s note that this week we lose The Grand Seduction (today is its last day to make room for Let’s Be Cops tomorrow) and finally The Carolina is dropping Chef (but it’s opening at Asheville Pizza). The Fine Arts is dropping A Most Wanted Man, but it’s staying on at The Carolina.

 

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is showing a double feature of Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and Gordon Douglas’ Zombies on Broadway (1945) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 14 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is running The Red Balloon (1956) on Fri., Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Wedge Brewery will show the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1996) on Sat., Aug. 9. Films start 15 minutes after sundown. ┬áThe Hendersoville Film Society will be showing Julien Duvivier’s Flesh and Fantasy (1943) on Sun., Aug. 17 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening John Ford’s Four Men and a Prayer (1938) on Tue., Aug. 19 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with complete reviews in the online edition. On DVD There are a few notable things this week. No one went to see Locke in the theater — which was a great mistake — so maybe they’ll give it a try on DVD. Also up and worth your attention is Railway Man. It didn’t play here — not for want of me trying to get it booked — but I have a hunch that Filth might well be worth a look.

 

Notable TV Screenings

 

Hot Saturday

 

TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” continues and tomorrow’s — that’s Wed., Aug. 13 — we get a solid 24 hours of Cary Grant. It’s almost entirely the usual Cary Grant line-up, but at 8 p.m. they have the rarely show Pre-code gem Hot Saturday (1932). That’s definitely worth a look for a very young Grant teamed with Nancy Carroll. Thursday is 24 hours of Charles Chaplin — including all of his features (with the curious exception of 1952′s Limelight).

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

15 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 13-19: Magic in the Moonlight and Some Other Stuff

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    Both volumes of Nymphomaniac are now on Netflix as is the IFC channel’s star-studded parody of Thorn Birds-ish TV miniseries, The Spoils of Babylon, and the dumbdumbdumbdumbdumb You’re Next.

  2. Edwin Arnaudin

    Dammit…

    Speaking of memorable moments of audience interference, remember the elderly couple who walked in on the last five minutes of You’re Next for…whatever they were there to see afterward and were shouting at one another about where to sit like no one else was there nor people being slaughtered onscreen? Their input may have been the best part of that whole experience.

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