Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 5-11: Smashed for Keeps

In Theaters

In all candour, it’s pretty hard to work up the interest in even dealing with this week. There are a whopping two—count ‘em—movies opening. One of them is worthwhile. The other almost certainly won’t be—at least, neither the trailer, the premise, nor the behind-the-camera talent generates anything but dread in me. But let’s get on with it.

This is a week that may be viewed as the calm before the storm, I suppose. And it does have the advantage of giving viewers a chance to catch Anna Karenina if they missed it, or see it again if they have. (It really did remarkably well locally already.) There’s certainly nothing anywhere near as interesting heading our way this Friday. What’s happening here, though, is that the studios keep moving release dates around—and things that were supposed to open or go wider have been pushed back. I’m sure this devastates those of you who were dying to see Dino Time, but, hey, those are the breaks. At one point, Hyde Park on Hudson was down for this week, but as its award chances dimmed, it got bumped to Jan. 4. I’m not even going to guess what’s going on with Silver Linings Playbook (assuming anyone’s still interested at this point). I haven’t seen all the listings yet, but I have no reason to assume it’s opening.

The worthy film that’s opening is Smashed, which starts Friday at The Carolina. Do not be fooled by the presposterous poster at the top of this column. This is not the romantic comedy that suggests. No, this is a pretty straightforward look at alcoholism—and it’s neither romantic, nor funny. The film itself is not without its problems (read my review in this week’s paper), but the performance by North Carolina native Mary Elizabeth Winstead is downright frightening in its accuracy and intensity. It’s worth seeing just for her.

Otherwise, what we get is some rom-com called Playing for Keeps starring Gerard Butler as a wayward fellow trying to set his life to rights and patch things up with his estranged son. To do this, he ends up coaching the kid’s soccer team—only to find he has to beat the soccer moms off with a stick (which seems a kinky preoccupation). This was obviously put together by people who never saw the astonishingly bad P.S. I Love You—though not killing Butler off in the opening credits and putting him with Jessica Biel rather than Hilary Swank might be in its favor. Or not. See, the thing was made by Gabrielle Muccino, whose jaw-droppingly awful—though unintentionally hysterical—Seven Pounds was so incredibly inept that it kept Will Smith off the screen for four years. Muccino is the last person I’d go to for a rom-com. Actually, he’s probably the last person I’d go to for just about anything having to do with movies. Bolstering the cast with folks like Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones isn’t likely to help. It looks…well, dire.

Do we lose anything this week? Well, The Carolina is dropping The Sessions, the Fine Arts is holding it (I expect it to get dumped for Hitchcock next week). Everything else remains status quo—even Cloud Atlas which still did decent business at The Carolina on a split bill. (This week it’s split with The Collection, of all things.)

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show scares up a double dose of Monogram Pictures’ 1940s horror with King of the Zombies (1941) and Bela Lugosi in Bowery at Midnight (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Dec. 6 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973) at 8 p.m., Fri., Dec. 7 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Preston Sturges’ Christmas in July is this week’s Asheville Film Society offering at 8 p.m. on Tue, Dec. 11 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper—with expanded coverage in the online edition.


This week finds The Dark Knight Rises on DVD, which is probably the big deal for most. Also up is the bizarrely overrated Beasts of the Southern Wild (yeah, I know, a lot of people think it’s wonderful, but I just can’t). Then we have Hope Springs and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. The pretty excellent documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry also come out this week, as does V/H/S—a horror anthology thing that didn’t play here. I did see it, though. I was not whelmed.

Notable TV Screenings

At 5 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 5 TCM is bringing back the spiffy—and rarely seen—mystery The Circus Queen Murder (1933). Now, if they’d only run the other Thatcher Colt mystery, the even better Night Club Lady, they’d be onto something. Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978) is on at midnight on Thu., Dec. 6. If you missed Ernst Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) at the AFS screening a while back, it’s on at 10 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 7—sandwiched between two other Lubitsch titles. King Vidor’s The Crowd (1928) shows up at midnight on Sun., Dec. 9. That’s always worth a look.

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."

28 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 5-11: Smashed for Keeps

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    Ken, I’m not sure you’re prepared for comments for a review of SMASHED, which not only features Jesse Pinkman, but Ron and Tammy Swanson.

  2. Orbit DVD

    Also out is the amazing Eastbound and Down Season 3, Butter, Alps (director of Dogtooth!) and Thunderstruck.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    Ha! Wimps!

    I’ve been in Nashville three days and the weather is warmer than the Australian summer I left to come here.

  4. Ken Hanke

    With the weather this year, it just might.

    Let’s see…Danny McBride, Jody Hill, the Poster Known as Hurted…no, not happening.

  5. Ken Hanke

    One of the best films of the year The Color Wheel is now available on Itunes and Amazon too.

    It’s gonna take more than that claim to get me to seek out a movie I’ve never heard of that grossed $12,000.

    Ken did you hear the news 30 minutes of The Other Side of the Wind has been unearthed and put on Youtube?

    No, do you have a link to it?

  6. Me
  7. Ken Hanke

    I’m not racing out to see a movie described (in A.O. Scott’s positive review) as “a singularly unpleasant movie: full of obnoxious characters in scenes that seem overwritten and under-rehearsed, oblivious to the most basic standards of tonal consistency, narrative coherence or visual decorum.” Plus, I spy the word “mumblecore” being evoked several times in reviews.

  8. Jeremy Dylan

    described (in A.O. Scott’s positive review) as “a singularly unpleasant movie: full of obnoxious characters in scenes that seem overwritten and under-rehearsed, oblivious to the most basic standards of tonal consistency, narrative coherence or visual decorum.”

    I’d hate to see what Mr. Scott considers a negative review!

  9. Me

    Ken whats the chances of getting the much blogged about recent Miami Connection shown by the Asheville Film Soceity?

  10. Ken Hanke

    I’d never heard of Miami Connection till you brought it up. It doesn’t sound much like something the AFS crowd is likely to go for.

  11. Orbit DVD

    I’m working on Miami Connection if Ken doesn’t want to. There’s hundreds of Miami Connections out there, and my new goal is to have Ken review them all.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Yes, that last part is what worries me. Truth to tell, I’d love to figure out a way bring in some more cultish items — though we have tried a few at least outre titles with mixed results. The question is how to do it without losing the audience we have and/or our asses. It’s easier if the item can be somehow pegged as horror — I might sneak Forbidden Zone in on that score — but that hardly seems the case with this.

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