Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 15-21: The Nut Recruit Ride Along

In Theaters

I know I promised you something really tasty this week. Actually, I promised it to you two weeks ago. Well, it — The Great Beauty — has been moved back again. (I had nothing to do with this.) Will it open next week? Maybe. And that’s as far as I’m committing myself at this point. In its stead, we do have four movies of the mainstream variety. There’s one pretty fair possibility and three long shots. You may want to consider movies that are still playing — or some of the awards contenders that are making encore appearances.

Yes, owing to the Golden Globes (which are somehow taken seriously, despite their utterly sketchy nature), we will see (that I’m aware of) Gravity (3D only), 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club return to The Carolina this Friday. Dallas Buyers Club has been at the Fine Arts all along. (It will continue there and add a show on Friday.) None of these have a complete set of shows, so check times. Since the Oscar nominations happen early Thursday morning, there’s a chance that more films may be coming back next week.

I’ve seen none of the new titles opening this week. That means I’m in pretty much the same boat as the rest of you, but let’s go ahead and examine the evidence that we do have.

Last year at almost this exact same time, we had something called The Devil Inside. This year, as if to prove that he was indeed inside, we have Devil’s Due, which is about some hapless woman being pregnant with the Son o’ Satan. Think of it as a low-budget, shaky-cam, found-footage rehash of Rosemary’s Baby — only starring no one you have ever heard of and made by guys only the most devout horror-hounds will know. (They made one of the segments of 2012’s V/H/S. Granted, it was the best segment, but the bar was none too high for that accolade.) It will arrive on Friday. It will make a small fortune on its $19.95 investment. It will vanish as if it never existed in two weeks. Could I be wrong? Yes. Do I think it likely? Not in this case, no.

In the best bet department — on a sliding scale basis — there’s the return of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan character in the guise of Chris Pine in Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. This has a shot at being good — assuming that Chris Pine’s tendency to be smirkingly obnoxious doesn’t sink it. He’s in better hands than usual with Branagh directing, so that might help. My only qualm with Branagh directing here is that he’s also acting, and sometimes Branagh falls into the old Woody Allen line about directing himself:  “I find it hard to resist the temptation to give myself too many extreme close-ups.” With luck, he has aged out of this. Having Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner along may be a plus. Certainly, it makes for an interesting cast. The story about Ryan uncovering some Russian plan to destroy the U.S. economy (like we can’t do that on our own?) doesn’t sound all that exciting, but we shall see.

Speaking of not all that exciting, it appears to be time for yet another undistinguished bout of 3D-ified animated kiddie fodder with something called The Nut Job — complete with the interesting (and biologically suggestive) tagline, “No nuts, no glory.” It has a so-so voice cast — Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl — and was made by a former animator named Peter Lepeniotis (there’s a gag there somewhere, but I’m far too tasteful to look for it). It’s all about a squirrel named Surly, who apparently lives up to his name to the degree that he’s been banished from the park. However, his life in the big city has brought a shop called Maury’s Nut Store to his attention. This will in turn lead us to the world’s first nut heist comedy — Ocean’s Eleven with an all-rodent cast. I’m pretty sure it’s in my future, but remember — you have a choice.

Way back in 2002, Ice Cube and Tim Story made a movie called Barbershop — and it was a surprising delight. Then came an OK sequel and a sort-of-OK spinoff. And Mr. Cube turned himself into some family-friendly caricature, while Mr. Story made the execrable Taxi, a couple of not-so-hot Fantastic Four movies, only to re-emerge with the pretty awful Think Like a Man in 2012. So now Messrs. Cube and Story have reteamed for Ride Along. While that seems like a good thing on the surface, much will depend on how you feel about Kevin Hart, who forms one half of the odd couple buddy comedy with Ice Cube as the other. My own fondness for Hart is … minimal. The plot has security guard Hart going on a “ride along” with cop Cube in order to prove himself worthy of Cube’s sister. (That plot sounds familiar, but it might be out of a half-remembered 70-year-old Bob Hope movie.) In other words, Hart will be the motormouthed screw-up and Cube will fume at his screwed-upness. Hilarity will, of course, ensue.

Now, what do we lose this week? Well, not all that much actually. The only complete fatality is The Book Thief — and its passing at The Carolina actually makes room for one more show of Philomena, which apparently can’t be killed with a stick. The Carolina is dropping Nebraska, but the Fine Arts is keeping it for the 1:20 show only.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Ken Russell’s horror-comedy The Lair of the White Worm (1988) — starring a very young Hugh Grant and a very, very pre-Dr. Who Peter Capaldi — at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball (1967) on Friday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Michael Anderson’s The Quiller Memorandum (1967) on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society will screen Jack Conway’s Pre-Code Lee Tracy comedy The Nuisance (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

There is no shortage of movies hitting DVD this week. Some of them are actually good. The best of them are Short Term 12, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, 20 Feet from Stardom, Fruitvale Station, and Enough Said. Also up are the bizarrely overrated The Spectacular Now, the not at all good You’re Next and the positively dreadful Carrie.

Notable TV Screenings

You’re on your own here. I saw nothing out of the ordinary this week on TCM.

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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."

21 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 15-21: The Nut Recruit Ride Along

  1. DrSerizawa

    I don’t care for Pine’s tendency to smarm up the screen. And I couldn’t read any Jack Ryan books after the 2nd or 3rd one because of Tom Clancy’s gushing sycophancy to the irretrievably corrupt federal intelligence agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA. But as you say Branaugh’s presence might actually make a decent movie if he can rein Pine in. The name “Shadow Recruit” looks like a complete reboot since the Ryan of the books was anything but an agent as a youth. Not that I would expect a movie to bear much relationship to the source material. This can only be a good thing IMHO.

  2. Dionysis

    I wish I could get excited about any of these titles, but alas, can’t do it. I like Kenneth Branaugh’s work, both as director and actor, but a Jack Ryan re-boot with Chris Pine? I’ll pass.

    As for the rest…anything shaky-cam is out of the question, as is anything animated (yes, I am narrow like that). The only ice cube I’d want would be in my drink.

    Seems like Lair of the White Worm is the best title listed that I am familiar with (and I have it on DVD).

  3. Big Al

    “…the Ryan of the books was anything but an agent as a youth.”

    True, he was an analyst who stumbled into spycraft. I wonder why they didn’t make the title character his son, Jack Ryan, Jr., who, in the new series IS an agent in his youth.

    I know this is a film thread, not a literary one, but while we are on Clancy, I had just finished catching up on his last three Jack Ryan, Sr. novels when I read the first Jack Ryan, Jr., and the difference is SO stark that I believe the new series is not Clancy, but a ghost writer. It was so bad that I have abandoned Clancy.

    Dr. S, you sound like you have read some Clancy, what do you think?

  4. Ken Hanke

    I wish I could get excited about any of these titles, but alas, can’t do it.

    I cannot claim that I have any hint of a trace of a smidgen of a particle of a soupcon of enthusiasm for any of these four.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    I wonder why they didn’t make the title character his son, Jack Ryan, Jr., who, in the new series IS an agent in his youth.

    Because Jack Ryan Jr isn’t the lead character in a franchise that’s grossed $786.5 million dollars.

    It’s the same reason why Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES didn’t take over the Batman franchise.

  6. DrSerizawa

    Dr. S, you sound like you have read some Clancy, what do you think?

    I haven’t read Clancy since Debt of honor which I couldn’t finish, as I mentioned because of Clancy’s toadying to the alphabet agencies. But I have noticed that some of his recent books have been authored by “Tom Clancy and John Doe.” Maybe since Clancy died the publisher is selling these collaborative books as if Clancy were the sole author.

    Nah. Couldn’t be. I mean, companies as upstanding and ethical as publishing houses would never to that, right?

  7. Me

    The Act of Killing is streaming on Netflix!

    PBS also aired At Berkeley, they may replay it but i doubt it since its 4 hours long.

  8. Big Al

    “…companies as upstanding and ethical as publishing houses…”

    Ah, the sweet smell of sarcasm. Thanks, Dr. S.

    I was unaware of John Doe (really…?). I did note that the quality of the novels of another favorite author of mine, Richard “Rogue Warrior” Marcinko, took a nose-dive when he switched from co-author John Weisman to Jim DeFelice. The change was so distinct that I noticed it before I noticed the change of co-author on the cover (honestly, I enjoyed the books so much that I never noticed there WAS a co-author). So there are two series that I no longer touch, Clancy and Marcinko.

  9. Edwin Arnaudin

    UNC-TV did not air At Berkeley on Monday, but it’s slated for 2 a.m. on Friday. I’ll wait until PBS puts it online.

  10. Ken Hanke

    On what? I don’t know from the thing that didn’t get run on UNC and my level of indifference to Tom Clancy knows few bounds.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I usually just make everyone wait till the reviews or if they happen to listen to me on the Jeff Messer Show on Fri. afternoon, but…Sweet Jesus, whatever you do, don’t go see Devil’s Due. Put it this way: The Nut Job was vastly superior.

  12. Ken Hanke

    And who produced these guys’ last movie, V/H/S? Why it was Bloody Disgusting’s Brad Miska, who gets a character — Officer Miska — named after him here.

  13. T.rex

    Looking forward to Jack Ryan. It’s been too long since we had a good action adventure that didn’t have the word Fast and or a number in the title.

  14. Ken Hanke

    This might as well have a number or be called Jack Ryan version 3.1.

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