Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 5-11: Generation 300 Rise of Mr. Peabody

In Theaters

OK, the Oscars — where it was decided that 12 Years a Slave made itself — are over, so now we can start worrying about next year. Something tells me that nothing coming our way this week will be involved. We have but two mainstream titles and one art title, though the art title is so long that it’s in two parts and perhaps should count as two movies. It will, I imagine, come as no surprise that it’s the one film I’ve seen. The other two … well, we’ll see about those. And, no, despite what you may have heard, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel won’t make it to Asheville till March 21.

Before getting down to this, I suppose a few words are due about the Oscars. I toyed with doing a post-mortem piece, but quickly found that I had very little to say. Apart from being pleased that Catherine Martin picked up Oscars for The Great Gatsby, that The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language Film, and that Mr. Hublot snagged Best Animated Short Film, nothing exactly surprised me. It went down about as predictably as might be imagined — though this business of Best Picture and Best Director going to different movies seems wrong-headed. I didn’t and don’t get all the gush over Gravity — even as a “ground-breaking” technical achievement … well, it ain’t no 2001. Giving Her a screenplay Oscar strikes me as ludicrous. Oh, sure, it’s got an interesting premise, but the execution is another matter. Otherwise, I can’t really fault anything, but the show itself was stiffer than Kim Novak’s face. Oh, yes, some of the speeches were nice, especially from Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o.

Now, about this art film that’s opening at The Carolina — it’s called Generation War and was originally shown in Germany (where it was made) as a three-part miniseries. What we get is a two-part film weighing in at over 4 1/2 hours. Don’t be misled by its TV origins. It looks and feels like a feature film. The scope and the production values are definitely that good. And it’s a good — but not great — movie. The question is whether America is ready for a film in which the heroes (flawed as they are) are mostly on the side of the Nazis in World War II is another matter. Some feel the film is a whitewash job, but I didn’t feel that way. I don’t even think it’s especially sympathetic, merely that it tries (without always succeeding) to understand these characters. If you want to invest the time, I think you’ll find it effective and thoughtful entertainment. Read my review in this week’s paper for a more thorough take on it. (I have yet to be able to find out if the two parts require separate admissions. Apparently, they did when the film was shown in Los Angeles.)

Otherwise, our first mainstream candidate is 300: Rise of an Empire, which is not, for some reason, directed by “visionary” Zack Snyder, though he is a producer and co-writer of the screenplay. The directing chores were turned over Noam Murro, whom you probably don’t know unless you had the grave misfortune of seeing the inaptly named Smart People (2008). I have to say I have no desire to see this, having intensely disliked 300 — and having been called all sorts of names (and told that the Spartans died for my freedom) because of it. I expect this to be more of the same. (Am I the only person who think that from any distance, the poster looks like the silhouette of a spectacularly pregnant woman?) CGI blood, gleaming torsos, lots of shouting, etc. I believe Mr. Souther can have this and I’ll take the option.

The option is Mr. Peabody & Sherman — a computer animated take on the “Peabody’s Improbable History” segments from the Rocky and His Friends TV series (1959-61), and syndicated under other names ever since. The concept, if you don’t know, was that Mr. Peabody is a super smart scientist dog with a boy pal named Sherman. With the aid of Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (Way-Back) machine they time traveled to somewhat unlikely historical events. The film would appear to have Mr. Peabody adopting Sherman (I think he was more like Mr. Peabody’s pet on the show) and then recruiting a girl as a playmate for the boy. When nothing impresses the girl, Sherman shows her the WABAC and the two of them predictably damage the fabric of time, etc. Ty Burrell gives voice to Mr. Peabody and Max Charles (TV’s The Neighbors) does the honors for Sherman. The movie was directed by Rob Minkoff, who not surprisingly is being touted as the co-director of The Lion King (1994) and not as the guy who made The Haunted Mansion (2003).

The only thing of note we lose this week is In Secret, which was pretty much a given. In fact, thanks to the Oscars both 12 Years a Slave and Gravity have gone back to full schedules.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is a double bill of Bela Lugosi — Ben Stoloff’s Night of Terror (1933) and Wallace Fox’s The Corpse Vanishes (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 6 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing David Lean’s Hobson’s Choice (1954) on Friday, March 7 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all movies in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The biggie this week is, of course, 12 Years a Slave. though if you haven’t seen it, I really do suggest catching it on the big screen while you still can. Otherwise, we have The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Grandmaster — and for those of you who have to see for yourselves why it died before making it town, Spike Lee’s Oldboy hits DVD this week.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM is doing a Mary Astor month, and to this end, on Wednesday, March 5 they have William Wyler’s magnificent Dodsworth (1936) at 8 p.m., Edmund Goulding’s engaging soaper The Great Lie (1941) at 10 p.m. and Alan Crossland’s silent John Barrymore swashbuckler Don Juan (1926) at midnight.

Late night, on Friday, March 7 at 2:30 a.m. (technically Sat. a.m.) TCM is showing Ken Russell’s breakthrough film of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love (1969) — I assume with all its nudity (including the wrestling match between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed) intact. (When we screened this film last year, the lady sitting next to me merely said, “Oh … my …”) If you have never seen this, it’s a must. Sadly, the film is only available on an old, non-anamorphic DVD, so it’s becoming relatively rare. (Climbs on soapbox.) This film really needs a proper Blu-ray release — are you listening, MGM? Seriously, this is the movie for which Glenda Jackson won her first Oscar. The film itself was nominated, as was Russell for director. It’s a major work from a major filmmaker — and it deserves better treatment than it’s been given. (Climbs down.)

 

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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."

23 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 5-11: Generation 300 Rise of Mr. Peabody

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    (When we screened this film last year, the lady sitting next to me merely said, “Oh … my …”)

    There’s a pull quote for the Criterion edition.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I thought works that start as TV series are not worthy “of even being called movies”.

    Generally speaking that’s true, but there’s a difference between a theatrical quality production that hasn’t been shown in this country and is being presented complete and uncut, and something that’s been cut out of a low-budget History Channel show that was on TV here last year.

  3. Ken Hanke

    If anybody liked Frances Ha and is interested, Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming has just been added to Netflix streaming.

    Thanks. That I will check into, though Baumbach is currently at the 50% mark for me.

  4. swilder

    Burnett and Downey’s Bible series cost $22 million. While that may be on the Hollywood low end, its no Sherwood Baptist production either. I was surprised by how much of Son of God was NOT on TV last year. I have to wonder if a theatrical release wasnt always in the plans or perhaps even more episodes than first aired.

  5. Big Al

    I enjoyed “300″ despite the MANY historical inaccuracies because I went into it knowing that it was a comic-book adaptation and am a big fan of Gerard Butler and Lena Headly (ah, those Scots!!).

    For some reason I was not willing to surrender to those creative anachronisms for “Rise of an Empire”, especially since I mistook the warrior queen in the previews for the pasty, dull chick from “Twilight”.

    BUT having learned it is Eva Green (wolf howl here), that her performance has been lauded, and that girl-who-is-a-friend just saw “300″ and is ga-ga for the sequel, well, I guess I have been won over.

  6. Dionysis

    I think I’ll refrain from going to the theatre for the next couple of months to try and catch up on the many DVDs I’ve never gotten around to watching. I might, however, throw in the 1962 ’300 Spartans’, which I like in spite of Richard Egan’s somewhat wooden performance.

    While it may not be high art, I’m actually looking forward to the forthcoming re-make of Godzilla. The previews were great. Heck, I might even go for broke and see it in 3D.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Burnett and Downey’s Bible series cost $22 million. While that may be on the Hollywood low end, its no Sherwood Baptist production either.

    But there’s what — 22 hours worth of episodes?

  8. Ken Hanke

    I think I’ll refrain from going to the theatre for the next couple of months to try and catch up on the many DVDs I’ve never gotten around to watching

    I can relate to that, but even if I wasn’t a critic, you couldn’t keep me away The Grand Budapest Hotel on March 21.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Ken, have you heard anything on Nymphomaniac or Jodorowsky’s Dune coming to Asheville?

    Nothing on Dune, Chris, but Nymphoniac Part One is curently down for 4/4 and Part Two for 4/18.

  10. swilder

    Only ten hours Ken. Is Justin getting punnished with “God Is Not Dead” in a few weeks or are you taking one for the team?

  11. Ken Hanke

    What about The Double or Under The Skin have you heard anything on those Ken?

    Neither are set. The Double doesn’t open till May 9 in limited, but being that it’s from Magnolia, it’s like The Carolina will book it, unless it flops big time. Under the Skin opens in limited in April, but I haven’t heard anything yet.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Is Justin getting punnished with “God Is Not Dead” in a few weeks or are you taking one for the team?

    Why does it matter? I don’t envision you skipping a faith-based movie with one of the guys from Duck Dynasty anyway. But we haven’t discussed by whom or even if it will be reviewed.

  13. swilder

    I’ll probably go in camos. On a serious note…I think I will DVR the Russell film late tonight to save for a day when I’m in just the right mood for such.

  14. Ken Hanke

    And eating Zaxby’s…

    Women in Love is probably best saved for the right mood, especially if you’re not generally on KR’s or Lawrence’s wavelength.

  15. DrSerizawa

    Dune… Dune… Dune. A pretty good book but it made a pretty poor movie. It’s one of those books that worked far better as a miniseries than a movie. Like Shogun. Novels like those need larger treatment than you can get in a couple of hours. Unless you reboot it. Maybe JJ Abrams could take it on? Instead of thoughtful intrigue he could replace Muad’dib with some Dolf Lundgrenlike character with a broadsword. Certainly the sun of Arrakis is bright enough to generate many many lens flares.

    Personally, I’d rather see National Lampoon’s Doon cinematized. Imagine wonderful 3D CGI expanses of Giant Pretzels roaming the endless sugars of the Planet Arruckus. Arruckus, the only planet of the empire where beer is found.

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