Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 31-Feb 7: Big Shame Miracle Woman in Black

In Theaters

What can I say? It’s another week of some pretty sketchy-looking unknown quantity movies from the mainstream, and only one art title to help balance things out. Well, you have to expect that sometimes. If you’re wanting to fill in your Oscar-nom viewing, this might be a good time. However, don’t rule out that art title — and one of those others might have possibilities.

Before we get to the prognostication department, I’ll say, yes, I’ve seen the art title, which is Steve McQueen’s Shame, in which Michael Fassbender bares it all and thereby demonstrates why his dance card is always full. That exposure and other things (oh, my, yes—this is pretty rooty-tooty) garnered the film the dreaded NC-17 rating, meaning some theater chains won’t book it, some newspapers won’t advertise it, and everybody who goes to see it goes onto a special list guaranteeing they will burn in hell. OK, so I made that last one up, but the attitude is about that silly. Now, here’s an oddity for you—I saw it, but Justin Souther (who, yes, also saw it) reviewed this one. So it’s his review you’ll be looking for in this week’s paper.

So let’s do the educated-guess crystal ball routine on these other titles.

Big Miracle is an “inspired by a true story” contrivance about Drew Barrymore and whales. If that’s not sufficiently daunting (and, frankly, it ought to be), let’s add that it was directed by Ken Kwapis. He’s normally a TV director. When he wanders into the realm of theatrical films we get things like Dunston Checks In (1996), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), and License to Wed (2007). (Yes, I admit that one of those has simian value, but that only goes so far.) I trust you’re rethinking any plans you might have had about seeing this by now. If not, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

If you glance at Rotten Tomatoes right now (that’s at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2012, which means you’re too late), you’ll see that Chronicle has a solid 100 percent rating. Wow? Not really. That’‘s six reviews and not a one from anybody whose enthusiasm would pique my interest. Three slow-learner high school students—at least, that’s the case based on the 20-somethings you never heard of playing the roles—go down a hole and gain super powers that they play pranks with—all the whole recording this stuff for the found footage film they know they’ll become part of. Then, as if you didn’t know, one of them starts doing more than play pranks. The trailer looks positively awful. In its favor, it doesn’t involve Drew Barrymore and whales.

And lastly there’s Daniel Radcliffe in the British haunted-house story The Woman in Black from what is being called Hammer Films. The horror-movie savvy will recognize the name from the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing movies in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Of course, the Hammer name already appeared on the quickly vanishing US remake of Let the Right One In, but since that wasn’t made in the UK, it didn’t really count—if the name counts at all. Let’s face it, nobody associated with those old films has a damn thing to do with this new incarnation. The trailer actually looks creepy, classy and stylish—and the early reviews (not all particularly credible) all seem to point to the fact that the film actually wears its gothic trappings proudly. The question at the box office, though, may be if there’s really life after Harry Potter for Radcliffe. Or for CBS Films as a distributor after its non-stop parade of dogs, for that matter.

Unsurprisingly, after a strong art weekend, none of the more significant titles are going anywhere this week, though it’s worth noting that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is being split with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close at The Carolina. That strongly suggests that this could be the last week for the former at least. The latter has (inexplicable) Oscar noms and is more likely to hang on because of that.

Special Screenings

The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is Lionel Atwill in A. Edward Sutherland’s Murders in the Zoo (1933) on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Andrey Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice (1986) on Friday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday (1977) is this week’s film from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) is this week’s Asheville Film Society title at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 7, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s online edition of the Xpress.

On DVD

Well, it may have been slipped the diseased weenie by the Academy, but now you can buy Drive on DVD. Of course, that’s not the same as an Oscar nomination, but it’s something. Besides, the other new titles are The Big Year, Dream House, In Time, and The Thing.  Oh, yeah, there’s also Transformers: Dark of the Moose … er, Moon, which is also available in the special Michael Bay Overkill Edition as a seven disc collector’s set with a sticker price of $149.99.  For the serious cinephile only.

Notable TV Screenings

Well, TCM’s off on their “31 Days of Oscar” schtick. Traditionally, that means 31 days where nothing at all out of the ordinary is likely to show up. That said, this coming Saturday—Feb. 4—at 6:30 a.m. they’re running the 1929 version of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. No, I don’t expect it to be good, but I’ve always wanted to see it. Now I just have to arrange to be awake. In every other respect, it looks like it’s time to catch up on that pile of DVDs on my desk.

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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."

13 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 31-Feb 7: Big Shame Miracle Woman in Black

  1. Dionysis

    “the British haunted-house story The Woman in Black”

    You probably know that this is a big-screen remake of a British film (I think a made-for-television film) by the same title that contains a couple of the scariest movie scenes I’ve ever witnessed. True ‘jump out of your seat’ scenes. I hope this version is at least as good.

  2. Orbit DVD

    Also out today is the Takeshi Kitano yakuza film, OUTRAGE. Finally released is the post-Young Ones sketch comedy show THE COMIC STRIP. Kino for some reason released a half-dozen Jean Rollin films on blu-ray. I for some reason is stocking them. Finally Oscilloscope gives us a great look at punk rock fatherhood called THE OTHER F WORD.

  3. Orbit DVD

    Oh, is EXCALIBUR the blu-ray version? WB did a wonderful job on the transfer… not so much on the dvd.

  4. Ken Hanke

    You probably know that this is a big-screen remake of a British film (I think a made-for-television film) by the same title that contains a couple of the scariest movie scenes I’ve ever witnessed. True ‘jump out of your seat’ scenes. I hope this version is at least as good.

    Yes, I knew that, but I’ve never seen it, so I’m going to be seeing this cold.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Kino for some reason released a half-dozen Jean Rollin films on blu-ray. I for some reason is stocking them.

    Both equally mystify me!

    Oh, is EXCALIBUR the blu-ray version?

    Yes, you see, Justin wanted to run the film during his birth week, so he gave me the Blu-ray for Xmas, so it’d be here to run then.

  6. Jeremy Dylan

    none of the more significant titles are going anywhere this week, though it’s worth noting that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is being split with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close at The Carolina.

    I’ve been rewatching the BBC miniseries version of the latter since I saw the Alfredson version and it’s interesting to compare the two. I think they’re about equally as effective, but are two very different approaches to the material.

    Paradoxically, the miniseries is a little faster paced, despite being three times as long.
    Oldman and Guiness seem to approach the part of Smiley in much the same way – which is unsurprising as they both modeled their portrayals on Le Carre himself.

    The one area in which I think I prefer the miniseries is that Smiley has quite a sharp tongue on him, which is somewhat lost in the film due to the amount of dialogue they pared away.

  7. Ken Hanke

    The one area in which I think I prefer the miniseries is that Smiley has quite a sharp tongue on him, which is somewhat lost in the film due to the amount of dialogue they pared away.

    I think I could live with that if it got the story down to a tractable length.

  8. will

    Ken, seriously, see Chronicle before you bad mouth it. It’s nothing amazing, but it is a good movie. The trailer made it look like crap, but it’s actually pretty good.

  9. Ken Hanke

    See the actual review before you assume that my response to the film itself lines up with my response to what the trailer and everything in the press material made it appear.

    • will

      Sorry, the wording in my last comment makes me sound like an ass – like I took objection to something you wrote in your article. That wasn’t my intention. I’m only on this website because you are one of my favorite movie reviewers. The “point” I was trying (and failed) to make was that I thought you might actually find quite a few things to like about Chronicle, despite the stupid trailer.

  10. Ken Hanke

    The “point” I was trying (and failed) to make was that I thought you might actually find quite a few things to like about Chronicle, despite the stupid trailer.

    It’s as well to remind me on occasion that a trailer isn’t the movie — something that’s easy to forget, especially with this type of movie. And I was probably unduly snippy in response. Let’s call it a wash.

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