Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 23-29: Somewhere Today’s Special Is a Wimpy Sucker Punch

In theaters

This week brings us two mainstream offerings—Sucker Punch and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules—and two art titles—Today’s Special (Fine Arts) and Somewhere (The Carolina)—in limited release.

As is often the case with the art titles—distributors know that smaller films actually benefit from (hopefully) good reviews—I’ve already seen both and the reviews are in this week’s paper. Without going into detail, I do urge people to look past the fact they’ve likely never heard of Today’s Special or its director or most of its cast. It’s proved to be a pleasant surprise for audiences most places it’s played. Now, let’s look at the other two.

I was quite surprised to see that last year’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid was apparently a box office success, but that’s what the studio says. I never saw it, but I do recall that Justin Souther liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid which opened almost exactly a year ago. (He must have, since he actually wants to review the sequel.) I do not, however, remember it hanging around theaters very long, but I admit I wasn’t paying a lot of attention. In any case, it now has a part two—Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules—and a new director. Changing from the man who directed Hotel for Dogs (I’m still waiting for Eli Roth to get around to Hostel for Dogs) to the one who directed Astro Boy at least sounds like an improvement.

The theoretical big deal this week is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. It’s strange, however, that it hasn’t been screened for critics. It’s stranger still that Warner Bros. isn’t making a big play about Snyder as a “visionary director.” (Maybe you lose your visionary cred when you make an animated owl movie.) In fact, their official write-up doesn’t even mention the filmmaker, focusing instead on “epic action.” (OK, one of the studio shill “reviewers” on the IMDb trots out the “visionary” tag.) I admit I haven’t actually enjoyed a Snyder movie since 2004 and his remake of Dawn of the Dead and never quite got the “visionary” I have a problem with Sucker Punch based on the trailer. It comes across like a video game—not just in looks, but this whole “you must find five items” jazz sounds like you’re trying to rescue the princess from the tower. That said, I’m somehow intrigued by the whole thing, even though I don’t quite know why.

OK, things are starting to drop now. Black Swan and The Fighter both exit The Carolina on Friday, though Black Swan pops up in second-run at the Cinebarre, while The Fighter is still at Asheville Pizza and the Cinebarre. Rabbit Hole vanishes altogether on Friday. The King’s Speech and True Grit are still hanging on at The Carolina. Cedar Rapids is in place for another week that both The Carolina and the Fine Arts, but the Fine Arts showings are limited because of the Asheville Jewish Film Festival (see article on it in this week’s paper). Barney’s Version is hitting both the Co-ed in Brevard and the Flatrock Cinema in Flatrock.

Special screenings

Michael Curtiz’ Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture on Thursday, March 24, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961) along with Chris Marker’s short film La Jetee (1962) at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 25, in the Railroad Library of the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society closes out their March schedule with William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours (1955) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 27, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. William Dieterle’s Portait of Jennie (1948) comes your way from the Asheville Film Society on Tuesday, March 29, at 8 p.m.  in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More information on all these can be found in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

Boy, this is grim indeed. How Do You Know was one of the most tedious experiences I’ve ever had in theaters. The Tourist was amazingly lackluster. Yogi Bear was ghastly. And Justin Souther tells me Skyline is very bad indeed. And they’re all coming to you on DVD this week. You are warned.

Notable TV screenings

If you missed Little Miss Marker (1934) when the Asheville Film Society ran it a while back, it’s on TCM ar 10:45 p.m. Wednesday, March 23. This is the Shirley Temple movie for people who need to see one in order to understand that they’re not always bad.

Frank Borzage’s Strange Cargo (1940) plays TCM at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 24. If you don’t know this film, you should. It’s probably the strangest thing to come out of MGM in the 1940s. It’s certainly the strangest Clark Gable-Joan Crawford picture you’ll ever see. Even for Frank Borzage. this peculiar mix of eroticism and religion is something of an oddity. Believe it or not, it’s an allegorical film about some Devil’s Island escapees—one of whom has every appearance of being God himself (or at least Ian Hunter giving a good impression). It actually works much better than it probably sounds.

And if you’re looking for God, you can find him in various guises (at least Ralph Richardson and Peter Cook make the claim) in Richard Lester’s nearly career-killing The Bed Sitting Room (1969), which plays on TCM ar 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, March 30, (and late night on Tuesday, March 29). Not having learned his lesson about how far to push the audience with How I Won the War (1967), Lester here films Spike Milligan’s (pictured to the right) post-nuclear war play and the results are among the most surreal in the history of mainstream film. The title refers to the Bed Sitting Room that Ralph Richardson is mutating into thanks to the effects of radiation. (Arthur Lowe turns into a parrot, Mona Washbourne becomes a chest of drawers, and Dudley Moore transforms into a dog.) It’s all very British, very Lester, and very, very 1960s scattershot satire. It usually takes people a few times (assuming they make it through at all) to catch all the jokes. Start now.

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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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10 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 23-29: Somewhere Today’s Special Is a Wimpy Sucker Punch

  1. That said, I’m somehow intrigued by the whole thing, even though I don’t quite know why.
    I find some aspects of the premise a little far fetched. Do they really expect anyone to buy that Jon Hamm needs to go to a brothel to get taken care of?

    And if you’re looking for God, you can find him in various guises (at least Ralph Richardson and Peter Cook make the claim)
    Don’t forget Alanis Morissette!

  2. Ken Hanke

    Don’t forget Alanis Morissette!

    I believe that was a few years after this movie.

  3. Jim Donato

    The trailer for “Sucker Punch” is flat out the worst thing I’ve seen in a theatre since the trailer of “Little Man” in terms of having everything I don’t value in a movie on display. The SP trailer defines “heinous” to my mind. The second time I was subjected to it I averted my gaze.

  4. Ken Hanke

    The trailer for “Sucker Punch” is flat out the worst thing I’ve seen in a theatre since the trailer of “Little Man” in terms of having everything I don’t value in a movie on display.

    I can’t say the trailer excites me. In fact, it annoyed me the first time because the opening couple of shots looked a lot more intriguing than everything that followed. I figure there’s a good chance the movie will be “everything I don’t value in a movie” as well. I guess I’ll know by about 2 p.m. on Friday.

  5. Ken Hanke

    I ask for the movie of diary of a wimpy kid you asses

    Well, that’s refreshingly incomprehensible.

  6. Justin Souther

    I can’t say the trailer excites me. In fact, it annoyed me the first time because the opening couple of shots looked a lot more intriguing than everything that followed.

    I felt sufficiently clever when I realized that the trailer looks like Lisa Frank for mall goths.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I felt sufficiently clever when I realized that the trailer looks like Lisa Frank for mall goths

    You’re merely showing off.

  8. DrSerizawa

    The fact that True Grit and Black Swan are still playing says volumes about the “quality” of new releases since Jan. It’s almost April fer heck’s sake!

  9. Ken Hanke

    The fact that True Grit and Black Swan are still playing says volumes about the “quality” of new releases since Jan. It’s almost April fer heck’s sake!

    You left out The King’s Speech. While it may have something to do with the qualiy of these titles — I’m pretty sure Slumdog was still around this late — there’s certainly been nothing to get anywhere near the quality of the year-end releases so far. And there’s been nothing to set the box office afire either. By this time last year, I not only had two of my “10 Best” titles, but I had what turned out to be my top two. So far this year I’ve seen five movies I liked — Drive Angry 3D, Rango, Cedar Rapids, Paul, Today’s Special — and one of those is definitely not top 10 material (Drive Angry), while another (Today’s Special) is actually from 2008 and is only barely getting a release at all. I’ll be greatly surprised if things improve this week.

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