Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 8-14: Kill Judge Alexander Dracula Happiness

In Theaters.

Something tells me this week isn’t likely to be as strong in the mainstream department, but there’s a joker amidst those three that might surprise on starpower. (I seriously doubt there’ll be as pleasant a surprise as Gone Girl.) Maybe. The art side of the ledger is a harder call, but there are only two of those.

We’re back to the status quo on the art films this week, which is to say I’ve seen them both — and it wasn’t easy, I can tell you. After a series of issues about getting the movies here, it ended up that there was a double feature press screening on Sunday morning — beginning at 7 a.m. This is not something I want to see become a normal occurrence, I can tell you.

 

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First up was Peter Chelsom’s Hector and the Search for Happiness, which, even at 7 a.m., I liked. Possibly I liked it more than I should have, and it took me a while to warm to it. It is undeniably too long, and most of that excess lies in the first half of the film. On the other hand, Simon Pegg gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as the psychiatrist (Hector) out to find out what happiness is. The film is very well made, has a nice message, and is very pleasant. Plus, it’s really interesting to follow up seeing Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl by seeing her as Pegg’s girlfriend in this. In any case, it’s a sweet little movie that manages to never cross the line into being cloying. It starts Friday at The Carolina.

 

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This was followed by Michael Cuesta’s Kill the Messenger, which stars Jeremy Renner as the newpaper reporter who blew the whistle — and paid dearly for it — on the CIA’s involvement in trafficking drugs to finance anti-communist forces in Nicaragua. It’s a solid, straightforward movie with a good central performance from Renner. My biggest issue with it is that is was exactly the movie I expected to see and nothing more. It opens Friday at The Carolina and the Fine Arts.

On into the mainstream and things unseen…

 

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For starters, we have Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which title-wise makes it something like the Marat/Sade of family movies, I guess. Frankly, the scene pictured above tells me far more about this movie than I ever wanted to know. Just imagine actually seeing it…oh, wait, I may well have to. It is based on something from the bottomless supply of “beloved” children’s classics out there. I have no doubt of the veracity of these claims, but unless it was part of your childhood, or of your children’s childhoods, the sales pitch is not effective. Apparently, this is all about a kid who thinks his entire family leads a charmed life while he has nothing but trouble, so he wishes they could have a day like his. They do. The big names here are Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.  The best news is that it’s 80 minutes long.

 

Dracula-Untold-Wallpapers

 

Then we have Dracula Untold — one of those unfortunately titled movies that suggests its own critical response (“Dracula Untold should have stayed that way.”) It’s from first time director Gary Shore and stars Luke Evans as the gent whose untold story is being told. The idea seems to be that we needed an origins story for Dracula. Funny how well the character worked for so many years without one. Plus, we’ve had all this Vlad the Impaler stuff in various forms for years. The difference here seems to be that he drinks the blood of Charles Dance in order to gain the dark powers of CGI in order to save his people. At least, that’s what the trailer suggests.

 

judge

 

Last up is the one that might win the day through the combined star power of Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. This is The Judge from director David Dobkin (Fred Claus), which weighs in at a dauting 142 minutes. It’s all about a city slicker lawyer (Downey) who ends up defending his estranged father, the Judge (Duvall), on a murder charge. It looks like something that was written specifically with these actors in mind — with everything that suggests. Right now, the critics are divided on it. My favorite negative blurb so far comes from Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club — “It’s better than one would expect from the director of Shanghai Knight and Fred Claus, without being especially interesting in any regard.” Not having seen it, I can’t say, but the trailer does very little for me.

This week the Fine Arts splits My Old Lady and The Skeleton Twins to make room for Kill the Messenger. The Carolina also cuts The Skeleton Twins to two shows a day, while dropping Boyhood, The Drop, and Love Is Strange. Expect this to be the final week for The Skeleton Twins.

Special Screenings

 

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This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Roy Del Ruth’s The Alligator People (1959) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Oct. 9 in Theater Six at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 10 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Don Sharp’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) on Sun., Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month of mysteries with a double feature of John Rawlins’ Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) and Roy William Neill’s Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) on Tue., Oct. 14 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

You remember the surprisingly good Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner Edge of Tomorrow? Well, it’s coming to DVD with a new ad campaign that virtually changes the title to Living on the Edge. Whether or not this will get people to watch it is a separate question. Also out is the very agreeable indie comedy The Grand Seduction, which did pretty good art house business here.

Notable TV Screenings

Time has gotten away from me, so you’ll have to fend for yourself.

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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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19 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 8-14: Kill Judge Alexander Dracula Happiness

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    Well, it’s coming to DVD with a new ad campaign that virtually changes the title to Living on the Edge.

    My Charter October 2014 Connect eNewsletter lists it as Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow. They should have stuck with All You Need Is Kill.

  2. They should have stuck with All You Need Is Kill.

    I don’t understand the logic behind this, other than it being the title of the source comic. It makes the film sound like a Steven Segal flick to me. LIVE DIE REPEAT (the tagline) might have been a more distinctive title than EDGE OF TOMORROW, and I can understand why the packaging of the home video version has shifted to emphasise this.

  3. Ken Hanke

    The problem with Edge of Tomorrow is and always was that it sounds like a soap opera.

  4. Big Al

    While the movie itself did not excite, I kinda liked the “Dracula 2000” notion of Drac being the eternally damned Judas.

    • Ken Hanke

      I thought that idea was pretty amusing, though possibly blasphemous in some quarters, I have a hunch that Dracula Untold will make it look like a minor classic.

  5. DrSerizawa

    I’ve decided to reject anything that tries to make me feel sympathetic to vampires. When you see one you stake it, you don’t kiss it. Besides, the trailer for DU looked dreadful and boring and obviously way too CGIed. Even a wartime Sherlock Holmes flick is a better bet.

      • DrSerizawa

        I shoulda said “that I’ve already seen a dozen times”.

      • Big Al

        I would have stuck with the “even…” remark. I have only seen one of the wartime SH films (the one on the train to Scotland) and not only did I find it silly, but waaaay out of period. Sherlock was of the late Victorian era, 1880s, not the 1940s. And there was absolutely none of Holmes’ famous logical or hyper-observant traits utilized. What is so great about these films?

        As for Dracula 2000, while it was pretty lame and full of obvious product placement (Virgin Music??) I got a kick out of seeing a female vamp say Drac was “better than chocolate”.

        • Ken Hanke

          I know I responded to this once, but it seems to have vanished (watch it return once I post this). I don’t think anyone is likely to call the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies “great,” but you really can’t judge by having seen one of the last and cheapest ones. As for the period being wrong, well, that is not unique to these films. Holmes was updated many times in the movies for the simple reason that period pieces are more expensive — and non-period films also tend to have a broader immediate audience. A lot of people — and I am one of them — discovered Holmes through these movies on TV and so they pretty much define the character as far as movies go. I am not, however, trying to sell you on them. I’m telling you why I like them.

          • Big Al

            OK, I’ll buy that argument. I am just glad that my on-screen intro to Holmes (AFTER reading the source material) was Jeremy Brett on PBS.

        • DrSerizawa

          I saw those Rathbone/Holmes movies many times on local TV when I was growing up in L.A. I liked them a lot then and I still do, dated and hokey as they may seem now. I still like few things better than watching Hound of the Baskervilles with a big bowl of popcorn late at night. Even better if it’s storming outside. I consider myself fortunate that my wife loves those old flicks too. I guess loving something in your youth often keeps it fun later in life.

          • Ken Hanke

            There’s certainly something to that, though it’s hardly an across the board thing. There are some things that don’t hold up to adult scrutiny — like most TV shows I thought were great when I was a kid and find unwatchable now. And I cannot rationalize my early fondness for Abbott and Costello movies. But the fact that I didn’t see the Rathbone Hound till it was re-issued in 1976 (I was 21 or 22) may have bearing on why it’s not one of my favorites. Plus, neither it, nor Adventures has the Universal music or look.

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