Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 27-Aug. 2: Page One: Cowboys, Aliens, Love, Smurfs, Assassination

In Theaters

Last week may have been a little slack, but this week brings us three mainstream titles—Cowboys & Aliens (everywhere but the Beaucatcher), Crazy, Stupid, Love (everywhere but the Carmike) and The Smurfs (again, everywhere but the Carmike). Then there’s one art title—Page One: Inside the New York Times (at The Carolina)—and something or other called Assassination Games that promises the return of Jean-Claude Van Damme (also at The Carolina). People in search of something other than Bele Chere—or wanting to get out of the heat of Bele Chere—are not wanting for options.

Of these, all I’ve seen is Page One: Inside the New York Times—a documentary about (as you may have guessed) The New York Times. The review for it is in this week’s paper. But what of these others? Well, let’s see what we can tell or guess.

Assassination Games is something I confess I’d never even heard of till yesterday.  This may have something to do with the fact that it’s only in ten theaters in the entire country. Then again, it may be because Jean-Claude Van Damme’s return to “the big screen” isn’t the most interesting news imaginable (which is also probably why it’s only on ten screens). Apparently, it has something to do with Van Damme as an assassin who teams up with another assassin (Scott Adkins) to battle a drug cartel. I know. I almost fell asleep typing that sentence. The trailer looks somewhat agreeably silly. It also looks like the entire movie was shot through a tobacco-colored filter. It definitely attests to the fact that Van Damme still can’t act.

Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens is slightly more high-profile. In fact, this one ranks high on the list of movies people keep telling me is the film they’ve been waiting all summer to see. Well, now they can and we can stop seeing the trailer before damn near every movie that comes along. The cast is strong—Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell—and the stunt premise has a simple appeal. (Not that cowboys haven’t had some pretty strange bedfellows over the years—like Billy the Kid vs. Dracula and its companion film Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, or Valley of the Gwangi where it was cowboys and dinosaurs.) The question is whether it’s more than a stunt idea and a catchy title. My guess is that if any filmmaker can pull it off, Jon Favreau is the one.

Those of us who saw I Love You, Phillip Morris this past Christmas (and a surprising number of Asheville moviegoers did) know that the directing team of Glenn Ficara and John Requa are names to watch. Now, they’re back with Crazy, Stupid, Love—a comedy drama starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. The cast alone ought to be enough to get those who don’t know the filmmakers to consider seeing it. It’s apparently a pretty complex story—as the large cast suggests—that centers on the marital troubles of Carell and Moore and then branches off into those who become involved in the situation. The trailer looks smart and funny and the early reviews have been very positive.

Say what you will—after careful consideration of his filmography, I have concluded that Raja Gosnell is at the very least an emissary of Satan. Just look at his oeuvre—Home Alone 3, Never Been Kissed, Big Momma’s House, Scooby-Doo, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Yours, Mine and Ours, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. With the possible exception of Never Been Kissed—which I’ve never seen—a more distressing filmography would be hard to find. And now, this Beelzebub incarnate brings us The Smurfs. The trailer makes it pretty obvious that this is simply Alvin and the Chipmunks with Smurfs instead of rodents. This also means it will probably make a fortune. Grim tidings, indeed.

Leaving town this week—as predicted—is Queen to Play. Everything else is in the realm of status quo. Submarine, Buck and The Tree of Life are staying at The Carolina, as is Midnight in Paris, which is also hanging in at the Fine Arts along with Beginners. (Remember, the Fine Arts is closed this Friday, Saturday and Sunday due to Bele Chere.) Hard to say what will happen next Friday when at least two new art titles—Project Nim and The Trip—are slated to open.

Special Screenings

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later... (2003) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1986) on Friday, July 29, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society concludes its month-long tribute to Roger Corman with Von Richthofen and Brown (1971) on Sunday, July 31, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society, on the other hand, starts its month-long “Five Reasons Paramount was the Greatest of All Golden Age Studios” with Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.

On DVD

The only big name (mainstream) release this week seems to Source Code, which I didn’t see, but which Justin Souther thought pretty highly of. There’s also the very strange, bitter and slightly off-putting Life During Wartime, the solidly OK Mao’s Last Dancer, and the underwhelming Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.

Notable TV Screenings

Well, if nothing else TCM brings us Woody Allen’s Sleeper  (1973) 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27. There’s also a day’s worth of Joe E. Brown comedies starting at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 28: On with the Show (1929), Top Speed (1930), Going Wild (1931), Local Boy Makes Good (1931), Sit Tight (1931), 6 Day Bike Rider (1934), A Very Honorable Guy (1934), Polo Joe (1936), Sons O’Guns (1936), When’s Your Birthday? (1937). These are all utterly dependent on your fondness—or lack thereof—for Brown. My own is variable. The most interesting here in some ways is On with the Show, which has Brown in an uncharacteristically unsympathetic role, but be warned it’s an otherwise rather stodgy early sound backstage musical. It does, however, offer the great Ethel Waters singing “Am I Blue?” and “Birmingham Bertha.”

SHARE
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."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

14 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 27-Aug. 2: Page One: Cowboys, Aliens, Love, Smurfs, Assassination

  1. Jim Donato

    Ficara and Requa had a good grasp on the characters in Philip Morris – the best prison romance I’ve ever seen. That’s a phrase that doesn’t cross the lips very often. I’m definitely interested in Crazy, Stupid Love. The nice cast doesn’t hurt. If they can actually direct Jim Carrey, they should go far in this business, and by that I mean… the industry.

  2. We laugh thinking about the people renting I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS from a Redbox machine.

    Also out this week is perhaps the most gruesome film to ever get an R rating, IRONCLAD. It’s a good remake of Seven Samurai set in medieval times. Also there’s an interesting documentary AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE that gives the history of exploitation films from Edison until today.

  3. Me

    TCM played The Last Metro and it looks like theyve got some good stuff playing Friday night Saturday morning. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm followed by The Exiles and then Salt of the Earth.

  4. Ken Hanke

    the best prison romance I’ve ever seen. That’s a phrase that doesn’t cross the lips very often.

    No, but it’s a damn shame that’s not a breakout quote on the DVD case!

  5. Ken Hanke

    We laugh thinking about the people renting I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS from a Redbox machine.

    Shortbus would be even funnier.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I’m very much looking forward to CRAZY, STUPID LOVE, despite the cringe-worthy title.

    It’s not the most appealing title I’ve come across.

  7. DrSerizawa

    It is impossible for my wife and I to not see any movie named Cowboys & Aliens. I’ve got it fandangoed for Sunday matinee. The toughest part of waiting for it is avoiding the trailers and TV spots and specials that only serve to tell me waaay too much about it.

    Why do they do that? I swear half the trailers I see at the movies give up the entire movie leaving no reason to see it. Especially that cliched tear-jerker about the tailless dolphin.

    Ooh-ooh. Donovan’s Brain Sunday morning on TCM. Ooh-ooh.

  8. Ken Hanke

    It is impossible for my wife and I to not see any movie named Cowboys & Aliens.

    I’m more ambivalent, but my wife insists she wants to see it (this usually ends up being a choice she regrets), so it looks like a double bill of it and Crazy, Stupid, Love is in my pretty immediate future. I’ll go back later — Saturday or Sunday — to catch (Clapton save me!) The Smurfs.

    Why do they do that? I swear half the trailers I see at the movies give up the entire movie leaving no reason to see it. Especially that cliched tear-jerker about the tailless dolphin.

    Like there was a reason to see that anyway? It mostly doesn’t bother me, though, since I don’t care that much about what I know. I find it far more annoying that a trailer can set up a premise in 2 1/2 minutes — then the movie takes 30+ minutes of tedium to do the same thing.

    Ooh-ooh. Donovan’s Brain Sunday morning on TCM. Ooh-ooh.

    Good heavens, have you been possessed by the spirit of Joe E. Ross?

  9. paparmet

    How you write an review of a film after seeing only the trailer is beyond me. How can the review be anything but a space filler. Reviews in general that this one in particular are like worms that eat the bodies when the battle is over.

  10. Ken Hanke

    How you write an review of a film after seeing only the trailer is beyond me.

    These aren’t reviews. They do not purport to be reviews. They are not meant to be taken as reviews and I don’t think anyone who’s actually bothering to read them does. They’re very clearly nothing more than educated (in the sense of the context of the filmmakers’ and the actors’ previous work and the kind of movie they are) guesses about what sort of thing the viewer can probably expect to see.

    Reviews in general that this one in particular are like worms that eat the bodies when the battle is over.

    Translating that into what I think you mean, I’m guessing you have some extreme fondness for or vested interest in either Raja Gosnell or The Smurfs?

  11. DrSerizawa

    Keep in mind that I like Westerns in the first place. Well, I liked Cowboys & Aliens for whatever that is worth. I liked that they had a good old fashioned western story line along with the alien plot. The cast was good, though Harrison Ford doesn’t do menacing well, he’s just too naturally likeable IMHO. John Favreau is rapidly becoming one of my favorite directors.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.