Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Dec. 8-14: Treading the voyage of tourist monsters

In theaters

This week, we have walking octopi from outer space, a pontificating lion, a duped Johnny Depp and a soccer documentary. The last two give rise to the prospect of the terms “duped Depp” and “soc-doc,” which you’ll be glad to know I’ve now gotten out of my system. Actually, from my perspective it’s another kind of slack week. I’ve seen and reviewed Monsters (that’s the octopus movie) and my partner in perfidy, Mr. Souther, has seen and reviewed Pelada, both of which open Friday at The Carolina, and both of which you can read about in this week’s Xpress. That leaves the new Narnia picture and The Tourist, which are opening all over the place.

When The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian showed a sharp drop in Narnian box office back in 2008, Disney pulled the plug on further installments in the series, leaving Aslan (aka “Jesus the Lion”) and his friends wandering in the wilderness. None too surprisingly, they found their way to Walden Media and 20th Century Fox, who decided there was still some potential in continuing to bring the C.S. Lewis books to the screen. Their first attempt is The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which has the added possible potential of Michael Apted as director. It also has 3-D in some venues—for those of you not a little burned out on the process.

So how does this revitalization look in terms of prospects? Well, there are some good reviews from Australia (I’ve yet to determine what critics from Down Under are credible) and a mixed smattering of reviews from some U.S. sources I don’t tend to pay much attention to. The one notable review is from Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter, who calls the new film ” a full-on belly flop.” That sadly matches up with my response to the trailer. Exhibitors apparently feel otherwise, since Dawn Treader is on what seems to me an inordinate number of screens. Considering Walden’s involvement, there’s probably a big push with churches promoting the film, so that may play a role. This weekend will tell the tale.

But what to make of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? You may not recall the German filmmaker’s name (and I will never learn how to spell it without checking), but you might recall that his The Lives of Others got the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2006 and garnered a good bit of attention. Here we find him making his “Hollywood director” debut with a Hitchcockian thriller and a pair of (somewhat oddly matched) high-powered stars. Fine. It sounds reasonable. Depp playing a poor guy who gets bamboozled into a web of intrigue by Jolie is at the very least workable. Plus, the trailer looks pretty good. So why the media blackout? Columbia seems to have pulled one off, which is no mean feat these days. Not only are there no reviews floating around yet, but almost no one appears to have seen it—or they aren’t talking. OK, I’m curious—but, yeah, this sort of unscreened situation is rarely good news.

This week is a little convoluted in the “what stays and what goes” realm. Fair Game leaves the Fine Arts to make room for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (also reviewed in this week’s Xpress), which leaves the Epic in Hendersonville. However, Fair Game opens this Friday at The Carolina, so it’s not vanishing, just relocating. Definitely departing are Tamara Drewe (The Carolina) and Inside Job (The Carolina). If you wanted to catch either one—and you should, especially the former—now is the time. 127 Hours is holding at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts.

Special screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture is the drive-in masterpiece Phantasm (1978) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has the Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast (1988) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. And this week’s Asheville Film Society screening is A Night at the Opera (1935) with the Marx Brothers at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. There’s also something new happening at The Wine Studio of Asheville (169 Charlotte St.), which is showing Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944) on Monday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m.

On DVD

The big news this week is Inception—a film I probably don’t have to tell you anything about. I’m anxious to see it again myself, because as much as I liked it when it came out, I have to say it really hasn’t stayed with me. Another film that didn’t stay with me was Shrek Forever After—though it was at least better than Shrek the Third—and that’s out, too. Somewhere they found some benighted soul who gushed, “The best Shrek yet!” over this one (probably so his quote would find its way to the studio for this very reason). Do not be fooled. Also out is a mighty pricey ($500 list) 75-movie set of what can only be called a mishmash of titles from 20th Century Fox in celebration of their so-called 75th anniversary. It’s actually only the 75th anniversary of Darryl F. Zanuck’s 20th Century Pictures merging with (or taking over) Fox Film Corp., which had already been around for 20 years. Oh, well.

Notable TV screenings

Another week made up mostly of the usual suspects, so once again, let the overall listings be your guide.

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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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24 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Dec. 8-14: Treading the voyage of tourist monsters

  1. But what to make of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
    I was wavering as to whether or not to see THE TOURIST, but I decided anyone with a name like that deserved my $17.50.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I hope that price is either for two, or the Australian dollar is worth less than I think it is.

  3. I hope that price is either for two, or the Australian dollar is worth less than I think it is.
    Well I don’t know how much you think our dollar is worth (it’s currently at an uncommonly high 98c), but that’s a single ticket.

    For comparison, that’s about two dollars short of what it would cost to buy a film on DVD on first week of release.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Well, locally, an adult evening ticket is $9.75. You perhaps understand my astonishment.

  5. Well, locally, an adult evening ticket is $9.75.
    The last time ticket prices were that low here, I was in seventh grade.

  6. Ken Hanke

    When I was in 7th grade tickets were $1.25, though that was some time ago.

    Of course, understand, that we’re in the provinces. Tickets are higher in the big cities, but I think you are still a bit ahead of them.

  7. Of course, understand, that we’re in the provinces. Tickets are higher in the big cities, but I think you are still a bit ahead of them
    Prices are the same nationwide here, and there’s no difference in morning, afternoon and evening prices.

    On the subject of ticket prices, I was reading Philip Norman’s book on the Stones recently, and there was a section on the ’69 American Tour, in which Norman reports on the outrage by fans and the press for the incredible ticket prices the band were charging. Tickets were going for as high as six dollars!
    When they last toured here four years ago, the Stones were charging $400 a ticket.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I saw the Stones’ Bridges to Babylon tour in Miami in 1998. Tickets were about $80. I have no idea what they’d be now. I have an old ticket for a 1969 Led Zeppelin concert — with the Bonzo Dog Band as the opening act. The price was $2.50. But bear in mind, all this is like the time I heard an old geezer bitch out some hapless kid working concessions at a theater about what the prices were back in “his” day. His wife hung around after he strode off in a huff and said, “What he doesn’t tell you is that he was making $50 a week at the time.”

    Back in 1975 people were outraged — outraged, I tell you — that the road show engagement of Tommy was an unheard of $3 a ticket.

  9. DrSerizawa

    Tickets were going for as high as six dollars!

    I paid $6.50 US to see Led Zeppelin in 1970. In 1970 $10 US would buy a week’s groceries. As I recall the Aussie dollar was about the same as the US dollar back then. In fact when I went to R&R in Sydney in 1969 the Aussie dollar was worth a bit more than the US dollar. Gotta love that wartime inflation. /s

    Hard to beat the 25 cents I paid to get into the show in the 50s. Of course back then $3.00 an hour was a really good wage. You could buy a house on that.

  10. Dionysis

    I have an original poster advertising the Beatles’ August 23, 1965 show at Shea Stadium. Reserved seats went for $4.75, $5.00 and $5.75. According to the Social Security Administration, the average American wage in 1965 was $4,658.72. In 2009, the average wage was $40,711.61.

  11. As I recall the Aussie dollar was about the same as the US dollar back then. In fact when I went to R&R in Sydney in 1969 the Aussie dollar was worth a bit more than the US dollar.
    Our dollar was floated in the late 80s as part of a big overhaul of the Aussie financial system by the Hawke/Keating government. Since then, it’s mainly been sitting in the mid-80cs.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Of course back then $3.00 an hour was a really good wage. You could buy a house on that.

    My parents bought an 1800 sq. foot house for $16,000 in 1960. My mother still lives there.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Our dollar was floated in the late 80s as part of a big overhaul of the Aussie financial system by the Hawke/Keating government. Since then, it’s mainly been sitting in the mid-80cs

    Based on what I could gather from EzyDVD (I was considering a Greenaway box set, but balked at $25 for shipping), the Australian dollar is about the same as the US dollar at the moment.

  14. Based on what I could gather from EzyDVD (I was considering a Greenaway box set, but balked at $25 for shipping), the Australian dollar is about the same as the US dollar at the moment.
    Yes, we’re at an incredible level at the moment – basically parity, with daily fluctuations putting us between 97 – 99c.

    If I had any money, I’d be buying up US currency now, waiting for the downturn to kick in.

  15. And the premise — American tourist (Depp) becomes deliberately ensnared by an exotic woman of mystery (Jolie)
    American? I saw the trailer in front of THE TOWN the other week and he sounded British to me.

  16. DrSerizawa

    There is a history of “Americans” with Brit accents in Cinema. Michael Caine has done more than one. Probably the best example was Irwin Allen’s crapfest The Swarm. They are even planning a remake, if you can believe it. At least Caine tried to disguise his accent in another one of his train wrecks, On Deadly Ground.

    Sigh. Nostalgia. They just don’t make crap like they used to. Instead of Michael Caine running from bad blue-screen bees we instead get Keanu Reeves running from bad CGI alien-bees. I’ll take an Irwin Allen disaster movie for entertainment value any day over Roland Emmerich’s current string of dreck. I re-watched The Swarm last summer and found it far more enjoyable than anything Emmerich ever did. A crashing HO gauge train is way cooler than a CGI one.

  17. Ken Hanke

    A crashing HO gauge train is way cooler than a CGI one.

    If I could show you The Hole in the Wall (1929) and its el crash, you might reconsider that as an overall statement.

    Further reading discloses that Depp’s character indicates he’s supposed to be from Wisconsin.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Well, the reviews for The Tourist — aka The Gentleman from Wisconsin — erupted this evening. Saying they’re brutal is doing the film a kindness.

  19. dpewen

    I have no interest is seeing The Tourist although I dig Johhny Depp … it’s the female star I will not pay to see.
    and Ken … thanks for your great reviews and insight … I hope to catch 127 Hours this weekend.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Thank you.

    As for The Tourist, I share your lack of enthusiasm for Jolie, but Depp is so muted in this thing that it’s hard to remember it’s even him.

  21. Me

    I didn’t realize this was the same guy that did The Lives of Others, well that was a complete 180.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Maybe it proves that The Lives of Others was a good, but not great movie.

  23. TokyoTaos

    Jeremy – my mom’s Australian and she and my dad spend half the year there. My understanding is that the minimum wage in Australia is WAY above what it is in the United States – so I am guessing the employees at Australian movie theaters are generally making more than their counterparts in the U.S. – and that may at least partly account for the higher ticket prices? This is just conjecture on my part …

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