Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler September 26-October 2: 2 Looper Imposter Days in Samsara

In Theaters

It’s another crowded week with three mainstream titles of varying interest and three art titles of (mostly) greater interest. That said, one of the mainstream films is born of the art film world and may be one of those rare mainstreamers that crosses the line.

Two of the three art titles—2 Days in New York and The Imposter (both opening at The Carolina)—you will find reviwed in this week’s Xpress. I reviewed Julie Delpy’s follow-up to her 2 Days in Paris and Mr. Souther reviewed The Imposter. I think it is safe to say we were both very agreeably surprised. (When Justin tells me I need to see a documentary, I know it’s something pretty darn special.)

On the other hand, I’ve seen 2 Days in New York—twice. That should tell you something about how well I liked it. But then I liked 2 Days in Paris—and I know some people who didn’t. This, however, is a very diferent film in many ways. Yes, it’s a continuation of the earlier film, but you neither need to have seen, nor liked 2 Days in Paris to “get it.” I liked this considerably more. It’s partly, I think, because Julie Delpy is more likable in it, and partly because I like Chris Rock (even if he’s usually in crap movies) better than Adam Goldberg. But what really sells it to me is that it’s quirkier—to the point of being downright strange—and more playful.

The one thing we have neither seen, nor reviewed is Samsara, which opens Friday at the Fine Arts. (Interestingly, this puts the Fine Arts in the unusual position of running two films that were shot in 70mm.) It’s something I also need to apologize for because I discovered far too late that the print listings don’t have it and incorrectly will say that Searching for Sugar Man (which is moving to The Carolina) is still playing there. Well, it isn’t (blame a power failure and the “saved document” feature). Samsara is playing come Friday—at 1:20, 4:20, 7:20, with a late show on Friday and Saturday at 9:45. The film is one of those offbeat items of the non-narrative variety that culls together a variety of footage of things exotic and mundane to convey the filmmakers’ search for “the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives.” In other words, it’s more likely to work as a sensory experuence than a straightforward film—and will appeal to a specific audience.

Taking them alphabetically, the first mainstream title is Hotel Transylvania. This is an animated kiddie film that—as all animated movies of late—trades on the horror film genre. It stars the voices of Adam Sandler (doing a bad Bela Lugosi voice as Dracula), Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, and Fran Drescher. It’s one of those things where the monsters are the normal ones and human beings the outsider—with a human falling in love with Dracula’s daughter, much to the chagrin of the over-protective Count. The trailer is pretty darn dismal looking and most of the jokes it contains seem about on par with the sort of thing you find in a commercial for Count Chocula cereal. Can you tell that my enthusiasm for this is on the low side?

The big thing this week is Rian Johnson’s Looper—a movie I’ve been jazzed to see from the moment I heard about it. But then I was—and am—a huge fan of Johnson’s Brick (2005) and The Brothers Bloom (2009). In fact, the latter was my pick for the best film of its year. I suspect it still would be. And nothing I’ve heard—including Justin’s early report from TIFF—has done anything but increase my anticipation for Johnson’s third film. The sci-fi time travel premise of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hit man who finds himself in the position of being assigned to assassinate his older self (played by Bruce Willis) is intriguing in itself. But the word is that it’s much more than that—and is just as quirky and strangely human and affecting as Johnson’s other work. No question. I’ll be there first thing on Friday morning.

That brings us to Won’t Back Down—a movie I was assured just this morning (on Anderson Cooper’s show) “everyone is talking about.” Really? I know of no one who’s talking about it—apart from someone trying to get a petitition going to boycott it and star Maggie Gyllenhaal for some reason. Certainly, the critics aren’t talking about it. There’s a very simple reason for that. It hasn’t been shown to them. (OK, one person on the IMDb—a pretty obvious studio shill—has gushed over it.) I don’t know if you’re as skeptical as I am, but this PG bout of “inspirational uplift” about a mother and a teacher (played Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) taking on the powers that be to “make a difference” in the educational system looks positive ghastly to me. The fact that the writer-director, Daniel Barnz, is the same guy who brought us the dreadful life-lesson goo-fest that was Beastly (2011) pretty much seals the deal.

This week we lose Farewell, My Queen (that didn’t last long) and The Intouchables (after nine weeks that’s no surprise). As noted Searching for Sugar Man is leaving the Fine Arts, but it has a new home at The Carolina. The Master is holding at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. Arbitrage is still going strong at The Carolina, but Sleepwalk with Me has been reduced to two shows a day, so this is likely its last week.

Also worth noting this week is that Asheville Pizza and Brewing has gone 3D (where applicable) and is not charging extra for 3D titles.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is a double feature of two brisk Universal B pictures, Horror Island and Man Made Monster (both from 1941) on Thu., Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing The Color of Pomegranates (1968) on Fri., Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Walter Lang’s Shirley Temple fantasy The Blue Bird (1940) is this weeks film from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 30 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society ushers in October with Paul Fejos’ silent masterpiece Lonesome (1928) on Tue., Oct. 2 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress—with complete coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

There are only two notable movie releases this week, but one of them, Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, is in the running for the top half of my 2012 Ten Best list. The Avengers, on the other hand, is not.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM’s star of the month for October is Spencer Tracy. While that means a whole bunch of MGM titles that they run all the time, their first Tracy night—Mon., Ocr. 1, starting at 8 p.m. boasts some rarely seen films. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever shown the first one—Raoul Walsh’s Me and My Gal (1932). I know it’s one of those rarities—an early 1930s movie I’ve never seen. The next two—Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle (1933) and William K. Howatd’s The Power and the Glory (1933)—have been shown, but not very often. Definitely worth marking your calendar for.

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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."

10 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler September 26-October 2: 2 Looper Imposter Days in Samsara

  1. Me

    With his acclaim in The Motherf**ker With the Hat, Louie and now this Chris Rock is turning a corner in his career.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on it. There’s not a single item on that list (including this) that isn’t cult or niche market — and all of it added together almost certainly netted Rock less than one Madagascar picture.

  3. Lisa

    For something off the beaten path check out Mechanical Eye Microcinema’s first screening this Saturday of “Who is Bozo Texino?” “Hub City” and “SAVE.” Filmmaker Bill Brown will be in attendance. “SAVE” and “Hub City” will be shown on 16mm. The event is free at Firestorm Cafe at 7pm. (Firestorm is renovating, but the screening is still happening!). More info: http://mechanicaleyecinema.org Thanks!

  4. Me

    I’d say one of the biggest comics living is pretty set for life and it looks like hes interested in doing something worth some content with his career now.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Maybe, but this is the same guy who was recently claiming that films like Madagascar and Grown Ups were demonstrably better than award winners because more people went to see them and they made more money. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t keep making films like those. In fact, Grown Ups 2 is in post-production.

  6. Ken Hanke

    It may have been on NPR. I didn’t hear the original interview (or interviews), but it was pretty widely reported in entertainment news — in part because it was just as this movie was about to open. Now, it may be argued that he was possibly screwing with the interviewer — and I’d not argue the possibility.

  7. Me

    I know he talked about Head of State being the movie closest to the original vision he saw while filming, because 4 years later a black man was president.

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