Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 30-April 5: I Saw God’s Eye in the Sky — Plus AFS news

In Theaters.

 There’s nothing terribly exciting this week, but after last week’s mammoth blockbuster of Batman v Superman — not to mention the local art semi-blockbuster of Hello, My Name Is Doris — you almost have to expect a slump, especially since neither of those are likely to go away any time soon. But we do have two new art titles and one specialty film hitting town this week.

Before going further, I need to announce that this will be the last week for both the Asheville Film Society and the Thursday Horror Picture Show — for a while, that is. I’m sure that many of you know that The Carolina Asheville was sold and is now The Carolina Cinemark. Since The Carolina has been the home of the AFS and the THPS (for right at six years now), this has direct impact on their continuation. It is really no one’s fault. It’s simply a difference between what a small theater can do and one belonging to a large chain can. Both the AFS and the THPS fully expect to be back sometime in April or the first of May — just where that will be is up in the air at the moment. Stay tuned.




The one art title that I’ve seen this week is Marc Abraham’s I Saw the Light — starting Friday at The Carolina and UA Beaucatcher (the latter is per the distributor, but has not been confirmed). This is a biopic on Hank Williams and, in all honesty, it is not a good movie — disjointed is a kind description — but it features a terrific performance by Tom Hiddleston (who also sings credibly) as Williams that by itself might make it worth your while. Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams is also good and the film looks great, with a truly authentic period feel. Actually, Abraham’s direction isn’t bad, but he also wrote the screenplay and that screenplay is a problem of some note.




The other art title is Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky — starting Friday at The Carolina and Fine Arts Theatre. This is perhaps a borderline art title, but it’s being given that kind of release. (Why we didn’t have a press screening here, I put down to the transition of The Carolina.) In art film terms, it does star Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman, which certainly gives it some art crowd cred. The distributor describes it this way: “Eye in the Sky stars Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, Powell discovers the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from ‘capture’ to ‘kill.’ But as American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute, reaching the highest levels of US and British government, over the moral, political, and personal implications of modern warfare.” The early reviews are strongly positive (currently 85 positive to seven negative) with critics describing it as a real thriller of unusual substance. As things look this week, I’m guessing it’s the best bet going in new titles.




And then there’s Harold Cronk’s God’s Not Dead 2 — opening Friday at Carmike 10, The Carolina, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande. This is not really a sequel (though David A.R. White is back as Rev. Dave) to the 2014 faith-based hit — after all, atheism was punished and all ended well in that — but a follow-up from the same production company (Pure Flix) with the same director (Mr. Cronk) and the same writers (Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon). It appears, however, that Christianity is once again under attack when a high school teacher gets into hot water for talking about Jesus in her class. The cast is the usual collection of C listers, but this time you get the bonus of Pat Boone! Look, you already know if you’re going to see this and you also know that it isn’t really aimed at people who are interested in movies, but in this particular topic.

This week we don’t really lose anything of note, but the Fine Arts cuts Embrace of the Serpent to the late show (9:30) on Friday and Saturday only. The Carolina reduces The Witch to two shows a day (2:15 and 10:15). I would expect neither to be around next week.

Special Screenings


man made


The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running George Waggner’s Horror Island (1941) and Man Made Monster at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 31 in Theater Six at The Carolina. (This will be the last Thursday Horror Picture Show for a few weeks.)World Cinema is screening Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Apr. 1 at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Apr. 3 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville.


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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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39 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 30-April 5: I Saw God’s Eye in the Sky — Plus AFS news

  1. Benxpete

    As someone who drives from TN and more often than not has AFS, Horror Thursdays & the Wednesday Big Budget screening as the highlight of my week, I’ve been worried for a week now. I really hope, as everyone does I’m sure, that something can be figured out soon! Also, will The Carolina still be showing the art titles? I’m thinking right now of just the ones it has posters for I.e. Midnight Special, Everybody Wants Some, etc. Thanks!

    • Ken Hanke

      There seems to be no plan to curtail the art titles. This week they’re opening I Saw the Light and Eye in the Sky. Next week they’re down for Demolition and maybe one other (neither of the ones you mentioned). So far as I can tell I’ll still be sort of working with them on this.

      Right now, we’re in talks with both the Fine Arts and The Grail Moviehouse (which opens sometime in April). I doubt we’ll be totally missing for more than a month. Are you on the AFS mailing list? If not, you should be. Sign up at That will keep you apprised of events as they develop. Also, I’ll keep things up to date on here.

      • NFB

        “There seems to be no plan to curtail the art titles. This week they’re opening I Saw the Light and Eye in the Sky. Next week they’re down for Demolition and maybe one other (neither of the ones you mentioned). So far as I can tell I’ll still be sort of working with them on this.”

        How much of that is because they want to continue with the art titles and how much of that is because these movies were already in the pipeline?

        • Ken Hanke

          Hard to tell, but they were under no commitment to play things just because the previous booker had agreed to them. All that went out the door on Wednesday. Truth is it would be a bad business decision — and they can see that just from last weekend’s figures. There is no way they can go head to head with Biltmore Grande on these Spandex Spectaculars, but it’s quite likely they can’t beat Carmike. It was the art titles and the general diversity of program that brought the theater from dead last to second place.

          • Ken Hanke

            I don’t recall Biltmore’s (they’re always the highest for this kind of movie), but Carmike significantly beat The Carolina on Batman v Superman, while The Carolina more than made up the difference with Hello, My Name is Doris.

          • NFB

            Thanks for that info. They do have what look to be a few art films posted on the “coming soon” portion of their web site, so that is encouraging.

  2. mtndancer

    Yeah. I was disturbed when I heard the news about The Carolina. I figured the AFS and horror series would be out. I also believe that programming will eventually become less interesting. Asheville already had plenty of chain theaters showing the same loud, dumb movies on 7 screens.

    • Ken Hanke

      The AFS and the THPS technically could stay, but it would be expensive and troublesome, which is why it looks like The Grail is the way to go. Honestly, at this point I harbor Cinemark no ill will and intend to do my damndest to keep a good working relationship with them. I also would urge you not to bail on them in undue haste. The quickest way to ensure more crappy movies and less diversity is to stop going to the art titles.

      • NFB

        As long as they have the kind of movies I want to see I will not even consider bailing on them. I will be doing my best at a buys time for me to get to “Eye in the Sky” next week.

  3. Me

    Ken, a show I think you would enjoy called Documentary Now is now streaming on Netflix. It’s from the creators of Portlandia, I believe.

  4. Xanadon't

    “show”…”documentary”… yes, Ken, I believe this has your name written all over it.

    • Ken Hanke

      Well, I watched about half of one episode, which seemed to be a mockumentary of a documentary (Grey Gardens). It did not entice me.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Finally watched that echt-’90s cult film Dust Devil on Netflix — or at least the 87 min. version in what looks like a pan-and-scan from VHS. Hard to judge in that form, but it’s at least interesting.

    That’s far more than I can say for The Happy House, a lame thriller of the old dark B&B school. It spends about half its running time leading you to think one thing (well, the Netflix synopsis helps that), then turns into something else — a straightforward something else, which is to say you expect some kind of twist or surprise a la Cat and the Canary or Seven Keys to Baldpate and it never comes. Plus, it features quite the most inept axe murderer of all time. It’s almost worth sitting through just for this.

  6. Xanadon't

    These both present their own intrigue but I’ve got a pretty good feeling about Little Dead Rotting Hood, brand shiny new on Netflix.

      • Ken Hanke

        Well, Little Dead Rotting Hood is no Zombeavers. It’s pretty much a slightly campy werewolf movie with a comic book heroine. Some of the CGI is…well…you know. But I don’t mind having watched it.

  7. T.rex

    I’d like to thank Alan Parsons for one of these titles.

    God is still not dead (whatever God is to you) and Jesus is still a myth. Was this religous crap always in cinemas instead of church where it belongs?

    • Ken Hanke

      Excluding Big Budget Bible story movies, the only religious film I saw in a theater as a kid was A Man Called Peter — a biopic about Rev. Peter Marshall. Otherwise, this sort of thing was usually relegated to Lloyd C. Douglas’ religio-mystical- soap-opera books being turned into movies. The big difference that I see — aside from the amateurish filmmaking the sledge-hammer subtlety — is that this new breed is more bellicose and fundamentalist.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Was this religous crap always in cinemas instead of church where it belongs?

      You’ve just summed up the prosecutions case in the movie, except in (no joke) kinder terms.

      • Ken Hanke

        Everything I hear and read makes me glad that Justin is carrying this burden…

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            …of which I know you’re a huge huge fan, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

          • Ken Hanke

            Is it possible to disagree without agreeing to anything? I think it is.

            Bear in mind, I’ve seen neither film, but I’ve been down “Persecuted Christian Road” too many times not to automatically prefer a stupid comedy.

  8. Ken Hanke

    For those keeping track of what the changes at The Carolina might be…well, apart from new Cinemark polo shirts for the floor staff, the most notable change evident today at Eye in the Sky was that three trailers they used to show had turned into seven (about on par with every corporate theater). That’s not such a bad thing, owing to the number of people in Asheville who seem to think 11:50 a.m. means 12:10 p.m. I’d also note that at least all seven trailers were for art titles — a good sign.

    • T.rex

      Solid. That is a good sign, I always wanted more than three. Trailers are half the fun of going to the movies. The more the merrier.

      • Ken Hanke

        The good sign is that the trailers were for art titles, not that there was an abundance of them.

  9. Big Al

    I was surprised that with all of the social, political and military angles that the film covered, it did not include the “we are just making more terrorists” line by having an Al Shabbab militant recruit the father to seek revenge, especially after they helped get the girl to the hospital.

    Of course, having the late Alan Rickman have the last word with “Don’t ever tell a soldier he doesn’t know the cost of war” puts this film more in the Right than Left wing. Even with the end being somewhat anti-war, the British politicians came away looking like incompetent cowards and the American politicos as cold, distant and typically fascist, while the military on all sides appeared both competent and compassionate, albeit ill-used.

    Overall, a right-of-center narrative. Not a film that will be screened by “Veterans for Peace” any time soon.

    • Ken Hanke

      I’d say that our takes on the film are remarkably different, I would never call it “right of center.”

  10. Matt

    One reason why I drive out to the Carolina so often is that the theater doesn’t ‘t play commercials before the show, so one could show up early, get a good seat, relax in the theater, maybe chat and hang out with friends. It just makes movies more social to have the theater be like a lounge. I personally have such visceral intolerance to commercials, and its that much worse on the big screen.

    I hope they don’t start doing that.

      • Ken Hanke

        The Carolina has long played commercials before the trailers (at least when the automation was working). The difference was — and still seems to be — that the ads stop at the showtime. Most theaters the ads run way past the stated showtime.

        • Matt

          Ah. Seemed like there just weren’t any. But you’d know.
          Either way, I’d pay more and drive more to get away from those things. I’m speaking of the live action w/ audio ads here, not just quiet screen shot ads.

          • Ken Hanke

            It’s been the Screenvision full-blown ads for as long as I can remember. Now, they may have seemed quiet, but that could easily have been a failure in the system. I’m sure theaters exist that don’t use them — and which charge more for it — but I can’t think of any around here. Now, what The Grail will do remains to be seen.

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