Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug. 26 -Sept. 1: Dueling horrors and others

In theaters

It’s Michael Myers vs. Death Incarnate at the movies this week for what should be the grudge match of the year. My money is on Michael Myers. He’s got the brand name and Rob Zombie at the helm. On the other hand, Death is all dolled-up in a nice 3-D suit. Should be an interesting bout. And if that doesn’t excite you, Ang Lee is on hand with a little 40-year-old nostalgia. In other words, the Basterds are being asked to move over for Halloween II, The Final Destination and Taking Woodstock. I can’t say I’m expecting any of these to be as exciting as Inglourious Basterds turned out to be, but I’ve seen worse lineups—and at least Post Grad (ye gods) isn’t opening again.

Even admitting the fact that Mr. Zombie’s original Halloween (2007) reboot was a less-than-satisfying affair, I like the trailer for the sequel. My inner geek definitely responds to Zombie recreating the scene from Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) where Janet Ann Gallow asks Lon Chaney’s Frankenstein Monster, “Are you a giant?” It’s not a surprise if you remember the heavy use of clips from other Universal horrors like The Old Dark House (1932) and The Wolf Man (1941) in Zombie’s first feature, House of 1000 Corpses (2003). Beyond that, I’ve yet to find Zombie uninteresting—and I’ve often found his work fascinating.

Other aspects of Halloween II are also more intriguing looking than anything that was in Halloween. There are definite signs of the kind of heavy stylization that marked 1000 Corpses, which would be a big plus in my book. I’ve tagged—though not with ill-will—Zombie in the past as more a fan who gets to make films than as an actual filmmaker. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but what I’d like to see is that fan cross over into the realm of filmmaker, while not losing the fan aspect. I don’t really expect that to happen here, but I’m certainly up for giving it a shot. Interestingly, David Edelstein of New York Magazine chose Halloween II (sight unseen) as a possible movie of interest this week.

What should be Final Destination 4 is coming at us as The Final Destination—it’s that “the” up front that sets it apart from the original Final Destination (2000). Otherwise, what sets it apart is its 3-D-ification. Granting that this year’s My Bloody Valentine 3-D was perhaps the best-looking 3-D movie to emerge from this outpouring of RealD 3-D technology, I’m not sure this bit of tarting-up is enough to put The Final Destination over. The series is cheeky and fun, but it’s essentially the same thing over and over again. A psychic flash causes someone to manage to escape certain death with a few friends in some impending spectacular accident. This invariably annoys the unseen Mr. Death, who engineers colorful ways to settle the score. Here we have more of the same to judge by the trailer. I’ll admit that man-eating escalator looks pretty juicy, though.

I wasn’t able to get a confirmation that anyone was opening Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock—announced as a limited release—yesterday, so it didn’t make it into the paper as an upcomer. Well, it’s upcoming this Friday after all. I really question the wisdom of putting this movie on at least three area screens, however. Right now I know it’s opening at the Carolina Asheville, the Beaucatcher and the Epic (I’m betting that the Biltmore Grande will get it, too). That strikes me as overkill for what is essentially art-house fare of the indie variety with its fact-based story that combines a young gay man (Demetri Martin) coming out of the closet and the event known as Woodstock. The film doesn’t actually depict Woodstock, however, but deals instead with the atmosphere and aura of the thing. The critical response has been mixed, but it’s also pretty bereft of reviews from the more reliable sources. I’m certainly more than slightly interested.

Of course, Inglourious Basterds is still around and certainly warrants your attention, as do District 9 and (500) Days of Summer. So if this week’s crop has no appeal, there are certainly some worthwhile options out there.

On DVD

To me the big mainstream attraction is the release of Sunshine Cleaning—a terrific little movie that you really should check out if you missed it in the theater. Even if you saw it in the theater, it’s worth checking out, come to think of it. On the other hand, Justin Souther is very keen on Adventureland, which he gave high marks to and which I didn’t see. The fact that he’s anxious for me to watch the film is interesting to me, simply because a.) he’s not exactly prone to gush, and b.) I can recall no occasion where he saw something first and said he “wanted” me to see it. (Granted, he doesn’t get handed all that many good movies.) My curiosity is certainly piqued. Whether I can get past the distaste I’ve developed for Kristen Stewart thanks to Twilight is another matter.

Also up is the underrated Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. This didn’t perform nearly as well at the box office as it ought to have, so maybe it’ll fare better on DVD. The surprisingly good little film Goodbye Solo from Winston-Salem filmmaker Ramin Bahrani. This only did so-so business theatrically, but it’s the kind of film that will probably find a warmer welcome on video. At least I hope it does. The less said about The Informers (just watch The Rules of Attraction again if you need a Bret Easton Ellis fix) and Fighting the better.

Perhaps Marc from Orbit will stop in to speak of the TV offerings—and possibly the (to me) fairly lackluster cult/classic offerings that are up this week.

Notable TV screenings

The notable TV screenings this week just aren’t all that notable. What this means in the case of Turner Classic Movies is that there’s good stuff, but there’s nothing much there that isn’t in pretty standard play on the channel. In the case of Fox Movie Channel, I guess it’s notable that Dunston Checks In isn’t playing, but they attempt to make up for the glaring omission by showing How I Got Into College three times in a row. I’m pretty sure that’s a Constitutional violation of some sort.

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Sunday, Aug. 30, 10:15 p.m., TCM

This is part of 24-hours worth of Jean Arthur movies—and 24 hours of Jean Arthur is a good thing, even if I don’t entirely agree with the choices. Only Angels Have Wings, yes, but otherwise, not so much. If nothing else there’s Stephen Roberts’ The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, a 1937 mystery/comedy that teams Arthur with William Powell. As you may well guess, this is one of those movies that lived in hope of being another “Thin Man” picture. In that regard, it’s better than most—and Arthur and Powell have better chemistry than Powell had with Ginger Rogers in Star of Midnight (1935), another “Thin Man” wannabe. The mystery is not bad, the comedy is OK and the stars—plus the 1930s studio sheen—make it pretty worthwhile.

That’s really the only film that I’d single out this week—though those of you still trying to figure out how you feel about Citizen Kane (1941) will find it playing at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept 1. Otherwise, this would be a good week to start working through those stacks of DVDs you’ve been meaning to get around to watching.

 

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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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17 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Aug. 26 -Sept. 1: Dueling horrors and others

  1. With ADVENTURELAND, SUNSHINE CLEANING and GOODBYE SOLO, we have the best week for movie releases in months. ADVENTURELAND is my second favorite dvd of the year so far. Number one is, well, a little foreign vampire film many of you have already heard me blabber too much about.

    The tv avalanche continues with current seasons of HOUSE, ONE TREE HILL, SCRUBS, SMALLVILLE, CALIFORNICATION, NCIS, and LIE TO ME.

    Criterion never fails to impress with THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, JEANNE DIELMAN and a box set of Japanese crime films.

    The only tv show made for preschoolers and druggies is YO GABBA GABBA HALLOWEEN. For some reason there is a sequel to GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS. And from the director of COMBAT SHOCK comes LIFE IS HOT IN CRACKTOWN. A good film, but you will only watch once. More Shaw Brothers are thankfully represented with IRON FLAG and SHAW BROTHERS COLLECTION #2.

    GOODBYE SOLO is an excellent film and the emergence of a new directing talent, Iranian/North Carolinian Ramin Bahrani. Be sure to check out two other films of his CHOP SHOP and MAN PUSH CART. Actor Souleymane Sy Savane will probably become a star from his role.

  2. Dread P. Roberts

    On the other hand, Justin Souther is very keen on Adventureland, which he gave high marks to

    This is promising. I’ve rented Adventureland, and plan on watching it tonight.

    Whether I can get past the distaste I’ve developed for Kristen Stewart thanks to Twilight is another matter.

    She was in “Into the Wild” (2007) if that counts as any sort of positive consolation. Though it’s probably not enough to compensate for Twilight.

  3. Ken Hanke

    This is promising. I’ve rented Adventureland, and plan on watching it tonight.

    We ran it a couple hours ago, and I was pretty impressed with it. It seemed surprisingly honest and yet was often very funny. I wasn’t able to block Twilight from my mind entirely with Stewart, but I thought she was rather shrewd casting. She has a somewhat harsh look and demeanor, which I thought worked well for a character whose exterior is masking a good deal of turmoil and unhappiness.

    Now, perhaps we can get to The Beach in the next couple of days.

    As for Into the Wild, I didn’t care for that nearly as much as I was supposed to, though I admired the talent behind it.

  4. Dread P. Roberts

    We ran it a couple hours ago, and I was pretty impressed with it.

    Haven’t got around to it yet; hopefully tonight.

    As for Into the Wild, I didn’t care for that nearly as much as I was supposed to, though I admired the talent behind it.

    Aside from the acting, my favorite element is definitely the fantastic Eddie Vedder soundtrack. I actually own the soundtrack and not the movie.

  5. Wes

    Now, perhaps we can get to The Beach in the next couple of days.

    The Danny Boyle film? Did you get to watch it? And what did you think? It is perhaps my least favorite Boyle movie I’ve seen. I’d be interested to read your take on it.

  6. Dread P. Roberts

    I watched Adventureland last night. Even though my own life experiences are, of course, not exactly the same, I was surprised by how very personal the proceedings felt – maybe even a little too personal for my memory-induced comfort level. I guess there are just some sub-conscious, universal coming of age truths that were well touched on. Or maybe it only applies to my generation – or the ones that are at least close by? I wouldn’t really know since I’ve only grown up in one generation/age group. With that said, I did enjoy the movie.

  7. Dread P. Roberts

    I think it’s kind of interesting to be discussing both Adventureland and The Beach in the same thread, because despite the fact the they each take very different approaches to presenting a coming-of-age story, I kind of like each of them for at least one very similar reason; they each share a personal connection for me. You see, when I graduated from high-school, I was one of those individuals who wanted nothing more than to spend at least a little time traveling to some foreign, unfamiliar and possibly exotic country overseas. That inherent sense of a desire for adventure and ‘experience’ was just in my blood. I think that this probably has a big impact on my involvement and perspective on a movie that touches on these things.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Now, perhaps we can get to The Beach in the next couple of days.

    The Danny Boyle film? Did you get to watch it? And what did you think? It is perhaps my least favorite Boyle movie I’ve seen. I’d be interested to read your take on it

    We ran it last night (as in Wednesday). I’m still kind of mulling it over. Initial unfiltered and largely unassimilated response — I didn’t hate it. That puts it one up on A Life Less Ordinary. There are only bits and pieces of it that struck me as especially Boyle-esque. Most of the hotel scenes at least kind of did. Any scenes with Robert Carlyle seemed Boyle-esque. The concept of a character who is becoming increasingly alienated and nutty seemed of a piece. There were things I didn’t like — the video game interpolations were just cheesy, for instance. (Maybe they’d seem less so if I was into video games.) In the end, I think the big problem is that I don’t much care about the characters or what happens to them.

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    I think the big problem is that I don’t much care about the characters or what happens to them.

    I have a feeling that this sums it up for most people, and to be honest I kind of expected this to some extent. It’s an outlook that I can certainly understand and respect, but when I look at The Beach, I’m more focused on what is, more or less, a modernized take on William Golding’s “The Lord of the Flies“. I enjoy a good dose of alligory, and a re-imagined take is equally intriguing to me. But if one is to make a statement about these things, then it seems to me that it would be difficult to make the characters really sympathetic. Although I suppose that at least Richard could have been a little more like-able – I liked him, but I can see where others wouldn’t, given the mistakes that he makes, and his self-centered attitude that he has to adjust while growing up. [On an interesting side note – Richard was one of the biggest changes from the book-to-movie transition. In the book he’s British, not American, and he doesn’t sleep around with anyone.]

    So, would you at least give the movie a few extra points for having a talking shark that says, “eat me”? That’s gotta be worth something, doesn’t it?

  10. Ken Hanke

    So, would you at least give the movie a few extra points for having a talking shark that says, “eat me”? That’s gotta be worth something, doesn’t it?

    I’ll concede it a few points for that. I’ll give it two more for simian value. As allegory…eh, not so much. It may be significant that I haven’t much use for Lord of the Flies.

    My biggest guess is that you find some level of identification with DiCaprio’s character and I find none. I’m not sure there’s a single thing he does in the film that I would have done — starting with going to Thailand.

  11. Dread P. Roberts

    My biggest guess is that you find some level of identification with DiCaprio’s character and I find none.

    As far as his sense of adventure goes, yes, absolutely. But I highly doubt that I would’ve got involved in the whole cheating BS drama game. That definitely is not me, though I do like to believe that Richard learns his lesson in the end. In a sense, I probably relate a little better to James Brennan in Adventureland. He seems to be a little more morally driven by his conscience, and less self-involved.

    I’m not sure there’s a single thing he does in the film that I would have done—starting with going to Thailand.

    I got that feeling when I went back in the archives to read your review of Into the Wild yesterday. But regardless of whether or not you liked the character of Richard, did you think that DiCaprio’s performance was good?

    Also, I really like this monologue in the movie from Richard:

    Never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open, and suck in the experience, and if it hurts
    you know what… it’s probably worth it. You hope, and you dream, but you never believe that something is going to happen for you, not like it does in the movies. And when it actually does
    you expect it to feel different, more visceral, more real. I was waiting for it to hit me…

    …I still believe in paradise, but now at least i know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go, it’s how you feel for a moment in your life, and if you find that moment it lasts forever.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I got that feeling when I went back in the archives to read your review of Into the Wild yesterday.

    Oh, yeah. I am not exactly in sympathy with the protagonist.

    But regardless of whether or not you liked the character of Richard, did you think that DiCaprio’s performance was good?

    Surprisingly good, in fact — good enough that I am nearer working up the courage to try Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet again. I have been working up this courage for quite a few years.

    Also, I really like this monologue in the movie from Richard

    The monologue is fine, but I don’t feel that the movie really supports it, especially that last line.

  13. Dread P. Roberts

    Surprisingly good, in fact—good enough that I am nearer working up the courage to try Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet again. I have been working up this courage for quite a few years.

    Um…I wouldn’t say that Romeo + Juliet is necessarily one of DiCaprio’s better performances per se. For me, the highlight of this movie has always been the refreshingly creative beauty and originality in Luhrmann’s skilled hands as a director, NOT in DiCaprio’s performance. I think Luhrmann does what he can with him, but DiCaprio still has some ‘rough edges’ to work out as an actor at this earlier stage in his career.

  14. Ken Hanke

    For me, the highlight of this movie has always been the refreshingly creative beauty and originality in Luhrmann’s skilled hands as a director, NOT in DiCaprio’s performance.

    Well, his performance is part of what has kept the movie on my shelf and out of the DVD player. I do want to try it again, if only because I liked Strictly Ballroom, loved Moulin Rouge! and pretty much loved Australia. That’s enough to make me suspect I missed something first time around.

  15. Ken Hanke

    You’re a brave man, Ken Hanke.

    Well, probably, but is there such a thing as a Baz Luhrmann picture you like?

  16. Well, probably, but is there such a thing as a Baz Luhrmann picture you like?
    I like Strictly Ballroom quite a bit, and there were elements of Australia I liked a lot.

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