Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 11-17: How expendable is Scott Pilgrim?

In theaters

Here’s a surprisingly interesting week for this late in the summer. Two “art” films of note — Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky and The Killer Inside Me — open at the Fine Arts and the Carolina respectively. And at least two of the mainstream releases — Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Eat Love Pray — hold potential interest, while the third — The Expendables — has undeniable curio value. Yeah, you could ask for more, but you’re not likely to get it — not at this time of year.

I’ve already seen Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky and The Killer Inside Me. They’re both reviewed in this week’s Xpress, but I do want to make it clear that The Killer Inside Me is a provocative, disturbing and very violent film that is apt to alienate some viewers. Since I’ve already been accused of having failed humanity once this year (which is actually kind of chic as an accolade), I want that distinctly understood. If you subject yourself to it, you’ve been warned and have no one to blame. See it at your peril. The caveat stands. Complain not if you are offended.

I admit to being intrigued by Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I liked Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004) and loved both Hot Fuzz (2007) and his fake trailer in Grindhouse (2007). And I have to say I am even more intrigued by the look of the trailer. Even so, I have reservations as to whether or not the film can sustain the promise of the trailer, and I have even greater reservations about the fact that Michael Cera stars in the film. (He was wearing thin for me some time ago — and then outdid himself in 2009 with Paper Heart to hit something like anathema status.) And some of the film’s negative reviews address exactly those issues. However, I am still on the list of those planning on seeing the film.

I’m also willing to admit to being interested in Ryan Murphy’s Eat Love Pray — based almost entirely on the fact that I think his darkly comedic Running with Scissors (2006) is one of the best films of the 2000s that almost nobody saw. Otherwise, I doubt I’d have that much interest in this. I don’t know the memoir it’s based on, but it doesn’t have the appearance of something I’d naturally gravitate toward. I also don’t mind Julia Roberts, but neither do I seek her out. Still her post-2000 work has included a number of movies I’ve liked, so I’m not alarmed by her presence.

Am I intrigued by Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables? No. Intrigued is the wrong word. I’m more like just incredulous about the whole thing. Stuffing all these — not necessarily prime — action stars into this one movie the way Contadina packs those “eight big tomatoes in that itty bitty can” of tomato paste doesn’t seem wholly rational to me. And if you’re going insist on doing such a thing, where is Steven Seagal? Was he too busy doing Robert Rodriguez’ Machete? And I’m amused by the early good reviews falling all over themselves for their breakout quotes to appear in the DVD. “Lean, mean, funny and chockablock with fast-twitch demolition spectacle,” enthuses Cole Smithey, who I suspect has no more idea what “fast-twitch demolition spectacle” means than I do. At the same time, Pete Hammond gushes as only he can that “it’s filled with literally explosive excitement.” Me, I’ll be happy if it’s simply dumb, ridiculous and unintentionally funny.

There’s no shortage of decent fare still faring well enough to be hanging around for another week. The Kids Are All Right is still at the Fine Arts and the Carolina.Ondine and I Am Love are holding nicely at the Carolina, though the latter is losing both Cyrus and the surprisingly long-lived Solitary Man. This is also the weekend with the Saturday night screening (11 p.m.) of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Carolina. Flatrock Cinema is keeping The Girl Who Played with Fire for those who don’t want to wait for it to hit Asheville on the 27th of the month.

Thursday night the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Guillermo del Toro’s Cronos (1993) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. Local filmmaker Joe Chang’s Passenger Pigeons makes its local debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12 at the Fine Arts. World Cinema has Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe (1964) Friday, Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. Sunday, Aug. 15 finds Henri-Georges Clouzot’s documentary The Mystery of Picasso being shown by the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Mae West’s birthday is Tuesday, Aug 17 and though Miss West will be unable to attend, the Asheville Film Society will screen a double feature of her first two movies, Night After Night (1932) and She Done Him Wrong (1933), at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina in honor of the occasion. More information on all these titles can be found in this Wednesday’s Xpress—with even more information available in the online edition.

On DVD

This isn’t one of the more exciting week for new DVDs. Date Night was agreeable enough entertainment when it played theatrically. I doubt it’s worth a second viewing, but if you missed it first round, it’s certainly worth a look. On the other hand, if you missed the pointless almost scene-for-scene remake of the British comedy Death at a Funeral, my suggestion would be to keep on missing it, but it does come out this week. So do The Joneses and Letters to God, which I’ve never seen and that’s fine with me.

Notable TV screenings

I’m sorry, but this is a truly despiriting week on TCM. Maybe I’m in a snit because they’re doing a Norma Shearer day and have once again not included The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929), her first talkie. I know they have it and that they did run it at least once. I’m sure it’s a typically static MGM early talkie, but it was a big deal in its day. It has historical significance and the cast includes the wonderful Lilyan Tashman. Instead, we get the standard — and pretty frequently shown—Shearer films. Beyond that, nothing leapt out at me. Might be a good week to catch up on some of those DVDs I have yet to catch up on.

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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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25 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler August 11-17: How expendable is Scott Pilgrim?

  1. J Drew

    I’m not sure but I’ve heard rumors that Steven Seagal was asked to play in The Expendables but turned it down because he had some grudge with someone else in the movie. I hear he’s kind of touchy.

  2. Sean Williams

    I’m back from my extended absence and thought I’d make a few comments about Scott Pilgrim.

    Scott Pilgrim is the most significant comic of the new millennium. It’s not the single best comic of the new millennium, although it’s one of the best, but it is the single comic I think most likely to influence the development of the medium as a whole.

    Scott Pilgrim is for Generation X what Lester’s Help was for the Beatles Generation: a celebration of youth by an artist who is actually familiar with the culture, as opposed to a corporate attempt to imitate and exploit that culture. Its attitude is not at all superior, but it is unapologetic about its hipness. It is also hilariously, tragically honest.

    I hasten to clarify that I do not mean that these facts obligate you to like Scott Pilgrim. Indeed, I have no way of knowing the degree of the film’s fidelity to its source. But I think if you approach the film from this perspective, you will at least appreciate it.

  3. J Drew

    Speaking of the most awesome ‘actors’ ever, just saw Dolph again in Johnny Mnemonic (just because I like William Gibson’s novels). I have to say he was the best actor in that movie.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Maybe the latest thing to replace the old Universal “Frankenstein vs the Wolfman”, etc monster face offs will be various long-in-the-tooth action stars facing off instead. “Judge Dredd vs The Terminator”. “Blade vs Tango and Cash”. “Matrix (from ‘Commando’) vs Harry Tasker”.

    I’m sure an infinite number of combinations are possible.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure but I’ve heard rumors that Steven Seagal was asked to play in The Expendables but turned it down because he had some grudge with someone else in the movie.

    Maybe Stallone was afraid that Seagal would out act him. No…wait, that might be said of the rest of the cast, too.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I’m back from my extended absence

    ‘Bout damn time, too.

    But I think if you approach the film from this perspective, you will at least appreciate it.

    Actually, if I approach the film from that perspective, I would be holding it to a standard that the film may not even strive for. It’s kinda immaterial, though, because in an outburst of bamboozlement wherein I was foiled by cheap logic, Mr. Souther convinced me that he’s fonder of and more in synch with Wright than I am, and he says that Youth in Revolt de-soured him to some degree on hoodie boy.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I’m sure an infinite number of combinations are possible

    I’ve no doubt. Y’know, after sitting through Short Cuts tonight — for the second time in less than two weeks — I toyed with the idea of trying to make all the connections between the characters. That, however, would almost certainly require seeing the film again, which isn’t happening any time soon. It might be more entertaining to dream up grudge matches between golden years action characters. Right now, though, my brain has sort of molded and haired-over from a too large dose of Altmania.

  8. EAT PRAY LOVE looks absolutely unbearable. Upper middle class affluent white person leaves job behind to go finder herself. Be still my gag reflex.

  9. That’s some interesting movies waiting for review. I actually want to see Scott Piligrim vs The World and The Expendables. The Killer Inside Me could be also interesting.

  10. Me

    Does the guy that wrote the Scott Pilgrim comic still live in Asheville?

    There are some good DVD’s coming out this week 2 Criterion releases Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb and Louie Bluie, also Michel Gondry’s The Thorn in the Heart comes out i believe.

  11. Me

    I think Brewster McCloud is coming to DVD finally but im not sure when its released.

  12. Dionysis

    “Speaking of the most awesome ‘actors’ ever, just saw Dolph again in Johnny Mnemonic (just because I like William Gibson’s novels). I have to say he was the best actor in that movie.”

    I thought the telepathic dolphin put on the best performance.

  13. Dread P. Roberts

    I love Edgar Wright, but I’m staying away from this until I hear positive remarks, indicating that I should do otherwise. And that’s largly (or entirely) do to the fact that Cera really looks like he’s in his typical, worn-out wimpy, whiny looser mode. I’m sick of that character. He needs to permanantly grow out the ‘stash (metaphorically speaking).

    Mr. Souther convinced me that he’s fonder of and more in synch with Wright than I am, and he says that Youth in Revolt de-soured him to some degree on hoodie boy.

    Youth in Revolt was weird… just plain, damn weird. And I say that in the most positive way possible. It’s been about three weeks since I saw it, and I’m still in a state of perplexion over what exactly I bore witness to. It sort of felt like the screenwriter (and/or director) just has this loopy perspective on things, but he’s trying to wrap it up in this rather conventional, typical teen angst, rom-com formula – or maybe it was the other way around? I have no idea what the intent was, but the wackyness was oddly refreshing.

  14. Ken Hanke

    EAT PRAY LOVE looks absolutely unbearable. Upper middle class affluent white person leaves job behind to go finder herself. Be still my gag reflex.

    I can understand that, but I’m still curious to see for myself — which is perhaps a good thing since I really have no choice.

  15. Ken Hanke

    There are some good DVD’s coming out this week 2 Criterion releases Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb and Louie Bluie, also Michel Gondry’s The Thorn in the Heart comes out i believe.

    Well, Crumb was already out. More and more the art/cult/classic stuff is being listed as new because of a Blu-ray release. Good catch on Thorn in the Heart, which is not listed on my sources, but did indeed become available on Amazon yesterday. Might be a good idea to see something new by Gondry before he completely destroys his credibility with the appalling looking Green Hornet (unless the trailer is the problem).

    I think Brewster McCloud is coming to DVD finally but im not sure when its released.

    It came out — sort of — a week ago, but it’s a DVD-R burn-on-demand release. That, of course, is better than no release at all, but I’d have thought there’d have been enough demand on this to justify a proper release.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Youth in Revolt was weird… just plain, damn weird. And I say that in the most positive way possible.

    I’ll probably catch up with this at some point. I wanted to see it in the theater — and as I was still working at a certain theater that will remain nameless at the time, I have no good excuse for having missed it. The double whammy of Nick and Norah and Paper Heart made it too daunting in the Michael Cera dept., I guess.

  17. Dread P. Roberts

    The double whammy of Nick and Norah and Paper Heart made it too daunting in the Michael Cera dept., I guess.

    I have the benefit of getting to choose which of these movies to see, and I’m still burned out on the Cera shtick just from trailers – so I suppose that is perfectly reasonable.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I have the benefit of getting to choose which of these movies to see, and I’m still burned out on the Cera shtick just from trailers – so I suppose that is perfectly reasonable.

    Exactly. To make matters worse, Paper Heart was a specially arranged press screening. I ducked out of there — dragging Justin with me — as soon as the credits hit, because I knew I could not be responsible for my actions if anyone started praising it afterwards. I later learned that everyone had hated it, but I was taking no chances.

  19. Steve, Generation X was about 20 years ago. What are the kids nowadays called?

    LOUIE BLUIE has been my obsession for years, and now that I’ve seen it, it is as great as I had hoped. CRUMB has some great 2006 commentary by Zwigoff and Roger Ebert that dispels some myths about the film (Crumb and Zwigoff are still friends, for instance).

    Orbit has BREWSTER MCCLOUD and TV Eye will be getting it shortly.

  20. Me

    Yeah Crumbs been out for a long time, the one i am looking forward to is the Loui Bluie release, i don’t think its ever been released on DVD.

  21. Yeah Crumbs been out for a long time, the one i am looking forward to is the Loui Bluie release, i don’t think its ever been released on DVD.

    Trust me, it hasn’t. I looked EVERYWHERE legal and semi-legal for it. The VHS never turned up on ebay either.

    It’s worth the wait. I love it!

  22. Sean Williams

    Did my eyes deceive me, or was there really a post in this thread asking how to acquire Scott Pilgrim online illegally?

    Generation X was about 20 years ago.

    True, but the author and characters of Scott Pilgrim are all Generation Xers.

    (unless the trailer is the problem)

    Well, Slumdog Millionaire has one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen….

  23. Ken Hanke

    Did my eyes deceive me, or was there really a post in this thread asking how to acquire Scott Pilgrim online illegally?

    No, but the whole Scott Pilgrim angle about finding the comic books for free online was really just a smokescreen to post a link to some service. I made it vanish when I realized it was spam.

    Well, Slumdog Millionaire has one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen….

    You know, I’ve never seen the trailer for Slumdog, but I’ll make this observation — Slumdog doesn’t have a bad trailer and Seth Rogen. This is a scary combination.

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