Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 7-13: No grudge matches this week

In theaters

If it weren’t for Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways opening at the Fine Arts and the Carolina on Friday, this would be one of those weeks where renting a movie, catching up on that stack of DVDs you’ve been meaning to watch, or finally taking in something that’s been around for a while would probably be your best bets. However, The Runaways does open—and though the review appears in this week’s Xpress, I will go so far as to say that it’s certainly worthwhile. Myself, I’m swamped with screening six of the movies that will be in next week’s ActionFest film festival at the Carolina, so I’m not hurting for things to see.

The other offerings this week are not that enticing.

First up is the only truly mainstream release, Date Night, starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey as a couple who end up in trouble by claiming to be other people in order to snag dinner reservations at a crowded restaurant. As luck and convenient scripting would have it, the couple they’re impersonating are in bad with some mobsters. High jinks ensue. Actually, the trailer doesn’t look bad and the stars are certainly agreeable, as is the big-name supporting cast of guest stars: Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo etc. The movie was written by John Klausner, whose previous big credit involves “additional screenplay material” on Shrek the Third (2007). It was directed by Shawn Levy—just peruse Mr. Levy’s theatrical credits: Big Fat Liar (2002), Just Married (2003), Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), The Pink Panther (2006), Night at the Museum (2006), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009). My awe is not inspired by this.

Ah, but there’s also Letters to God—from a producer of Fireproof. This, as you’ve probably guessed, is a God-centric opus. It’s “inspired” by a true story (which always means that an awful lot of people will insist that it’s true). The cast boasts a lot of people I never heard of (though I’m glad to see that in 2008 one of them was in a straight-to-video affair called Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!) and some TV actors. Face it, this isn’t a movie made for people interested in movies. It’s strictly for audiences who are predisposed to its message. I think I’m going to pass on this one and let Mr. Souther tackle it.

Of course, The Ghost Writer is still with us at the Fine Arts and the Carolina, and has been picked up by Flat Rock Cinema this week. Alice in Wonderland is still loitering (in 3-D only at the Beaucatcher). Crazy Heart hits its second-run this week and is playing at Asheville Pizza and Brewing in the 7 and 10 p.m. slots. But we lose Shutter Island come Friday. If you haven’t seen that one, make haste. With the possible exception of The Ghost Writer, it’s far and away the best movie of 2010 so far.

On DVD

It’s definitely a slack week for DVD releases when the most mainstream (and possibly only theatrically released title) the IMDb can find to showcase is Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Nothing against the movie—I think it’s pretty swell—but it’s not exactly all that mainstream. If you missed it in the theater, you should definitely check it out. It’s one of the quirkier things you’re apt to encounter just now. And it’s nice to be reminded every so often that Nicolas Cage doesn’t only make bad movies.

Personally, I’m mostly intrigued this week by the release of René Clair’s highly regarded silent comedy The Italian Straw Hat (1928). This is one of those films that I’ve read about for 40-plus years, but have never had the chance to see. No, I’m sure this isn’t apt to be a high-priority item on most lists, but it’s at the top of mine—even though I’m mindful of the probability that it won’t live up to years of expectation.

Notable TV screenings

Once again, I find that nothing jumps out at me on the Turner Classic Movies listings for this week. As usual, there are some fine films being run, but these are mostly films that they run with some frequency. For example, the Marx Brothers in The Big Store (1941) is on at 1:15 on Wednesday (April 7). Now, it’s not prime Marx Brothers, but it has its points—and it’s certainly an improvement over their previous film, Go West (1940). Still, it’s not infrequently shown and most hardcore Marxists probably own it as part of the box set. But if you’ve never seen it, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon—and it’s the only chance I know of to see Groucho dance the Big Apple. Check out the TCM listings. As I’ve said before, what’s old hat to me might be brand new to people who haven’t frittered their lives away watching movies.

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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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14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 7-13: No grudge matches this week

  1. Jim Donato

    Re: “Date Night”

    “The trailer doesn’t look bad?” Have we been inhabiting the same universe? I’ve dreaded every time that thing’s unspooled almost as much as the ad for the National Guard. Almost.

    We’re gung ho to see The Runaways and I certainly would have preferred to have seen a single trailer for that opus instead. I can’t wait to see Kim Fowley rendered on screen. Whoever is playing him does have a lot to live up to as Mr. Fowley has always been a character who is far larger than life, to put it kindly.

  2. Dionysis

    Another noteworthy DVD released this week is Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, featuring heretofore six unreleased non-horror films from the famed studio. Includes an early Oliver Reed film, ‘The Damned’ (a/k/a ‘These Are the Damned’, and in its full 96 minutes), ‘Never Take Candy from a Stranger’, ‘The Snorkel’ (a mystery), ‘Stop Me Before I Kill!’, a pretty riveting crime mystery with Peter Cushing titled ‘Cash On Demand’ and finally, the Psycho-influenced ‘Maniac’ with 7th Voyage of Sinbad’s Kerwin Matthews.

    All have excellent transfers and seem to be in their original aspect ratios, and are on three discs in a boxed set. Priced at less than $23, it’s a good deal.

  3. Ken Hanke

    “The trailer doesn’t look bad?” Have we been inhabiting the same universe? I’ve dreaded every time that thing’s unspooled almost as much as the ad for the National Guard.

    In this case, perhaps we have. Perhaps I should have noted that it doesn’t look bad for this kind of rather silly film — a broad thrill comedy affair. There’s a kind of sliding scale at work here.

    I can’t wait to see Kim Fowley rendered on screen. Whoever is playing him does have a lot to live up to as Mr. Fowley has always been a character who is far larger than life, to put it kindly

    Michael Shannon is playing him. I’m not familiar with Fowley himself, but the portrayal is certainly larger than life.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Another noteworthy DVD released this week is Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, featuring heretofore six unreleased non-horror films from the famed studio.

    I almost included it, but the only of the films I’ve seen is These Are the Damned, which I’m not sure is by itself worth the price. Most of the others hold very small appeal for me, though I’ll likely pick it up eventually and perhaps be agreeably surprised.

  5. Jim Donato

    Fowley is a legend of the L.A. rock scene. An embittered hypemeister nonpareil. To see him in his native environment, check out “The Mayor Of Sunset Strip,” the biofilm on Rodney Binginheimer, a lesser, would-be legend of the L.A. rock scene. Fowley’s scenes are riveting in their casual, yet inhuman cruelty.

  6. Ken Hanke

    It appears that I was wrong and that Shutter Island is being kept for another week at the Biltmore Grande.

  7. though I’m glad to see that in 2008 one of them was in a straight-to-video affair called Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!
    Please tell me that’s a musical.

    I’m actually quite looking forward to DATE MOVIE, despite the apprehensiveness that the Mr. Levy induces. This is probably due to my affection for Steve Carrell (who mainly appears in excellent TV shows and terrible movies) and Tina Fey (who’s filmic track record is mixed but mainly good).

  8. Ken Hanke

    Please tell me that’s a musical

    All I want is lovin’ you
    And zombies, zombies, zombies?

    The idea has its appeal, but it appears not to be a musical.

  9. All have excellent transfers and seem to be in their original aspect ratios, and are on three discs in a boxed set. Priced at less than $23, it’s a good deal.

    Or rent this at your favorite local video store, who has the largest Hammer collection in the Southeast.

  10. Me

    Kim Fowley’s early 70’s albums are pretty great and trippy. Michael Shannon is a great actor but im still not sure about going to see the Runaways i might check it out on DVD or cable.

  11. Jessamyn

    Now that we are zombies
    We’ll be hand in hand forever
    Death can scarcely part us
    As long as our flesh holds together!

    Or perhaps, for the more literate-minded,

    Here with a book of the damned beneath the bough
    A loafer’s head, a jugular wine, and thou
    Beside me moaning in the wilderness
    And wilderness is living hell enow!

  12. Ken Hanke

    Here with a book of the damned beneath the bough
    A loafer’s head, a jugular wine, and thou
    Beside me moaning in the wilderness
    And wilderness is living hell enow!

    The moving zombie lurches and having lurched moves on…? No, maybe not.

    I was actually last leaning toward —

    The old hooty owl hooty hoots from above
    Zombie, zombie, zombie’s in love.

    (Gad, but there are penalties for having been born in the 50s.)

  13. bengi

    Throw in a line about cottonwoods and brains and you might have something there.

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