Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 16-22: Twilight of the Penguin Skin I Live In

In Theaters

OK, I’m not gonna sugarcoat this. If it wasn’t for The Skin I Live In opening at the Fine Arts this week, I’d basically suggest learning mah-jong, searching for a nice shuffleboard tournament, or just plain old hiding under the bed till this week blows over. This, of course, doesn’t apply if you’re what is known as a Twi-Hard who’s been awaiting the wedding of the century. In that case, you’re probably already immersed in the anticipatory showings of the previous Twilight that have been happening, are happening and/or will be happening leading up to the event. Being neither entranced by the soapy antics of Bella and Edward in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1, nor hugely interested in Happy Feet Two (one was enough), this is not a week for me. Well, apart from the new Almodovar movie, that is.

Unfortunately for me—but not for the rest of you—I’ve already seen Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. That does not mean, however, that I won’t see it again. In fact, I hope to. The review is in this week’s Xpress. It may be the best thing I’ve seen all year. Others may disagree—one friend of mine did in no uncertain terms, but, so far as I know, we’re still speaking. Without going too much into the film itself, I’ll at least note that my guess is that won’t upset people as much as Bad Education did, but it might be a very near thing. So know what you’re getting into before doing so—and remember that Almodovar is a filmmaker who will go places that other filmmakers never would.

And although I freely admit my heart is not in this, I suppose we need to look briefly at the other two opening movies.

I’m reasonably sure that Happy Feet Two comes under the heading of perfectly OK for what it is and harmless if nothing else. Personally, Mr. Popper offered me enough penguin action for one year—and enough family-friendly Jim Carrey for a lifetime. This is just more than I need and I wasn’t that thrilled with the original. The inspiration this time seems to involve bringing in climate change and a couple of wise-cracking krill (you read that right) who are voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. Then again, this is a movie about which Marshall Fine (who never strikes me as all that choosy) has said, “It has less plot than an hour of Sesame Street, fewer jokes than a Republican presidential debate, and astonishing computer animation, in wholly unnecessary 3D.” I don’t call that encouraging.

And then there’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1, the cleaved in twain finale to the phenomenally—and to me totally incomprehensibly so—popular teen-centric vampire story. While the final Harry Potter movies justified taking two movies to bring the series to a close from sheer incident, this just looks like a shameless cash grab. I mean, this is a book where the plot can be summed up in a few sentences, but it’s being dragged out for two movies? I suppose the fact that very little seems to happen is immaterial if your big desire is to ogle the werewolf boy with the large and sinewy muscles or the dreamy dead guy. Let’s face it, Taylor Lautner just plain can’t act and Robert Pattinson isn’t that compelling. All I’m curious about is whether it’s really true that Edward will give Bella a C-section with his teeth, as I’ve heard. Otherwise … well, the thing is that no one who wants to see this cares what any critic says, though they may well descend upon any critic who doesn’t enthuse over it.

This week the Fine Arts drops Margin Call, though it stays at The Carolina. The Way is staying at the Fine Arts, though I expect it to leave by next Wednesday. (Bear in mind that this coming movie week—except at second-run houses—only runs Friday through Tuesday because of the Thanksgiving releases.) The Carolina is dropping Blackthorn (which is unfortunate) and Gainsbourg (which just had no audience).

Special Screenings

Before the usual, let me toss out the fact that the Fine Arts has a Western North Carolina AIDS Project benefit showing of Life, Above All (reviewed in this week’s paper) on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Roland West’s The Bat Whispers (1930) on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. The film will be preceded by Chapter Seven of Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) at 7:40 p.m. World Cinema is running the Czech film Marketa Lazarova (1967) on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Library. The Red Violin (1998) is this weeks film from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening the Bing Crosby-Bob Hope-Dorothy Lamour film Road to Utopia (1945) on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with expanded reviews on The Bat Whispers and Road to Utopia in the online edition.

On DVD

Easily the best thing this week is Beginners, though I thought Larry Crowne was considerably better than its box office. Also out is Bellflower which never played here, but was very favorably received at last year’s ActionFest.

Notable TV screenings

Again, we face a week with some good stuff on TCM, but it’s all either the usual titles or titles that were just on last week, so judge it for yourself.

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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."

25 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 16-22: Twilight of the Penguin Skin I Live In

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    It may be the best thing I’ve seen all year.

    Woody will be pissed.

  2. Orbit DVD

    BELLFLOWER is excellent.

    Also out this week is THE WEIRD WORLD OF BLOWFLY, SUPERHEROES, WAVY GRAVY SAINT MISBEHAVIN’, THE TREE and on Criterion THE THREE COLORS TRILOGY.

    Warner Archives is releasing a film that I’ve been waiting a lifetime to see, William Wellman’s SAFE IN HELL. You can get it on their website and we’ll be able to get it in a couple of weeks.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Warner Archives is releasing a film that I’ve been waiting a lifetime to see, William Wellman’s SAFE IN HELL

    Gustav von Seyffertitz is in it. What more do you need?

  4. Xanadon't

    and on Criterion THE THREE COLORS TRILOGY.

    And the “impossible to shop for” person on my Xmas list just got real easy! Thanks for the heads up!!

  5. Ken Hanke

    With a name like that, how can you go wrong?

    With the filmography he has you can’t go wrong either.

  6. Ken Hanke

    And the “impossible to shop for” person on my Xmas list just got real easy!

    I didn’t know you were getting me something!

    • Xanadon't

      Haha, yes, it would look nice on all of our shelves, wouldn’t it? If I was a rich man, you’d be richer too.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I really only need Blue and White. I have Red (though I admit I’m not sure how I got it).

  8. Ken Hanke

    I bought the Helen Mirren version by accident

    Accident? I doubt it.

  9. Me

    This week is the premiere of the two part Woody Allen documentary on PBS.

  10. luluthebeast

    As The Skin I Live In isn’t anywhere near here and I just re-watched The Ruling Class earlier this week, it looks to be a football weekend as I’m certainly not going to see those other two opening up. I wasted enough money seeing The Immortals, and that’s with my senior discount! Maybe I’ll bring out Grave of the Fireflies again.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Football, Grave of the Fireflies or the new Twinklight…thank Clapton for books!

  12. luluthebeast

    Well, I also have the new DEXTER novel and two children’s plays to read as well.

  13. Xanadon't

    I really only need Blue and White. I have Red

    Well then you may already have the best of the bunch. (Though a re-watch could have me liking Blue the best.)

    In other news a coworker told me that there were APD vehicles directing traffic out of the midnight Twinklight screening… simply depressing.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Not nearly so depressing as the fact that Scott and I are going to go see the thing at 11:30 this morning.

  15. Me

    TCM is playing Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses at the 2am Monday morning foreign film slot, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice after that.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice after that.

    Possibly the single most overrated film of its era.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I’d agree with that except I’ve never encountered anyone making a case for it as a great movie.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Very minor — and mostly with that small contingent who think Blake Edwards was a major filmmaker and who prize improvised movies.

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