Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 28-June 3: Cold in Maleficent Chef Locke

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In Theaters

Though it lacks anything that qualifies the new Next Big Thing, this is a pretty rich week — at least artwise. There are only two mainstream entries — Maleficent and A Million Ways to Die in the West — but there are three art ones. Of those, two are truly remarkable, but the third is the one that has “crowd pleaser” written all over it.

Yes, I’ve seen and reviewed the three art titles. For me, the least of them is Jon Favreau’s Chef, which is also destined to be the most popular. I don’t begrudge that. It’s a pleasant little movie, but I have to say I found it unremarkable. However, it’s worth noting that its slender charms seem to be wowing the art house crowds, and I suspect that a likable comedy about food — and food trucks — will find a ready audience in Asheville when it opens on Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. That it is likely to bulldoze the other two films is an unfortunate side effect.

 

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Truth to tell, I spent most of Sunday wrestling with whether to give the Weekly Pick to Jim Mickle’s Cold in July or Steven Knight’s Locke — both opening Friday at The Carolina. They’re about even, and either of them could have been chosen. My ultimate choice of Cold in July was, I admit, partly pragmatic — because I think I can do it more good than I can Locke. I like both films a lot and would strongly suggest they both should be seen, but Cold in July is more accessible. After all, a darkly comic thriller that is reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ first film, Blood Simple (1984), has more immediate appeal than a movie that consists of Tom Hardy driving from Birmingham, England to London. That description does nothing to convey how richly compelling Locke is, but it’s also inescapably the bare bones of the film — a man driving at night while trying to hold his unraveling life together on his cellphone. And I can’t blame anyone for not believing that it’s a terrific film. I didn’t believe it, though I’d heard nothing but good things about it, and only saw it because I had to. However, even at a 9 a.m. press screening, I was hooked into its drama within a very few minutes. That, I think, is worth remembering.

 

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At the same time, Cold in July is equally terrific in its own eights. It also marks a major step for director and co-writer Jim Mickle. If you know the name at all, it means you are probably a horror movie fan. He’s best known for the unorthox vampire picture, Stake Land (2010), which did not play here, and for his rethinking of the backwoods cannibal genre with We Are What We Are (2013), which did play here and almost no one went to see. I’m a horror fan, and I hate to ghetto-ize the genre, but by moving into the realm of the neo-noir thriller, he’s stepped into a potentially much larger audience. I’m definitely in his corner, too, because — genre conventions aside — this is easily his best film to date, and the performances by Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard and Don Johnson are very fine. The way the film keeps making sharp turns that undermine the viewer’s expectations is brilliant.

 

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OK, let’s now move on to the mainstream with Maleficent. Here’s the central issue — I saw Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty (1959) when I was four years old. Actually, saying I saw it is a little shy of the mark, because the animated Maleficent (and those brambles) scared me so much that I spent a good deal of the movie under my seat. (And those were the days of continuous shows, meaning the theater floor was one nasty place that go cleaned once a day.) Now, even admitting that I’m only a few months away from 60, I have to say that I see nothing remotely terrifying about Angelina Jolie’s live action incarnation of the character. Oh, she looks creepy alright, but not the right way. Worse, I understand that she’s been given — Clapton, save us — a backstory that will explain why she’s so evil. We needed this? And then, the fact that they brought in a neophyte director, Robert Stromberg, whose entire history is as a matte painter and visual effects artist makes me suspect that this will be a CGI-athon. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so, because Justin Souther will be in Texas this weekend (don’t ask), and I am definitely down for this.

 

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I am also down for Seth MacFarlane’s attempt at revitalizing the western parody, A Million Ways to Die in the West. Since this is also a follow-up to his Ted (which I avoided), it’s also in R-rated raunchy-com range. Well, the last time that worked was 40 years ago with Blazing Saddles. Yes, that one worked. It also had the good sense to be 93 minutes long. MacFarlane has dragged his out to 116 minites. That’s not a good sign. Nor is it a good sign that the reviews are not trickling in. (Neither, for that matter, are the ones for Maleficent.) Whether this is because it hasn’t been screened or because the studio has put an embargo on the reviews, it’s not very encouraging. I reckon we’ll find out on Friday.

This week we lose Only Lovers Left Alive — no matter what it says in the paper (there was a mix-up in booking). Also, the Fine Arts is dropping The Railway Man, but it’s holding at The Carolina. Otherwise, everything is still with us, though The Grand Budapest Hotel is starting to slow down. If you want to see it or see it one more time, this week would probably be a good time to do it.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Boris Karloff in Michael Curtiz’s The Walking Dead (1936) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 29 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Luis Buñuel’s notorious L’age d’Or (1930) on Friday, May 30 ar 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Wim Wender’s Hammett (1982) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 1 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society kicks off its June Calendar with John Ford’s beautiful — and rarely seen — Pilgrimage (1933) on Tuesday, June 3 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The only mainstream release I see for this week is Endless Love, which I didn’t see in the theater and am leaving it that way.

Notable TV Screenings

 

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While I breathe a sigh of relief that June Allyson month is over on TCM with the change of the month, things are not looking all that exciting. However, on Monday — under the heading of “British Invasion” — they do have Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night (1964) at 8 p.m. and John Boorman’s very strange Dave Clark Five movie Having a Wild Weekend (1965) at 11:15 p.m. (Following these with a couple of Herman’s Hermits movies does not really do the British Invasion justice.)

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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."

29 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 28-June 3: Cold in Maleficent Chef Locke

  1. Me

    I wish TCM would play Slade in Flame as part of their “British Invasion.

    If you haven’t seen it Museum Hours is now streaming on Netflix, too.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Well, SLADE IN FLAME is 1975 and doesn’t seem to have invaded the US till 2004. While I would argue that the double releases of LISZTOMANIA and ROYAL FLASH really marked the end of the invasion in Oct. 1975, 2004 is pretty late. (I’d never even heard of it.) I know you don’t buy things you haven’t seen, but it’s only $14 on Amazon.

    Should I see MUSEUM HOURS?

  3. Ken Hanke

    Say…does anybody know what became of Xanaont? He hasn’t been seen in ages. I looked around for his old blog and it doesn’t appear to have been touched in about a year…I had thought he may had foresworn us. Now, I’m wondering if he swore off movies.

  4. Me

    Looks like some more titles have been added to Netflix Leviathan, The Source Family, and Run and Jump.

    “Say…does anybody know what became of Xanaont?”

    I bet its the website redesign, I’ve noticed its been scarce since the change.

  5. Ken Hanke

    He’s been gone longer than that.

    And how is it you’re always so jazzed about movies you’d have to pay me to watch — or palm off on Justin?

  6. Edwin Arnaudin

    Leviathan is perhaps my ultimate “I don’t get it” movie. During awards season, I got through about 40 minutes over four 10-minute sessions, each of which gradually made me want to give up on film as a whole.

  7. Edwin Arnaudin

    Digital screener through Cinema Guild, provided by OFCS I believe. Museum Hours was also in their viewing room.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I thought maybe it was Oscilloscope. It’s almost certain that I look through their awards screeners and then never watch them unless one of them is going to play here.

  9. Edwin Arnaudin

    I have a soft spot for Oscilloscope since the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys was their founder. I also kind of like the weird laboratory sounds that start each of their movies.

    • Ken Hanke

      Too bad they tend to pick up movies I can’t sit through 99% of the time. And it will come as no shock that I have no warmness for the Beastie Boys.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        Are Meek’s Cutoff, Hello I Must Be Going, The Messenger and Exit Through the Gift Shop the exceptions?

        I still think you’ll like the Reality Blu-ray I gave you.

        • Ken Hanke

          They’re only marginally exceptions, since there’s not a one of them I’d want to see a second time with the possible exception of Hello I Must Be Going.

          I was wondering where that copy of Reality came from!

  10. Me

    Ken, I think you will enjoy Museum Hours.

    I could not get what the hoopla about Levithian was either. It sounded like something boring they would show on the History Channel.

  11. Me

    I was really surprised by TCM’s night with Henry Joglam. I thought A Safe Place was a little too avant-garde and pretensious. Tracks looked interesting, but eventually worked its way down my queue after Dennis Hopper died. But Someone to Love was great, Orson Welles last scene on film was just perfect.

    • Ken Hanke

      High on the list of Things I Don’t Get is Henry Jaglom. I tried watching these on TCM and they didn’t hold my attention.

  12. Me

    Edwin, did you see that new kickstarter film Creative Control? I don’t know how you feal about Reggie Watts, I’m kind of indifferent to him, but the films looks like it may be great. The cast looks interesting, its even got the guy from Das Racist in it.

  13. Me

    I Used To Be Darker has been added to streaming as well as the others mentioned above.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Ken, I think you will enjoy Museum Hours

    I watched it and had a very odd reaction to it. I found it…well…soothing. I can’t explain that and I can’t account for it.

  15. Me

    Ha, so it was like the film equivalent of “Enigma – Return to Innocence” for you.

  16. DrSerizawa

    For the life of me I can’t figure why any studio would entrust a major movie production to an untested director. I know that Hollywood is supposed to be a business, yet we frequently see expensive productions turned over to neophyte directors with the usual predictable results. So if the Dollar is Clapton the one would expect to see a director at least have one profitable smaller film before handing him more than $100 million.

    I guess I see the answer in the stream of disastrous failures of those anti-military-Iraq-Bush bombs of the 2000s. Despite the fact that these flicks regularly tanked they continued to spends millions on losers. I suspect that getting the “message” out was more important than returning value to the investors.

    Egos can be really really expensive.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Even the ones that weren’t anti-Dubya tanked. Fact was — and is — nobody wants to see a movie about the war on Iraq. You can’t really lay this at the feet of the liberal media (if such a thing exists).

    • alexj

      ” I guess I see the answer in the stream of disastrous failures of those anti-military-Iraq-Bush bombs of the 2000s. Despite the fact that these flicks regularly tanked they continued to spends millions on losers. I suspect that getting the “message” out was more important than returning value to the investors. ”

      Fahrenheit 9/11 didn’t tank. Though you may not want to include a documentary in this group it nevertheless won an Academy Award, grossed 230 million and sold millions of dvd’s. It was a brilliant smack down of the toxicity which was the Bush Administration and it is still a fascinating piece, however flawed.

  18. Me

    Even better than all the music films on TCM Monday night, they are capping it off with Alain Resnais’s Mon oncle d’Amérique.

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