Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 21-27: Dawn of the Rise of Pi

In Theaters

This week we have three movies opening on Wednesday for the Big Thanksgiving moviegoing day. You know, it’s that day when you’ve had quite enough of your family, but feel compelled to do something that at least offers the illusion of being together. What better way to avoid actual interaction — and potential bloodshed — than to sit in a darkened theater watching a movie? Now, you may be thinking that there are four movies opening — and at one point that was true — but those merry pranksters known as the Weinsteins had other plans.

Up until last week, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was set to open in wide release — and the adverising still makes it look that way. Well, the ever-incomprehensible Weinsteins decided it would be better to only put it on 400 screens. None of those are in Asheville. At least, that’s the word at this moment. Given the…quixotic nature of the players involved, I guarantee nothing, but it’s not supposed to open here this week.

In other unusual news — though it won’t happen till Friday — the Fine Arts is dropping the underperforming A Late Quartet (reviewed in this week’s paper) and bringing back Holy Motors (which makes me happy) and Samsara (which makes me shake my head). Holy Motors is at 7:20 only, while Samsara is at 1:20 and 4:20 with a 9:30 late show on Friday and Saturday. I would not expect this to last more than the one week.

Thar brings us to the week’s new movies — not a single one of which I’ve seen.

First — and probably foremost — is Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, which, as you probsbly know, is based on an immensely popular book. It’s the story of a young man who survives a shipwreck with a cargo of exotic animals and finds himself adrift in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Long thought unfilmable — and abandoned by other filmmakers — Ang Lee came up with a way to film it and keep it within a “reasonable” budget, which doesn’t keep the movie from being a gamble for 20th Century Fox. Here’s the thing — I have never seen an Ang Lee picture that I thought was without merit. And usually I’ve found them to be at least least very good. Now, having said that, I simply have not been able to get actually enthused by this. I am fervently hoping that it will be the third movie this year — the others being Cloud Atlas and Anna Karenina — that you simply can’t understand how they can work until you see them. I reckon I’ll know the answer this week.

And then…there’s first-time director (and former stunt coordinator) Dan Bradley’s remake/update of John Milius’ 1984 film Red Dawn. Yes, I know the original has its admirers among Milius cultists and 1980s nostalgists (I am neither), but this seems spectacularly ill-advised — even if they did get Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, to star. Of course, since the Cold War is over, it became necessary to find new bad guys to attempt an invasion of America (and underestimate the pluck and resourcefulness of American youth). Apparently, the first choice was the Chinese — until somebody realized that this might hurt the film’s box office prospects in China. So in a trice the villains became North Koreans and everybody was happy — except presumably the North Koreans.

Last up is former storyboard artist Peter Ramsey’s first theatrical feature Rise of the Guardians — an animated version of William Joyce’s children’s book The Guardians of Childhood. It was actually with some relief that I discoverd this, because I’d at first thought this was another of those Owls of Ga-Hoole movies. No, this is fantasy involving a brace of mythical characters like the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, etc. band together to defeat the evil Pitch Black in his attempt to take over the world. Some of the imagery looks very good indeed and they didn’t stint on the voice casting, since they gathered Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin. Jude Law, Isla Fisher and Hugh Jackman for the leads. Whether or not it lives up to the casr remains to be seen, but as the only children’s film opening for Thanksgiving, it’ll probably be a big draw.

This week we lose Seven Psycopaths and The Perks of Being a Wallflower at The Carolina (in other words, today’s your last chance), while, as already noted A Late Quartet takes its leave from the Fine Arts (though you have through Thursday to catch it if you’re so inclined).

Special Screenings

This week’s a little slack in the realm of special screenings. Since about four people showed up for last Thanksgiving’s Thursday Horror Picture Show, it was decided not to have a movie this week. Similarly, World Cinema is taking a break this Friday. Both will be back next week. The Hendersonville Film Society, however, is showing Cecil B. DeMille’s circus picture The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 25 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) with Warner Oland and Boris Karloff at 8 p.m. on Tue., Nov. 27 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on both films in this week’s Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

I can only assume that it’s considered that people will be going to the movies this week rather than buying them, because the only new film to hit DVD is — somewhat embarassingly — The Expendables 2.

Notable TV Screenings

Late night Friday (or early Saturday morning) at 2:15 a.m., TCM is showing Derek Jarman’s singularly…different film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1979). Otherwiise, there’s really nothing out of the ordinary this week. That one is perhaps sufficiently out of the ordinary for several movies.

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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."

16 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 21-27: Dawn of the Rise of Pi

  1. Orbit DVD

    A notable tv release this week is KEN BURNS’ DUST BOWL. Since it’s pretty much the only thing out I’ll have 50 copies of it.

    There are two notable Criterion releases. I rewatched Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE, restored to three and half hours. While it has scenes that are staggering and hold up to some of cinema’s best, it’s still a mess. The second release is Eclipse’s WHEN HORROR CAME TO SHOCHIKU, which is more promising.

  2. Xanadon't

    Well no, not quite. I think I’m just envious of Twilight fans which has led to over-statements now and then.

  3. Me

    Damn i was all set to see Silver Linings Playbook why would they off put it like that?

    HBO has another great rock documentary playing this week about the Rolling Stones called Crossfire Hurricane.

    TCM is playing Wise Blood and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter back to back i believe early Thursday morning.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I think I’m just envious of Twilight fans which has led to over-statements now and then.

    As long as you don’t resort to chat-speak and start peppering things with OMGs, etc.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Damn i was all set to see Silver Linings Playbook why would they off put it like that?

    One might as well question the antics of God as try to fathom why the Weinsteins do anything.

    But at least you get another chance to see Holy Motors.

  6. DrSerizawa

    OMG! This week looks off the hook bad. Gag me with a spoon.
    The original RED DAWN was really stupid. It’s bad enough to think that the Soviets and the Cubans could secretly amass the resources for an invasion. The idea of the NKs, a country that can’t even feed itself, doing it is Kafkaesque. But I’ll bet the movie makers never heard of Franz Kafka. This one is really going to hurt.

  7. Xanadon't

    Didn’t you just advise against this Ken? And here I’ve been desperately trying to suppress my short-hand exclamatories. WTF?

  8. DrSerizawa

    I subtract five IQ points from my estimation of the writer’s intelligence every time I see LOL.

    ROTFLMAO! You sure told them! Hey, wait a second…..

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