Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 30-July 6: Might I suggest a good book?

In theaters

In the immortal words of the immortal Groucho Marx when faced with Chico’s piano solo in the immortal Horse Feathers (1932), “I’ve got to stay here, but there’s no reason you folks shouldn’t go out into the lobby till this thing blows over.” If it weren’t for Harry Brown opening, that would be exactly how I would feel about this week’s movies. In fact, that’s exactly how I do feel about the week’s two mainstream offerings.

Except to note that Harry Brown is definitely worth your while—assuming the often brutal violence doesn’t put you off—I’ll make you wait until the review comes out in this week’s Xpress to tell you why. Instead, let’s face the grim fact that The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is opening tomorrow—or tonight if you count the midnight shows. Those of you who are fans of this series—you’re obviously out there because you keep throwing money at the damned franchise—are well aware of its arrival. You may, in fact, be planning on gorging yourself with the screenings of the first two installments that some theaters are offering prior to the midnight premiere of the third. Those of us who are not fans should probably just hide under the bed.

There are rumors flying around that this entry is better than its predecessors. As an accomplishment that pales in comparison to stating that Scared Stiff (1953) is better than any other Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis film—even the bar there was higher than that set by the first Twilight movies. (Plus, Dean and Jerry had the advantage of Carmen Miranda being added to the mix, and I know that’s not happening here.) There may, however, be more plot this round. I don’t know because I have yet to see the film for myself, but how it’s not going to be basically more of the same is baffling. Look, it’s going to have Bella (Kristen Stewart, using up all the good will The Runaways created for me) being all icky and indecisive over vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) and werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). And based on the other two films, it’s perfectly obvious that Edward would be happier with a full-length mirror and Jacob really wants to run around naked in the woods with the boys. I don’t see how that’s going to alter significantly.

Maybe I’m wrong—and since I have to sit through it (I’m working up the courage for midnight), I hope I am. If nothing else, I have to admit I’ve been enjoying the IMDb message boards, which consist of pages and pages of oohing, ahhing and fighting with the “haters.” (In retaliation, the “haters” have managed to drag the utterly meaningless IMDb rating down to 3.3 out of 10.) Alas, my favorite thread—the one about Stephenie Meyer supposedly hating gays—seems to have vanished. But there are compensations—like the user review that claims that Jumper (2008) is the greatest movie ever made. You just don’t see that every day.

And then on Thursday—yes, I found out it’s opening on Thursday for no apparent reason—M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender crashes the party. How Mr. Shyamalan got to make anything after Lady in the Water (2006) and The Happening (2008) is hard to understand. Yeah, I kind of liked Lady in the Water (no one else did) and The Happening was so dumb and worthless that I felt sorry for it, but he wouldn’t be on the short list of people I’d give millions of dollars to to make a movie. But here he is with the big-screen version of a Nickelodeon-animated series that the studio assures us is popular—something that I can neither prove nor disprove. A coating of after-the-fact 3-D-eification is supposed to help. All I can say is that tower on the right in the photo beside this paragraph looks mighty Freudian to me.

Of course, there’s still Harry Brown, which comes with the bonus that the Carolina will be running free screenings of three earlier Michael Caine actioners—Ronald Neame’s Gambit (1966), Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain (1967) and Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job (1969)—for free in the Cinema Lounge on Friday and Saturday. The three films run at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively. Theoretically, you could make a whole day of Michael Caine, if you were so inclined.

The Secret in Their Eyes and Please Give are both holding steady at the Fine Arts, while the same is true of Solitary Man, Mother and Child and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Carolina. On the other hand, The Good, the Bad, the Weird (people do not know what they’re missing!) and Survival of the Dead—both at the Carolina—have been relegated to one show a day (the last show). Both How to Train Your Dragon and Kick-Ass (10 p.m. only) are still in residence at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is the X-rated Blood for Dracula—aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula—an outrageous curio of the genre from 1974, showing at 8 p.m. World Cinema presents the lovely The Burmese Harp at 8 p.m. on Friday, and the Asheville Film Society honors the late Dennis Hopper at 8 p.m. on Tuesday with David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. More information about these are in tomorrow’s paper and in the online edition of Xpress, which will change over around midnight tonight.

On DVD

I can’t get all that enthused about the DVD debut of The Crazies, which I enjoyed on its own limited merits theatrically. At best, it’s a rental, but that might be more than can be said about Hot Tub Time Machine and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Since I’ve seen neither, I have no opinion—beyond noting that I have a hard time imagining the merits of a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine. You’d probably be better advised all the way around to consider Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, which played here briefly and almost no one went to. Perhaps it will find a more congenial home at home.

Notable TV screenings

Once again, nothing leaps out at me—other than things I’ve already suggested on other weeks. Take a look for yourself and maybe you’ll have better luck. My own weekend will be taken up with screenings of the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet film Micmacs and what is supposedly the most shocking, depraved and disgusting movie of our age, The Human Centipede, both of which open next Friday.

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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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38 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 30-July 6: Might I suggest a good book?

  1. Dread P. Roberts

    For anyone who cares, the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage also comes out on DVD today. I’m not a huge Rush fan, but I accidently stumbled upon this on TV Sunday night, and I thought it was a pretty decent little rock-doc. At the very least it managed to garner a little bit more respect for the band from me – not that I didn’t have any respect whatsoever for them before.

    All I can say is that tower on the right in the photo beside this paragraph looks mighty Freudian to me.

    …And Mr. Avatar also has some rather interesting hand placement going on in this screenshot. (If only this was on a poster, or DVD cover art.)

  2. lisi russell

    So, it’s Mr. Avatar is it, Dread? Ken, you have ruined me; now I want to see Hot Tub Time Machine. (Because I really want to see Ed Begley in Billion Dollar Brain.) Is that Bergmanesque photo from The Crazies? They don’t appear to be Crazies at all, which sounds more like animation than Mr Say Goodnight Night’s feature.

  3. Ken Hanke

    At the very least it managed to garner a little bit more respect for the band from me – not that I didn’t have any respect whatsoever for them before

    No, that would be me, I fear. I had a friend who dearly loved Rush. I tried to like them for his sake, but Geddy Lee’s voice kept that from being in the realm of the possible.

    Mr. Avatar also has some rather interesting hand placement going on in this screenshot. (If only this was on a poster, or DVD cover art.)

    Well, it’s not a frame grab, but an actual publicity photo. It mostly looks to me like they’re singing, “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way.” Or possibly “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”

  4. Ken Hanke

    now I want to see Hot Tub Time Machine. (Because I really want to see Ed Begley in Billion Dollar Brain.)

    Just remember that his arm is long and his vengeance is absolute.

    Is that Bergmanesque photo from The Crazies?

    No, it’s from Michel Haneke’s The White Ribbon. I always wish I liked his work more than I do because of the similarity in names.

  5. I love Rush, but didn’t know the film came out today. Do you have a link?

    For more 60s rock is THE DOORS: WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE. I was never a fan, but this is really good and the definitive doc on the band.

    And actually, this is our biggest week in the summer for new releases. There’s tons of new and old titles out today. Too many to list.

  6. lisi russell

    Ha! (Haneke/Hanke). Re 60’s rock, is there a King Crimson documentary? Or Cream?

  7. Chip Kaufmann

    Considering the nature of HARRY BROWN, it’s too bad that you aren’t showing GET CARTER as one of the Michael Caine movies. It could take the place of GAMBIT which is fun but slight.

  8. Vince Lugo

    Not that you’d care, but I should note that the cartoon that The Last Airbender is based on is excellent and if they had to do it in live action, it looks like they did an awesome job. I’m sure Twilight will win the weekend (ugh), but I hope that The Last Airbender will steal enough of its thunder to make it a close thing. Fans of the show (myself included) will probably love it. The harder task will be to cross over and grab an audience that knows nothing about the show. Fingers crossed.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Considering the nature of HARRY BROWN, it’s too bad that you aren’t showing GET CARTER as one of the Michael Caine movies

    It was originally on the list, but the screenings will be unmonitored and since it’d be an R rated film in the Cinema Lounge it was decided to stick with PG level material.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Not that you’d care, but I should note that the cartoon that The Last Airbender is based on is excellent

    It’s not a question of caring so much as it’s a question of assessment. In other words — and I could be wrong — I really doubt that I would find the cartoon excellent.

    I hope that The Last Airbender will steal enough of its thunder to make it a close thing

    I’ve certainly made it clear by now that I have no love for these Twinklight movies, but please don’t bet any money on that happening.

  11. Me

    And by all accounts ive heard Harry Brown isn’t that great either. I was hoping The Fine Arts Theatre was going to show Winters Bone.

  12. lisi russell

    Twilight will win the weekend because girls are hard-wired for romance novels in which the bad, broody whiter-than-white boy might be convinced by the force of the girl’s love not to suck their necks, and guys will go with the girls to it, because the chance of seeing scenes which might include the biting, tearing and rending of flesh is acceptably unromantic enough to override their squeamishness as regards dreck. Twinklight! Love that! I do like the name the Last Airbender. I’ve heard there’s a movie available at UK rummage sales called the Last Spoonbender.

  13. Ken Hanke

    And by all accounts ive heard Harry Brown isn’t that great either.

    Your accounts don’t line up with my personal experience, but that’s about as surprising as the sun rising.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Twilight will win the weekend because…

    All you say is true, but you left out the real key factor — there’s always a market for crap.

    I’ve heard there’s a movie available at UK rummage sales called the Last Spoonbender

    Perhaps this would be a good time to reissue it under that title.

  15. DrSerizawa

    Sigh. Another week and no monkey stampede.

    Well, at least “Hotrods To Hell” is on TCM tomorrow night. It may be crap but at least it’s good crap. And “Blue Velvet” is on Friday night. That’ll be letterboxed too. I just burned “Days of Darkness” last night on Sundance. That should keep me busy and keep me from doing something crazy like firing bazookas at the Avon Theater where the Twilight Triple Bill is.

  16. Will

    The Last Airbender currently has a score of 7% on RottenTomatoes, in stark contrast to Dragonball: Evolution, which has a full 13%. I have given up all hope on live-action film adaptations of animated shows and on the possibility of Shyamalan ever being a good director again.

    Shyamalan’s lack of effort in his last few movies has gotten me thinking. It’s all well and good for critics and general audiences to write at length about how bad a movie is, but will it really change anything? Maybe sometimes drastic steps have to be taken. Maybe sometimes it is called for to stage an intervention.

    I think we need to gather a few dozen intelligent, articulate people, and then we need to go straight to Shyamalan’s home and gather around his front door, like an angry mob. But instead of lynching him, we will calmly tell him exactly why The Last Airbender and The Happening are terrible and exactly why Unbreakable is good, and why he needs to make his next movie more like Unbreakable. That might be the only thing that will snap him out of his bad filmmaking ways and set him on the right path again.

    (The Nickelodeon animated series, by the way, actually is quite popular–but since it was the studio that said so, I don’t blame you for being skeptical.)

  17. Ken Hanke

    Another week and no monkey stampede

    It is discouraging. I must get Justin to see if he can find the climax from The Jungle Princess on YouTube (I’m useless trying to find things on there).

    If you were closer, you could come see Blue Velvet on a screen with us next week.

    I have not, by the way, worked up the courage to see Twilight Saga: Eclipse. I had thought about going a midnight show last night, but a.) it woulda killed my Tetro high and b.) they were lining up for it 90 minutes before it was slated to start. That just screamed bad idea.

  18. Ken Hanke

    The Last Airbender currently has a score of 7% on RottenTomatoes

    Last I looked it had dropped to 6%. That’s pretty impressive.

  19. davidf

    “Another week and no monkey stampede”

    To be fair, Toy Story 3 did offer us one, but maybe red plastic monkeys from a barrel don’t count.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I had no luck with my own search, but this is the next best thing:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1DWwx49xo8

    Nice, but that’s as nothing compared to The Jungle Princess — trust me. As a man who appreciates simian value, it’s the bee’s knees (yes, I know I’ve mixed my animals) of monkeys on a rampage.

  21. Ken Hanke

    To be fair, Toy Story 3 did offer us one, but maybe red plastic monkeys from a barrel don’t count.

    Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t weigh in on that question, but I do not necessarily rule the possibility out.

  22. Dread P. Roberts

    Another week and no monkey stampede

    To be fair, Toy Story 3 did offer us one, but maybe red plastic monkeys from a barrel don’t count.

    There are definitely merits in that, but they kind of looked more like a fire ant infestation to me. Unlike your typical ape stampede, the terror quota was marginal. Still, one must take what they can get these days.

    Completely off topic – I have randomly decided to share, for those poor souls that have yet to see this, may I present for your viewing pleasure, the glorious trailer for Rodriguez’ upcoming Machete:

    (Warning: Explicit content)
    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/44943

  23. Ken Hanke

    may I present for your viewing pleasure, the glorious trailer for Rodriguez’ upcoming Machete

    You certainly may as far as I’m concerned. I’d seen it, but that’s one of the best trailers ever. Who was it that said Steven Seagal was “irrelevant?” Take that! My only regret is this is a title that will go to Mr. Souther for review because it’s Rodriguez. Not letting him have a Rodriguez title would be akin to someone telling me I couldn’t review a Ken Russell picture.

  24. Dread P. Roberts

    Who was it that said Steven Seagal was “irrelevant?” Take that!

    Then would you concure that Danny Trejo in a dual-weilding machete battle with Steven Seagal is almost enough awesomeness to compensate for lack of simian value?

    Not letting him have a Rodriguez title would be akin to someone telling me I couldn’t review a Ken Russell picture.

    That’s a man with mighty good cinema taste, in my book. In these dark ages of film, Rodriguez is a guiding light – a beam of hope amiss the sorrow.

  25. Ken Hanke

    Then would you concure that Danny Trejo in a dual-weilding machete battle with Steven Seagal is almost enough awesomeness to compensate for lack of simian value?

    I’ll have to think about that. I’ll say it at least comes within the realm of possibility.

  26. You certainly may as far as I’m concerned. I’d seen it, but that’s one of the best trailers ever. Who was it that said Steven Seagal was “irrelevant?” Take that! My only regret is this is a title that will go to Mr. Souther for review because it’s Rodriguez. Not letting him have a Rodriguez title would be akin to someone telling me I couldn’t review a Ken Russell picture.

    The credits are also “introducing” Don Johnson.

  27. Me

    Persona didn’t jump out you as a notable tv screening? They don’t show that very often on TCM do they?

  28. Me

    I wouldn’t call Machete one of the best trailers ever, but it looks like it might be a fun B movie.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Persona didn’t jump out you as a notable tv screening? They don’t show that very often on TCM do they?

    It’s one of their fairly standard Bergman offerings, yes. I go through those listings with an eye toward things that are rarely shown or which people probably don’t know about. (If it had been Bergman’s The Magician, which I’ve never seen them show, I’d have noted it.) Not including a film is by no means a knock at the film. (Go to the archives and look up the five star review I gave the film when it screened locally two years ago.) Also, Persona is a film that truly cries out for something more than a TV screen.

    I wouldn’t call Machete one of the best trailers ever

    No one said you should.

  30. Me

    No, nobody said i should. You stated “that’s one of the best trailer ever” and i shared my opinion, that myself i wouldn’t call it the best trailer ever by no means.

  31. Me

    I wouldn’t call recycling a 70’s genre as Dread P Roberts put it “a guiding light a beam of hope” either, if he was pushing the art of film forward in some way maybe i would

  32. Ken Hanke

    Ken i know you’re a big Ken Russell fan did you see this yet?

    Thanks. I saw it a week or so back, only the piece then noted at the bottom that the film had been withdrawn without comment or explanation. As a result, I hadn’t even looked for it. Warner Bros.’ attitude on the film is frankly incomprehensible.

    I can’t tell from the running time if it was the UK print that lost time from the PAL to NTSC conversion or if it was the original US X-rated print. There’s a sufficient amount of misinformation in the articles that the only thing certain seems to be that the “Rape of Christ” sequence wasn’t (or isn’t) in it.

  33. Ken Hanke

    Steve Hart, 40, a farmer in Langdon who helped revive the Roxy, tells of a paralyzing Christmas blizzard several years ago. The phone started ringing shortly afterward.

    “Do you have a movie?” people wanted to know.

    “An hour later,” he recalled, “there were 90 people on Main Street, even though there was only one path through the drifts and the movie was ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.’ ”

    If the storm was indeed several years ago, it must’ve taken them a very long time to trudge through it to get to a movie that came out this past Christmas.

  34. Jonathan Barnard

    …either that or they used the Roxy crowd as a test audience and then left the film in the vault for a few years after the responses came back.

  35. Tomislav Pijonsnodt

    I really doubt that I would find the cartoon excellent.

    Trust me when I say that you wouldn’t.

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