Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 9-15: How exceedingly blah

In theaters

I addressed this in the last Screening Room, but try as I may, I cannot work up any interest in—let alone enthusiasm for—a big-screen version of The A-Team or a remake of The Karate Kid. Thank goodness, the Fine Arts is opening The Secret in Their Eyes and the Carolina has Casino Jack and the United States of Money. Otherwise, this week would strike me as a total bust. For that matter, I’ve already seen Casino Jack (review in this week’s Xpress), so all I’m looking forward to personally is The Secret in Their Eyes.

Frankly, I can’t imagine what there is to say about either The A-Team or The Karate Kid. That they aren’t Marmaduke? One explodes, the other doesn’t? I think they might’ve been onto something had they pooled their resources and combined the two into a single The A-Team vs. the Karate Kid scenario. I sense much untapped potential here, especially if they conspired to blow up Marmaduke. As it stands, I’ll probably never know about The A-Team except via Justin Souther, who has claimed that one to review on the dubious strength of at least having once seen an episode. And while I could say that much, it doesn’t change the fact that he claims to have never seen the original Karate Kid. Myself, I think it’s the fact that The Karate Kid is about a half hour longer that sold him on why he’s better suited to The A-Team.

I am interested in The Secret in Their Eyes. OK, it’s got the uphill battle of being in a foreign language, but it did snag the Oscar in that category this year, so you may or may not want to take that into account. Or maybe you’ll want to consider that it’s a mystery thriller and the last foreign language mystery thriller that came to town was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—a movie that succeeded with viewers in spite of the fact that it had subtitles. This could do the same. It also has a similar “digging up the past through an unsolved case” angle. The trailer looks interesting and the early reviews are largely positive (like 92 percent largely).

There’s also Casino Jack and the United States of Money—the latest documentary from Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney. You can check out the review on the film tomorrow (or a little after midnight tonight, if you want to read it online at mountainx.com/movies.)

It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the fact that The Ghost Writer finally leaves area screens this week. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve only got through Thursday to rectify that. Also departing is Exit Through the Gift Shop. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is still with us, playing split shows with The Secret of Kells at the Fine Arts. The Square has been given another week at least at the Carolina, as has City Island. This is also the Saturday night of the month for the Montford Park Players and The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Carolina, but note that it’s been moved to 11 p.m. rather than midnight.

In the realm of free entertainment, this week the Thursday Horror Picture Show brings you the 1964 Hammer horror classic The Gorgon starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on Thursday, June 10—preceded, of course, by “The Invisible Circle,” the fifth exciting (and this one kind of is) chapter of the 1934 Bela Lugosi serial The Return of Chandu and the Betty Boop cartoon I Heard. The serial starts at 7:40 p.m. and the feature starts about 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. Xpress critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther will be presiding.

This Friday, June 11, World Cinema brings us Akira Kurosawa’s take on Macbeth with Throne of Blood (1957). Please note that this marks the first week of the Courtyard Gallery’s new location at 109 Roberts St. in the Phil Mechanic Studios building, one floor down, in Asheville’s River Arts District.

Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m. the Hendersonville Film Society has Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community in Hendersonville.

The Asheville Film Society offers Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. There will be an introduction and post-film discussion with Messrs. Hanke and Souther.

Even if the mainstream offerings are on the lame side, there are alternatives to consider. Reviews for all of the above special showings will be online around midnight.

On DVD

This week looks like an expensive proposition for me in the area of DVDs. First of all, we have the release of Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, which is still my favorite film of 2010 at this point. This, I find, is one of those movies that gets better the more you see it. I plan on knowing it very well. I suppose I should also note that From Paris With Love is out. Personally, I thought it was sufficiently ridiculous for a fun action picture, but audiences didn’t seem to care much about it. Maybe it’ll seem more agreeable in the privacy of your own living rooms.

Breaking the bank for me are two small box sets.The first of these is being called “The Charlie Chan Collection,” which is kind of hoity-toity sounding for four movies out of a series consisting of 44. Worse, it includes Dangerous Money (1946), which gets my vote as the worst Charlie Chan movie ever made—at least within the original Fox and Monogram series. It also boasts The Trap (1947), which is slightly better, but is the last Charlie Chan movie with Sidney Toler, who was ill and frail while making it. His physical appearance casts a kind of pall over the whole thing. However, the set also includes The Chinese Ring (1947), the first of the final six films starring Roland Winters as Charlie—and it’s a pretty good one, even though the Winters entries aren’t to everyone’s taste. But the gem of the set is Dark Alibi (1946), absolutely the best film in the later series (after Toler took the property to Monogram Pictures) —and with Toler’s best scenes with black comedian Mantan Moreland. I’d buy the set for this one alone. And the prospect of seeing these in decent copies instead of the crummy transfers from 16mm dupes—that’s something in itself.

Equally enticing—maybe more so—is a new Bob Hope collection consisting of Thanks for the Memory (1938), The Cat and the Canary (1939), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Nothing But the Truth (1941), Road to Morocco (1942) and The Paleface (1948). Yes, it’s typical Universal packaging where you’ll probably buy some titles you already own. This’ll make duplicates of The Ghost Breakers and Road to Morocco for me, but the others are all titles I don’t have. Three of them—Thanks for the Memory, The Cat and the Canary and Nothing But the Truth—haven’t been released on DVD before. I think The Paleface was, but I missed the print run. As a result, I’m not kicking. The star release is The Cat and the Canary—the film where Paramount finally figured out what to do with Bob Hope. What that meant was cast him opposite Paulette Goddard and stick them in a comedic take on an “old dark house” mystery—in this case, the biggest such “old dark house” stage play of them all, which had already been made as a silent and an early talkie (the latter now lost). It was the perfect choice—it turned out to be a first-rate horrific mystery and comedy all at the same time. Having it come out on DVD is truly an event for horror and comedy fans.

Notable TV screenings

Well, folks, it’s one of those weeks where TCM has a lot of good stuff—including a couple Marx Brothers pictures—but nothing that leaps out, so scan the listings yourself. You’re on your own this time. Maybe next week will be rosier!

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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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11 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 9-15: How exceedingly blah

  1. I think they should put all the new releases in a blender and do THE SECRET OF KARATE JACK – Jackie Chan stars as Jack Abermoff, slimy lobbyist and kung fu champion, who must confront the Danish diplomat Hannibal Marmaduke, portrayed by Liam Neeson (whose voice is dubbed by Russell Brand).
    In a subplot, Adrien Brody conducts an invasive genetic experiment, attempting to locate Katherine Heigl’s charisma.

  2. Ken Hanke

    But realizing that none of these plots can possibly have a satisfying conclusion, the producers end the whole thing with a gigantic monkey stampede. Satisfaction ripped from the jaws of mediocrity.

  3. Ken Hanke

    The film ends with Jake Gyllehnhall and Gemma Arterton riding ostriches into the sunset.

    Only if they emerge from the cloud of dust generated by the monkey stampede.

  4. DrSerizawa

    The film ends with Jake Gyllehnhall and Gemma Arterton riding ostriches into the sunset in Gorilla suits.

    Fixed it.

  5. Leslie Solow

    First of all, congratulations on your film festival. I wish we had something like that down here in South Florida. I saw “Splice” today; liked it but not as much as you. It got a little haywire at the end. It will probably be one of the better horror films of the year. Now, about the Chan collection… I read your article and I wonder if you know if Warner Home Video is going to release the other Chans because they skipped over “Red Dragon” and “Shadows Over Chinatown” so it’s not in chronological order. Do they have the other titles and will they release them?
    Thanks for the info if you know…

  6. Ken Hanke

    Now, about the Chan collection… I read your article and I wonder if you know if Warner Home Video is going to release the other Chans because they skipped over “Red Dragon” and “Shadows Over Chinatown” so it’s not in chronological order. Do they have the other titles and will they release them?

    I was involved with the Fox sets, but not with these so I’m not in the loop with what’s planned — if indeed they’ve actually planned anything. They’ve left themselves seven titles. I’m hoping they just bring out all seven at once.

  7. Me

    Also HBO has been showing that doc that showed at Sundance called Smash His Camera. They are also playing a pretty good short doc about John Cazale.

  8. Me

    Also a mini Truffaut marathon Sunday night on TCM. I just recently watched 400 Blows and am now a devoted Truffaut follower. Everything about that movie was perfect, and blew me away. I thought it was pretty amazing that a movie known for blowing everything out of the water could still do that to someone today.

    I still say 2am is prime time for TCM just for the pure fact that’s when they go off the beaten path.

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