Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug. 10-16: Help, Snowflowers, Destinations, Mountains, Glee and more

In Theaters

Lots of titles this week—six of them, in fact. We have four mainstream ones—The Help, 30 Minutes or Less, Final Destination 5 and Glee: The 3D Concert Movie—and two art/indie films—The Last Mountain (Fine Arts) and Snowflower and the Secret Fan (The Carolina). I’ve no earthly idea why The Help opens on Wednesday, but it’s perhaps just as well with this much. Then again, except for movie critics, I don’t see a whole lot of crossover appeal here.

Now, this week I haven’t seen a single thing. However, Justin Souther saw and reviewed The Last Mountain and his review of it is in this week’s paper. With that in mind, let’s move on to the so far unseen.

Since it opens on Wednesday, we’ll break with alphabetical order and take a look at The Help. It has the built-in audience cache of being based on a popular book. It also has a nice cast—Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson and Allison Janney. What it doesn’t have is a known-quantity director on Tate Taylor (who also wrote the screenplay), so it’s impossible to make any prognostication on that basis. The story is all about racism in Mississippi in the 1960s as seen through the eyes of “the help,” whose stories comprise the book written by journalism graduate and fledging reporter Skeeter (Stone). Yes, it does sound just a bit like The Long Walk Home (1990) and if it wasn’t for the odd August release, it’d look like Oscar-bait, too. The reviews, however, are starting to come in from some reliable critics and are generally good, which makes you wonder why Disney and company felt it necessary to get seven dubious “I just came from an advance screening” user reviews on the IMDb.

30 Minutes or Less (warning: the trailer is the F-word strewn red band one) is Ruben Fleischer’s follow up to Zombieland (2009) and once again his star is Jesse Eisenberg. The premise here is that Eisenberg is a stoner pizza delivery man who gets snagged by a pair of fledgling criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to him and give him only a short time to rob a bank for them—or be exploded. Now, I liked Zombieland for the most part, but this doesn’t have the same kind of quirky feel—at least the trailer doesn’t. OK, I freely admit that the names Danny McBride and Nick Swardson don’t fill me with anything but dread.

What exactly is left to be said about a Final Destination picture? This one is Final Destination 5 and in some venues it’s in 3D. (So what? So was the last one.) These things are the most generic movies going. It’s mostly a bunch of people you’ve never heard of being killed off in creative ways because they’ve cheated death and that you just don’t do. The only thing in these movies’ favor is that all their very splattery nonsense is rather cheerfully silly. But still, do we need another? And, yeah, the studio claims it’s the last in the series, but these days that usually means we can look forward to a reboot in the next year or so.

All right, I’ve never seen an episode of Glee and this Glee: The 3D Concert Movie means absolutely nothing to me, but judging by the fact that it is finding its way into every venue in town with 3D there is apparently a perceived market for it. According to the press notes—“The multi-generational phenomenon that has inspired millions to embrace their inner-Gleek will soon bring them together to experience Glee a whole new way.” I have nothing against it, and I liked Ryan Murphy’s Running with Scissors (2006) a good bit, though I have no illusions that this is going to be anything like that.

I’ve more or less—and casually at that—followed Wayne Wang’s career since I caught Chan Is Missing in New York City way back in 1982. It’s been an uneven—actually rather strange—career, but it’s often been an interesting one. It’s also been one marked by strong visuals and that may prove the saving grace of his latest, Snowflower and the Secret Fan, an adaptation (apparently a rather free one) of a popular novel by Lisa See. There’s simply no getting around the fact that the reviews on the film have been anything but tepid or even downright bad. But even its strongest detractors have noted that it’s visually appealing and stylish. I’m curious to see it, despite the reviews.

A lot of things are leaving this week. Beginners leaves the Fine Arts to make room for The Last Mountain The Carolina is losing Buck, Page One: Inside the New York Times and, yes, Project Nim, which simply did not draw much business, even though nearly everyone who saw it liked a lot. If you’re interested, they’re around through Thursday. The only things that are hanging around are The Trip (at The Carolina) and Midnight in Paris (at The Carolina and the Fine Arts).

Special Screenings

Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Woman in the Dunes (1964) on Friday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The 1954 version of Romeo and Juliet is this week’s Hendersonville Film Society offering on Sunday, Aug. 14, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its “Five Reasons Paramount Was the Greatest of All Studios” series with Leo McCarey’s Mae West film Belle of the Nineties (1934) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 16, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

The big one (for me) this week is Paul—a terrific film with the worst title imaginable, and it appears to be out in an unrated director’s cut, which might make it even better. The title still smells from herring. The very good and more than a little disturbing Super didn’t get the love it ought to have at the box office. With any luck people will discover it now.Also up are Mars Needs Moms, Your Highness, and Jumping the Broom—not that I’m recommending them, mind you.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM is, of course still in the “Summer Under the Stars” mode, and I spotted nothing that set my pulses racing, but, for the record: Wednesday is Shirley MacLaine, Thursday Ben Johnson, Friday Claudette Colbert, Saturday James Stewart, Sunday Ralph Bellamy, Monday Lon Chaney Sr., and Tuesday Joanne Woodward.

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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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12 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug. 10-16: Help, Snowflowers, Destinations, Mountains, Glee and more

  1. Ken Hanke

    I don’t think it would’ve mattered (not that I remember Kick-Ass doing that well). Super is just too dark and disturbed to be popular.

  2. Me

    Is it better than that other movie where Michael Rappaport wants to be a super hero? I thinks its called Special and it came out in 2006.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Since I’ve never even heard of Special I couldn’t tell you.

  4. Dread P. Roberts

    Paul really is pretty good for what it is, but I still prefer the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost films that Edgar Wright directs. I’m looking forward to Wright’s final “Blood and Ice-Cream Trilogy” film. I want to see Super more so than any of the theatrical releases. That’s a little sad.

    And, yeah, the studio claims it’s the last in the series, but these days that usually means we can look forward to a reboot in the next year or so.

    I could’ve sworn you (or somebody in the movie biz) said the exact same thing last year when THE Final Destination came out. Furthermore, this screams October “get your splattery halloween horror fix” release. Any idea why they don’t do that? (On a side note: I’ll take these any day over the Saw films. Please don’t tell me there’s another one of those this year, too.)

  5. Me

    Looks like Fine Arts has some real prospects comming up on the schedule. I just noticed they added one i was looking forward to called Higher Ground. I know your not a fan of religous movies Ken but have you heard about it, Vera Farmiga directed it. The trailer looks pretty good.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Paul really is pretty good for what it is, but I still prefer the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost films that Edgar Wright directs.

    I can say that about Hot Fuzz. Not so much about Shaun of the Dead. (I’ll give that another chance to whelm me when the THPS runs it in a couple weeks.) I think Paul is underrated.

    I want to see Super more so than any of the theatrical releases. That’s a little sad.

    It’s not a very exciting crop this week.

    Please don’t tell me there’s another one of those this year, too.

    I wish I could. It would be more appealing than the prospect of Paranormal Stupidity 3.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I know your not a fan of religous movies Ken.

    Well, it remains to be seen if this is a “religious movie” or a film about religion. There’s a huge difference. I could rattle off a string of movies that one way or another are about religion that are among my favorite films. Some of them are, in fact, quite sympathetic to religion, but they aren’t trying to sell me anything. We’ll see about this. I can’t say the trailer really excites me. But trailers can be frightful liars either way.

  8. Dread P. Roberts

    I think Paul is underrated.

    I agree, but I think it’s completely understandable that it would be. The premise didn’t interest me, either. The only reason I saw this was because of the reviews. Now I tell people that it’s the best performance Seth Rogan has ever done.

    I wish I could. It would be more appealing than the prospect of Paranormal Stupidity 3.

    Uh oh, my wife is really going to be pissed. These films might just be the epitome of how low modern Hollywood has stooped, for a quick buck out of shortsighted teenagers.

  9. Ken Hanke

    The premise didn’t interest me, either.

    What the premise didn’t do, the title compounded. It’s neither catchy and intriguing, nor informative.

    a quick buck out of shortsighted teenagers.

    It didn’t stop with the teenagers — especially the first one. Go check out the reviews on the first one. I thought the first had its marginal merit, too — though not in the ever want to see it again league and I certainly didn’t gush over how terrifying it was. The second, however, was pretty much complete shite. A third…no. And I admit with some alarm that I have written parts of books that were put together by one of the producers.

  10. I’ve no earthly idea why The Help opens on Wednesday, but it’s perhaps just as well with this much.

    I researched this. It’s because most book clubs meet on Wednesday and they’re hoping they will go on trips to the movies together to see it.

    I don’t think it would’ve mattered (not that I remember Kick-Ass doing that well). Super is just too dark and disturbed to be popular.

    That’s true, but there’s a geek crowd who I think would’ve been amenable to SUPER, but dismissed it as a ripoff as KICK-OFF when I tried to talk them into it.

  11. Ken Hanke

    It’s because most book clubs meet on Wednesday

    We’ve been chased out of the Cinema Lounge on Tuesdays by book clubs going to see things like Water for Elephants. I think this reasoning is debatable. And it may have been counterproductive, since the film missed being no. 1 by $2 million and yet with Wed. and Thu. factored in, another $10 million comes into play. Surely, most of that $10 million would’ve been shelled out over the weekend and The Help could have boasted that it was the no. 1 movie in the country.

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