Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 18-24: The Artist Is Here—and some other stuff

In Theaters

At long last — meaning people can stop asking me — The Artist is coming to Asheville in all its black-and-white (mostly) silent glory. Yes, you can finally go see for yourself what all the fuss is about. At this point, I know it’s opening at The Carolina and the Fine Arts. (It is likely opening at some other venues as well, since the big-box theaters tend to latch on to the surefire art titles they otherwise ignore. Am I suggesting that you should support the independent theaters that bring us art titles all year long? Well, yes, I am.) I know I also promised you another art title this week, but like Bogart in Casablanca, I was misinformed. There are, however, some other things coming out this week in the mainstream realm—Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Haywire, Red Tails and Underworld: Awakening.

Have I already seen The Artist? Yes. In fact I’ve seen it twice. That’s how it made it onto my Ten Best list. Am I as jazzed about it as a lot of people seem to be? No, not quite. That’s not to say that I don’t recommend the film, since I certainly do, and if I wasn’t recommending it, it’s hardly like to have been on my Ten Best list. You can find out more on my take on it in this week’s reviews. Similarly, I’ve seen Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which opens in wide release this week, and that review is also in the Xpress.

And then there are the other titles…

Remember when Steven Soderbergh was retiring from movies to go keep bees or something? Well, it seems he was only kidding about that, though I think Haywire—his latest—may have been a done deal when he made that announcement. It would have been his second movie of 2011, but it got shunted to a January release date. Normally, that’s a bad sign, but studios have been trying to take the mickey out January releases in the past couple years—while continuing to load the month with crap, mind you—and this just may be one of those times. Yes, I grant you that the trailer isn’t all that enticing, but the presence of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas is at the very least interesting—especially, since McGregor seems to be playing an unlikable character. The early reviews are surprisingly strong, even if not necessarily from the most credible of sources. The real question here—and the real hook for action fans—is whether or not MMA star Gina Carano is the goods as an action movie star.

What to make of first-time feature director Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails? Well, that’s a hard call. If any critics have seen it, they aren’t talking. There are a couple of pretty obvious studio shills waxing ecstatic over it on the IMDb. (When I see the words, “Thank you George Lucas; you did a wonderful job,” my skepticism kicks into high gear. Since Lucas is only executive producer here, I also sense desperation in the hunt for a marketable name.) The presence of Cuba Gooding Jr. is certainly a warning sign. (I haven’t recovered from Radio yet.) Terrence Howard, on the other hand, I like, and I have nothing against Bryan Cranston. Plus, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Your call.

And then there’s Underworld: Awakening. Yes. OK, so after pretty much sitting out Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)—a film notable only because, unlike its predecessor Underworld: Evolution (2006), I didn’t nod off during it—Kate Beckinsale returns to star in this one. Do I care? No, not much. I’m actually more interested—to the degree I’m interested at all—in the presence of Stephen Rea in the cast. In the main, I’m still tired of werewolves who are reduced to CGI effects and acrobatic vampires dressed like undead Emma Peel clones. This round it appears that the lycans (that’s geek speak for werewolves) and vampires ban together to fight humans who are out to destroy them. Maybe if they fought movie critics, they’d be on to something.

I’m not 100-percent sure on what we’re losing this week, thanks to the Monday holiday, but I feel safe in saying that Young Adult is going to depart this Friday. Otherwise, the Fine Arts is dropping Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for The Artist. If anything else of note is taking its leave, I’ll get back to you as soon as I find out.

Special Screenings

In addition to the usual listings, it’s worth noting that the Asheville Film Society is running a day’s worth of silent movies in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina on Friday, Jan. 20, starting at 11 a.m. in honor of The Artist opening. The films being shown are Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro (1920), Rudolph Valentino in Beyond the Rocks (1922), John Gilbert in Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), Clara Bow in It (1927), Harold Lloyd in Safety Last, Dolores Costello in Old San Francisco (1927), Charlie Chaplin in The Circus (1928), and John Barrymore in Tempest (1928). Admission is free.

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has a double bill of Erle C. Kenton’s House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Chris Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat (1977) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988) on Sunday, Jan. 22, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month-long tribute to filmmaker Ken Russell with Tommy (1975) on Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.


The big release this week in The Idea of March, but we also get Abduction, Courageous, and, not to be forgotten, Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, a movie which secured Justin Souther’s choice for the worst movie of 2011 (Courageous only made the number five slot).

Notable TV Screenings

On Sunday, Jan. 22, TCM gives us a Bela Lugosi three-for starting at 8 p.m. with Robert Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), followed by Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934), and Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls (1933). That’s my idea of a solid Sunday line-up.

Then, on Monday, Jan. 23, they devote the whole night to the films of Max Ophuls, starting with The Reckless Moment (1949) at 8 p.m. They then go all night long with Caught (1949), Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), The Exile (1947), La Ronde (1950), and The Earrings of Madame De… (1954). It’s probably not the best of the lot, but the one that especially interests me is The Exile. Why? Because I haven’t seen it since I was 14—and when I was 14, I thought it was pretty swell. And that means, I make no promises about it all these years later.

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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6 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 18-24: The Artist Is Here—and some other stuff

  1. Edwin Arnaudin

    Folks must be flocking to THE DESCENDANTS as they did MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (well, not THAT much. Never seen a run like this past summer). Did not expect it to last at the Fine Arts this long.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Two points play in its favor. One: Tinker Tailor is a slow, difficult movie that you have to really pay attention to to follow. Two: The more “viewer friendly” Descendants was making a lot of Golden Globe (yes, I know the Globes are meaningless) noise even before it scarfed those wins on Sunday night. It will now only get a boost.

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    Agreed, but as you’ve noted, TINKER TAILOR is a film that benefits from a second viewing. DESCENDANTS is a one-and-done, but if the extended run allows more viewers to have the “one,” so be it.

  4. Ken Hanke

    DESCENDANTS is a one-and-done

    I agree completely, but that’s what a lot of people prefer.

  5. RHDoll

    As a long time Douglas Fairbanks fan, (Sr. and Jr.), I am happy to see that The Exile is finally being seen by someone! Hopefully you will like it after all these years. It is a bit studio-bound, but I really enjoy the way the camera suddenly stops moving when the villain appears, as if frozen in fear. Speaking of Fairbanks (now Sr.), I enjoyed your review of The Artist and I appreciate the fact that you actually have seen enough silent films to note the similarity to Fairbanks. I have often thought that Reaching for the Moon (1931 version) should have left in the other Irvin Berlin songs and let Fairbanks somehow move during them. That movie created the format for most of the Astaire/Rogers movies, the ocean liner sets and even Edward Everett Horton as the butler. Had that been different, perhaps Fairbanks could have had a happier ending, apparently as in The Artist (I haven’t seen it yet.) Finally, Zorro is great, but The Gaucho is the one I recommend for the introduction to DF Sr.

  6. Ken Hanke

    As a long time Douglas Fairbanks fan, (Sr. and Jr.), I am happy to see that The Exile is finally being seen by someone! Hopefully you will like it after all these years. It is a bit studio-bound, but I really enjoy the way the camera suddenly stops moving when the villain appears, as if frozen in fear.

    After some thought, I realized my first — and until this one — last viewing of The Exile was in the spring of 1968, meaning I was actually all of 13 at the time. And I have to say I had remarkably good taste for 13, though there’s no way I understood what I was seeing, apart from its swashbuckler component. I think calling it studio-bound, while accurate, probably conveys a wrong sense of the film in conveying an idea that it’s stagey. It isn’t. It’s, in fact, startlingly fluid in its execution — in part because it was all done on studio sets that allowed for a flexibility in camera movement. It’s almost a kind of throwback, feeling more like the James Whale of Josef von Sternberg films of the early 30s, but with a sensibility all its own. I wish it was available on DVD.

    I have yet to see The Gaucho, though the fact that it’s a late era silent and that it was directed by F. Richard Jones, who made the extraordinary early talkie Bulldog Drummond (1929), I don’t doubt that it’s probably a better introduction to Fairbanks, Sr., but when you see The Artist, you’ll understand why Zorro was chosen for the day of silents.

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