Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 25-31: It Follows Hard Red Serena Home

In Theaters.

Now that Insurgent defied its critics, The Gunman tanked, and Do You Believe? underwhelmed, we’re looking at a week of diminished expectations — at least so far as mainstream releases are concerned. Art titles — one of them anyway — may be another matter.

What we have here is a kind of holding pattern week. Neither mainstream title — Get Hard, nor Home — are out to conquer the world and the studios aren’t really expecting them to. No, all eyes are on next week’s more or less (who can tell anymore?) first big “summer” release. James Wan’s Furious 7. That’s the Next Big Thing.

 

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The art titles — all of which have been seen and reviewed — offer the most promise. One of them in particular is worthy of your attention — David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (opening Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre). This amazingly well-reviewed — 94 percent (95 positive vs. six negative) approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — was originally intended to expand and go to VOD last week. But its remarkable financial success the previous week caused that plan to be altered. Last week’s expansion got smaller, this week’s expansion got larger, and the VOD plans were put to rest (for now at least). So what is It Follows? Well, it’s a very surprising horror movie — and I know I just lost at least half of you right there. That’s too bad, because while this will never be mistaken for anything other than a horror picture, it’s a pretty unusual one. It’s scary without being terribly gory, for one thing, and that’s kind of a shock since it’s also very retro — deliberately recalling horror films from the late 1970s and ’80s. Its story — and its “monster” — is something else again. In fact, it’s probably the most deeply disturbing “monster” since Wes Craven came up with Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). And yet we never actually see this horror — only the various human forms it takes — and we never know why it’s doing what it’s doing. Read the review for more details. But you should check this one out.

 

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I have very little to say about the documentary Red Army (opening Friday at The Carolina) — largely because I let Justin review it. Why? It’s about the Soviet hockey team called the Red Army — and I am just not the right audience for a sports documentary, no matter how well done or what its historical significance may be. You can read his take on it in this week’s Xpress.

 

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And then there’s much maligned Serena (opening Friday at The Carolina) from Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. It’s adapted from the novel (which I haven’t read) by Ron Rash. Despite being set in Western North Carolina (and partly in Asheville), it was filmed in the Czech Republic (a la Cold Mountain, except that Romania). It’s also been sitting around for years — despite starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper — and was taken away from Bier and recut. The reviews have been mostly blisteringly negative. I can’t say it’s great or even very good, but as overheated pulpy trash, I freely confess I enjoyed it. If you take it as preposterous melodrama, you might, too. The review is in the paper.

 

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The first of the unknown quantities is writer Etan Cohen’s (Men in Black 3) R rated raunchy-com Get Hard (opening Friday at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande). It stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart and frankly looks terrible even by their none-too-sterling standards. The early reviews are not good. (Edward Douglas at ComingSoon.net opined, “Finally, a comedy that homophobes, racists and generally stupid people can all enjoy together!” Not having seen it, I can’t say, but it matches the trailer and the premise.) It appears to be all about a prison-bound investment banker (Ferrell) hiring the guy (Hart) who washes his car to harden him into a bad ass because, you know, the prison populace are just waiting to rape Will Ferrell. Yes, well. Everyone is entitled to his own fantasy, I guess. Fortunately for me, Mr. Souther once expressed his fondness for Kevin Hart. I wish him well with this one.

 

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Then there’s Tim Johnson’s (Over the Hedge) Home (opening Friday at The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher) — the latest from Dreamworks Animation. It, too, has not been treated very kindly by the early reviews. For that matter, even its supporters don’t seem all that excited about. It stars the voice of Jim Parsons as an alien called “Oh,” who makes friends with an earthling (Rihanna) when he comes to earth to get away from his own people. The trailer is more shrill and annoying than cute, but it still looks preferable to a dose of Messrs. Ferrell and Hart.

This week we don’t actually lose anything in the art film realm, though the Fine Arts is cutting ’71 to a single show (1 p.m.) and The Carolina is splitting Leviathan (with Do You Believe? of all things) leaving it playing only at 12:05 and 6:45 p.m. Meanwhile What We Do in the Shadows is still holding strong (The Carolina) and Still Alice is hanging on (The Carolina), while The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still has some life in at both theaters.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Ford Beebe’s The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 26 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is taking a break this week, but slated to be back next week. The Hendersonville Film Society is floating Raise the Titanic (1980) on Sun., Mar. 29 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes its March calendar with Preston Sturges’s sparkling romantic comedy The Lady Eve (1941) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda on Tue., Mar. 31 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.

On DVD

The array of new offerings this week consists of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into the Woods, and Unbroken. I’d go see It Follows if I were you.

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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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66 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 25-31: It Follows Hard Red Serena Home

  1. Ken Hanke

    I should add, though it’s not technically an “art” title, which is what I tend to focus on when reporting things that are leaving town, that Kingsman: The Secret Service — which may be my favorite film of 2015 to date — is still holding on very nicely.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      It’s that and What We Do in the Shadows for me, followed by Chappie.

      • Ken Hanke

        Well, that’s 2/3’s comprehensible. This love for Chappie just mystifies me.

        • Ken Hanke

          I haven’t seen either one, and I don’t feel exactly compelled to. They both sound like they’re so indie they’d make my hair hurt.

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          I haven’t seen them. I have a link for Buzzard that I may get to this weekend, but have a few other films to watch first.

          • Ken Hanke

            My Oscilloscope phobia kicks in here. You can tell me if I’m missing out.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Obviously I won’t know for sure until I’ve seen it, but practically all signs point to something that wouldn’t pass your 20 minute test.

  2. Xanadon't

    1. What We Do in the Shadows
    2. Map to the Stars (wait, is this considered a 2015 release)
    3. Jupiter Ascending
    Haven’t seen Kingsmen yet. And have high hopes that It Follows will crack the list.

    I’ll be seeing you tomorrow, Ken, for the Thursday Night Horror Screening.

    • Ken Hanke

      Maps did not go into release here until Feb., 2015, so, yes, it qualifies. I don’t know if it quite makes my list, but Jupiter Ascending sure does.

      I will endeavour to remember to bring the “Vengeance Trilogy” with me tomorrow. I am a little surprised that The Invisible Man’s Revenge is drawing you out, or is it simply a rare Thursday night off?

      • Xanadon't

        A rare Thursday off indeed. I decided to take a sanity day. But The Invisible Man’s Revenge appeals to me in that I’ve never seen it before. And while I don’t expect James Whale quality, I’ll go for a lower tier Universal title over whatever bargain basement straight to VOD Lion’s Gate horror flick that, let’s face it, I’d likely wind up putting on if I stayed in.

        Thanks, I look forward to having the Vengeance set back on the shelf. I don’t think I have anything that belongs to you, but correct me if I’m wrong. Unless my copy of The Lovers on the Bridgeisn’t in fact mine at all. Now I don’t remember if I went back and purchased it or if I’m still holding on to your copy.

        • Ken Hanke

          I’ll have to check (which is a way of saying I’ll see if I can find it) about The Lovers on the Bridge. I didn’t know it was missing, but…

          • Ken Hanke

            It was certainly a pleasure seeing you tonight, Tim, and I’m glad to have gotten the “Vengeance” trilogy back to you. I never did check on whether or not that’s my Lovers on the Bridge you have, but I will.

          • Xanadon't

            I was very happy to see you again as well, and Edwin too. I’ll do my best to make myself less scarce. Further investigation revealed a TV Eye stamp on the DVD in question, leading me to believe that it was one of the dozen or so movies I bought during their fire sale…

          • Ken Hanke

            I think we may conclude that it is not my copy.

  3. Me

    Has Mommy been canceled? This might be the first year in a while we’re not getting a Cannes winner. Its got cool little letterbox trick about half way through that I really liked.

    • Ken Hanke

      Considering its box office performance, I think it likely that it won’t play here. The Fine Arts had it down, but seems to have backed off. I haven’t gotten an updated Carolina list of upcoming art titles in a while.

        • Ken Hanke

          No. Except at awards season, it’s rare that I see a movie until it’s actually been booked.

          • Me

            Its got a great moment about halfway through where they play with the aspect ratio.

          • Ken Hanke

            Grand Budapest changes aspect ratio throughout, depending on the era — 1.85:1 for current (or more probably to reflect widescreen TV), 2.35:1 for the 1960s footage, and 1.37:1 for the 1930s footage.

          • Ken Hanke

            You have just demonstrated — through no real fault of your own — reason 5,369 to hate the internet. Why? Because I might have found that kind of cute if I’d come across it in the middle of the film without expecting it. Now, it’s just kind of smart-ass looking. It actualy harkens back to a 1935 Laurel and Hardy short where Stan grabs the film frame and pulls it across the screen to the next scene.

          • Me

            I found it cute, but like you said I had no idea it was coming and after that I was all in.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      No. There’s been no access to it. 95% of what I watch, Ken has access to as well – especially new titles.

  4. Xanadon't

    Wait a minute- was The Lazarus Effect so bad it doesn’t even merit a review?

    • Ken Hanke

      It was a victim of my frozen driveway. But from everything I’ve heard, it was just ghastly bad.

      • Xanadon't

        Ah, right. Well I’m about to find out for myself. I can’t resist that cast plus horror.

  5. Xanadon't

    Well yes. I’m trying to remember what I saw here last… and failing.

    • Ken Hanke

      I walked out of there (as an asst. manager) on Mar. 23, 2010 and have never been back But that’s another story. The reason they and Beaucatcher end up holding things forever is that they’re so close together they can’t play the same movies (the Fine Arts is in there area, too, but that rarely matters). A lack of product — or allocated product — leaves them stuck with what the can get.

      By the way, I expect a full report.

      • Xanadon't

        If these fandango and Revlon ads ever quit you’ll get one. Okay, showtime, finally. Oops after 2 more CocaCola commercials…

  6. Xanadon't

    Well I wouldn’t quite call it good, but neither is it nearly as bad as its reputation suggests. It’s ultimately unsatisfying but largely because many of the horror elements and scare techniques actually work pretty well. When the film flexes some style it yields some nifty results. But the story and script are lacking in too many ways to give it all much meaningful context. The movie knows it’s not terribly original- and sometimes acknowledges the fact with a playful and agreeable grace- but still feels stale too often for full pardon.
    Duplass is solid and Wilde is at least as good throughout and terrific at moments. The rest of the characters are bland. Not offensively so– they just aren’t written in any interesting way or given much to do beside speak sci-tech jargon and die. The film as a whole is equally constricted in terms of locations and nothing makes as much sense as it should in terms of behavior or dramatic cause and effect.

  7. Xanadon't

    Well I can’t sit here and say you’re wrong anywhere. The movie fails in so many ways- the pharmaceutical giant take over resembled dull cable tv, the security guard business added zero suspense, and the reveal at the heart of Zoey’s version of hell was as far from a surprise as you’re likely to get. But despite all that I can’t say I had what I would call a bad time with the movie.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, boys, I’m not going to go to the Carmike (where it will still probably be next week, since they appear to have been slipped the diseased weenie this week and aren’t getting Furious 7), so I can’t settle this skirmish till Lazarus comes to Steaming Netflix.

  8. Xanadon't

    I have a hard time believing that the prospect of settling mostly marginal points of difference over an underwhelming horror movie isn’t enough to take you back there after half a decade. I can’t help but admire your resolve.

    • Ken Hanke

      I appreciate your admiration. It is my firm intent to never set foot in anything associated with that company again.

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