Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 29-February 4: The Great Awkward Labor Moment

In Theaters

Yes! The wait is over.  The (deservedly) Oscar-nominated The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) is actually opening this week. In the immortal words of Groucho Marx — “Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor.” I was beginning to despair — and it was with some trepidation that I called the Fine Arts on Monday morning to find out. But here it is at last. Seize the opportunity. Me? I’ll be glad to stop moving the review from week to week (and tinkering with it each time). Otherwise, this week … but, hey, The Great Beauty is opening.

I know I’ve been nattering away about The Great Beauty for weeks now, and I certainly hope it lives up to my enthusiasm for the rest of you. I’ve seen it three times, so I know it wasn’t a momentary infatuation for me. (And it could well have been since I approached it cold and expected nothing.) I realize that it’s not the easiest sell — a 142-minute Italian movie with (gasp) subtitles. I also admit that some people will be puzzled — at least at first — by its structure. It’s not that it’s odd so much as it takes a while to figure out what the film is about. But stick with it. This isn’t really a movie that you’ll know exactly how you feel about it till you’ve seen the whole thing. It really is a most marvelous banquet of a film with something to dazzle the senses at every turn — and with a core of both great beauty and sadness. Check out my review in this week’s paper.

Oh, yes, I should note that there are two other movies of somewhat more mainstream natures opening this week — and there’s not a thing you can do about it, so let’s go ahead and take a brief look at them.

First up is Jason Reitman’s Labor Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. OK, fine. This is a director of some note with stars of some note, right? As recently as early December, Paramount was thinking it as Oscar bait — or something in that realm. At least, it was mentioned in their mailing to critics about award contenders. It was somewhat linked to The Wolf of Wall Street as something too important to send out screeners of. So one assumed that like Wolf maybe it would rate a critics’ screening. Instead, it just vanished from sight and was banished to the January white-sale of presumably bad movies. What is it exactly? Well, it’s a romantic drama about what happens when a single mother takes a man — who turns out to be an escaped convict — home for Labor Day weekend, and how this event impacts both their lives and the life of her son. The thing is that the film isn’t being entirely panned. It’s currently hovering (barely) on the positive side of aggregated reviews. In other words, it may be better than its release history suggests.

Then there’s an oddity called That Awkward Moment. (Note: that trailer link is for the Red Band one.) It’s an oddity because it’s being handled by Focus Features — that’s the art/indie branch of Universal. The stars — Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan — certainly have more indie cred than mainstream. The writer-director is some newcomer named Tom Gormican. (I think we may charitably overlook his status as one of 11 co-producers on the execrable Movie 43.) It all sounds indie, but it’s being dumped as a mainstream release in the dead wintertime. Now, I like Efron and Jordan (Teller I liked in Rabbit Hole, but it kind of ended there). But this … well, it seems to be a raunchy com about three people who some would describe as “bros” (personally, I don’t use the term), who — quite accidentally — start discovering that maybe they want more out of life than punching each other on the shoulder and one night stands. I suppose that’s admirable, but the trailer doesn’t seem to be.

So what takes its leave this week? Well, The Carolina is dropping Dallas Buyers Club, but the Fine Arts is keeping it for the matinee shows, while dropping Nebraska. The Carolina is also dropping Saving Mr. Banks, but it’s opening out at the Flat Rock Cinema. The Carolina is splitting The Invisible Woman (it did OK, but not great) with Gravity. Everything else of note is holding.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running the Brit horror comedy What a Carve Up! (No Place Like Homicide!) (1961) on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Douglas Fairbanks in Raoul Walsh’s The Thief of Bagdad (1924) on Sunday, Feb. 2 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts its February screenings with Mitchell Leisen’s classic comedy romance Midnight (1939) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all film is this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

Well, I shall lose no time catching this week’s releases (if you know what I mean). We see the DVD appearances of Rush, The Fifth Estate, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Metallica Through the Never, Last Vegas and last and almost certainly least Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. Oh, yes, Dario Argento’s much maligned Dracula 3D is out, too. I admit to a morbid curiosity, but not enough of one to actually buy it.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM is sliding into its “31 Days of Oscar” mode, which normally sends me into DVD watching mode. This looks no different, and the last few days of January aren’t all that exciting 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."

16 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 29-February 4: The Great Awkward Labor Moment

  1. Steven

    Did you see [i]The Hunt[/i], Ken? Just caught it on Netflix and I think it’s very much worth watching, though I don’t know how it’ll settle with you.

  2. Xanadon't

    I felt about the same, though had Mads Mikkelson not starred I suspect that for me it would’ve peaked at merely good, and not very good.

    Can we expect any other Foreign Language nominees to arrive to town yet this year, aside from The Great Beauty? I think we got 3 of them last year.

  3. Ken Hanke

    You may well be right. I was put off by the dog cliche (saw that coming from reel one) and didn’t entirely buy the resolution even with its truth-or-illusion-which-was-it ending.

    I have heard heard of no other Oscar stuff coming our way other than the short films next week.

  4. Me

    Yeah, i didn’t really like Sightseers either, it was my first Ben Wheatley film and i didn’t see what all the fuss was about.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I just couldn’t get into it and since I didn’t have to review it, I gave up.

    On the other hand, I sat through all of Dario Argento’s awful Dracula. Just to see if it could be consistently that bad. It could. But if I hadn’t, I’d never have seen Dracula transformed into a giant preying mantis, so there’s that.

  6. Steven

    [b]I’d never have seen Dracula transformed into a giant preying mantis, so there’s that.[/b]

    Well now I have to see it.

  7. Steven

    Oy, I’ve seen middle school plays with more merit.

    I must say, I’m proud of myself for enduing it all the way through. Not once did I contemplate turning it off. It was just too much of a disaster to do so.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Well, I warned you, but you did get to see the world’s least persuasive Dracula ever as a giant mantis.

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