Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 16-22: Last week’s promise made good, plus aliens and lawyers

In theaters

Last week turned out to be pretty grim indeed. At least this week I know there’s one bright spot, since Cedar Rapids—originally supposed to open last Friday—comes to The Carolina and the Fine Arts this Friday. Also up are the mainstream titles Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer and Paul. These at least are potentially better than the last week’s rather unfortunate crop.

I saw Cedar Rapids at a press screening—at the unreasonable hour of 9:30 a.m.—a couple of weeks ago, so it’s reviewed in this week’s Xpress. It’s already obvious that I thought pretty highly of the film, but I’ll leave you to the impending review to find out why. Instead, let’s look at the other three.

Limitless is the least promoted of the three—perhaps since star Bradley Cooper has yet to prove to be a box office draw—but what little has come out about is intriguing. The reliability of the reviews to date is sketchy. The trades—The Hollywood Reporter and Variety—are sort of split on it, with one mixed review and one good one. Both reviews, however, catch my interest, since they indicate the film is at least stylistically unusual. Director Neil Burger’s The Illusionist—that’s the one with Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti from 2006, not the animated one—certainly wasn’t wanting for stylish visuals, something that can’t be said about his most recent film, The Lucky Ones (2008). We’ll see. The premise of a man (Cooper) who gets a hold of an experimental drug that allows him to use 100 percent of his brain is fairly promising, though the inevitable drawbacks might end up being on the cliched side. All the same, I’m officially curious.

I’m less curious about The Lincoln Lawyer, except that it might prove that Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas aren’t really the same person, since they’re both in the movie. (However, with special effects being what they are today, who knows?) At present this legal thriller that stars McConaughey as a low-rent lawyer operating out of his car has a smattering of all good reviews. The problem is that when Pete Hammond Boxoffice Magazine) enthuses, “The most surprising courtroom drama since 1985’s Jagged Edge, The Lincoln Lawyer is a don’t-miss cinematic page-turner with enough twists to fill five movies.” my Quote-Whore-o-meter kicks into high gear. The few reviews I’d pay any attention to use terms like “moderately entertaining” (Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter) and phrases like “airport-novel kind of movie, possessing no great qualities or ambitions” (Andrew Barker, Variety). The prospect of Ryan Phillippe as a sinister playboy is mildly intriguing, but let’s hope that McConaugey does something more impressive than roughing-up John Leguizamo (see accompanying photo).

And then there’s Greg Mottola’s Paul, which is cursed by possible the worst title ever, but looks promising, especially considering its pedigree. I like—to varying degrees—Mottola’s Superbad (2007) and Adventureland (2009). I like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost—without reservation—as performers, and I like Pegg as a writer. The idea of them playing a pair of Brit (of course) comic book nerds who hook up with an alien outside Area 51 has a great deal of promise. That the alien is played—or at least voiced—by Seth Rogen is my major area of concern. The reviews are at present mixed-leaning-positive—and a lot of the bad ones are what strike me as of negligible value. I guess we’ll find out how it all shakes out on Friday.

Most of the worthwhile titles from last week—in some cases from Christmas—are still around this week. Rabbit Hole departs the Fine Arts to make room for Cedar Rapids, but it does hop over to the Flatrock Cinema if you miss it before Friday. It’s worth noting that Black Swan and The Fighter have gone to split shows at The Carolina, meaning this will probably be their last week. The Fighter, however, is in second-run now and is also at Asheville Pizza and Brewing and the Cinebarre. That’s likely only good for a week. Asheville Pizza has also picked up 127 Hours for its 10 p.m. slot. If there’s anyone left who hasn’t seen The King’s Speech (Carolina and Fine Arts) and True Grit (Carolina), face it, they’re bound to leave soon.

Special screenings

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre (1990) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show on Thursday, March 17, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the Iranian film Close Up at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building at 8 p.m. Friday, March 18. Swiss cinema has its day with Fraulein (2006) from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. Mark Sandrich’s first Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film (their first as stars) The Gay Divorcee (1934) is the next Asheville Film Society screening on Tuesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. For more on these see this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

Even though it’s still in theaters, David O. Russell’s The Fighter hits DVD this week. It’s a very good movie, even if I’d say it falls short of being a great one. Also up is Clint Eastwood’s rather peculiar, somewhat dull, but fascinating Hereafter which may have better luck on DVD than it did in theaters. Then there’s The Switch which I haven’t seen and don’t intend to.

Notable TV screenings

Well, if TCM’s “new and improved” website wasn’t apparently stuck on March 15 (he determined, three search engines later), I might have something to report here. As it is, I’ll update this when possible.

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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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6 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 16-22: Last week’s promise made good, plus aliens and lawyers

  1. Me

    TCM just played Scorses 1974 film where he interviews his mom and dad. A Godard marathon is set for Saturday night too.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I think the Godard films (I only see two) is Sunday night (or really Monday morning). Saturday night seems to be Maureen O’Sullivan.

  3. uh-oh

    “LOw rent lawyer”, now way. No rent but highly successful defense attorney would be a better discription of how the books went, but who knows what the screen will do. I have no plans to attend.

  4. Ken Hanke

    No rent but highly successful defense attorney would be a better discription of how the books went, but who knows what the screen will do. I have no plans to attend.

    Well, I have no plans of reading the book or seeing the film. The studio synopsis is as close as I’m getting and it portrays this as being the case that could “make” the lawyer.

  5. Me

    It looks like youre right Ken i got my morning/nights mixed up but i do see Jules and Jim on Friday morning.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Their new-and-improved site isn’t. I notice it no longer allows you to see three months of programming.

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