Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 2-7: Short Term Parkland Gravity Runner and More

In Theaters

What started off as a simple week of two art titles and two mainstream ones permitted itself the luxury of becoming more complicated. The truth, however, is that the complication of three additional films isn’t likely to make much impact on very many moviegoing plans. I will explain.

First of all, there are two art titles opening this week — and they’re both pretty choice. And believe me, no one is more surprised than I am. If you told me that I would have any interest in seeing a movie about people working in a foster care facility for displaced children, I wouldn’t believe you. Indeed, I groaned when I read about it. Similarly, the idea that I’d have any interest whatever in a film that recreated the JFK assassination and its immediate aftermath was ludicrous to me. Well, I was wrong about both, but I realize you are just as likely to be as skeptical as I was — and will probably continue to be.

The films in question are Short Term 12 (opening at the Fine Arts) and Parkland (opening at The Carolina) — and they’re both a lot better than you probably think. Of course, if you put much stake in review aggregations, you’re more likely to believe in the 99 percent approval rating on Short Term 12 (that actually made me more skeptical). As an emotionally gripping story, it’s probably the better of the two. As filmmaking, I lean more to Parkland. But the truth is that I highly recommend both — and really the films are so different that weighing them against each other is absolutely fruitless, pointless, and kind of dumb.

That settles the art titles — or at least the art titles I’ve seen and reviewed. Fact is, of course, that Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is going to draw both art and mainstream audiences, so it’s in both camps. Plus, there’s this curious double dose of French movies headed our way — as a last minute addition — from those sons of fun, the Weinstein Brothers. Beyond that, there’s a movie coming our way that is neither for the art or the mainstream crowd.

Taking these alphabetically, the first up is that last mentioned. This is Grace Unplugged — a faith-based drama aimed at a specific niche audience. It stars someone named AJ Michalka as Grace, but whether it is she or her faith or both that is unplugged remains to be seen. Michalka has been in movies I’ve seen — Super 8, Secretariat, The Lovely Bones — but she made no impression on me. (The IMDb assures me that AJ likes “dance, cooking, horseback riding, mountain biking, reading and hanging out with her dogs and family,” which comforts me no end.) Anyway, the movie is all about her character walking away from her church roots to seek a career in (gasp) Hollywood. The synopsis poses the question, “Will the experience cause her to reject her faith, or rediscover it?” Sight unseen, I’m betting I can answer that. I’m also betting that you know — sight unseen — whether this is your dish of tea or not.

Then there’s Gravity. What is there to say about this one? It’s Alfonso Cuaron’s first film since the unreservedly brilliant Children of Man back in 2006. That’s not only a long time between movies, but it’s a tough act to follow — maybe an impossible one. The early reviews on Gravity are mostly glowing. This science fiction opus with only two stars — Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — where one of them (Clooney) is apparently offscreen for much of the time is, we’re told, a full-on breathtaking experience that legitimizes (once again) 3D. OK, truth is, I’m jazzed and I’m hopeful — and I’m wary. And, no, it has nothing to do with Bullock’s presence. It’s all about my basic question of just how the premise of a woman floating in space can work for a feature — even for 90 minutes. I reckon I’ll find out Friday morning — unless I get antsy and opt for that 10 p.m. Thursday show.

That brings us to the Weinsteins’ double dose of French cinema. Normally — and rationally — these would in the art film realm and would have been screened to open with reviews. But we’re dealing with the Weinsteins, so rational has bugger-all to do with it. My guess is that these two movies — Christian Vincent’s Haute Cuisine and Regis Roinsard’s Populaire — were owed some unspecified kind of theatrical release and this is it. Neither film seems likely to have enough immediate interest — box office wise — to be much of a draw. Indeed, these may be in that category of movies that are only “art” titles because they’re in French. Haute Cuisine stars Catherine Frot as the woman who became the personal cook for French President Francois Mitterand (Jean d’Ormesson). As you may guess, it’s based on a true story.

Populaire is the more promising of the two — a period (1958) piece comedy about an incompetent secretary (Deborah Francois), who also happens to be a brilliant typist. She is in fact so remarkable that her boss (Romain Duris, Heartbreaker) decides to turn her into the fastest typist in the world. (It seems there is typing competition — or was. Who knew?) I really have nothing against either film, because I don’t really know anything about them. But here they are — and probably only for a week — and The Carolina has them split into alternating shows, so you can see both of them for one price, if you so choose. It’s a pretty good value at that.

Bringing up the rear is Runner Runner from director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) and starring Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Ben Affleck in an unusual role as the bad guy. It’s all about a Princetion student (Timberlake) who’s putting himself through college by playing online poker (yes, well…). Then he loses all his money in a game, finds out he was cheated, and heads for Costa Rica for a showdown with the guy who took him (Ben Affleck). As things turn out, he ends up working for him instead. It has not gotten much in the way of good reviews. I am being kind.

So what do we lose this week? Well, the Fine Arts is dropping In a World to make way for Short Term 12. The Carolina is dropping Thanks for Sharing, Austenland, Still Mine, and Salinger. (Austenland is being picked up the Flat Rock Cinema.)

Special Screenings

There is no Thursday Horror Picture Show this week, but it will be back next week. In the meantime, the other usual suspects are around. World Cinema is showing Good Bye, Lenin! (2004) on Fri., Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Oct 6 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has the first of two movies starring Chiwetel Ejiofor in its October calendar — Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2003) on Tue., Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress, with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

I guess the big DVD release this week is The Croods, though there are those with a higher (like any) Danny McBride tolerance than I who will plop for This Is the End, which, for the record, I haven’t seen. And, of course, there’s the latest special edition of The Wizard of Oz.

Notable TV Screenings

On Fri., Oct. 4, TCM has a solid double feature of Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) and James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935) starting at 11:15 p.m. On Sat., Oct. 5, there’s Woody Allen’s little revived and underrated Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) at 2 p.m. That evening at 10 p.m. there’s Frank Capra’s imitation Sternberg picture, The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932), which is at least worth seeing once. And for those with a taste for such there’s a double feature (just like we saw them at theater) of William Beaudine’s final films, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (both 1966) starting at 2 a.m.

Monday, of course, is part six of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: 1953-1957 — The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams. It starts at 10:15 p.m.

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."

25 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 2-7: Short Term Parkland Gravity Runner and More

  1. Me

    Probably going to see the big release which is Gravity this weekend, and hopefully Short Term 12 will do the usual two week Fine Arts run so i can check it out next weekend.

    Computer Chess is also out Friday on streaming.

  2. Ken Hanke

    You realize that, of the two, Gravity is the one that is guaranteed to be around for two weeks (and more)?

  3. swilder

    Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Ken Hanke is negative on a “faith based” film he hasnt even seen. Of course that is a Christian faith film. Had the main character left Islam or any other ism to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood, I’m sure you would be very curious and highly anticipating a viewing. At least you are consistant in your bais.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Oh, please. First of all, I’ve seen far too many of these amateurish faith-operas not to be negative about them, because I have yet to see one — with the marginal exception of Blue Like Jazz — that wasn’t embarassingly bad. Second, you find me a film with this kind of idiot plot concerning characters of the faiths you indicate — though, of course, you can’t — and we’ll discuss my “consistant” “bais” that you are apprently expert on.

  5. Dionysis

    Regarding swilder’s take on ‘faith-based’ films and the criticism leveled at Ken, let’s see what someone with a Christian website (that focuses on films “through a Christian lens”) has to say about these movies:

    “Horror films don

    • swilder

      Christiancinema.com, a much better site than the one you quoted, gives Grace five doves(yes doves),
      their highest rating. I dont expect you to ever enjoy a Christian movie or give it a favorable review, I just wish you would actually screen it before launching into your usual “poor acting, low-budget effects, and preaching to the already converted” rhetoric I’ve come to know and love. I’m sure you have already written your review of the Kendrick brothers’ next film…I however will wait,with much anticipation, to actually go see it.

      p.s.

      Nothing personal Ken, I really do enjoy reading your work and look forward to the X every Wen.

  6. Edwin Arnaudin

    You realize that, of the two, Gravity is the one that is guaranteed to be around for two weeks (and more)?

    Definitely prioritize Short Term 12 and see it this weekend. I fear it needs all the help it can get.

  7. Big Al

    “..walking away from her church roots to seek a career in (gasp) Hollywood”.

    Of course, you are simply repeating the film’s premise, not judging it. It is the film-maker who makes the questionable assumption that by going to Hollywood (or LA, or Nashville, or NYC, depending on the medium) to practice your art/craft, you must be abandoning your religion. This is silly, as there are Christians in Hollywood (and everywhere else), otherwise how (and where) do these faith-based movies get made?

    This Christian agrees, it is the presumptuous sanctimony that makes this genre of films unpalatable to the masses, but “good Christians” will flock to see them and never admit how bad they are.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Christiancinema.com, a much better site than the one you quoted, gives Grace five doves(yes doves), their highest rating.

    Better or more Baptist/evangelical oriented? How many doves do they give, say, Fireproof?

    I dont expect you to ever enjoy a Christian movie or give it a favorable review, I just wish you would actually screen it before launching into your usual “poor acting, low-budget effects, and preaching to the already converted” rhetoric I’ve come to know and love.

    But what else is this — sight unseen, just reading its promotional material — other than “preaching to the already converted?” Present me with some good reviews that aren’t from a website skewed toward the already converted. Anyway, you won’t be getting a review from me on this one, since Mr. Souther is doing it.

    By the way, I would argue that there are many “Christian movies” that I enjoy and have given good reviews — though I admit they tend to skew Catholic rather than Baptist. I would call The Ninth Configuration, The Exorcist III, The Devils, Meet John Doe, Tommy, Strange Cargo, and Sunrise Christian movies, but they express someone’s personal faith. They aren’t trying to sell it.

    Nothing personal Ken, I really do enjoy reading your work and look forward to the X every Wen.

    Well, I knew you followed the column, since you took me to task for not reviewing that anti-Obama movie. (It’s not like I make any secret of being a very left-leaning heathen.) But really, do you think what I say or don’t say about such special-interest items is going to have any impact on those who go to see them?

  9. Ken Hanke

    Definitely prioritize Short Term 12 and see it this weekend. I fear it needs all the help it can get.

    This is true. This is true of all small titles. Nearly every mainstream title is guaranteed two weeks contractually. These little movies are not. They are made or broken by those first three days.

  10. swilder

    You do crack me up Ken. I’ve followed you enough to appreciate your love of all things Ken Russell, but I have never considered Tommy, a film that I do love, to be a “Christian” film. Religious themed yes, even Messianic, but it is about as Christian as The Godfather, another film that I love. Tell Justin that I will be praying for him to make it through Grace Unplugged.

  11. Ken Hanke

    You do crack me up Ken. I’ve followed you enough to appreciate your love of all things Ken Russell, but I have never considered Tommy, a film that I do love, to be a “Christian” film. Religious themed yes, even Messianic, but it is about as Christian as The Godfather

    Well, it’s essentially a Christ story (I mean the film, not the album, which is more Eastern mysticism). It’s full of Christian imagery. And it’s ultimately about salvation and reunion with the spirit of the father. Seems pretty Christian to me.

    Tell Justin that I will be praying for him to make it through Grace Unplugged.

    He threatened me with having a conversion.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Can believe you didnt mention The Collector they played it last night on TCM.

    Yes, I can believe it too.

    if i remember correctly Ken liked Higher Ground, a faith based film.

    I do not think it would get five doves.

    • DrSerizawa

      Sick elderly mother-in-law means my wife is staying with her while I hold down the fort so spare time is at a premium.

      I see it says that Rodriguez directed Machete Kills which means it might be a decent sequel rather than a knock-off. The casting of Charlie Sheen as President is inspired. In fact I wouldn’t be sorry to see him as the real President after the last 20 years or so of idiots in the White House. (joke)

  13. Me

    Im glad Mark Cousins touched up on some of the underground stuff like Anger, i hope he touches on some of the late 70′s early 80′s No Wave cinema, its hard to find any clips online from a lot of that period.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I take it that was last night? I haven’t watched that one yet. The trick to the concept is realizing that it’s a very subjective approach. And that’s really all this sort of thing can be, because it’s too goddamned big. There are over 100 years of movies and movie history. Fifteen hours won’t do it. The last one I saw was the 1940s centric one. It was Cousins’ 1940s. Mine would look very different. Neither is wrong.

    • Me

      “I take it that was last night? I haven’t watched that one yet. The trick to the concept is realizing that it’s a very subjective approach. And that’s really all this sort of thing can be, because it’s too goddamned big. There are over 100 years of movies and movie history. Fifteen hours won’t do it. The last one I saw was the 1940s centric one. It was Cousins’ 1940s. Mine would look very different. Neither is wrong.”

      Yeah i know, i was thinking what if someone did this for music, it would be literally impossible. Before the broadcast he talked about how he wanted it to be about the innovators, and who was pushing the medium, im loving how procedural it is.

      The whole thing is on Netflix you should go ahead and just pull the trigger on that.

  15. Ken Hanke

    I still haven’t seen that episode yet (and you think I have time to take this all in one bite — even if I was on Netflix?) so I can’t say if I find it “procedural.” It’s otherwise been very subjective whatever else it is. Some of his intellectual leaps in terms of comparisons I can’t make. And his idea of innovators doesn’t always match up with mine. Too many of his innovators didn’t or don’t or haven’t gone anywhere and are dead ends in terms of influence.

Leave a Reply