Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 16-22: Pixar, zombies and upper-middle-class angst

In theaters

Owing to the wonderful world of screeners, I’ve seen all but two of the things opening this week, so it seems like a fairly light week from my perspective. Really, it isn’t, however, and it’s a week that has something for just about every taste I can think of: You’ve got toys, zombies, art-house fare (for those who don’t think zombies are) and a comic-book movie that hopes to be the next franchise. What more could you want? How about no less than six special screenings. (Now, you know why I put in about 20 hours on Sunday alone.)

In the land of the mainstream, the big thing is, of course, Toy Story 3 (in 3-D at some theaters on some screens). The chances of this not taking away first place at the box office from The Karate Kid seem slim to nonexistent—with or without that 3-D surcharge. It’s not just Pixar; it’s pre-sold Pixar. I’ve admitted elsewhere that I’m just not excited by the prospect. I’m sure the movie is fine—probably more than fine—but I simply can’t get worked up about it. Fortunately, a lot of people can, and I wish them the joy of it.

I think I’ll idle away my mainstream time with Jonah Hex this weekend. No, I don’t expect it to be good. The production has been troubled. They apparently hired the wrong director, which comes as no surprise to anyone but the studio. Let’s see, if you wanted someone to helm an action film with a mutilated hero, would your first choice be a guy whose only previous directorial credit was Horton Hears a Who? No? Well, that’s why neither you nor I will ever be heading up a studio. So what if they had to bring in somebody else to reshoot a rumored 40 percent of the footage? What mystifies me more than anything is that they had Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (of Crank fame) right there—they wrote the screenplay—so why not tap them to direct? But that probably made too much sense.

Now, better judgment was shown in part of the casting. Josh Brolin and John Malkovich look like good choices for the title character and his nemesis respectively. At the very least, I’ve never seen either be actively bad. On the other hand, there’s Megan Fox, who I’ve only seen be passively good—in Jennifer’s Body—and that was a very near thing. Here, they not only expect her to act (on what evidence?), but to affect a kind of cowboy-picture Southern-ese. It is just possible—based on the trailer—that hiring the director of Horton Hears a Who was a minor gaffe by comparison. Still, I’m moderately interested.

The remainder of opening films I’ve seen—the reviews appear in tomorrow’s Xpress—meaning I won’t go into detail about them here. I will say that Please Give is good and is the kind of indie film that ought to please a number of people. If you liked Lovely and Amazing (2001)—by the same director, Nicole Holofcener, and also starring Catherine Keener—chances are you’ll like this. It opens Friday at the Fine Arts.

What is there to be said about George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead? Well, quite a lot actually, but I said most of it in the review. I’ll go so far as to say that I liked it more than I didn’t—and, yes, I know that’s a very unhip view to take. It’s definitely on the loopy side—but I think that was intentional. In any case, it does deliver all the requisite gut-munching zombie mayhem audiences have come to demand of the undead. Yes, intestines will be eaten and zombies will be sent to their just desserts in various juicy ways.

But there’s more to tell. For those of you who take your zombies seriously, the Carolina is giving out free passes to the first 25 viewers who lurch up to the box office dressed in zombie regalia to the 7:10 p.m. show on Friday. Those of you who care for this sort of thing should probably brush up on your lurching now.

On tap in special movies, there’s an abundance of choices—The Sentinel (Thursday Horror Picture Show, Thursday at 8 p.m., Carolina Cinema), Twenty-Four Eyes (World Cinema, Friday at 8 p.m., Courtyard Gallery), Chinatown (Hendersonville Film Society, Sunday at 2 p.m., Lake Pointe Landing) and Twentieth Century (Asheville Film Society, Tuesday at 8 p.m., Carolina Cinema). Plus, there are works by local filmmakers—Thomas W. Oliver’s Raven Fork and Chris Bower’s Solatrium, which is paired with Daniel Judson’s The Transmission—this week at the Fine Arts. Reviews and more information are in this week’s Xpress or in the online edition, which goes up about midnight tonight.

The Square, The Secret of Kells and Casino Jack and the United States of Money all take their leave of us on Friday, so if you’re interested, now is the time. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is leaving the Fine Arts on Friday, too, but it’s resurfacing at the Carolina, so it can still be seen for another week at least. The very fine (see tomorrow’s review) The Secret in Their Eyes is held over this coming week at the Fine Arts.

On DVD

My bank account will appreciate the fact that this is a slack week in terms of DVD releases. Last week’s pair of box sets, plus Shutter Island, took their toll. I won’t be buying The Book of Eli, but the fact that it’s on Justin Souther’s list in the top 10 of the year means I at least have every intention of finally catching up with it. I may also—on his recommendation—check out Youth in Revolt, but I managed to miss When in Rome when it came out, too, and I don’t think that omission needs rectifying.

Notable TV screenings

I hate to say it, but it’s another one of those weeks—again. If anyone spots some must-see title that escaped my notice, please feel free to post it, below.

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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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15 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 16-22: Pixar, zombies and upper-middle-class angst

  1. Dionysis

    “I’ll go so far as to say that I liked it more than I didn’t…”

    That’s somewhat encouraging. I felt the last two Romero zombie films (‘Land’ and ‘Diary’) were let-downs. Maybe this will be better.

  2. Mike

    “That’s somewhat encouraging. I felt the last two Romero zombie films (‘Land’ and ‘Diary’) were let-downs. Maybe this will be better.”

    It’s better than Diary, but then that really isn’t saying much. Romero seems to have recovered his sense of humor in this one though, which at least makes all the awkward social commentary a little more palatable.

  3. luluthebeast

    No Movies on the tube that I’ve spotted, but I’m glad Penn & Teller and Kathy Griffin have started a new run!

    Unfortunately, we won’t be getting Hex or Dead up here, and I won’t be seeing Toy Story, so maybe I’ll go see THE GLORIOUS A-TEAM again! I still say it’s the best cheeseball movie in years! I still plan to miss Karate Kid, for a number of reasons.

  4. Ken Hanke

    That’s somewhat encouraging. I felt the last two Romero zombie films (‘Land’ and ‘Diary’) were let-downs. Maybe this will be better.

    I think it’s better than Land, but I liked Diary pretty well. I find it a more interesting film than this one, but this one is definitely better looking, slicker and funnier.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Unfortunately, we won’t be getting Hex or Dead up here

    Cows don’t like zombies?

  6. I won’t be buying The Book of Eli, but the fact that it’s on Justin Souther’s list in the top 10 of the year means I at least have every intention of finally catching up with it.
    I almost watched this yesterday on my flight to London, but felt it was probably the kind of film that needed at least the scope of a decent sized TV to appreciate it visually.

    I opted for A SINGLE MAN, SHUTTER ISLAND, THE STING, NOWHERE BOY and two episodes of INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO instead.

  7. luluthebeast

    “Cows don’t like zombies?”

    Actually, zombies are scared of all the cow flatulence.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Do you know whats replacing Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

    Yes, I do. It’s in the article — Please Give.

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    Actually, zombies are scared of all the cow flatulence.

    Ya’ know, this just goes to show that you really do learn something new everyday.

  10. Dread P. Roberts

    I simply can’t get worked up about it. Fortunately, a lot of people can, and I wish them the joy of it.

    I’m excited about the fact that my five year old daughter is excited to see something along the lines of what should be five-year-old appropriate quality moviegoing, based on Pixar’s past history with Toy Story movies – if that makes any sense. Plus, the Ken doll in the trailer cracked me up (no offense).

  11. Ken Hanke

    I almost watched this yesterday on my flight to London

    Wait…you’re in London? That puts you closer to Asheville, so there’s no excuse for you not stopping by.

  12. davidf

    Well Ken, however unexcited you might be about Toy Story 3, at least you’ll get a monkey stampede out of it.

  13. DrSerizawa

    I think it’s better than Land, but I liked Diary pretty well.

    I too read the bad word on DiaryOTD but thought it wasn’t bad at all. I also kind of liked LandOTD. Not great but okay for a snowy winter day. The Romero Zombie Universe is interesting in that it’s a universe where other filmmakers have made much better movies than most of Romero’s. ReturnOTLD Pt1 and ShaunOTD come to mind offhand.

    I still miss the old Voodoo Zombie Universe though. I guess I’m doomed to see my beloved genres reduced to crap seeing as how the Vampire Universe is under such assault as well. Worse, I was riding to The Rib Pit yesterday and saw that the Avon Theater in American Fork has a “Twilight Triple Bill” this week. Yes, all three Twilight movies at once. The mind reels. I’m a bad movie fan but even I have standards!

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