Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 22-28: The Little Age of Ex Machina Doubt

In Theaters.

 This is a slack week for the simple reason that the entire world is gearing up for Avengers: Age of Ultron next Friday — excuse me, next Thursday at 7 p.m. (More and more that’s the norm — ever since the studios figured out that more people will go to those than midnight ones. Imagine that.) Expect screens upon screens of that next week (except for Carmike, which lost the allocation to Beaucatcher).

That doesn’t completely make this week a wash. We do get one mainstream release, one faith-based release, and two art titles. Let’s take those first, since they’ve been seen and reviewed.




The big art release is Alex Garland’s Ex Machina — opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. It’s a science fiction film about artificial intelligence that’s really more of a psychological thriller. It stars Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, and Alicia Vikander. If the name Alex Garland is unfamiliar to you that might be because this is his first time out as a director. But his credentials for this kind of material are…well, pretty impeccable, since he wrote two Danny Boyle films — 28 Days Later… (2002) and Sunshine (2007). In other words, this is not his maiden voyage into the realm of the fantastic. It’s a hard film to describe — in part because part of what works about the film in enhanced by knowing as little as possible. But it’s also because the film deals in deep concerns — including what it means to be human. It’s a film I’m finding hard to shake — and which I like more and more as it settles in my mind. This is the movie to see this week — maybe the movie to see for quite a few weeks.




Also up is Robert Kenner’s documentary Merchants of Doubt — opening Friday at The Carolina. This a solidly made look into the use of “experts” by business interests to cast doubt on the scientific findings on everything from cigarettes to climate change. It’s the kind of movie that will either please or annoy the viewer, depending primarily on political viewpoint. (This will become immediately obvious in the “user comments” on the IMDb with climate change deniers urging people not to see the movie.) My own problem with it — since I’m in the left-leaning column — isn’t with the point of view, but with the fact that I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t know. But as someone pointed out to me, there’s a certain power and value to just having it all laid out for you in one place. This, however, won’t change the fact that it’s mostly going to play to people who are already in agreement with its message.




Now on to the unknown with Lee Toland Krieger’s romantic fantasy The Age of Adaline — opening Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher.  I’m ambivalent about this. I have nothing immediately against the story of a woman (Blake Lively) who was rendered immortal in the 1920s and has lived a solitary existence until she meets up with a man (Michiel Huisman, TV’s Game of Thrones) who makes her consider losing her immortality to be with him. (I admit the mechanics of all this seem pretty vague, and I’m not sure the movie can make things any better by explaining them.) My biggest reservation is that I had lots and lots of problems with Krieger’s Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012). In fact, though I gave it a kind of non-committal three stars, the further I get from it, the more cringe-worthy I find it. But I’ll give it a chance.




I’m much less likely to give Alejandro Monteverde’s Little Boy — opening Friday at Regal Biltmore Grande and maybe Carmike 10 — a chance. This is another faith-based film, or at least is being promoted as such — and is being doled out to theaters on that basis. (The fact that Do You Believe? did poorly at The Carolina caused them not to make the cut.) It’s certainly being treated as faith-based by its supporters — just take a look at the comments on Justin Chang’s Variety review. The nicer things merely call him “biased” and “uneducated.” What’s it about? A little boy (who literally is abnormally small) with the improbable given name of Pepper (Jakob Salvati) gets spiritual advice from the local priest (Tom Wilkinson) on acts of faith that will help bring his father safely home from WWII. I have to say it looks treacly and then some. (Glenn Beck has called it “the new gold standard of family movies.”) And if you didn’t get enough of him last week in Paul Blart, Kevin James has a small role. Your call.

This week we lose Wild Tales, It Follows, and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Don’t know about Carmike (where it performed very badly), but The Carolina (where it performed less badly, but…) is cutting Child 44 to two shows a day — 1:55 and 7:25. I would not expect it to be around a third week. In happier news, it’s worth noting that Asheville Pizza and Brewing is bringing in Kingsman: The Secret Service in for the 7 and 10 p.m. shows.

Special Screenings




Before hitting the usual run of screenings, here’s a reminder that the Asheville Film Society brings back the Budget Big Screen series on Wed., Apr. 22 with Ken Russell’s biographical dream on composer Gustav Mahler, Mahler (1974), being introduced by Russell’s widow, Lisi Russell. The film shows at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. Tickets are $6 for AFS members and $8 general admission. If you haven’t you might want to check out this article on Lisi Russell —


for the defense


This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Mitchel Leisen’s classic Death Takes a Holiday (1934) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Apr. 23 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Atom Egoyan’s Ararat (2002) on Fri., Apr. 24 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Fred Zinneman’s The Day of the Jackal (1973) on Sun., Apr. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes its April calendar with William Powell and Kay Francis in John Cromwell’s For the Defense (1930) on Tue., Apr. 28 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with full reviews in the online edition.


This week brings is A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Cake, and, for whatever reason, Taken 3.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. 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."

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19 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 22-28: The Little Age of Ex Machina Doubt

  1. Dionysis

    “Glenn Beck has called it “the new gold standard of family movies.”

    He probably really said it’s “the Goldline investment standard of family movies.”

  2. Me

    I wish I was going in cold and not knowing anything about Ex Machina, but I hear there’s a killer dance scene that comes out of nowhere. It must be getting a wide release because I looked and its actually going to be playing here.

    • Ken Hanke

      I don’t know that I’d call it a “dance scene” exactly. I mean, don’t be expecting the Michael C. Hall number in Gamer.

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    The Humbling is now streaming on Netflix. If it and David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn are good, then 2015 may be the year Pacino got his groove back.

    • Ken Hanke

      The chances of David Gordon Green’s anything being good seem slim to me.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I have heard that it’s similar to Joe in a lot of ways, so my expectations are low low low.

        • Ken Hanke

          Mine already were. And then there’s Prince Avalanche and Your Highness and…

    • Me

      What, he’s actually been pretty good in his last two HBO films You Don’t Know Jack and Phil Spector. With The Lobster and the new True Detective coming up I thought this might be the comeback year of Colin Farrell.

      • Ken Hanke

        I think it’s less Pacino who’s in question here than it’s David Gordon Green.

        Call me crazy, but I really don’t see The Lobster being comeback worthy in terms of box office. And I know I’m all old-fashioned in considering TV a lesser — or at least wildly different — medium, but it remains true that what people will watch on TV is no guarantee that those same people will pay to see it in a theater.

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