Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 21-27: Days of Blended Belle Past

In Theaters


Here we have a fairly slight week. Only three new movies are opening locally — two mainstream ones and one art title (next week will be another story on art titles). But that single art title is a surprisingly good one, and one of the mainstream ones may well be more than just another Next Big Thing blockbuster. We shall see.




The art title is Amma Asante’s Belle starring the positively luminous Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role. Disabuse yourself of the notion (that I admit I had before seeing it) that this is some Masterpiece Theatre knock-off or Merchant-Ivory-style costume picture. Oh, sure, it’s a costume picture, but it’s not embalmed in period detail and it’s not in the least stuffy, though some of the characters are. This is a beautifully shot film with a screenplay of some complexity and wit. I didn’t even mind having to go to a 9 a.m. press screening — at least once the film got underway. (Prior to that, my mood was less pleasant.)  You can, of course, read the review in this week’s paper. And practice remembering the name of director Amma Asante and star Gugu Mbatha-Raw — you’ll likely be seeing both again.




Now before we get to the big mainstream release, let’s take a moment to look at Blended. OK, that’s enough. Here we have yet another Adam Sandler movie. In this one — directed by his secondary go-to guy Frank Coraci — Sandler is teamed with Drew Barrymore (for the third time) in rom-com form — a reportedly 117 minutes worth. They play characters who had one date, thoroughly hated each other, and then — thanks to clever scripting — find themselves and their various children trapped together on an African vacation. You can take it from there. The trailer looks exactly what you’d expect. Those who thrive on Sandler — and they’re obviously out there, since these things make money — will probably love it. The rest of us may well be less enamored. On the plus side, Rob Schneider doesn’t seem to have been involved.





Altogether more promising is Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (and, no, it appears no songs from the 1967 Moody Blues album seem to be showcased on the soundtrack). Even those of us suffering from superhero burnout seem to have a soft-spot for the Bryan Singer X-Men movies as perhaps the best of the comic book genre. This only extends to the first two films (the ones Singer made) — X-Men (2000) and, especially, X2: X-Men United (2003). The less said about Bret Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand the better. Setting aside the Wolverine movies, Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class (2011) was something of a return to form, but not quite up to the first two films. This one not only has Singer at the helm, but, thanks to a time-travel aspect, manages to bridge the world of Singer’s films with that of Vaughn’s prequel. Among other things, that means we get the return of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Early reviews are strong. The cast is top-notch. Best of all, it sounds promisingly like this is one summer blockbuster where the draw isn’t property damage. Friday tells the tale (or Thursday night, if you’re so inclined).

This week we lose Fading Gigolo (a movie that ought to have done better) and God’s Pocket (no surprises there). The Fine Arts is dropping The Lunchbox, but if you missed it and want to make the drive, it’s being picked up by Flatrock Cinema. Otherwise, things are holding steady. Both Only Lovers Left Alive (at The Carolina) and The Railway Man (at The Carolina and Fine Arts) did pretty well — and, for whatever reason, The Grand Budapest Hotel (at The Carolina) had an upswing in attendance.

Special Screenings




This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Richard Elfman’s cult favorite Forbidden Zone (1980) at 8 p.m. on Thu., May 22 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Emir Kusturica’s When Father Was Away on Business (1985) on Fri., May 23 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) at 2 p.m. on Sun., May 25 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out its May calendar with René Clair’s The Beauty of the Devil (La Beauté du Diable) on Tue., May 27 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.


 Quite a few new titles hit DVD this week, though none of them are all that exciting. The best of the lot are The Monuments Men, In Secret, Like Someone in Love and About Last Night. But also up are Pompeii, 3 Days to Kill and Vampire Academy. You stand warned.

Notable TV Screenings




Though TCM is still mired in their mystifying month-long salute to June Allyson, we do find a few choice titles along they way. On Fri., May 23 at 6 a.m. there’s William Wyler’s Dodsworth (1936), which is probably the best screen adaptation of anything Sinclair Lewis wrote. Hardly in the same league, but very agreeable fluff is Busby Berkeley’s The Garden of Moon (1938), which follows at 7:45 a.m. — a movie that mixes some nice songs with a plot cribbed, in part, from The Front Page.




In the midst of their 72 Hours of War Movies (for Memorial Day), we get Jacques Feyder’s Carnival in Flanders (1935), which has nothing whatever to do with the U.S. at war, but is worth a look. It’s at 2 a.m. on Sun., May 25 (or Mon. morning if you’re not working on TV Guide time).  

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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13 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 21-27: Days of Blended Belle Past

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    On the plus side, Rob Schneider doesn’t seem to have been involved.

    Nor Nick Swardson, though if Shaquille O’Neal keeps showing up in these movies, he’ll join that special list as well.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I am actually beginning to think that Sandler and Schneider have had a break-up. I mean, he wasn’t in GROWN-UPS 2, was he? And Schneider’s barely released and direct-to-DVD more recent pictures are neither released by Columbia, nor do they have the Happy Madison name on them.

    • DrSerizawa

      Perhaps Schneider wants to stop slumming? I mean there’s only one direction on the cinematic bell curve from the Sandler level? More likely he forgot to fill Sandler’s bong when it was his turn.

  3. Me

    That documentary i asked you about called “The Institute” has been added to Netflix streaming.

    • Ken Hanke

      THE PLUMBER always struck me as Exhibit A against Australian movies.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Man was I ever disappointed at the trainwreck that was XMEN III after the masterful set up of XMEN II. Eve n today it leaves a foul taste in my mouth. I’m no particlular fan (or hater) of comic book movies. But XMEN II was actually intelligent, a rare commidity in the genre. I hope Singer can resurrect the series from CGI hell.

  5. Ken Hanke

    The new X-MEN is probably the most intelligent serious superhero movie since X2.

  6. Me

    “THE PLUMBER always struck me as Exhibit A against Australian movies.”

    I loved it, I thought it was hilarious. When he writes a song for his victim in the shower, I lost it.

  7. Me

    Do you know if Asheville will be getting any of these films The Dance of Reality, Boyhood, The Immigrant?

  8. Ken Hanke

    Do I know? No. I suspect that BOYHOOD ans THE IMMIGRANT will make it here. THE DANCE OF REALITY is dicier. Its opening weekend take of $12,500 per theater in only two theaters makes it somewhat doubtful, but it’s not impossible.

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