Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 16-22: The Divergent Creative Embrace of the Bronze Serpent from Heaven

In Theaters.

This week we get one theoretically “big picture,” one specialty mainstream movie and three art titles, one of which seems to be already written off judging by its limited showtimes. However you look at it, that means five new movies hit town this week.

Actually, the way last week shook out in terms of reviews — eight total of which I tackled six (and I’m getting too old for that) — this week is your proverbial walk in the park so far as I’m concerned. Indeed, if I can’t get a press screening of Hello, My Name Is Doris, I might not review any new movie this weekend, since I am highly unsuited to the two I haven’t seen (that is perhaps understating the case).




I’ve seen — and reviewed — all three of the art titles, so let’s start with the best, Ciro Guerra’s Oscar Nominated Embrace of the Serpent — starting Friday at the Fine Arts. This rich and strange film — shot in gleaming black and what — is a mystical journey of unusual quality. And it’s a journey in two senses of the term — literal and figurative — as it traces the parallel journeys — 40 years apart — of two ethnographers — traveling the Amazon in search of a plant with magical healing properties. In both cases, the guide is a shaman named Karamakate. Rather than telling the stories sequentially, Guerra intercuts the two journeys to good effect. This is a densely textured work that’s heavy on symbolism and metaphyics — perhaps a little too heavy. But it’s still a compelling and beautiful film.




Next up is Bryan Buckley’s The Bronze — opening Friday at The Carolina. This is a very R rated comedy starring (and co-written by) Melissa Rauch (TV’s The Big Bang Theory) and it has not been treated kindly in its early reviews. In fact, when I add my guardedly positive review to the mix that will bring its good reviews up to three. Truthfully, I understand the film’s chilly reception, since it spends almost half its length making Rauch’s emotionally stunted bronze medal winner thoroughly unlikable — something that’s funny for a while, but quickly wears out its welcome. However, the second half is an entirely different proposition — and a pretty pleasant one.




Then we have Benjamin Dickinson’s Creative Control — starting Friday for two shows a day (2:55, 7:45) at The Carolina. Like Embrace of the Serpent, this is also (mostly) in black and white — and it’s visually stunning. It has a formal, classical beauty that is very seductive. Whether or not the content is equally seductive is another matter. It’s set “five minutes in the future” in New York — specifically in gentrified Brooklyn and is almost entirely populated with hipsters. It is apparently meant to be a social satire on these people and this whole scene — tied to advertising and technology, especially a new kind of virtual reality, or augmented reality. It’s undeniably clever, but it’s very cold and it seems (to me anyway) to be wholly a part of the world it supposedly mocks.




In the unknown realm, we start with Robert Schwentke’s The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1 — opening Friday (with the usual Thursday night…) at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher. As you can guess from the title, here we have another example of splitting the last installment in a series into two films in order to milk as much cash out of the thing as possible. This is already out in foreign markets and the early reviews are on the brutal side. I have no real opinion, since I’ve managed to miss this series altogether. I will say that I remain mystified that either Shailene Woodley or Miles Teller qualify as movie stars. I am curious as to why Summit is releasing this the week before it is almost certain to be trounced by Batman v. Superman. And I am amused that next week’s video release of the final Hunger Games movie is being promoted this week — an attempt to put the Divergent movies in their place?


mackerels from heaven


Finally we have Patricia Riggen’s (The 33) Miracles from Heaven — starting Wednesday (for no apparent reason) at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Regal Biltmore Grande. (It’s not listed as being at Epic of Hendersonville, but I suspect it is.) Jennifer Garner stars in this fact-and-faith-based drama being promoted as “From the Producers who Brough You Heaven Is For Real.” (I guess this is what happend to you when you break-up with Ben Affleck.) Sony tells us: “When Christy discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired. Based on a true story.” Take it as you will.

The bad thing in the losing department this week is the too, too rapid demise of Only Yesterday, which will depart The Carolina after tonight (Tues., March 15). The Fine Arts is splitting The Lady in the Van (1:20 only) with Where to Invade Next. Expect this to be the final week for both. Hail Caesar! (12:20, 7:00) and The Revenant (3:15, 9:25) are being split at The Carolina.

Special Screenings




The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Robert Siodmak’s Son of Dracula (1943) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 17 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Akira Kurosawa’s Ran (1985) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 18 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Fred Niblo’s Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) on Sun., Mar. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2003) on Tue., Mar. 22 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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28 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 16-22: The Divergent Creative Embrace of the Bronze Serpent from Heaven

  1. Me

    So glad we’re getting Creative Control, I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I seen it on Kickstarter, but man the critics are killing it. Pretty happy about The Bronze as well.

    • Ken Hanke

      Last I looked, the critics were at worst mixed on Creative Control, but killing The Bronze.

  2. Me

    I haven’t paid much attention to the Bronze reviews. How many weeks do you think Creative Control will get?

    • Ken Hanke

      Considering it’s only getting two shows a day, I’m saying one week.

      The market for a movie about high-tech wanking is probably limited.

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    The amusing, Catawba County-set doc Finders Keepers is now Netflix Streaming. Also of note is Robert Pulcini’s and Shari Springer Berman’s Ten Thousand Saints, starring Ethan Hawke, Asa Butterfield, Emily Mortimer, Julianne Nicholson, Hailee Steinfeld (ruh-row…) and Emile Hirsch.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    I’ve not seen it, but a tennis friend recommends Piku – whose cast includes Irrfan Khan – and it’s also on Netflix Streaming.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Ten Thousand Saints is kind of special, but then I’m very drawn to the way that Pulcini and Berman’s movies are filled with intensely screwed-up people that they clearly love. Even Ms. Steinfeld didn’t mar it.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Glad to hear it. As you know, I’m one of few fellow proponents of their previous film, the under-appreciated Girl Most Likely.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Piku turns out to be a film of considerable charm that perhaps take a little too long to get to its central road trip. Irrfan Khan is of course excellent.

  7. Ken Hanke

    In other Netflix…adventures…

    GalloWWalkers is a movie for anyone who ever wondered what a Sergio Leone horror western would look like. It’s not bad, but it’s also hardly essential. Best viewed at 4 a.m. when you can’t sleep.

    Final Girl — Theatrical lighting is the biggest thing of interest in this horror movie where Abigail Breslin (apparently kidnapped) is raised by Wes Bentley to take down serial killers. The images make it watchable, but otherwise…seriously, after Me and Earl and the Dying Girl a guy in a panda suit isn’t very menacing — if it ever was.

  8. Me

    Is Krisha going to make its way to Asheville? When is Midnight Special opening wide?

        • Ken Hanke

          Without a date. You might be wiser to put this kind of announcement at the actual bottom of the page and not end up with it buried in the middle.

    • Ken Hanke

      Even though I have only the vaguest idea who Henry Rollins is, this I might watch.

  9. Xanadon't

    For anyone curious, the latest Netflix streaming Nature Hates You Horror title, Indigenous is both awful and homophobic. There’s truly no redeeming value present. Skip!

    • Ken Hanke

      Thanks for the warning.

      On the other hand, this He Never Died thing is pretty entertaining.

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