Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 16-22: Battleship Dictator of Life

In Theaters

So this week we get three mainstream releases, one art film, and one classic. Looking over the crop, I’d have to say that the classic is almost certainly the best of the lot. Unfortunately, it only has one showing.

The classic in question is Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (1940) starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and it marks the start of a series of films being sponsored by the Asheville Film Society called Big Screen Budget Classics. The series will show classic films once a month at bargain prices—$5 for AFS members, $7 for the general public—in one of the larger theaters at The Carolina Asheville. It affords the opportunity to see classic movies as they were meant to be seen—on the big screen—at a reasonable price. This first showing is Wed., May 16 at 7:30 p.m. And, yes, I’ve seen it—but probably not more than 20 or 30 times.

I’ve also seen the genial Italian comedy The Salt of Life, which opens Friday at the Fine Arts. It’s a kind of a sequel to Mid-August Lunch—but only kind of. That’s to say it has some of the same actors in more or less the same roles, but their identities are not quite the same. The tone, however, is very much in keeping with the earlier film, so if you liked that, chances are good this will please you as well. The reviews for it—and that for His Girl Friday—are in this week’s Xpress.

And then, there are these other things…

In one of those inexplicable moves, someone with a paygrade far higher than mine has decided that it makes box office sense to open the latest Sacha Baron Cohen movie, The Dictator, on Wednesday. (I can’t really believe that they do this to make it more difficult to deal with the movie listings, but that’s the end result from my perspective.) This newest film marks something of a departure in that it doesn’t feature an already established character—like Borat or Bruno—at its center. Now, that said, Cohen has done his damndest to imprint the character on our consciousness with various personal appearances—including the semi-infamous Academy Awards stunt—so it’s perhaps not quite the departure it at first appears. However, it does seem to differ in that it has something like a plot. And somehow or other, Ben Kingsley has been bamboozled into appearing in this. Well, when you stop and realize that Sir Ben has not only been in Thunderbirds (2004), but also in the infamous Uwe Boll’s infamous BloodRayne (2006), his appearance here isn’t exactly a stretch. The early reviews are somewhat surprisingly positive.

And then there’s Battleship—a movie based on a mildewed board game and directed by the guy who made Hancock. I’d be hard-pressed to think of two better reasons not to see a film, but the trailer looks even worse than that sounds. Ah, I remember the day when Liam Neeson did more than collect paychecks, but those days seem very distant now that he’s become the world’s most improbable action star. In this case, however, he appears to take a back seat to younger stars—including such, uh, interesting action star choices as Rihanna. Rumor has it that the classic phrase, “You sank my battleship,” doesn’t even show up, making the whole enterprise seem even more questionable. I suppose it’s meant to to appeal to the “stuff blows up neat” crowd. I eagerly await the first person who suggests that it’s best approached by “turning off your brain.” Why am I unable to get away from the idea that this is a 131 minute Navy recruiting ad?

I can’t say I’m especially more entranced by the prospect of the star-and-dem-star-laden What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which comes to us from the generally likable, but not terribly exciting Kirk Jones, whose last film was Everybody’s Fine (2009), which was anything but fine. What we have here are a bunch of folks like Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Banks, and Brooklyn Decker stuffed into a supposed adaptation of a self-help book that, in reality, seems to have been crafted into a rom-com. Worse, it’s one of those multi-storied things—like the stuff Garry Marshall has been churning out to cover holidays (I’m still waiting for St. Swithin’s Day)—that almost never works well. In its favor, it’s about 20 minutes shorter than Battleship and presumably nothing blows up—though I can think of people who’d pay good money to see Cameron Diaz explode.

So what are we losing this week? Well, the Fine Arts is dropping Damsels in Distress, which I think is unfortunate, but others will be much pleased by this. The Kid with a Bike is exiting The Carolina, while Being Flynn and The Deep Blue Sea are being split. And it probably goes without saying that the ever-mystifying Weinstein Brothers’ singularly peculiar notion that The Artist would be great for Mother’s Day bore scant fruit and is making a quick disappearance.

Special Screenings

Apart from the aforementioned His Girl Friday on May 16, which is a different kind of special screening, we have the full set of the usual offerings this week. The Thursday Horror Picture Show is running J.A. Bayone’s The Orphanage (2007) at 8 p.m. on Thu., May 17 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing David Cronenberg’s Crash (1997) on Fri., May 18 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Nicholas Hytner’s The Madness of King George (1994) is this week’s film from the Hendersonville Film Society at 2 p.m. on Sun., May 20 in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. On Tue., May 22 the Asheville Film Society is screening the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s paper with expanded coverage in the online edition.


It’s an unusually heavy week for DVD releases—and at least two of the titles, Albert Nobbs and Rampart, are pretty choice. For that matter, Chronicle is a lot better than average. Then there’s The Grey, which impressed a lot of people more than it did me, and One for the Money, which impressed almost no one.

Notable TV Screenings

There’s good stuff on TCM, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary, so I leave you to the TCM grid—and anything anyone else feels is worth pointing out.

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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7 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 16-22: Battleship Dictator of Life

  1. Orbit DVD

    One dvd to note that has been staggering onto the shelves this month is Scorsese’s HBO documentary of George Harrison. We got it last week, but I think it streeted on the 1st.

    Also out is THE DEVIL INSIDE, THE UNIVERSE SEASON 6 and the Criterion release of BEING JOHN MALKOVICH.

  2. Me

    I most have missed that part. The controversial film Michael from last years release comes out as well.

  3. Me

    If anybody interested TCM is playing the cult film Ganja and Hess at the 2am slot tomorrow night.

    Ken what do you think of Drew Barrymore hosting TCM now, seems like and odd choice to me?

  4. Ken Hanke

    Ken what do you think of Drew Barrymore hosting TCM now, seems like and odd choice to me?

    Odd is a nice way of putting it, yes. Listening to her expound on Sunrise is not very edifying. But let’s be honest, we don’t get anything all that substantial or in depth from Osborne either.

  5. Me

    Yeah your right about Osborne i guess, its not like hes the Matt Pinfield of films or anything.

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