Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 24-30: A Little Max Ted Escobar Chaos

In Theaters.

If it weren’t for the “art” titles, this would be the sort of movie weekend that the pages of history teach us might be better spent in bed (or even under the bed). The good news is that there are more movies headed our way on July 1 — not that they look all that much more inspiring.

Yes, I realize that all this is subjective. That’s the nature of movies. But this week’s mainstream offerings are the sort of thing that makes me wish I was on vacation — or it would if I ever actually went on vacation. Maybe I should consider that option. But at least there are some options — and some worthy things still playing.

 

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Both art — well, one of them’s an art title — have been seen and are reviewed in this week’s paper. The clear winner is Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos — opening Friday at The Carolina. This largely fictional historical romance stars Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman (as Louis XIV), and Stanley Tucci. Except for the fact that the film has a rather large canvas — the court at Versailles — I’d call it a rather small movie, and its story is fairly intimate. The film is quite upfront about the fact that it’s far from historically accurate (which, of course, hasn’t kept people from complaining about that). It’s a slender story about a female landscape designer (Winslet) landing a job — in what is very much a man’s world — creating an outdoor ballroom in the gardens at Versailles. It’s a film with a good deal of charm and wit, and it affords Winslet the best role she’s had in years. For that matter, though it wasn’t shot there, it has a much better sense of being at court at Versailles than Marie Antoinette (2006) ever managed.

 

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Also on tap is Andrea Di Stefano’s Escobar: Paradise Lost — also opening Friday at The Carolina, but on a split schedule (playing only at 5:05 and 10:25 p.m.). You can tell not much is expected of this. (In fact, this is almost certainly TWC Radius fulfilling a contractual obligation that the movie receive some kind of theatrical life.) This is every bit as fictional as A Little Chaos, but it’s not so honest about it. Yes, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was a real person. This thriller that bears his name, however, is otherwise populated with fictional characters and tells a fictional story. It’s actually pretty good, especially in its second half when it gets down to the business of actually being a thriller. That said, Benicio Del Toro’s performance as Escobar is compelling — by turns magnetic and horrifying — from start to finish. For this — and the effective thriller it turns into — it’s worth considering.

 

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And then there are those mainstream titles. First up is Boaz Yakin’s Max — starting Thursday evening and going into full schedules on Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This may get some extra traction locally because it was partly shot in Asheville. It’s being touted as “from the director of Remember the Titans and a producer of Marley & Me.” That may be a selling point for some, but it sounds like warning to me — suggesting something that manages to combine the uplifting sports drama with the tug-at-the-heartstrings dog story. I can think of nothing I’d be less inclined to want to see. The poster is amateurish, the cast low-watt, and the trailer is no more encouraging. And it hasn’t been screened for critics. Your call.

 

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I have to say I am not that much more enthused by the prospect of Ted 2 — starting Thursday evening and going into full schedules on Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, and UA Beaucatcher. This, of course, is the sequel to Ted — that movie about Mark Wahlberg and a horny, foul-mouthed teddy bear (voiced by director-co-writer Seth MacFarlane). I had kind of thought that we might have seen the last MacFarlane after his Oscar-hosting stint and last year’s A Million Ways to Die in the West, but, no, a sequel to a hit always trumps such things. The idea this round is that Ted wants to be a parent, but has to prove he’s a human being in a court of law in order to do so. I guess it’s kind of like having to prove Edmund Gwenn is really Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street — only with a libidinous, trash-talking teddy bear. This, too, has not been reviewed.

This week we lose When Marnie Was There (which is unfortunate) and the mystifying re-release of Woman in Gold (that seems to have been the Weinsteins’ opening move on trying to get an Oscar for Helen Mirren). Otherwise, we appear to be status quo — even Dope made it into a second week (deservedly so).

Special Screenings

 

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The Thursday Horror Picture Show has Bela Lugosi in Ford Beebe’s Night Monster (1942) at 8 p.m. on Thu., June 25 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Sayajit Ray’s The World of Apu (1959) on Fri., June 26 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). (This title was not reviewed for lack of a viewable copy.) The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Nora Ephron’s Bewitched (2005) on Sun., June 28 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its June calendar with George Arliss in John G. Adolfi’s The Man Who Played God (1932) on Tue., June 30 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all in this week’s Xpress — with complete the online edition.

On DVD

Interestingly enough, there is nothing hitting DVD this week that had any theatrical life — or even a hint of theatrical life — here. I suppose it might, however, be worth noting that critically-acclaimed Timbuktu is arriving.

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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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31 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 24-30: A Little Max Ted Escobar Chaos

    • Ken Hanke

      Having foolishly let myself get suckered into the Wachowskis’ Sense8 my dance card is on the full side there.

      • Steven

        Whoa, whoa, wait.

        You avoid highly touted TV shows, like Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but you watch Wachowskis’ Netflix dreck? (And I tend to like them, but oy.)

        • Ken Hanke

          Then “oy” be it. The idea of something by the Wachowskis interested me enough to watch it. Nothing about Mad Men or Breaking Bad holds even the slightest interest for me. I did see the first two or three episodes of the latter because my wife decided to try it. I wasn’t impressed. I’ve seen excerpts from Mad Men that were supposed to convince me I should watch the show. This failed to convince me.

          I rather liked Sense8 — it reminded of a more intimate, lower-budget Cloud Atlas — but I’d be perfectly happy to leave it where it is after 12 episodes. Whether I’ll be back remains to be seen. Have you seen the show?

          • Steven

            The oy was in reference to the quality of Sense8, not your refusal to commit to other serialized shows (although I suppose it could be applied to that as well.)

            I’m assuming someone else has already tried to make a case for The Wire</I.

          • Ken Hanke

            So you have watched it. What exactly did you so hate about it?

            Yes, people have told me of the glories of The Wire. The difference between these and something like Sense8 is that it’s pretty much the work of two writers and a small group of directors. The Wachowskis co-wrote all the shows, directed seven of them, gave the others to people they’ve worked with before. As a result, it feels like a Wachowski film, not like a TV show. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with the producer-centric approach and a battery of writers and directors. I’m saying it doesn’t interest me much.

  1. NFB

    So Severus Snape directs and stars in a movie with Narcissa Malfoy? I’m there!

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I only thought Room 237 was OK, but hopefully Ascher’s new film won’t have the technical gaffes that hampered his last one.

        • Ken Hanke

          Room 237 was hampered by every “theory” about The Shining going on way beyond either its interest or entertainment value. I can easily see this having the same problem. Plus — Harry Nilsson and Paul Williams to one side — I see more documentaries a year than I want to without seeking out ones I don’t have to see.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            What irked me was how at least one of the interviews seemed to have been conducted over the phone – with a child interrupting in the background.

  2. Me

    Ha, was there really? I guess it could have been worse, they could have been eating a sandwich.

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is (back?) on Netflix Streaming. Along with Wish I Was Here, it suggests that Kate Hudson has a lot more to offer than just Penny Lane.

    • Ken Hanke

      I haven’t seen Wish I Was Here and I can’t say I’m all that inclined to. I remain convinced that Kate Hudson keeps being in movies because she hates us.

      • lauriecrosswell

        I love your line about Kate Hudson. That just made my day. I agree completely. I still sigh a breath of relief that Marcia Gay Harden won the Oscar over Penny Lane.

        • Ken Hanke

          I don’t mind her Penny Lane…it’s everything that came after that.

          • Laurie Crosswell

            I liked her as Penny Lane, as well, but I’m glad she did not win for that role due to the career that followed. I feared she would follow in Mira Sorvino’s footsteps, though I did love Mira’s Oscar speech tribute to her father :)

    • Big Al

      “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is that odd duck of a film that is far better than the book it was based on, which was strange as the author was also the screenwriter.

      • Ken Hanke

        I often think the idea that tendency to just think the “book was better” is mostly grounded in a preference to that you’ve encountered first — often it’s not so much better as it’s just different. However, writers adapting their own books are often more prone to try to improve things — Graham Greene was big on this and the fellow who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower I’m told certainly improved on his own book (I haven’t read it).

        • Big Al

          I actually do NOT believe that “the book is always better”, but while some great books make OK movies, bad or “OK” books rarely make great movies, or even movies that get the point of the book across BETTER despite shedding a lot of the context and “inside their minds” veiwpoints that movies find hard to reach without being too obvious.

          • Ken Hanke

            Well, I could cite quite a few such instances, though most of them are from earlier eras — eras when studios commonly bought up books and plays when they first came out. I believe I’ve seen you dismiss these eras as producing movies that aren’t as good as amateur videos on YouTube. Of course, not all books or films have a “point” beyond being an entertainment. In any case, you’re cutting a pretty broad swath here, since it seems highly unlikely that you’ve read every source novel of every movie you’ve seen.

  4. luluthebeast

    Well, I couldn’t make it for John G. Adolfi’s The Man Who Played God (1932) last night but at least it will be on TCM on Sept. 11. I hope you had a good crowd for it. Also, any idea on how to get my avatar posted?

  5. Big Al

    “I believe I’ve seen you dismiss these eras as producing movies that aren’t as good as amateur videos on YouTube. ”

    I don’t recall any such discussion. Are you sure it was me doing the dismissing?

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, that is my memory of the upshot of the discussion. I could be misremembering, of course. How do you feel about movies made in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s?

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