Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 17-23: Red God Most Likely Forgives Conjuring Void

In Theaters

Here we have an uncommonly busy movie week with four mainstream titles and an equal number of art/indie titles. Stranger still, not a single one involves giant monsters or guys in tights, which is perhaps a good thing.

Fortunately for those of us who have to see all of this, the four art/indie titles have all been taken care of. You will find reviews for Only God Forgives, Girl Most Likely, Dirty Wars (all opening at The Carolina) and Fill the Void (opening at the Fine Arts) in this week’s paper. I will note that not a single one of these titles is anything like the others — an already controversial hard-R revenge thriller, a PG-13 quirky comedy, an unrated documentary and a PG romantic drama.

You’ll see that Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives snagged this week’s “Weekly Pick” in the paper, but I would not suggest taking that as an unqualified recommendation. This is not a film that’s likely to appeal to everyone. In fact, it’s a film that is going to offend a great many people and baffle others. Some will call it distasteful in its violence. Others will find its slow pace boring. And, frankly, I can’t argue with either assessment. I’d call it a fascinating neon-bathed nightmare of something like the David Lynch school of disturbing filmmaking. Those who approach expecting an action thriller are probably going to be disappointed, even though there is action — very violent action — but that’s not what it’s about. If you hate it, don’t say you weren’t warned.

I haven’t seen Dirty Wars — that one fell to Mr. Souther — but I should note that it’s only being given evening showings. (Documentaries so rarely generate much interest.) In other words, I wouldn’t bet on it being here for more than the one week.

I did see Girl Most Likely and Fill the Void. The former is an engagingly quirky film that is only a little disappointing when place in context with Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s other works like American Splendor and The Extra Man. Fill the Void is quite good — a Hebrew-language drama that offers unusual look at life among Tel Aviv’s orthodox Hassidic community. The film’s milieu gives it a freshness we don’t often see. It’s truly a look into another world — but one that is accessible in its human story.

Now, about these other things…

I’ll go ahead and deal with the animated film, Turbo, since it’s opening on Wednesday for absolutely no discernible reason. It has a pretty high-power voice cast — Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Luis Guzman, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Michelle Rodriguez, Samuel L. Jackson — but does it really have anything else? It’s a story about a snail wanting to win the Indy 500, which isn’t all that enticing. The trailers are uninteresting. The production looks cheap. It boasts no connection to anything established as popular. And, worse, it’s opening in a market with two popular animated films still going strong, especially Despicable Me 2. Could it be a pleasant surprise? Or just another undistinguished animated kiddie flick?

Much more promising is James Wan’s The Conjuring. For a fellow mostly associated with the Saw series, Mr. Wan has proved himself to be a very stylish horror director with Dead Silence (2007) and, even more, Insidious (2010). He’s gone from shrug-worthy to a guy whose movies actually generate anticipation. This year, he’s got two on the agenda — this one and Insidious: Chapter 2 coming in September. Both look good, though this one might have the edge. I’ll even overlook the fact that this haunted house tale is supposedly “fact-based,” since it has every appearance of being pretty free and loose with those “facts.” The trailers have all looked stylish and are sufficiently different to suggest a singularly ambitious work. It’s also gotten extremely strong early reviews — though I’m exceedingly wary of horror movie reviews. Still, I have a good feeling about this.

My feelings about Red 2 are less hopeful. It doesn’t help that I only found the original film moderately entertaining. This looks like more of the same — minus Morgan Freeman (sometimes movie cancer sticks) and plus one Anthony Hopkins. The original director, Robert Schwentke, is gone, but that’s not a big deal here, even though his replacement, TV director Dean Parisot, is not that inspiring. The original writers — Jon and Erich Hoeber — are back, but leave us remember these boys also wrote Whiteout and Battleship. Still, the movie has a built-in audience of people who just like seeing Helen Mirren in casually murderous mode. I admit that has an appeal.

And then there’s R.I.P.D — from the director of the original Red. This is a high concept thing that finds dead cops (Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds) as members of Rest In Peace Department, whose job is to make destructive spirits move on to “the other side.” It was written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, whose rap sheet includes The Tuxedo, Aeon Flux and Clash of the Titans. No, that’s not very encouraging, is it? About as encouraging is the fact that no critic has been allowed to see it. Stranger still, we aren’t even besieged with studio shill reviews on the IMDb. Looks pretty dicey to me.

Now, this week we lose In the House (if you haven’t seen it, do so), Before Midnight and Love Is All You Need. This is what happens when eight new movies open.

Special Screenings

Before getting to the usual showings, let’s take note of the Asheville Film Society Budget Big Screen presentation of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) on Wed., July 17 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina. Tickets are $5 for AFS members and $7 for the general public — and are available at the box office. Since there has been unusually high interest in this title, it is strongly suggested that tickets be bought in advance to avoid disappointment. Of all the many movies in the world that demand to be seen on the big screen, 2001: A Space Odyssey is perhaps at the very top of the list.

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Ray Kellogg’s The Giant Gila Monster (1959) on Thu., July 18 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Loung at The Carolina. World Cinema is running Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma (1962) at 8 p.m. on Fri., July 19 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing Sidney Lumet’s thriller Deathtrap (1982) at 2 p.m. on Sun., July 21 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society continues its month of musicals with Walter Lang’s film of Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam (1953) on Tue., July 23 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress — with complete reviews in the online edition.


This week there are only two major titles — 42 (which I haven’t seen) and Evil Dead (which I didn’t like very much). Considering the flood of new movies in the theaters, it is perhaps as well.

Notable TV Screenings

On Thu., July 18 TCM has a string of Preston Sturges films — starting at 1:30 p.m. with the insufficiently appreciated Christmas in July (1940) and concluding at 8 p.m. with possibly his funniest film, The Palm Beach Story (1942). If you stick around, you get John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) at 9:45 p.m., followed by Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game (1939) at midnight and Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968) at 2 a.m. It doesn’t get a lot better than this.

Friday night has another run of Francois Truffaut films, starting with The Soft Skin (1964) at 8 p.m. and immediately followed by one of his best movies, Jules et Jim (1962).

Saturday at 10 p.m. there’s Frank Borzage’s quite wonderful History Is Made at Night (1937), a film that isn’t shown nearly enough.

Sunday offers a solid night of comedy —  and Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle (1958) at 8 p.m., Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) at 10 p.m. Richard Jones’ Mickey (1918) at midnight, Rene Clair’s A Nous La Liberte (1931) at 2 a.m., followed by his Le Million (1930) at 3:45 a.m. All in all, this a solid week.

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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31 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 17-23: Red God Most Likely Forgives Conjuring Void

  1. DrSerizawa

    My wife wants to see RIPD because it’s got Jeff Bridges in it. So it’s inevitable that I’ll see it too. The trailer was reasonably interesting but the idea seems like something that would work best as a MadTV skit and will probably wear out after about 20 minutes. Not that the idea of dragging out a 10-20 minute concept into a 140 minute movie dissuades moviemakers these days.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Well, it only appears to be 96 min., but you see it in 3D, if you choose!

  3. Edwin Arnaudin

    The trailer was reasonably interesting but the idea seems like something that would work best as a MadTV skit and will probably wear out after about 20 minutes.

    The trailer is one of the strangest things I’ve seen all year, film-related or otherwise. I actually like the Macklemore song they chose, but it fits the Windows 8 commercials better than Bridges and Reynolds ghostbusting.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Peculiar. That song (which I made it a good 40 seconds into) isn’t on the trailer I’ve seen. I do like the Fresca bottle, though.

  5. Edwin Arnaudin

    It’s the piano-based, hippityhoppity one in the minute-long trailer.

  6. Xanadon't

    Well there are lots, but the ones that most immediately come to mind that I still haven’t seen and that I’m pretty sure came through town:

    Ginger and Rosa
    Lords of Salem
    West of Memphis
    The Company You Keep
    On the Road

    More recently there’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and No.

    The way it’s looking, I’ll likely be able to add Much Ado and In the House to this list.

  7. Me

    Ken, heard anything about the Death or Big Star documentary’s coming to Asheville?

  8. Ken Hanke

    Well there are lots, but the ones that most immediately come to mind that I still haven’t seen and that I’m pretty sure came through town

    Yes, everything you named did come through town and none of them seem to have come out on DVD.

    The way it’s looking, I’ll likely be able to add Much Ado and In the House to this list.

    I’m pretty sure the former is gone. I know the latter will be by Friday.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Ken, heard anything about the Death or Big Star documentary’s coming to Asheville?

    No, but I don’t have any idea what “the Death” documentary is.

  10. William Chase

    seeing Only God Forgives as soon as possible. SO excited it’s coming out this weekend. I figured it would have a longer time getting to Asheville.

  11. Ken Hanke

    You’re the one who could use one — along with a basic grammar book. Oh, yes, I know — it’s the internet and so you needn’t worry about spelling, punctuation, word usage, or even the existence of the shift key.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Your monotone’s connected to your collarbone?
    Now, hear the word of the Lord.

  13. Me

    Yeah I’m pretty awful at grammar, math too. Here is the definition since nobody knew.

    A succession of sounds or words uttered in a single tone of voice.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I believe everyone knew what a monotone (which, by the way, doesn’t really apply to the printed word) is. I bet most of us know its counterpart monotonous, too.

  15. Xanadon't

    Shouldn’t you be watching Only God Forgives?

    Plan on catching a matinee this afternoon. My reasons for taking this long to see it are not very impressive in the written format, but I’ll note anyway that it has to do with vacationing employers, a broken compressor for a reach-in kitchen cooler, and an unanticipated, albeit minor, laundry emergency. Among other things.

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