Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 18-24: Grim, Grimmer and Grimmest

In Theaters.

 This is one of a mere handful of times where I didn’t use some kind of image from a new movie as the header for this column. The truth is I just can’t bring myself to put up an image for this week’s new movies. It’s just so incredibly underwhelming. We don’t even have one art title to cling to for hope.

Yes, this is a week bereft of art titles. That also means I haven’t seen a single thing that’s opening. If only it could stay that way, but I fear that is not to be. Even with the prospect of  two art titles to review for next week, at least one of this crop is in my future. Only more winter weather could change this, and I think I’d rather see one of this week’s offerings than deal with that prospect.




First up we have something called The DUFF. Apparently, DUFF stands for “designated ugly fat friend.” Said DUFF is played by someone named Mae Whitman, who is neither ugly, nor fat,” but then you expected that, didn’t you. I think this has designs on being the next Mean Girls, but I suspect it will fall shy of that desire. The only cast members whose names I recognize are Allison Janney and Ken Jeong. This has not been screened for critics, which is hardly surprising. In all honesty, no matter what, this strikes me as possibly the least painful of the choices.




Then there’s Hot Tub Time Machine 2. This will always be notable to me for my wife leaning over after the trailer and asking me, “That was a joke, right? That’s not a real movie, is it?” With heavy heart, I assured her it was. If the movie is even 1/32 as awful as the trailer, this should be something to behold — or to avoid better still. The rating assures us the movie contains “crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence.”  That may be the good news. The best news is I didn’t see the first one and therefore fear I might be lost with the sequel, therefore this belongs to Mr. Souther. He will doubtless thank me later.




Finally, we have McFarland USA. Now, this has a smattering of reviews. By smattering I mean eight, but of those eight, seven are positive. A couple of those are even from possibly reputable sources. Here’s what the studio says: “From Disney comes McFarland, the true against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community.” It does have a couple of name stars — Kevin Costner and Maria Bello — in its favor. However, all of this is negated for me by the claim of “true story,” the fact that it’s live action Disney, and that it’s clearly in the sub-genre known as “uplifting sports story.” I think I have dodged every “uplifting sports story” since I was damn near killed by sitting through the sap of Radio in 2003. I’d rather take my chances with Hot Tub Time Machine if it came down to it.

This week we lose Song of the Sea (that was quick), Two Days, One Night (that was a foregone conclusion when it got slashed to one matinee a day), and the 2015 Oscar-Nominated Shorts. The Carolina has split The Imitation Game (Fine Arts is holding it clean) with Birdman, and has brought back the Oscar-nominated Whiplash and split it with Selma. You can expect Oscar-roulette to slow down after Sunday.

Special Screenings




This week (weather permitting, of course) the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre (1989) at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema has had to move its last two titles for February to March. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Tod Browning’s The Show (1927) on Sun., Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out their February calendar with Warner Oland in James Tinling’s Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935) on Tue., Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.


This week Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the big news. Lesser news is that The Theory of Everything is also out. Lesser than that is the appearance of the so last year notorious The Interview.

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 February 18-24: Grim, Grimmer and Grimmest

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      He’ll know her as the short-haired friend from Perks of Being a Wallflower.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          It’s too bad that, other than the “Getaway” episode, Season 4 isn’t worth a damn.

          • Ken Hanke

            I did see the entire first season of the show and part of the second season when my wife decided to see what it was about. It went in one eye and out the other and I was perfectly happy when she decided it wasn’t worth her time to watch anymore of it.

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    The depressing but well made In Secret is now on Netflix, as is the better than expected Earth to Echo – a found-footage film that miraculously plays by its found-footage rules – and The Overnighters, which I’m surprised isn’t up for Best Documentary Feature this Sunday.

    • Ken Hanke

      I certainly can’t deny that In Secret is depressing. I have no desire to see Earth to Echo.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I don’t suggest that you check it out, but I think it’s a good family pick and may also be of interest for viewers who were taken with Brian Bradley’s work in A Walk Among the Tombstones.

        • Ken Hanke

          My idea of a family pick is probably more elastic than yours.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I didn’t think it warranted a mention. I got about 10 minutes in on an awards screener and had no interest in watching more.

    • Ken Hanke

      What We Do in the Shadows is down to open on 3/6 at The Carolina. Never heard of Wild Canaries.

      • Ken Hanke

        Saw the trailer for Wild Canaries. Looks like Manhattan Murder Mystery — minus Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.

      • Me

        You’re in for a treat then, I don’t think I will see a funnier film this year.

        • Ken Hanke

          The problem with this as a barometer is you think Tim and Eric are funny.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          I don’t think I will see a funnier film this year than What We Do in the Shadows.

  2. Me

    I believe it’s from 2013, but wasn’t released until last year. Its kind of a mix between Primer and It’s a Disaster, I’ve read reviews that compare it to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blind Chance, but I haven’t seen that one.

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