Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 6-12: Carol the Forest Revenant

In Theaters.


One of the surest signs of the New Year is that there is some almost certainly mediocre-to-dire horror picture straining at the gate to be the first movie of the year. This year is no different, and apart from the 2015 stragglers, it doesn’t seem likely to get better any time soon. Savor the holdovers from last year while you can. The next couple of months could be grim.

Of course, there are those holdovers still to come, but either there seem to be less of them than in years past, or I’m just not as excited by them as I’m supposed to be. The fact is that there’s nothing from 2015 lurking in the shadows that I’m all that enthused by. (I don’t think there’s anything of note I haven’t seen.)




In the hold-over realm is Todd Haynes’ Carol — opening Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. It’s reviewed in this week’s paper and is one of the movies I’ve been asked about most often. I most assuredly do not for a moment doubt that it’s quality filmmaking all the way. Nor do I question the performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. They are everything they should be and more. And yet…for reasons I can’t quite make clear the movie — except in bits and pieces — only rarely touches me on an emotional level, and that’s after two viewings. I seem to be in the minority on this, so you may well be more engaged by it than I was. And I do admire the film no end.




Then there’s Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening shows) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, and Regal Biltmore Grande. It is also reviewed in this week’s paper. Again, as filmmaking, it’s hard to fault. It is a remarkable technical achievement. The question for me is to what end? I am hard-pressed to find one. Maybe I’m missing something, but watching a bedraggled, bruised, bloodied, and battered Leonardo DiCaprio lurch through the frozen wilderness for two-and-a-half hours just isn’t my idea of a good time, no matter how brilliantly it’s handled. Once more, I am in the minority.




And that brings us to the first release of the New Year, Jason Zada’s The Forest — starting Friday (with the usual Thursday evening, etc.) at The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. (It may be at Epic of Hendersonville, too, but it’s not down for it at the moment.) If you’ve never heard of Jason Zada, well, neither have I. He’s listed as one of the writers on The Houses October Built (2014), a movie I confess I didn’t get more than 20 minutes into before having a life-is-too-short moment. Apparently star Natalie Dormer is on Game of Thrones, so that may be some draw. The studio blurb for this PG-13 spook show merely says, “Against the backdrop of Japan’s Aokigahara forest, where people go to end their lives, an American woman braves the mysterious, uncharted terrain to search for her missing sister.” It has been shown to no one (quelle surprise) and only seems to be resonating with horror-centric websites that think it’s noteworthy when anything goes bump in the night. It is my lot to see it. Exercise your freewill.

Since the Fine Arts is splitting Youth (1:20, 4:20) with The Danish Girl (7:20, Late shows Fri-Sat at 9:50) and The Carolina is keeping a full set of each, we aren’t losing anything of note this week. But I would not leave them too long — especially not the wholly remarkable Youth, which is a must-see.

Special Screenings




The Thursday Horror Picture Show starts the New Year with Michele Soavi’s The Church (1989) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Jan. 7 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is still off this week. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Spring Symphony (1983) on Sun., Jan. 10 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman (1936) on Tue., Jan. 12 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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50 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 6-12: Carol the Forest Revenant

  1. NFB

    Usually the stragglers that arrive in town in January have a least a couple of movies I am eager to see, but not so much this year. While I am a huge Cate Blanchett admirer (when I saw her for the first time in “Oscar and Lucinda” at the Fine Arts nearly 20 years ago — it was a Janurary straggler — I knew she was a name to remember and I was right!) a lesbian “Brokeback Mountain” doesn’t have a lot of appeal to me. As for “The Revenant,” well “watching a bedraggled, bruised, bloodied, and battered Leonardo DiCaprio lurch through the frozen wilderness for two-and-a-half hours” has even less appeal to me, particularly since I’ve never understood DiCaprio’s appeal.

    So, I guess this is the time of year to look around and catch up on the movies over the past year I’ve missed that are now on DVD. Rosebud here I come.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, I’d have no problem with a lesbian Brokeback Mountain, but that’s not what this. I’ve understood DiCaprio’s appeal for about 14 years now, but this…

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I’ve understood DiCaprio’s appeal for about 14 years now

        Catch Me If You Can was the turning point for me.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I thought you might say that. Had I seen Gangs first over winter break 2002, I would have said it was the revelatory role.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I think it’s one of Spielberg’s best films, but then I know how you feel about Spielberg.

        • NFB

          Let me just clarify that I don’t actively dislike Leonardo DiCaprio but just that I don’t get what all the fuss is about. He seems fairly competent but I am a long, long, way from buying into all this “greatest actor of his generation” hype. Maybe it is just me but whenever I see him all I can think is “there’s Leonardo DiCaprio pretending to be a (fill in the blank). Even at 40 years old I can’t get past that he looks like a prepubescent kid pretending to be an adult.

          As for “Gangs of New York” that is not the movie to persuade me. For me it is in the running for title of Worst Movie Ever Made By A Great Director. “Catch Me If You Can” is entertaining for the two hours it plays but wisps away 10 minutes after it is over. Featherweight is a perfect description.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            His work in The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street does nothing for you?

          • Ken Hanke

            Calling Gangs of New York “Worst Movie Ever Made By A Great Director” is well…

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            The correct answer to that question is Boxcar Bertha – and it’s not bad, it just barely feels like a Scorsese film.

          • Ken Hanke

            Actually, there are a lot of answers to that question — even more during the studio era.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I was only responding in the Scorsese category.

          • NFB

            Well, I said that Gangs was “in the running for title of Worst Movie Ever Made By A Great Director,” not that it is the worst, although granted there may be some subtlety in that distinction.

            As for “Catch Me As You Can” it is certainly entertaining but lacks any kind of depth to be more that an escapist piece of fluff. That it is currently in the IMDB’s top 250 is further evidence of that list’s lack of credibility, but that’s another topic I suppose.

    • Lisa Watters

      I recently saw Ex Machina on DVD (I missed it when it came out on the big screen 8 months ago.) If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. I’m still thinking about it almost a week later and it’s probably on my top two list at this point although there are still other films released last year I hope to see. My other favorite was The End of the Tour.

      • Ken Hanke

        It’s most definitely worth seeing, though I find it didn’t really stay with me long term. It is, in any case, very good.

  2. Raleigh-ite

    I’m looking forward to Anomalisa and The Lady in the Van, if those can be considered 2015 leftovers.

    • Ken Hanke

      Anomalisa certainly does. Lady, on the other hand, has a Jan. 2016 U.S. date.

      • NFB

        If I am not mistaken “Lady in the Van” has already had an Oscar qualifying run in Los Angeles (Maggie Smith is getting some buzz) thus technically it is a 2015 release even if it has no other plays until 2016. Hairsplitting, perhaps, but there you are.

        • Ken Hanke

          It had some kind of release, but you can bet that for most of the critical world, it’ll be on 2016 lists.

  3. Ken Hanke

    That Nicolas Cage horror picture that got almost no release, Pay the Ghost, is on Netflix. I advise against it.

    • NFB

      Advice taken, but at least it won’t be an embarrassment to a great actress like Ellen Burstyn like that remake of “The Wicker Man” he was a few years ago was.

        • Ken Hanke

          On the other hand, the low-rent Aussie zombie picture Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is pretty passable. No one is any more burnt out on zombies than I am, but this has enough neat and even fresh touches to make it worth a look. Plus, it has a deliberate sense of humor and some appealing characters.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            No one is any more burnt out on zombies than I am

            I might be, especially since you like Warm Bodies.

          • Ken Hanke

            I do like Warm Bodies, but this is nothing like it.

        • NFB

          Well, it did have the advantage of the bear suit.

          But still. I was embarrassed for Ellen.

          • Ken Hanke

            Anyone who can watch Cage in that bear suit and not start humming “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” is made of sterner stuff than I. And then there’s Cage decking “Mountain Girl” and, of course, “My legs! You bitches!”

          • NFB


          • NFB

            When I first heard that there was going to be a remake of “The Wicker Man” i perked up a bit. I had long thought that the original could benefit from a remake. It had an intriguing premise but its execution was uneven at best. Anyone else remember the laughable scene in the original in which a group of women are supposed to be dancing naked around a bonfire and even at a distance it is very obvious they are wearing leotards, the less said about the performances of Brit Ekland and Edward Woodward the better and let’s be honest — musical interludes should have never gotten the green light.

            But when I saw the remake in a theater a few years later I quickly determined that it was NOT what I had in mind. Still, nearly ten years later this little reminder has gotten me thinking — I am overdue for a comedy.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            The film itself inspires a similar response, but without the benefit of brevity.

          • Ken Hanke

            I have always disliked The Wicker Man — the original, I mean. I find it slow, dull, rather mean-spirited…and then there are those ersatz Jethro Tull songs.

            As for By the Sea, it’s just ghastly.

          • NFB

            I’m mostly with you on the original “Wicker Man.” As I said I find the premise intriguing but the result just didn’t work, and the remake….we’ll let’s face it, we’ve all been having a grand time making fun of it because what else is there to do with it?

            I’ve not seen “By the Sea” and have no interest in doing so if only because I know there is simply no way it can live up to that hilariously overwrought trailer. Between to no dialouge, the pensive piano score and the “no one understands my pain” vibe — well that can make for a very, very funny trailer but also no doubt for an insufferable two hours. The trailer reminds me of something from the old Saturday Night Live skit “Sprockets.” I certainly made for a hoot when so many in the audience was laughing by the time the trailer ended.

  4. Ken Hanke

    By the way, The Forest makes Pay the Ghost look pretty good.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Unwilling to take the advice of others, I just had to see for myself how bad Welcome to Me was. I regret this decision more than I can say.

    • sally sefton

      Those are two hours I can never regain.

      What a mess that was. I actually started getting irritated about 15 minutes in and it seemed to get exponentially worse as the movie progressed.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      To paraphrase your own words, now let’s see if he’ll put his fingers in the way of a closing door.

      • Ken Hanke

        Well, you also suggested I watch The Voices, if memory serves.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          If I had more information from you going into that suggestion, I wouldn’t have made it. I still think highly of it, though.

          • Ken Hanke

            So does someone else I know. I am perplexed.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I recall not being the only one who felt confident you’d like it.

          • Ken Hanke

            You both erred. I found it obvious, tedious, and unpleasant.

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