Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 19-25: In 3 Secret Days to Kill Pompeii

In Theaters

Thank goodness for art titles. Otherwise, this week would look pretty bleak. At the same time, there are all those titles you possibly missed owing to the weather last week. Today (I’m writing this on Monday) marks the first day it has been possible to get out of my driveway since last Tuesday night. (Yes, I have cabin fever. You are warned.) That also resulted in the first time since I started reviewing for the Xpress in 2000 where some movies didn’t get reviewed.

At least one of those — Winter’s Tale — will be reviewed and put online. Fortunately, this week’s art title, In Secret (opening Friday at The Carolina), came via screener — and an intrepid delivery person who didn’t make it up my driveway, but at least got to the row of mailboxes on the street.

This week we get two mainstream titles that I might well prefer getting snowed in to seeing it, but we’ll get to those in a bit.

In Secret is a version of Emile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin and marks the feature filmmaking debut of one Charlie Stratton, whose acting and TV directing credits mean nothing to me (though I’ve apparently seen some of his acting). His filmmaking skills, however, suggest that he’s a director to keep an eye on, I’m not saying In Secret is great. It’s certainly not much fun (come on, it’s adapted from Zola!), but it is impressive filmmaking, and it is a good — sometimes very good — film. It’s also fascinating to see Oscar Isaac in a film he made just after he’d finished playing the title character in Inside Llewyn Davis.  I’m not entirely sure I’d have recognized him — no beard, no guitar, no orange tabby cat — had I not known he was in it. But the film’s most arresting performance comes from the always reliable Jessica Lange. You can read my full review in this week’s paper (or online come Tuesday afternoon).

Now, on to those mainstream titles…

First we have something called 3 Days to Kill. You can tell it’s exciting because they were in too much of a hurry to spell out “three.” It was made by that auteur’s auteur (yes, that’s sarcasm) who goes by the alias of McG. (It was easier for him to change his name than for his entire family to change theirs.) This is the guy behind such things as the Charlie’s Angels movies, the mawkish We Are Marshall (2006), the unintentionally funny Terminator Salavation (2009), and the largely laugh-free action rom-com This Means War (2012). This time his job is to transform Kevin Costner into a Liam Neeson action star — you know, the aging father with a daughter routine. Costner is some ace secret agent who is being forced into one of those always-unwise “last job” things. He has little choice, though, since it appears he’s been given something that — without an experimental drug — will kill him in three days. The complication? He’s told the Mrs. (Connie Nielsen) that he’s quit and he’s been taxed with taking care of his semi-estranged daughter (Hailee Steinfeld, still reeling from last year’s Romeo & Juliet debacle). Yes, it was co-written and produced by Luc Besson. How ever did you guess? It hasn’t been shown to critics and doesn’t even have studio shills (all claiming to have seen a “special screening”) working overtime on the IMDb.

Otherwise, there’s Paul W.S. Anderson (whom the IMDb has taken to calling a “populist filmmaker,” because it sounds better than hack, I guess) and his Pompeii — available in both 3D and 2D flavors. Of course, its raison d’etre is that unfortunate business with Mount Vesuvius. The studio tells us, “Pompeii tells the epic story of Milo (Kit Harington), a slave turned invincible gladiator who finds himself in a race against time to save his true love Cassia (Emily Browning), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been unwillingly betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts in a torrent of blazing lava, Milo must fight his way out of the arena in order to save his beloved as the once magnificent Pompeii crumbles around him.” Yes, it does sound awfully exciting, doesn’t it? And if it doesn’t, Populist Anderson is working on yet another Resident Evil movie even as we speak.

So what do we lose this week? Dallas Buyers Club disappears from local screens (come on, folks, it’s been on DVD for at least two weeks now), and August: Osage County disappears from The Carolina (don’t know yet if any place else has it). This will also be the final week for The Great Beauty and The Past, so you only have through Feb. 27 to catch those.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Alan Parker’s Angel Heart (1987) on Thu., Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 21 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is offering the second part of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963) on Sun., Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society finishes their February calendar with George Arliss and Bette Davis in John G. Adolfi’s The Working Man (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Feb. 25 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.


Somewhat astonishingly, there seems to be not a single DVD release of a theatrical film this week.

Notable TV Screenings

We are still in TCM’s “31 Days of Oscar” and I’m sitting this out till that blows over.


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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3 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler February 19-25: In 3 Secret Days to Kill Pompeii

  1. Dionysis

    Is this Elizabeth Olsen one of those creepy looking anorexic twins that used to be plastered on celebrity magazine covers?

  2. Me

    Like Ken said, no she is actually the one in the family that has some talent.

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