Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 3-9: Hail, 45 Choice Zombies Regression

In Theaters.

OK, so last week wasn’t pretty and this week has its issues — can it really be time for another goopy Nicholas Sparks adaptation? — but it does afford us one quality movie for the adults among us and a new Coen Brothers film. This is clearly a step up from January with its YA sci-fi and Marlon Wayans and bargain basement horror. How much of a step up (partly) remains to be seen.

In retrospect, I don’t really mind having been snowbound the week before last. What did I miss by not seeing The Boy, Dirty Grandpa, and The 5th Wave? My guess is — not much. But I do resent thawing out in time for Fifty Shades of Black, though maybe I shouldn’t since it gave me an early front-runner for Worst Film of 2016.




This week’s known quantity is Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years — starting Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. As just about everyone — well, everyone who’s paying attention — knows, this is the movie for which Charlotte Rampling has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. It’s also the film I was referring to as a quality movie for adults — by which I mean that it’s a mature film about mature characters. It’s also that rare film that ought to work whether or not you’ve reached — more or less — the age of the characters. If you have, you may well recognize yourself and your relationships in the characters. If you haven’t, you may realize that you’re getting a possible look in on your future. It’s the kind of film that gives you something to take away with you. And, if you like it, it may be worth your while to check out Haigh’s gay love story, Weekend, which is currently on Netflix,




First up in the unknown realm is that latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Choice — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. If the fact that it’s Yet Another Nicholas Sparks movie isn’t enough to keep you away, the advert pictured above ought to do the trick. And if that doesn’t, there’s the presence of an unknown director and a low-rent cast (apart from Tom Wilkinson). Now, let’s add the fact that near as I can tell, the heartthrobs at the center of this sudsy affair appear to “meet cute” when one of their dogs impregnates the other. If you’re still determined to see it, well, you are made of sterner stuff than I am — or your name is Justin Souther.




Things look up with the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. In fact, this stands a chance of being the first really good — maybe even great — movie of the year. If you’ve missed the trailer (assuming that’s possible), it’s a Hollywood satire — something like a more good-natured Barton Fink, perhaps — set in the waning years of the studio system and Hollywood’s so-called “Golden Age.” There’s a mix of reality (Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix was a real person) and thinly-veiled parodies of real people. It’s easy to peg the real-life counterparts of much of the cast. For that matter, early cast lists identified Tilda Swinton’s gossip columnist as Hedda Hopper, but I see that’s changed. (She’s still pretty obviously Hedda Hopper.) The cast list alone is impressive. It’s not just Brolin and Swinton, but George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, and of course Frances McDormand. Some seem concerned over the lack of early reviews, but since I’ve yet to see a Coen Brothers picture that wasn’t worth at least one viewing, I remain optimistic. I may even catch it on Thursday night.




And then we have Burt Steers’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (or Pride + Prejudice + Zombies) — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. Here is a case where the title tells it all. It really does seem to be Jane Austen’s Regency rom-com with zombie action added. It’s based on the mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also gave us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Jane Austin (who had no direct involvement). I have nothing against the idea as such — though I have never cared for the brain-eating zombie sub-genre, which this seems to follow. My issues lie with: general zombie burn-out (enough already), the suspicion that this is one joke affair, that PG-13 rating, and the presence of Burt Steers (Charlie St. Cloud, 17 Again) as writer-director. We shall see.




Finally, there’s Alejandro Amenabar’s Regression — which is getting the bum’s rush Weinstein contractual release on a split bill (12:25, 5:15, 10:00) starting Friday at The Carolina. This is another case of a movie with a notable director and a fairly impressive case — Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis — that the Weinsteins seem to have acquired for no clear reason and don’t know what to do with. (See also last year’s The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet.) There is perhaps more reason for this being dumped in this manner, since it was a flop in the UK where it got one good review out of a scant 18. That said, I have a pretty good history of not being in accord with Brit critics, so I remain mildly curious. The studio blurb says: “Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) investigates the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father, John Gray (David Dencik), of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.” Interested parties should note that this is not likely to last more than a week.

This week we lose Carol and Trumbo.

Special Screenings




The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm II (1988) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Feb. 4 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is having a make-up screening of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (1971) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 5 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Lewis Milestone’s’ Ocean’s 11 (1960) on Sun., Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has W.C. Fields in Norman McLeod’s It’s a Gift (1934) on Tue., Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress and in the online edition.

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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79 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 3-9: Hail, 45 Choice Zombies Regression

  1. The Real World

    Ha, ha — good chuckle from the sarcasm of The Choice review. Much as I like Tom Wilkinson, even his presence won’t be enough to get me there. I have an aversion to barfing, so……..

    Looking forward to Hail, Caesar and 45 Years.

    • Ken Hanke

      As noted, I have no intention of seeing The Choice.

      I should note that that’s a preview, not a review, since I’d have to see it to review it. This is more what you’d call an educated guess grounded in experience.

        • Ken Hanke

          I’m only clarifying it before someone accuses me of reviewing movies I haven’t seen.

          • mtndancer

            “or your name is Justin Souther.” I snorted so loud when I read that my cat only has 5 lives left.

  2. NFB

    “Regression — which is getting the bum’s rush Weinstein contractual release on a split bill ”

    Could you explain what this means?


    Hermione and Professor Lupin reunited? Definitely intrigued!

    • Ken Hanke

      It means it’s being dumped into a theater for a week without a full set of shows. (To add insult to injury, it’s sharing a screen with Fifty Shades of Black.) It’s only getting a token theatrical release to satisfy a contractual obligation. The Weinsteins are pretty notorious for this.

      • NFB

        OK. Gotcha. Thanks. I’m not always up on my movie theater jargon.

        At this point it looks like US critics aren’t any warmer to the movie than the Brits were given that it is currently at 6% at Rotten Tomatoes and currently only rates a 34 at Metacritic, although it is still sort or early I suppose.

        • Ken Hanke

          Those reviews (last I looked) on RT were all from Brit critics. It’s likely not gonna go up much, because very few are going to bother reviewing this release.

          • NFB

            Which itself probably says a lot. How did the Weisteins end up with this?

            I’m getting less intrigued by the minute. DVD rental at best.

          • Ken Hanke

            Who knows? Why did they by the very excellent The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, sit on it for two years, and the treat is exactly the same way?

            I’m not sure that its lack of reviews says much. I’ll bet that it’s on 100 screens or less and buried.

  3. T.rex

    Can’t wait for HAIL CEASAR. Love the Coen Brothers and Movies about Movies is my favorite genre.
    On the other side of the spectrum, Pride Predjudice & Zombies looks absolutely horrible. They could have had something if they went the comedy route instead.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, I think P+P+Z is theoretically meant as a comedy. Personally, I’d like to see the whole zombie thing going on a 50 year hiatus.

      • T.rex

        100 years would be better. There was a time they were scary. (slow moving in black and white films) but now that we are dealing with zombie parades it is time to put the kibosh on the genre. Vampires are becoming old hat too, at least the sparkly ones that hang out in dance clubs.

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, the sparkly vampire was limited to one series, though you could make the case that the vampires in The Hunger hung out in dance clubs — actually, more so than the ones in Twilight.

          Zombie stuff proliferates for one simple reason — they’re cheap. Anyone can make one. I’m not sure that slow moving and/or black and white has any bearing. To get the two in terms of modern zombies (the flesh eating kind) you’ve just limited yourself to one movie.

          • T.rex

            Yeah, well…The Hunger did have that love scene with Susan Sarandon and Catherine De’neuve. No complaints here.

          • Ken Hanke

            So…what about Only Lovers Left Alive? That had a sequence in something like a metal dance club? I actually don’t remember any dance clubs in Twilight and its sequels.

          • T.rex

            Dance Club was a bad description, I meant tired of the “modern urban hip” vampire. I miss the mysterious monster up in a castle on a mountain vampire.
            One modern idea I did really like was DAYBREAKERS. They did a great job on backstory and production design there. Starbucks with blood? why not.

          • Ken Hanke

            I have to ask if you actually saw any of the Twilight movies. They’re bad — though they became unintentionally funny as the series progressed, but “modern urban hip” really does not describe them.

          • NFB

            “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
            ― Stephen King

          • Ken Hanke

            Believe me, I’m not arguing that the Twilight movies aren’t crap.

          • Big Al

            The vampires in “Blade” also loved underground raves, a form of club, right?

    • NFB

      I’m sure I”m probably alone here but while I have LIKED several Coen Brothers movies I have not LOVED any of them. Regardless the new one looks like it could have some promise.

      • Ken Hanke

        I’ve actually disliked three Coen pictures (but I’m glad I saw them), but I’ve loved at least four and liked the rest to varying degrees.

      • T.rex

        The abosolute worst was INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, so bad that I turned it off a half hour in. Most their films are home runs or atleast a triple. BARTON FINK, still my favorite.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          I like all of them and love A Serious Man, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and Raising Arizona…possibly more. At the bottom of the list for me are Blood Simple and Intolerable Cruelty, but I’ve only seen each once and plan to revisit them.

          • Me

            I can see Intolerable Cruelty, but Blood Simple is more of a middle film for me.

          • Ken Hanke

            In context — as a first film (and I’m old enough that I saw it first) — Blood Simple is pretty darn impressive. And they didn’t go the horror route and get typecast like so many have.

      • NFB

        I guess a reason why my like of some (and there have been some I have disliked) never quite makes it to love is that deep down I sense an certain condescending tone to them. Sometimes that’s not enough to keep me from liking them but it does keep me from loving them.

        • Ken Hanke

          I don’t get that, but since I get the vibe of unbearable smugness from David Fincher’s work, I perhaps am in no position to say anything.

          • NFB

            Maybe condescending isn’t quite the right word (if it isn’t it is at least close) but there is a tone to so many of them that I find off putting to various degrees albeit not nearly to the same degree as Fincher.

  4. Xanadon't

    Well let’s see… you must be counting Fargo among the three dislikes. (I liken your Fargo to my Moonrise Kingdom, by the way) After that I’m guessing Raising Arizona and… well I don’t know. I know better than to assume the often (unfairly) maligned The Ladykillers. The Big Lebowski? Surely not? Intolerable Cruelty?

    • T.rex

      How can any film lover dislike FARGO? Is that scientifically possible???

      • Ken Hanke

        Yes, it is scientifically possible to dislike Fargo and Tim is quite right. The other two are Raising Arizona and, yes, The Big Lebowski (I tend to forget Intolerable Cruelty even exists). I know I’m supposed to love Lebowski, but it leaves me cold. Plus — and this is pretty central — I had someone living with me, who insisted on watching it every damn day. and when he wasn’t watching it, he was quoting it.

        • T.rex

          The first time I saw Lebowski in theatres I “didnt get it”, I was still on a Fargo high and still thought of Bridges as Jack Lucas (his best performance) but it grew on me and I really dig it now. I had the honor and fun of directing TWO GENTLEMEN OF LEBOWSKI, the Shakespeare version.

          Ok, my jaw is on the floor…..What did you not like about FARGO?

          • Ken Hanke

            Ok, my jaw is on the floor…..What did you not like about FARGO?

            I didn’t care about the characters. I didn’t care what happened to them. I found it mean-spirited and totally lacking in point. Plus, it almost entirely lacked the visual panache of their better films. I know I am in the minority, but that doesn’t bother me. I’ve never been one to say I liked something just to be one of the cool kids.

        • NFB

          Count me as among (probably the few) who did not care for Fargo. To me is condescends to the characters none of who are even remotely likable other than the one played by Frances McDormand. I don’t actively dislike the movie but it is one whose appeal I have never been able to grasp beyond McDormand.

          Raising Arizona however I do actively dislike. It has been ages since I saw it but I remember it feeling like it was too wrapped up in its own cleverness in how IT condescends to its characters (and even a whole demographic) for me to appreciate anything about it although I will confess to getting a chuckle out of Holly Hunter’s “I LOVE HIM SO MUCH” scene.

          • Ken Hanke

            See this is interesting. I can’t abide Raising Arizona, but our responses are poles apart, because to me it glorifies these moronic characters.

          • NFB

            Well, it has been a hundred years since I saw it, and given my very negative reaction to it that time I have had no interest in revisiting it. So, perhaps, I am applying my reasons for dislike for other Cohen movies to this one. I it almost tempting to give it another look and see if I see condescension to or glorification of the characters all these years later but I really am not interested in throwing away another two hours of my life on it.

          • Ken Hanke

            The only reason I saw it again is because someone ran it and I had to review. I still didn’t like it.

          • Barry

            I would agree that Marge is the only likable character in Fargo, but so extremely likable that I was very concerned for her when she closed in on that guy working the wood chipper. At the end when her duck-stamp-painting husband tells her, “I love you, Margie”, I thought to myself, you’d better! I loved her, too. She was like a light surrounded by different shades of evil, and that darkness just made her all the more incandescent.

  5. Edwin Arnaudin

    Just over a year after its theatrical debut, the sadly underrated Mortdecai is available on Amazon Prime, as is the more recent Amy Winehouse doc Amy.

  6. Xanadon't

    Despite a solid enough performance from Ali Larter, The Diabolical is best left unseen. Hellions is likely to represent my next miscalculation..

  7. Xanadon't

    And I’m sorry that, improbably, this still wasn’t the worst thing you saw in the past week.

    • Ken Hanke

      This is so. And I took the bait and watched Hellions. Some creepy images (looking a bit like Coppola’s Twixt), a silly, incoherent story, and…exploding pumpkins!

  8. Edwin Arnaudin

    I highly recommend Experimenter, now Netflix Streaming, and its impressive use of rear projection.

    I also admit interest in checking out Gaspar Noé’s Love, also available through that service.

    • Ken Hanke

      While I can’t get as enthused as Edwin over Experimenter I do think it worth a look.

      I may tackle Love

    • Me

      Experimenter was technically impressive, but I liked The Stanford Prison Experiment better.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        SPE was more intense, but I thought Experimenter was more tonally diverse and enlightening overall.

          • Xanadon't

            I watched Das Expiriment (2001) several years ago and was very affected by it, yet in such a way that I’ve no interest in revisiting the subject matter.

  9. Xanadon't

    I’m holding off until I can afford a 3D television so I can see Love as the artist intended.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, the first 10 min. (give or take) of Love is on a par with a visually unambitious porn movie.

  10. Xanadon't

    Gee, I bet they’re regretting releasing the DVD without that gem of an endorsement. I just hope the runtime doesn’t approach that of Enter the Void. What a tedious slough that became.

  11. Xanadon't

    And after 134 minutes that’s all you have to say about it, huh?

    • Ken Hanke

      I only saw the first ten. I’ll get around to the rest, but I’m not in a tearing hurry. The arrival of DVD of the somewhat obscure Ealing comedy A Run for Your Money distracted me — and now it’s off to the Thursday Horror Picture Show.

  12. Me

    Did anybody watch the Horace and Pete thing that was released by surprise over the weekend?

    • Ken Hanke

      That’s two posts where I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Me

        It was a haircut Clooney popularized in the 90’s similar to the way Jennifer Aniston popularized “The Rachel” for women in the 90’s.

    • Ken Hanke

      Oh, fer Chrissakes. I shoulda known. Actually, if you’d said that thing with Louis C.K., I would have.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I’m not saying rush out and see it, but really Regression is not at all bad — assuming you’re in the mood for a deliberately-paced psychological horror film that spends a great deal of its length leading the viewer down the garden path. Put it this way, I could name at least nine far worse movies playing at a theater near you.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      I agree that it deserves better than the old Weinstein heave-ho.

  14. Ken Hanke

    If you can get past the atrocious English dubbing, the Russian movie Evil (on Netflix) is visually striking and sometimes pretty creepy, but that dubbing…

  15. Me

    Miguel Gomes’s film Arabian Nights is now streaming on Fandor if anybody is interested.

  16. Big Al

    I find it hard to believe that in all of the discussion about the Coens (and Clooney), no one has mentioned “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou”.

    • Ken Hanke

      It’s in my top three along with Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink. Satisfied?

      • Big Al

        It will have to do, I suppose.

        It is my all time favorite Coen Bro.s film, and not just because it was the first DVD I bought when I got my first player. It opened a lot of young minds to Bluegrass that were otherwise numbed and dumbed by the trash heap that pop and “new country” music had become.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Since Regression will almost certainly be gone by Friday, the review is already posted online. Just scroll down the movie reviews et voila.

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