Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 13-19: Valentine’s Day at the Movies

In Theaters

It’s Valentine week, so, of course, the studios have found a way to make a buck out of the event. That’s no surprise—and neither is it a surprise that it’s being done in one of those ways that promises to make the week’s layout of movies confusing for all concerned, especially for me. There are five movies opening this week. Fine. Of course, three of them open on Valentine’s Day (Thursday). The other two open on Friday. It doesn’t help that the early information had one of those opening on Thursday, but proved to be wrong. Let’s see if we can straighten this out.

Let’s get the one film I’ve seen out of the way—Michael Haneke’s Oscar-nominated Amour. This opens on Friday, which is perhaps as well, since that title might lead the unwary to suspect that this would be a good date movie for Valentine’s Day. It wouldn’t be—however you feel about it. This was slated to open at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts, but the Fine Arts decided to keep Silver Linings Playbook (I really can’t say I blame them), so it’s only at The Carolina. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t like Haneke’s work, and this is no different. You can read my take on the film in this week’s paper, but I want to state here that I am not in the least suggesting that anyone not see it. I am just temperamentally on a different wavelength than Haneke. And this is not merely nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film, but for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress, so it’s worth a look for all those accolades alone.

Now, let’s look at the others a bit.

On Feb. 14, we get Beautiful Creatures. This is adapted from a YA novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl—and it apparently has a following, though whether it has the kind of following to create the latest big franchise is another matter. Warner Bros. is hoping that this souther gothic supernatural romance is their new Harry Potter, or at least a Twilight they can call their own. To this end, they’ve surrounded their untried young leads—Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert—with some consummate pros and scene stealers like Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum, and Eileen Atkins. That, of course, runs the risk of wiping the young folks off the screen, but we shall see. More troubling to me is the presence of Richard LaGravenese in the director’s chair. Granting his abilities as a writer—and he did adapt this—his directorial credits (P.S. I Love You, Freedom Writers) are a lot less encouraging. I admit to cautious curiosity, but no more.

Valentine’s Day seems a curious time to bring out a new Die Hard movie, but nevertheless that’s the day we get Bruce Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard. Regardless of the day, this is probably the most anticipated film of the week. That’s assuming that it doesn’t fall prey to the plight of every other action movie this year. The cinema landfill is already littered with the remains of The Last Stand. Parker, and A Bullet to the Head—two of which featured aging action stars. What may save the day here for Willis is that he’s playing an established character in an established—and popular—series. (Plus, he’s kept a much higher profile than either Stallone or Schwarzenegger.) Moreover, there’s some peculiar excitement over the fact that this has an R rating, meaning he can actually spout his catchphrase again. (Fans are a curious lot.) Again, there’s the question of director. Who decided that John Moore—of The Omen remake and Max Payne fame—was a good choice? And why?

The most obvious Valentine bait is Lasse Hallstrom’s Safe Haven—another film of another Nicholas Sparks novel. You already know what that means. The film will have a picturesque North Carolina setting. It will involve a romance between a love-shy young woman and some guy with a big neck. (For local interest, I am reliably informed that it has a scene shot on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is kind of local.) The presence of Lasse Halstrom msy help. It apparently made the last Sparks adaptation a notch above the rest—or so Justin Souther claimed. It is that claim wins him the opportunity of being the lucky old critic who gets to see how this latest Hallstrom-Sparks meeting comes off. He can thank me later, and almost certainly will.

So what’s left? Oh, yes, the other Friday opening. (The one that my information had down as Thursday. My information was wrong.) This Escape from Planet Earth. For whatever reason, the Weinsteins continue to pursue the idea of putting out animated movies, even though they’ve shown absolutely no aptitude for the form. To prove, this they’re bringing us another movie from Blue Yonder Films (Hoodwinked!). It has a name—but no real box office names—voice cast of folks like Brendan Fraser, Rob Corddry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, and Sofia Vergara. It also has a pretty juvenile trailer and a no-more-than-workmanlike story about some boneheaded do-gooder alien being trapped on earth as part of a scheme to eliminate alien planets. It’s coming out in both 3D and 2D versions, show check your showtimes. Its best hope is simply that there’s not much kiddie stuff out right now.

Even with all these openings, the only thing of particular note we’re losing is Stand Up Guys, though the Oscar contenders are starting to thin out, so catch ‘em while you can.

Special Screenings

Don’t forget the AFS screening of Sidney Lumet’s film of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974) on Wed., Feb. 13 at The Carolina at 7:30 p.m.. Admission is $5 for AFS members, $7 for the general public.

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture is a double feature of The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse (both 1944) on Thu., Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. On Fri., Feb. 15 World Cinema is showing Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto (1961) at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978) at 2 p.m.on Sun., Feb. 17 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (1990) on Tue., Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper, with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

There’s a large amount of stuff out this week, but at the top of the list for me is Perks of Being a Wallflower—a movie I like better every time I see it. But there’s more: Robot & Frank, Skyfall, Bully, The Sessions, and, more regrettably, The Man with the Iron Fists and Silent Hill: Revelation (the primary revelation being that the first movie was so much better).

Notable TV Screenings

The Oscar orgy continues on TCM, but if you hold out till Tue., Feb. 19 there’s a swell line-up starting at 8 p.m.—The Racket (1928), Wings (1927), The Love Parade (1929), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), and A Farewell to Arms (1932).  That’s a tough group to beat.

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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."

23 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 13-19: Valentine’s Day at the Movies

  1. luluthebeast

    Being the Bruce Willis fan that I am, I will probably see [b]A Good Day to Die Hard.[/b] but I’m not expecting much as I have yet to read anything but bad reviews and it seems they use a lot of shaky cam. I will also, of course, avoid a movie based on a YA book.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I actually more or less enjoyed Beautiful Creatures — far more than Mr. Willis’ little bout of “shit blows up real good.”

  3. luluthebeast

    Hopefully the old farts stole the scenes.

    DH, on the other hand, had the weakest supporting characters and scripting (which is saying a lot) of any in the series.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Well AGDTDH met all expectations I’ve come to expect from action movies. It was crude, over CGIed and had none of the wit or slickness or humor of the earlier movies. Basically it sucked. It compares as well to the original DIEHARD as the remake of DEATHRACE compared to the Michael Carradine original. Gone is the sense of humor. It takes itself WAY too seriously. And we’re expected tO “love” his kids and their reunion with the hackneyed freeze frame, yada yada. Yech. I hope you love the old John McClain because the new one sleepwalks through and his kids are just annoying ciphers.

    No, I did not like this movies. All it did was make me hate CGI worse than ever. And don’t get me started on the trailers, everything upcoming looks hideous especially that Owens/Vaughn comedy about magicians. The trailer for the Will Smith scifi movie about future Earth looks to be a heavy handed “lesson” for us in the sophomoric vein of AVATAR.

    Jeez. AGDTDH really depressed me. Maybe I’ll go rewatch the episode of DOWNTON ABBEY where Sybil dies to cheer me up.

  5. DrSerizawa

    You will not be getting an argument out of me.

    /rant

    Man this STILL fries me.

    It’s amazing that they can make an hour and change of fantastic stunts boring. Probably because they are no longer stunts but just animation. Maybe the eyes can’t tell, but the brain sure can. When it’s strung together with a braindead plotline the stunts mean nothing. Especially when you know that what they are showing totally defies all laws of physics it just doesn’t mean anything. That car chase over the roofs of cars was simply beyond idiotic. I won’t get into the moronic Chernobyl explanation.

    Are there no writers left? This is what we get for an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars?” Wham bam thank you for your movie dollars?” Heck, TV puts on better action now. Probably partially because they don’t spend as much. CGI is lazy lazy lazy.

    /rant off

    I’ll go quietly now.

  6. Big Al

    “The trailer for the Will Smith scifi movie about future Earth…”

    And at the same time as Tom Cruise’s new flick about the same.

    Are there no original ideas left in Hollywood?

    This is why I watch indy flicks almost exclusively.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Well, it looks better than Identity Thief at least, but I won’t be catching the midnight show in order to be the first kid on my block to see it.

  8. Jeremy Dylan

    It’s amazing that they can make an hour and change of fantastic stunts boring. Probably because they are no longer stunts but just animation.

    I haven’t seen DIE HARD 5 so I can’t speak to that, but I couldn’t agree with you more as applies to action filmmaking generally these days.

    If you watch a film and your reaction is:

    “Hey, that’s pretty cool CGI.”

    The CGI is terrible. Your reaction should be:

    “Holy shit, that plane just blew up!”

    CGI imagery is still a fair way off being good enough to be implemented to create complete characters and sub for stunt doubles in movies, but they’ve been used like that since the mid-90s.

    I’m sure it is substantially easier (and cheaper) to hand off your storyboards and background plates to Industrial Light and Magic and get them to animate an actor diving off a building and falling onto a bus, which then crashes into a tank and explodes, than to do that stunt practically, but the result lacks substance and therefore engagement and tension.

    A CGI raccoon looks more like a CGI submarine than it resembles a real raccoon.

    The original DIE HARD is a marvel of tense, well-crafted action sequences that have a real sense of peril. If Bruce Willis falls down an elevator shaft, it may not really be Bruce Willis or a real elevator shaft, but you can tell is a real guy falling and he’s fallen off something real. If shit blows up, it’s a real explosion.

    I’m not trying to make the case that there’s no place for CGI in movies. Look at INCEPTION – computers must have been used as part of the effects sequences in that film, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you where (well, I presume city folding in on itself was CGI assisted). When Joseph Gordon Levitt is fighting with people in a rotating room, I’m totally engaged, because it really seems like a room that’s rotating (which it was in real life too).

    Rant over.

  9. Ken Hanke

    A CGI raccoon looks more like a CGI submarine than it resembles a real raccoon.

    How about a CGI wallaby?

  10. DrSerizawa

    I’m sure it is substantially easier (and cheaper) to hand off your storyboards and background plates to Industrial Light and Magic and get them to animate an actor diving off a building and falling onto a bus, which then crashes into a tank and explodes, than to do that stunt practically, but the result lacks substance and therefore engagement and tension.

    Exactly. No tension.

    At least as annoying as the CGI action is the frenetic cut-action with a cut every second or two like the GONE IN 60 SECONDS remake. It’s just a cheap way to pretend there’s a stunt going on. And it’s lazy lazy lazy.

    When was the last good car chase? RONIN? One of the BOURNE movies? Even the old 7-UPS holds its own with most anything new.

  11. Jeremy Dylan

    When was the last good car chase?

    I thought the chase in JACK REACHER was pretty good, if a bit overlong.

    The action throughout was a cut above generally in that picture, being photographed so you could tell see what was actually happening.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’d figure you were possessed by a mildly unhinged young woman with the hots for Hayden Christensen.

  13. DrSerizawa

    I’d figure you were possessed by a mildly unhinged young woman with the hots for Hayden Christensen.

    LOL!

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