Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 29-June 4: After Frances Ha You See Me (Updated)

A friend of mine who saw all three of last week’s releases (that’s one up on me) told me he’d convinced himself he didn’t see any new movies last week. His ability to block things from his mind is greater than mine. Plus, apart from this week’s art title, I see no great hope that this week is going to any better. However, that art film,Frances Ha, makes up for much.

Before getting into this week’s movies, let me note that this week’s column is going to have a kind of work-in-progress feel to it. Blame it on Memorial Day, which has left me without much in the way of theater listings, and not a clue (well, I could guess) as to what films are leaving local screens this week. Check back online. Information should be coming in today and tomorrow.

For me, the big news this week is Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (opening Friday at The Carolina) — a film I was primed to like on the basis of the trailer (I’m a sucker for a well-placed Bowie song) and the presence of Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film). I was not, however, prepared to like it as much as I do. Indie films — especially ones about the ennui of late 20-somethings — are often too much more-of-the-same with characters that are more irritating than endearing. Happily, that is not the case here. You can check out the review in this week’s paper, along with excerpts from an interview I had with Greta Gerwig (the full interview will be in the online edition).

That brings us to the mainstream titles.

First up is After Earth. This is the movie that the studio is praying you don’t notice was directed and co-written by M. Night Shyamalan — a name long associated with empty theaters. That fills me with less dread than the fact that this is a father and son enterprise for Will Smith and and son Jaden. Smith’s original story (yes, he wrote it) involved a father and son on a camping trip where dad gets hurt and junior has to face the perils of the wilderness to get help. Somehow it grew into futuristic sci-fi with the two crashing on the now uninhabited planet Earth — well, not entirely uninhabited since it’s apparently full of animals and some alien creatures who like to eat people. Your level of enthusiasm will probably depend of your fondness for Will Smith, but it is perhaps worth noting that it has not been shown to critics and there aren’t even any “fan” reviews on the IMDb. Proceed with caution.

And then there’s Now You See Me — another film in the unseen by critics realm. This one comes from action director (The Transporter) turned big-budget comic book director (The Incredible Hulk) turned fantasy director (Wrath of the Titans) Louis Letterier, who has now become a heist/caper movie director. It all has to do with a group of stage magicians who pull off impossible heists during their act and showering money on their audience. The hook here is the big cast — Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. This could go either way, but there’s a possibility that it will go down in history as the film where Morgan Freeman nodded off during a live TV interview while touting it.

This week we say goodbye to both The Place Beyond the Pines and The Company You Keep (both at The Carolina). I’d held out some hope for Pines getting one more week, but no. And in a move that will surprise no one, Java Heat is going south as well.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Al Rogell’s The Black Cat (1941) Thursday, May 30, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table (1990) Friday, May 31, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will run Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby (1974) Sunday, June 2, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening Roy Del Ruth’s pre-code comedy-melodrama Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) Tuesday, June 4 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s paper — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The only new release of a mainstream theatrical title this week to the pretty darn dismal Dark Skies. I would advise against it. Strongly.

Notable TV Screenings

The masochistically-minded may want to wade through the Bob Hope-athon on TCM Wednesday, May 29 starting at 6 a.m. with The Seven Little Foys (1955) and it’s mostly downhill from there. I admit to a lingering childhood fondness for The Road to Hong Kong (1962) and Call Me Bwana (1963) — showing at 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., respectively — but after that, the rest of the day is just God awful.

SHARE
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."

16 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 29-June 4: After Frances Ha You See Me (Updated)

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    And then there’s Now You See Me

    Unless I’m missing something, this looks really promising. Love the cast, really enjoyed THE TRANSPORTER and I’m a sucker for a good caper yarn.

    Of course, it could be terrible, but I’m hoping not.

    This is the movie that the studio is praying you don’t notice was directed and co-written by M. Night Shyamalan

    I’d seen the posters and trailer for this and hadn’t the faintest clue he was involved.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Think of me as a kind of consumer protection agency in this instance. (Though in all honesty, I wanted no part of it when I saw the Smiths pere et fil starring.)

  3. Big Al

    This year we have had TWO “Earth after the parasitic humans leave” films (and these are just recyled ideas from “Earth A.E.” and “Wall-E”) and TWO “White House under attack” films (blatent plagiarism of Vince Flynn’s first Mitch Rapp novel, and shortly after the announcement that its’ adaptation had been rejected in favor of a prequel).

    Can’t Hollywood come up with an original idea for a change?

    This is why 90% of the films I watch are indies.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Can’t Hollywood come up with an original idea for a change?

    Why should they when they can rake in money by selling the same old load of clams?

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    Can’t Hollywood come up with an original idea for a change?

    This is why 90% of the films I watch are indies.

    I don’t find the indie world to be any bastion of originality.

    That aside, I’ll take something good and entertaining like, say, JJ Abram’s STAR TREK over something miserable but original any day.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I find myself agreeing with and disagreeing with you both in something close to equal measure. Originality for its own sake is no guarantee of quality. Then too, there is a kind of cookie cutter quality to a lot of indies these days. Well, not really “these days,” since it’s been going on for years. Plus, indie has come to emrace so much that it’s almost meaningless. Both Danny Boyle’s Trance and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers come under that vague heading — and I can’t think of two films less alike.

  7. Big Al

    I was not commenting so much on originalty per se, but two or more movies on the same friggin subject IN THE SAME YEAR? C’mon!

    My preference for indies is that they are more likely to be stories about real people dealing with real life and real problems, not the usual megaplex offerings of supernatural slashers, alien invasions and impossibly stupid rom-coms.

  8. Ken Hanke

    two or more movies on the same friggin subject IN THE SAME YEAR? C’mon!

    It really is nothing new. It’s been going on as long as there have been movies. It’s just that entertainment news has grown so much that nothing happens that you don’t hear about.

    My preference for indies is that they are more likely to be stories about real people dealing with real life and real problems, not the usual megaplex offerings of supernatural slashers, alien invasions and impossibly stupid rom-coms.

    A broad brush is what you are painting with indeed. And so far this year, I think you’ve gravitated toward a mix — certainly neither Beautiful Creatures, nor Gatsby are indies. Mud is. Trance (I think you liked it) is sort of indie. Then again, you didn’t like The Place Beyond the Pines, which is indie. But then you liked Star Trek — about as far from indie as you can get (and ultimately an alien invasion movie in the bargain).

  9. Jeremy Dylan

    By the way, how are we defining ‘indie’ these days? Is it all movies not financed by Warner Brothers, Sony, Paramount, Universal, MGM or Disney?

  10. Ken Hanke

    By strict definition that would be an indie (though you left out Fox), but indies have by and large been co-opted by the majors in one way or another. Most of the majors have some arm devoted to acquiring, promoting, and releasing independently made films — Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Vantage, Focus Features (Universal). Now, where you want to place things like Magnolia Pictures or IFC in that…I don’t know. Generally, indie and arthouse have come to be lumped together. Mostly, I tend to think any film that isn’t on 2000 screens at one time should qualify on some level. It constantly shifts, too. There are movies that were general releases 40 years ago — Clockwork Orange, Lisztomania, Phantom of the Paradise — that would almost certainly be specialty releases now.

  11. Me

    These day’s the real indie’s are probably the super low budget films like The Color Wheel or Sun Don’t Shine.

  12. DrSerizawa

    I generally do like caper flicks. But the names “Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson” generally have me running away from the cinema. “Isla Fisher” is an unknown quantity to me. Morgan Freeman is more and more into an “anything with a paycheck” career. I always like Michael Caine but I don’t think he’s enough. I think I’ll pass unless I get some rave recs on it.

    “Indies” have become too much stuck-in-a-rut with the same tropes and “insights” apparently being required for approval from the “edgy” crowd. Well, they think they’re edgy, but really too often ruled by the same tropes… evil caucasians, evil capitalism, evil homophobes, evil military, etc etc ad nauseum. I may even agree with such sentiments but they have been way too much overdone. I doubt I will ever see an indie about the soul destroying effects of the welfare state or the rampant corruption of facets of the environmental movement. But as noted the term “indie” becomes meaningless since the studios are going to get involved in anything that sells tickets.

    When I think “indie” I think “Pi” or “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” not something with an “all star” cast.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Eisenberg doesn’t immediately bother me. I usually like Ruffalo. Harrelson is strictly based on the role for me (but then that’s true of everyone these days) as being acceptable. I think Isla Fisher is pretty great, but rarely in anything that takes advantage of her talent.

    I doubt I will ever see an indie about the soul destroying effects of the welfare state or the rampant corruption of facets of the environmental movement.

    Well, for the former you need look no further than the Atlas Shrugged movies.

    But as noted the term “indie” becomes meaningless since the studios are going to get involved in anything that sells tickets.

    The terms isn’t so much meaningless as it is changing. A hundred years ago (seems funny to say that), it was anybody breaking the Edison stranglehold. One of the biggest of these was Carl Laemmle, who turned out to found Universal Pictures. It then quickly turned out to be any number of fly-by-night movie companies operating under an overwhelming assortment of names. The best of what indies produced was usually bought by a movie company like United Artists. Believe it or not Sam Goldwyn was essentially an indie — he made one movie at a time and then released them through UA or RKO or whichever studio would handle them. It just changes with the times. Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah has an MGM logo on it, but Ken actually made the movie on his own money (second mortgages can be helpful). There was a heyday of indies in the sense we think of them in the late 70s, the 80s and the 90s. Pi was actually distributed by Lionsgate. The game has pretty much always been to find a distributor. It’s rare that any of these movies really make a lot of money — for every Slumdog Millionaire or Midnight in Paris, there are scads of things like Chicken with Plums (undeservedly) and Sound of My Voice (deservedly) that never got near breaking a million.

  14. DrSerizawa

    Well, for the former you need look no further than the Atlas Shrugged movies.

    Hahaha. Good joke.

  15. Me

    “indie about the soul destroying effects of the welfare state or the rampant corruption of facets of the environmental movement.”

    Isn’t that the new Brit Marling film?

Leave a Reply