Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 19-25: No Strings Attached on the Way Back

In theaters

So, are there two or three movies opening this week? Well, that’s still not clear—thanks to the Monday holiday. In other words, what I know at this point is that No Strings Attached and The Way Back are opening, and The Company Men either is or it isn’t. I’m not in the least sure that anyone cares that much. All in all, this simply doesn’t look like a week designed to set the box office ablaze.

Considering that neither The Carolina nor the Epic of Hendersonville are opening The Company Men, I’m leaning toward the belief that it’s not opening. If it does: It’s a drama about three corporate men—Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones—who find themselves suddenly out of work thanks to downsizing. The “American Dream” quickly becomes a nightmare, especially for the oldest of them. No, it doesn’t sound like a lot of laughs, but according to the reviews it’s garnered, it is apparently moderated by a streak of humor. Whether or not we’ll find out, only the Weinstens know—and either they, or the corporate theater bookers haven’t parted with that information yet.

On the other hand, the Ivan Reitman R-rated rom-com No Strings Attached is a grim certainty. Yes, it stars Natalie Portman, but she’s co-starring with Ashton Kutcher. You know, if anyone had told me 10 years ago when I reviewed Dude, Where’s My Car? that I would still be dealing with Ashton Kutcher movies today, I’d have burst out laughing. I am not laughing now. Then too, when was the last time Ivan Reitman had a hit? Ghostbusters II in 1989?  No reviews have shown up for this yet. If you care, the stars play “just friends,” who have casual sex with each other and try to not get emotionally involved. (I can’t imagine how that will work out.) It’s supposed to be edgy, you see, and was, as I understand it, originally called F**k Buddies (like anyone ever thought that would end up on the movie).

More notable is Peter Weir’s The Way Back—which appears to be opening exclusively at The Carolina—starring Jim Sturgess (from Across the Universe), Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong. It’s a (disputed) fact-based story about an escape from a Soviet prison camp in Siberia, followed by a 4,000 mile trek to freedom. It’s apparently pretty grim stuff, but the reviews make it sound like it might be worthwhile, especially appealing is the idea that Weir is back at the top of his game with this one. Also, it’s nice to see an indie film that is very much not the usual sort of fare we’ve been trained to think indie films are going to be. A crowd-pleaser? Unlikely, but it has the appearance of being worth a look. Plus, it promises Collin Farrell as a psychotic Russian gangster.

If none of those entice you, it’s certainly worth noting that Black Swan and The King’s Speech are both holding strong at the Fine Arts and The Carolina. I Love You, Phillip Morris is still at The Carolina, as is Made in Dagneham. And, of course, True Grit is still just about everywhere. In other words, there is still good news to hear and fine things to be seen.

Special screenings

More than usual is up this week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show has a double bill of 1940s horror—one with Boris Karloff, one with Bela Lugosi—by showing The Devil Commands (1941) and Return of the Vampire (1944) at 8 p.m., Thu., Jan. 20, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 21, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. On Sun., Jan. 23, at 2 p.m. the Hendersonville Film Society screens the Oscar-winning Nowhere in Africa (2003) in the Smoky Park Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running the Deanna Durbin musical-comedy First Love (1939) on Tue., Jan. 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on these films is in this week’s Xpress with more in-depth reviews available in the online edition.

Also up this week is Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) on Mon., Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Wine Studio of Asheville (169 Charlotte St.). For more info call (828) 255-5955. Here’s a link to an earlier review of this title.

And there’s this month’s Potluck Cinema. Every Third Thursday of the month, bring your favorite side, entrée or dessert and break bread with the local community. They provide dinnerware, beverages and seating. Then sit down for a collection of award-winning films, including animation, documentaries and dramas, from the Twin Rivers Media Festival collection of Courtyard Gallery. The event takes place in the upstairs library of the Phil Mechanic Studios in the River Arts District. This month they’re serving up No Such Thing as Color, The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi and Teabag Sucker. The dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. The films start at 7 p.m. Thu., Jan, 20.

On DVD

Not an exciting week, though it’s worth noting that no less than two of the movies from Justin Souther’s 10 Worst list make their appearance—The Virginity Hit and Takers. I’m content to take his word for it, though I’ve heard rumor from other quarters that Takers is “off-the-hook good.” Also up is Jack Goes Boating, which isn’t bad—in fact it’s good, but not great—and which died here when it played theatrically. And there’s the Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom, which I liked, but didn’t love. Other people whose opinions I respect, however, loved it.

Notable TV screenings

First off, don’t forget that TCM’s 24-hour tribute to producer Hal Roach starts Tue., Jan 18, at 8 p.m. continues throughout the day on Wed.—and whatever you do, catch the Charley Chase short Public Ghost No. 1 at 10 a.m. to see the ever-popular Edwin Maxwell demonstrate his Simplex Fly Exterminator. (After you’ve seen it, you’ll understand one of the reasons Edwin Maxwell is ever-popular.) There’s another Peter Sellers-athon on Thu., Jan. 20 starting at 8 p.m. These are The Pink Panther (1964), A Shot in the Dark (1964), Murder by Death (1976), Casino Royale (1967), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) and The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). I don’t care what anybody says, Casino Royale—this one—is the best James Bond picture ever.

The big title for me this week is on Fri., Jan. 21, at 8 p.m. with the showing of Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets (1931) starring Gary Cooper and Sylvia Sidney. I believe this is the first time TCM has run this rarely shown work. The only copies of this early gangster film I’ve ever seen all appear to have been (badly) made from the 16mm prints that circulated in the early 1970s as part of the Mamoulian restrospective that played at colleges after its New York premiere. This is from Mamoulian’s greatest period—1929-1933—and I was impressed by it even in a barely watchable VHS copy. Even murk couldn’t disguise its no-holds-barred stylization or sense of creativity. The prospect of seeing a good print has me pretty darn jazzed. It’s followed by Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932), which is not slouch in the stylization department itself—and is almost certainly the most violent of all early gangster movies.

Nothing else seems that exciting or out of the ordinary, but it’s always worth checking the listings.

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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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21 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Jan. 19-25: No Strings Attached on the Way Back

  1. Me

    Ken i was wondering if you aware of Santa Sangre coming out on Blue Ray next week?

  2. Ken Hanke

    Any idea if Blue Valentine is releasing any time soon?

    Probably next Friday.

  3. Ken Hanke

    No Being There come no TCM

    I think it’s in their final line-up next Thursday.

    Ken i was wondering if you aware of Santa Sangre coming out on Blue Ray next week?

    No. Is it? Is it only on Blu-ray?

  4. DrSerizawa

    While I can’t say if Casino Royale is the best Bond movie, having only seen it once when I was about 17, I can say that A Shot in the Dark is the best Pink Panther movie ever. It is truly off the hook good. Too bad that TCM has to sully the series by showing the awful Trail of the Pink Panther.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I can say that A Shot in the Dark is the best Pink Panther movie ever.

    I don’t think you’ll get much argument on that. It’s easily the best of the lot, though I have to admit I’m not a huge Clouseau fan. (I think that really means I’m not a huge Blake Edwards fan.)

    BTW. Any info on this one?:

    Don’t ask me. I’m flabbergasted. I don’t see it playing Peoria.

  6. Ken i was wondering if you aware of Santa Sangre coming out on Blue Ray next week?

    I am. It’s one of my all time favorites and I’ll be renting and selling both the dvd and blu-ray next week. Severin has done an amazing job on this disc with tons of new extras.

    Also out this week of note is the claustrophobic BURIED, which I liked. Also the FX show JUSTIFIED, the documentary FREAKONOMICS, two Samuel Fuller Criterion releases dvd & blu-ray (SHOCK CORRIDOR & NAKED KISS) And if anyone cares, I unfortunately have Harmony Korine’s TRASH HUMPERS.

  7. Ken Hanke

    It’s one of my all time favorites and I’ll be renting and selling both the dvd and blu-ray next week.

    I saw it once ages ago and thought it was at the very least interesting. There have been some suggestions for it for the Thursday Horror Picture Show.

    And if anyone cares, I unfortunately have Harmony Korine’s TRASH HUMPERS

    I find it unfortunate that Harmony Korine was ever allowed anywhere near a movie camera.

  8. Me

    “No Being There come no TCM

    I think it’s in their final line-up next Thursday.

    Ken i was wondering if you aware of Santa Sangre coming out on Blue Ray next week?

    No. Is it? Is it only on Blu-ray?”

    Oh, ok cool, as far as Santa Sangre i think its only coming out on Blu Ray and its going to be shown in a couple of cities also.

  9. Me

    I checked your website OrbitDVD and i had totally forgotten about A Town Called Panic.

  10. I checked your website OrbitDVD and i had totally forgotten about A Town Called Panic.

    That film was a breath of fresh air. Some people can’t past it being in French, but it has become one of our bigger hits.

  11. Oh, ok cool, as far as Santa Sangre i think its only coming out on Blu Ray and its going to be shown in a couple of cities also.

    It’s on dvd as well.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Speaking of Peter Sellers have you seen the video of Peter Sellers and John Lennon riffing on Acapulco Gold: who’s got the dope, Ken?

    No, I don’t think I had. Too bad it’s soft that you can’t tell who else is there. That sounds like George telling Sellers not to leave his needles lying around and making fun of John’s drug bust.

  13. melaniejaneb

    Zeitgeist Moving Forward opened at Carolina Cinemas on Jan 15, and was shown again Jan 20 at Asheville Pizza and Brew. A third showing will be on Saturday Feb 2, 7 pm at Asheville Cultural Project. Are you going to review this movie?

  14. Ken Hanke

    Zeitgeist Moving Forward opened at Carolina Cinemas on Jan 15, and was shown again Jan 20 at Asheville Pizza and Brew. A third showing will be on Saturday Feb 2, 7 pm at Asheville Cultural Project. Are you going to review this movie?

    Well, if someone wants to contact me at XpressMovies@aol.com and tell me what it is and make arrangements to get me a copy of it, I can do something, but you may have waited too long for the print edition. However, Feb. 2 is not a Saturday.

  15. melaniejaneb

    I will let someone know to get you the film.. in the meantime, I mis-typed.. not the 2nd, but the 5th…

    Zeitgeist Moving Forward will be on FEB 5th — 7 pm

    “Acp” Ashevillecultureproject
    257 Short Coxe Ave.
    Asheville, NC

    http://www.ashevillecultureproject.org/

    Zeitgeist Moving Forward movie Trailer
    http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/56792/Zeitgeist_III_Moving_Forward_Full_Version_Trailer/

    Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, by director Peter Joseph, is a feature length documentary work which will present a case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society.

    This subject matter will transcend the issues of cultural relativism and traditional ideology and move to relate the core, empirical “life ground” attributes of human and social survival, extrapolating those immutable natural laws into a new sustainable social paradigm called a “Resource-Based Economy”.

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