Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Dec. 7-13: Anonymous Descendants of the Sitter Into New Year’s Abyss

In Theaters

Even though we get two mainstream releases—New Year’s Eve and The Sitter—and two art titles—The Descendants and Into the Abyssplus one impossible-to-classify offering—Anonymous—this week feels like the calm before the storm that is Christmas. And while I can’t say I’m quivering in anticipation for the mainstream titles, I’m pretty happy with the other ones.

The big news this week art-wise is, of course, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants—a film that has proven so popular with audiences that it’s being treated more like a classy mainstream film than an art title. (Think The King’s Speech or Midnight in Paris—only not quite that good.) This sort of thing won’t end here—expect to see it happen at least once more this season. At the moment, I know that it’s opening at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. I expect it to be opening at one of the big box theaters, too, but I don’t have that confirmed yet.

The Descendantsis one of those films that I’ve already seen and which is reviewed in this week’s paper. As indicated above, I’ll go ahead and reveal that I liked it a good deal. I’ve also seen and reviewed Anonymous (which turned out to actually open last week at the Flat Rock Cinema, but leaves there on Friday.)—and I liked it … uh, in a way—just not perhaps the way intended. You’ll see. And while I haven’t seen it, Justin Souther has seen and reviewed Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss. In other words, all we’re left to prognosticate about here are those two bonafide mainstream titles.

Around Valentine’s Day in 2010, Garry Marshall—aided by writer Katherine Fugate—brought us the fairly egregious Valentine’s Day. The film is mostly memorable to me for the fact that Julia Roberts got paid a reported three million dollars for about six minutes of screen time. Now we get New Year’s Eve from the same director-writer team—another holiday-centered star-studded affair that appears to be minus Ms. Roberts. Don’t fret, however, since Ashton Kutcher is on hand again (you were worried, weren’t you?), as is Hector Elizondo, but then Garry Marshall never makes a movie without him. This one differs, you see, by being set in NYC rather than LA and, of course, it’s about a different holiday (I can’t wait for St. Swithin’s Day). Judging by the stills, pregnancy seems to be a featured element, too. Oh, and look—Hilary Swank is onboard showing off her skills at romantic comedy! Good Lord.

Otherwise, there’s The Sitter (note: that link is to the red band trailer which is NSFW)—the latest from former darling of the indies, David Gordon Green, who seems to have learned that there’s more money to be made in the world of the R rated raunchycom. What we have here appears to be Jonah Hill (chubby version) in an uncredited reworking of Adventures in Babysitting (1987)—now “improved” with bad language and weed jokes. I’m sure there’s a market for this—a singularly depressing thought. If nothing else, you can expect the usual fine cinematography from Tim Orr.

This week, the only art title we’re losing is The Skin I Live In, which takes its leave from the Fine Arts. The Way and Martha Marcy May Marlene are being split (I do not expect them to be there next week).  Melancholia is staying at The Carolina, as are Like Crazy and Margin Call, but I suspect the latter two will not be there come Dec. 16.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Roy William Neill’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), screening at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8, in the Cinema Loung at The Carolina. Chapter Nine of the serial Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) will show at 7:40 p.m. before the feature. World Cinema is showing the Oscar-winning Czech film Closely Watched Trains (1966) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto (2005) is the week’s title at the Asheville Film Society, and will be at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

The big title this week is The Help, which is worth seeing if only for the performances (Viola Davis is a good bet for an Oscar nomination). Also up are the agreeable Cowboys & Aliens, The Hangover Part II (I saw the last hour of it and even simian value couldn’t save it), The Debt, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. If you want to shell out for the Blu-ray (there appears to be no plain DVD), Life, Above All is also coming out.

Notable TV Screenings

Nothing particularly out of the ordinary seems to be showing up this week, though there are some nice choices among the TCM usual suspects.

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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."

27 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Dec. 7-13: Anonymous Descendants of the Sitter Into New Year’s Abyss

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    What we have here appears to be Jonah Hill (chubby version)

    Is it just me, or were there more actors with multiple starring or prominent supporting roles in 2 or 3 pictures than normal this year?

    Jonah Hill – The Babysitter, Moneyball
    Nicolas Cage – Season of the Witch, Drive Angry 3D,
    Jim Sturgess – The Way Back, One Day
    Leighton Meester – The Roommate, Country Strong, Monte Carlo
    Adam Sandler – Just Go With It, Jack and Jill
    Owen Wilson – Hall Pass, Midnight In Paris
    Matt Damon – The Adjustment Bureau, Contagion
    Amanda Seyfried – Red Riding Hood, In Time
    Justin Timberlake – Friends with Benefits, In Time
    Michael Fassbender – X-Men First Class, Shame, A Dangerous Method, Jan Eyre
    Bradley Cooper – Limitless, The Hangover 2
    Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Happy Feet 2
    Johnny Depp – Rango, Pirates of Carribean 4, The Rum Diary
    Paul Bettany – Priest, Margin Call
    James McAvoy – Gnomeo and Juliet, X-Men First Class, The Conspirator, Arthur Christmas
    Paul Giamatti – Win Win, Ironclad, To Big To Fail, The Ides of March, Barney’s Version
    Emma Stone – The Help, Crazy Stupid Love
    Nick Frost – Paul, Attack the Block
    Jason Bateman – Paul, The Changeup, Horrible Bosses
    Daniel Craig – The Adventures of Tin Tin, Cowboys and Aliens, Dream House, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
    James Franco – Your Highness, ROTPOTA
    Ryan Gosling – Drive, Crazy Stupid Love, The Ides of March

  2. Orbit DVD

    Also out is the finale of BIG LOVE. PORTLANDIA SEASON 1 is an IFC show that skewers the hipster/hippie culture so acutely that you’ll see many parallels to our little city. Ken gave POINT BLANK a great review. And a wonderful Criterion title on dvd and blu-ray, DESIGN FOR LIVING.

    I just had a customer tell me that TCM is no longer part of Asheville’s cable package… can anyone confirm this?

  3. Ken Hanke

    Leighton Meester – The Roommate, Country Strong, Monte Carlo

    I hardly think this will become an issue in the grand scheme. In fact, that’s true of just about everyone on the list. There are quite a few, though some of them are wonky in terms of where they land, e.g., though most people saw Barney’s Version this year, it technically belongs to 2010. The interesting ones on that list are Fassbender and Pitt — both are in more than one film for which they could get an Oscar nomination.

  4. Ken Hanke

    And a wonderful Criterion title on dvd and blu-ray, DESIGN FOR LIVING.

    Can you tell me if there’s any reason to get the Blu-ray on this?

  5. Ken Hanke

    Ken did you hear Andrzej ?u?awski’s cult horror film Possession is getting a dvd release?

    Yes, but I’ve never seen the film.

  6. Xanadon't

    Ken did you hear Andrzej ?u?awski’s cult horror film Possession is getting a dvd release?

    Great news as far as I’m concerned. I’ve wanted to see it for years now.

  7. Xanadon't

    The interesting ones on that list are Fassbender and Pitt — both are in more than one film for which they could get an Oscar nomination.

    Would be very strange indeed if two actors received multiple nominations in one year. Much as I didn’t care for Tree of Life I find that performance more Oscar-worthy that Pitt’s job in Moneyball. Can’t wait to decide which Fassbender performance I find more notable!

  8. Xanadon't

    Oh, and thank gawd… I shouldn’t have to sit through another nausea-inducing New Year’s Eve trailer ever again.

  9. Jeremy Dylan

    The interesting ones on that list are Fassbender and Pitt — both are in more than one film for which they could get an Oscar nomination.

    Pitt is great in MONEYBALL – it’s essentially a performance Robert Redford would’ve given in the mid 80s – but he doesn’t cry or yell enough for an Oscar. Is his performance in THE TREE OF LIFE more in that vein?

    I’m assuming you meant SHAME or JANE EYRE as the Fassbender performances.

    I wouldn’t be surprised is Gosling picked up a nod for DRIVE.

  10. Orbit DVD

    Can you tell me if there’s any reason to get the Blu-ray on this?

    To build a more impressive blu-ray collection?

  11. Ken Hanke

    Would be very strange indeed if two actors received multiple nominations in one year.

    Back in the early days you could actually win for combined roles.

    • Jeremy Dylan

      That sounds like some interesting math problems you could come up against. Is SHAME + A DANGEROUS METHOD = or < than DRIVE?

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’m assuming you meant SHAME or JANE EYRE as the Fassbender performances.

    I was more thinking Shame (for which he should at least get the Liam Neeson Impressive Endowment Award) or A Dangerous Method.

  13. Orbit DVD

    Great news as far as I’m concerned. I’ve wanted to see it for years now.

    Anchor Bay I thought had that uncut, but they’ve lost the rights to tons of their horror titles.

    I saw a 16mm print uncut in the early 90s. What a bizarre film.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Pitt is great in MONEYBALL

    There’s an awards screener sitting on my desk. Make a case for why I should invest the time in watching a movie on subjects that don’t interest me with a star I’m indifferent to and a director I find dull.

    • Jeremy Dylan

      You see, I might, but I don’t think you’d like anywhere near as much as I did.

      That being said, I hate maths and find baseball unimaginably dull, but there’s only one scene where they actually play the game. It feels much more like an extended WEST WING episode (with lower stakes) for much of the film.

      You’ll definitely have issues with the daughter subplot.

    • Jeremy Dylan

      Yes,but I couldn’t think of a better comparison.

      All the Redford comparisons Pitt’s been getting make me wonder if they’ll do a SLEUTH in 15 years and remake SPY GAME, with Pitt graduating up to the Redford role.

  15. Me

    Do you think The Descendants will get a wider release? Im wondering if i should see it in Asheville or wait until it comes here.

    Will Meloncholia be around next week?

  16. Ken Hanke

    Well, I don’t know where “here” is, but I doubt it’ll go to the Epic (if that’s what you’re asking), just based on their track record with “art” titles.

    I can only say that Melancholia will be here through Thu., Dec. 15. I’ve no idea what it did this weekend, but I won’t know for sure if it’s staying or going till Mon. evening.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Then again, judging by the surprisingly strong showing of it in Asheville, the Epic might give The Descendants a shot.

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