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Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 16-22: Le Lunchbox Under Heaven’s Transcendence

This is a really strong week — a remarkably strong week. But the odd thing about that is that its strengths all lie in the art titles. Two of those are among the best things I’ve seen this year — the sort of films that will probably be on my Ten Best list come December (hey, we’re to three now!). The mainstream titles are more problematic to say the least. I have, in fact, been told by one who has seen them that one is not very good, one is just plain not good and one is downright awful.

New Movie Releases

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Starring: Harry Connick, Jr., Nathan Gamble, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman

Dolphin Tale 2

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The Story: A marine hospital struggles to find a partner for a tailless dolphin after her surrogate mother passes away. The Lowdown: Innocuous, dull familycentric drama that’s the kind of pap better suited for basic cable.
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Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Zachary Booth, Devon Graye, Joseph Cross, Alexia Rasmussen, Chris Mulkey, Jayma Mays

Last Weekend

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The Story: An over-privileged family has a bad Labor Day weekend when the whole gang gets together. The Lowdown: Tone-deaf, tin-eared drama about largely unlikable people with lots of money and a lot of self-indulgent problems.
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Starring: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo

No Good Deed

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The Story: An escaped convict terrorizes a woman home alone. The Lowdown: For such a sleazy concept, the outcome is especially tedious, something that doesn’t do much for the general dunderheaded character of the script.
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Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, William Hurt, Isabelle Huppert, Ciarán Hinds, Viola Davis, Bill Hader

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

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The Story: A look at a young couple's marriage as they struggle to find themselves in the wake of a tragedy. The Lowdown: A beautifully cast, literate, perceptive film that recognizes the power of suggestion and ambiguity. Definitely a must-see drama for discerning viewers.
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Starring: Michael Parks, Justin Long, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, "Guy Lapointe"

Tusk

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The Story: A podcast host falls into the clutches of a surgically-inclined madman who proceeds to transform him into a walrus. The Lowdown: Every bit as screwy as it sounds, Tusk gets high marks for novelty and chutzpah, but wears out its welcome with excessive footage. However, it's certainly worth a look for genre fans and Kevin Smith admirers.

Special Screenings This Week

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Starring: Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Myrna Loy, Charles Ruggles, Charles Butterworth, C. Aubrey Smith

Love Me Tonight

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In Brief: With apologies to Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (1932) is far and away the best of all Maurice Chevalier-Jeanette MacDonald musical comedies — and one of my top three films of all time. The combination of Mamoulian's nonstop inventiveness, a barrage of terrific Rodgers and Hart songs (four of which became standards), wonderful supporting players (including Myrna Loy as an overt nymphomaniac) and its two stars giving career-best performances make it one of the most exhilarating entertainments ever made. The sly and witty — and very pre-code — screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein, George Marion, Jr., and Waldemar Young — doesn't hurt, and neither does that luminous 1930s Paramount sophistication. The Asheville Film Society will screen Love Me Tonight Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Bellamy, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Lionel Atwill, Evelyn Ankers

The Ghost of Frankenstein

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In Brief: The fourth — and last really good — entry in Universal's long-running Frankenstein series is also the first one without Boris Karloff as The Monster. In his stead we have Universal's new all-purpose horror star Lon Chaney, Jr. (who would eventually have a go at nearly all of the studio's monsters). While he's no Karloff, he doesn't try to be and presents the character in new terms. A slick, compact script (this is 30 minutes shorter than its cumbersome predecessor) helps, but it's really Bela Lugosi reprising his Ygor role — along with the Hans J. Salter score and solid production values — that sells the movie. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Ghost of Frankenstein Thursday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Elliott Gould, Cybill Shepherd, Angela Lansbury, Herbert Lom, Arthur Lowe, Ian Carmichael

The Lady Vanishes

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In Brief: Reasonably efficient — but pretty unnecessary — remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 classic, the 1979 The Lady Vanishes boasts a good performance from Cybill Shepherd, some nice supporting turns and extremely good process work to give the illusion of being on a moving train. On the other hand, Elliott Gould has no business being in a period piece, and the almost exact duplication of the Hitchcock film's screenplay makes it all pretty superfluous. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Lady Vanishes Sunday, Sept. 21, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
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Starring: Bruce Spence, Wandjuk Marika, Roy Marika, Roy Barrett, Norman Kaye

Where the Green Ants Dream

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In Brief: Minor Werner Herzog, but make no mistake, Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) is still Herzog, and any movie by cinema's most idiosyncratic — sometimes just short of lunatic — filmmaker is worth at least one look. It's a kind of shaggy tale of the crimes against the Aborigines by the Australian government — in this case, involving the destruction of one of their sacred grounds by a mining company. Of course, since this is Herzog, the entire mythology of the green ants is palpable nonsense made up by the filmmaker. The whole thing is rather slight, but some moments transcend the thin and somewhat hackneyed premise. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Where the Green Ants Dream Friday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com