Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 6-12: Chasing Dead Emperor Oz

In Theaters

Last week was pretty slack—at least as far as the box office was concerned (I’m of the opinion that Jack the Giant Slayer was a lot better than its reception would seem to indicate). This week is rather stronger looking—both in terms of box office and in general. We’ve got one highly-anticipated mainstream release and three art—or at least not quite mainstream titles.

Two of the art titles I’ve seen—the documentary Chasing Ice (opening at the Fine Arts) and the historical drama Emperor (opening at The Carolina)—and their reviews are in this week’s Xpress. Briefly, Chasing Ice—about climate change and melting glaciers—has some truly stunning, even breathtaking, images, and Emperor—a drama about (in part) whether or not to prosecute Hirohito for war crimes at the end of WWII—is truly compelling drama. In fact, I’ll go further and say that Emperor is the first film I’ve seen in 2013 that stands a chance of ending up on my Ten Best list at the end of the year. I realize that may not sound like much of an accolade, considering what the year has been like so far. But it’s not something I say lightly. This was something that sounded like nothing I would care for—and two viewings later, I’m still very pleasantly surprised by how good the movie turned out to be. Of course, it’s early in the year and it remains to be seen how it’ll look to me by December—and what else is headed our way. Right now, however, it’s certainly in the running.

The other movies coming out this week are in the realm of unknown quantities.

Up first, there’s Niels Arden Oplev’s Dead Man Down, which may be considered in the art film category. (At the moment, I only have it down as opening at The Carolina, though I suspect it’s not exclusive.) It’s the first American feature from Oplev, who is best known for having made the original—and vastly surperior (sorry, Fincherites)—The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It also reunites him with star Noomi Rapace, and it adds Colin Farrell, Dominic Cooper, and Terrence Howard to the mix. These are not credits to be sneezed at. The fact that Oplev is still working in the thriller mode is also encouraging. Somewhat less encouraging is the fact that it’s not been screened for critics—or seemingly screened at all. But that cast and that director make it pretty hard not to remain at least cautiously hopeful. (For those wanting a stronger dose—i.e., a bit of skin and language—here’s the red band trailer.)

The big deal this week is, of course, Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful—a film I wish I could feel as jazzed about as I’m supposed to. It’s not because I consider the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz holy writ, because I don’t. (It has been suggested that I am unfit to judge anything—and am generally a bad person—since I merely like the 1939 film, and mostly in parts.) I don’t even mind that it’s a prequel—an apparent origins story (what hath the comic book movie wrought?) that has to bend over backwards not to emulate the old movie’s copyright holders. I’m more or less OK with cast—no qualms about Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, or Michelle Williams, though James Franco is hit-and-miss with me. And, yes, the movie obviously has simian value—albeit CGI simian value, and that’s not quite the same thing. But what really has me is the trailer and the fact that Raimi’s Oz looks way too much like Tim Burton’s Wonderland. Still, I’ll remain hopeful. Hell, I’ll even go out of my way to see it in 3D. So there.

This week, the Fine Arts is dropping Quartet for Chasing Ice. Quartet, however, is holding on at The Carolina. However, The Carolina is send the documentary A Place at the Table packing. Also of note is the fact that they’re bringing back Argo (which is also still playing at the Carmike) and splitting it with Amour—that suggests strongly that Amour will be a casualty next week.

Special Screenings

Before getting down to the usual films, let’s pause to at least mention this “Best of Rural Route Film Festival” being run at the Courtyard Gallery by Mechanical Eye Microcinema. I have seen none of the films, but here’s the press release:

“On March 9th, Mechanical Eye Microcinema (MEM) will host the best of Rural Route Film Festival at Phil Mechanic Studios with festival director Alan Webber making an appearance in Asheville for the first time. Rural Route takes place during the summer in New York City and tours the country screening selections from the festival during the rest of the year. Rural Route highlights work that deals with rural people and places and MEM is excited to host this ‘best of’ program consisting of 11 short films.

Phil Mechanic Studios
Courtyard Gallery
109 Roberts Street, Asheville
Saturday, March 9th at 8 p.m.
$5 (No one turned away for lack of funds)”

This week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show is the giant insect fear film The Deadly Mantis (1957) at 8 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 7 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Part Two (of three) of Carlos (2010) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Mar. 8 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is running Rowland V. Lee’s Tower of London (1939) at 2 p.m. on Sun., Mar. 10 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is screening Victor Fleming’s Hollywood satire Bombshell (1933) on Tue., Mar. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.  More on all films in this week’s Xpress with expanded coverage in the online edition.

On DVD

I wouldn’t call this the best week ever, but here’s the layout—Wreck-It Ralph, Playing for Keeps, Red Dawn, and The Intouchables. I’d suggest going with The Intouchables.

Notable TV Screenings

I’d been looking forward to the end of “31 Days of Oscar,” but I hadn’t reckoned on the “star of the month” being Greer Garson (once described as Louis B. Mayer’s ideal of “antiseptic sex”). Oh, well. It is, however, notable that at 10:15 p.m. on Thu., Mar. 7 we do get Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932)—a film that should be seen as often as possible. It’s followed by Roy Del Ruth’s Folies Bergere de Paris (1935), Maurice Chevalier’s last American starring film—and one I keep trying to warm to. Otherwise, I’d largely call it business as usual—and Greer Garson.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. 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."

18 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 6-12: Chasing Dead Emperor Oz

  1. Me

    I wasn’t looking forward to the end of 31 days of Oscar. They were showing some great stuff they even played The Landlord Sunday night.

  2. DrSerizawa

    I’m very interested in seeing Emperor. Whatever one can say about MacArthur (and there’s plenty) he handled the transition of Japan from a Fascistic Dictatorship to a real republic and a Western ally masterfully, resisting calls to execute Hirohito. Which would have likely been disastrous. It’s an almost lost piece of history now and I’m glad to see it addressed.

  3. luluthebeast

    The EMPEROR sounds great, but it will probably be here for awhile, and QUARTET finally made it here and might only stay for a week, so that’s what I’m going to see if I can.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I’m not sure that Emperor stands much of a shot at being around any longer than Quartet. Both are limited releases. And here, at any rate, Quartet is still going strong after a month.

  5. Chris

    Looks like pretty good titles coming to The Carolina Spring Breakers, Gimme the Loot, No, Room 237, Like Someone in Love, and On The Road.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Also Trance and Stoker. I can’t claim any excitement over anything from Harmony Korine, though, and am astounded that the distributor decided to bring out On the Road after having once pulled it out of release.

  7. Big Al

    “…the distributor decided to bring out On the Road after having once pulled it out of release.”

    Any idea why this was?

    I saw the trailer and found nothing appealing except Viggo Mortensen and Amy Ryan (and she is looking kinda rough these days). I tried to read the book a few years back and threw it away after five chapters. Things must have been pretty lame in post-war America for those ramblings to have seemed avant-guard. The movie seems pretentious, event for an art-house offering, and far too loud, both visually and acoustically.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I think you mean Amy Adams, but anyway…the movie was getting mixed-to-bad reviews and wasn’t packing them in (reviews are more important to this type of film). I don’t really see that the movie seems pretentious and I didn’t find the trailer especially loud or agressive (I assume that’s what you mean by visually loud). I have no actual opinion on it. I’ve never read the book and haven’t seen the movie.

  9. Big Al

    Yeah, I meant Adams (I love both and both are alumni of “The Office”, my fave tv show).

    By prententious and far too loud, I meant the rapid-fire bombardment of images of drunkeness, sex, violence and generally unsafe behavior that seems to scream “here is all of the stuff you will not see in megaplexes!”.

    I believe this is a misreading of what the filmmakers believe moviegoers expect of art films, similar to the misunderstanding expressed in the recent letter about the “past and present misogyny” of the Fine Arts Theatre.

    “The Road” goes way beyond usual art fare edginess into just plain silliness. Probably why it tanked in preview showings. I see nothing worth my money there.

  10. Ken Hanke

    By prententious and far too loud, I meant the rapid-fire bombardment of images of drunkeness, sex, violence and generally unsafe behavior that seems to scream “here is all of the stuff you will not see in megaplexes!”.

    I wouldn’t call that pretentious, but sounds pretty swell to me. Then again, we must realize that I am thoroughly sunk in moral depravity.

    I believe this is a misreading of what the filmmakers believe moviegoers expect of art films, similar to the misunderstanding expressed in the recent letter about the “past and present misogyny” of the Fine Arts Theatre.

    Well, the letter-writer was talking through her hat and armed with a lot of bum information (though I was amused by the idea of a porno theater in 1922 Asheville!). As for the filmmakers, I take the opposite view — that they’re trying to convey the idea that not all art films are stuffy and subtitled, which, of course, they aren’t. But a lot of people hit the term “art film” and think, “Boring.”

    “The Road” goes way beyond usual art fare edginess into just plain silliness.

    Not having seen it, I can’t say.

  11. Jeremy Dylan

    Amy Adams (and she is looking kinda rough these days)

    I could not concur with you less.

    Still, her presence alone is not enough to entice me into an adaptation of that insufferable book.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Well, if you based her recent look on The Master. I could see the “kinda rough.”

    No current actor’s presence is enough to get me to see a movie.

  13. Jeremy Dylan

    Well, if you based her recent look on The Master. I could see the “kinda rough.”

    I haven’t seen the picture, but if this still is representative: http://mediafiles.cineplex.com/Blog/TIFF2012/amy-adams-2-the-master.jpg

    We have very different definitions of ‘rough’.

    No current actor’s presence is enough to get me to see a movie.

    Not even Clooney? Although maybe that’s cheating, as he’s proved to have fairly impeccable taste in projects.

  14. Ken Hanke

    We have very different definitions of ‘rough’.

    I wouldn’t say it does her any favors.

    And if Clooney showed up in a Michael Bay movie paired with Eddie Murphy, there’s a good chance, Someone Else would review it.

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