Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 26-December 2: The Theory of Horrible Penguins

In Theaters.

One much-anticipated art title is pitted against two mainstream titles that may or may not be that anticipated in search of your Thanksgiving moviegoing dollars. I admit to still being a little mystified by the idea of spending your holidays at the movies. Oh, I understand it in broad strokes — it gives you the illusion of spending time with your family without the need for much actual interaction. But having worked at theaters on Thanksgiving and (worse yet) Christmas, Clapton knows it is not where I’d want to be on those days. Still, if it prevents you from decking your in-laws or yelling at the inevitable know-it-all uncle determined to share his polar-opposite political views, then it performs a noble purpose.




Of the three films, I’ve seen the art title — The Theory of Everything — which opens on Wednesday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. (Everything opens on Wednesday this week.) The review for it is in this week’s paper, and while I have some issues with the film — more for what it isn’t than for what it is — I strongly suspect it’s a better choice than the mainstream titles. I also suspect it will find ready favor with a wide variety of viewers — and it certainly is a classy film.




The probable antithesis of classy comes with Horrible Bosses 2 — the unasked for sequel to 2011’s Horrible Bosses with most of the same folks back for more and Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine added to the mix. However, we also get new director-co-writer Sean Anders — presumably on the strength of his contribution to the screenplay for We’re the Millers (2013). Regardless of how you feel about that — and the fact that he was one of four writers — it is worth remembering Anders’ involvement with the notorious flop Sex Drive (2008), That’s My Boy (2012), and the currently playing Dumb and Dumber To. This does not make me anxious to see this — nor do the early reviews. Then again, Mr. Souther dealt with the first film, so he should rightfully deal with this. After all, I might miss the subtle nuances inherent in the material, owing to my unfamiliarity with the original. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.




Anyway, my wife actually wants to see Penguins of Madagascar so I can’t escape it anyway. My own suspicion is that they waited too long to give the Madagascar Penguins a feature of their own. (Remember Puss in Boots?) Even so, there’s really no competition for this. It’s the only kiddie flick going apart from Big Hero 6, which is now entering its fourth week. So if you’re in market for family friendly and you’ve already seen Big Hero 6, this is it. Early reviews are pretty much split, but nobody seems to be exploding with enthusiasm over it.

Now, this week we lose Whiplash, which never really caught on here. We also lose Citizen Four (no shocks, it’s a documentary), but more regretably we lose The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. That wouldn’t be such a big deal if was lasting till Friday, but it’ll be history after today — the day the review comes out. So if you’re interested, act fast. We don’t lose St. Vincent or Rosewater, but they are being split. (This happens when nine out of fourteen screens are devoted to four movies.) Plus, Gone Girl is down to one 10:35 p.m. show at The Carolina.

Special Screenings




Since The Thursday Horror Picture Show obviously falls on Thursday, which is also Thanksgiving, there’ll be no show this week. (Heads up, Christmas is also on a Thursday, so this will happen then, too. By audience request, though, there will be a New Year’s Day show.) World Cinema is showing Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997) on Fri., Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Gene Kelly’s Gigot (1962) starring Jackie Gleason at 2 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 30 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society kicks off its December calendar with Rowland V. Lee’s Cardinal Richelieu (1935) with George Arliss as the wily Cardinal on Tue., Dec. 2 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.


Apart from The Giver and The November Man, this week seems mostly given over to things that died before they got here. Oh, well.

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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23 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 26-December 2: The Theory of Horrible Penguins

  1. swilder

    What have you heard about the upcomming “Unbroken”? Will we finally get a film that walks the delicate tight rope of faith based without alienating the massses?

    • Ken Hanke

      I haven’t seen it. All I know is it opens Christmas Day. It’s clearly awards-bait, so I expect to see it before then. Considering those involved in its making, I expect it will faith-based lite.

      • swilder

        Probably less than the book. I know the film DOESNT include Zamperini’s conversion at a Billy Graham crusade, but it will be hard to tell his story without his Christian faith. I do concur that the Christmas release may be motivated more by Oscar and economics than anything evangelical.

        • Ken Hanke

          Neither Angelina Jolie, nor the Coen Brothers strike me as evangelical-minded. If, as the film appears to be, the period being detailed in focused on his early life, his Olympic status, and his WWII experience, it would all be pre-Billy Graham.

    • Ken Hanke

      I think it highly unlikely. I’ve seen it and it is definitely for very specialized tastes — like people who want to see a Muslim lady vampire riding around on a skateboard. (And that probably makes it sound more action-packed than it is.)

    • Ken Hanke

      But if memory serves, you also like being the only person in the theater. That may be dinky-do from your standpoint, but theaters don’t work that way.

  2. Steven

    Any chance we’ll get The Babadook, or should I just resort to On Demand?

    • Ken Hanke

      That’s a hard call. My immediate guess is no, but we’re about to come into a pretty slack art title run after awards season, so it’s not impossible. But it is every inch a horror picture and that makes it a hard-sell to the art crowd. The horror crowd, on the other hand, aren’t going to know what it is. I don’t see the Fine Arts touching it. Their history with horror pictures is not good. (Remember Night Watch?) The Carolina might. I was planning on suggesting it to their booker, but it’s unlikely anything will happen till January.

      • Ken Hanke

        And proving that I can be wrong (if further proof was needed), turns out the Carolina booker is considering 12/12 for The Babadook. That’s not definite, but…

        • Steven

          Hm, maybe I will hold out. I take it you’ve seen it? If so, care sharing your thoughts?

          • Ken Hanke

            Yes, I’ve seen it. It’s good, but maybe not quite great, It’s on the dull side for about 30 minutes when “The Babadook” pop-up book shows up. Then it gets creepier and creepier and downright disturbing. The biggest problem — and I suspect it’s intentional — is that the kid is so incredibly whiny. But, boy, there’s some great stuff in it. I should think it would benefit a lot from seeing it in a theater — I saw it on a “For Your Consideration” screening link — so holding off for a week would be the way to go.

      • DrSerizawa

        Seems to me that the arts crowd might be well served to screen movies at their theater from time to time that would appeal to a broader base. That way they might attract some movie goers that they normally wouldn’t and that might lead to the movie goers becoming interested in seeing some of the art movies that they would see trailers of at the art theater. This of course presupposes that the art snobs who want to feel exclusive wouldn’t veto the idea. You know, the artsy ones who think that movies are good only if no one likes them.

        • Sally Sefton

          ” You know, the artsy ones who think that movies are good only if no one likes them.”

          Is that their sole criteria ? I love it when an entire group can be reduced to one simple formula.

          • DrSerizawa

            Er, except that I didn’t reduce an entire group of people to one simple formula. Just some of them. They exist.

  3. Ken Hanke

    They exist.

    Unfortunately, yes, they do exist, though they are in fairly short supply locally. These are the people who think a movie is automatically more cultural if it’s foreign — especially if it has subtitles. And there are those who like a thing until it becomes popular — at which point they decide it can’t be any good. These things do not apply to all art film fans. Of course, there are also their polar opposites — the “I go to the movies to be entertained, not to think.” (Most of these are in very little danger of thinking.) And these things do not apply to all pop culture fans.

    The problem I encounter with convincing them to see a horror film is a lot of them are convinced they just don’t like the genre — that they don’t like to be scared, or that the movie will be too bloody or too violent. Now, I can slip in something like Polanski’s The Ninth Gate or an old horror classic on them and they’re good with them, but they see Polanski’s name first and don’t think of horror. Or they see that the movie is from 1932 and figure it won’t be “that bad.” Here, it’s not even a question of going to the art cinema necessarily. We have one strictly art house, but we also have a multiplex (not corporate owned) with a strong art program, so it simply becomes choosing The Babadook over, say, Force Majeure — and, believe me, The Babadook is far better.

    But we all have our prejudices. The fact that there are people who categorically hate musicals is why the first trailers for Into the Woods had no songs in them. Sweeney Todd was handled similarly. While the fact that pop artists were advertised as having songs on the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge!, the trailers downplayed any idea that people actually sang in the film. If you ask me, “Do you like westerns?” my initial response is likely to be, “Not much,” and yet nearly every western that has come out since 2001 has gotten a good review from me. (I exempt the occasional “Cute Boys with Big Guns” subgenre like American Outlaws.) It is, however, worth noting that I have played only one western in four-plus years of the Asheville Film Society. I also “don’t like” war movies, but get that down to specific titles and the picture changes. On the other hand, I adore horror movies, but that doesn’t mean I’m keen on 90% of the crap that gets passed off as horror.

  4. Ken Hanke

    The Babadook is now definitely set for 12/12 according to the regional distributor.

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