Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 6-12: First Position Prometheus Madagascar Companion

In Theaters

A documentary! Animation! Science Fiction! Heart-warming comedy! No, they’re not all in one movie (but, boy, there’s an idea for you). They are, however, all coming our way this week. They do say that variety is the spice of life. Now we shall see if it’s the spice of moviegoing.

Both the documentary — First Position — and the heart-warming comedy — Darling Companion — fall into the art film category (both opening at The Carolina). That, as is often the case, means that they’ve both been seen and reviewed and the reviews are in this week’s paper.

Though it may sound like it, First Position is not some kind of Kama Sutra for beginners. No, this is a documentary about a ballet competition. And while I’ve already viewed it, I would like to note that since it is a film about a competition — following six young dancers — it also has something a great many documentaries are shy on, and that’s a dramatic arc. Indeed, the film generates a good deal of suspense in its final scenes, since by then we have an interest in who makes good and how good they make. I suspect this is one of those documentaries that will appeal to people who don’t generally go for documentaries.

Darling Companion you may have heard of. It’s from director Lawrence Kasdan and has a strong cast including Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard. And it also has some of the more blistering reviews of the year — mostly, I think, because its pedigree suggests a much better film than is delivered. I won’t defend the movie, but I didn’t think it was as bad as has been said in many quarters, and I think there’s an audience who will like it.

Now, on to the mainstream.

I’m sure there’s a market for this latest Madagascar entry, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. There always seems to be a market for kiddie movies — even the mediocre ones, and this particular series is at least on the high end of mediocrity. I don’t see how it can fail, actually. It has the same voice cast — Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer — and it’s virtually the same story. In other words, it has the core cast trying to get back to the zoo in New York … again — or maybe it’s still. The oddest thing here is that the screenplay was co-written by Noah Baumach. Then again, he did co-write the screenplay for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), so perhaps it’s not that strange after all. The fact is I have nothing against the idea of another one of these movies — not even in 3D — but I’m certainly not excited by the prospect.

Most of the excitement this week appears to be centered on Ridley Scott’s much-ballyhooed return to science fiction with Prometheus. Is it a prequel to Alien? Or is it not a prequel to Alien? That seems to have been the question — and it doesn’t seem to be exactly settled by the film’s appearance overseas or by U.S. critics. The closest we have gotten is that it’s “sort of” a prequel. The biggest question should be, is it any good? Well, the reviews thus far are mostly good — or at least positive (there is a difference). Now, that only includes three of what Rotten Tomatoes calls “Top Critics,” which actually refers to the source of the review (e.g., New York Times), not the critic. And only one of those three is someone I’d pay any attention to (naming no names). The most intriguing review I’ve read is from Luke Y. Thompson — go here. I should probably admit that I know Luke — we’ve hung out on the back platform of the Carmike and he’s commented occasionally on the Xpress site. (This doesn’t mean we always agree, mind you.) That to one side, his is the first review (he actually ID’s it as an Alien prequel) to get me genuinely interested in seeing Prometheus — and to see it in 3D for that matter.

This week changes very little as concerns what we lose in the art/indie titles. That’s no big surprise, since neither The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, nor Bernie are likely to make quick exits. The only departing title is the documentary Undefeated, which is also not that surprising, since it’s a documentary.

Special Screenings

Since The Carolina’s transition to digital projection will be a fait accompli by Friday, we’re back to a full set of the usual special screenings this coming week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening Roman Polanski’s (“No one does it to you like Roman Polanski”) The Tenant (1976) on Thursday, June 7, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema closes out the Twin Rivers Media Festival with A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 8, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast (1988) is this week’s film from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, June 10, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Mitchell Leisen’s Easy Living (1937) on Tuesday, June 12, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress with expanded content in the online edition.

On DVD

This week you get the chance to see whether or not you think John Carter actually deserved its fate at the box office — also whether or not Bad Ass ought to have had more screen life locally than at ActionFest, and possibly why Machine Gun Preacher got virtually no release at all. Also coming out we have Act of Valor, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and Safe House. It’s even more worth noting that Yellow Submarine is finally out again and on Blu-ray, too.

Notable TV Screenings

Starting at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6, TCM has a full day of classic horror — Frankenstein (1931), Doctor X (1932), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Freaks (1932), The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Mad Love (1935), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). I’m not sure why, but I’m not complaining. And if that’s not enough they have The Black Cat (1934) on at 11:15 p.m. on Friday, June 8.

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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."

22 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 6-12: First Position Prometheus Madagascar Companion

  1. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I’ve seen the Django Unchained trailer. I reckon it falls about fourth on films I’m really looking forward to.

  2. Xanadon't

    Okay, I’ll take a crack at it:
    1. Moonrise Kingdom
    2. The Great Gatsby
    3. Hmmm, what could three possibly be? Oh, of course -the ads are already up- That’s My Boy, the great Adam Sandler’s latest.
    4. Django Unchained

    Think I’ve got you pegged, Ken.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Well, you’re damned close, but — while I appreciate the thought — no. 3 is slightly off the mark. (And, no, it’s not that ghastly looking Rock of Ages either.)

  4. Xanadon't

    Huh. Well then unless Kevin Spacey and Rob Schneider have a buddy comedy coming out that I’m not aware of, I’m stumped.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Good Lord — what an idea!

    I’ll give you a hint — you were warmish on the ethnic level with Adam Sandler.

  6. Ken Hanke

    But it’s a musical!

    Full of songs I didn’t much like in the first place — not to mention a bunch of guys in silly looking wigs.

  7. luluthebeast

    From V:
    The June box office is getting a jolt from 3D newcomers “Prometheus” and “Madagascar 3,” as early Friday afternoon estimates have the pair neck-and-neck with $22 million to $26 million for the day — each is now streaking toward a $60 million-plus weekend.

    Maybe the beasties will take it. Wait…they both have beasties, maybe the fake ones. Wait…they both have fake beasties. We need a real beastie, like a ….MOOSE!

  8. Me

    Ken do you know if we are getting Safety Not Guaranteed? Its been at the top of my list since i heard about it at Sundance.

  9. Andy

    I’m sure Ken has it at the top of hist list as well. Nothing like another run-of-the-mill indie flick starting Mark Duplass.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Ghastly would be a good description of that Great Gatsby trailer.

    Yes, I expected you to feel that way.

    As for Safety Not Guaranteed, I have no idea.

  11. Ken Hanke

    I’m sure Ken has it at the top of hist list as well. Nothing like another run-of-the-mill indie flick starting Mark Duplass.

    I’m positively a-dither.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I will say this for Safety Not Guaranteed — the trailer makes it look better than most things that get raved about at Sundance and certainly better than anything I’ve seen Mr. Duplass in before. Now, if they can keep the ending from being a lemon…

  13. Me

    The script does sound pretty original, i think it is based on a real ad. I could have sworn i seen that ad posted around the internet before i even heard of the film.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I don’t trust Ebert much when he’s in the land of the indie.

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