Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 17-23: The Risen Witch in the Van Race

In Theaters.

It’s a two-fer kind of week in that we get two mainstream titles and two art titles, though one of those art titles is being foolishly (I think) treated as mainstream. (I could be wrong.) Neither of the mainstream titles excite me — your mileage may vary — but at least one of the art titles is choice.

Nothing this week stands even a ghost of a chance of duplicating the freakish success of last week’s Deadpool — a film that nearly doubled the most optimistic projection of the people who get paid to make those projections. I have nothing against that. I enjoyed the movie just fine and I’m amused by the way so much of it is built on the career of an actor who not only never quite made it, but who seemed to fall into bad career choices with almost supernatural accuracy. What I am not looking forward to is the likely rush of copycats churned out by studios that have only the vaguest notion of why this movie worked.

 

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Now the best thing this week (as far as I’m concerned) is Nicholas Hytner’s film of Alan Bennett’s “mostly true story” The Lady in the Van — opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. My review for it is this week’s Xpress, and as I noted there, I liked this so much that I watched it twice and look forward to seeing it again. The big draw for many is going to be Maggie Smith in the title role — and that’s fine. She’s certainly exceptional in the part (she’d already played in onstage and in radio drama), but there’s more to the film than simply one role — a great deal more. Check out the review, but more importantly, go see the movie.

 

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I’ve also seen Robert Eggers’ The Witch — starting Friday (with Thursday night shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is really an art film, but as often happens with horror titles, it’s being handled like a mainstream release. Personally, this strikes me as a mistake. This about as far as you’re likely to get from an action-packed horror picture. Though I saw it, I passed the reviewing of it on to Scott Douglas (his review is in this week’s Xpress), since he seemed to be much more in tune with the picture than I was. It is by no means a film lacking in merit. It is simply a film that didn’t appeal much to me.

 

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First up on the unknown duo is Stephen Hopkins’ Race — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. (It may be at Carmike 10, too, but that’s unconfirmed.) I’m sure this biopic of Jesse Owens (Stephan James, Selma) — centered on his appearance at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — is well-intentioned, but it strikes me as a hard sell. It hasn’t been screened for critics. It’s big names are supporting players — Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten (as Leni Rifenstahl!), William Hurt. Director Stephen Hopkins is best know (theatrically anyway) for things A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989), Predator 2 (1990), and The Reaping (2007). And it runs a whopping 134 minutes. Plus, there’s that poster — I know it’s not the intention, but it makes Owens look like he’s thumbing his nose at the camera.

 

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And finally we have Kevin Reynolds’ Risen — starting Friday (with Thursday, etc.) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. I really have no clue why this faith-based picture is opening now. It would seem more suitable for an Easter release, but here it is. The picture stars Joseph Fiennes (Ralph’s less successful little brother) as the Roman Centurion put on the case of the missing body of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. Think of it as an ancient world police procedural, I guess. Of course, the whole thing is geared (the promos make this clear) to have it end up with Fiennes seeing the light. (A website called Godvine claims it’s the movie “Hollywood Doesn’t Want You to See,” a debatable assessment at least as far as Sony Pictures is concerned.) I like the fact that it’s rated PG-13 “for Biblical violence.”

This week we don’t actually lose any art titles, but 45 Years and Where to Invade Next are being split at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts. Otherwise, we’re status quo.

Special Screenings

 

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The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running John Brahm‘s werewolf picture The Undying Monster (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 18 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 19 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing John Sayles’ The Secret of Roan Inish (1995) on Sun., Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Ernst Lubitsch’s anti-war classic Broken Lullaby (1932) on Tue., Feb. 23 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.

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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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59 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 17-23: The Risen Witch in the Van Race

  1. Ken Hanke

    Since it’s a new week, I guess we can move the Netflix Lousy Horror Movie Diary over here. Not much, but I did see a 1998 (released 2000 here) vampire picture called Immortality, which appears to have been called The Wisdom of Crocodiles in the UK with Jude Law. I don’t want to oversell it, but it was unusual and unusually stylish. It’s actually kind of elegant. That’s more than I can say for the dumb revenge melodrama Return to Sender with Rosamund Pike and Nick Nolte. I advise against this.

    • Xanadon't

      Ah, now you see I almost went in for a Return to Sender watch last night. Glad I didn’t, though what I did watch wasn’t all that swell. In Fear… a movie that could’ve been worse, but painted itself into a corner too early to ever amount to much. It wasn’t bad on a technical level, but we get stuck with too much repetition and it’s too confined to the interior of a… sedan. Locke, it is not.

      Oh and carrying over from last week… Devil Seed was indeed terrible and so forgettable that it wasn’t until I was halfway thru the trailer that I realized I had in fact seen it. Certainly one of those that I just left running while doing whatever else, occasionally giving it a glance when the music swelled.

      I must see this Jude Law fends off immortal crocodiles movie!

  2. Xanadon't

    Other recent Lousy Netflix Horror – Cursed, the 2005 Wes Craven effort (in the loosest use of the word) that I hadn’t caught up with yet and should just as well have left alone.

    Then there’s Girlhouse– not on Netflix so probably not worth tracking down. It’s trashy, sure, but not so much as one might expect. Really it’s pretty dumb is what it is, but there are some nice slasher elements that harken back to Mike Myers/Jason Voorhees days… oh, but nothing ever approaching iconic, let’s be clear.

      • Ken Hanke

        Netflix update: Hellgate — supernatural jiggery pokery in Thailand starring Bill Hurt (who doesn’t show up for 45 minutes) and Cary Elwes (who unfortunately is there most of the time). It’s not awful and flesh-eating Thai demons in the lasy section are pretty creepy. Still…

  3. Lisa Watters

    When you described the storyline in Risen, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the George Clooney character in Hail, Caesar! when he portrays Caesar ‘seeing the light’ towards the end. I’ll probably stick to that rendition.

    • Ken Hanke

      Might be wiser. Then again, I’ll probably review Risen on the strength of it being about 30 min. shorter than Race

    • NFB

      As far as “Risen” goes I think it is pretty awesome that Draco Malfoy is playing a character named Lucius. Probably not enough to see it, mind you, but pretty awesome nonetheless.

      • Ken Hanke

        I like the ad campaign that uses things like “Joseph Fiennes IS Clavius.” I mean I understand things like “Sean Connery IS James Bond or even “Rudolph Nureyev IS Valentino,” but this…

  4. Barry

    I have to admit, I am extremely pumped about The Witch, having been reading about it for months. I’m frankly glad that it’s being marketed as mainstream horror, because we in the plain states would probably never get to see it otherwise. The original posters of the cropped goat head were mysterious and sinister, probably much truer to the spirit of the film than the official poster of a nude young woman in silhouette. Nude women sell more tickets than goats, but I think they may be giving too much away. I’m hoping it’s an art film that will scare the crap out of me.

    • Ken Hanke

      Nude women sell more tickets than goats

      I believe this is pretty much a given.

      • Me

        I remember seeing the trailer last year, but for some reason I remembered it being a foreign film. I’m surprised it’s getting a wide release, I might have to check it out this weekend.

        • Barry

          That sense of the foreign is one of the things that appeals to me so much about this: a vastly different time with different sensibilities, purportedly conveyed in extremely authentic detail, and not rated PG-13.

          • Ken Hanke

            There’s really very little about this that couldn’t have gotten a PG-13.

  5. Barry

    Well, I will gladly accept that very little. I am so tired of movies shoehorning their ideas and expressiveness into that little PG-13 box that I have probably developed a distorting bias against the rating. I’m thinking of movies like “Krampus” that use frenetic incomprehensible editing to keep us from really seeing what’s going on (what was that angel-thing doing fussing around on top of Toni Colette? I wanna know!). I’m afraid that I am growing tiresome on this topic and won’t mention it again.

    • Ken Hanke

      I don’t think it’s tiresome at all. It’s simply that I can think of a great many exceptional movies — including horror pictures — that are not R rated. Then again ratings are bizarre and arbitrary. Why exactly is Peter Medak’s The Changeling rated R? It has very little “bad language,” no nudity, no gore. I can see why you might not want to show it children, but I see no actual reason for that rating.

      • Barry

        I agree with everything you’ve said — including the rating on The Changeling — but what bothers me is that sense I get of filmmakers censoring themselves for a rating…the same reason I don’t want to see films edited down from their original versions. I don’t want to miss anything! It’s interesting how movies are fitted with new ratings down the road, Midnight Cowboy being the most famous example, but even Barbarella, which I regarded as soft-core porn when it came out (maybe partly because of my tender virginal sensibilities), is now only PG.

        • Ken Hanke

          The interesting thing about Midnight Cowboy is that director John Schlesinger asked for the X rating, feeling that children — with or without parents — shouldn’t see it. Barbarella was my first encounter with the R rating, because my parents dropped me off and I couldn’t get in (“so that’s what that R in the newspaper ads meant!”) and I had to walk home (about three miles). I didn’t see it till years later — probably when it came out on VHS — and thought it was fairly awful, but not so much porn as snickeringly juvenile.

          • Barry

            Well, I nearly had to walk “home” myself after seeing it at the John Steinbeck Theater in Monterey because I just stayed and watched it nearly all over again, barely making it to the Greyhound station in time for the bus that would take me back to Fort Ord. The reason? Jane Fonda.

          • Ken Hanke

            I think my problem was that the Life magazine spread made it look better than it was. And, no doubt, it would have worked better if I’d seen it when it was new and I was like 14.

          • Barry

            Well, in some ways even at age 21 I had the sensibilities of a 14-year-old. I’m afraid that to some degree that may still be the case.
            I wasn’t aware that Schlesinger had asked for an X rating, but I knew from DVD commentaries that he and Salt never shrank back from the subject matter of their movie or the best way to tell their story. And that is really the sort of sensibility I wish for from filmmakers.

  6. T.rex

    Don’t forget the Stephen Hopkins “classic ” JUDGEMENT NIGHT.

      • T.rex

        Good, in a fun “drive-in/exploitation” movie way. Dennis Leary makes for a fun villian and Jeremy Piven is a wonderful douche as always.

        • Ken Hanke

          Jeremy Piven and “wonderful” do not belong in the same sentence. Or even the same paragraph.

          • T.rex

            Does that include the wonderful, fantastic, outstanding THE PLAYER? He was in that too albeit in a small role of a douchy stydio exec.

          • Ken Hanke

            Will it break your heart if I tell you I think The Player is way, way overrated?

  7. Xanadon't

    So did anyone have more success with Gaspar Noe’s Love than I? The red Murphy’s Law title card was as far as I could stand it.

    • Ken Hanke

      Simply put: No.

      I did take a break from Crap Horror and gave Joe Wright’s Atonement another go. I think I’d place it as no. 3 on my Wright-o-meter — behind Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice, but ahead of everything else. I still have the problem of not caring much about the characters, but the filmmaking intrigues me more than it did in 2007.

      However, I am back on the case and have started watching Stitches.

      • Reeves Singleton

        I don’t remember much about Stitches, but I do remember it having a fairly novel use for the male reproductive organs.

        Has anyone run across The Canal on Netflix (or elsewhere)? It’s neither pleasant nor all that coherent, but it’s stylish enough and fairly creepy at times.

        • Ken Hanke

          The main thing I noticed about Stitches was that the first part was at least cleverly made — not so cleverly written, though — but that it became more just ordinary “splatstick” as went on. I didn’t hate it. I don’t mind that I sat through it, but I’d stop short of recommending it.

          Is The Canal that movie that’s got a lot of truth or illusion “which is which” going on and the main character is a film archivist?

      • Xanadon't

        That’s how I rank them. I’ve still only seen Atonement the once, whereas I watched Karenina twice at the theater and two or three times since.

    • Me

      The new Netflix series Love will be available tomorrow, I don’t think it will be as good as Master of None, but it looks like it’s worth checking out.

  8. Edwin Arnaudin

    That was fast: the Fassbender/Cotillard Macbeth is on Amazon Prime.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Netflix Crap-o-rama update: Don’t Blink — Don’t watch. Low-rent twaddle where people keep vanishing for no apparent reason (and you can always spot when it’s going to happen), and as we plod to the ending we realize we never will know why.
    The Nameless — Jaume Balaguera was more interesting before he made Darkness and all those [Rec] movies and this is almost recommendable. Actually, until it paints itself into a corner of telegraphe stupidity, it plays a lot like an Argento in a all its screwiness.

    • Ken Hanke

      More Netflix Cheese…

      Feeling charitably disposed toward Jaume Balaguera after The Nameless, I gave [Rec 4] a try. I am once more less charitable.

      Black Forest — I really do know better than to keep going when I see the name “SyFy,” but I did it anyway. Yes, well…

      Hansel v. Gretel — Moderately enjoyable cheese with uniformly bad performances.

      Hansel & Gretel — I’m detecting a pattern here. In earlier — less polite — times, this would be viewed as Dee Wallace in a “horror hag” movie, which is pretty much what it amounts to. It’s kind of a mash-up of the fairy tale with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Some of it works. Most of it is only so-so. The guy playing Hansel reminded me of a young Don Mancini. When exactly did Lilith become the witch in the Hansel and Gretel yarn? (This also applies to Hansel v. Gretel.)

      I think I am about cheesed out till they get a new shipment of gorgonzola.

      • Xanadon't

        I got about 10 minutes into Black Forest before the dopey acting became too much for me. It was so bad that I abandoned horror altogether and opted to watch People, Places, Things instead, a movie I truly enjoyed my time with.

    • Ken Hanke

      It has not been mentioned, but the art slate is pretty slim at the moment, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Rounding out this week’s excursions into the Velveeta Land known as Netflix, I can add:

    The Stranger — it’s not great, but this peculiar vampire tale in a lot better than the “Eli Roth presents” that festoons it. This is a Chilean film made in English that pretends to be taking place in Canada. Why? Because it will sell better here — except I don’t recall this ever playing theaters.

    Kristy — Moderately okay low-budget psycho-cult-terrorizes-lone-girl-at-empty-college. For an empty college, lots of folks do seem to expire attempting to save her. Terrible post-credits scene brings it down a notch.

    The Unwanted — Ho-hum southern fried take on Carmilla. Strictly for those who can’t get enough of Sapphic vampires.

    Almost Mercy — Nasty little movie — like a low-rent We Need to Talk About Kevin, but neither as bad, nor as artsy — and with a pretty decent twist. Bill Moseley and former Jason Kane Hodder are in it to no real point. It is very sleazy indeed, and isn’t helped much by the fact that the filmmakers seem to be friends with a rock band…

    Some Kind of Hate — some kind of rubbish about bullying and a vengeful spirit. Like Carrie for morons.

    The Secret Village — TV movie looking affair that’s more effective before we get to the twist, if only because pre-twist the narrative is disturbing in its incoherence. One you know what’s going on it’s pretty meh.

    • Xanadon't

      Ya know, I think I may just revisit the Insidious trilogy. Impressive investigative work though. And you’ve single-handedly prevented a Some Kind of Hate mistake.

      • Ken Hanke

        I live to serve,

        I think I have the Insidious trilogy. Certainly I own 1 and 2. I’ve started revisiting the Hellraiser films. (I’ve only ever seen the first three.) It’s not going all that well…time was not been kind.

  11. Xanadon't

    A few years back I had grand intentions of watching the Hellraiser series from beginning to end, having only previously seen the original. That first one still holds up and the second installment is watchable. Mostly. But oh my Hellraiser III is so completely awful that I’ve never made it any further. Similarly I tend to hit a roadblock at the 4th Nightmare on Elm Street movie, to the point that I’m not sure I’ve ever watched 5 and 6 all the way through before returning to palatable horror with New Nightmare.

    • Ken Hanke

      I will soon report on my Hellraiser viewings in the comments on the new “Reeler.”

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