Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 5-11: Reluctant Sapphire Maisie Purge

In Theaters

It seems unlikely that we can hope for anything like the pretty spectacular disaster of After Earth this weekend — in large part because the mainstream offerings are less ambitious. Let’s face it, no one really wants the second week of their big shiny release going up against next week’s Superman re-boot. Still, there are two mainstream titles this week — and three art titles.

It’s unusual that we get three new art/indie titles in one week, but that’s the case this week. The Carolina is opening The Sapphires and The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the Fine Arts is opening What Maisie Knew. That’s a pretty heavy duty line-up. As is usually the case — since the art film world places a higher value on reviews — I’ve already seen all three of the movies and reviews are in this week’s paper. All of the films are worthy, but you’ll notice that I singled out The Sapphires for this week’s top film. Actually, that was a very close call — and it almost could have been The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which is a much more ambitious work — possibly too ambitious.

The Sapphires is a much simpler film — even an old fashioned one — but its simpler aims are more effectively achieved. The fact-based story of an Aborigine singing group getting their moment in the sun singing Motown tunes to the troops in Vietnam in 1968 is really nothing more than a pretty standard show-biz story. But it’s a show-biz story that’s given a freshness by virtue of its real-life underpinnings and its energetic and largely unknown cast (the closest thing to a star is Chris O’Dowd). It’s of the shameless, uplifting crowd-pleaser category — and with the bonus of a killer soundtrack. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with that — especially when it’s done this well. It’s the kind of film that will probably appeal to the same audience that so took to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last summer — and that’s an audience that’s been rather underserved so far this year.

Of course, in addition to this there are the week’s so-called big releases.

The first of these is The Internship — a slightly mystifying attempt to cash in on the previous pairing of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, which was Wedding Crashers eight years ago. Not only is this a pretty hefty wait between pictures, but the logic of following up a hugely successful R-rated raunchy comedy with a more “viewer friendly” PG-13 one seems a little fuzzy. And while replacing Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin isn’t necessarily a bad thing — after all, the man subsequently gave us Fred Claus and The Change-Up — replacing him with Shawn Levy is another matter. One might note that Levy did direct the fairly pleasing Date Night (2010), but that was after a run of some of the most dismal comedies of the 21st century — Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Pink Panther, and both Night at the Museum movies. The signs are just not good for this little opus about Wilson and Vaughn as overaged interns at Google. Equally gloom-inducing is the fact that there are no reviews at this point.

The other offering is James DeMonaco’s The Purge — a futuristic bit of sci-fi/horror about a society where all crime is legal for 12 hours once a year. Setting aside the questionable nature of the film’s “high concept” concept, it should be noted that DeMonaco’s work (mostly writing) includes Jack (1996), Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), and Skinwalkers (2006). I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t fill me with anticipation. This one seems to be more than a little influenced by Assault on Precinct 13 — right down to casting Ethan Hawke. The surprising thing about The Purge is that the British press — it opened in the U.K. last week — have been fairly supportive of the film. At the same time, the word from horror-centric reviewers (presumably the core audience for a film like this) has been much less rosy. I guess we can find out on Friday.

Despite the arrival of five new movies this week, we aren’t actually losing anything. That’s not so surprising when you realize the number of screens last week that were taken up with multiple copies of the same movie. Throw in the fact that the Fine Arts split Renoir and Mud (which still has a full set of shows at The Carolina) and the status remains the same.

Special Screening

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Ti West’s The House of the Devil (2009) at Thursday, June 6, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Lindsay Anderson’s If…. (1968) on Friday, June 7, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross (2011) Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Alfred E. Green’s Union Depot (1932) Tuesday, June 11, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The surprisingly good “zombie rom-com” Warm Bodies is the best of this week’s offerings, but, if you must, we also get A Good Day to Die Hard and Identity Thief.

Notable TV Screenings

It’s hardly surprising, but it’s always worth noting — James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is showing on TCM on Thu., June 6 at 8 p.m. On Friday night, starting at 8 p.m., TCM has an all night run of movies that have their basis in the writings (both literary and for the screen) of Dashiell Hammett. First up is Roy Del Ruth’s original version of The Maltese Falcon (1931). It’s followed (at 9:30) by Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets (1931). Then we have W.S. Van Dyke’s After the Thin Man (1936) at 11 p.m., Stuart Heisler’s The Glass Key (1942) at 1 a.m., John Huston’s version of The Maltese Falcon (1941) at 2:30 a.m., and William Dieterle’s downright strange version of The Maltese Falcon, Satan Met a Lady (1936) at 4:30 a.m. There are worse ways to lose sleep.

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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."

24 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 5-11: Reluctant Sapphire Maisie Purge

  1. Justin Souther

    Levy’s Real Steel was pretty great as far as family films about robots punching stuff go.

  2. Ken Hanke

    You had but to ask — I’m good with you reviewing The Internship.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    largely unknown cast (the closest thing to a star is Chris O’Dowd)

    This is one of those interesting cross-cultural things. In Australia, Mauboy is a pop star of some note who recently turned to film (think Jennifer Hudson) and Mailman is a well-known and acclaimed actress (think Viola Davis).

  4. Ken Hanke

    Unfortunately (I guess), Australian pop culture doesn’t make it here.

  5. Big Al

    “…this week’s top film…could have been The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which is a much more ambitious work..”

    The previews were VERY intriguing, especially considering that the book DID NOT live up to all of the hype around it. (I am now reading “Serena” and the film now in post-production will have to work hard to match it.)

    Giving a voice to the previously mute American who listens to the narrator, and Liev Schreiber’s voice at that (man-crush! There, I said it.), makes this a must-see for me.

    Also, the narrator’s bi-polar good-time girlfriend, while described as a thin blonde in the novel, fits very well with the usual supsects played by Kate Hudson, although why they had her dye her hair I don’t know (or maybe I am remembering the novel wrong? Bibliophiles, help he out here).

    Keifer Sutherland is a good choice for the uber-salesman, too.

    Hopefully this will ease the torment of having to wait ANOTHER week to see “Before Midnight” at FAT. I suppose I should not complain too much, as both “Mud” and Renoir” were excellent films, worth squeezing every dime out of in guid Scots fashion.

  6. Big Al

    “Unfortunately (I guess), Australian pop culture doesn’t make it here”

    I miss 1980s Kylie Minogue. I know she’s still around, but she just doesn’t seem the same. Or maybe I’m just too old.

  7. DrSerizawa

    If the trailers follow the usual procedure of showing the best bits then The Internship looks like a big yawn.

    Speaking of which I noticed that the trailer for The Lone Ranger shows far too much of various money shots including a very big one with a huge CGI bridge. I don’t get why they do that. For me showing too reduces my anticipation of a new film.

    Unforunately (I guess), Australian pop culture doesn’t make it here.

    Except for a few movies apparently. If I’d never been to Australia I’d have thought it populated entirely with leatherboys on Kawasakis. And Tom Sellec.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I’d have thought it populated entirely with leatherboys on Kawasakis

    What a perfect description of Young Jeremy.

  9. Dionysis

    “Unfortunately (I guess), Australian pop culture doesn’t make it here.”

    That’s probably true on a broad basis, but I’ve watched many Aussie films for a long time, starting with a movie called ‘Rikki and Pete’ back in the late 80s. The last one I recall seeing from Down Under was ‘Dust Devil’ (a pretty good movie).

    Also, I was a big fan of several Aussie and New Zealand bands back in the 80s and 90s, such as Mental As Anything (from Sydney) and Crowded House (NZ band). I still listen to them today.

  10. Ken Hanke

    played by Kate Hudson, although why they had her dye her hair I don’t know

    In the hope that we won’t recognize her?

    Hopefully this will ease the torment of having to wait ANOTHER week to see “Before Midnight” at FAT.

    I get to see that at a press screening on Saturday — at the unClaptonly hour of 9 a.m.

    “Mud” and Renoir” were excellent films, worth squeezing every dime out of in guid Scots fashion.

    Mud is still going pretty strong at The Carolina.

    I miss 1980s Kylie Minogue. I know she’s still around, but she just doesn’t seem the same. Or maybe I’m just too old.

    May not be the same, but she had a nice little role in Holy Motors.

  11. Ken Hanke

    The last one I recall seeing from Down Under was ‘Dust Devil’ (a pretty good movie).

    Maybe I’m wrong — or maybe there’s more than one movie under that name — but I thought Dust Devil was a South African movie from 20 years ago. Really, excepting Australia, this is the first notable Austrailian picture I remember seeing in a theater since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. No, tell a lie, since Rabbit-Proof Fence.

    • Dionysis

      You may be right; it’s been a few years since I saw it, and thought it was Australian. If it is 20 years old, then time does disappear faster and faster as one ages.

      I actually forgot that I recently saw an independent Aussie film that wasn’t bad. It was called ‘The Tunnel’, a horror film of sorts.

      I did not see Australia, but may catch it at some point.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Well, Australia is Luhrmann, so it’s very big and stylized.

  13. DrSerizawa

    Really, excepting Australia, this is the first notable Austrailian picture I remember seeing in a theater since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

    Has any movie out of Australia ever topped Priscilla? I can’t think of one.

  14. Ken Hanke

    If we’re talking about Australian movies that primarily are Australian — that is, not Australian pictures made with Hollywood money — it’s a hard one to beat, though I’m very keen on Ray Lawrence’s Bliss and John Duigan’s Sirens, too. All three are so different from each other that I’d find it hard to compare them. I know I’m supposed to like Peter Weir’s films, but I’ve never quite worked up the enthusiasm.

  15. Ken Hanke

    The fact that the Downey thing is Magnolia makes it a possibility for The Carolina. Thing is, it won’t make a nickel. Personally, I had more than enough of Morton Downey when he was on TV without wanting more.

    i just bumped the newly restored Wake in Fright to the top of my Netflix que

    For Ted Kotcheff completists.

  16. Me

    Im i imagining things or was The Bling Ring once on the Carolinas coming soon page?

    Is the official release date not mid June?

  17. Ken Hanke

    I have it down as tentatively opening at The Carolina June 21.

    “Official” dates on limited releases often have little meaning in terms of when they’ll get here, which I’d think you know by now.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I’ve seen the trailer. We’ve known for some time that it’s going to be a drama. I’m trying not to let Dice Clay’s presence sour me on it.

  19. M

    If anyone still cares the Pussy Riot documentary premieres on HBO monday night.

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