Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 20-26: Seeking Peace, Love, Vampires, and Headhunters

In Theaters

OK, there are no less than five movies opening this week — two of them falling into the art category, two of them into the mainstream and one borderline case. All in all, it looks more promising than last week, but you know what they say about looks possibly being deceiving.

In the art category, we have Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding and Headhunters — both opening at The Carolina. And, yes, both of them have been seen and are reviewed in this week’s Xpress. The difference this week is that while I’ve seen both movies, I only reviewed Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, which turned out to be a surprisingly agreeable picture — though it is one that won’t play well with the anti-Jane Fonda, anti-Baby Boomer, anti-Woodstock crowd in any of its configurations. (You know who you are.)

Headhunters was reviewed by Justin Souther on the theory that it was more “his sort” of movie, though I thought the film was excellent. I’m actually slightly amused by the fact that he finds the film more disturbing than I did, since I tend to think him less likely to be disturbed than I am. This makes me wonder if I’ve finally become utterly jaded. Probably not. (My guess is you’ll find me wiping my eyes at the end of The Horse’s Mouth when it screens tonight.) I actually think this is mostly a case of being so completely absorbed in the intricacies of the narrative that it simply didn’t occur to me to be troubled by the film. I’ll be interested to see what others make of it.

Now, on to the mainstream stuff that I haven’t see yet …

I have mixed expectations as concerns Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’ve not read the book, though the concept amuses me. I can’t get away from the sense that Tim Burton’s name is more window dressing than anything else, and I have mixed feelings about Timur Bekmambetov. I kind of liked Wanted (2008) and was fascinated by Night Watch (2004), and I guess he’s unusual enough to warrant the term “visionary” that the studio publicity people have slapped on him. Now whether the claims that he and Burton “reinvent the time-honored genre and present the terrifying creatures of the night as they were meant to be experienced — as fierce, visceral, intense and bloodthristy,” that’s another matter. I’m not even sure how a think both reinvents something and presents that something as it was meant to be seen. I suspect that the latter merely means that these bloodsuckers don’t sparkle in the sunlight. Now, I do like Dominic Cooper, and have long felt that Rufus Sewell ought to have had a better career than he’s managed to do. The fellow playing Lincoln — Benjamin Walker — is all but unknown to me. The less said about the trailer, the better, but I am curious.

I’m less curious about Pixar’s Brave, though David Edelstein’s review in New York Magazine makes it look interesting. The fact is, though, I’m simply — Up to one side — not as wild about Pixar as I’m supposed to be. Nothing against them really, though the gush that tends to greet them is wearing, but they aren’t something that automatically sets my pulses racing. In this case, I have to admit I don’t much like the character design and the trailers have left me cold. Some of the voice cast is impressive — Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane — but really does anyone actually go to animated movies based on who’s doing the character voices? The thing here is that Pixar needs something to regain some of their lustre after Cars 2. The question is whether this is it.

And lastly, there’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which comes from Focus Features, which is normally the art house branch of Universal. They do occasionally go wider if they feel the film warrants it, as is apparently the case here. The most likely scenario is that they think Steve Carell’s presence will make the difference as concerns this one, which does have an interesting premise — romance on the edge of the destruction of the world by an asteroid. Think of it as Melancholia with more laughs maybe. I like Carell — and I like Keira Knightly, Adam Brody, Patton Oswalt, and Melanie Lynskey. I find the premise intriguing, but I wonder how they can possibly pull this off without the ending being a lemon. I like the trailer. However, there’s the writer-director to consider. Since Lorene Scafania has never directed before, that’s a blank slate, but she has written before — and it was the singularly dismal Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), which I’d done my damndest to block from my mind. Well, I’ll remain hopeful.

This week The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold and Bernie are hanging in there at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts. The Carolina is also keeping Hysteria, but losing both First Position and Sound of My Voice (can’t say I’m surprised).

Special Screenings

Before getting to the usual screenings, let’s take note of this Yoga Unveiled showing at the Fine Arts. Here’s the press release on it:

Sponsored by Lighten Up Yoga and Asheville’s prominent Yoga Teachers.
Harnessing the colorful commentary of the most prominent yoga scholars, teachers, and medical experts, Yoga Unveiled reveals how yoga began, tells the story of yoga’s passage to the West, describes its numerous branches, recounts the fascinating biographies of the foremost yoga masters, and explores yoga’s astonishing medical potential.Stunning cinematography, ornate visual displays, and stirring music create a truly enchanting viewing experience. The great devotees of yoga grace the screen with their profound wisdom and delightful manner. Yoga Unveiled also features commentary by Krishna Das, Dr. Herbert Benson, Edwin Bryant, Subhash Kak, Vasant Lad, Dr. Timothy McCall, Larry Payne, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Father Joe Pereira, Swami Sivananda, Dr. Martina Ziska, and Dharma Mittra.

A panel of local Yoga instructors will speak after the film.
Gita Desi – Film Director
Lillah Schwartz of Lighten Up Yoga
Cindy Dollar of One Center Yoga
Michael Johnson of Clear Light Yoga
Cat Matlock of West Asheville Yoga
Stephanie Keach of Asheville Yoga Center
Martia Rachman of Black Mountain Yoga
Sierra Hollister of Asheville Kundalini Yoga
Tickets are $10 – Advance tickets available at the Fine Arts Theatre box office

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is a double dose of Poverty Row horror from George Zucco, The Mad Monster (1942) and The Black Raven (1943) on Thursday, June 21, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. (Preceded by Chapter Five of The Lost City at 7:40.) World Cinema is showing the controversial drama Meherjaan at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 22, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) is this week’s film from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Busby Berkeley’s Technicolor musical The Gang’s All Here (1943) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

It’s an interesting week if only because I’ve never seen a single one of the mainstream releases — Wanderlust, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Project X, and Big Miracle. All of these fell to Justin Souther for review. That alone may tell you something.

Notable TV Screenings

Another of those weeks where you’re on your own.

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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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32 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 20-26: Seeking Peace, Love, Vampires, and Headhunters

  1. Ken Hanke

    Any of you lot know who left a copy of Sansho the Bailiff at The Carolina for me? And why?

  2. bsummers

    “Any of you lot know who left a copy of Sansho the Bailiff at The Carolina for me? And why?”

    Don’t look at it Ken! Look away!!! Noooooooooooo!!!

  3. Ken Hanke

    Well, it’s not so mysterious after all. Seems someone dropped it for Carlos (from World Cinema) and it’s their movie for next week. So I guess I’m reviewing it. And here I thought I had a secret admirer.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Ken did you see the second teaser trailer for The Master?

    Justin told me it existed, but I hadn’t seen it. This is certainly more lively than the first one.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Watched State of Play yet?

    I could turn this around and ask about Bastard Art, I suppose. However, I’ll note that it’s at least made it to the pile on the desk. That’s progress.

  6. DrSerizawa

    Maybe they should double-bill Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter.

  7. luluthebeast

    Any of you lot know who left a copy of Sansho the Bailiff at The Carolina for me? And why?

    You don’t think I’d give you my copy, do you?

  8. Andy

    Any word on [i]Moonrise Kingdom[/i]? I thought this week would be the week.

  9. luluthebeast

    There’s just something about the whole idea of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter that makes me rather see Brave. I’m certainly not going to see Blockheads for the Ages.

  10. luluthebeast

    I just left an unkind remark in the food section. Jesus Christ Ken, what type of people do you have down there that would not only make something like this, but actually drink it?

    Maker’s Mark bourbon
    Tennessee

  11. Big Al

    “… does anyone actually go to animated movies based on who’s doing the character voices?”

    Absofreakinglutely! Kelly McDonald is probably THE up-and-coming actress from the land of Calvin and oatcakes. Consider the prospect (as origonally planned) of Reese Witherspoon faking a Scottish brogue. Girrawah!

    The music is supposed to be pretty good too. Julie Fowlis performed live at DWT last year.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I wish. (There really is a two page spread advert for Ken’s Dracula, which was never made.)

  13. Sean R. Moorhead

    Mr. Hanke, do you recall me saying I have ambivalent feelings toward Kenji Mizoguchi?

    Sansho the Bailiff is a perfect representation of all the reasons I think he’s a genuinely great director whose work ought to be more widely known in America and of all of the reasons I think his work is far more deeply and consistently flawed than the Cahiers crowd would have you believe. It works wonderfully as an elegant fairy tale — it’s a serious candidate for the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen — but I don’t think it’s at all the transcendent humanist epic it’s been made out to be.

    Beyond that, I don’t want to prejudice you for or against it.

  14. Ken Hanke

    The thing I’m most interested in testing here is “it’s a serious candidate for the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen.” Well, I might as well watch it.

  15. Ken Hanke

    A little later…well, I’ve seen it. I’ll leave my overall assessment to the review, but I will say I wasn’t quite that stunned by the visuals.

  16. Sean R. Moorhead

    Hmm. I should keep in mind that not everyone goes for soft focus, loose framing, and elaborate sequence shots…. I’m a little surprised, though, since I know you like von Sternberg, who was one of Mizoguchi’s most obvious influences.

    Mizoguchi is perhaps the single director whose [i]mise-en-sc

  17. Ken Hanke

    I should keep in mind that not everyone goes for soft focus, loose framing, and elaborate sequence shots…. I’m a little surprised, though, since I know you like von Sternberg, who was one of Mizoguchi’s most obvious influences.

    Oddly, he did remind me of Sternberg — mostly in his use of long dissolves. But it was also Sternberg I was finding him less stunning than.

    I always feel as though the characters are acting not out of any intrinsic motivation but in order to furnish illustrations for Mizoguchi’s points about social injustice.

    I can see that, but I also found that most of the more striking shots seemed to have little to do with his theme — or purported theme.

  18. Sean R. Moorhead

    But it was also Sternberg I was finding him less stunning than.

    I certainly can’t think of any film in Mizoguchi’s oeuvre that’s as wholly effective as The Scarlet Empress. (Maybe Chikamatsu Monogatari.)

    I can see that, but I also found that most of the more striking shots seemed to have little to do with his theme — or purported theme.

    I hadn’t thought of it in those terms, but that’s basically the hate half of my love-hate relationship with Mizo’s films: theme and technique work independently but are generally at odds. They’re like stylish cars with an erratic driver at the wheel.

    I think that’s part of the reason he’s popular with highbrow critics: they tend to consider technique in isolation.

    Anyways, thank you for facilitating an insight into my own thought process, as you frequently do.

  19. Ken Hanke

    I certainly can’t think of any film in Mizoguchi’s oeuvre that’s as wholly effective as The Scarlet Empress. (Maybe Chikamatsu Monogatari.)

    And I’d rate Shanghai Express over The Scarlet Empress, while Sternberg would probably have rated (visually at least) The Devil Is a Woman over both of ’em.

    I think that’s part of the reason he’s popular with highbrow critics: they tend to consider technique in isolation.

    Or theme. You can play that both ways.

    Mind, I’m not saying I didn’t find Sansho the Bailiff without merit or visual beauty — just not quite as much of either as I’d been told.

    Anyways, thank you for facilitating an insight into my own thought process, as you frequently do.

    That’s very kind of you.

  20. Sean R. Moorhead

    just not quite as much of either as I’d been told.

    And that is my experience with Mizo in a nutshell.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Maid for made ive reached an all time low.

    But are you strung out in heaven’s high hitting that all time low?

    Ken did you see that Boing Boing has compiled a list of the most mind blowing films ever made?

    Actually, I’d never heard of Boing Boing till just now. It’s interesting what blows different minds.

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