Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 13-19: Blue Is the Warmest Great Expectation

In Theaters

The studios seem to be taking the week off. We get exactly one movie that could be called mainstream — and it’s a borderline case that no one is expecting anything out of, and not everyone is bothering to book at all. On the other hand, we do get two new art titles of a certain interest — one of them bordering on the notorious.

The two art titles are Blue Is the Warmest Color and Great Expectations  — both opening at The Carolina. And, yes, I’ve seen them both, and they’re both reviewed in this week’s Xpress. Undoubtedly, the more anticipated of the two is the NC-17 rated French film, Blue Is the Warmest Color, if only by virtue of all the furor that has surrounded it. We have seen it hailed as masterpiece (well …), damned as pornography (it really isn’t), and generally dissected by just about everybody. Some online publication even got some “real lesbians” to weigh in on the movie’s infamous sex scenes. (They deemed them as looking like straight girls playing lesbians.) Well, let’s step back for a minute and realize that this is a nearly three-hour French movie with a definite arty bent — not everyone is going to want to undertake such a thing, no matter how much Sapphic sex it dishes out. As you’ll see in the review, I recognized it as a serious film, but … well, I won’t be watching it again. (I’d far rather watch About Time a second time.) Your feelings may well differ. An awful lot of critics are over the moon about it.

I much preferred Mike Newell’s Great Expectations, which was a very pleasant surprise. Bear in mind, I actually like Charles Dickens, and I like this particular book a lot. I liked it when I was made to read it in ninth grade, and I’ve read it at least twice since then (including just a year ago). But because of that, I’m probably not an easy sell on film versions. I find much to admire in Stuart Walker’s little-seen 1934 version and in David Lean’s famous 1946 one. And I find just about as much — albeit in a somewhat different key — to admire here. It’s not updated or radicalized in any way, but it’s a solid, straightforward, atmospheric take on the book with some inspired casting. Helena Bonham Carter’s performance as Miss Havisham is quite the most fascinating interpretation of this role I’ve ever seen. This is definitely worth catching.

Otherwise, the only thing going this week is Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man Holiday — and I really don’t know why. If Lee’s name is unfamiliar to you, he’s Spike Lee’s cousin, and he’s been knocking around as a filmmaker since The Best Man back in 1999. It remains his best-reviewed film. I’ve never seen it, but I have seen Undercover Brother (2002), Roll Bounce (2005), Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins (2008), and (Clapton save me) Scary Movie V (2013). Roll Bounce was the pleasant surprise in that set. Anyway, he’s obviously trying to return to his biggest success (and maybe make amends for Scary Movie V) with this sequel to The Best Man. He’s reassembled his original cast and tapped into a holiday theme. The forecast is for largely empty theaters, though.

This week all we lose is How I Live Now, which doesn’t surprise me, but it should have done better. It also shouldn’t have gone head-to-head with 12 Years a Slave and All Is Lost. However, it’s worth noting that The Carolina is splitting Enough Said, so this is probably the least week it will be in town.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) on Thu., Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 15 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening the little seen Hammer suspense drama Cash on Demand (1962) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 17 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Frank Tuttle’s Bing Crosby musical-comedy Waikiki Wedding (1937) on Tue., Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The big release this week is probably Man of Steel, but the release for discerning viewers is Frances Ha. Also out are Ip Man: The Final Fight, Turbo, Blackfish, and the not locally seen Prince Avalanche.

Notable TV Screenings

Unusual pickings are pretty slim on TCM this week, but there are a pair of choice titles in their very loosely defined spotlight on “Screwball Comedies” this Fri., Nov. 15. Howard Hawks’ Twentieth Century (1934) — the very definition of screwball comedy — is on at 9:45 p.m.. It’s followed at 11:30 p.m. by Mitchell Leisen’s delicious film (from a Preston Sturges script) Easy Living (1937). The rest of the week may be negligible or overly familiar, but these are worth catching.

 

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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."

15 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 13-19: Blue Is the Warmest Great Expectation

  1. Me

    Frances Ha is also streaming on Netflix.

    Looks like Gregory’s Girl, Yeelen, and Repentance are the Story of Film movies this week.

  2. Orbit DVD

    There’s a fun Irish film in the vein of SLITHER, TREMORS, etc. called GRABBERS. Enjoyed it quite a bit, although nothing new.

    DEXTER is being put out of its misery with season 8 as well.

  3. swilder

    Ken,
    Whats the insider buzz on “Lone Survivor”? I really enjoyed the book. My hope is that the film doesnt get too politicized and people can experience Marcus Luttrell’s amazing story for what it is.

  4. Ken Hanke

    There’s a fun Irish film in the vein of SLITHER, TREMORS, etc. called GRABBERS. Enjoyed it quite a bit, although nothing new.

    Like Slither was?

  5. Ken Hanke

    Whats the insider buzz on “Lone Survivor”? I really enjoyed the book. My hope is that the film doesnt get too politicized and people can experience Marcus Luttrell’s amazing story for what it is.

    Not much about it so far. I’ve read three reviews — two pro and one contra. And there’s probably the most transparent studio shill who “got to see an advance screening” running around on the IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes enthusing about it. Not sure how you mean “politicized.” I’m pretty certain the movie itself will bend over backwards to present no opinion, which is an opinion in itsself. If you mean will it get politicized by the viewers, that’s kind of inevitable based on the individual worldview

  6. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know if it was Justin or Edwin who tried to make Prince Avalanche sound better by noting that it wasn’t as bad as those things Paul Rudd makes for Judd Apatow. (That’s like arguing that Mussolini wasn’t as bad as Mr. Hitler.) And that it was better than Your Highness (see previous parenthetical).

    The Great Beauty openened in limited yesterday. Who can tell? That it’s being handled by Janus is not in its favor for making it here. That it’s almost two-and-a-half-hours long probably won’t help. But you never know.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I like it a lot. I tried to get it booked here. At the moment, it’s on my tentative 10 best list. I should note I’m an admirer of Neil Jordan’s films.

  8. Edwin Arnaudin

    I don’t know if it was Justin or Edwin who tried to make Prince Avalanche sound better by noting that it wasn’t as bad as those things Paul Rudd makes for Judd Apatow. (That’s like arguing that Mussolini wasn’t as bad as Mr. Hitler.) And that it was better than Your Highness (see previous parenthetical).

    Justin and I are both pretty positive on Avalanche. I said it was better than David Gordon Green’s Apatow projects and more like George Washington or All the Real Girls, both of which I like, especially the latter. Not quite up to Snow Angels, though.

    After three mediocre to bad films (culminating with The Sitter), I worried that the Apatow crew had “broken” Green, so it was good to see him returning to his old ways. I’m also looking forward to seeing his film Joe with Nicolas Cage and Mud‘s Tye Sheridan, a film that sounds an awful lot like Mud. (Not too shabby having your first three directors be Malick, Nichols, and Green.)

  9. Ken Hanke

    I have yet to see a David Gordon Green picture I thought was any damned good. Whatever value I’ve found came from Tim Orr’s cinematography. I realize the School of the Arts crowd will be outside my door with torches any moment.

  10. Me

    George Washington is the only one that i thought was pretty good. Ive heard a lot of positive things about Joe, when does it come out next year?

  11. Ken Hanke

    It’s been picked up by Roadside/Lionsgate, but it seems to still be doing the festivals. There’s no release date yet.

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