Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 21-27: The Next World’s End Blue Jasmine Instruments

In Theaters

At last, the new Woody Allen film hits town — with all its awards buzz and strong, national box office intact. Plus, we get a new Edgar Wright comedy, the next Harry Potter wannabe, and (yet again) the “reinvention of horror.” It could be worse. It has been worse. It will be worse again.

I caught Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine — opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts — on Saturday at one of those 9 a.m. press screenings. Even as a diehard Allen fan, I had some trepidation — especially since the film was being likened to his Match Point (2005), which is the only Allen film I’ve seen that I actively disliked. Apart from the fact that Blue Jasmine is essentially a drama (albeit with some very bitter comedy), it’s nothing at all like Match Point (which still strikes me as Crimes and Misdemeanors minus the laughs). It’s something that hasn’t quite happened before — a serious Woody Allen picture that still feels — and sounds — like a Woody Allen picture.

I have a few minor problems with Blue Jasmine — and, no, I don’t fall into the “his best film in years” camp — but, all in all, this is The Goods. The mix of bitter comedy and drama is close to perfection. The picture is brilliantly made. And everything you’ve heard about Cate Blanchett’s performance is true. This is a movie that manages to make Andrew Dice Clay somewhat sympathetic. My review is in this week’s paper. The movie will be coming to town on Friday.

While Blue Jasmine is almost certainly the week’s high point, at least some of the other offerings are not without interest — possibly a lot of interest.

First up (and opening on Wednesday for whatever reason) is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which is based on a series of (apparently) popular novels by Cassandra Clare. I confess to having never heard of these books, but it’s not the sort of thing I’m likely to bump into. I can’t quite figure out if Sony (who is releasing the film under its generally lower-echelon Screen Gems name) thinks this is going to be the new Harry Potter or the new Twilight, but they’d be glad of either, I’m sure. What I do know is that the garden is already littered with the remains of movies — some of them even good — that were supposed to spawn cash cow franchises and didn’t. Whether this will join them remains to be seen. Since the movie opens tomorrow and hasn’t been reviewed, my money’s on another failed attempt. (A second film, however, is already in the works.) A certain fuss is being made over having secured Harald Zwart as director, since his remake of The Karate Kid was a hit. It’s worth remembering that he also made The Pink Panther 2. Anyway, this stars Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. Collins plays a young woman who finds she’s descended from warriors who keep the world safe from demons and joins with others to continue said fight.

More immediately interesting is Edgar Wright’s The World’s End — the third and theoretically final comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This time the comedic duo are part of a group of friends trying to recreate a pub crawl — set to conclude at a pub called The World’s End — from 20 years ago, only to find themselves embroiled in fighting off what appears to be an alien invasion. Now, this comes to us with absolutely great reviews. It also comes with the incredible pedigree of its predecessors — Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). But I have to be honest, I’m a little wary of the alien invasion aspect. I’m hoping there’s more than that or that that almost doesn’t matter. In any case, I’m officially cautiously jazzed and will be there on Friday to find out.

Bringing up the rear is a highly-touted horror picture of the “home invasion” variety — You’re Next — but with, we are promised, a twist. This is another of those movies that is being said to “reinvent the horror film.” I’ve heard that before and it hasn’t been true yet. I’m betting it’s not true here either. This is a little indie from Adam Wingard, who’s been around the festival circuit for a while. He’s apparently a bit like Ti West (who plays a role in this). Lionsgate picked the film up (it was apparently made a couple of years ago). Positive reviews on horror movies don’t always — or often — mean much, but how can any self-respecting genre fan not respond to JohnDeFore (in The Hollywood Reporter) calling it, “A nasty little slasher film that starts poorly but gets better once most of the cast has been butchered”? My friend Luke Y. Thompson (with whom I don’t always agree by any means) makes a pretty good case for the film. I’m checking it out.

What do we lose art-wise this week? Well, nothing. The Fine Arts is splitting 20 Feet from Stardom and The Way, Way Back, but that’s it.

Special Screenings

First of all, there’s this month’s Asheville Film Society Budget Big Screen offering of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), which plays on Wed., Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. Polanski turned 80 on Sunday (which terrifies me, since I can remember when he was an up-and-coming filmmaker) and few things could better mark the event than showing what is easily his most popular film — and the one that many consider to be his best. Is it? I’m not about to commit to that, but it’s certainly his most iconic. It’s also iconic for Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, who have rarely been better than they are here — and to see it on the big screen with its gorgeous period detail as it was intended is even better. (Admission is $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.)

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is the magnificent Brit horror star Tod Slaughter in Crimes at the Dark House (1940) on Thu., Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema brings us the Oscar-nominated Austrian crime drama Revanche (2008) on Fri., Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Aug. 25 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its August screenings with William Powell and Kay Francis in William Dieterle’s Jewel Robbery (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Aug. 27 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

I suppose the big news is Amour, though it’s a film that left me absolutely cold. Still it’s more interesting than the indifferent Epic, and both are certainly less grim than Scary Movie V.

Notable TV Screenings

We’re still in the midst of TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars,” meaning if you’re not keen on a certain star, you’ve got 24 hours of said star to avoid or wallow in. Mostly, this is of the “usual suspect” variety, but sometimes they throw in a ringer. On Sat., Aug. 24, for example, the day is given over to character actor Charles Coburn. That means some pretty darn good movies. Check out Charles Vidor’s underappreciated romantic comedy Together Again (1944) at 1 p.m. Then there’s Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait (1943) — where Coburn quite steals the show — at 6 p.m. At 8 p.m. we get Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve (1941) where Coburn plays Barbara Stanwyck’s card-sharp father. That’s followed by George Stevens’ The More the Merrier (1943), for which Coburn won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Clark Gable shows up on Sunday, but along with the usual fare, we find Frank Borzage’s very strange allegorical drama Strange Cargo (1940) — as weird a mix of sex, love and religion as you’re apt to find.

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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."

51 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 21-27: The Next World’s End Blue Jasmine Instruments

  1. Douglas Ewen

    I am looking forward to seeing Blue Jasmine. Even though I was never a fan of Dice Clay’s comedy I did like his appearance on Entourage and sounds like he is good is this film … good for him!

  2. DrSerizawa

    I’m up for World’s End even though the trailer showed waaaay too much, as usual. I just wish they would quit ruining movies by showing the entire plotline in the trailers. Whatever happened to mystery creating promo that sucked you in by tantalizing you?

    Home invasion horror……. again? I’ll wait for your review, thank you. I’d have a hard time finding a less interesting horror niche, except torture porn, which these invasion stories too often amount to.

    Can we thank Dario Argento and Mario Brava for the rise of misogynistic horror? Horror movies have become too much a parade of female corpses.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Even though I was never a fan of Dice Clay’s comedy I did like his appearance on Entourage and sounds like he is good is this film … good for him!

    I have always disliked him and am mystified why people think he’s funny. That he does not attempt to be funny here no doubt helps.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I’m up for World’s End even though the trailer showed waaaay too much, as usual. I just wish they would quit ruining movies by showing the entire plotline in the trailers. Whatever happened to mystery creating promo that sucked you in by tantalizing you?

    They don’t really bother me, but I’m okay with things others call “spoilers,” so I’m a bad judge. My guess, though, is that it’s assumed to audience is too dumb to be tempted by anything they don’t understand.

    Can we thank Dario Argento and Mario Brava for the rise of misogynistic horror? Horror movies have become too much a parade of female corpses.

    I think it may be less them in particular than Italian horror in general. But I don’t recall it existing much in other countries’ horror output prior to them.

  5. Dionysis

    “…how can any self-respecting genre fan not respond to JohnDeFore (in The Hollywood Reporter) calling it, “A nasty little slasher film that starts poorly but gets better once most of the cast has been butchered”?

    Easy for this ‘self-respecting genre fan’; I just do not consider slasher-type flicks, torture porn or any of its variations to be ‘horror’ films, at least in my own realm. They are surely horrorific (and many are truly ‘horrible’), but I won’t dignify them by calling them legitimate horror films. Now, I may be the only person on the planet to think this way, and that’s okay by me.

    • Dionysis

      Could be, but the fact that these types of films keep being released means others are taking them seriously (as product).

  6. Ken Hanke

    The slasher film has been around for at least 40 years. I suppose you can take it back as far as Psycho. If people will go see them and they don’t cost much to make, such will always be released.

    • Dionysis

      One could make a case that they go back to 1936, with the original ‘Sweeney Todd’ movie. Heck, for all I know, maybe even before then.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Well, at least to 1933′s Night of Terror with its knife-wieldingn serial killer, The Maniac.

  8. Jeremy Dylan

    the one that many consider to be his best. Is it?

    Yes.

  9. Ken Hanke

    the one that many consider to be his best. Is it?

    Yes.

    Maybe yes, maybe no.

  10. Ken Hanke

    I’ve never even heard of that one, much less seen it.

    Are you sure? Stars Bela Lugosi as a Hindu butler and Wallace Ford as wisecracking reporter. It was pretty common Shock Theater fare in the ’60s.

    • Dionysis

      Now that you describe it, it does sound familiar, although the title I do not recall. But ‘yes’, I do think I saw this film a very long time ago. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Me

    No mention of Spectacular Now, isn’t it coming out Friday?

    I noticed Sam Rockwell’s A Single Shot is out on VOD, its been getting good reviews.

    Ken you would probably like Andrew Dice Clay’s notorious “The Day the Laughter Died”.

  12. Jeremy Dylan

    Stars Bela Lugosi as a Hindu butler and Wallace Ford as wisecracking reporter

    SOLD!

  13. Ken Hanke

    Now that you describe it, it does sound familiar, although the title I do not recall. But ‘yes’, I do think I saw this film a very long time ago. Thanks for the reminder.

    If only Columbia (Sony) would bring it out on DVD — even on their DVD-R label. I don’t know a single classic horror fan who wouldn’t snap it up.

  14. Ken Hanke

    No mention of Spectacular Now, isn’t it coming out Friday?

    Obviously not. Actually, it opens next Wed. at The Carolina.

    Ken you would probably like Andrew Dice Clay’s notorious “The Day the Laughter Died”.

    I remain doubtful.

  15. Me

    The Day The Laughter Died is an ironic album famous among comedians, it was an impromptu album of him trying out new material in front of a crowd that would usually not see an Andrew Dice Clay show, so it’s pretty much him just eating it.

    Im glad they pushed Spectacular Now back a week, otherwise I was going to have to choose between it, and Blue Jasmine, it’s kind of strange but Blue Jasmine is playing here, I don’t even think Paris played here.

  16. Ken Hanke

    The Day The Laughter Died is an ironic album famous among comedians, it was an impromptu album of him trying out new material in front of a crowd that would usually not see an Andrew Dice Clay show, so it’s pretty much him just eating it.

    I’ll pass. The minute I see something like this and the word “irony” in the same sentence, I’m out.

    Im glad they pushed Spectacular Now back a week, otherwise I was going to have to choose between it, and Blue Jasmine

    My guess is you’ll like Spectacular Now better. (Yes, I have seen it.)

  17. Me

    So you’ve seen it, how do they deal with the potential “Manic Pixie Girl” issue?

  18. Ken Hanke

    Well, since I don’t buy into this “Manic Pixie Girl” idea, I didn’t think about it. if I did buy into it (I think it’s a lazy concept), I’d probably call it a complete non-issue here. In fact, the idea that it exists here is pretty much of the baseless kind.

  19. Steven

    I’m still scratching my head at how someone can be positively hyped for [i]The Spectacular Now[/i], and I say that as someone who liked the film a lot.

  20. Ken Hanke

    The so-called “manic pixie dream girl?” It’s lazy pigeon-holing that’s applied too broadly and often incorrectly. It’s easy “critic speak” that means nothing more than “dizzy heiress” meant in the 1930s. Catch-alls are like that. In any case, it has no relevance to The Spectacular Now.

  21. Mr.Orpheus

    A day at the movies doesn’t get much better than back-to-back viewings of THE WORLD’S END and BLUE JASMINE with two very receptive audiences. Maybe it was just the fact that I saw one immediately after the other, but I felt that the two made weirdly compelling companion pieces. Both handle characters that are almost irreparably stuck in time in a refreshingly critical manner, and taken together, they work as a kind of criticism of the worst kind of men and women that modern society can legally produce. That I found both to be very entertaining, affecting, and funny is a relieving plus.

  22. Me

    How come you didn’t mention Reflections in a Golden Eye in the TV section. I’ve been on a John Huston tare lately, the film was great, great looking too.

  23. Ken Hanke

    A day at the movies doesn’t get much better than back-to-back viewings of THE WORLD’S END and BLUE JASMINE with two very receptive audiences.

    I’m glad to hear of receptive audiences, because we got kind of a dud audience at the showing of The World’s End we saw.

    • Mr.Orpheus

      That’s a shame. Any movie can benefit from a good audience, but that THE WORLD’S END practically demands one.

  24. Ken Hanke

    How come you didn’t mention Reflections in a Golden Eye in the TV section

    Probably because they show it a lot and I don’t think much of it.

  25. Me

    What they show a lot is “The Lady Eve”.

    Oh yeah, and to me, comparative criticism is lazy. I’ve never heard of the term “dizzy heiress”. Is that one you tried to make happen?

  26. Ken Hanke

    What they show a lot is “The Lady Eve”.

    The Lady Eve is also a better movie.

    Oh yeah, and to me, comparative criticism is lazy.

    What does that even mean? What are you doing every time you drop this “manic pixie dream girl” phrase, except using shorthand to make a comparison to a type of character?

    I’ve never heard of the term “dizzy heiress”. Is that one you tried to make happen?

    I daresay there are a lot of things you’ve never heard of. I’m not personally interested in making a term “happen.” And anyway the term predates me by a good 50 years.

  27. Me

    It could be worse it could be MPDG.

    What do you think is more lazy though, the phrase or writing an ingenue type character?

  28. Ken Hanke

    The phrase is catch-all, reductive, and often incorrectly applied. The writing of the “ingenue type character” (which doesn’t mean the same thing anyway) varies on the strength of the writing.

  29. Me

    Notice I said the “manic pixie dream”girl is a “type” of ingenue/stock character.

    So you think one of the top critics working today is a lazy writer? I guess i just don’t see how creating a phrase or creating anything could ever be lazy.

    Of note: Nathan Rabin and some of the other top critics working today recently started their own website called The Dissolve.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Notice I said the “manic pixie dream”girl is a “type” of ingenue/stock character.

    Uh, no, you didn’t.

    So you think one of the top critics working today is a lazy writer?

    Though I don’t recognize him as one of the top critics working today — or even on the more interesting ones — I didn’t say coming up with this dumb catchphrase was lazy. I say that adopting it as a catch-all is.

    Nathan Rabin and some of the other top critics working today recently started their own website called The Dissolve

    I urge you to go hang out there.

  31. Ken Hanke

    That’s a shame. Any movie can benefit from a good audience, but that THE WORLD’S END practically demands one.

    I still managed to pretty much love it.

  32. Me

    I wouldn’t have mentioned it if i didn’t already view the site.

    Go back and read my statement again about an ingenue character.

  33. Me

    I can see, like Zoe Kazan said, that it could be misogynistic.

    I wish that when i went from website to website it would dissolve.

  34. Me

    Its on my forehead. That reminds me have you seen The Source Family documentary yet? Do you remember them, that was probably in your heyday right?

  35. Ken Hanke

    I had better things to do with what you think my heyday was than bother with crackpot religious movements in LA. Frankly, until you brought this up, I have no memory of having heard of them.

    I am living in hope that my good luck in not seeing a documentary on this topic continues. Considering the distrubutor, I’m betting I can.

  36. Me

    It’s a really interesting and creepy look inside cults. You should check out the trailer.

    The distributor is one of the most prestigious indie labels in the country Drag City. Drag City releasing the film probably had something to do with them re releasing all The Source Family’s psychedelic albums.

    http://youtu.be/F3f4aleOAxo

  37. Ken Hanke

    They might be all the world to indie record labels, but their track record with movie distribution is dismal.

  38. Me

    Im not familiar with their bad distribution record. Just looking over some of the films they have released online, i noticed a couple that i have seen and liked, like Silver Jew and the funny Complicated Drumming Technique.

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