Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 17-23: Wild Hobbit Annie at the Museum

In Theaters.

And so it begins. The first flood of Christmasiana — clogging theater screens with Hobbits and Ben Stiller, a trickle of singing tots and one art title. And don’t forget, there’ll be another six titles hitting us on Christmas Day. These are perilous times we live in.




Unsurprisingly — especially since it’s awards season — I’ve seen the art title, which is Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild. This was a pleasant surprise — almost a shock. Nothing about this — neither its story, nor its star — had made me…let’s say, anxious to see this. But on one viewing, I liked it. On a second viewing, I discovered I liked it a whole lot. I’m not quite prepared to say I loved it, but that may come. On the other hand, I suspect that audiences — assuming they aren’t put off by its wholly-embraced R rating — will love it unreservedly. The review is in this week’s paper. The movie will be here — at The Carolina and the Fine Arts — on Friday.

Otherwise, well, we’ll see.




First up is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and it’s up first because it hits on Wednesday. I guess it opens on Wednesday to assure us that it’s an event. Theaters sure think so — for example, The Carolina has four screens of Hobbits. You, too, may be all jazzed about this. For me, that’s at least three screens too many, but I also think The Hobbit: Been There Done That would be a more apt title. Yes, I know, I haven’t seen it, but I’m just over Orcs and Hobbits and Elves and Tolkien — and, honestly, Peter Jackson. The highlight of this event for me is that I won’t have to see that damned trailer again. And, no, I am not reviewing it. That falls to Mr. Souther. Hopefully, he — and those not suffering from Bilbo Burnout — will enjoy it.




On Friday, we are treated to Will Gluck’s Annie, which notably only rates one screen. Why, you ask? Perhaps because this is quite possibly even worse than the trailers suggest — at least, if the early reviews are to be believed. I am not against the film per se, and I have in the past liked Gluck’s work. I have no great fondness for the show, found the John Huston movie version unwatchable, and don’t really care what they have done with it — or perhaps to it. But this updating just plain looks awful. Reports of heavily auto-tuned vocals and assessments like “toxic mess” do nothing to encourage me, but I guess I’ll find out on Friday.




Finally, there’s hackmeister Shawn Levy’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. I wasn’t that fond of the first and dislike the second, so I’m far from excited about this third trip to the well — and bear in mind, this is a movie with Simian Value. Much as I subscribe to the belief that almost any movie is improved by the inclusion of a monkey, I am left with grave misgivings here. This is one of those things where you know the drill — antics in a museum where the displays come to life after hours. The wrinkle, if that it can be called, here seems to be that the magic is fading (well…) so it falls to Ben Stiller to go to the British Museum to see if he can prevent that. If you’re on the edge of your seat, great. Myself, I’m hoping to convince Justin that it doesn’t matter that he didn’t see the second one. Or did he? He may have sat through it with me.

This week, the only thing we flat-out lose is St. Vincent, which is pretty well played out. The Fine Arts is dropping The Theory of Everything, but The Carolina is holding it for another week. However, The Babadook is being cut come Friday to two evening shows — 6:45 and 10:15 — to, I guess, make room for all those Hobbits and Stillers. Bear in mind, though, that Christmas Day is going to really shake things up.

Special Screenings




This week The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Claude Rains in Stuart Walker’s Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Dec. 18 is Theater Six. World Cinema is running Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) on Fri., Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society is showing John Wayne in John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef (1963) for their official Christmas movie on Tue., Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.


The biggie this week is Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, but also notable is The Skeleton Twins. The Maze Runner shows up, too, as does This Is Where I Leave You, but why bring that up?


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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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25 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 17-23: Wild Hobbit Annie at the Museum

  1. Me

    TCM is playing Fanny and Alexander, Tess, Paris Texas, and to The Devil a Daughter this week.

  2. Me

    Ken, did you get a chance to catch up with any of these titles Starred Up, Listen Up Phillip, Black Mirror?

  3. Me

    I thought you might have finished watching all the films for awards season and had some free time. Its definitely worth checking out. I liked this quote about the series.

    “Black Mirror isn’t really sci-fi, it’s more like now after a couple of software updates – and it’s quite terrifying”

        • Me

          A Filmspotting episode was named one of the top podcast episodes of all time earlier this week over at Slate. The one they picked couldn’t have been any better either, Matty Robinsons pick for number one film of the 00’s is one of the most touching moments in the shows history.

          15. Filmspotting, “Episode 300,” Parts 1 and 2 (2010)
          Adam Kempenaar and Sam Van Hallgren started Filmspotting in 2005, when podcasting was just getting off the ground. (It was called Cinecast at first and took the current name in 2006.) Over time, they established a reliably entertaining format: a review of a new film; then a self-consciously amateurish recitation of a classic movie scene, with listeners asked to identify the movie in question via email; then a top-five list, ranging from the “Top 5 Movies About Movies” (Episode 1) to the “Top 5 Movie Manimals” (Episode 507). They key to the show’s enduring success, though, is not the format so much as the tone: earnest, informed, self-deprecating, and conversational. Van Hallgren, now a producer of the show, turned co-hosting duties over to Matty Robinson, who in turn handed the reins to Josh Larsen in 2011. Each, along with Kempenaar, has sustained the show’s friendly enthusiasm and passionate devotion to new and classic movies, best exhibited, we think, on the 300th episode blowout, in which the hosts picked not just the top five but the top 20 films of the first decade of the 21st century.

  4. Me

    I just got the Criterion newsletter in my email that says A Master Builder is going to be available for streaming on the 23rd. So, there’s one I can look forward to this Christmas.

  5. Steven

    Me just seems to go off on random tangents that rarely align with Ken’s interest.

    On a side note, I was suddenly reminded why I disliked Elephant so much.

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