Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 11-17: Carnage! Contraband! Iron Ladies! Joyful Noises!

In Theaters

We have what you might call a pretty full slate this week—especially, if you consider the 3D re-issue of Beauty and the Beast. Otherwise we’re faced with two mainstream releases—Contraband and Joyful Noise—one borderline art title—The Iron Lady—and one bonafide art title—Carnage. This is that point in the year where the backlog of art titles is going to start flowing and keep hitting us in rapid succession. (There are two more art titles coming our way next week.) This year it’s even more intense since the studios pretty much stiffed us on the art titles at Christmas—even the more popular ones. Last year on Christmas Day you had your pick of The King’s Speech, Black Swan, True Grit, and even I Love You, Phillip Morris. This year it was down to My Week with Marilyn and The Descendants—and the latter had been out for a few weeks.

Once again, I’ve seen the art title and the borderline art title. In fact, I’ve seen them both twice. The reviews are in this week’s paper. I was fascinated by Meryl Streep’s performance in The Iron Lady (opening at most theaters, except Fine Arts and Carmike), but not so much the film. Roman Polanski’s Carnage, on the other hand, I found to be a wholly riveting film—and that actually surprised me, since films of plays are often a dicey proposition. I’ll leave the review to do the explaining on both of these, but I suggest beating a path to Carnage if you’re interested in seeing, because (and I hope I’m wrong) I don’t see it as having a lot of staying power at the box office.

So let’s take a squint at the other titles.

I don’t imagine there’s much that needs to be said about the Disney Beauty and the Beast, except to note that the 1991 film has been given the 3D treatment (though there are some limited 2D showings). These retrofits are not the best examples of 3D, though they work a little better with animated films. I doubt we’ll review this one, though I might actually see it at long last. Then again I’ve heard Robby Benson do his Beast voice in person and that may be enough for me. We’ll see.

Contraband is pretty completely in the realm of the unknown quantity—at least as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never seen any of Icelandic director Baltasar Kormak’s previous work. In fact, I’m not at all sure I’ve ever encountered his name before. It seems that Contraband is a remake of a 2008 film from Iceland called Reykjavic-Rottedam and that Kormak played the role in that film that goes to Mark Wahlberg in this one. The film has something to do with reformed smuggler Wahlberg having to return to a life of crime in order raise money to square his brother-in-law’s (Caleb Landry Jones) debt to a crime lord (Giovanni Ribisi) over a drug deal gone awry. The bad signs are it’s January and this has neither been screened by critics, nor even select audiences.

I’m on slightly surer ground with Joyful Noise if only because I have some familiarity with writer-director Todd Graff’s work from the film Camp (2003), which I liked well enough—or at least as much as anyone who isn’t that keen on show tunes can. (And, no, despite the fact that I once had a record-store clerk shout across the store, “Do you like show tunes?”—which I think was some kind of pick-up line, honestly—I really don’t much.)  That one was a sweet-tempered movie that was kind of like Fame (1980)—with the ratio of gay to straight kids reversed, his next film, Bandslam (2009) I didn’t see, but it sounded in a similar vein. So now he turns his attention to gospel music in a comedy that pits traditional-minded choir instructor Queen Latifah (yes, well) up against progressive-minded Dolly Parton in a contest of wills about who can best get their choir to win the National Joyful Noise competition. It has not been shown much either, but neither of the trades liked it.

Since the Fine Arts is holding their schedule this week, that’s under control. The Carolina isn’t actually dropping anything of note, but they are cutting Young Adult to one show (the last of the day), so expect that to be leaving next week. I’m actually pleasantly surprised that it lasted as long as it has.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Peter Medak’s The Changeling (1980) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Guillame Canet’s Tell No One (2008) is World Cinema’s title on Friday, Jan. 13, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel (1932) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues their Ken Russell tribute with The Boy Friend (1971) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

The big title this week is Moneyball, which I finally caught up with and liked OK, but I was nowhere near crazy about it. Also up are Higher Ground, a worthy, but not very exciting movie that almost no one went to see, and Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen (and his weedy mustache) and Robert DeNiro. I’ve seen worse. I haven’t seen What’s Your Number?, but I strongly suspect it would be one of those worse ones if I had.

Notable TV Screenings

There’s not a lot this week on TCM, but because they’re doing a tribute to cinematographer Jack Cardiff, we get an entire night of films from Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger on Thursday, Jan. 12, starting with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) at 8 p.m. and going on all through the night with A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Red Shoes (1948), and Black Narcissus (1947). Sensory overload? Maybe. But worth risking just to drown in the sea of Technicolor.

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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."

17 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 11-17: Carnage! Contraband! Iron Ladies! Joyful Noises!

  1. Orbit DVD

    Also out is Jackie Chan’s 100th film, and it’s good, titled 1911.

    Bela Tarr might be one of the more influential directors that no one has heard of. THE MAN FROM LONDON stars Tilda Swinton, and it’s worth checking out.

    Finally, the 1st season of BOARDWALK EMPIRE is out… oddly after the 2nd season has ended. It’s a great show produced and partly directed by Scorsese.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Bela Tarr might be one of the more influential directors that no one has heard of. THE MAN FROM LONDON stars Tilda Swinton, and it’s worth checking out.

    Does it move at Tarr’s usual pace?

  3. Ken Hanke

    Has anybody else seen the TV spot for Joyful Noise? The font size crediting the rave break-out quotes would be useful if you were trying to engrave “The Lord’s Prayer” on the head of a pin.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Hey now… there are guiltier pleasures out there.

    Oh, I’m sure there are, but as something I’m actually looking forward to, I have to say it ain’t even on my radar. The Great Gatsby, Django Unchained, Gravity, Dark Shadows, on the other hand are.

  5. Andy

    [b]The Great Gatsby, Django Unchained, Gravity, Dark Shadows, on the other hand are.[/b]

    These, and [i]The Master[/i] (assuming it releases this year).

  6. Xanadon't

    Actually yes, I’m very excited for The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained. I’m not positive yet that there’s any reason to be more confident that Dark Shadows will satisfy anymore than Prometheus will. But I’m intrigued none the less.

    Have you heard anything about We Need to Talk About Kevin or Perfect Sense, specifically if they may find a screen nearby? Those are two indie efforts floating around out there that have captured my attention.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I’m not positive yet that there’s any reason to be more confident that Dark Shadows will satisfy anymore than Prometheus will.

    There’s a much greater chance it will for me, but I have a far higher opinion of Tim Burton than I do of Ridley Scott.

    I have seen We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I found somewhat overrated, but I haven’t heard a local date on it yet. I haven’t seen Perfect Sense or heard it mentioned locally, but then it doesn’t come out till Feb. something.

  8. Me

    There’s also Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, World War Z, Lincoln and Rock of Ages just looks crazy.

    Really looking forward to The Gangster Squad, Wanderlust, On The Road, Cloud Atlas, Magic Mike, Cosmopolis, Looper, Tim and Erics Billion Dollar Movie, Cogans Trade, Nero Fiddled.

  9. Me

    Hopefully some 2011 films that will get released in 2012 Butter, God Bless America, and Whit Stillman’s long over due Damsels in Distress.

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