Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 19-25: Much Ado About Monster World Bling

In Theaters

This week we’ve got Shakespeare. We’ve got monsters. We’ve got zombies (and Brad Pitt). We’ve got teenage miscreants — I mean besides that bozo in the next row texting during the movie. That may not quite be something for everyone, but it comes darn close.

There will be much rejoicing in what is known as the “Whedonverse” this week, since Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing comes to The Carolina and the Fine Arts this week. Now, I’m not part of that Whedonverse, but I do like Mr. Shakespeare and I have seen the movie — at one of those screenings at the unClaptonly hour of 9 a.m., which is not really my idea of a good time. The hour may not have delighted me, but the movie — reviewed in this week’s Xpress — largely did. It’s funny, unpretentious, light on its feet, and really nice to look at in glossy black and white. Whedonites will likely get an extra kick out of its cast of veterans of Whedon’s TV shows. The rest of us can simply luxuriate in a pretty terrific movie in which nothing explodes.

Also up on the art film front is Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring — opening at The Carolina — a fact-based movie about a gang of upscale L.A. kids who robbed a number of celebrities’ houses a few years ago. I’m not really in tune with Coppola’s particular vibe, but those who are — and I know you’re out there — should find this to your liking. It’s nicely made, sometimes witty, and its youthful cast certainly conveys the sense of over-privileged entitlement necessary to the story. Emma Watson, as a particularly vapid member of the gang, continues to effectively distance herself from the Harry Potter movies. 

Then, of course, we have the mainstream offerings.

The latest from Pixar comes to us in the form of Monsters University, which — believe it or not — is essentially an origins story (what hath the comic book movie wrought?) for the stars of Monsters, Inc. (2001). It looks like it might as well have been called When Sulley Met Mike. I realize I’m a bit of a heretic when it comes to Pixar, but I can’t help but feel the studio is kind of running on fumes with all its sequels and now prequels. What was their last original film? Brave? No wonder they’re milking their cash cows — especially the ones that sell toys. I know I’m supposed to like Toy Story 3 (2010), but for me it’s all been downhill since Up (2009). The interesting thing about this one is that the early reviews — while mostly positive — couch their praise with words like “minor.” What most intrigues me about this one is the guest voice cast — Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Bonnie Hunt, Bill Hader, Aubrey Plaza — but I’m not sure that’s enough to actually sell me on it. It will undoubtedly be a hit, since there’s nothing else out there for the kiddie market at the moment (though Despicable Me 2 is apt to give it stiff competition come July 3).

Far more interesting to me is Marc Forster’s Brad Pitt vs. zombies movie, World War Z — a film with a troubled production history that is getting surprisingly good early reviews (better than Monsters University in fact). The most troubling aspect here for horror fans is that pesky PG-13 rating, which doesn’t go see well with the lunching dead. With the exception of the catoonish CGI-athon I Am Legend (2007), zombie pictures are by their very nature pretty bloody affairs, and this clearly won’t be. (In other words, no entrails will be eaten onscreen.) Then there’s the fact that Forster’s movie apparently departs significantly from its source book, which is going to be off-putting to yet another group. I remain cautiously hopeful on this one. Forster is an interesting, if uneven, filmmaker. While it’s undeniable that he’s never shown a flair for action (see Quantum of Solace), he did evidence a genuine talent for hallucinatory paranoia in Stay (2005). If this has even some of that quality, it will be something to see.

The main casualty this week is What Maisie Knew. I’m not sure yet — I haven’t seen a full list of theater times — but it also looks like The Great Gatsby will be off area screens come Friday.

Special Screenings

In addition to the usual run of screenings, this week also affords us the monthly Asheville Film Society Budget Big Screen showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) on Wednesday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. This is a rare chance to see one of Hitchcock’s best films as it was meant to be seen — and in a sparkling new restoration. Even if you saw it in 1959, it probably didn’t look — or sound — this good. This one definitely belongs on your moviegoing calendar — a chance to see a classic action thriller that understands pacing and doesn’t rely on CGI. Admission is $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public.

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980) on Thursday, June 20, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Alain Delon in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (1967) on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Jean Renoir’s Whirlpool of Fate (1925) on Sunday, June 23, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out their June screenings with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in Wesley Ruggles’ No Man of Her Own (1932) Tuesday, June 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The big title this week is Chan-wook Park’s Stoker —  one of the best films of 2013 to date. Also available — and of note — are Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer and Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet. I suppose it’s necessary to add The Last Exorcism Part II, though I can’t imagine why.

Notable TV Screenings

This is one of those weeks where you’re on your own. If there’s anything out of the ordinary on TCM, I didn’t spot it.

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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."

9 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 19-25: Much Ado About Monster World Bling

  1. Xanadon't

    Hmmm. I was much better at catching repeat viewings of my favorite films last year.

    Well at least in the case of Stoker, the home-viewing option has now arrived.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I was much better at catching repeat viewings of my favorite films last year.

    You know, I really wish I could make sport of you over this, but I haven’t done much better.

  3. DrSerizawa

    Dunno about “Z”. The previews were unimpressive CGI for me. And what it showed of the plot looked pretty much by-the-numbers off the “Plot-O-Matic”. Hope I’m wrong.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Since I’m not the one reviewing it, I can go ahead and say that I liked it more than I didn’t. Once you settle in with the idea that the whole thing is a little on the silly side and that way too much is on the convenient side and that Brad Pitt is a real zombie magnet, it’s entertaining. I didn’t find it too CGI and found most of the CGI first rate. (Maybe it’s remembering the cartoony I Am Legend suckering me into believing this is good.) It may be my favorite action blockbuster of the summer. How much that’s saying is another matter.

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