Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 28-February 3: Most Violent Black Almanac Loft Shorts

In Theaters.

This week we get three art titles (well, sort of three) and three mainstream offerings. It’s certainly a broad mix, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say those mainstream titles have more than a faint aroma of January clinging to them. I think you know what I mean by that, but I haven’t seen them so that’s just a guess.




On the other hand, I have seen the art titles. The big deal here is probably J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year (opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts). It is certainly the most anticipated thing coming this week — despite the fact that its big Oscar campaign came to naught. The review is in this week’s paper. It’s a good film, but it’s not the great film it clearly wants to be. It’s worth seeing, but it might be better to temper your enthusiasm a little.




Then we have The Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films 2015 and The Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films 2015 (opening Friday at The Carolina.) It’s two separate films, but they’re very much aimed at the same crowd. I like the fact that in recent years — mostly due to The Carolina — we’ve been able to see the short films. Among other things, it gives some meaning to those awards when they’re handed out on Oscar night. This year — and I think this was the case last year — the live action films are a lot more impressive than their animated brethren. In fact, the live action shorts are an unusually strong set. I admit that I was less taken with  this year’s animation than I have been in past years. It’s not that the animated films are bad — a couple of them are very good — but I wasn’t blown away by any of them. Animation fans may feel differently. Full reviews of the sets of both are in this week’s Xpress.




So into the unknown region…first off there’s Mike Binder’s Black or White starring Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer. This is a drama with Costner and Spencer fighting each other in a custody battle over their granddaughter. It’s been hanging around a while  — waiting for the right moment to be released. The fact that that moment is in January is…suspect. The early reviews — all ten of them — are split down the middle. I’ve only seen two of Binder’s films as writer-director — The Upside of Anger (2005) and Reign Over Me (2007) — and neither made me anxious to see more.




Next we have Erik Van Looy’s remake of his own 2008 Belgian film Loft — this time called The Loft. The film also seems to have been remade in the Netherlands in 2010. (All share Bart De Pauw as a screenwriter. The man seems to be in a rut.) The difference here — apart from “The” — is that this is in English and has recognizable names like Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, and Eric Stonestreet as four of the five friends with a key to the title domicile (used for a extra-marital flings). The fifth is played by Matthias Schoenarts (The Drop), who played the same role in the original. The plot in all versions centers on a body being found in said loft — and they all think one of them did it. It frankly sounds pretty cheesy. And very January.




Finally, there’s Project Almanac from producer Michael Bay (strike one). It was directed by newcomer Dean Israelite and stars people I assume are mostly known for TV work, though I did see Jonny Weston in Kelly & Cal (2014) and John Dies at the End (2012). Here he plays a 24-year-old teenager (hey, it’s the movies), who — along with some friends — finds the plans for a time machine. Being nerds naturally they build the thing. Bad stuff happens because of this. For me, strikes two and three occurred when I read the most dreaded words in the cinema lexicon attached to it: found footage.

This week we lose Inherent Vice (which I find unfortunate in the extreme) and Wild. Foxcatcher departs the Fine Arts, but hangs on at The Carolina split with Birdman. Cake (which did better than I expected) is also being split.

Special Screenings




This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Phil Rosen’s Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) — theoretically, adapted from the Edgar Allan Poe story — at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 29 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) on Fri., Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) on Sun., Feb. 1 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts its February calendar with Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves (Snow White) (2012) on Tue., Feb. 3 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.


This week the best thing out is The Book of Life. Also up are Fury and The Judge.

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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24 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 28-February 3: Most Violent Black Almanac Loft Shorts

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    Before I Go To Sleep is also on DVD. I would call it a competent thriller but no more.

        • Ken Hanke

          Good. I worry about this ever since the day I argued with Neal Reed that I hadn’t seen something and he pointed out I had reviewed it…and was right.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Considering the film’s subject matter is amnesia, forgetfulness would be appropriate.

          • Ken Hanke

            Oh, is this the thing with the great cast — Kidman, Firth, Strong — and very little else?

  2. Me

    Have you heard anything on The Duke of Burgundy coming to town? Its getting crazy reviews, people are not only saying its the best film of the new year, but they are putting it on there list of the best of the decade so far.

    • Ken Hanke

      Sounds like hyperbole to me, but then I wasn’t keen on Berberian Sound Studio. Most of what I’ve heard centers around the fact that it’s pretty much tanking at the box office.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I think a film needs to have been out for 5+ years and have grown in one’s estimation during that time before it warrants “best of the decade” talk.

        • Ken Hanke

          Those critics who were gushing that Purple Rain was “the Citizen Kane of rock musicals” when it came out prove that.

          • Big Al

            Everyone know the “the Citizen Kane of rock musicals” is…”Xanadu”!!!

  3. Me

    The plot almost reminds me of a weird lesbian version of Venus in Furs from last year.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, it is apparently in part an homage to (dear Lord) Jess Franco, who made something called Venus in Furs (I lasted about 10 minutes) so there may be some connection, though I don’t think Franco’s film had any actual connection to either the book Venus in Furs or Polanski’s Venus in Fur.

      • Me

        I don’t know enough about Franco or those Giallo films, but I would like to check them out someday. They’re all over Youtube.

        • Ken Hanke

          Which of course is no way to see a movie, though in Franco’s case — possibly the most talentless hack ever — it hardly matters. The gialli you can probably cover by just watching some Dario Argento — notably Deep Red, Suspiria, Inferno, Phenomenon, Opera. You might try his earlier — more straightforward — thrillers like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat o’ Nine Tails, too.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    Horns and Gloria are now streaming on Netflix, as is *groan* Chef.

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