Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 2-8: An animated Johnny Depp arrives on the scene—and others

In theaters

It’s a pretty crowded schedule at the movies this week. We have four mainstream titles—The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly, Rango, Take Me Home Tonight—and two art titles—Casino Jack (at The Carolina) and Rabbit Hole (at the Fine Arts). In other words, we’re not hurting for quantity. Quality may be an entirely different matter. In some cases, I’d risk money on it.

As is often the case—especially with titles that had Oscars in their eyes—I’ve seen both of the art titles and their reviews are in this week’s Xpress, so we won’t deal with them here, but let’s take a quick survey of the others.

The Adjustment Bureau doesn’t look bad. It has reliable stars in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt—and the always-welcome Terence Stamp is along for the ride. The premise of a man (Damon) trying to thwart his apparent destiny (controlled by a strange group of men to a specific plan) by pursuing a woman (Blunt) he’s fallen in love with has potential. The wild card is writer-director George Nolfi. Yes, he was one of three writers on The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), but he also wrote Ocean’s Twelve (2004), the weakest of the Oceans pictures, and the unintentionally funny Timeline (2003). This is his first shot at directing, so that’s an unknown. We shall see.

And then there’s Beastly—and I’m betting it is. This is Beauty and the Beast for teens. Yeah, I know. The premise is that Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, which was sooo two weeks ago) is a rich jerk who manages to piss off a teen witch (Mary-Kate Olsen) who turns him all ugly and beastly and makes him live in Brooklyn (that’s what it says) until he learns his lesson and some hot babe (in this case, Vanessa Hudgens) can fall in love with him despite the fact that he looks like a botched Maori warrior crossed with Pinhead from the Hellraiser movies. Trailers for this thing have been running on and off for what seems like forever. CBS Films has a track record for movies that would look more at home on their network than in a theater. That said, Mary-Kate Olsen does indeed look like she could have played the Helena Bonham-Carter role in Alice in Wonderland without her head being artificially enlarged.

The most intriguing film of the week is almost certainly Gore Verbinski’s Rango starring the voice and movements of Johnny Depp. Verbinski has a pretty solid track record ever since The Ring in 2002, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does with an animated film. (I suppose a case could be made that it’s not a huge leap from all the effects in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie and animation.) It’s a fairly simple premise—a would-be swashbuckler chameleon (Depp) gets his chance to be the real thing as sheriff of a wild west town called Dirt. It’s also a premise with lots of room to movie around. The rest of the voice cast is heavily impressive—Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Bill Nighy, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton, Roy Winstone. It’s certainly worth a look.

I’m less certain that the ‘80s nostalgia fest known as Take Me Home Tonight is going to be so worthy. Topher Grace has never really clicked as movie star, but then this has all the earmarks of a raunched-up TV show that’s somehow made it into theaters. It’s all about Grace trying to get the girl of his dreams (Teresa Palmer) with the aid of his twin sister (Anna Faris) and his best friend (Dan Fogler). I am guessing this will have the most appeal to those who find themselves missing Men Without Hats, Wang Chung, and Duran Duran on their MTV. And while I admit they would be preferable to anything on their these days, the trailer for this … well, it doesn’t look good.

Take note that come Friday Another Year, The Illusionist, Biutiful, and the Oscar shorts will be gone from The Carolina, while Barney’s Version will vanish from the Fine Arts. So far as I can tell, everyone who had The King’s Speech is keeping it (no surprise after Sunday night). I believe, however, that The Carolina is the only theater holding on to Black Swan—if you still haven’t seen what is now Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance. And though I usually limit this section to the more arty fare, I do want to note that the deliciously demented Drive Angry 3D is being reduced to one show a day this Friday at The Carolina and is being split with another title at the Beaucatcher. That’s just a friendly word to the wise and depraved.

Special Screenings

This Thursday, Mar. 3, finds the Thursday Horror Picture Show screening James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932) at 8 p.m. in the Old Dark Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema has the technically astonishing I Am Cuba (1968) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 4, in the Railroad Library of the Phil Mechanic Building. Alexander Korda’s Rembrandt (1936) is this week’s presentation by the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m., Sunday, Mar. 6, in Smoky Mountain Theater at Lakepointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society offers the big-budget-Brit spy spoof Casino Royale (1967) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina on Tuesday, Mar. 8. Come join “the Casino Royale fun movement.”

On DVD

OK, it didn’t take home any Oscars, but that doesn’t keep Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours from being the best thing coming out this week. Anyway, you need to see it to wash the image of James Franco’s Oscar hosting out of your minds. There’s also Burlesque and Love and Other Drugs—neither of which are going to waste any more of my time than they already have. And there’s Faster, which wasted Justin Souther’s time (slightly less valuable than mine in my book).

Notable TV screenings

The “31 Days of Oscar” are limping along a bit further and nothing leaps out at me in their wake. Let’s hope for a brighter week next week!

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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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8 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 2-8: An animated Johnny Depp arrives on the scene—and others

  1. The Asheville Film Society offers the big-budget-Brit spy spoof Casino Royale (1967) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina on Tuesday, Mar. 8.

    I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!

  2. Ken Hanke

    I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!

    I warn you, M., if this is a trap…

  3. Ken Hanke

    Light week for DVDs but Fellini’s The Clowns finally makes it’s debut as well.

    You know, apart from the opening, I think you have to like clowns a lot more than I do for this one.

  4. DrSerizawa

    I read as far as “Mary-Kate Olsen” and mysteriously skip to the next paragraph. Every time I see those words the same thing happens. It’s like a recurring brain cloud. Am I being attacked by alien brain rays?

  5. Ken Hanke

    Am I being attacked by alien brain rays?

    Well, if you look at that photo she does look like she’s from the planet Metaluna.

  6. luluthebeast

    I enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau, Damon and Blunt had a nice chemistry going and Stamp, Slattery and Mackie all put in solid performances. I also liked the idea of Matt thumbing his nose at you-know-who!

  7. Ken Hanke

    I enjoyed The Adjustment Bureau

    I haven’t caught this one. I took Rango and Justin got this. He seemed to mostly like it.

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