Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Feb. 15-21: The Secret World of Ghost Rider War

In Theaters

I look at this week’s three offerings—two mainstream, one art house—and the first thing that immediately occurs to me is that it has to be better than last week. Since I’d already seen the Oscar shorts, last weekend was a complete washout for me. How bad was it with those out of the mix? Well, this week is one of the few editions that carries no Weekly Pick. That’s grim. That’s February grim.

This doesn’t mean that no one went to the movies this past weekend. On the contrary, the movies were booming. This was a startlingly good weekend, box office-wise. In any other capacity … well, that’s another matter. After concluding that of the two movies I saw, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island was at least better than The Vow, but that it still wasn’t good in any reasonable sense, I held out hope that Justin Souther’s duty to undertake Safe House would provide some ray of sunshine. I called it a night before I saw his review. When I did see it early this morning, I saw that he rated it even lower than I had rated the other two. You can perhaps see why I am convinced that even this slight week has to be better. I mean, really, it could hardly be worse. And, yes, I’m well aware that that is a very dangerous thing to say, but I do think the odds are astronomically in my favor here.

So what exactly is going to be out there?

Well, first up is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Now, I know this provokes groans from an awful lot of people, and, yes, I can bash Nicolas Cage and his various hairpieces with the best of ‘em. In fact, some website last year cited my review of Season of the Witch the best bad review of that particular film (and possibly of the entire year). I also count the original Ghost Rider as a guilty pleasure (even if I do call it Goat Rider) of some note—and I like Cage’s goofy performance in it. (Check out the original review here.) And, yeah, we seem to lose Peter Fonda, but we’ve gained Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, and Christopher Lambert. (Well, that last isn’t such a big deal maybe.) But for me the most interesting addition is the Neveldine-Taylor directing team. It may put me in the minority, but I like both Crank films and I like Gamer. There. I’ve said it. And I’m glad I said it. I like their incredible bad taste and astonishing penchant for the absurd. The only thing that worries me is how bad their bad taste can be with a PG-13 rating. Well, we’ll have to see about that. At least, I will. I don’t know about anybody else.

The one classy movie opening this week is The Secret World of Arrietty. which opens this week at the Fine Arts. This is from the folks at Studio Ghibli, but it should be noted that Hayo Miyazaki only co-authored the screenplay and acted as executive producer. In other words, you probably oughtn’t expect another Spirited Away here. You may also notice that the film has a 94 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but it should be noted that the bulk of those reviews are from the UK and Australia where the film had different voice actors than the ones we’re getting stateside. (This is because it’s assumed that us Yanks don’t cotton to those high-tone Brits like Mark Strong and Saoirse Ronan, and will feel better hearing Will Arnett and someone named Bridget Mendler.) Still, let’s face it, this animated version of Mary Norton’s 1952 children’s fantasy novel, The Borrowers is the most seriously interesting looking title coming our way this week.

And then there’s This Means War—which is getting an advertised Valentine’s Day “sneak peak” (which isn’t very sneaky if it’s advertised). The only theater I know for sure that has this is The Carolina, but others may as well (except I know it’s not at the Carmike). Then it goes back on the shelf till Friday like any other well-behaved movie. So what is it? Well, it’s a R-rated rom-com (making it probably a raunch-rom-com) mixed with action. It comes to us from the guy who signed his movies “McG.” I do not view this as a plus. It’s all about two CIA agents—played for maximum hunkability by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy—who are the best of friends until they find they’re both dating Reese Witherspoon. That’s where the title comes in—and the presumptive amusement value of these two guys double-crossing each other and whatever else in order to win La Witherspoon. Seems like a lot of trouble to me.

Now, this week we do find two art screen casualties. Both The Carolina and the Fine Arts are dropping A Dangerous Method and The Carolina is giving Shame the old heave-ho as well. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy continues to avoid the ax by performing surprisingly well even in split shows, but next week sees a small flood of releases, so I would not count on this continuing.

Special Screenings

The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is Mr. Vampire (1985) on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. It is preceded by Chapter One of the 1935 serial The Lost City starting at 7:30. This Friday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m. World Cinema is running Yasujiro Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon (1962) in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The 1944 version of Jane Eyre is up for the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19. The Asheville Film Society is screening Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina on Tuesday, Feb. 21. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.

On DVD

Unlike a lot of people, I actually liked Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary, which comes out on DVD this week. I admit I could not bring myself to like Take Shelter as much as I apparently was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it a lot better than Paranormal Activity 3, which in turn wasn’t as vile The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence. All of this is also out this week. I note, too, that the highly regarded documentary, The Interrupters—which I haven’t seen—is out, too. And it appears that the Jerry Lewis movie Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958)—a Lewisified remake of Preston Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan Creek (1944) is getting the Blu-ray treatment this week. I mention this because I adored this movie when it first came out. I was four.

Notable TV Screenings

You remember last week when the “31 Days of Oscar” was on TCM? Well, it’s still going on, but I will note that on Monday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m. they have Ernst Lubitsch’s The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) with Maurice Chevalier, Miriam Hopkins, Claudette Colbert and Charlie Ruggles. It’s not shown very often (for years it was considered lost) and is very worth your attention. (By the way, that lobby card represents the most I ever spent on a single collectible. Don’t ask.) And if you’re still around at 10 p.m. when they run Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), that wouldn’t be too shabby either.

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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."

14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Feb. 15-21: The Secret World of Ghost Rider War

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    And, yeah, we seem to lose Peter Fonda, but we’ve gained Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba

    Roy Bland and Stringer Bell, together at last! Guess I’ll have to take this one in…

    The Tom Hardy factor will probably result in me seeing THIS MEANS WAR.

  2. Xanadon't

    Ooo, I still haven’t seen The Seventh Seal. Certainly gonna shoot for an AFS return.

  3. Me

    The Interuppters is showing on PBS tonight. TCM is also showing Amarcord, Z, 81/2.

    I am now almost positive we will not get to see Le Havre at the Fine Arts theater, glad to see they added Kevin to the line up though.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Ooo, I still haven’t seen The Seventh Seal. Certainly gonna shoot for an AFS return.

    E-mail if you’re coming and I’ll be sure to bring your Taxi Driver with me.

  5. Ken Hanke

    TCM is also showing Amarcord, Z, 81/2

    Pretty sure Amarcord and Z already happened.

    I am now almost positive we will not get to see Le Havre at the Fine Arts theater, glad to see they added Kevin to the line up though.

    I hope you’re wrong or that The Carolina picks up Le Havre, because I liked it a lot more than Kevin, which was supposed to shock me and didn’t.

  6. Andy

    [b]I am now almost positive we will not get to see Le Havre at the Fine Arts theater, glad to see they added Kevin to the line up though.[/b]

    I just hope [i]A Separation[/i] releases soon.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I just hope A Separation releases soon.

    Sony moved it back. It looks like they’re banking on an Oscar win to goose business.

  8. Ken Hanke

    LE HAVRE is somehow on iTunes.

    Well, that’s kind of unfortunate.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      $14.99 to purchase, which would really only do you good if you have AppleTV. I guess the availability has something to do with Janus Films being its distributor?

  9. Ken Hanke

    Since I don’t have AppleTV, it wouldn’t — and I’d still like to see it play here on the big screen. As for the Janus component, I haven’t a clue because I’ve never dealt with them on a title.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      As for the Janus component, I haven’t a clue because I’ve never dealt with them on a title.

      It’s only their second first-release title. I’ve seen plenty of new films on VOD, but this is the first I’ve seen one available for purchase so soon. Since they’re closely linked with Criterion, I almost expect a quick DVD release.

      …but yes, I’d prefer to see it at the Fine Arts.

  10. Me

    Will there be a most anticipated films of the year list on the website?

  11. Ken Hanke

    Probably. Feel free to spout off some, if you’re so inclined. Generally, I don’t necessarily limit it to anticipated.

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