Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 28-Dec 4: The Anna Karenina Collection Killing Them Softly

In Theaters

Now, here we have a week where what may well be my favorite movie of 2012 opens, along with a highly anticipated crime thriller starring Brad Pitt — and a horror movie sequel that I don’t think anyone was asking for. Implicit in that statement is the fact that, no, we still aren’t down for a certain movie from the Weinsteins — unless, they’re up to something really unexpected and downright strange.

The big title this week — so far as I’m concerned — is Joe Wright’s very unorthodox film of Anna Karenina. Yes, it’s still the story of girl-meets-boy, girl-leaves-husband, girl-meets-train that you’ve probably seen more than once, but I can guarantee you that you’ve never seen it like this. I saw it — as did every other critic in Asheville — a couple of weeks ago at a press screening and was blown away. Then the award season screener showed up and I watched it a couple more times — and remained blown away, but became increasingly impressed by the approach Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard had taken with the story. I’ve no idea how audiences at large will feel about the film. It is not what you’d call a properly respectful adaptation, but that’s part of why I love it. It worries less about the fact that this is an acknowledged literary classic than it concerns itself with being alive to the story. And, for all its stylized inventiveness, it actually contains more of Tolstoy’s broader concerns than any adaptation I’ve seen. Check out the review in this week’s paper. It opens on Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts — and I really hope it gets the support I think it deserves.

The question of just what the Weinsteins are doing with David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook — and I’m about to give up guessing. The movie did well in its release on 367 screens this weekend, but that doesn’t seem to be getting the film any closer to us. Now, having said that, I have yet to see all the listings for this week, but the word is that once again it’s not opening here. If that changes, I’ll let you know.

So, on to the other two movies.

First up — at least alphabetically — is Marcus Dunstan’s The Collection. It’s a sequel to Dunstan’s 2009 film The Collector, which has nothing whatever to do with William Wyler’s 1965 of the same name. If you don’t remember The Collector, don’t feel bad. I reviewed the damned thing and didn’t remember it. Even after Mr. Souther reminded me what it was, I had to look at the review — after which I understood why I’d forgotten it altogether. The studio seems to feel the same way, since this one is being hawked on the strength (if that it can be called) of the fact that Dunstan and his writing partner, Patrick Melton, wrote Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. (Strangely, no one seems to want to mention Piranha 3DD.) The story this round seems to involve the masked Collector kidnapping some woman or other and trapping her in a hotel he’s turned into a grisly booby-trap filled house of slice-and-dice horror, which sounds a lot like a Saw movie to me. In the film’s favor is an 82 minute running time. Offhand, I can’t think of any other compelling reason to see it.

Far more promising is Andrew Domink’s Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt heading up a cast that includes Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini (Sam Shepard shows up, too). This is the first film from Dominik since 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — which also starred Pitt — an uncomfortably long movie that played better for critics than audiences. This new film is taking no chances in terms of length — clocking in at 97 minutes — is getting even better reviews (mostly from the UK and Australia so far), and appears to have greater audience appeal. The story — featuring Pitt as a mob enforcer btought in to deal with a couple of dumb “smart” guys who held up the wrong people — seems to be played in part for black humor and a certain amount of quirk — and a satiric agenda of taking on corporate American capitalism. Friday will tell.

This week we’re really — no fooling, it ain’t coming back — losing Holy Motors. (Also losing Samsara if you care — and I know some folks do.) Everything else is holding steady, but Cloud Atlas is being split with The Sessions at The Carolina. (The Sessions keeps a full schedule at the Fine Arts.) I pretty much expect this to be the final week for both.

Special Screenings

December is here — well, close enough — and that means that the Hendersonville Film Society is shutting down for the month. Everyone else — with a few gaps here and there — is soldiering on. The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is one of the screwiest movies ever made, The Manitou (1978), which truly must be seen to be believed and which you can see at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 29 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) on Fri., Nov. 30 at 8 p.m.in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society kicks off December with Mark Sandrich’s Astaire-Rogers classic Top Hat (1935) on Tue., Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

The best thing this week is ParaNorman. Otherwise, well…there’s Men in Black 3, Sparkle, Lawless, and Step Up Revolution. But, hey there’s a lot of good stuff in actual theaters, you know.

Notable TV Screenings

Admirers of bad ideas badly executed will want to see the long-unavailable “comedy” teaming of Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn in The Iron Petticoat (1956) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 28 on TCM. You will then understand all too well why it’s long been unavailable. Afterwards, you might stick atound for Rouben Mamoulian’s Silk Stockings (1957) to see exactly how a successful satire on the Soviet Union is done.  Otherwise, it’s a week with a fair amount of good movies, but nothing very much out of the ordinary.

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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 Nov. 28-Dec 4: The Anna Karenina Collection Killing Them Softly

  1. Xanadon't

    If you don’t remember The Collector, don’t feel bad.

    I’m pretty sure it was one of those grubby pieces of junk that’s blandly mean-spirited rather than ever creative or clever and insisted on yellow and green filters throughout the entire 25 minutes that I bothered to watch before hitting ‘eject’.

    I’ll stop by your review and see what I missed.

  2. Orbit DVD

    TV this week is HBO’s LUCK SEASON 1, which had bad luck keeping horses healthy.

    Also out is the post-apocalyptic THE DAY, BURNING MAN, and finally, OCTAMAN, my pick of the month.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Considering it hasn’t been reviewed — or seen — yet, I can’t say.

  4. Ken Hanke

    It’s pretty much a given that there’s more online than in print.

  5. DrSerizawa

    Wait. The fact that those guys wrote some SAW screenplays is supposed to be some sort of ecommendation?

  6. DrSerizawa

    Wait. The fact that those guys wrote some SAW screenplays is supposed to be some sort of recommendation? LOL!

    (Sorry)

    Actually I saw the original COLLECTOR when it came out. It depressed my girlfriend at the time so much that I didn’t get lucky that night. They must be really scraping the botton of the remake barrel to remake that piece of trash. It was as mean spirited as a SAW movie and I guess that mean spiritedness is too often what passes for horror. Unless it’s boring sparkly vampires or vampires that use assault weapons which are the other poor excuses for horror these days.

    It’s AnnaK for us this weekend.

  7. Ken Hanke

    (Subtracts five points from the Doctor.)

    Well, I’ve actually seen The Collection by now, and while it’s probably twice as good as The Collector (at this rate, it two or three more movies, they’ll achieve mediocrity), you still made the wiser choice.

  8. DrSerizawa

    (Subtracts five points from the Doctor.)

    Dang. At this rate I’ll be in the minus IQ band in no time. That means I might be writing screenplays for Michael Bay or Adam Sandler soon.

  9. Orbit DVD

    Wait. The fact that those guys wrote some SAW screenplays is supposed to be some sort of ecommendation?

    If James Wan is involved it’s worth a look.

  10. Orbit DVD

    He’s not and that’s not always true anyway.

    Didn’t say the material is good, just worth a look… non-SAW stuff that is.

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