Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 12-18: Hitch and Hobbits

In Theaters

Much like last week, this one is not exactly bubbling over with titles. In fact, we once again find ourselves faced with two movies. Unlike last week, there’s no sense here of movies being brought in just to put something new up on those screens. Indeed, these are movies people — not necessarily the same people — have been waiting to see.

Last week was pretty much a washout. There was nothing wrong with Smashed, mind you, except that nobody much wanted to see it, so it passes from us unnoticed in the space of a week. Chances are good that Playing for Keeps — which I understand there was much wrong with — would be doing the same disappearing act…if it weren’t for the old two week guarantee. These, I imagine, will be with us for a while.

First up — and the one I’ve seen — is Hitchcock. It’s reviewed in this week’s paper — and it was much better than I thought it was going to be. In fact, I’ve seen it twice — which is usually a good sign. (There are exceptions to that, as you will see next week. Oh, my, yes, there are exceptions.) And it was a good sign here. I think a lot of critics are having issues with Hitchcock because they’re taking it too seriously — and the film is very clearly not meant to be taken that way. This is dishy “inside” stuff that’s never too deep and rarely concerned with the strict facts, but maintains a good-humored air of being “in the know.” (My personal favorite moment of this kind comes when a Paramount executive outside the Psycho editing room says, “Thank goodness we’ve got Cinderfella for Christmas.”) You can see for yourself come Friday when it opens at The Carolina and the Fine Arts.

Then there’s Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey — part one of a three part adaptation of the Tolkien book that leads up to The Lord of the Rings. That one fairly compact book has been turned into three fairly sprawling — to judge by this one’s 166 minute running time — movies seems more than a little milking the cash Tolkien for all its worth. Call me cynical — and I’ll admit to having had enough of Middle Earth for one lifetime — but this feels like Jackson spinning his wheels on his way to becoming the George Lucas of New Zealand. Does anybody remember when Lucas was making a big deal out of how each of the successive of the original Star Wars threesome had more special effects than the last? Well, that’s the sense I’m getting out of Jackson’s 3D and 48 frames-per-second filming speed. But with all that, even I am curious enough that I’ll haul myself and all my curmudgeonliness to The Carolina come Friday morning to see for myself.

This week, as predicted, we lose The Sessions altogether with the Fine Arts dropping it for Hitchcock. The Carolina loses Smashed, as I already indicated, but they’ve re-instated Cloud Atlas for a full set of shows, which is a good thing. But bear in mind that next week, things get hairy with the onslaught of Christmas releases — which this year are spread out over Dec. 19, Dec, 21, and Dec. 25, just to make things tricky.

Special Screenings

Before getting to the usual things, you might want to note that the Asheville Film Society is giving you the chance to get your Hitchcock on before Hitchcock opens. On Wed., Dec. 12, Hitchcock’s 1938 classic thriller, The Lady Vanishes is showing at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. This is a ticketed event in one of the downstairs theaters. Tickets are $5 for AFS members and $7 general admission.

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show goes 1950s sci-fi with The Monolith Monsters (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Dec. 13 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Also up this week is the start of a new serial before the feature, so come early to see what that will be. World Cinema is showing one of Ingmar Bergman’s rare comedies (and the best one) Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 14 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society closes out 2012 with its Christmas film — Deanna Durbin in the Christmas-set mystery Lady on a Train (1945) on Tue., Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper with extended coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

This week brings us movies I’ve mostly not seen — The Bourne Legacy, Ted, and Ice Age: Continental Drift. I doubt their availability on DVD will change that. Also up is the rather charming Gayby, which I did see as part of this year’s QFest.

Notable TV Screenings

At 8 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 12 TCM is showing John Cromwell’s Banjo on My Knee (1936). This isn’t an especially good movie, but around the one hour mark there’s one truly remarkable sequence with the Hall Johnson Choir performing “St. Louis Blues.” It’s clearly patterned on James Whale’s staging of “Ol’ Man River” in Show Boat, but it’s something to see — and hear — in itself. If you hang around, you can follow it up afterward with Mitchell Leisen’s beautiful film, Remember the Night (1940) — a long overlooked Christms movie (with a Preston Sturges screenplay) that is becoming better known in recent years. If you don’t know it, you should. It starts at 9:45 p.m.

Starting at 8 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 14 TCM has the most perfect triple feature you may ever encounter with three of Ernst Lubitsch’s best movies — Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), and One Hour with You (1932). If you want to see style and sophistication at its absolute best, you couldn’t possibly do better. There’s a reason these movies are still around after 80 years, you know. And if you don’t know, it’s high time you found out.

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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."

21 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 12-18: Hitch and Hobbits

  1. Orbit DVD

    More interesting stuff out on dvd this week. Girls Season 1, Mansome, Kill Em All, Why Stop Now? and a zombie Bin Laden in Osombie.

    The Story of Film is a sweeping 15 hour documentary covering movies from the 19th century until today. Criterion released the Quatsi Trilogy and Following. Finally, we now have The Miami Connection to infect the town, although I have movies much worse.

  2. Me

    Why Stop Now is the one i would probably want to see out of the new DVD releases this week.

  3. Ken Hanke

    If you think that’s going to drive me to try to find out, you are sadly in error.

  4. Jeremy Dylan

    I hope you do wind up with SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK sometime soon Ken. I caught it today in LA and it’s quite good indeed.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Three movies dragged out of The Hobbit? The mind reels. At best the book is worth only one of Tolkien’s trilogy. Ah well the call of das geld trumps everything. I greatly enjoyed LOTR, extended endings and all. But this one is going to get a pass.

  6. Ken Hanke

    The astonishing thing is that it’s not nearly as bad as I expected. That’s not to say that it couldn’t lose a good 30+ minutes.

  7. DrSerizawa

    Funny, but my son just got home from seeing it and he also said it wasn’t terrible but could have easily lost 30 minutes or so.

  8. Xanadon't

    I guess I’ll be checking out this not horrible but undeniably over-long thing on Monday. Any advice from anyone on whether I should take the expected unexpected journey in 3D or not? I’m leaning toward no.

    Oh, and what’s the word on fps? Are the 3D shows at 48 fps and the regular shows 24? Or are those 48 fps too? Or does it vary by theater?

    How about this… I’d like to see this damn thing at Carolina Cinemas. What time should I be there, Ken?

  9. Ken Hanke

    I saw it at The Carolina in 3D at 11:30 a.m. — and at 24 fps. (There are only about 500 theaters equipped to run 48 fps.) It was fine in 3D, but I doubt it was significantly improved by it. The time I was there was fine — not empty, but not overwhelmingly crowded. I’m sure it gets worse later in the day.

  10. Me

    I went to see Killing Them Softly and when i got to the theatre they said they had to make room for the Hobbit. My disdain for Jackson and his dumb elf movies grow.

  11. Ken Hanke

    What theater? Are you saying they dropped it after Thursday? Or are you saying they were supposed to be showing it and cancelled it to make more room for The Hobbit. And in any case, that’s called business and is hardly Jackson’s fault.

  12. Xanadon't

    It was fine in 3D, but I doubt it was significantly improved by it.

    That about seals it then. Thanks!

  13. Orbit DVD

    If you don’t know, the Biltmore Grand has the Hobbit in the faster frame rate. Worth checking out.

  14. Edwin Arnaudin

    Worth checking out.

    Co-sign. Exceptionally clear picture. 48fps is what regular 3D wants to be.

  15. Ken Hanke

    I haven’t seen it in 48fps, so I’m not weighing in on that — and I’m not likely to see it that way if it requires going certain places.

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