Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 5-11: Big Interstellar Birdman Laggies

In Theaters.

It’s juggernaut week at the movies. We have two destined to be huge mainstream movies, one already on its way to huge (in relative terms) art house title — plus, one really worthwhile little art/indie movie that is sadly destined to be crushed by this onslaught of the titans.

 

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Of course, the biggie in art house terms — and doubtless going to be co-opted by the mainstream — is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a film for which I braved the perils of snow and ice to see at a press screening this past Saturday morning. (OK, so only my driveway was much of an issue, since the wintry blast didn’t really stick to the roads, but I didn’t know that setting out.) If any film of recent vintage was worth risking life and limb to see, Birdman is it. And bear in mind this comes from someone who cannot be called a fan of Iñárritu’s work. This is very unlike his previous bouts of often drearily depressing movies. It’s a richly rewarding work — as serious as anything else he’s made, but with a sense of humor and humanity that is refreshing. Birdman is as remarkable as you may have heard — maybe more so. It is the very definition of “must-see.” As I noted at the onset it is big enough that the mainstream theaters are sure to be out for a piece of the pie. I’ll only say what I’ve said before — the Fine Arts and The Carolina (both opening the film on Friday) bring us this kind of quality film 52 weeks of the year. Consider that when choosing where to spend your money to see it. The review, of course, is in this week’s paper — and, yes, it’s the weekly pick.

 

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At the same time, if you can squeeze it in (remember, right or wrong, opening weekend determines a movie’s fate), give some consideration for Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, which is also opening on Friday at The Carolina. I’m very much afaid that this excellent little movie is on a suicide run that can only be blamed on the distributor who insisted on sticking to this week as the expansion date. Of course, Laggies isn’t in the same league as Birdman, but it was never intended to be. It’s a different proposition altogether — a small scale indie romantic comedy of great charm. It’s the best — most accomplished — film Shelton has made, and it boasts terrific performances from Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, and, yes, Chloe Grace Moretz. Plus, it has a tortoise that may or may not be anorexic. This movie deserves so much more than it’s likely to get.

And in the really mainstream realm…

 

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First up is Disney’s Big Hero 6, which is based on a Marvel comic book I confess complete ignorance of. Though the comic seems to be wholly a U.S. creation, it features Japanese (or at least anime-style Japanese) characters and is set in an appropriately East-West mash-up city called San Fransokyo. Unless you’ve been living in a cave where movie trailers don’t exist, you can scarcely have escaped knowledge of this film about a group of early teen crimefighters out to revenge themselves on evildoers responsible for the death of the hero’s brother. Their secret weapon in this battle is the oversized balloon-like creation of the late brother — a robotic contrivance called Baymax (and looks like something out of a Miyazaki film). Expect this to be the biggest animated movie of the year.

 

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And there’s Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Casey Affleck. It’s set in a future where the earth has been reduced to a dustbowl and the only hope for mankind is to find another habitable planet. It’s big. It’s effects-heavy. And it’s nearly three hours long. It’s worth noting that it has also garnered to lowest ranking in terms of positive vs. negative reviews since Nolan’s The Prestige (2006) — that doesn’t bother me, since The Prestige is my favorite Nolan movie. I’m also nursing a suspicion that the negativity — and bear in mind, we’re still talking a film with (currently) 47 positive reviews against 16 negative ones — is part of the inevitable backlash that is the fate of any filmmaker as high-profile as Nolan. At the same time, I have to note that many of the problems some reviewers are having with Interstellar are exactly the ones I have always had with his films. I intend, however, to find out for myself.

This week we lose Horns (a pity) and The Blue Room (a shrug) at The Carolina, but hey there are three screens of Interstellar, two screens of Birdman, and two screens of Big Hero 6. That’s half the screens given over to three movies. Something had to give. The Fine Arts, on the other hand is splitting Pride and Dear White People to make room for Birdman without actually losing anything.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is screening Philip Ridley’s Heartless (2009) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Nov. 6 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Béla Tarr’s Almanac of Autumn (1984) on Fri. Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society has Lewis Milestone’s The Red Pony (1949) on Sun., Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Joseph McGrath’s The Magic Christian (1969) on Tue., Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.

On DVD 

This week the big releases aren’t all that big, but here they are: A Most Wanted Man, The One I Love, Hercules, and last and least Planes: Fire & Rescue, which should have gone straight to DVD in the first place.

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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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36 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler November 5-11: Big Interstellar Birdman Laggies

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    Other than Love Actually and last year’s Mel Brooks documentary, little of note was added to Netflix for the monthly deluge of titles. Infernal Affairs is also now on there, though I prefer The Departed.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        It’s still worth seeing. I think the character in Costello’s gang who doesn’t reveal Costigan’s identity is more memorable in the original.

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, I’ve already been called a dumb American by a Frenchman today. I want to increase my dumb American cred.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            1) Preferring The Departed to Infernal Affairs is definitely “uncool” in the world of cinema.

            2) Please elaborate on your confrenchtation.

  2. Ken Hanke

    2) Please elaborate on your confrenchtation.

    It’s not the first time I’ve gone around this guy, but today it was because I took issue with the idea that Europeans have better taste in movies (the box office suggests no such thing), which then turned into how only a stupid American like me wouldn’t see that Mario Bava “is just a genius.”

    • Big Al

      The French should stick to what they are good at: cooking and surrendering.

      • Ken Hanke

        Well, they did give us Rene Clair, Jean Renoir, Maurice Chevalier, the “New Wave,” Julien Duvivier, Abel Gance and a few other notables.

        • Big Al

          I hate to sound more anti-intellectual than I really am, but…who????

          • Ken Hanke

            Seriously? Clair, Renoir (son of the painter Renoir), Duvivier, and Gance were all directors of note. The “New Wave” was the film movement that started in France in 1959 and impacted the way films were made. And you actually don’t know who Maurice Chevalier was?

  3. DrSerizawa

    Mario Bava “is just a genius.”

    Thanks for the laugh. Pretty good for a guy from a country where Jerry Lewis is very popular. Too bad I’ve also seen Mr Hulot’s Holiday” and Mr Bean so I’m not sure where the idea that Europeans have better taste comes from.

    However, for Italian horror directors that he might be right. A couple of Bava’s movies weren’t completely incoherent. I think that might qualify as “genius” in that genre.

    • Ken Hanke

      The idea on our side comes from an ingrained sense of cultural inferiority — bolstered by the idea that a thing is more “cultural” if it’s in a foreign language. We also never pause to realize that the worst of the crap from other countries is often filtered out and rarely gets seen here. I cannot address the situation from the European perspective. I did find it telling some years back that a guy from Paris told me that Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby was believable because “things like that happen all the time in New York,” but that his The Tenant was absurd because “nothing like that could possibly happen in Paris.” Yes, well…

      As for Signor Bava…well, I’ll take the best of Argento any day of the week, and Argento’s disciple Michele Soavi makes both of them look very far from “genius” with Cemetery Man. And the Spanish/Mexican films like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage make Italian horror look pretty silly altogether,

      • DrSerizawa

        I thought Dagon pretty decent too. Another Spanish horror flick and a fairly good adaptation of HP Lovecraft.

    • Ken Hanke

      It’s certainly not in 10 Best contention, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

      • Edwin Arnaudin

        It’s another one that might benefit from a revisit, especially now that I know Woody Allen isn’t playing a comedic character.

        • Big Al

          Really? He seemed pretty comedic to me, especially when he ran from the Rabbis as they yelled “He’s on the move!!”

          Or are you being sarcastic? I can’t always tell online.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I’m being serious. His delivery in most scenes is typical comedic Allen, which I like a lot, but his lines are not funny to me here.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Going to watch it this weekend. Read the book when it came out and loved it, but I’ve forgotten most of it.

      • Me

        I hadn’t heard of the book before seeing it, but McDormand and Jenkins are great in it.

  4. Edwin Arnaudin

    Nebraska is also now streaming – and not the color version.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I’m being serious. His delivery in most scenes is typical comedic Allen, which I like a lot, but his lines are not funny to me here.

    Now, this I do not get.

    • Edwin Arnaudin

      Here’s what I said in my review:

      “Throughout their adventures, Allen speaks in his usual comedic banter, accompanied by his patented facial reactions and body language, yet the content is rarely comprised of jokes. As such, the desire to laugh out of familiarity with his delivery is there. The humor? Not so much.”

      • Big Al

        This all sounds like hair-splitting to me, but I don’t get paid to look as closely at this stuff as ya’ll do. I actually enjoyed Allen more in Fading Gigalo than I did in most of the films he has starred in. I guess I am a “less-is-more” kinda guy.

        And Ken, while I do recall a vague awareness of Renoir (the director), Chevalier is waaay before my time of film awareness. I will enthusiastically admit that very little about French film has ever put a blip on my radar. Foreign film in general for that matter. As I have stated in the past, subtitled works (with a few notable exceptions, like the recent film on the Renoirs, ironically) divide my attention too much for me to enjoy them.

        Generally, my usefulness for the French ended after we beat the British together and their peasants beheaded the Bourbons.

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, if Chevalier is way before your time of film awareness, so are the directors I named. I take you have an aversion to films earlier than a certain date?

          • Big Al

            Not an aversion, merely a lack of interest. I find most films made prior to 1959 no better than what kids make on YouTube today.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Not an aversion, merely a lack of interest. I find most films made prior to 1959 no better than what kids make on YouTube today.

    You have watched the wrong old movies.

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