Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 19-25: Mocking Citizen Kaguya

In Theaters.

While there’s certainly nothing as embarrassing as last week’s Dumb and Dumber To, it’s also a week that clearly is being given over to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1. No major release is sufficiently foolhardy to go up against it, though locally we do get one documentary and an animated art title as alternative programming. Still, considering the fact that The Carolina alone has four screens devoted to Mockingjay — that’s 20 shows a day — it’s obvious where all the attention is directed. It’s even opening at the Flat Rock Cinema.

 

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The documentary Citizenfour — opening Friday at The Carolina — is the only title I’ve already seen. If you don’t know, it’s about Edward Snowden and the idea behind it is to present the origins of his legal troubles in an “as they happened” fashion. Personally, I didn’t find this all that suspenseful since I knew from the onset where this was going. It’s also a little too much on the hagiographic side for my taste. You may well feel differently — a great many critics have — and it is at the very least interesting. The review is in this week’s Xpress.

So everything else is an unknown quantity.

 

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The inescapable The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 actually rolls into town (most places) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, but “officially” opens on Friday. What is there to be said? This is no longer a movie, it’s an Event. It’s as inevitable as Christmas, I suppose. Of course, it’s taking a leaf from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and splitting the one book into two movies. (Nevermind that Mockingjay is about half as long a book as Deathly Hallows.) So what you’re getting here is essentially the set-up for Part 2. It hardly matters, it’s so presold that it’s a shoo-in for success. The early reviews — if that concerns you — have been largely positive.

 

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The other film is Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya — also opening Friday at The Carolina. It’s the sort of film that probably would have benefitted from a press screening and a review, but that didn’t happen. The film — which has a 100% approval rating (45 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes — is mostly being sold on its Studio Ghibli origins and the fact that it’s based on the oldest recorded folk tale in Japan. The thing is that Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki and has made some highly regarded animated films — Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Pom Poko (1994) — of his own. Will it be a hit here? I guess we’ll find out.

This week all we really lose is Laggies, which was a foregone conclusion. The Carolina cut Whiplash to two shows a day, but it has a full set upstairs at the Fine Arts — at least through Tuesday.

Special Screenings

 

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First off, there’s the Asheville Film Societies Budget Big Screen showing of Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator at 7:30 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 19 at The Carolina. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public. The Great Dictator is the boldest and possibly most personal film Charlie Chaplin ever made. It may not be his best, but this comedic on Adolf Hitler — here Adenoid Hynkel — is perhaps the most important film of Chaplin’s career. Admitting the inevitability of a second World War in a period when the U.S. was still staying out of it was itself a daring move. (It had only been a year or two since Hollywood studios had been tailoring movies so as not to offend the Nazis.) But it was him brazenly presenting Hitler as a raving megalomaniac — not to mention painting Mussolini (Jack Oakie) as a crude, jumped-up, loud-mouthed blowhard with a Chico Marx dialect — that made the film take flight. Being a comic, Chaplin opted to tackle his look-alike dictator in comedic terms, walking a fine line between the hysterically funny and the deadly serious. The humor is often quite dark and Chaplin never loses sight of the fact that the character is an evil maniac, no matter how funny. The results are a unique and uniquely funny movie that belongs on everyone’s must-see list.

 

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The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Edward D. Wood’s Bride of the Monster (1955) starring Bela Lugosi in his last major role at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 20 in Theater Six at The Carolina. (This qualifies as the THPS Thanksgiving “turkey,” since there’s no show on Thanksgiving.) World Cinema is showing Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1967) on Fri., Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Paul Bonesteel’s The Day Carl Sandburg Died (2011) on Sun., Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its November calendar with Will Rogers in John Ford’s Judge Priest (1934) on Tue., Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper — with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

Probably the best thing going this week is Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Die For. Otherwise you’re left with And So It Goes, Into the Storm, and If I Stay. Not a pretty line-up.

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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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22 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 19-25: Mocking Citizen Kaguya

  1. Steven

    I’m assuming we’re just getting the dubbed version of Kaguya?

    • Ken Hanke

      I should think so. It bothers me less in animated films — so long as it doesn’t involve Billy Crystal.

      • Steven

        Or whoever provided the voices for My Neighbor Totoro.

        Seeing how you’ve probably seen it, I suppose you can confirm it is indeed dubbed?

        • Edwin Arnaudin

          It is. James Caan makes for a funny father/grandfather figure, Mary Steenburgen is kind of an oppressive narrator, and Chlöe Grace Moretz has to do a lot of laughing and other vocal sound effects, but it mostly all works together.

          • Ken Hanke

            There you have it. (I haven’t seen it.) If you are interested, make tracks. As things are scheduled now, this will be gone by Wed. to make room for Horrible Bosses 2, Penguins of Madagascar, and The Theory of Everything.

    • Ken Hanke

      It’s on my desk, too. Once they send Mauvais Sang, I should have all of his features.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        I didn’t know there was such a thing, but a documentary on Carax from this year called Mr X has also been added to Netflix.

        • Ken Hanke

          I think it’s an extra on either Boy Meets Girl or Mauvais Sang.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            Its production value (or lack thereof) suggests that Drinking Buddies – which I like – was made with the budget of a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

  2. DrSerizawa

    Hmmm. I’ve never seen any Hunger Games movie or read one of the books. I guess this means I’m hopelessly out of touch. Feels good actually. Especially when I read that the latest Transformers was one of the highest grossing movies of the year. I have both The Great Dictator and Bride of the Monster buried here somewhere. Might be time to pull them out.

      • Ken Hanke

        In fairness, I should say that I liked Mockingjay Part 1 considerably more than the first two entries, but it would be all but incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t see the earlier films.

    • Big Al

      You are not alone, Doc. I did not read them and was unimpressed by the first movie. My friends keep saying that the 2nd is better but I remain skeptical. If I want to see a film adaptation of a book (and one starring Jennifer Lawrence), I will hold out for the film version of Ron Rash’s excellent “Serena”. And then the film version of his “World Made Straight”. Both due out soon, I hope.

      • Ken Hanke

        Serena has been in limbo for some time. Early reviews were not good and its release keeps being delayed. It’s now down for March 27, 2015 in limited release from Magnolia. I’d guess it could be a while later that it gets here, if it gets here at all. The World Made Straight is also a limited release, but it does come out earlier — Jan. 9. Of course, how it does in the big cities will determine whether it makes it this far into the provinces.

        • Big Al

          “Early reviews were not good…”

          Ouch. Way to screw up a good story. Sorry, Ron.

          Well, they say the book is always better. I can only think of one exception to this rule: “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” was a FAR better movie than the book, and ironically the author also wrote the screenplay. Practice makes perfect?

          • Ken Hanke

            I can think of lots of exceptions — The Shining, Carrie, The Magic Christian, The Rules of Attraction — without thinking about it too hard. Of course, it often depends on whether you saw or read a thing first.

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