Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 13-17: That’s the Sound of Rock Hysteria

In Theaters

Usually by this time of the year I’ve started giving some thought to what’s likely to qualify for a “Best of” list come the year’s end, but the truth is that so far the pickings have been what you’d call lean. We’ve had one sure thing and a couple of maybes — and leave us face it, that’s not so hot for a year that’s racing toward being half over. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce that one more strong candidate opens this Friday. There are also three other titles that are not strong candidates.

This is actually another of those two mainstream and two art film weeks. In the mainstream corner we have Rock of Ages and That’s My Boy — both of which are opening everywhere except the Carmike and the Fine Arts. And in the other corner we find Hysteria and Sound of My Voice — both opening at The Carolina. I assure that the “Best of” candidate is from the latter category, which is, I suppose, not that surprising. Nor is it surprising that those are the ones I’ve seen and which are reviewed in this week’s Xpress.

What is surprising — at least to me — is that Hysteria would turn out to be a pretty strong “Best of” contender. I can’t say the title did much for me, nor the poster. And the concept of a movie about the invention of the personal vibrator sounded suspiciously like a one-joke affair. Well, it isn’t. You can read more about it in the review, but allow me to go ahead and say it’s one of the most charming movies I’ve seen in a while. A long while. As for Sound of My Voice — well, you can read the review and make of it what you will.

So let’s look at the mainstream world.

First up is Rock of Ages, the latest film from the wildly uneven (putting it mildly) Adam Shankman, who, I suspect, never met a paycheck he didn’t like. It’s adapted from a popular stage play by Chris D’Arienzo that’s built around a bunch of 1980s pop songs. The goal of the whole thing would seem to be make hair metal accessible to elderly folks from Dubuque visiting the Big Apple — at least so far as the show is concerned. The film has branched out to include generally overaged movie stars in dubious wigs as performers. In other words, we get shirtless Tom Cruise as a rock star. The studio promises us the film will include music taken from “Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake and more.” That will doubtless appeal to some. I admit I have never owned a single album or single by any of those named, though I’ve certainly hit the button on many a car radio to avoid a few of them — but then I’m also not a 1980s nostlagia person. That said, I’ve liked a lot of music I’m not keen on in the context of films — The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a good example. This could be a similar case, but, boy, does that trailer make me skeptical.

And then, there’s That’s My Boy — the latest assault on the art of film from Adam Sandler. Sandler’s a lot like the seven-year locust, except that he shows up far more frequently. This time he’s eschewing his recent tendency to create more or less family-friendly stuff and gone for that R-rated raunchy stuff that’s so cool these days. He’s also not gone to his usual go-to director, Dennis Dugan, and opted for someone named Sean Anders, whose previous directing credits don’t seem to have made it into theaters. This time Sandler plays father to Andy Samberg — and apparently a very bad father indeed, one Samberg feels himself well rid of. Of course, Daddy Sandler shows up — uninvited — to his son’s wedding to cause all manner of riotously amusing (theoretically) mayhem. No doubt there is an audience for this — none of whom are personally known to me.

Both The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Bernie are holding strong as The Carolina and the Fine Arts, which is not very surprising. It’s also not exactly astounding that Darling Companion is taking its leave from The Carolina on Friday, nor that First Position has been reduced to daytime shows only.

Special Screenings

Before getting down to the usual stuff, let me remind you of the special Budget Big Screen Classics showing of Rene Clair’s film of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery And Then There Were None at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., June 13 at The Carolina. Admission is $5 for Asheville Film Society members and $7 for the general public.

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Boris Karloff in Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932) on Thursday, June 14, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina (with chapter four of The Lost City at 7:40 p.m., of course). World Cinema is showing the Australian short The Boy Who’d Never Seen Rain (2012) at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 15, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Noel Langley’s Svengali (1954) is this week’s film from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, June 17, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. On Tuesday, June 19, the Asheville Film Society is showing Alec Guinness in Ronald Neame’s The Horse’s Mouth (1958) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On Dvd

This week we get Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which is probably the best of the new mainstream titles, but, hey, don’t dismiss the cheesy goodness of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. There’s also Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, which certainly could have been worse than it is. And in the column that suggests an argument for the existence of God, that latest Kate Hudson thing, A Little Bit of Heaven, has gone to DVD before it could show up in a local theater. Also out is In Darkness. But of greater note than the rest are the Blu-ray releases of Harold and Maude (time to retire that old Paramount DVD), The Gold Rush, and Shallow Grave (presumably at last in an anamorphic copy!).

Notable TV Screenings

Well, TCM is honoring the often-neglected Japanese filmmaker Inoshiro Honda on Friday, June 15, starting at 8 p.m. with his best-known film Gojira or Godzilla (1954). This is followed by Rodan (1957), Mothra, and one of Honda’s most intriguing movies, The H-Man (1958).

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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."

62 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 13-17: That’s the Sound of Rock Hysteria

  1. Dionysis

    This is a serious question, prompted by seeing yet another (insert groan here) Adam Sandler movie.

    Are you (and Justin too) required to see and review all new films that are booked locally? I know you ‘call ‘em as you see ‘em’, but do you even have to see ‘em?

    About Honda’s films…The H-Man was definitely an intriquing film, part sci-fi, part gangster film but completely unique. I would add his ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ (silly name notwithstanding) as another very unusual and intriquing work as well.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Are you (and Justin too) required to see and review all new films that are booked locally? I know you ‘call ‘em as you see ‘em’, but do you even have to see ‘em?

    It’s an interesting and fair question. Are we required to? No one has ever said we were, and when I started lo those many long years ago, my predecessor most certainly didn’t. In fact, she once told me that “we” didn’t “bother” with things like Rugrats in Paris (I think it was). That didn’t seem right to me, and I think it’s what you call a slippery slope when you start deciding what is or isn’t worth reviewing without seeing it. In all honesty, I have every reason to believe that this movie will be utter shite as they say across the pond. But drawing a line is something I’m not in favor of. I think we — as a team at least — need to have some sense of these things that can be gotten no other way. And occasionally, there pleasant surprises. I doubt this’ll be one, but, Clapton knows, I’d never have chosen to go see Eurotrip, but it’s not only on my shelves, I still use that movie’s incoming mail alert (a postman’s whistle, followed by someone saying, “Mail, motherfu*ker”).

    I do think we didn’t bother with a couple of faith-based films that were at inconvenient times or locations.

    I would add his ‘Attack of the Mushroom People’ (silly name notwithstanding) as another very unusual and intriquing work as well.

    I would, too, but they aren’t showing it. I find ir sad that they’re doing this, but using those Leonard Maltin reviews on their website. They’re smart enough not to use those on anything post-1960, but these are movies Maltin (or whoever actually reviewed them) just hasn’t got a clue about. It sounds less silly if you go with the original name, Matango.

  3. Dionysis

    Okay, I felt compelled to watch the youtube video promo of ‘Rock of Ages’. That is, I TRIED to watch it, but gave up 10 seconds before it mercifully ended.

    Looks pretty awful to me.

  4. Me

    Criterion on TV Alert TCM is playing last years release House on Friday.

    I think this week is the Girls season finale as well.

  5. Xanadon't

    Are we talking about the one with the girl-gobbling piano? I think everyone should see that movie exactly once.

  6. Xanadon't

    Hmm, you don’t sound particularly jazzed about it. That’s okay- I’m proud enough of myself for the both of us.

  7. Ken Hanke

    It was in a stack of movies Marc (Orbit DVD) thought I should watch. I can at least say I watched all of it, which is more than I can say for Fish Tank.

  8. Xanadon't

    Funny, Fish Tank was recommended to me (though not by Marc) and I abandoned it early too. Something about a troubled teen who I had trouble understanding- like actual trouble deciphering the words coming out of her angry head. And then falls asleep on a couch and something maybe not quite right happens at the hands of mom’s boyfriend. I think that’s the one anyway. Shoot, guess we’ll never know how that gripping story ended.

  9. DrSerizawa

    Rock of Ages…. talk about a list of bad music… jeeez. Except that Journey was good until Greg Rolie left. Then they became “popular”.

    Popularity is over rated. Hitler was wildly popular.

    Agree with Dionysis about the H-Man and Attack of the Mushroom people. The H-Man might make an interesting Thursday night choice. How many sci-fi gangster movies are there?

    Also interesting about Gojiro is that the Americanized version works pretty well on its own. Looking back at that era they had little choice but to revamp the movie for American audiences. The WWII experience was still very fresh in 1956 and Americans didn’t much watch foreign films and would never have watched a Japanese one at the time, period. Never mind that Honda did near magic at the time with the tools that he had. It’s one of those movies that is simply wonderful in black and white.

    BTW, Am I the only person who thinks that Hugh Dancy looks like Tony Curtis in that picture from Hysteria.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Rock of Ages…. talk about a list of bad music… jeeez. Except that Journey was good until Greg Rolie left. Then they became “popular”.

    I never knew Journey when I didn’t think they were a moose fellation party. Actually, at the time this stuff was on the radio, I was never quite convinced that Journey, Foreigner, Kansas, and Asia weren’t all the same group under aliases.

    Agree with Dionysis about the H-Man and Attack of the Mushroom people. The H-Man might make an interesting Thursday night choice.

    They’re both likely candidates. I’d also consider Atragon — largely because I have it, but I do find it interesting that it boasts a scientist who isn’t keen on helping mankind because he’s still cheesed about losing the war.

    Am I the only person who thinks that Hugh Dancy looks like Tony Curtis in that picture from Hysteria.

    I can’t say it leaps out at me.

  11. Ken Hanke

    By the way, Doctor, do you know if there’s any real reason to get the new super-duper Blu-ray of Gojira?

    • DrSerizawa

      By the way, Doctor, do you know if there’s any real reason to get the new super-duper Blu-ray of Gojira?

      No, I don’t. Both DVD and BR apparently have the same features. Some people claim that the BR shows a bit more of the original format. But since it is 1/1.33 ratio and ripped from very old prints I doubt that BR would improve things. No attempt has been made to improve the sound quality of the BR over the DVD as well. I’m not going to waste my money on the BR.

  12. Dionysis

    “I’d also consider Atragon…”

    I agree; I had never heard (much less seen) this film until about a year ago, and found it a couple of cuts above a lot of the Japanese sci-fi flicks. The copy I have looks great too. Another obscure but interesting Japanese film of that era is ‘The Telegian’. Caught it for the first time earlier this year.

  13. Dionysis

    Correction on my last post…I think the full name of the film mentioned is ‘Secret of the Telegian’.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I had never heard (much less seen) this film until about a year ago, and found it a couple of cuts above a lot of the Japanese sci-fi flicks.

    It’s definitely an oddity, but I’m interested to see someone who didn’t see it on its original release give it a nod.

    • DrSerizawa

      It’s definitely an oddity, but I’m interested to see someone who didn’t see it on its original release give it a nod.

      I sawr it back in the 70s on TV. That reprobate WWII admiral is one weird character. I thought it adventurous that a Japanese movie would express such empire-building sentiments so soon after WWII.

      BTW, Japan has its deniers now, much like the Holocaust deniers we are unfortunately more familiar with. In Japan there are efforts afoot to sanitize the Japanese Imperial Army’s atrocities, i.e. claiming that the Rape of Nanking never happened and was just western propaganda, etc. So Atragon might qualify as an early cautionary tale.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Fish Tank is a pretty good film

    So I’ve been told. I lasted about 20 minutes before deciding that the only way I was sitting through it was if I was being paid to — and I wasn’t.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Well, it’s interesting, but I have to question how much the author knows about the history of criticism. (And I disagree with the idea that Ebert is the greatest movie critic ever — a lot.) Snark has always been a part of criticism — long before there were movies. It just never had a name. But the question invariably arises — or should arise — as to whether it’s snark or wit. When Bosley Crowther wrote (back in 1939), “Anyone paying good money to see a picture called Give Me a Sailor deserves what he gets,” was that wit or snark? And would film criticism be better off if it was phrased differently? Similarly, what of the British critic (whose name escapes me) who opined of The Mad Ghoul (1943), “To be a ghoul would be disconcerting enough. To be a mad ghoul must be the height of personal embarassment”? Are those snarky or witty? Now, I admit that neither or those may be exact quotes, but they’re close enough — and the real point is that I remember them. Would I remember them if they merely said the films in question aren’t very good? Certainly not. I remember them because they’re entertaining.

    I’m sure the explosion of internet reviewers has made things worse and has lowered the bar for wit or even cleverness. (It’s certainly lowered it for film criticism and the English language.) But what exactly is he suggesting replace what he calls snark? A dry, dull, declamatory style that engages and entertains no one? (That pretty much describes his article, come to think of it.) The critic or reviewer who isn’t interested in entertaining his reader — whether the film is good or bad — is in trouble.

    I certainly agree that there’s no percentage in people blogging — escpecially after the fact — about a picture like Paul Blart (a film that Ebert, by the way, liked). It’s certainly not something I’d even have seen — let alone written about — if left to my own devices. I hadn’t, in fact, thought about it since it was new.

    All in all, though, I’m just not clear how his beef applies to the workaday critic who for the most part is still reviewing movies on a weekly basis — and less by personal preference than by the nature of the job.

    Now, if someone wants to start a campaign against the idea of arriving at a worthwhile barometer of quality by review aggregation sites, sign me up.

  17. Xanadon't

    The critic or reviewer who isn’t interested in entertaining his reader — whether the film is good or bad — is in trouble.

    Now, if someone wants to start a campaign against the idea of arriving at a worthwhile barometer of quality by review aggregation sites, sign me up.

    If anything, I would say that the prominence of these sites like rottentomatoes and metacritic may have something to do with an overabundance of the trouble-bound critics you described above.

    Yes, yes, peoples’ attention spans are short. This is hardly breaking news, and it’s about time we stop digging the idea up to defend/justify/explain away anything and everything. Guess what?- I’m a people too and thus my attention span isn’t allowed on most rides at the Are You Talking (Writing) To Me? Fair. And yet (just as a recent example) I’d have never watched and enjoyed The Spirit had I relied upon its “freshness” percentage.

    Film critics, like most writers, ought to be realistic and sensitive first toward what captures their readers’ attention if they ever wish to eventually earn their interest, respect, allegiance. It’s a job that demands proficiency with numerous tools to be sure. But certainly snark and wit have their place among them.

  18. luluthebeast

    “Film critics, like most writers, ought to be realistic and sensitive first toward what captures their readers’ attention”

    I disagree. critics should be true to their beliefs and personal knowledge base, that’s how thet’ll earn my interest and respect. And screw everyone else. Many critics don’t have that knowledge base and end up sounding like idiots.

  19. Xanadon't

    I disagree. critics should be true to their beliefs and personal knowledge base

    No need to disagree, actually, as I was referring to the style in which they present an opinion/assessment. Not the opinion/assessment itself.

  20. Xanadon't

    Something more exciting? Or something snarkier?

    Either way, at present moment I’m operating on 3 hours sleep and just not quite up to the task- guess you’ll have to get your Father’s Day kicks elsewhere. Hope you’re having a happy one, btw.

  21. Ken Hanke

    It’s Sunday. That means I’m mostly working (and checking in on here because anyone who writes for a living lives for distractions). My big father’s day deal was my daughter giving me an Amazon certificate that I spent on Blu-rays of Rushmore and Fantastic Mr. Fox. (It wasn’t till Don Mancini pointed it out to me that I realized how appropriate Wes Anderson movies are for father’s day.)

  22. luluthebeast

    I’ll devour yer parrot, ye lily-livered landlubber… Swab the deck with your punt ideas!

    Any better?

  23. Me

    Nevermind I didn’t see that the post went through when i tried to post it the other day. I guess the new site does work with the Iphone.

  24. Me

    I agree with you Ken on what is snark and what is whit. I usually read reviews after i see the film, in this it would be refreshing for a critic to somewhat bring new light to a film that i otherwise didn’t see on the first viewing. I also like critics that have had some sort first hand experience, especially screenwriting in the film making process and can bring a deeper sense of what the filmmaker is going for. This is one of the things i like about the podcast Filmspotting there is no snark just insightful comment on what a film is trying to convey.

  25. DrSerizawa

    And I disagree with the idea that Ebert is the greatest movie critic ever — a lot.

    Same here. I’ve disagreed with so many of his opinions that I no longer bother to read them.

    I’m sure the explosion of internet reviewers has made things worse and has lowered the bar for wit or even cleverness.

    “If you disagree with me you’re stupid!”, seems to be the most common internet critic refrain.

    “Snark” just probably means that Ebert doesn’t like the review. If he agrees with it then the same sentiment becomes “wit”.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I also like critics that have had some sort first hand experience, especially screenwriting in the film making process and can bring a deeper sense of what the filmmaker is going for. This is one of the things i like about the podcast Filmspotting there is no snark just insightful comment on what a film is trying to convey.

    I would think a writer-director or a director would have a better sense of what the filmmaker was going for than a screenwriter would. I have no problem with “insightful comment on what a film is trying to convey,” but surely unless it’s coming from the filmmaker, it’s really just someone’s reading of what the film is trying to convey. That doesn’t make it “wrong” or without interest, it just doesn’t make it etched in stone.

    Ken do you have the Criterion of Bottle Rocket?

    No, it’s easily my least favorite of Anderson’s movies so I’ve never taken the leap.

  27. Ken Hanke

    Same here. I’ve disagreed with so many of his opinions that I no longer bother to read them.

    It’s not even that so much. I do read him and I frequently like the same things he does, but just as frequently for different reasons. He’s a great popularizer of movie criticism — and, in fact, his TV show probably did more damage to criticism in its knee-jerk simplicity, which helped usher in the idea that anybody can do this. In print, he often has a pleasant anecdotal style that makes him an easy read, but…and this is kind of key, when it comes to way too much stuff (as long as it’s not indie) his tastes are often pretty parochial. He’s also said things that have surprised me in the demonstration of the fact that he knows next to nothing about the mechanics of film exhibition, which I think is fairly essential. But bear in mind, the guy who was gushing over his untoppable greatness works for him.

  28. luluthebeast

    No, just because he can be such a whack job. But then there are times I feel the same way about a film, so perhaps it is intentional.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Nah. Everyone’s right occasionally.

    One of the great mysteries is why that paper fired Andrew Sarris (a contender for best movie critic ever) and kept him.

  30. Ken Hanke

    Just a coincidence with the TCM thing but Susan Tyrrell has died.

    Are you sure? Do you have an alibi? Does Robert Osborne?

    I may break out Forbidden Zone in her honor — and either A Hard Day’s Night or Help! for Victor Spinetti.

  31. Dionysis

    I’d take Robert Ebert or any hack blogger/critic over Michael Medved. A reanimated Gene Siskel would be better than that smarmy character.

  32. Dionysis

    Thanks for that link, Ken. I’d never heard of this person until now, but he sure sounds like a piece of work…of the self-absorbed knuckle-dragging variety.

    But I did notice that he shares with you a fondness for The Spirit.

  33. Dionysis

    I shouldn’t type so fast…or at least take the time to proof before hitting ‘submit’. I know Mr. Ebert’s first name is ‘Roger’, not ‘Robert’.

  34. Ken Hanke

    But I did notice that he shares with you a fondness for The Spirit.

    It is almost impossible for someone to be wrong 100% of the time.

  35. Ken Hanke

    I have an alibi.

    I actually paid money to see Bad Dreams on the big screen when it came out. In my defense, it was dollar night.

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