Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 4-10: Out of the Spinning Plates

In Theaters

I’m not going to mince words, gloss things over or put a brave face on it. This week is pathetic. There are two movies opening — one of limited audience appeal (it’s a documentary) and one about which there is cause for some skepticism. It’s a good thing that there’s still a large quantity of good things that are still playing. That’s the most comfort I can give. I can’t even bring myself to use an image from this week’s crop and have settled on a movie from 10 years ago, which is a special screening this week.

The documentary — Spinning Plates (opening Friday at The Carolina) — I’ve seen and reviewed. It’s good. In fact, it got the Weekly Pick, which is not common with documentaries. But while it’s good and while it attained that accolade … well, let’s just say the competition wasn’t great. (This all probably looks more dire to those of us who vote in critics’ groups and publish ten best lists. We’re being courted by the studios right now and are seeing much more interesting things than are opening here yet.) Still, I’ve nothing against Spinning Plates. It’s a good documentary and all that. It will make a nice break for those wanting to get away from the big movies. It’s just that I really can’t get excited about it.

Otherwise, there’s one new movie coming out, though I suppose I should note that the Weinsteins have decided to bring back Lee Daniels’ The Butler (I think it’s been gone for two weeks now). This is apparently some kind of Oscar push. I don’t know why. I mean, it’s not like the average Oscar voter is going to be wandering into a theater in Asheville to see it. (Anyway, if I’ve received a screener — and I have — all the Oscar voters have received one, too.)

That leaves us with Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart) Out of the Furnace — a film that the studio refused to let local critics see, which is simply not a good sign. It is a sign that makes more sense today — with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65 percent—than it did yesterday when the rating was 90 percent. In any case, it stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Sam Sheppard, Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker in some sort of backwoods crime yarn. Just exactly why they wouldn’t let us see this before it opened may be abundantly obvious come Friday morning.

Since so little is opening this week, very little is leaving, but one departure of note is Blue Is the Warmest Color. It takes its final bow Thursday evening at The Carolina.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture is Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942) — the first of the famous nine horror films from producer Val Lewton — on Thu., Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 p.m., World Cinema will be showing Karel Reisz’s cult classic Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) — with David Warner in the role that made him a star. The film is screening in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Asheville Film Society will screen Richard Curtis’ Love Actually (2003) on Tue., Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with full reviews in the online edition.


I suppose the big deal this week is The Wolverine. Clapton knows it isn’t The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones or The Smurfs 2. The documentary Good Ol’ Freda is worth a look for Beatles fans. I see Drinking Buddies, which did not play locally, is out. I made it 20 minutes into this one before having a “life is too short” moment.

Notable TV Screenings

This the month’s star on TCM is Fred Astaire and they’re starting off on Wed., Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. with Flying Down to Rio. It’s followed by The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), and Second Chorus (1940). Personally, I’d skip that last one.

Friday, Dec. 6 the day starts at 6 a.m. with Fritz Lang’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). That evening at 8 p.m. we get Josef von Sternberg’s Blonde Venus (1932).

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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32 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 4-10: Out of the Spinning Plates

  1. Dionysis

    Love, Actually has become one of my favorite movies of all time.

    ‘Wood’ Harrelson? Sounds like a porn star.

  2. Me

    Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is released on DVD this week, and Post Tenebras Lux is streaming on Netflix.

    “I made it 20 minutes into this one before having a “life is too short” moment.”

    Sounds like your having a lot of Rex Reed moments lately.

  3. Ken Hanke

    ‘Wood’ Harrelson? Sounds like a porn star.

    I’m tempted to not fix that.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Sounds like your having a lot of Rex Reed moments lately.

    Not in the least. If I was reviewing that movie, I’d have watched the whole thing. Since I wasn’t, I feel no qualms about bailing after 20 min. It happens a lot with indie stuff during awards season. Nine times out of ten there’s a very good reason these movies didn’t get much theater play.

  5. bsummers

    “‘Wood’ Harrelson? Sounds like a porn star.”

    Surprisingly, the google reveals no porn stars by that name. I would have thought that was an obvious choice for somebody. Maybe Mr. Harrelson has some real aggressive lawyers watching out for that one…

  6. Jeremy Dylan

    Love, Actually has become one of my favorite movies of all time.

    Join the club.

    Seriously, we should all start a club. Are you in Ken?

  7. Jeremy Dylan

    Well, we need a clubhouse obviously. And some kind of logo we can get screen printed onto our leather jackets.

  8. Steven

    Looking forward to [i]Inside Llewyn Davis[/i], Ken? Seeing it tomorrow night and I have to say I’m pretty anxious for it. Not quite as anxious as I am to see [i]The Wolf on Wall Street[/i], mind you, but.. anxious. It feels like its been longer than three years since the Coens put out a film.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I saw it Monday morning. I’ll be interested in your reaction. Very interested.

  10. Steven

    Hm.. I expect you of all people to taken with a Coen brothers film. Interested to hear your reaction. Will get back to you later tonight.

  11. Steven

    As usual, I’ll wait ’til the review. I will say that it’s, for me, their most emotional film, and the script is as strong as anything they’ve done.

    Oscar Isaacs better get some love from the Academy. I know, they’re irrelevant – but he deserves something, dammit.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Unfortunately, CBS Films seems to have gotten antsy about how the film will play with audiences (which — based on the responses of some of the critics at my screening — may be justified) and its expansion has been scaled back. Looks like it won’t hit Asheville till January.

  13. Me

    White Reindeer, the film i asked you about, is streaming on Itunes as of Friday. The review on Indiewire said it was Home Alone directed by Tod Solondz.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Which film has been pushed back to January? Llewyn Davis?

    Considering that the previous five posts had been about Inside Llewyn Davis, I’d say that’s a good bet.

  15. Big Al

    “…CBS Films seems to have gotten antsy about how the film will play with audiences (which — based on the responses of some of the critics at my screening — may be justified)”

    Please elaborate. What were the reactions? And why do the reactions of critics have anything to do do with those of the public? Aren’t those two very different animals?

  16. Ken Hanke

    There were five critics at the screening. Two of us liked it. One of us suspects it will end up on his 10 best list (that’s me). Three of them hated it pretty strongly. And, no, in the case of a film like this — aimed at a crowd who actually reads reviews — the two are not very different animals. That said, this group was out of step with the general run of reviews. It currently has 80 positive reviews and 5 negative ones. But I strongly suspect that the negative reviews in my crowd will reflect how general audiences will feel about the movie. It is densely layered. It’s hard to know where it ends and where it begins. It’s pretty unpleasant. And there’s not really a likable character in it. I suspect a lot of people will go to it based on the reviews. I do not think many will like it, nor do I think word of mouth will be positive. I would love to be wrong. Apparently, the studio doesn’t think I will be.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Four theaters is a pretty sketchy barometer. That said, I wish it would convince CBS to speed it up. But that said, keeping out of the Xmas rush isn’t a bad idea.

  18. Steven

    That seems like a pretty solid prediction. I went with two people. One of them, who I don’t think is very familiar with the Coens, said “I expected something to happen.” The other liked it quite a bit. I was certainly the gushing one in the theater, though.

  19. Me

    Ken, you should have mentioned in the TV screenings section that TCM played two weird LCD films Saturday Night Blue Sunshine being one of them.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I am not especially keen on what I presume are LSD films, and I’ve never liked Blue Sunshine. You could’ve mentioned them, though.

    By the way, the full weekend box office of $100,000 per screen on Llewyn Davis… now that is impressive. Wonder what it’ll do to CBS’ plans.

  21. Me

    I would have posted about Blue Sunshine but i just caught it at the last minute.

    Ken, did i mention the Carolina still has Llewyn Davis opening on December 20.

  22. Ken Hanke

    The Carolina website isn’t all that reliable. Pretty sure I’ve told you that before. What I’m hearing is that it’s going to be January here. A lot of big titles are still in flux.

  23. Ken Hanke

    They probably aren’t interested enough to be worrying about this nonsense.

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