Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler September 11-17: Ain’t Them Bodies in a World Still Insidious

In Theaters

Well, this is certainly tastier than last week, which produced the absolute worst grosses I’ve seen in…well, a very long time. This week looks better. I say that based on both things I’ve seen and my level of interest in at least one thing unseen. This is also one of those weeks in which there are, I fear, more art titles than the market will bear.

There are at least two pretty remarkable — and extremely different — art titles this week. If I had to choose one — and I did in the case of the Weekly Pick — I would definitely go with Lake Bell’s In a World… (opening Friday at the Fine Arts). This is one of the cleverest, most charming and most generous movies to come along this year in terms of indie films. I’m almost — almost — tempted to call it this year’s Safety Not Guaranteed, but it’s not quite that good (few things are). It is, however, very good indeed — and the only indie title (other than Frances Ha) I felt compelled to watch twice before writing the review (which is in this week’s paper).

At the same time, I wouldn’t sell David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (opening Friday at The Carolina) short. If you follow movies at all, you likely are aware of the fact that Lowery’s film has been likened to the work of Terrence Malick. That’s reasonable enough, but do not take that to mean it’s not finally it’s own thing. And certainly don’t take it to mean that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is as impenetrable as Malick’s more recent films. This is a lot more accessible than that. (Also don’t take that first poster that makes it look rather like Meek’s Cutoff to heart.) This is a frequently poetic and hardly straightforward film that is anchored to two strong performances (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) and one brilliant performance (Keith Carradine). It definitely deserves your attention. Check out the review.

Speaking of great performances, we also get a couple of those from James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold in Still Mine (also opening at The Carolina). I freely admit that I’m not that impressed with the film’s aggressive “uplifting” quality or its melodramatic subplot about evil building codes and bureaucrats. (That last has caused the film to warm the heart of at least one of more right-leaning critics — yes, they do exist — who doesn’t seem to understand that the movie is set in Canada.) That does nothing to detract from the performances, though, and the film will appeal to a lot of people. Again, read the review.

In the mainstream realm, first up is Luc Besson’s The Family. Besson used to be a pretty big deal as a director with movies like La Femme Nikita (1990) and Leon: The Professional (1994), but after the inevitable foray into Hollywood movies with The Fifth Element (1997), he hasn’t been very formidable on that front. Instead, he mostly writes and produces things like the Transporter and Taken movies, becoming something of a brand name for artistically dubious action movies. Well, he’s back with this comedy about a mob family — headed by Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer — who have been relocated to France as part of a witness protection program. The problem with this for agent Tommy Lee Jones is that they seem incapable of setting aside their mobster ways. Red flags? Well, aside from the horrible memories of De Niro’s last comedy, The Big Wedding, there’s the fact that no reviews are out there.

Also bereft of reviews is James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2, which arrives on the scene just as Wan’s last film, The Conjuring, leaves. The lack of reviews here is not surprising, since it’s a horror picture and reviews for this are notoriously unreliable. While I don’t entirely understand how this fits with the first film, I’m entirely on board. I liked The Conjuring, but I have to admit it hasn’t stayed with me and its screenplay did it no favors. (Re-watching the first Insidious did it even less favors.) Insidious: Chapter 2 brings back Wan’s usual writing partner, Leigh Whannell, and looks like it will be an altogether quirkier and more personal film. The first film — which I’ve seen three times — stands in my mind as one of the high water marks of 21st century horror movies, so a continuation at the very least intrigues me. In fact, yeah, I’m pretty jazzed about seeing this.

The only thing of note that we’re actually losing this week is 20 Feet from Stardom, which is leaving the Fine Arts. They’re also dropping The Way, Way Back, but it’s hanging on at The Carolina (I expect this is its final week).

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), which is being shown Thu., Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Bad Ideas (2012) — one of the film’s from the Twin Rivers Media Festival — on Fri., Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Frank Lloyd’s Cavalcade (1933) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 15 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening Tony Richardson’s The Loved One (1965) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Sept. 17 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

A fairly light week for movies. For me, the best thing out there is Love Is All You Need, followed by Star Trek Into Darkness (something I’ve no need to see twice). And then there’s Peeples, which I wish I’d never seen at all. Also on tap are a couple of documentaries — Chasing Ice and We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM continues its “Sundays with Hitch” on Sun., Sept. 15. At 10 a.m. we get Number Seventeen (1932), 11:15 a.m. is The Trouble with Harry (1955), 1:15 p.m. Family Plot (1976), 3:30 p.m. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), 5:45 p.m. Vertigo (1958), 8 p.m. Rear Window (1954), 10 p.m. To Catch a Thief (1955), midnight The Farmer’s Wife (1928). I realize that this includes Hitchcock’s much-admired 1950s films, but I’m more taken with Number Seventeen (if nothing else, it’s probably the damndest thing Hitch ever made) and the underrated The Trouble with Harry.

Monday continues Mark Cousin’s series The Story of Film: An Oyssey: 1918-1932 — The Great Rebel Filmmakers. Leading up to it at 8 p.m. is F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) — if you haven’t seen this, then shame on you. Following it is Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin (1925) — another essential for basic cinematic literacy.

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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 September 11-17: Ain’t Them Bodies in a World Still Insidious

  1. Dionysis

    I liked Sunshine, but I don’t see it as even remotely a horror movie.

  2. Justin Souther

    I mostly just wanted to run it, and I figured it’d play better with the Thursday crowd than the Film Society folks is all.

    • Dionysis

      That makes sense. It’s worth showing and that is a crowd more suited for the film.

  3. Ken Hanke

    That’s right. It’s all his fault.

    Still, I do remember the criticism that the last act turns into a horror film. Anyway, I’m pretty lenient on the topic of genre. I think it comes from all the things that showed on “Shock Theater” that were by no possible definition horror pictures. (One of which, the Crime Club mystery The Last Warning we played as a second feature with a horror film. The audience liked it better than the horror picture.) Plus, leave us face it, we’re about 200 movies into this. Fresh pickings anyone would want to sit through are slimmer and slimmer.

    • Dionysis

      It’s all opinion, of course, but I don’t agree about the last act. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi and horror films, since early childhood, and have a (I guess) somewhat narrow view of what constitutes a horror film. I really don’t like having to concede that slasher and torture porn films are a sub-genre. But I must.

      I want some kind of monster, even if it’s of the human variety (‘Jekyll and Hyde’). And sci-fi (again, my narrow personal definition) doesn’t require aliens or whiz-bang special effects (i.e. ‘Moon’).

      And you are right about slim pickings this far into it. Don’t get me wrong, I liked ‘Sunshine’, and am glad it’s being shown. It just isn’t horror, more like sci-fi suspense.

    • Dionysis

      Within its sci-fi trappings, I always considered Alien a sort of ‘old dark house’ monster-in-space flick. A sci-fi horror film.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I really don’t like having to concede that slasher and torture porn films are a sub-genre. But I must.

    Well — not really to defend them (though the slasher stuff doesn’t bother me) — but I’m not sure they’re much more than an outgrowth of things like The Black Cat, The Raven, Dark Eyes of London, etc. than anything all that new. I mean there’s a lot of perversity, sadism and killing and no monsters. Granted, those were better done and more tasteful, but they’re in the same mould.

    I want some kind of monster, even if it’s of the human variety

    Well, it kinda does have one.

    • Dionysis

      True, but again, depraved killers may fairly be lumped into the horror category, but I still would rather have some kind of supernatural element to it. I’ll take a vampire, werewolf, zombie, killer tomatoes, devil dogs from hell or whatever over a raving, knife-weilding psycho.

  5. Me

    Looks like a double weekend In A World and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

    Bergman’s Winter Light is also on TCM Thursday.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I still would rather have some kind of supernatural element to it. I’ll take a vampire, werewolf, zombie, killer tomatoes, devil dogs from hell or whatever over a raving, knife-weilding psycho

    There are an awful lot of really appalling movies with those monsters. (In fact, I’d say that describes all killer tomato and devil dog movies.) For that matter, by Part Six, Jason Voorhees is a supernatural entity. And Freddy Kruger always was. Where do you place man-made monsters? Is the Frankenstein Monster supernatural? What about Dr. Moreau’s evolutionary dabblings? The glow-in-the-dark Karloff whose touch kills?

    • Dionysis

      Picky, picky. Yes, I would place man-made monsters (wasn’t there 50s horror film with that title?) into the horror category. These types of films had people altered into something no longer human. And I do concede that ‘supernatural’, while intending to be a kind of catch-phrase, is too limiting. When Victor Frankenstein or Dr. Moreau tinkered with nature and created something unnatural, they created monsters. So yes, they fit the bill.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Man Made Monster (1941) was Lon Chaney’s first actual horror picture — kind of a warm-up to The Wolf Man.

    For a while in the 21st century there seemed to be a distaste for supernatural horror altogether (The Ring to one side). Midnight Meat Train, for example, was criticized because it turned out to be supernatural in nature. Of course, it was made at the height of the torture porn and home invasion “craze.” I guess those awful Paranormal Stupidity and the not awful James Wan pictures (well, the latest is an unknow quantity) changed that.

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