Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 8-14: The Longest Danny Collins in Gold While We’re Young: An Introduction

In Theaters.

It’s a particularly rich week on the art side — including my vote for first great film of 2015. There are three of them — and maybe four. That fourth remains to be seen. On the mainstream front…well, that’s another matter altogether.

That dubious fourth art title — Danny Collins — remains unscreened hereabouts. What this means is up in the air. It’s from a new distributor and it’s out in limited release already. This is an expansion, but no word yet on how wide that expansion will be, though it’s at least going to hit The Carolina this Friday. We’re on firmer ground with the other three — all of which have been screened and are reviewed in this week’s Xpress.

 

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While all three are worth catching — in markedly different ways — the big winner for me is Noah Baumach’s latest While We’re Young — opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. That’s the one I’m tagging as the first great film of the year. This very funny, very perceptive look at the mid-life crises of a Generation X couple — Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts — and what happens when they become involved with a pair of millennial hipsters — Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried — is Baumbach’s most complex, accomplished, and polished film to date. It is (seemingly) effortlessly stylish and startlingly deep in the issues it explores. (The fact that anyone has made a film where I actually like a Ben Stiller performance — rather than at best tolerating it — is doing something very, very right.) It is not, however, an entirely comfortable movie. You may well see too much of yourself in it. (I did, but I never felt diminished by it, nor did I sense I was being lectured.) I urge you to see this movie.

 

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Nearly as good in a very different key is Ethan Hawke’s documentary Seymour: An Introduction — opening Friday at The Carolina. Though the title is drawn from J.D. Salinger, this is Hawke’s film about his friend, octogenarian concert pianist Seymour Bernstein, who walked away from a successful performing career at the age of 50. I expected a gimmick. There is none. I expected Hawke to make it more about himself than Bernstein. He doesn’t. It is simply a charmingly elegant film about a fascinating man Hawke loves and admires. It’s really quite beautiful — and so is Bernstein’s unassuming good humor and approach to music and life.

 

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Finally, there’s the critic-polarizing film from Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn), Woman in Gold — opening Friday at The Carolina. It’s a fact-based story of the Oscar-bait kind and it stars Helen Mirren and a surprisingly good Ryan Reynolds. It tells the story of an elderly Jewish woman (Mirren) — a refugee now living in LA — trying to reclaim art that was stolen from her family by the Nazis and subsequently appropriated by the Austrian government. For reasons I don’t understand, it has split the critics straight down the middle. Does it simplify the story for dramatic purposes? Almost certainly. What film of this sort doesn’t? For some reason, it has annoyed an awful lot of critics, which did not prevented it from having a seriously impressive per theater take last weekend when it opened in 258 theaters. Never underestimate the power of Helen Mirren with a certain type of audience. It’s not a great movie, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

 

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On to the unseen with first-time director Dan Fogelman’s Danny Collins — opening at The Carolina (possibly elsewhere) on Friday. This takes a fact-based concept — a letter from John Lennon to a musician that was delivered 40 years later — and ties it to a wholly fictional story about Danny Collins (Al Pacino), an aging rocker with alcohol, drug, and womanizing issues. The letter prompts him to try to turn his life around. The early reviews rack up on Rotten Tomatoes as 44 positive ones vs. 17 negative ones. (How reliable or credible these are is a personal call.) To be brutally honest, Dan Fogelman has some seriously bad writing credits — Fred Claus (2007), Last Vegas (2013)…in fact, everything but Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) is pretty dire. And apart from Stand Up Guys (2013), Al Pacino’s work hasn’t been much to brag about since 2004’s The Merchant of Venice. But here we also have Annette Bening and Christopher Plummer to help out. I’m willing to give it a chance anyway.

 

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That brings us to our annual adaptation of the seemingly unpreventable string of Nicholas Sparks novels. This one from director George Tillman, Jr. is called The Longest Ride — opening Friday at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. And at a whopping 139 minutes it threatens to be a very long ride indeed. Frankly, it sounds interchangeable with every other Nicholas Spark movie ever made — two-pronged stories from different eras about troubled lovers. I suppose this is somehow notable for Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) in his first lead role. I also suppose there’s an audience for these things. I can only say that I’m glad that Mr. Souther has become our Nicholas Sparks expert.

This week we lose Still Alice and What We Do in the Shadows. The Fine Arts is dropping The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but it’s hanging on at The Carolina. It’s worth noting, Serena and Kingsman: The Secret Service are being split at The Carolina — usually meaning a final week.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Brian De Palma’s Body Double (1984) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Apr. 9 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Peter Greenaway’s big art house hit The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) on Fri., Apr. 10 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 Charles Dance’s Ladies in Lavender (2004) on Sun., Apr. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) on Tue., Apr. 14 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.

 On DVD

This week big releases are The Immigrant and A Most Violent Year. Me, I’m waiting on the Blu-ray of Imitation of Life to show up (I’m getting it for the 1934 version, not the 1959 one).

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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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65 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 8-14: The Longest Danny Collins in Gold While We’re Young: An Introduction

  1. Mike

    I see The Carolina has Ex Machina booked for next week. Would you consider this reliable?

    • Ken Hanke

      Last I saw it was listed on the booking sheet as “tentative.” I should know today or tomorrow.

          • Me

            Well, I was going to check out While We’re Young and Ex Machina and save myself an extra trip.

          • Ken Hanke

            I think that While We’re Young will last more than two weeks, but I don’t know it for a fact. Considering how well it did nationally last weekend, and the fact that it’s only at The Carolina and Fine Arts here, a third week seems probable.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well…I recognized nothing as Asheville, if that’s what you mean. If you mean do I think it looks good…uh…not really, no.

  2. Lea

    The While We’re Young trailer sparked some unpleasant Greenberg flashbacks … but it sounds like I should give it a shot anyway.

    • Ken Hanke

      Lea, it’s not much like Greenberg, which I found vaguely unpleasant. There’s something mumblecore-ish about Greenberg that is completely — and blessedly — absent here.

  3. Ken Hanke

    In the running for my favorite breakout quote of all time is this from AP’s Sandy Cohen on The Longest Ride: “The film is likely to satisfy Sparks fans. And it brings something new to the romance genre: bull riding.” Now even if your mind is less…wayward than mine and it doesn’t suggest some kind of specialty act in Tijuana, it still puts forth the peculiar notion that this is some kind of long-felt want in the genre.

    • Big Al

      A new take on the public’s desire for “broke back” movies?

      Or maybe just those who are just “horny”…?

  4. Xanadon't

    I’ve been raring for more bull riding action in my romance movies ever since 8 Seconds. Finally, that movie has arrived!

    • Ken Hanke

      Hey, there are 8 p.m. shows tonight for those who can’t wait for the bull.

  5. Edwin Arnaudin

    2015’s other Ron Rash adaptation, The World Made Straight (which was actually shot in WNC), hit Netflix today. That was fast.

    • Ken Hanke

      Considering it just premiered, yes. By Netflix, I assume you meaning the streaming variety?

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I do. The disc side of Netflix – to which I have not had a subscription since they (wisely, from a business sense) made it a separate fee a few years back – is a different world.

        • Ken Hanke

          I figured you meant streaming, but it’s as well to make sure.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Indeed, and I usually say “streaming.”

          • Ken Hanke

            I usually say “steaming,” but you know what I mean.

          • Ken Hanke

            Considering my tendency to at least give a look at anything qualifying as a horror picture, I see a lot of steamers on there.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Rather than do any of the things I ought to have been doing last night, I had one of those outbursts of Steaming Netflix with Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes and Bernard Rose’s The Devil’s Violinist. These do not steam, though I’d be hard-pressed to call Snake Eyes good. It is, however, a wallow in De Palma-esque style. Downsides: Nic Cage at his Nic Cagest, the presence of Gary Sinise, and a pretty dumb plot. Rose’s film is a gloriously old-fashioned and fantasticated biopic of Niccolo Paganini. Violinist David Garrett plays Paganini. Jared Harris plays the devil (called Sgr. Urbani). Worth a look, but not great and it assumes you know a good bit about Paganini. It was buried in this country via a Freestyle release and does not seem to be available on DVD. It has a nice dedication at the end of the credits.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      While you were doing that, I watched Alex Gibney’s Scientology doc Going Clear via HBO Now. Of his films I’ve seen, this one ranks high on the list. I think he excels at profiling sketching people (e.g. Jack Abramoff, rabid Chicago Cubs fans) and organizations, but isn’t as sharp with revered subjects. He had to earn my trust back after his Hunter S. Thompson doc and its strangely ignorant ending – which he subsequently did with Casino Jack.

      • DrSerizawa

        I searched around and found the Scientologists’ response to that documentary. I expect that there will be quite a retraction coming from HBO when this wends its way through the Courts.

        • Big Al

          Is this doc that revealing or inflammatory? They were pretty quiet about the quasi-bio of Hubbard, “The Master”.

          I must confess that I was hoping to see at least one fist fight break out in the aisles of the Fine Arts Theatre when “The Master” came through. It compounded my disappointment after the Freudians and Jungians did not go to war over “A Dangerous Method”.

          Damned peacenik hippies.

  7. Edwin Arnaudin

    Three new documentaries of note are now streaming on Netflix. I can vouch for Margaret Brown’s Deepwater Horizon film The Great Invisible, though I prefer her previous doc, The Order of Myths (which is also on there). I’ve yet to see Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Mike Myers’ directorial debut, or My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, but will check them out.

    • Ken Hanke

      Check out Who Is Harry Nilsson and Why Is Everybody Talking About Him? while you’re at it.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I’ve only seen the excerpts that were included on The Point‘s bonus features – but I liked them.

    • Me

      Actress, The Babadook, Goodbye to Language and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night are all on Netflix now too.

  8. Xanadon't

    I’m curious to know if the Refn thing is garbage or not.

    Snake Eyes? All I remember is being impressed by the opening tracking shot around the boxing arena. It played well on the big screen anyway.

    • Ken Hanke

      The tracking shot is probably what you’d take away from revisiting it, but the flashiness doesn’t end there. And as things go in, the old boy even brings in his beloved split-screen, which made me smile. I don’t know that I exactly liked it, but I enjoyed seeing it — enough that I got my still shrink-wrapped Walmart Dump Bin DVD of The Untouchables off the shelf.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      The 65-70% of the Refn doc that directly deals with Only God Forgives is pretty good. The remaining domestic squabbles are not.

      • Ken Hanke

        Well, since I’m one of the six or seven people who actually liked Only God Forgives, I might give it a go.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          You, me and Peter Bradshaw.

          That the doc is less than an hour also helps.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            There are actually quite a few positive, even ecstatic reviews on RT.

  9. Edwin Arnaudin

    Tracks – with Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver – was added to Netflix streaming this morning. I kept expecting someone to open it locally last fall, especially since it drew comparisons to Wild.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        It’s directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil) and was a Weinstein release.

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, The Painted Veil wasn’t bad. The fact that it was Weinstein makes its non-appearance surprising.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Anyone else cheesed by the sound pop-up ads that have started showing up on here? The ones with crappy music and those helium-sucking women shilling for things?

    • Big Al

      I’m not hearing this. Your description almost makes me long to.

      • Big Al

        Oh, DAMN! No sooner did I post this than it came on. Weeeeiiirrrdddd….Big Brother, was that your Big Sister???

      • Ken Hanke

        No. In part because I want to see what’s going on on the Xpress site.

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