Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: This? This Is the 2011 Movie Year?

Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: This? This Is the 2011 Movie Year?-attachment0

Well, here we are at the tail end (you should excuse the term) of the sixth month of 2011. That means that the year is half over. That also means that the movie year is half over. And I have to say that it ain’t a very inspiring sight. Usually by this point, I can come up with eight or nine candidates for a Ten Best list. This year, I can come up with three—and maybe a couple more if I fudge things. What’s going on out there?

Let’s get the three shoo-ins out of the way. I have no problem with looking at 13 Assassins, Incendies and Midnight in Paris as pretty certain inclusions on my Ten Best list. These are all quality films that I have no doubt will still be alive and kicking come the end of the year. Right now, Midnight in Paris is secure in the top spot. And it may well stay there, since it’s that rarest of things—a film that closes the gap between art and commerce. Well, mostly. I know at least one person who didn’t like it in general, and another who didn’t like it because he objects to its popularity. In essence, he’s cheesed because he had to—gasp!—wait in line to see a Woody Allen picture. (We’re picking him up at the taxidermist later—assuming he took my advice.)

Yes, there have been some other worthy titles. Offhand, both Of Gods and Men and Meek’s Cutoff come to mind. But I’m excited by neither. I’ve seen them both twice and see no likelihood of feeling like seeing them again. There’s just nothing more to be gotten from them for me, and nothing I feel the desire to savor about them. Others will perhaps feel differently—especially where Meek’s Cutoff is concerned, because there’s a mystifying (to me) cult built around Kelly Reichardt.

I can do some fancy footwork and sneak in exploitation titles like Super and Hobo with a Shotgun, but that’s really a stretch. On the other hand, I won’t be in the least surprised if James Wan’s Insidious finds a spot on my final list once I get to see it again. What I’m finding alarming is the fact that there’s not all that much in the offing that has me enthused. Let’s just take a squint at the rest of the summer. I’m almost afraid to look at the fall and winter season, though I know we’re slated for a new Almodovar, which is a good thing.

Now, this week Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life opens at the Fine Arts (expanding to The Carolina on either July 1 or 8). That’s certainly a possibility, though I have to admit I’m approaching it as much with trepidation as enthusiasm. I’m not one of Malick’s biggest admirers to begin with, and I have to admit that the glowing reviews haven’t quite sold me on the film. What I’m hoping is that this may be a film that simply has to be seen before it’s possible to get a handle on the criticism. Whether that’s wishful thinking remains to be seen. I do like the trailer—or maybe I just like Smetana’s “Moldau” on the soundtrack.

Also in the offing and intriguiing are Mike Mills’ Beginners and Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. The latter, however, has the misfortune of being handled by the Weinstein’s, who will probably do something massively wrong-headed with its distribution, meaning simply, “Who knows when or even if it’ll get here?”  Beginners seems to be of greater interest to a lot of people, but Submarine is the kind of movie where even the bad reviews make me suspect I’ll like it. That’s usually a good sign—very often, it’s actually the best sign. In any case, both hold greater promise than the mainstrem titles at this point.

I’m certainly keen enough on the Harry Potter series at its best that, yes, I’m looking forward to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on July 15, but that just feels to me like I’ll finally get to see the second half of Part 1. I’m more anticipating closure than something that will truly excite me. That attitude, of course, may make me more pleased with the film than I’m currently expecting. Ten Best? Well, uh, how do you put what’s essentially half of a movie on a Ten Best list? I liked Part 1 well enough, but not as well as Prisoner of Azkaban or Half Blood Prince. That would mean it’d take something truly remarkable to pull the second half up to the level of those two earlier entries.

The rest of the mainstream material for the summer—Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Larry Crowne, Monte Carlo, Horrible Bosses, Zookeeper, Winnie the Pooh, Captain America: The First Avenger, Friends with Benefits, Cowboys & Aliens, Crazy Stupid Love, The Smurfs, Attack the Block, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Change-Up, 30 Minutes or Less, The Help, Final Destination 5, Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian, Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World—range from the “Dear God, no!” level (The Smurfs) to the tepid to the possibly interesting. Does any of it excite me? Not really.

The rest of the art/indie or just not quite mainstream fare for the summer at least holds some prospects. Of course, this is tricky territory, since it may take ages for some of these to penetrate the province—and some may not get her at all. A few titles, I know are coming. We are lined up for Buck, Queen to Play, The Trip and Troll Hunter. Those are not in doubt. Others are less etched in stone. Of the ones we’re down for, I am surprised to find how much the trailer for Troll Hunter appeals to me, especially since I generally dislike the mockumentary format intensely. Sight unseen, though, Queen to Play has the most immediate appeal.

Nick Tomnay’s debut feature The Perfet Host starring David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford is a about an injured man (Crawford) on the run from a bank job, who manages to worm his way into the home of a well-heeled man (Hyde Pierce), who turns out not to be what he seems. It has potential. I’ve heard good—actually great—things about the documentary Project Nim, too. The fact that it’s from Man on Wire director James Marsh is definitely in its favor.

Wayne Wang’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan may also have possibilities, though it has that slight air of being nice to look at and maybe not much more. I understand purists are annoyed by the inclusion of a supporting role (not in the source novel) for Hugh Jackman, though I can’t say that bothers me a whole lot. More immediately interesting to me is Mike Cahill’s Another Earth—a sci-fi opus about the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the solar system.

Another intriguing possibility is Sarah’s Key with Kristin Scott Thomas. Apprently, this drama went down well at the Toronto Film Festival. The question once more arises as to how the Weinsteins are going to handle its distribution. It might be better—at least more productive—to be on the lookout for Miranda July’s new film The Future, about the impact the adoption of a cat has on the lives of a young couple. July’s first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), was a very pleasant surprise. This more ambitious film looks like it might have been worth the six year wait.

Based entirely on the trailer, John Michael McDonagh’s (brother of In Bruges writer-director Martin McDonagh, who exec. produced here) The Guard has all the appearance of being a good bet for a very agreeable evening at the movies. The teaming of Brendan Gleeson as a quirky, outspoken Irish police officer and Don Cheadle as a tight-assed FBI agent is enough to sell the film on its own. That the trailer makes it feel a little like In Bruges is definitely not a downside. I freely admit I spent the bulk of the trailer thinking it looked like it was made by Martin McDonagh. That, of course, may have as much to do with the presence of Brendan Gleeson as anything. Regardless, I’m not sure there’s anything I’m more looking forward to.

I liked Lone Scherfig’s An Education (2009) a lot. I usually like Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, and Patricia Clarkson. That makes it hard not to be just a little bit excited by the forthcoming One Day. I’m already getting some amusement out of watching the fangirls (of the source novel) getting in a lather over the casting of Anne Hathaway (of course, they haven’t seen her performance). I think I’ll wait till after I’ve seen the film to determine if I want to read the book. This looks more like the sort of thing that’s reliant on the mood established by the filmmaker and the performances of the cast than anything else, so I may well be perfectly satisfied to leave it at the film.

All that leaves us summer-wise is the Guillermo del Toro produced—and co-written—Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, a remake of a fairly highly regarded 1973 TV movie of the same title. (I think I saw it, though I may have avoided it strictly on the presence of Kim Darby.) Director Troy Nixey is an unknown quantity, but it’s hard not to harbor hopes that it might have at least some of the quality of the del Toro produced The Orphanage. Downsides? Well, Katie Holmes is not one of my favorite actresses, and I have to say that the glimpse we get of the creatures in the trailer is … well, underwhelming. Since this is coming from newcomer distributor Filmdistric (Insidious), it may well be a wide release.

With all that in mind, it’s possible that things aren’t as grim as they might appear on the surface, but we’ll see.

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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."

42 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: This? This Is the 2011 Movie Year?

  1. Dionysis

    The trailers for ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ looks like a hoot. And I’m glad to learn that Del Toro is involved with a big-screen version of ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’, which deserves the high regard it enjoys (even with Kim Darby in the lead). It was among the better television movies, and I look forward to its release.

    A remake of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and resurrecting ‘Planet of the Apes’ doesn’t thrill me however.

  2. Ken Hanke

    The trailers for ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ looks like a hoot.

    Maybe it’s because I see trailers too many times, but I just can’t get enthused over this.

    It was among the better television movies

    Is it just me, or do the very small number of well-regarded TV movies of the “Movie of the Week” era seem to consist exclusively of horror titles?

  3. Dionysis

    “Is it just me, or do the very small number of well-regarded TV movies of the “Movie of the Week” era seem to consist exclusively of horror titles?”

    No, I don’t think it’s just you. I can think of several horror titles of television movies that are highly regarded, but cannot think of a single title of another genre. In addition to ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’, add ‘Gargoyles’, ‘Dark Night of the Scarecrow’, ‘Salem’s Lot’, ‘Count Dracula’ (the BBC version with Louis Jordan), ‘Frankenstein, the True Story’ and ‘When Michael Calls’, to name but some.

  4. Ken Hanke

    In addition to ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’, add ‘Gargoyles’, ‘Dark Night of the Scarecrow’, ‘Salem’s Lot’, ‘Count Dracula’ (the BBC version with Louis Jordan), ‘Frankenstein, the True Story’ and ‘When Michael Calls’, to name but some.

    That goes a little outside the era I had in mind, since I was thinking in terms of late 60s and early 70s and movies that were neither specials, nor multi-part affairs. I’d definitely add Fear No Evil, The Night Stalker, and The Night Strangler to the list, though.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Funny that the only TV movies of the week from the 70s that are memorable are horror movies. We horror fans just don’t get the respect we deserve. Or maybe we do.

    Timely Screening Room for me since I was just thinking last week that so far 2011 seems to be one of the worst movie years in recent memory. Especially compared to last year. I hope that what’s coming can save 2011 from cinema disaster.

    Seeing titles like Transformers, Planet of the Apes and Final Destination 5 only depresses me. Thouhg such schlock is to be expected. All I’m looking forward to so far are Harry Potter and Cowboys vs Aliens. Though I’m afraid that the trailer of the latter reveals too much and that they are counting more on star power than plot. Still, that remains to be seen and I hope it’s the hoot it could be.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Funny that the only TV movies of the week from the 70s that are memorable are horror movies. We horror fans just don’t get the respect we deserve. Or maybe we do.

    Well, when you look at the list of “Drive-in Double Features” on TCM (it’s in the “Weekly Reeler,” which is in the process of being edited, I hope), it’s not hard to understand.

    Timely Screening Room for me since I was just thinking last week that so far 2011 seems to be one of the worst movie years in recent memory. Especially compared to last year. I hope that what’s coming can save 2011 from cinema disaster.

    There’s always reason for hope. Some of my favorites came out of nowhere during awards season.

    Seeing titles like Transformers, Planet of the Apes and Final Destination 5 only depresses me. Thouhg such schlock is to be expected.

    I’m less depressed by obvious, honest, upright schlock like Final Destination 5 than the others that think they’re something else. My heart sank this morning when I was told that Transformers is 157 minutes long.

  7. Dionysis

    “I was thinking in terms of late 60s and early 70s and movies that were neither specials, nor multi-part affairs. I’d definitely add Fear No Evil, The Night Stalker, and The Night Strangler to the list, though…”

    I agree those those titles should be added.

    Among the titles I mentioned, four were from the early 1970s, two from the late ’70s and one (Dark Night of the Scarecrow) came out in 1981.

  8. Dionysis

    “Transformers is 157 minutes long.”

    Well, there is an awful lot of stuff to blow up; it takes time.

  9. Mike

    Is the Croenenberg kinky Freud/Jung movie coming out this year?

    I’m not sure, but Russ Fischer over at Slash Film suggests there might be a chance it will be released after doing the rounds on the festival circuit this fall. It’s usually a pretty reliable film news site so I’d say chances are better than good we’ll see this before Christmas. Don’t know about you all down in Australia though.

    There’s an imbedded trailer there: http://www.slashfilm.com/a-dangerous-method-trailer/#more-106164, as well as on the movie’s website.

  10. Mike

    Oh and yeah, Ken, 2011 has been a rough year thus far. I think by this point last year I had seen five films already that wound up making my year end best of list. So far this year I’ve only seen two that might crack a top ten: Hanna and Midnight in Paris. I’m not counting last year’s releases that didn’t get here until after 2010 was over though, so if I went purely by what I saw in a theatre I’d add a few more potentials to the list. Still, a pretty dire year all in all.

    I’m holding out hope that some of the Cannes contestants get here by fall/winter and that Malick’s latest delivers the goods. The Guard, Submarine and One Day look OK too, and a Del Toro picture is always interesting at the very least, so it’s not like there’s a total dearth of worthwhile fare.

  11. trex

    I agree that these six months have not been amazing but there were some diamonds in the ruff. The Source Code, Limitless, Rango ( my favorite so far) and the
    Adjustment Bureau. I think the last one counts since it was delayed from last year. Correct me if I am wrong.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure, but Russ Fischer over at Slash Film suggests there might be a chance it will be released after doing the rounds on the festival circuit this fall.

    Well, it’s been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, which means that we will get it here eventually at least. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance it SPC will put it out during award season. That, however, could mean an early 2012 release for it to get out of the NY/LA market.

    Malick’s latest delivers the goods

    That we can know soon enough.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I think the last one counts since it was delayed from last year. Correct me if I am wrong.

    It depends entirely on when a film is released — not on when it was supposed to be released. If you did it any other way, you’d end up with too many orphan movies — Shutter Island comes immediately to mind.

  14. At least there are things to anticipate for 2012. Looking forward to this Django Reinhardt biopic Quentin Tarantino is making, although I’m not sure about Jamie Foxx in the title role.

  15. trex

    “At least there are things to anticipate for 2012. Looking forward to this Django Reinhardt biopic Quentin Tarantino is making”

    I thought it was Will Smith. He signed on to shed some of his nice guy image.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I thought it was Will Smith. He signed on to shed some of his nice guy image

    Are they going to tape his ears back?

  17. luluthebeast

    [b]Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World[/b]

    If that’s really the title, then the TWILIGHT ZONE people should either sue their butts off or beat them into the mud with a heavy book.

    Or both.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Boy, frame of reference is everything, I guess. I saw the title and all I thought was the song in OHMSS. Anyway, you can’t copyright a title. You can trademark it perhaps.

  19. Ken Hanke

    The ending is fine, but I can’t say the song is one of my favorite Louis Armstrong recordings. Put bluntly, it’s no “Potato Head Blues.”

  20. Ken Hanke

    Nope, Smith is out, Foxx is in

    After Hancock and, especially, Seven Pounds Smith needs something.

  21. LYT

    You guys are kidding calling Tarantino’s movie a “Django Reinhardt biopic,” right?

    DJANGO is the spaghetti western that Robert Rodriguez based his first three movies on: a bounty hunter with a coffin full of weapons. It’s also where George Lucas got the name “Jango Fett.”

    Bet you a million dollars THAT’s what Tarantino’s movie is referencing.

  22. Ken Hanke

    I confess I don’t know anything about it in any incarnation.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Okay, a little IMDb Pro poking around shows a Django biopic, but with no director attached. There is also a Tarantino picture called Django Unchained that appears to be about a slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Foxx) by the name of Django. It doesn’t appear to be based on an earlier film, though.

  24. LYT

    “It doesn’t appear to be based on an earlier film, though.”

    It’s Tarantino. It’ll be based on 100 earlier films.

    It won’t be in any way a straight remake of the DJANGO series, but I guarantee that’s where he got the name.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I guarantee that’s where he got the name.

    And the earlier film probably got it from the musician.

  26. As long as Foxx is allowed to do his own playing this time, instead of miming to the original tracks like in RAY, I’ll be happy.

  27. Ken Hanke

    As long as Foxx is allowed to do his own playing this time, instead of miming to the original tracks like in RAY, I’ll be happy

    You’re presupposing that the film is a musical, which is unlikely. As I said, there is a Django biopic in development, but it lists no stars and no director.

  28. You’re presupposing that the film is a musical, which is unlikely.

    Knowing Tarantino, he may forgo Django’s music entirely, and cut to a kung-fu sequence set to a Japanese girl group whenever he’s about to launch into ‘Swing 42′ or the like.

    Rumours are abounding that Leonard DiCaprio will play Calvin Candie, the “charming but ruthless proprietor of Carnegie Hall, a despicable club in Manhattan where female slaves are exploited as sex objects and males are pitted against each other in ‘mandingo’ style death matches.” Django famously played two nights at the venue on his 1946 US tour, taking six curtain calls on the first night.

  29. brianpaige

    Ken, to discuss the last Potter flick for a moment….is it just me or have they beaten this series so far into the ground that even a solid ending to the series won’t be satisfying? The heels in this series have run roughshod for SO long now that the entire staff and student body of Hogwarts could take Voldemort out and hang him, then draw and quarter him and I probably still wouldn’t find it satisfying. I’m all for a little Empire Strikes Back action where the villains get the heat back after losing in the first film, but the Potter villains have dominated and killed everyone for four straight movies.

    I found Deathly Hallows 1 to be a crashing bore for the most part, an entire movie made up of nothing but MacGuffins. And the ending of that film with Dobby the Elf actually had me laughing rather than being sad. There was something amusing about being asked to care about Dobby the Elf.

  30. Ken Hanke

    It’s probably not just you, but I like the series more than not, so the only thing I really agree with is the miscalculation about Dobby. As far as ending Part 1 on an emotional note, that was a truly bad idea.

  31. trex

    I thought the last two potter films were great (mostly due to Alan Rickman) and look forward to the conclusion. These films have only gotten better’ Looking back I think parts 1, 2, 4, 5 were interchangeable and in worst cases forgettable.

  32. bengi

    “I have no problem with looking at 13 Assassins, Incendies and Midnight in Paris as pretty certain inclusions on my Ten Best list.”

    Wasn’t Incendies a 2010 film? I think it was Canada’s submission for the 2010 Best Foreign Picture Oscar.

  33. Ken Hanke

    Wasn’t Incendies a 2010 film? I think it was Canada’s submission for the 2010 Best Foreign Picture Oscar.

    Yes, but…it’s like Secret in Their Eyes last year. Incendies counts based on its actual release date, which is April 22, 2011. The Oscars are a whole different animal. It’s like I said elsewhere — if you go by anything other than actual release, you’ll end up with an awful lot of orphan movies.

  34. Ken Hanke

    Here’s another instance. There’s a French film called Queen to Play that’s opening at The Carolina on July 15. Its US release date is April 1, 2011. It actually came out in 2009 in France. How do you handle that?

  35. bengi

    Yes, using the U.S. release date would be the best option. I was thinking that the film would have to have a 2010 release to be eligible for the Oscar, but the rules may be different for Best Foreign film.

  36. Ken Hanke

    Yes, using the U.S. release date would be the best option. I was thinking that the film would have to have a 2010 release to be eligible for the Oscar, but the rules may be different for Best Foreign film.

    I’m not sure how that works, but it may be enough simply for the film to play in LA — or maybe NY and LA — to qualify, with or without any actual release.

  37. I’m likewise lukewarm on 2011 so far. TREE OF LIFE tops my list, but I agree with you about OF GODS AND MEN and MEEK’S CUTOFF. I like both, but once is enough for a while.

    The perpetual ghetto that is the Spring mainstream release schedule failed to deliver a gem like ZODIAC or SHUTTER ISLAND as it has in the past. I’d hoped SOURCE CODE would be that film, but despite a strong concept and opening hour, it solved the case too quickly/easily and the “epilogue” was ridiculous.

    As is the case most years, a strong slate of upcoming documentaries should bolster summer viewing. In addition to BUCK and PROJECT NIM, there’s the wonderful PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (7/29 at the Carolina), BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (which I think has or is about to screen on HBO), BEING ELMO (I’m not kidding), Errol Morris’ TABLOID, Steve James’ THE INTERRUPTERS (will at least be on PBS’ Frontline), and RESURRECT DEAD: THE MYSTERY OF THE TOYNBEE TILES, a brilliant whodunit doc from a first-time filmmaker that will hopefully get some sort of distribution.

    Otherwise, I’ve heard good things about ATTACK THE BLOCK and the CRAZY STUPID LOVE cast is intriguing, but I have no interest in the ridiculous looking COWBOYS & ALIENS, nor am I interested in much Jon Favreau makes after the atrocious IRON MAN 2. Also, after reading the book SARAH’S KEY for a book club, I can pretty much guarantee that it will be an extremely popular weepie with a reach on par with something like THE NOTEBOOK.

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