Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 14-20: Kings of the Butler’s Paranoia Jobs

In Theaters

Another fairly heavy week at the movies comes our way with four mainstream offerings and one art title. That, of course, refers to quantity, not quality. Quality looks a much less reliable consideration. Much less. Oh, yes.

The one art title is The Kings of Summer (opening Friday at The Carolina) and I caught this little coming-of-age comedy last week. The review is in this week’s Xpress. It’s a nice movie. Sometimes it’s more than nice — when it gets very near a spot-on depiction of what summer seems to feel like when you’re 14 or so. No, it won’t change your life or anything, but it makes for a mostly pleasant hour and a half at the movies. And it just might remind you of when the world seemed to be full of possibilities.

I have to admit that the film that most intrigues me is Lee Daniels’ The Butler — intrigues me and worries me. First of all, if you haven’t been following this, no, Daniels doesn’t suddenly think he’s Fellini and that his name should be part of the title. This was originally just The Butler. Late in the day — after trailers were made and posters printed — someone at Warner Bros. discovered that they own the rights to a 1916 movie made by the Lubin company called The Butler. (I’m really skeptical that anybody actually own the rights to this.) Well, you can’t copyright a title, but the MPAA has some strange rules that seem to be mostly overlooked. However in this case — mostly to annoy the Weinsteins, it seems — Warner Bros. pressed the issue and the MPAA sided with them. (Perhaps the MPAA doesn’t like the Weinsteins either.) The awkward solution was to retitle it Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  (Do we now refer to it as Lee Daniels’ Lee Daniels’ The Butler? This is very confusing.)

Anyway, the movie stars Forrest Whitaker as the fictionalized version of a man who served as butler to eight U.S. presidents. The story has been configured to contrast his days at the White House against his son’s militant role in the fight for equality. Yes, it sounds pretty high-minded, but Daniels has an interesting record as a filmmaker who dearly loves trashy melodrama — and he handles it well. Even his highly-acclaimed Precious (2009) was really trashy melodrama that had the sheen of some kind of respectability. The idea of Daniels making a PG-13 movie — let alone one that smacks more than a little of Oscar-bait — is odd. And it makes me apprehensive, but I’m more than willing to give it a chance — especially with Jane Fonda playing Nancy Reagan (that’s already set some folks a-fuming).

Of much less interest — at least to me — is Jobs which offers us Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. That casting has a lot of people in a dither, too. I’m not particularly bothered by it. I’m just not that interested in a biopic about Steve Jobs, but then I’ve never understood the general deification of the man. The film was directed by Joshua Michael Sterns, whose last movie was Swing Vote from back in 2008. If you don’t remember it, that’s OK. It wasn’t very memorable. In any case, he and Mr. Kutcher have teamed up to bring us Jobs — and they’ve brought Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine and J.K. Simmons with them. Your interest may be greater than mine.

In 2010 Matthew Vaughn had a modest success with Kick-Ass, a surprisingly dark comic book movie that mostly upset people because of Chloe Grace Moretz heavy-duty swearing. (The violence bothered them less than her dropping the “c” word, which is in itself a little troubling.) So now we get Kick-Ass 2, which looks like more of the same, but Vaughn (still around as one of the army of folks with a producer credit) has been replaced by Jeff Wadlow. If the name means little to you (and it should), cast your mind back 2008’s Never Back Down (you know, the movie with the immortal line, “There’s only one way for this to end — with you looking like a bitch”). He also wrote and directed Cry_Wolf (2005), one of the dullest horror pictures in living memory. This does not bode well, but we’ll see. We’ll also see if theater marquees will spell out the title this time. (People are so antsy.)

Finally, there’s this thing called Paranoia from director Robert Luketic. Luketic remains best known for making Legally Blonde, which, of course, makes him the perfect choice to direct some kind of thriller. This movie came in completely out of nowhere so far as I’m concerned. All of a sudden, it was just there. It stars Liam Hemsworth (not exactly a big box office name), Amber Heard, Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. It would seem that this is some sort of corporate thriller — one that the studio assures us is “high-stakes.” Make of that what you will.

Going out the door this week in the art realm — Lovelace (which didn’t do so well) and Stories We Tell. Everything else is holding steady.

Special Screenings

Before getting to the usual things, let’s take note of local filmmaker Jack Eagen’s first feature, Ringside Rosary, which is making its bow at 7 and 10 p.m. on Thu., Aug. 15 at Fine Arts Theatre.

There is no Thursday Horror Picture Show this week, since the venue is otherwise occupied, but it will return next week. World Cinema is screening Jean Renoir’s The River (1951) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 16 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing The Tourist (2010) with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie on Sun., Aug. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will run Mitchell Leisen’s pre-Code mystery musical Murder at the Vanities (1934) on Tue. Aug. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

On the plus side, this week finds Emperor (which I find has not really stayed with me) and What Maisie Knew coming to DVD. On the other hand, we also get The Big Wedding and Olympus Has Fallen. Oh, well, life’s like that.

Notable TV Screenings

We are in the midst of TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars,” meaning that we get 24 hours of movies featuring whoever the star of the day is. This can be good or bad — depending on the stars and the chosen titles. I can’t say that Wallace Beery is one of my favorite actors, but Saturday, Aug. 17 does fine some of his best films (not always because of him). King Vidor’s The Champ (1931) is on at 12:30 p.m., followed by Victor Fleming’s Treasure Island at 2:15 p.m. and Clarence Brown’s Ah, Wilderness! (1935) at 4:15 p.m. That evening we get a double feature of Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hote; (1932) and George Cukor’s Dinner at Eight (1933) starting at 8 p.m.

On Tue., Aug. 20 we get Hattie McDaniel. That inevitably means the first four hours of the evening are taken up with Victor Fleming’s Gone With the Wind (1939), but if you stick around James Whale’s Show Boat (1936) comes on at midnight.

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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."

46 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 14-20: Kings of the Butler’s Paranoia Jobs

  1. Big Al

    “…Steve Jobs…I’ve never understood the general deification of the man.”

    Neither have I, but we will no doubt pay for our heresy in the next world, i.e. “the re-boot”.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I’m not against the man per se, but neither do I get all the fuss. It’s like going into mourning because the inventor of the audion tube that allowed us to amplify sound died. (Granted, he died 50+ years ago.)

    • Douglas Ewen

      Steven Jobs was a genius and he changed the world.
      Perhaps you would be more interested if you were a user of Apple products or a software developer like me.
      Sometimes your crankiness gets in the way of acknowledging a very special person … or are you just anti-technology?

  3. DrSerizawa

    I suspect that Cuba Gooding, Jr would be better served to never appear on the screen at the same time as Forrest Whittaker. Robin Williams makes me nervous because most of his movies have been virtually unwatchable for me, except for One Hour Photo, Insomnia and Death to Smoochy. The trailer didn’t look terrible, but the whole thing looks fraught with the danger of being a sickeningly sweet and maudlin melodrama that will have me running for the insulin.

    And, I’m scratching my head at why anyone would put derivative pop/rocker Lenny Kraviz on a promotional cast list.

    Finally. Who gives a crap about Steve Jobs? Just another corporate pig who stole better men’s inventions.

  4. Ken Hanke

    And, I’m scratching my head at why anyone would put derivative pop/rocker Lenny Kraviz on a promotional cast list.

    I’m more scared of Cuba Gooding, Jr., who has fellated the moose in everything I’ve seen him in. (I have not seen the earlier film he made for Lee Daniels, so maybe.) But, hey, it’s got Clarence Williams III.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    Do we now refer to it as Lee Daniels’ Lee Daniels’ The Butler? This is very confusing.

    Lee Daniels presents A Lee Daniels Production “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Directed by Lee Daniels.

  6. Ken Hanke

    But at least I don’t have an established idea of how he should look and sound.

  7. Me

    I don’t understand the Job’s thing either you would think that by now people would realize many people are involved inventions and discovery’s, you cant just glorify one guy for inventing something.

  8. Me

    Prince Avalanche is out on VOD. Ken have you guys considered adding VOD to the weekly out now section?

  9. Ken Hanke

    That trailer reminded me of Galifianakis’s old bit Marcus The Timid Pimp.

    Really?

  10. Ken Hanke

    Prince Avalanche is out on VOD. Ken have you guys considered adding VOD to the weekly out now section?

    No, in part because it’s just not information that comes in to us as a matter of course, but also because I am fully in favor of films being seen in theaters and don’t really want to encourage VOD. I’m not a fan of David Gordon Green, but the one thing his pictures have going for them is gorgeous widescreen photography by Tim Orr, and it deserves to be seen on the big screen.

  11. Me

    On the movies review webpage where you reviewed it. Is it high on your list of movies so far? It seems me and you both loved it.

  12. Me

    Tv Screenings: Fx is playing a Louie marathon Saturday at 10:30 in honor his nomination.

  13. Ken Hanke

    On the movies review webpage where you reviewed it.

    If you posted something, it didn’t take ‘cuz it’s nowhere to be seen.

    Is it high on your list of movies so far?

    It’s good, but I don’t see it being on my ten best of 2013, if that’s what you mean.

    Fx is playing a Louie marathon Saturday at 10:30 in honor his nomination.

    Someone who has the same enthusiasms you do might know what that means, i.e., Louie who and what nomination?

  14. Ken Hanke

    Perhaps you would be more interested if you were a user of Apple products or a software developer like me.

    That might have bearing on it, but I’d be no more jazzed about a biopic on Bill Gates.

    Sometimes your crankiness gets in the way of acknowledging a very special person … or are you just anti-technology?

    My lack of interest seems pretty mild compared to what others — presumably, not afflicted with crankiness — have said here. Anti-technology? Not exactly, but I’m skeptical of it and even more skeptical of its impact on humanity.

  15. Big Al

    “Steven Jobs….changed the world.”

    That is some pretty strong Kool-Aid you’re drinking.

  16. boatrocker

    Asia, ‘jobs’, nickels per day.

    Still proud of capitalism?

  17. DrSerizawa

    My lack of interest seems pretty mild compared to what others — presumably, not afflicted with crankiness — have said here. Anti-technology? Not exactly, but I’m skeptical of it and even more skeptical of its impact on humanity.

    I spent 30 years as a software/hardware engineer and the technology explosion makes me more nervous then you I’ll bet. It has the potential to create a totalitarian stare beyond the wildest nightmares of the past, making Orwell’s dystopia look like a Sunday School in comparison. And it’s creeping that way virtually unopposed.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I’d have to say the nature of our concerns is somewhat different.

  19. Me

    Ken, have you heard anything on Blue Caprice?

    The trailer looks like the film is going to be as good as what people have been saying.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I never even heard of this till right now. (I guess I don’t hang out with the people who are saying it’s good.) A little research, however, reveals it’s still showing up on the festival circuit. It says “in theaters Sept. 13,” which, being IFC, is pretty inconclusive as to when it will show up. But the fact that it’s IFC and not a genre picture means it probably will show up here — but likely not on Sept. 13.

  21. Me

    I don’t hang out with anybody that says that either, i just read a lot of the movie blogs, and from what i remember, when it was at Sundance it was pretty well received. Did you see the trailer for it?

    What about “In a world”, have you heard anything on it showing up anywhere?

  22. Ken Hanke

    What about “In a world”, have you heard anything on it showing up anywhere?

    It opened on Aug. 9 in NY and LA. It had good numbers at two theaters. Roadside’s handling it, so unless it crashes on expansion (unlikely), it’ll show up here, but I don’t know when.

    I still maintain you’d do better to read less and watch more.

  23. Me

    I think I’m going to check out Prince Avalanche. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch just seem like they would be great together. Apparently its like his earlier films, but still has some of the comedic sensibilities from his later work.

    Did you check out any of the Louie episodes? You have Netflix right? I’m going to keep bugging you until you at least watch one episode.

  24. Xanadon't

    So Neil Jordan’s Byzantium has found its way to Amazon Instant Video. Am I still holding out for a big screen treatment, or should I go ahead and click to rent?

    Also, hello, it’s been a while.

  25. Ken Hanke

    Did you check out any of the Louie episodes? You have Netflix right? I’m going to keep bugging you until you at least watch one episode

    I am guessing this has something to do with your mystifying passion for Louis CK? No, I do not have Netflix. And I’m pretty sure I watched some Louis CK episode about getting a dead ‘possum out from under his house. I was not whelmed.

  26. Ken Hanke

    So Neil Jordan’s Byzantium has found its way to Amazon Instant Video. Am I still holding out for a big screen treatment, or should I go ahead and click to rent?

    I have tried, tried, and tried to get films like this run locally, but have met no success. No one seems to want to invest the time and money to build a horror film audience. I understand this from the point of view of the Fine Arts with only two screens. I don’t understand it with The Carolina. I guess the sense is that those Human Centipede “movies” and Thirst and offbeat stuff like Rubber tanked and it’s not worth the effort. (Not that I think this wouldn’t play as well or better than 90% of the documentaries do.) Byzantium is pretty terrific, but if it’s on Amazon Instant, it can’t be more than a week or so till DVD and Blu-ray, so I’d give up on seeing it theatrically. Pity.

    Also, hello, it’s been a while.

    Yes, your absence has been noted. I don’t suppose you’re coming to Chinatown?

  27. Me

    That was the Mark Maron show that was on IFC.

    How do you not have Netflix?

  28. Me

    I know you don’t mention anything other than TCM, but Sound City is playing on VH1 this weekend if anybody is interested.

  29. Douglas Ewen

    Ken, either you use a lot of alias or your paranoid shadows have to chime in … not sure why … perhaps they are just geeks and need some attention.

  30. Ken Hanke

    How do you not have Netflix?

    I don’t know. I lay awake nights wondering that.

    Generally, if I want something I buy it. If I don’t want to buy it, I usually know someone who has it. And I can always get it from Orbit DVD, whose selection is a good deal more eclectic.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Ken, either you use a lot of alias or your paranoid shadows have to chime in … not sure why … perhaps they are just geeks and need some attention.

    I don’t really get that. When you post something in a public forum, certainly you can’t be surprised when others posting in that same forum might hold views contrary to your own and post them. What really is the difference between you chiming in to disagree with my indifference to Steve Jobs, and them chiming in too disagree with you?

    (I am going to assume that the accusation that I use sock puppets was a joke.)

  32. Xanadon't

    No one seems to want to invest the time and money to build a horror film audience

    That’s too bad, especially as there is already a built in contingent that’s in the habit of visiting the Carolina for all things horror on Thursday nights. And doesn’t Asheville feature a half dozen or so Zombie crawls a year? A tenuous indicator, maybe, but one would think it possible to sell horror to Asheville.

    I guess the sense is that those Human Centipede “movies” and Thirst and offbeat stuff like Rubber tanked and it’s not worth the effort.

    Frustrating when Neil Jordan gets passed over, but Tom Six gets invited to return.

    I don’t suppose you’re coming to Chinatown?

    No, no I’m not. A coworker’s vacation has ensured that I won’t be able to attend — even on the grounds of good behavior. Looks like it’ll be another case of pulling my copy of the shelf and imagining that I’m part of the party.

  33. Xanadon't

    I know you don’t mention anything other than TCM, but Sound City is playing on VH1 this weekend if anybody is interested.

    Directed by Dave Grohl –who seems to have become a true workaholic in the music business over the last decade– and well worth a look. It would’ve passed me by unnoticed had its trailer not run in front of a couple movies at the Fine Arts earlier this year.

  34. Me

    I really liked Sound City, being a home studio rat it really played to my tastes. The procedural approach to making music, and the debate over analogue and digital was nice. I actually wished it was a little longer, to me they didn’t seem to touch up on the 80’s overproduction period enough. Im still not sure if Dave Grohl actually purchased the studio or just the Neve board.

  35. Jeremy Dylan

    Im still not sure if Dave Grohl actually purchased the studio or just the Neve board.

    Just the board, which he then installed in his home studio, where the McCartney, Nix, etc. sessions you see in the film were shot.

  36. Xanadon't

    It had looked as though the studio had closed in 2011 for commercial recording purposes, but apparently it was used in May and June of this year for the upcoming Against Me! record.

  37. Ken Hanke

    I have no clue what you lot are on about. I will keep it that way.

  38. Me

    Ok, i thought the scenes at the end were at Sound City.

    Hopefully Sound City will live on.

  39. Xanadon't

    Byzantium is pretty terrific

    I don’t know if I’d call it “better” than Let the Right One In or not, but I may have enjoyed Byzantium even more than its Swedish predecessor.

  40. Ken Hanke

    Told you it was pretty good. Neil Jordan continues to be one of our most profoundly underrated filmmakers.

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