Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 3-9: Perfect Frankenweenie Pitch Taken

In Theaters

It’s a light week at the movies. Stranger still, it’s a week with absolutely no art titles. Yes, we’re strictly mainstream this week, though I suppose one of openers could be said to be of the cult variety.

What makes the lack of art titles notable from my perspective is that there’s nothing coming out that I’ve already seen. And the same is true for Mr. Souther. In other words, we’re just as in the dark about Friday’s new offerings as you are. Frankly, with one exception (no prizes for guessing which one), I’d be just as happy to remain in the dark and hope for better things. That, alas, is not my lot in life.

The only thing coming to town that I’ve any real enthusiasm for is Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. It’s of course an established fact that I’m keen on Burton’s work, so this is not unexpected. (I mean, I fully intend to pick up the much disdained Dark Shadows this week. So there.) Frankenweenie, however, seems poised to be getting an overall warmer reception. (The only critic I have any truck with who has so far come down against it is Luke Y. Thompson, who I fully intend to castigate at the earliest opportunity.) The prospect of seeing Burton expand on his likable, but somewhat crude, 1984 short film is at the very least interesting. The story of a little boy bringing his dead dog back to life—complete with all its visual echoes of the James Whale Frankenstein pictures of the 1930s—is something that seems better suited to animation in the first place. Plus, Burton is certainly a more mature filmmaker now than he was in 1984. And if nothing else, this one won’t have Sofia Coppola in it. That right there is worth its weight in gold.

And then there are these other things…

Well, first off, there’s Pitch Perfect,  which is this first theatrical feature from Broadway director (Avenue Q) Jason Moore, and in which the biggest name is Anna Kendrick. Somewhat oddly, the film was given a limited release (it’s not that kind of movie) last week and goes wide this week. What is it? It’s a college comedy about dueling a cappella groups. Now, you know I couldn’t make that up. Stranger still, it’s gotten largely positive reviews. My guess is that it depends a great deal on your fondness for a cappella singing. I confess that the last time it appealed to me was when I heard the Hall Johnson Choir perform “St. Louis Blues” in the 1936 film Banjo on My Knee. I similarly confess that I didn’t make it through the trailer on this. Mr. Souther and I may have to go best two falls out of three on this one—and I might cheat. Then again, it’s just possible that this actually is the pleasant surprise it’s been painted as by some.

That leaves us with the latest example of Liam Neeson in action star mode—a career move that still puzzles me. Taken 2, a sequel to the popular 2008 movie that started him on this path comes to us from the improbably named Olivier Megaton. And while I can’t help but admire an action director who goes by that monicker, his credits suggest that his name is perhaps the most appealing aspect of his work. This is the plot as put forth by the studio—“Former government agent Bryan Mills has retired and attempts to reassemble his old life, after years of overseas employment have left him estranged from his teenage daughter. But when she is kidnapped while in Europe, Bryan must revert to his old skill set to rescue her before she disappears forever.” Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds less like a sequel than it sounds like the first movie all over again. I guess that might be the whole idea.

What does this find us losing? Well, the Fine Arts is keeping both The Master and Samsara. The Carolina, however, is dropping Sleepwalk with Me and The Imposter. 2 Days in New York, Arbitrage, Searching for Sugar Man, and The Master are holding steady.

Special Screenings

Before getting down to the usual run of movies, let’s note that on Sun., Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. the Fine Arts is running the very worthwhile documentary Gen Silent with the filmmaker at the screening. This is worth seeing and worth supporting.

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is the Tod Slaughter classic melodrama The Face at the Window (1939) on Thu., Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936 Olympics documentary Olympia (1938) on Fri., Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2005) is this week’s title at the Hendersonville Film Society on Sun., Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Henry Cass’ Last Holiday (1950) on Tue., Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with expanded reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

The most notable title for me this week is Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, followed by the largely overlooked pleasures of Peace, Love & Misunderstanding. Also up are People Like Us  and Sound of My Voice. Once was more than enough for me.

Notable TV Screenings

On Wed., Oct. 3 at 7:45 a.m. TCM is showing Penguin Pool Murder (1932), the first and best of Hildegarde Withers mysteries starring Edna May Oliver and James Gleason.

On Mon., Oct. 8, starting at 6 a.m. it’s a Rouben Mamoulian birthday celebration—Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Queen Christina (1933), We Live Again (1934), The Gay Desperado (1936), Golden Boy (1939), Silk Stockings (1957). I can’t say these would all have been my choices, but the thought is nice—and I like seeing the rarely considered We Live Again among the choices, even if it’s a film that works better in conjunction with Mamoulian’s masterpiece Love Me Tonight, which isn’t being shown.

Frank Borzage’s Lucky Star (1929) is being shown at 8 p.m., Tue., Oct. 9. I have to admit I wasn’t as taken with this late period silent as a lot of people were when it showed up in that massive box set of Borzage and F.W. Murnau titles a few years ago, but it’s certainly worth seeing. It is, however, done no favors by the appallingly bad musical track that’s been slapped on it. You might want to turn the volume down—way down. Off even.

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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."

33 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 3-9: Perfect Frankenweenie Pitch Taken

  1. Ken Hanke

    I know good and well that there are two reviews missing from the movie page. Clapton knows, I didn’t sit through Hotel Transylvania for the love of it.

  2. Xanadon't

    As I’ve probably mentioned before, I generally avoid 3D. But I’m curious about 3D in B&W and in the hands of Tim Burton. Maybe he can pick up where Scorsese left off in turning my opinion about it around.

  3. Jeremy Dylan

    Taken 2, a sequel to the popular 2008 movie that started him on this path

    I still think they missed a trick by not naming the sequel RETAKEN. Hopefully when Neeson hangs up his holster and they make Famke Janssen the star of the third one they’ll call it MISS TAKEN.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I really kind of hope that the take on this Taken requires an undertaker on the whole thing before a third one.

  5. dpewen

    Ken,
    We saw The Master and did not like it and seems not many do … I was very disappointed and was hoping for more … did we miss something?

  6. Ken Hanke

    I couldn’t tell you, because I have yet to see it myself. And really, nothing I’ve heard encourages me to rush right out and change that — even if I feel that I ought to.

  7. Big Al

    “…We saw The Master and did not like it and seems not many do …”

    I was at opening night and the crowd was pretty lively, quite a few chuckles and gasps. And every time I drive by the ticket office a small crowd is lingering (and I doubt it is to see
    “Samsara”). It is clearly not for everybody (most indy flicks aren’t), and while it is no “Midnight in Paris” I think it is meeting the expectations of the majority who see it.

  8. William Chase

    Any word on when we will get The Perks of Being a Wallflower? I know it has been out in limited release for like a month now, and i’ve really been looking forward to it.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I doubt it is to see “Samsara”

    While I have zero interest in Samsara, it opened amazingly strong.

    I think it is meeting the expectations of the majority who see it.

    Maybe so, but it’s not what I keep hearing.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Any word on when we will get The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

    Oct. 12 at The Carolina.

  11. DrSerizawa

    That leaves us with the latest example of Liam Neeson in action star mode — a career move that still puzzles me.

    Perhaps like Michael Caine he does movies based on how nice a hotel they offer to put him up in. Though I think that Liam has yet to equal Caine’s classic bad movie The Swarm.

    Though some think that The Phantom Menace might qualify, I don’t go quite that far.

  12. Big Al

    “Though I think that Liam has yet to equal Caine’s classic bad movie The Swarm.”

    Don’t forget Caine’s role in that masterpiece “The Fire Down Below”.

    • DrSerizawa

      Don’t forget Caine’s role in that masterpiece “The Fire Down Below”.

      Actually the name was On Deadly Ground. Though one Steven Seagal opus is pretty much like the next. Did you know that Seagal’s speech at the end was originally 10 full minutes? The studio wisely cut it to 3.

      For sheer badness later Irwin Allen productions achieved an edwoodian quality difficult to beat. Try When Time Ran Out sometime. A masterpiece of stupidity, illogic and chewed scenery.

  13. Jeremy Dylan

    Don’t forget Caine’s role in that masterpiece “The Fire Down Below”.

    That’s the one where he eats a particularly bad curry, isn’t it?

  14. Jeremy Dylan

    One of the actor quotes is presented here. Michel Caine was asked if he regretted not being able to accept his Academy Award because he was busy filming JAWS IV: THE REVENGE

    CAINE
    I have not seen the film – and by all accounts it’s terrible. I have see the house it paid for and that is fantastic.

  15. Orbit DVD

    Here’s a shocker… I’m really excited about FRANKENWEENIE.

  16. Ken Hanke

    No shock at all. You indicated this when you went on the attack about the prospect of Dark Shadows.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I think you are. Everyone is telling me to see it.

    Marc likes hyperbole. And hitting that reply button.

  18. Ken Hanke

    The button is only hit once. I swear!

    No, I’m talking about hitting that button that says “Reply,” rather than copying and pasting what you’re replying to in the lower “Make a comment” box. Once this stuff goes off the “New Coke” main page that comment won’t be under what you’re replying to, but’ll show up in the order it was posted.

  19. Big Al

    “Actually the name was On Deadly Ground. Though one Steven Seagal opus is pretty much like the next.”

    And thus my confusion. Thanks for the correction.

    Although I did kinda like the one where he came out of the coma, killed the bad guys, and banged the skinny Brit doctor. Beat that, Michael Caine!

    “Did you know that Seagal’s speech at the end was originally 10 full minutes? The studio wisely cut it to 3.”

    It still felt like 10.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Well, look at it this way — when your comment about whether dpewen “missed something” about The Master goes archival, it’s going to be an incomprehensible “I think you are. Everyone is telling me to see it” 13 posts away from what you’re commenting on.

    • Xanadon't

      Everyone is telling me to see what? Frankenweenie?

      Aagh! You see, it’s already started!

  21. Me

    Some great stuff on TCM Sunday the rarely seen The Front staring Woody Allen and also playing is the adaptation of Carson Mcculler’s The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.

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