Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 14-20: Only Railway Man Godzilla Left Alive

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In Theaters

Now this is a week. This is, in fact, partly the week we were supposed to have last week till the Weinsteins decided to play around with the date on The Railway Man. This week we get not only it, but Jim Jarmusch’s utterly remarkable Only Lovers Left Alive. In the bargain, we also get one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last films — and, of course, everyone’s favorite giant Japanese monster is coming to town, along with some uplifting sports movie from Disney.

 

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I have seen and reviewed The Railway Man (opening at The Carolina and Fine Arts), Only Lovers Left Alive (opening at The Carolina) and God’s Pocket (opening at The Carolina). You can read those reviews later today. I will go ahead and say that, while it has its merits, God’s Pocket (that’s the one with Philip Seymour Hoffman) is far and away the least of the three. The other two are both prime — so much so that I ended up giving them both the “Weekly Pick” status. (I know that works — or should work — in print. What the website makes of this notion remains to be seen.) I admit to a preference for Only Lovers Left Alive, but that’s probably just a preference for the type of film it is. Both films are excellent — the kind of filmmaking we see very rarely, especially during the spandex-and-property-damage movie season.

 

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I’m very much afraid that Only Lovers Left Alive is going to be a hard sell — even factoring in the Tilda Swinton and Jim Jarmusch fans — because it’s a vampire picture. But it’s perhaps the most unusual vampire picture ever made. It is elegant, extremely literary, not gory, languorously paced and just as idiosyncratic as you might expect from a Jim Jarmusch film starring Tilda Swinton. It is mostly a somber love story and a meditation on the state of the world — but with outbursts of wry comedy and horror movie trappings (albeit not the usual ones). It is one of the most otherworldly beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It is unique. And rather glorious. And it is so visually striking, you’ll end up kicking yourself for not seeing in on the screen, if you wait for the DVD. I hope it will find its audience.

 

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Of course, the big mainstream news is Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, which sets out to right the wrongs of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film. That’s to say that it gives us a Godzilla that at least more or less likes like the man-in-the-rubber-suit one we’ve known for 60 years. (On the downside, it will not have a “Kashmir” knock-off theme by Puff Daddy “featuring Jimmy Page.”) I am, at best, cautiously optimistic. I remain unconvinced that Godzilla looks quite right, and am more than a little concerned about the way he appears to move. Plus, I’m bothered by reviews — often positive ones — that suggest there are not enough monster scenes and too many human scenes. And, frankly, I wasn’t as impressed by Gareth Edwards’ Monsters (2010) as I was supposed to be. The 1954 Japanese movie that started it all probably cost less than a million dollars to make. But let’s say it did. This one cost $150 million, and I really doubt it’s 150 times better. Anyway, I’ll be there Friday morning to find out.

 

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Also up is Craig Gillespie’s Million Dolar Arm — an uplifting, fact-based sports comedy-drama of the Disney variety. (I refuse to use the term dramedy; It always makes me wonder if that’s the kind of camel with one hump or two.) The IMDb insists that Gillespie is “quirky,” presumably because he made Lars and the Real Girl, but he also made the OK remake of Fright Night (2011) and the unspeakably awful Mr. Woodcock (2007). “Quirky” seems a stretch here. What this really seems to be is Jon Hamm trying to prove that there’s life after Mad Men. Oh, he’s been in movies before, but he’s never had to carry one. We shall see. It’s all about Hamm trying to turn a couple of Indian cricket players into baseball players. Presumably, he did — or the character he’s playing did — since there seems little reason for making the movie otherwise.

All we actually lose this week are Particle Fever (no surprise), Blue Ruin (ditto) and Finding Vivian Maier, which was simply played out. However, it’s worth noting that both The Carolina and the Fine Arts have, unfortunately, cut Fading Gigolo to evening shows. (This movie should never have opened unreviewed, and probably shouldn’t have been at two theaters.) Catch it quick. It’s worth it.

Special Screenings

 

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Before getting to the usual venues, don’t forget this: For one night only, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange, will be back on the big screen in Theater 10 at The Carolina. The originally X-rated (see the original banner) film may have later been reclassified by the MPAA to the more theater-friendly R rating, but A Clockwork Orange has never lost its controversial edge — or any of its power. Here is a rare chance to see it as it was meant to be seen — and from a gorgeous new Digital Cinema Print, making the film look even better than it did in 1971. Don’t miss it.

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Dario Argento’s Phenomena (1985) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 15 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Sergei Eisenstein’s classic Battleship Potemkin (1925) on Friday, May 16 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building Wedge Brewery is having their make-up screening of the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona (1987) on Saturday, May 17 just after sundown (last week was rained out). The Hendersonville Film Society is running Wilford Leach’s The Pirates of Penzance (1983) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 18 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society celebrates its fourth anniversay with the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

 The studios continue to save me money this week by bringing out things I have no need to see again. The best of the lot is Her, but it does downhill from there with I, Frankenstein and the even worse That Awkward Moment. Hey, there’s good stuff in the theaters this week. Take advantage.

Notable TV Screenings

 This is one of those weeks where there are certainly good things on TCM, but nothing out of the ordinary. In short, you’re on your own till next week.

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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."

17 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 14-20: Only Railway Man Godzilla Left Alive

  1. Me

    “I don’t think I need to see that a second time”

    It was in my DVD queue for the longest time, i didn’t think it was ever going to be available for rental.

    Stranger by the Lake has also been added.

  2. Ken Hanke

    They’re both worth a look. Whether they’re worth a second link is another question entirely. By the way, you really should ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE on the big screen and not on a crappy bootleg.

  3. Me

    “you really should ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE on the big screen and not on a crappy bootleg”

    I was thinking about it, ive heard the “driving around Detroit” scene is really something to see on the big screen.

    If you havent seen it yet “Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?” is now out on DVD and its the best thing Gondry has done in awhile.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    One reason to think Million Dollar Arm may be worth a damn: it’s written by Tom McCarthy (Win Win).

  5. Ken Hanke

    Not reason enough not to let Mr. Souther have it. I reached my maximum nausea level on uplifting sports movies with RADIO.

  6. DrSerizawa

    Dario Argento’s Phenomena, eh? Sounds like a pretty mean trick.

    Well, Godzilla is a given for me. It it’s even half as good as the original I won’t consider it a complete waste. Also, for what it’s worth, per wikipedia the original film did cost over 1 million. It was a pretty big production for a scifi/horror film at the time.

  7. Me

    Apparently the Gondry film is streaming on Netflix too. I like We and I we’ll enough, but I think anything would have been good after The Green Hornet.

    • Ken Hanke

      I haven’t watched THE WE AND THE I yet, but I didn’t think THE GREEN HORNET was an outright disaster. There was a lot more Gondry to it than I thought possible, but the Seth Rogen is definitely a liability.

  8. Me

    Check your local listings, but PBS is playing that George Plimpton documentary from last year as part of its American Master series tomorrow night.

  9. Me

    Ken, have you seen The Hunt? That’s another one from last year that’s streaming on there too.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I saw it back during awards season. It’s good — maybe very good — but a cliche or two shy of great.

  11. Me

    I dont know about cliche, but the whole grocery store scene felt a little over the top.

  12. Me

    Did anybody see the Plimpton doc? It was really great, I had know idea he was one of the guys that took the gun out of Sirhan Sirhan’s hand. I wish somebody would upload some of those Plimpton TV specials onto Youtube.

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