Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 14-20: American Foxcatcher Paddington Ringer in a Blackhat

In Theaters.

This week we get five new movies in town — four mainstream and one art title — and it’s nothing if not diverse array. A wide choice of titles does not, of course, guarantee that all of them will be desirable. We shall see.




Since we’re more or less just coming out of the awards season, I’ve actually seen the big mainstream release, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which had previously been in limited release for purposes of Oscar-qualification. It is projected to take the weekend box office by storm — $50-60 million worth of storm, in fact. Unfortunately, I am unable to show any enthusiasm for this movie — and am already prepared for hate mail over my review. I’ll leave any further comment I have on it to the review.




Also seen and reviewed is Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts). I am more on board with this — and I am not a huge admirer of Miller’s films. Generally, I find him only slightly less suffocating than Sam Mendes (at least Mendes before he discovered James Bond). This isn’t really all that different, but Miller’s often strained seriousness fit this chilly movie perfectly. It never reaches greatness, but it’s still a compellingly twisted tale that mostly works. Whether it will be a very popular film remains to be seen, but I admit to skepticism on that part.




First up in the unseen is Michael Mann’s Blackhat — a cyber-crime thriller starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis. I realize Mann hasn’t been the critical darling he once was for about 10 years, but I find it surprising that this hasn’t been screened, or even really promoted. In fact, you might say it’s being tossed to the wolves, going on a suicide run against American Sniper like this.




Then there’s Paddington, which got great reviews in the UK, but that’s where the books are a staple — much more so than here. It’ll also be interesting to see if it can overcome all the…interesting creepy horror movie variations the little fellow has shown up in online. To go by the British reviews, the movie also works as a jab at the anti-immigrant attitude prevalent in the country these days. (How that will travel remains unknown.) The film, however, may stand a sporting chance, since there’s really not any family fare out there right now. Big Hero Six is played out and Annie is approaching it (and may be largely gone come Friday).




Last up is The Wedding Ringer — an R rated raunchy com that teams Josh Gad and Kevin Hart. Gad plays an awkward fellow who is so friendless that he has to Hart to be best man at his wedding. (Presumably, the film explains how the socially inept Gad became engaged in the first place.) This, by the way, is expected to come in at second place for the weekend — not, one assumes, from viewers in search of something that’s family friendly. The studio blurb assures us that “What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy.” Now, I ask you, would Sony lie about such a thing?

This week we don’t actually lose anything of note, but the Fine Arts is splitting Wild with Foxcatcher. And The Carolina is knocking Birdman and Wild to two shows a day, and one show for Big Eyes. This likely means their departure is in the offing next week.

Special Screenings




This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch (2004) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 15 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Götz Spielmann’s Antares (2004) in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building on Fri., Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady (2011) on Sun. Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration (1980) on Tue., Jan. 20 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.


There are two biggies this week — Gone Girl and Love Is Strange. However, A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Two Faces of January (which didn’t play here) are also worth checking out. On the other hand, the less said about Men, Women & Children, the better.

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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2 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 14-20: American Foxcatcher Paddington Ringer in a Blackhat

  1. Big Al

    No comments on this week at all? WTF?!?!?!

    Ok, here’s MY attempt at priming the pump….Michael Moore has called “American Sniper” a work of propaganda.

    Well, I guess he would know….

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