Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 21-27: With a grain of Salt

In theaters

There’s nothing as exciting to look forward to this week as there was last week with Inception, though the opening of the Tilda Swinton picture I Am Love at the Carolina on Friday is good news for the art-film crowd. Reviews for both Inception and I Am Love will appear in this week’s issue of the Xpress—and, in fact, the quality of both films caused me to make the unprecedented step of having two weekly picks rather than one. Since I’ve already reviewed I Am Love, you’ll have to wait till this week’s paper to see just why I was compelled to do that, but it’s fair to say I was more than pleased with it—and with Inception, for that matter.

This week’s Xpress also contains my take on Cyrus and Justin Souther’s thoughts on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice—all of this can be found online about midnight tonight. That leaves us to ponder the two unknown-quantity Friday openings of two mainstream offerings: Salt and Ramona and Beezus.

Despite a pedigree that includes a high-profile director, Philip Noyce, and some solid supporting stars, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Columbia Pictures is promoting Salt almost entirely on the strength of Angelina Jolie. It’s all Jolie in slit skirts, Jolie in leather, Jolie involved in wild stunts, Jolie unleashing endless firepower. I reckon that’s what will sell the film—though the idea of Jolie as a possible Russian spy has gotten an unexpected, obviously unplanned boost (unless Columbia has one hell of a PR department) in pertinence thanks to recent world events.

Frankly, the trailer simply looks frantic and noisy, but the reviews are starting to suggest that Salt might be worth a look. I certainly don’t care what Pete Hammond has to say, but both the trades—Variety and The Hollywood Reporter via Justin Chang and Kirk Honeycutt respectively—have been enthusiastic about it as an unpretentious action thriller of the James Bond variety. Honeycutt goes so far as to call it better than “most recent Bond movies.” So we’ll see. My interest level has gone up at least a notch.

Ramona and Beezus, on the other hand, looks on the lame side, based on the trades (its only reviews so far) and its pretty awful trailer. Apparently, I’m supposed to know who these characters from the Newbery Award-winning Beverly Cleary (do they ever make kid pictures from anyone who hasn’t won one of these?), but I don’t. Even though the first book is certainly old enough (1955) to have been a part of my childhood, it wasn’t—and the series seems to have escaped my daughter’s notice during her formative years, as well. I may never know, which probably tells you who is the more likely to review this movie—unless the bribe or threat is really compelling.

Still on local screens are Micmacs and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (the latter did surprisingly well for a documentary)—both at the Carolina—but I will note that the films have been split as of Friday, meaning I wouldn’t wait to catch them. And you really should at least catch Micmacs—otherwise, you’ll find yourself with those “I should have seen this on the big screen” blues when you catch up with it on DVD. And though I can’t say I recommend it, Cyrus moves from the Fine Arts to the Carolina on Friday and Winter’s Bone expands to the Carolina on the same day. (Bear in mind that the Fine Arts is closed this weekend due to Bele Chere.) If you were hoping to catch The Secret in Their Eyes or Harry Brown (also at the Carolina) make haste, since both will be gone come Friday. Solitary Man, however, is holding strong for at least another week.

In an unusual move, the Fine Arts is opening Tarsem Singh’s The Fall on Monday—giving this remarkable film a belated four-day theatrical run. If you want to see it theatrically, here’s your chance—and if you want to see more things like this occur, take that chance. It’s only by attendance that this sort of thing is ever going to become commonplace.

In the area of special screenings, the Asheville Film Society has Richard Lester’s Help! (1965) with the Beatles Tuesday, July 20, (that’s tonight) at 8 p.m. Next week’s AFS screening is John M. Stahl’s Imitation of Life (1934) Tuesday, July 27, at 8 p.m. Both screenings are in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is James Whale’s classic The Invisible Man on Thursday, July 22, at 8 p.m., also in the Carolina’s Cinema Lounge. World Cinema has Dalton Trumbo’s anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun (1971) Friday, July 23, at 8 p.m. in their new location in the Phil Mechanic building. The Hendersonville Film Society presents Roy Ward Baker’s A Night to Remember on Sunday, July 25, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Full reviews and more information will be available at midnight tonight in the online edition of the Xpress. The review for Help! is currently up.

And for Asheville Film Society members (memberships are available at the Carolina Asheville) there’s a free members-only screening of I Am Love at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, at the Carolina.

On DVD

The good news on the DVD front this week are the releases of The Runaways and Mother. If you missed these in theaters, correct that mistake. Also appearing are Cop Out and The Losers—those choices are strictly up to you. The more hardcore Bong Joon-ho fans may want to consider acquiring Mother as part of a Bong Joon-ho collection that also contains The Host and Barking Dogs Never Bite.

Notable TV screenings

On Wednesday, July 20, TCM has William Dieterle’s The Firebird (1934) at 10:30 a.m. This is not a good movie exactly, but it’s certainly a curious one—especially since it comes from the culturally inclined Dieterle and the liberal-minded Warner Bros. studio. This is reactionary silliness of the sort you might expect from MGM at its moralizing worst. Veree Teasdale, Richard Cortez, Lional Atwill and Anita Louise in a ridiculous story about the evils likely to befall folks who indulge in degenerate modern art like Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” (hence the title). It’s moralizing is so embarrassing that it might have pleased Hitler. It is, however, not without interest in a kind of “what were they thinking?” manner. More agreeable fare be found with Robert Florey’s B-movie mystery/thriller The Florentine Dagger (1935) at 11:45 a.m. Florey has often been overrated in recent years, but this unassuming and stylish little picture is worth a look.

On Sunday, July 25, TCM has Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth (1937) at 10:15 a.m., one of the key screwball comedies and the film that finally catapulted Cary Grant to full-blown stardom (and Cary Grantdom). If you’ve never seen this, its a definite must-see. The same evening there’s a trio of Abbott and Costello movies: Buck Privates (1941) at 8 p.m., Ride ‘Em Cowboy (1942) at 9:30 p.m. and The Noose Hangs High (1948) at 11 p.m. Abbott and Costello are an acquired taste—a taste that I lost about 40 years ago. They do, however, have their fans, and Buck Privates is generally considered one of their better films. Ride ‘Em Cowboy is less highly regarded, but it does boast Ella Fitzgerald singing “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” as compensation. I’ve never seen The Noose Hangs High, but it’s usually dismissed as an inferior work made for a minor studio during a lapse in their contract with Universal.

On Tuesday, July 27, TCM offers five Doris Day movies in a row starting at 8 p.m. and running all night long. I note this merely in the spirit of good will. I wouldn’t want anyone coming across such a thing unaware.

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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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14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 21-27: With a grain of Salt

  1. John r

    I am wondering if the Fine Arts Theater might be tracking what films get massive support at the Tuesday and Thursday night screenings. To show “The Fall” so long after it’s release, and so soon after the large turnout on Tuesday seems to be more than a coincedence. Maybe our little group is having unexpected influence on the local movie marketplace.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I am wondering if the Fine Arts Theater might be tracking what films get massive support at the Tuesday and Thursday night screenings.

    Well, in this case, I had something to do with it in a more direct fashion — as in I suggested it.

  3. Ken Hanke

    No one has ever asked me what rents well…

    Well, my advice wasn’t sought. I offered it. The Fine Arts is pretty much compelled to close over Bele Chere and studios aren’t real big on opening movies on Monday, so I knew they needed something. It wasn’t just our turnout that made me suggest it, it was the fact that someone in the audience asked about the possibility of a theater picking up The Fall and there seemed to be a positive vibe to the idea.

  4. better than “most recent Bond movies.”
    Do they mean QUESTION OF SPORT or CASINO ROYALE? Because that’s a fair quality gap between those two.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Because that’s a fair quality gap between those two.

    Not to me.

  6. Noyce made one of the best movies of the last ten years, but not a single thing about SALT has made it seem even remotely interesting to me.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Noyce made one of the best movies of the last ten years, but not a single thing about SALT has made it seem even remotely interesting to me.

    And that was? (I have an answer and am curious if we match.) I pretty much agree that Salt looks uninteresting — and that’s after factoring in Chiwetel Ejiofor.

  8. And that was? (I have an answer and am curious if we match.)
    I’d be very surprised if we didn’t. THE QUIET AMERICAN.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I’d be very surprised if we didn’t. THE QUIET AMERICAN.

    We are in accord.

  10. Ken Hanke

    By the bye, it is probably worth noting that Salt has continued to waft downward on Rotten Tomatoes.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Didn’t you notice TCM is playing Black Orpheus on Satruday?

    And they show it pretty often. I make no claims to completeness on these things. That’s why TCM has a website with listings. It’s a subjective list of things that strike me as notable. Anyone who wants to add to it is welcome to do so.

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