Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 20-26: Calvary and Sin City Stand Tall

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In Theaters.

This week we have one art title and three mainstream ones. The art title is a choice one. One of the mainstream ones might be. The other two smell strongly of the late August doldrums.

 

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Easily the most likely candidate for the best thing going this weekend is John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary (opening Friday at The Carolina). It’s also the only of the opening films I’ve seen — a holy film screened at the unholy hour of 9 a.m. on Saturday. It is without a doubt the best film I’ve seen on the nature of faith, I’ve seen in a very long time. This film — about an Irish priest (the invariably great Brendan Gleeson) who has been told by one of his parishioners that he plans on murdering him (as a statement against the Church) in a week’s time — is what should be meant by the term “faith-based film,” but I doubt seriously the people who flock to the movies usually called that will tackle this. That’s a great pity, but I feel sure that its earthy language and some of its attitudes about religion would be offensive to them. The film is much more than a simple tract. It’s more than that. It’s also a very dark comedy, a tragedy, a scathing indictment of both the failings of religion and the emphasis too often placed on sin and not on forgiveness. It is strong stuff and will upset many, but it’s great filmmaking — and for my money, pretty good theology. Check out the review. And check out the film.

 

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In the realm of the unknown quantity, we start with Chloë Grace Moretz (who I haven’t forgiven for last year’s Carrie remake) in a teen romance with a mystical bent called If I Stay, another of those movies based on a best-selling novel that has escaped my notice. Here is what Warner Bros. blurb tells us, “Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz) thought the hardest decision she would ever face would be whether to pursue her musical dreams at Juilliard or follow a different path to be with the love of her life, Adam (Jamie Blackley). But what should have been a carefree family drive changes everything in an instant, and now her own life hangs in the balance. Caught between life and death for one revealing day, Mia has only one decision left, which will not only decide her future but her ultimate fate.” That pretty much cools my interest. You may feel differently. The fact that the director, R.J. Cutler, has only previously directed documentary features and reality TV is not encouraging.

 

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On a potentially happier note we have Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez re-teaming as the directors of this sequel to their Sin City (2005) — Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Here is a film that has already butted heads with the MPAA over a photo of Eva Green (see above) that was deemed unsuitable for a movie poster. Well, not so very long ago I took another look at the original film — and if this is anything like that one (and it certainly looks like it is), I doubt the poster was the first cause for concern. There’s no question in my mind that all that got the first film an R rating was the stylized use of color — or lack thereof. The violence and gore in Sin City would never have gotten by if all the blood hadn’t been white. Even so, the first film was still a singularly dark and twisted tale. Naturally, I pretty much loved it. As a result, I have high — but cautious — hopes for a second installment.

 

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Finally, there’s this thing called When the Game Stands Tall (though how a game can stand tall baffles me). I prefer to think of it as When Jesus Coached Football, since it stars The Passion of the Christ‘s Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladoueur. (Here we actually could have a team that can reasonably claim that the Lord is on their side, I guess.) All seriousness aside, Caviezel continues to strike me as the most glum and charisma-free actor going (something glimpses of this have not changed). It’s one of those fact-based, uplifting, inspiring sports stories — all of which make me want to see If I Stay. Here is the studio blurb that assures us this “tells the remarkable journey of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport. When the streak is broken, and tragedy strikes the team, Coach Lad must teach his players — and the entire town — that it’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up.” Yes, I’m cynical.

Here’s a rarity — a week in which we lose no art titles. In fact, none of them have even been split with another title. Remarkable.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has the original Lon Chaney The Phantom of the Opera (1925) showing at 8 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 21 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing François Truffaut’s Bed & Board (1970) on Fri., Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Terence Fisher’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) on Sun., Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes its August calendar with Ernst Lubitsch’s masterpiece Trouble in Paradise (1932) on Tue., Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

 This week we see one great movie — Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive – one good  one — Fading Gigolo — and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is actually a pretty good romantic comedy tragedy, wrapped in a so-so superhero movie.

Notable TV Screenings

 Well, I’m running way behind today, so for the moment at least, you’re on your own.

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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."

20 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 20-26: Calvary and Sin City Stand Tall

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    (though how a game can stand tall baffles me)

    Maybe Jenga and once the diving board is constructed in Mouse Trap?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Maybe. I only put Mouse Trap together once (and never actually played it).

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    We’re getting into some Inside the Mind of Asheville Film Critics territory with these board game insights.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    The Unknown Known is now on Netflix, as are the underrated Great Expectations (Mike Newell version), Thanks For Sharing and Dead Silence.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Well, the movie choices here have been abysmal but I’m up for Sin City2. Tomorrow 1PM. Actually I’m up for anything by Rodriguez.

    BTW. My son looooved Mousetrap. I barely survived. He also loved Lady and the Tramp . That was better but paled badly by the 25th showing. Could have been worse. Pocahontas could have been out.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I blame my daughter for making me loathe The Wizard of Oz, though the movie in general and Bert Lahr in paricular had something to do with it.

    I’ll be curious to see how you feel about Sin City 2.

  7. DrSerizawa

    I saw Sin City 2. I liked it. It wasn’t as good as the first one. The movie lacks a lot of the delicious insanity of the first I think. A lot of the billed actors are little more than cameos, including Bruce Willis. Not that I particularly cared if Jaime King or a couple of the others returned. And not bringing back stonefaced Devon Aoki is a good thing.

    I did discover a couple of things. 1- 3D in black and white doesn’t give me a headache and was actually effective, I thought. 2- Eva Green is a true bombshell. If the moralists didn’t like Eva’s promo picture they’ll get apoplectic at her performance. Little is left to the imagination.

    If anyone liked the first SC he/she’ll probably like this one.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Well, if you’ve seen Bertolucci’s The Dreamers you’ve already seen more of Eva Green than you do here. We are, however, pretty much on the same page here.

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