Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 12-18: This Is Man of Steel Before Midnight

In Theaters

Man of Steel opens this week. It will be at nearly every theater that could get it and on as many screens as possible—both 2D and 3D. That is all an awful lot of people probably need to know. For those with a penchant for guys with large and sinewy muscles in tights, this is probably what summer is all about this year—at least where movies are concerned. It isn’t all that’s opening, however. There’s another mainstream release and one of the most anticipated art titles of the season.

The art title is Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts)—the third film in a series that started in 1995 when Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) first met. Here we are 18 years on with the pair at 41. Nearly all the local critics saw this last Saturday morning, so we’ve got the jump on you.

Not having been as taken by the first two films as most of the world, I was surprised by how much I liked this third one. Of course, I’ve grown fonder of Linklater in recent years, but the selling point for me is most of those pseudo-profound conversations in those first films is pretty scarce here. In its place, we have what seem like real people dealing with real problems—with wit and some elegance and a filmmaker who seems to be at the peak of powers.

My review of the film is in this week’s Xpress, but this really is a rather special film—one that deserves the support of discerning audiences.

And then, there’s what can only be called a curio headed our way.

The curio comes on Wednesday. Why does it come on Wednesday? I have no earthly idea—unless it’s to mint some coin before it gets trampled by Superman. It’s the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and it’s called This Is the End (note: redband NSFW trailer). I don’t know if it’s high concept stuff or merely a vanity project made by people for no very good reason except that they could. It originated as a short film back called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse (2007). It has now been expanded into an (apparently hard) R rated feature in which a great many famous and quasi-famous people—James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson—play joke versions of themselves, while other famous people—Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Chrisopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, etc.—make guest appearances as jokey versions of themselves. It all takes place at a party at James Franco’s house—a party that happens to coincide with the end of the world (or its appromixation). Think of it as Melancholia with added weed and bodily fluid jokes. Surprisingly, it’s gotten pretty positive reviews. I think I’m going to use Mr. Souther as cinematic food taster on this.

The biggie, of course, is Man of Steel, which has surprisingly drawn a few negative reviews—and a good many reservations in the positive one. I’ve been skeptical of it since the first trailer with all the laundry blowing in the breeze of a golden idyllic world—like Terrence Malick meets the superhero movie, or Tree of Superman. But apparently it’s a lot bigger and noisier than that with property destruction aplenty. Through it was directed by “visionary” filmmaker Zack Snyder, it would seem to owe a great deal to producer Christopher Nolan. (Well, after the fascinatingly dumb disaster that was Sucker Punch, it’s hardly surprising that Snyder’s vision might be reined in a bit.) That will bring much gladness to those who adore Nolan’s joyless Batman movies—while worrying the rest of us. But it doesn’t matter, nearly everyone is going to see the movie—out of curiosity, if nothing else.

Leaving us this week are both of last week’s art title openers at The Carolina—The Sapphires and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I am frankly puzzled that the former tanked—it had all the earmarks of a crowd-pleaser. But the crowd never came. The Fine Arts is dropping Renoir and Mud. Mud, however, is sticking around The Carolina, especially after it took an unexpected jump in attendance over the weekend.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running T. Hayes Hunter’s Boris Karloff classic The Ghoul (1933) at 8 p.m. on Thu., June 13 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Fritz Lang’s M (1931) on Fri., June 14 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. On Sun., June 16 at 2 p.m. the Hendersonville Film Society is screening Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Whit Stillman’s Barcelona (1994) on Tue., June 18 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s paper—with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

It’s a tepid week for DVDs. We get Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which the IMDb is mystifying sure I’m interested in), Oz the Great and Powerful, and Snitch. I’ll pass.

Notable TV Screenings

Admirers of the incredibly strange should check out Bela Lugosi in his only color vehicle, Scared to Death (1947) at 6 a.m. Wed., June 12 on TCM. Afterwards, you can ponder if the entire cast and crew were on drugs. Unfortunately, this amazing oddity is about the only thing on TCM this week that doesn’t come under the heading of The Usual Suspects.

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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."

31 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 12-18: This Is Man of Steel Before Midnight

  1. Xanadon't

    “Man of Steel opens this week…That is all an awful lot of people probably need to know.”

    Ya’know what, I think I’ll keep reading.

  2. Xanadon't

    but the selling point for me is most of those pseudo-profound conversations in those first films is pretty scarce here

    At least neither Before film was as bad as Waking Life in this regard.

  3. Big Al

    “Man of Steel opens this week…That is all an awful lot of people probably need to know.”

    Thank goodness you do not limit your reviews to what that awful lot watch.

    “those pseudo-profound conversations in those first films is pretty scarce here.”

    This is what happens when we approach middle age and college becomes a distant memory.

    For some reason, I remember (and enjoyed) the first “Before…” film a lot better than the second, despite having seen it more recently. I vaguely recall the conversations in the second being much more negative and cynical than those in the first and was honestly surprised to discover in the previews for the third film that they ended up getting married at the end of the second.

    Man, I feel old.

  4. Jeremy Dylan

    I have to admit I’m very curious to see MAN OF STEEL, but I have no idea what to expect. I’ve avoided all the marketing after the initial teaser.

    On the plus side, I know there is pedal steel used in the score and screenwriter David Goyer has gone out of his way to make assurances that he hasn’t written an “emo Superman movie”.

    And Richard Schiff is in it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I vaguely recall the conversations in the second being much more negative and cynical than those in the first

    And that might be the difference between the characters at 23 and at 32.

    Man, I feel old.

    Don’t whine to me — I’m three months from 59.

  6. Ken Hanke

    On the plus side, I know there is pedal steel used in the score

    That ain’t my idea of a plus.

    screenwriter David Goyer has gone out of his way to make assurances that he hasn’t written an “emo Superman movie”.

    Whatever that means. I’m betting on Angsty-Man with daddy issues.

    And Richard Schiff is in it.

    One of your TV enthusiasms?

  7. DrSerizawa

    One difficulty that is innate in any “Superman” story is “How do you create tension in a story about a being that is unkillable and can do just about anything?” The comic had to create kryptonite as a bogyman. But that’s an entertainment for pre-teens.

    At least the first Superman Movie had Gene Hackman who was the only really entertaining thing about it. The second one added more super beings and was ok.

    I guess they could just reboot SupermanII. Seems to be the general idea in “Blockbusters”. Just recycle the old plots.

  8. William Chase

    I would be much more excited for Man of Steel if it wasn’t another damn superhero origin story. It’s Superman. Sure it’s got a new look, cast and production team but its still Superman. You don’t see them giving us an origin story every time there is a new face for James Bond.

    Also, off subject Ken but have you heard any word on when Asheville might be getting The Bling Ring? Sofia is my guilty pleasure…

  9. Me

    I wish i could go to that Barcelona screening.

    If you have only seen parts of the “Before” series could you really appreciate this new one?

  10. Jeremy Dylan

    One of your TV enthusiasms?

    I don’t know, Josh, but while we’re looking, can you tell me a little more about the President’s secret plan to fight inflation?

  11. Ken Hanke

    Also, off subject Ken but have you heard any word on when Asheville might be getting The Bling Ring?

    It’s down to open on the 21st at The Carolina.

  12. Ken Hanke

    If you have only seen parts of the “Before” series could you really appreciate this new one?

    I’d say yes. Two of the people at the press screening had seen neither of the earlier films and it didn’t hamper their enjoyment — or their ability to follow it.

  13. Jeremy Dylan

    To avoid all Man o’ Steel marketing in the US, you’d have to be in a total media blackout.

    Well, I don’t watch television, so I’ll have missed any TV spots, but I see far more GATSBY posters around the traps, and I’ve yet to see the MAN OF STEEL trailer ahead of another picture at the cinemas.

  14. Me

    To have fun.

    If anyone is interested TCM is playing Kiarostami’s Close Up Sunday night Monday morning.

  15. Ken Hanke

    I think I get a sufficiency of fun in the realm of writing about movies here and on the message board I moderate without trying to sandwich in another site. I’d rather use what spare time I have watching instead of writing.

  16. Me

    I don’t write anything on there its just fun to rate them and keep track of the films you’ve seen and ones that you want to see.

  17. Big Al

    Since your review is not out yet, let me use this forum to say that “Man of Steel” is my absolute, all-time favorite comic-book/superhero adaptation of all time, a title which had formerly been split between the firtst “Iron man” and “The Avengers”.

    In spite of the massive use of CGI, it conveyed a far greater sense of “message” than any of the others. And having big stars like Lane, Costner and Crowe only added to the appeal, rather than distracting from lesser-known talents like Cavill.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Since your review is not out yet, let me use this forum to say that “Man of Steel” is my absolute, all-time favorite comic-book/superhero adaptation of all time, a title which had formerly been split between the firtst “Iron man” and “The Avengers”.

    I will say I liked it better — up to a point — than I expected to. The first 90 min. are pretty swell. The last 45, not so much. But I’m not a comic book movie fan. I think the only ones I own are the two Burton Batman pictures, X2, and The Spirit. Actually, I think I may have some the studios sent me during awards season.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Did you see the trailer for the new Lynn Shelton film Touchy Feely?

    It looks like a much more classically styled film than her previous ones.

  20. Big Al

    “The last 45, not so much.”

    I do think that part was too drawn out and overdid it just a bit with the CGI. There also seemed to be very little emotional investment in the massive collateral damage and the deaths it implied.

    I have decided that superhero adaptations, and the occasional sci-fi (“Prometheus”), are the only “stuff blows up real good” films I can stomach these days.

  21. Ken Hanke

    There also seemed to be very little emotional investment in the massive collateral damage and the deaths it implied.

    I’ll be happy to discuss this point when the review goes up tomorrow.

  22. Steven

    The only trailer that matters at this point is [i]The Wolf on Wall Street[/i] trailer, which looks like a total blast.

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