Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 20-26: Super Jane Eyre’s Big Happy Elephant

In theaters

Well, the field’s a little less crowded this week with two art titles—Jane Eyre (Carolina and Fine Arts) and Super (Carolina)—and two mainstream ones—Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (everywhere but Carmike) and Water for Elephants (everywhere but Beaucatcher).

If I haven’t made it clear in several places now, I’ve already seen Super. I’ve probably also conveyed my enthusiasm for the movie—and if I haven’t, perhaps my review of it in this week’s paper will clarify that point. At least, it ought to. So I’ll set considerations of that aside and look at these other offerings.

Now, about this new Jane Eyre from Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), I know what you’re thinking—another one? And I understand that. A quick scan of the IMDb shows 11 film versions dating back to 1910 and includes such curios as an Indian film and the poverty-row version from Monogram Pictures of 1934 with Colin Clive (yes, Dr. Frankenstein himself) as Rochester. They do not include Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and they probably should. In addition, there are 10 TV versions of various lengths.

So why another one? Well, from what I can gather it’s a combination of popularity and the fact that it’s about the cheapest period film to make. Fine. Do we need one? Well, that’s another question—one that I posed when Roman Polanski turned out Oliver Twist in 2005. It was fine, but it was still yet another film of Oliver Twist. In this case, however, there may be some justification—at least to judge by the trailers, the 82 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact that six weeks into limited release, it’s still posting more than respectable box office figures.

Ah, and then we have the typically torturously titled Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family. He was probably planning this all along, but there’s an inescapable sense of Perry running back to the safety of his cash cow after audiences proved indifferent to For Colored Girls last year. Of course, Mr. Souther will trot out the fact that I’m the resident Tyler Perry completist, since I’ve reviewed every one of his movies, and use this as leverage for why I should be reviewing this new one. It will at least test my recent claim that Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son was enough to make me look forward to Tyler Perry in drag. I don’t even know what this one’s about and I don’t care—and neither does the audience.

Now, the publicity folks tell me that Water for Elephants is from the “acclaimed” best-seller. However, they offer no clue as to who it was acclaimed by. It probably doesn’t matter, since the whole raison d’etre is to propel Robert Pattinson to movie star status when he isn’t being Edward Cullen. It’s been tried before—if anyone remembers Remember Me from all the way back in 2010—and it didn’t work. Will it work with a Depression-era circus story that finds him romancing the wife (Reese Witherspoon) of the villainous ring master (Christoph Waltz)? I somehow fail to see the immediate appeal to his base audience. But, boy, would I like to hear what a strict Freudian has to say about the accompanying photo.

I should note that it’s possible that the Disney Nature documentary African Cats is opening for Earth Day. It’s in limited release, but last year the Biltmore Grande had their big Earth Day release. Myself, I’m not interested unless at some point narrator Samuel L. Jackson says, “I”ve had it with the motherf**king lions on the motherf**king plain.” And I just don’t imagine that happening somehow. Disney has no vision.

So where does that leave us with the hangers-on this week? The Conspirator and Certified Copy are good for another week at The Carolina, but I expect it’ll be the last week for Certified Copy, since the art calendar is getting a little crowded, especially with another title coming next Friday. Win Win is down for another week at the Fine Arts, but Today’s Special leaves to make room for Jane Eyre. Horror fans take note that Insidious—every horror fan I know who’s seen it has liked it—is leaving The Carolina and has been cut to split shows (only one a day except the weekend) at the Carmike.

Special screenings

There’s no Hendersonville Film Society screening this weekend because of Easter. But everything else is still going on. The Thursday Horror Picture show has Peter Jackson’s splattery zombie picture Dead Alive (1992) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has The Vanishing (1988) at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 22, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Pack Library concludes its Preston Sturges series with Unfaithfully Yours (1948) at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, at 6 p.m. in Lord Auditorium at Pack Library. The Asheville Film Society screens Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.

Also of note is a special free Earh Day screening of the award-winning documentary Bag It at 9:30 a.m. at the Fine Arts on Saturday, April 23. The film is described as “a delightful, yet fact-filled documentary highlighting how plastic affects our lives and our environment. “

On DVD

Quite a few things appear this week. Probably the most notable is Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech—and, yes, it’s listed as the R-rated version. In fact, there’s no sign at all of the PG-13-ified print on DVD. Also up is John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, which is definitely worth a look. Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere is one that will depend a good bit on your fondness for Coppola’s fixation on the ennui of the rich and famous. And then there’s Peter Weir’s very good The Way Back. Gulliver’s Travels also comes to DVD—if you care.

Notable TV screenings

Another somewhat slack week, though the 1930 New Moon with opera stars Lawrence Tibbett and Grace Moore—and no this charmingly antiquated operetta has absolutely nothing to do with Twilight—is on TCM at 6:15 a.m. on Monday, April 25. It isn’t shown very often—perhaps understandably—but here’s your chance to hear Tibbett sing “Stout-hearted Men,” which kind of set the bar for operetta kitsch. (Unless of course you’ve seen Noah Beery, Sr. in blackface sing to his native-beating whip in the same year’s Golden Dawn.) It’s immediately followed by Josef von Sternberg’s Morocco with Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. That’s actually a pretty great movie.

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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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8 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 20-26: Super Jane Eyre’s Big Happy Elephant

  1. DrSerizawa

    But, boy, would I like to hear what a strict Freudian has to say about the accompanying photo.

    Sometimes and elephant’s trunk is just an elephant’s trunk. Unless it’s a metaphor for a killer giant squid tentacle. No chance of a monkey stampede (he asked hopefully)?

    I find it encouraging that Jane Eyre can still draw a crowd amongst the avalanche of modern dreck. (Tyler Perry, James Cameron… I’m talking about you).

    Dead Alive is sufficiently insane to make a good crowd pleaser and I’m sure it’s better seen that way. Hope you have a good turnout.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Sometimes and elephant’s trunk is just an elephant’s trunk.

    Well, if it’s symbolism, I’m pretty sure Ms. Witherspoon is in for a disappointment.

    No chance of a monkey stampede (he asked hopefully)?

    There’s some kind of running animals shot in the trailer, but it looks like the most noteworthy thing is a (single) stampeding giraffe.

    I find it encouraging that Jane Eyre can still draw a crowd amongst the avalanche of modern dreck.

    That is a not unreasonable point.

    Dead Alive is sufficiently insane to make a good crowd pleaser and I’m sure it’s better seen that way. Hope you have a good turnout.

    We’ll see. I don’t even try to guess these things anymore. Why were The Old Dark House and Mystery of the Wax Museum packed? I don’t know. We had a solid turnout for The Dreamers last night, which only kind of surprised me. (That only one person walked out really surprised me.) You’d think Dead Alive would be a natural for the THPS crowd, but they might be too familiar with it.

  3. Dionysis

    “You’d think Dead Alive would be a natural for the THPS crowd, but they might be too familiar with it.”

    I guess I should be as well, but I’ve never seen it, although I’ve owned the DVD (still unopened) for a few years now. I’m going to try and catch it tomorrow night instead. I hope I can swing it.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I guess I should be as well, but I’ve never seen it, although I’ve owned the DVD (still unopened) for a few years now. I’m going to try and catch it tomorrow night instead. I hope I can swing it.

    Well, it’d be nice to see you — and it is the sort of movie that’s better enjoyed with an audience.

    Plus, Justin informed me last night that this Thursday is the one year anniversary of the Thursday Horror Picture Show.

  5. Of course I’m closing during DEAD ALIVE, one of my favorite horror films. Came out in my hazy college days…

    Couple more additions for dvd. Spike Lee’s HBO sequel to WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE is called IF GOD IS WILLING AND THE CREEK DON’T RISE. It is also great and makes a good bookend to the original miniseries.

    SQUARE GROUPER is an entertaining documentary by the makers of COCAINE COWBOYS about the renegades smuggling pot in the 60s and 70s.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Hey, Marc, you do have the THRILLER set with “Pigeons from Hell,” don’t you?

  7. Ken Hanke

    The Karloff show?

    Is there another that spawned a box set? I want to run Pigeons from Hell next month (still gets my vote for creepiest thing ever — big or little screen), but since it’s the only episode I like I am not keen on shelling out a hundred bucks for the set.

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