Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 12-18: Need for Better Father Chemistry Club

In Theaters

Where did all these movies come from? That’s a rhetorical question, but there are six of the things this week — six. I know rabbits that don’t breed like that. (And before anybody asks, Veronica Mars is a limited release and to the best of my knowledge is not opening here — at least not this week.) We’ve got three art titles, two mainstream titles and one that isn’t really either one. Come with me and I will explain.

With three art titles opening, you would think that I would have already seen all three and that reviews would be in this week’s paper. It follows as the night the day and all that. Normally, that would be true, but a certain particular theater manager (who shall remain nameless) rather fell down on the job. So only two of the three are reviewed in this week’s paper — Better Living Through Chemistry and Like Father, Like Son (both opening Friday at The Carolina).

Neither of these are exactly high profile releases — even as art titles. The first — and slighter — of the two is the indie comedy Better Living Through Chemistry. This is a likable little picture made by a pair first-timers — Geoff Moore and David Posamentier — who have written a clever screenplay that suffers from calling its shots far too soon. The duo are too concerned with everything being tidy, and the result is that it’s all so tidy that it becomes predictable. They did direct it all with a degree of style that helps, but the film’s real saving grace is that it stars Sam Rockwell, who manages to make it all worthwhile.

More noteworthy, but with probably less broad appeal, is the Japanese film Like Father, Like Son from writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda — a filmmaker of some note, whose works have previously not played locally. Kore-eda is a nice addition to our cinema landscape. Like Father, Like Son takes one of the wheeziest of all premises — infants switched at birth — and manages to turn it into a truly compelling drama with only a little melodrama and the slightest touch of soapiness. The review for both it and Better Living Through Chemistry are in this week’s Xpress.

Now, let’s look at the other titles.

The Art of the Steal (a film that unfortunately boasts the same title as a fairly recent documentary) is the week’s offering that is neither art, nor mainstream. It is, however, an indie — one that’s being shown on a split bill for one week, more or less to fufill a contractual obligation by the distributor that the movie receives some kind of theatrical release. What is it? It’s some sort of caper/con comedy starring Kurt Russell as a daredevil art thief named Crunch Calhoun (yes, that’s what it says) who goes on one of those always ill-advised “final jobs.” Also in the cast are Matt Dillon, Terence Stamp and Jay Baruchel. While it’s true that the circumstances of its appearance are less than promising, some of these films that show up like this — take Populaire from last year — are better than you expect.

And then there’s Sebastián Lelio’s highly-acclaimed Gloria, which opens Friday at the Fine Arts. Yes, this is the third art title — and though it didn’t get it reviewed, I did manage to see it last night. I’m willing to say that it deserves its accolades and that 99 percent approval rating it boasts on Rotten Tomatoes (even if I inherently distrust the value of review aggregation sites). Certainly, its star, Paulina Garcia, deserves all her praise. The film is from Chile and it explores territory American cinema wouldn’t touch with a stick — the love life of a nearly 60-year-old divorced woman. It’s also surpringly frank in what it shows. The film is slightly difficult to categorize because it doesn’t have much of a plot. It just drops in on a period of its main character’s life, a period where she decides to open herself up to the attentions of a man for the first time in years — with everything that entails. It’s a mixture of charming and poignant with a tone that is ultimately life-affirming and very worth your while. It opens Friday at the Fine Arts.

The week’s most mainstream title — I guess — is something called Need for Speed. I am told this is based on a popular video game. Since my familiarity with video games doesn’t extend much beyond playing Tetris on the original Gameboy, it surprises me not at all that I have never heard of this game. It appears to be about street racing, revenge and a main character with a price on his head (but don’t they all in these things?) It stars Aaron Paul, who is apparently a big deal because of Breaking Bad. Also in the film are Dominic Cooper (who just isn’t having the career he should be) and the unfortunately named Imogen Poots. Frankly, I can’t make heads or tails out of this. I look through the film’s photos and feel like I’m looking at a muscle car magazine that’s been tricked out with women who would be at home in one of those Carl’s Jr. commercials. I presume it is no mystery as to who will be reviewing this? (Hint: it won’t be me.)

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m dodging all the bullets. As the resident expert on matters Tyler Perry, I will be attending his latest opus Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club. By my reckoning this is Perry’s 16th theatrical release (I’m counting the one he didn’t direct) — and I have seen every single one of them. I have come to wear this as a badge of honor. I feel pretty certain that I have seen more of these than any other person in my demographic. This is one of those movies where Perry is in the film, but he isn’t dressed on Madea drag. (Come on, we just had that at Christmas.) That means it will probably not be among his bigger money-makers. The film has the least publicity of any Tyler Perry movie I can recall. The official description: “Brought together by an incident at their children’s school, a group of single mothers from different walks of life bond, and create a support group that helps them find comedy in the obstacles of life” is extremely vague. Anyway, I will be there Friday morning for round 16 with Mr. Perry.

This week we are losing Omar at the Fine Arts. The Carolina is dropping Generation War (boy, did that bomb), Kill Your Darlings, Her and Philomena (seriously, it’s been there since the end of November)

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show will be screening The Curse of the Cat People (1944) on Thursday, March 13 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Match 14 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will be running John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952) on Sunday, March 16 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month-long Philip Seymour Hoffman tribute with Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York (2008) on Tuesday, March 18 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The biggie this week is the Coen Brother’s Inside Llewyn Davis, but The Book Thief—flawed though it certainly is—isn’t bad. That’s probably more than can be said for Out of the Furnace, though it has its adherents. On the other hand, there’s Homefront.

Notable TV Screenings

I’m afraid I have run out of time to do these this week. I will update this tomorrow.

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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."

19 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 12-18: Need for Better Father Chemistry Club

  1. Steven

    [b]World Cinema is showing Lars von Trier’s Antichrist[/b]

    Dear God, why?

    I can’t think of an art-house film that’s set to be released this year that I’m more uninterested in than [i]Nymphomaniac[/i]. I do look forward to your review, though, if it does happen to come to Asheville.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Oh, it’s coming. I have Part One down for 4/4 and Part Two for 4/18. See? You’ll get two reviews! Now, I should note that, yes, I loathed Antichrist, I liked much about Melancholia. That said, Nymphomaniac looks…well, not good to me. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    Brought together by an incident at their children’s school, a group of single mothers from different walks of life bond, and create a support group that helps them find comedy in the obstacles of life

    Which one does Perry play?

  4. Me

    Just rented Nymphomaniac Volume One on Amazon Instant Video today, also i caught up with The Great Beauty the other day and you were right Ken 5 stars all the way on that one.

  5. Me

    I heard 20 Feet From Stardom was coming back to theaters this weekend, is that true?

  6. Ken Hanke

    It wouldn’t surprise me, but it’s not coming back to Asheville so far as I’ve heard. At least not this week.

  7. Me

    Nymphomaniac Volume One might be the worst thing ive ever seen from Lars Von Trier, but it also might be the greatest fly fishing film ever made.

  8. Edwin Arnaudin

    but it also might be the greatest fly fishing film ever made.

    Better than A River Runs Through It and Libeled Lady?

  9. Ken Hanke

    I grant you that it’s probably not as good as Libeled Lady, but oral surgery is better than A River Runs Through It.

  10. Ken Hanke

    It’s the 21st at both theaters (unless someone has done something I’m unaware of) and it is magnificent.

  11. Steven

    [b] and it is magnificent.[/b]

    You just had to add that little nugget.

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