Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 24-30: The dethroning of Alice

In theaters

Last week saw the opening of three fairly negligible mainstream titles and Roman Polanski’s remarkable The Ghost Writer (all reviewed in this week’s Xpress). This week brings us two new mainsteam offerings in wide release—How to Train Your Dragon and Hot Tub Time Machine—along with Atom Egoyan’s Chloe (also reviewed in Wednesday’s Xpress), opening at the Carolina exclusively, and the highly acclaimed French film A Prophet, opening exclusively at the Fine Arts.

The big news here is How to Train Your Dragon, which marks the return of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, who haven’t been around since they made Lilo & Stitch in 2002. Considering that Lilo & Stitch is the only Disney cartoon I’ve ever been compelled to actually buy on DVD, I’m reasonably jazzed about the prospect of this new film. I’m a little less thrilled by the fact that they’ve traded in hand-drawn animation for the computer variety. Plus, there are three other writers involved this time around, whereas Lilo & Stitch was all their own. (Hollywood remains oblivious to the “too many cooks” concept.) But—based on what I’ve heard—I remain cautiously optimistic.

There’s little doubt that How to Train Your Dragon will be the movie that knocks Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland out of the top spot—if only because of the shortage of 3-D screens. Locally, that means that the only venue offering Alice in 3-D come Friday will be the Beaucatcher. The other theaters playing it will relegate it to 2-D to make way for Dragon. Until more theaters convert to digital projection and install more 3-D houses (requiring a special screen and processor) this is going to be a common occurrence, especially since Hollywood’s current goal is to release a new 3-D title every other week. Since the remake of Clash of the Titans has been given the 3-D treatment and opens next Friday, the window on Dragon is even smaller.

If you’re wondering why the mania for 3-D has become so prevalent, just look to the theater chains for the answer. It’s not just that 3-D is currently popular, but it allows the exhibitors to tack on a surcharge. Locally, that means an extra $3 to $3.50 per ticket. (Theater chains are testing the waters to see just how high they can go with this charge before customers balk.) This is lucrative, but until—and if—the 3-D boom goes bust, you can expect more of the same.

Going up against this we have Hot Tub Time Machine—an innocuous-looking film that’s been goosed with some measure of raunchiness to give it an R rating in an attempt to cross over into Judd Apatow territory. Despite the presence of John Cusack in the cast, this looks like a pretty low-wattage high-concept movie that’s mostly designed to make a buck off nostalgia for the 1980s. I think you have to be a child of the ‘80s to even understand that nostalgia, and since I’m not, I don’t. On the other hand, co-critic Justin Souther is of the era. There are no prizes for guessing who will be reviewing this.

The art-house crowd can look forward to Chloe and A Prophet. I’ve seen the former, which is at least interesting—even a bit fascinating (maybe as much for what it doesn’t get right as for what it does). The latter I won’t see till Friday. A Prophet certainly comes with recommendations—and awards—aplenty. I’m officially curious about it. I am not, however, convinced that there’s a big market for a 155-minute French prison movie that, by all accounts, is extremely violent and bloody. The art-house crowd—at least, locally—tends to shy away from the violent (the almost equally praised Gomorrah from last year did not do well here). And long, subtitled movies are a hard sell regardless of quality (see The White Ribbon, which in two weeks here didn’t break $1,000 over its entire run). We shall see.

Disappearing after Thursday are The Last Station (Fine Arts) and The White Ribbon (Carolina), so catch them if you can. Still hanging on are The Ghost Writer (ill-advisedly divided up come Friday by three theaters—Fine Arts, Carolina, Biltmore Grande—which will probably cut the pie too small), Shutter Island and, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Sherlock Holmes is sticking around for another week of evening shows at Asheville Pizza and Brewing.

I know it’s out of the way for most people, but if you missed the wonderful Me and Orson Welles that got overlooked by foolishly opening during the big Christmas push, it’s playing at the Flatrock Cinema at 12:30 p.m. (Saturday, Sunday, Wednesday only) and 7 p.m. (all week). I really cannot recommend this delightful and terrifically made little film too strongly. It would be worth it just for Christian McKay’s performance as the young Orson Welles, but really there is so much more reason to catch up with this movie.

On DVD

The big news on DVD this week is Wes Anderson’s truly fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I’ve seen on both the big screen and on a fairly large TV. While it does suffer in a few instances on the small screen, it mostly makes the transfer quite nicely. If you missed it in the theater, don’t miss it on DVD. If you saw it in the theater, it’s a movie that pays dividends on repeat viewings.

Also up is The Blind Side, an effectively manipulative soap that a lot of people liked better than I did. I feel no need to revisit it. The Men Who Stare at Goats is available, too. I liked this—but fell far short of loving it—when it was in theaters. I have to say, however, that it’s all but evaporated from my mind. Brothers, which didn’t do very well in theaters (and which I didn’t see), makes it to DVD, where it may fare better. And then there’s Séraphine—a much better movie than its tepid turn at the box office would suggest.

Notable TV screenings

It’s another of those weeks where the reliable Turner Classic Movies proves reliable, but doesn’t offer much that jumps out at me as unusual or rare. I’m not going to complain about a week with a whole night of Marx Brothers movies (Monday, March 29, starting at 8 p.m.)—especially since it includes three of their best for starters: Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers 1932) and Duck Soup (1933). But it’s not uncommon. Now, personally, I’ll be checking out the 10:30 a.m. showing (Saturday, March 27) of the Bowery Boys in Spook Busters (1946), but this is a combination of morbid curiosity (I think I liked it when I was 10) and the fact that I’m playing a 1940s poverty-row-survivor game on a movie-message board. In other words, I am not suggesting anyone else see it. Otherwise, it’s a good week, but not a particularly exciting one. Check the listings, however, there may be something that’s old hat to me, but new to you.

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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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25 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 24-30: The dethroning of Alice

  1. Justin Souther

    On the other hand, co-critic Justin Souther is of the era. There are no prizes for guessing who will be reviewing this.

    Since my earliest memories of the ’80s don’t begin till around ’88, I hardly find this fair.

  2. Me

    Awesome im really looking forward to seeing A Prophet. Do you know if Greenberg is opening anywhere locally this weekend?

  3. Another huge title out this week on dvd is MAD MEN SEASON 3. Also Horrorfest 2010: 8 Films to Die For. These are usually half good, so take your chances!

  4. Ken Hanke

    Since my earliest memories of the ‘80s don’t begin till around ‘88, I hardly find this fair

    Maybe so, but I was old enough to know better — and which of us has Ghostbusters as a childhood favorite? Anyway, you can be baffled by 80s nostalgia without being dismissed as a damned Boomer.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Also Horrorfest 2010: 8 Films to Die For. These are usually half good, so take your chances!

    Personally, I’m waiting till someone tells me which ones are worth my time. I have never understood why no Asheville theater ever books these things, yet the Epic has. I am hard-pressed to believe that there’s a bigger market for R rated horror pictures in Hendersonville than Asheville.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Do you know if Greenberg is opening anywhere locally this weekend?

    No, they’ve yet to decide how they’re handling its release. Mid to late April seems about the earliest it can be expected here.

  7. Dread P. Roberts

    For anyone who cares, Yojimbo & Sanjuro (Criterion Collection) also comes to DVD (or maybe just Blu-Ray?) this week.

    Maybe so, but I was old enough to know better—and which of us has Ghostbusters as a childhood favorite?

    Hey now, don’t hate on us Children of the ’80’s, and our glourious stinky cheese films that we so shamefully love. I imagine there are many of us here (on the MontainX forums) who have very fond memories of Ghostbusters. We can overtake you damn baby boomers.

  8. Ken Hanke

    For anyone who cares, Yojimbo & Sanjuro (Criterion Collection) also comes to DVD (or maybe just Blu-Ray?) this week

    I think it’s just Blu-Ray, which I’ve yet to convert to.

    Hey now, don’t hate on us Children of the ‘80’s, and our glourious stinky cheese films that we so shamefully love

    I’m more baffled by it than anything else. Still, I’m the one planning on watching the Bowery Boys in Spook Busters on Saturday morning, so I perhaps have no room to talk.

    We can overtake you damn baby boomers

    You ought to be able to. You’re younger.

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    Also, for those who are interested, I just recently found out that Tetro will be released on May 4th.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Seen this yet Ken?

    No, I hadn’t. Interesting, but I see that it’s a DVD-R, which makes me wonder if it will be anamorphically enhanced. If not, it’s going to be doubtful that it’ll be an improvement over my own DVD-R from laser.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Also, for those who are interested, I just recently found out that Tetro will be released on May 4th.

    Well, that I am truly delighted to have a date on.

  12. No, I hadn’t. Interesting, but I see that it’s a DVD-R, which makes me wonder if it will be anamorphically enhanced. If not, it’s going to be doubtful that it’ll be an improvement over my own DVD-R from laser.

    I’ve been very happy with the transfers and ratios from Warner Archives, and I would expect the same here. Anyhoo, I’m ordering it and will let you how it is. They also have Hal Ashby’s THE LANDLORD, which I’ve been waiting about 25 years to see.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I’ve been very happy with the transfers and ratios from Warner Archives, and I would expect the same here.

    What I’m really curious about is the anamorphic part. Does The Landlord spread out to fill a widescreen TV?

  14. What I’m really curious about is the anamorphic part. Does The Landlord spread out to fill a widescreen TV?

    I don’t know… the website doesn’t give much information. I’ll let you know. I’m pretty sure that Warner’s dvd-r titles are anamorphic. MGM I hope will keep the same standards.

  15. Ken Hanke

    MGM I hope will keep the same standards

    I’m assuming they have moved into the anamorphic direction, but their DVDs of Women in Love and Hair, while letterboxed, are definitely not enhanced.

  16. Dread P. Roberts

    FYI – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (The Cocoanuts / Animal Crackers / Monkey Business / Horse Feathers / Duck Soup) is on sale today only @ Amazon.com for only $26.49. It normally retails for around $59.98, so this is a savings of 56% off. Just passing along the info.

  17. Ken Hanke

    FYI – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (The Cocoanuts / Animal Crackers / Monkey Business / Horse Feathers / Duck Soup) is on sale today

    Hmmm. I had all the titles individually, but a misfortune befell Monkey Business, which is OOP and seems to cost about twice the price of the set at its sale price…

  18. Ken Hanke

    Alright, Mr. Roberts, you cost me $26.49. I hope you’re satisfied.

  19. Dread P. Roberts

    Alright, Mr. Roberts, you cost me $26.49. I hope you’re satisfied.

    Haha…if that is a good thing, then yes, I’m satisfied that I was able to help.

    If anything, you can always re-wrap the DVD’s that you already had, and give them to someone else as a gift for some special occasion – or re-sell them on ebay. Hell, you might even be able to come out ahead if you sell your old copies of the ones you already had. I tend to prefer these nice little box sets to help me better organize my movie collection.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Hell, you might even be able to come out ahead if you sell your old copies of the ones you already had.

    I’m not organized enough to sell something like that. The one person I know who would want them is Justin, who already has the box set.

    Head’s Up

    While I was delighted to see that The Ghost Writer sold out at the Fine Arts for the 7:20 show tonight, I was less thrilled to see that the audience for A Prophet for the 7 p.m. show numbered 13 — 14 if you count me, 15 if you count a baby in a carrier, and since neither the baby, nor I paid…

    None too surprisingly, The Ghost Writer is coming back downstairs tomorrow, A Prophet is going upstairs, and I’ll be surprised if the latter lasts more than the one week. So if it’s on your list, don’t dawdle.

  21. Me

    I saw A Prophet tonight also and thought it was pretty great one of the better movies ive seen this year.

    I heard the older couple beside me say “this is how long” about 5 minutes into the film and they ended up leaving about 20 minutes later.

  22. Ken Hanke

    I heard the older couple beside me say “this is how long” about 5 minutes into the film and they ended up leaving about 20 minutes later.

    Someone else wandered off about 90 minutes into the movie — after finding out from one of the staff that there was another hour. By the way, I was the one who went out and told them they had an out-of-frame splice (after which they fixed the framing), so if you thought that was another walkout it wasn’t. I just sat in the back off to the side when I returned.

  23. Me

    Yeah i noticed the tops of everybody’s heads were cut off there for a couple of scenes.

    Did they not show any trailers before hand? I went to the bathroom right before the film (when the curtain was still down) expecting to have plenty of time and came back and missed the first couple of minutes.

    I also noticed that they didn’t have any 9pm weekend times for this weeks movies. Are they cutting those out those were the times i usually went to see the movies

  24. Ken Hanke

    Yeah i noticed the tops of everybody’s heads were cut off there for a couple of scenes.

    I wasn’t sure at first because the film has a hard matte (very unusual), so it was just black at the bottom where you’d normally have seen the top part of the frame. I thought at first it was some kind of artistic effect, but then it just stayed that way.

    Did they not show any trailers before hand? I went to the bathroom right before the film (when the curtain was still down) expecting to have plenty of time and came back and missed the first couple of minutes.

    I can’t tell you because I arrived a couple minutes late and it was into the film when I walked in, which does suggest a paucity of trailers, since I’d figured the trailers would still be on.

    I also noticed that they didn’t have any 9pm weekend times for this weeks movies. Are they cutting those out those were the times i usually went to see the movies

    They dropped them this week because Ghost Writer did very little on the last set the previous week and no one really expected A Prophet to do much — and with it being 155 minutes long…

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