Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 9-15: Mars Needs Red Riding Hood

In theaters

I thought I had good news for you this week, but then the good news got moved to next Friday and that leaves us with three—well, not that exciting-looking movies opening on Friday. Try as I may, I can’t seem to work up much enthusiasm for Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, or Red Riding Hood. Maybe I was spoiled by last week.

Well, let’s look at them anyway.

First up is Battle: Los Angeles, which promises mayhem from alien invaders in the City of Angels—and presumably elsewhere, since I can’t imagine them only attacking L.A., unless they’re really pissed off over James Franco at the Oscars. I’m not even sure why they’re attacking, except that it suits the needs of the movie. It comes to us from Jonathan Liebesman, the director of the hysterically bad Darkness Falls (2003), the appalling sequel to an appalling remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) and something called The Killing Room (2009), which never snagged a U.S. distributor. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, who apparently learned nothing by appearing in The Core (2003). I’ll be happy if this is anywhere near as funny as that.

Then there’s Mars Needs Moms, which marks the first time H.G. Wells’ great-grandson Simon Wells has been allowed to helm a movie since The Time Machine “underperformed” in 2002. Here he’s back to his original medium of animation, since this is at least quasi-animated. That’s to say this is one of those Robert Zemeckis-produced Polar Express-like creepy motion-capture things where all the characters look Shawn and Marlon Wayans in White Chicks (2004). Anyway, its plot is pretty much summed up by the title, though it contains some message about learning to appreciate your mother once she’s whisked away by Martians. (Mine never was, so I don’t know.) The voice casting is on the inexpensive side—Seth Green, Joan Cusack and Dan Fogler being the big names.

And finally we have Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood, which somehow turns the old fairy tale into medieval horror with werewolves and Amanda Seyfried. Let’s face it, the whole idea is all about Hardwicke coming up with another franchise like she did with Twilight in 2008. I suppose that all depends on whether or not we have a beefy boy shirtless lycanthrope to make the heart pound and the loins tingle. My problem—apart from the lame trailer—is that I have never seen a Catherine Hardwicke movie that I even remotely thought was worth a damn. And the fact that this drags in respectable actors like Gary Oldman and Julie Christie isn’t that strong of a selling point. I would love to be wrong on all this.

Before going into what’s still around, I want to make it clear that after Thursday Drive Angry 3D will be history on a local level. Otherwise, all the art titles are pretty much staying put, including Rabbit Hole at the Fine Arts, which performed much better than anyone expected—or had any reason to expect, based on the national averages. (Well, Asheville isn’t average.) The biggest difference this week is that there’ve been time changes on a number of the art titles. Also, at least two—Rango and The Adjustment Bureau—of the titles from last week are worth checking out.

Special Screenings

This Thursday, Mar. 10, the Thursday Horror Picture Show has dug up the 1960 Hammer horror The Brides of Dracula at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 11, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Francis Ford Coppola’s early musical Finian’s Rainbow (1968) is being screened by the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Mar. 13, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. This week’s Asheville Film Society presentation is Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her (2002) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 15, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina.

On DVD

Documentaries seem to the thing this week on DVD with both the Oscar-winning Inside Job and the Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop come out this week. Also up is the rom-com Morning Glory, which has good things in it, even if the movie overall doesn’t quite work. And there’s The Next Three Days, which I haven’t seen, but which I don’t recall Justin being exactly enthused by.

Notable TV Screenings

TCM is recovering from the Oscar orgy, and on Saturday, Mar. 12, at 8 p.m. have not only slated Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) as one of their “essentials” (for once, I agree with them), but they’ve turned the whole night into a Mamoulian-athon. They’re following Love Me Tonight (his masterpiece) with The Gay Desperado (1936), We Live Again (1934), City Streets (1931), and Queen Christina (1933).  It’s not quite the line-up I’d have gone with, but it’s a nice one. The Gay Desperado is a pretty funny musical and it’s done with a lot of style. The downside is that the songs are unmemorable. We Live Again is a good film of Leo Tolstoy’s Resurrection with a screenplay by such notables as Maxwell Anderson, Preston Sturges, and Thornton Wilder. If you watch it, notice how Mamoulian reworks the “awakening” scene from the end of Love Me Tonight in dramatic terms here. City Streets was on recently, but it’s one of Mamoulian’s best. Queen Christina is a very good film that’s mostly remembered for not overlooking the Swedish queen’s lesbian streak, the famous “bedroom stroking” sequence, and the even more famous final shot of star Greta Garbo.

If you missed Shanghai Express (1932) when the AFS showed it last week, it’s on Sunday, Mar. 13, at 9:30 a.m. It’s better on a screen and it’s better with an audience, but it’s still pretty wonderful.

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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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23 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 9-15: Mars Needs Red Riding Hood

  1. DrSerizawa

    The trailer for “Battle: LA” is less than impressive. Even the mere minute or so of shaky cam and “cut every second” editing had me ready to climb the walls. I’m pretty sure we’re not looking at another “District 9” level of quality here. Or even “Avatar”.

    PS: Maybe the Mountain Express could set up some sort of hazardous duty pay for you guys for reviewing the crap they laughingly call “SciFi” in recent years.

  2. The film stars Aaron Eckhart
    Why?

    I’m trying to maintain some optimism regarding RED RIDING HOOD, as I like Amanda Seyfried and I really like Gary Oldman and I’m hoping this will be worth seeing.

    I will be guided by your review.

  3. I’ll be watching COMPANY OF WOLVES again.

    Lots of great stuff out this week on dvd. 4 1/2 star review for FOUR LIONS, which I think is the funniest film of the year so far. The better film is yet another excellent Korean production, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE. Ken doesn’t like tv shows, but I’d bet he would watch THE WALKING DEAD SEA 1, which is actually a six episode miniseries. INSIDE JOB won the Oscar, but check out A FILM UNFINISHED which is released by the excellent Oscilloscope Films. Round the week off with some classic Dr. Who’s and yer set for the rainy week ahead…

    There is also Jackass 3 as well.

  4. Tiffany

    Hey do you now if there migth be a second movie for RED RIDING HOOD?

  5. Ken Hanke

    The trailer for “Battle: LA” is less than impressive.

    Noticed that, huh?

    Maybe the Mountain Express could set up some sort of hazardous duty pay for you guys for reviewing the crap they laughingly call “SciFi” in recent years.

    I’m still trying to sell them on the idea that 219 minutes of Gods and Generals was worth being paid for two movies — and that was 8 years ago.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I like Amanda Seyfried

    That I do not understand. She looks like a crayfish that came up on dry land to me.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Ken doesn’t like tv shows, but I’d bet he would watch THE WALKING DEAD SEA 1, which is actually a six episode miniseries.

    Right now what I need from you is the plain DVD of Santa Sangre for review purposes.

  8. That I do not understand. She looks like a crayfish that came up on dry land to me.
    Jesus, you’re really pushing the unflattering seafood comparisons, aren’t you. I don’t really get it. Although I do quite like crayfish*.

    *Not in the same way.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Jesus, you’re really pushing the unflattering seafood comparisons, aren’t you.

    Not really. I just got more specific. She gives me the creeps and her acting hasn’t been so impressive that it compensates.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Hey do you now if there migth be a second movie for RED RIDING HOOD?

    I doubt if anyone knows at this point. It’ll depend on whether this one does well money-wise.

  11. DrSerizawa

    I’m still trying to sell them on the idea that 219 minutes of Gods and Generals was worth being paid for two movies

    I believe that if one could find a copy with all the praying and Stonewall Jackson domestic scenes excised that the movie would be a decent 90 minute Civil War film.

  12. That I do not understand. She looks like a crayfish that came up on dry land to me.

    People keep asking me when that Christina Ricci Red Riding Hood movie is coming out.

  13. Ken Hanke

    People keep asking me when that Christina Ricci Red Riding Hood movie is coming out.

    Bingo!

  14. Ken Hanke

    I believe that if one could find a copy with all the praying and Stonewall Jackson domestic scenes excised that the movie would be a decent 90 minute Civil War film.

    On the one hand, I originally noted “In the world of Mr. Maxwell, people don’t talk to each other, they make speeches. And when they’re not making speeches, they’re quoting from the Harvard Five Foot Shelf of Classics. And when they’re not doing that, they’re praying — these people do a lot of praying. Unfortunately, they don’t pray for anything reasonable, like some disaster befalling the agent that got them into this mess.”

    On the other hand, removing this would still leave you with “a monument to bad special effects, worse matte paintings and laughably bad fake wigs and beards. (I would love to have had the crepe-hair concession on this thing; I could have retired comfortably.)”

  15. Ken Hanke

    Just caught the TV spot for Red Riding Hood (the film itself is in my future about four hours from now) and it appears that Miss Seyfried is another alumnus of the Corey Haim School of Dramatic Arts — there is not one shot in the trailer where her mouth isn’t hanging open.

  16. Natasha

    Battle LA is the cheesiest cheese to ever cheese. Or at least that’s my opinion. We knew better but went anyway because we needed an afternoon out. Actually, I laughed so hard I was crying, it’s just that I don’t think that was the response the director intended.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I saw the other two. Justin was watching Battle when stumbled out of the second feature. I have heard nothing since. I am assuming he survived.

  18. Battle LA is the cheesiest cheese to ever cheese. Or at least that’s my opinion. We knew better but went anyway because we needed an afternoon out. Actually, I laughed so hard I was crying, it’s just that I don’t think that was the response the director intended.

    Is there a rousing speech? This film screams rousing speech.

  19. Justin Souther

    Battle LA is the cheesiest cheese to ever cheese. Or at least that’s my opinion. We knew better but went anyway because we needed an afternoon out. Actually, I laughed so hard I was crying, it’s just that I don’t think that was the response the director intended.

    Our ideas of cheese are much, much different. I’d have actually liked the movie better if it were cheesier.

  20. Justin Souther

    Is there a rousing speech? This film screams rousing speech.

    There’s at least two in between everyone talking in slogans.

  21. Ken Hanke

    I’d have actually liked the movie better if it were cheesier.

    If you want fromage, go down the hall to Red Riding Hood. It doesn’t get much more fromagey.

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