Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 29-September 4: Possessed Lawless Killer Robot Jesse Oogielove

In Theaters

It’s official: Wednesday openings no longer have any meaning whatsoever. I mean when something called The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure scores a showcase mid-week release…yes, well. However, this is generally a pretty heavy week of releases—three art titles, two mainstream ones, and the Oogieloves. Truly, there is something here for everyone—in virtually every rating known to man, including the rarely seen NC-17.

It’ll come as no shock, I’m sure, that I’ve already seen the art titles. The Fine Arts is getting Robot & Frank. The Carolina is getting Killer Joe. And they’re both getting Celeste & Jesse Forever. (And, no, I do not understand why the title least likely to draw an audience is the one on two screens.) All three are reviewed in this week’s Xpress—and all three have their merits and their respective audiences. There’s no doubt that Robot & Frank has the greatest chance of becoming a crowd-pleaser. It’s certainly more user-friendly than Killer Joe and has broader appeal than Celeste & Jesse Forever.

With all that in mind, though, William Friedkin’s Killer Joe made the greatest impact on me. I do not think that this was related to seeing it in all its NC-17 glory at 9 a.m., though that may have played a part. My viewing companion noted, “I love the smell of NC-17 in the morning,” and it is probably not the hour most suited to an unflinchingly violent and sexually twisted movie. It will, however, wake you right up. While I don’t necessarily gravitate toward NC-17 movies for their own sake, I’m always pleased when someone dares to release one, since it indicates a certain commitment to the film at hand in that some newspapers will not advertise movies with that rating, and some theater chains will not book them. (Carmike Cinemas likes to strike a moralist pose as a “fanily theater,” for instance.)

As a result, it’s in the best interests—financially speaking—of the distributor to cut the film down to an R rating. That doesn’t nexessarily mean that it’s in the film’s favor. In fact, it usually isn’t—and I don’t see how it could have been here. Looking at the film, I was put in fact of the situation as the MPAA saw it back in 1984 (when the rating was still an X) with Crimes of Passion—that it wasn’t so much any one specific thing that needed cutting, as it was that the material itself was inherently X rated. That, I think, is the case here. (And I think Friedkin shot the film in such a way that deliberately precluded toning it down for a softer rating.) Whatever the case, here it is in all its overheated glory—and it’s not for the easily offended.

Now, let’s wander into the unknown region.

Probably the most anticipated mainstream release this week is John Hillcoat’s Lawless, a Depression-era backwoods crime drama about bootleggers and corrupt cops. It returns Hillcoat to the realm of collaborating with Nick Cave as screenwriter. The pair were responsible for the extremely violent Aussie art film The Proposition (2005), which was at the very least an interesting movie. (I never saw Hillcoat’s 2009 film of The Road, though I recall Justin Souther thought pretty highly of it.) The biggest problem I see—and the thing I’ve heard a lot of people express reservations about—is that this latest film—despite an otherwise impressive cast—stars Shia LaBeouf (or “Sleepy LaBeef” as at least one person tagged him), who is pretty far from the accolade of “impressive.” I suppose one might hope that this will be the film where he proves himself as an actor. Well, you can find out on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday you can catch the new film from the marketing team that brought you the Teletubbies. Honest, that’s the best thing they could think of to draw people in to see The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. (I think they should be arrested for the Teletubbies, for that matter.) Take a hinge to your right and gaze in wonder at the Oogies themselves and Jaime Presley (one of the numerous C listers being embarased in the film) in a shot from the film in all its eye-searing colors. (Really, doesn’t it look like some unfortunate person ate a bag of dayglo Skittles and was violently unwell? If that seems a little strong, I’ll settle on The Banana Splits on Acid, but that’s it. I’ll go no further.) I’m basically of the opinion that the only way this made it into theaters—even if only for matinees—is that somebody somewhere lost a bet. Now, you may be of the opinion that I will fob this off on Justin for purposes of review—and I wish that was the case. Unfortunately, you see, my wife thinks this looks cute and…negotiations are underway. I suspect I will lose. (And after dragging her to Hit & Run, she has a case.)

Now, on Friday—along with all the art titles—we also get something called The Possession from the Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal. It’s ostensibly “based on a true story” (smack your forehead now) and has something to do with an antique box containing a dybbuk that pops out to possess a child. OK, so dybbuks (a Jewish wandering spirit that goes around possessing people) are not much used in the movies. If we take away the story at the beginning of the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man (2009) and the 1937 Polish film, The Dybbuk (I’ve never known anyone who’s actually seen it), we’re left with the cheesy 2009 horrors of The Unborn—and now this. The suuposed selling point—apart from the whole true story angle—appears to be that Sam Raimi’s name is on the film in a “Sam Raimi presents” manner. OK, so, yes, he’s one of the many credited producers (so is Joe Drake, the man who murdered The Midnight Meat Train), but it’s not like he actually made this movie.

So what’s leaving this week? Well, for starters, Moonrise Kingdom is gone come Friday. Also departing is Beasts of the Southern Wild (both the Fine Arts and The Carolina are dropping it). Queen of Versailles and Ruby Sparks are sticking around The Carolina, but they’re being split, meaning this will probably be their final week. And if anyone who missed it wants to catch To Rome with Love, it’s been picked up (almost certainly for a single week) by the Flatrock Cinema.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007) on Thu., Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the Greek film Iphigenia (1977) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Four Marx Brothers star in Horse Feathers (1932) from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 2 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley’s Footlight Parade (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Sept. 4 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in the Xpress with extended coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

There’s quite a bit coming out this week. In the mainstream area we have Battleship, The Lucky One, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, and Think Like a Man. (I didn’t say all of it was good—just that there was a lot of it.) In the art realm we get Darling Companion (doesn’t suck as much as you may have heard) , Monsieur Lazhar, and Headhunters. But the real kicker for me is the release of Paul Fejos Lonesome (1928)—a movie I’ve been waiting to see for over 40 years. (Now, can it live up to that kind of expectation?)

Notable TV Screenings

Thursday, Aug. 30 is (of all things) Warren William day on TCM. Personally, I’m cool with that, because I think William is unjustly overlooked. If you don’t know him, check out The Mouthpiece (1932) at 9:45 a.m., The Mind Reader (1933) at 3:45 p.m., and Golddiggers of 1933 (1933) at 5 p.m. At 8 p.m., there’s Lady for a Day (1933) to consider. Actually, the whole 24 hours wouldn’t be a bad bet.

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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."

56 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 29-September 4: Possessed Lawless Killer Robot Jesse Oogielove

  1. Justin Souther

    I never saw Hillcoat’s 2009 film of The Road, though I recall Justin Souther thought pretty highly of it.

    Actually, I was kind of disappointed in it. But that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s probably the best adaptation I could expect from a book I don’t enjoy very much. It’s too much of a humorless downer for my tastes.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I’d have checked your review to be sure, but at the time I was writing that, the website was doing its impression of a street boy on a cold night.

  3. Orbit DVD

    Have I actually seen a silent film before you? LONESOME was a treat, but I didn’t have any expectations. Also out by Criterion is QUADROPHENIA (rescued from Rhino) and the films of Norman Mailer.

    It’s a huge week for tv: SONS OF ANARCHY S4, HOMEFRONT S1, WALKING DEAD S2, BOARDWALK EMPIRE S2 and MIKE & MOLLY S2.

  4. Orbit DVD

    Have I actually seen a silent film before you? LONESOME was a treat, but I didn’t have any expectations. Also out by Criterion is QUADROPHENIA (rescued from Rhino) and the films of Norman Mailer.

    It’s a huge week for tv: SONS OF ANARCHY S4, HOMEFRONT S1, WALKING DEAD S2, BOARDWALK EMPIRE S2 and MIKE & MOLLY S2.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Have I actually seen a silent film before you?

    What? You have to rub it in by saying it twice? Mine should be here by Friday, I reckon. Did you check out the other films? Is Broadway — for which Dr. Fejos invented the famous Broadway crane — complete?

  6. Ken Hanke

    Only if you’ll tell me you’ve read Another Country and Sanctuary.

  7. Edwin Arnaudin

    Poor Neal probably had to run out and borrow a spare ampersand for this week.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Hadn’t thought of that. There are a lot of those running around right now.

  9. Me

    No but ive read The Sound and The Fury and i have James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain on my Amazon book wishlist does that count?

    • Orbit DVD

      The Exotic Ones is one of my all time favorite movies. After the filming of this masterpiece, the Ormonds survived a plane crash, got saved, then started making insane Christian films!

      Maybe a public showing is in order so Ken can review it.

  10. Ken Hanke

    No but ive read The Sound and The Fury and i have James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain on my Amazon book wishlist does that count?

    Not quite. But the situation seems to prove that there are worse things than my not having read The Road.

  11. Ken Hanke

    the great rockabilly singer Sleepy LaBeef.

    I’m afraid I’ve never had the pleasure, but I’m certainly impressed by someone being from a place called Smackover, Arkansas.

    and “The Exotic Ones” aka “Monster and the Stripper”(1968)featuring Sleepy LaBeef as The Swamp Thing

    This is what I get for not being a Ron Ormond completist!

  12. Chip Kaufmann

    Not only have I seen the 1937 THE DYBBUK, I actually have a VHS copy of it. The transfer is good but not great. I keep waiting for a DVD upgrade, not just a transfer of the VHS tape which is all there is for the present.

    The 1960 Sidney Lumet TV version with Theodore Bikel, which I’ve never seen, is also available but the original is genuinely creepy (check out the picture on amazon) and deserves the Criterion treatment.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Not only have I seen the 1937 THE DYBBUK, I actually have a VHS copy of it.

    Show-off.

    Did you get Lonesome? It’s really pretty wonderful. Broadway ain’t chopped liver either.

  14. Chip Kaufmann

    No LONESOME yet, but it’ll soon be here. Looking forward to it.

  15. Ken Hanke

    You’ve never seen it, right? I think you’ll be pleased, to say the least.

    I’m planning on screening it for the AFS in October and may need to borrow a non-Blu-ray for frame grab purposes.

  16. Jeremy Dylan

    I’m certainly impressed by someone being from a place called Smackover, Arkansas

    That might be better than Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Although not in the same league as Wetwang, Twatt or Titty Hill.

  17. bsummers

    Don’t forget we live in ‘Hello Titty’, North Carolina.

    “Oh, ho, ho, irony! Oh, no, no, we don’t get that here. See, uh, people ski topless here while smoking dope, so irony’s not really a, a high priority. We haven’t had any irony here since about, uh, ’83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at.”

  18. Ken Hanke

    Maybe a public showing is in order so Ken can review it.

    You are Evil. And you can’t remember what I said about using that reply function.

    • Orbit DVD

      I’ve got a lot on my plate right now. I can’t remember much past five minutes these days.

      But I WILL remember that Asheville needs to see THE EXOTIC ONES.

  19. Me

    I’ve always enjoyed all the James Baldwin clips of him ive seen i especially like the one with him and William F. Buckley. Did you ever get around to seeing the Scorses doc on Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking from a couple years ago? A lot of archvied footage of him is heavily featured in that.

    Ken were you involved in any way in that new Sight and Sound poll?

    • Orbit DVD

      I mentioned this set earlier. If you live nearby, both of my stores are carrying it.

  20. Ken Hanke

    But I WILL remember that Asheville needs to see THE EXOTIC ONES.

    Gonna revive Walk-in Theatre?

    • Orbit DVD

      It will be my 10th anniversary next year, so I might so a limited season of Walk-In. It was fun, but petered out towards the end.

      One of the reasons why I want to shut down TV Eye is to be able to focus on more community oriented things… charities of course plus more public showings.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Did you ever get around to seeing the Scorses doc on Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking from a couple years ago? A lot of archvied footage of him is heavily featured in that

    No, but I saw a documentary on Baldwin — I think it was called James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket — on either Sundance or IFC back in the mid-90s.

    Ken were you involved in any way in that new Sight and Sound poll?

    Other than being appalled by it, no. I was just asked to be a part of another one — that includes re-ranking the Sight and Sound — but I haven’t decided if I want to devote the time and energy to it. I don’t think there’s all that much value in these concensus things.

    Did you see where Criterion released the films of Norman Mailer?

    Yes, but it requires being keener on Mailer as a kind of diletante director than I am.

  22. Ken Hanke

    One of the reasons why I want to shut down TV Eye is to be able to focus on more community oriented things… charities of course plus more public showings.

    Is there a difference?

    • Orbit DVD

      Not really. Although many would consider a public showing of BLOOD FREAK not very charitable.

    • Orbit DVD

      Ken, I think we’re onto something! The theaters have gotten it wrong for decades!

  23. Ken Hanke

    You gotta trick ‘em in in the first place, though. If I could’ve packed ‘em in (or gotten anybody at all, come to think of it) at The Oogieloves, I’ll bet I could have cleaned up with this method. Named my own price even.

    • Orbit DVD

      I don’t know what movie you’re talking about, and am afraid to scroll up to find out.

  24. Me

    Other notables on tv, TCM is playing two hard to find films Francis Ford Coppola’s early film Rain People and the Louis Malle, Felini Spirits of the Dead.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know what movie you’re talking about, and am afraid to scroll up to find out.

    You should be.

  26. Ken Hanke

    TCM is playing two hard to find films Francis Ford Coppola’s early film Rain People and the Louis Malle, Felini Spirits of the Dead.

    Well, The Rain People was last night. The other isn’t hard to find, it’s hiding.

  27. Ken Hanke

    I kind of like the Fellini episode in Spirits of the Dead, but the other two…

  28. Me

    Its hard to rent at least, im not buying something i haven’t seen.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Understood (in fact, you’ve made that clear before), but that doesn’t really qualify the titles as “hard to find.” Now, Josef von Sternberg’s Thunderboltthat’s hard to find.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Don’t have that one, but I do stock Thundercrack!

    Sounds like a personal problem.

  31. Ken Hanke

    I loved it Toby Dammit lived up to its reputation.

    Still liked Toby Dammit, still disliked the other two, especially the Vadim.

  32. Big Al

    “Don’t have that one, but I do stock Thundercrack!”

    What about Booty Sweat and Busta Nut?

  33. swilder

    Why will you neither review or even acknowledge that 2016 is now playing in AVL?

  34. Ken Hanke

    I apologize for not responding sooner. I just now saw this. Unfortunately, the “new” website doesn’t send out notifications of new posts, nor does it cause comments made here to show up on the side of the page. So once these Reelers move down to the realm of last week’s news, it’s easy for me to miss an added comment or question.

    The answer to why 2016 wasn’t reviewed is pretty simple. I didn’t even know it was playing here until the Monday after it opened. That meant that a review of it would not have run until it had been playing for 13 days, making it pretty late in the day. It hasn’t been listed in the paper’s movietimes because the theaters running it do not get us their listings until after deadline for the print edition, and there’s currently a problem with the online movietime listings working.

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