Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 2-8: Avenger Damsels in Deep Blue Distress

In Theaters

Probably only a mere handful of us care that anything other than The Avengers is opening this week — and those of us who care about those other things probably are pretty ambivalent about The Avengers. It evens out. But the fact remains that there indeed are other things, and some of them are mighty tasty.

Again, I find myself in the same hateful conundrum as last week — with two art titles that are good enough to qualify for the status of Weekly Pick. In this case, however, there was a clear winner for me with Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress (opening at the Fine Arts) edging out — if only just — Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea (opening at The Carolina). But it’s probably more a matter of the former being a kind of movie that simply has greater personal appeal for me, and not one of quality. Again, these are not films that are reasonably compared. Indeed, apart from the fact that both of them are excellent, neither has much in common with the other. Damsels in Distress is a quirky comedy (where the quirk is genuine and earned) and The Deep Blue Sea is a beautifully crafted drama. How do you compare those? The simple truth is that you can’t. Once more, my suggestion is that you manage to take them both in. At the very least, look over both reviews and see which is more likely to suit you. (I suspect that Damsels in Distress is more likely to be a polarizing experience.)

I am almost relieved to be able to note that next week, there’s only one art title slated to hit town. (And, no, it’s not The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Right now, that’s not scheduled to show up here till May 25.)

So what does that leave us this week? Well, one of them you know, but there’s a surprise on tap, too.

The known quantity, of course, is Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. (I confess that when I see the words The Avengers, I think it has something to do with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, but that only proves that I am far from comic book literate.) What is there to be said about this? Now that the dust has settled, we know it’s already raked in $185 million overseas, that it currently resides as the 26th best movie ever made on the IMDb rankings, that it comes with a load of good reviews, and that, even if it’s only mediocre, it will make so much money that the folks at Disney can stop crying over the John Carter box-office fiasco. This is the payoff for all those tag scenes with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury at the end of those other Marvel superhero movies. It’s the superhero equivalent of those old Universal “monster rallies” — only a lot more expensive and, at 142 minutes, more than twice as long. The thing is, I’ve liked both Iron Man movies and I liked Thor. I didn’t see Captain America, because the character always bored me. I suspect I’ll be more in tune with this Hulk since Mark Ruffalo is playing him and not Edward Norton. Am I excited? Not really, no, but I’m curious. I’m also more than a little alarmed by stills that look like they came from a Transformers movie.

In the surprise department, there’s the documentary Bully, which even more surprisingly is opening at the Carmike 10. This, of course, is the film that the ever-shrewd Weinsteins managed to drum up a ton of free publicity for by fighting with the MPAA rating, arguing — along with a great many people — that the film ought to be rated so that children can see it. (Just how many children are going to flock to a documentary about bullying — or anything else — on their own was never brought up.) So here we are, minus a few F words, with that PG-13 they were after. The question now is how many people are still fired up about seeing the film now that the fracas is over.

So this week what do we lose? Well, The Carolina is dropping Marley (which did surprisingly well) and In Darkness, but holding on to Being Flynn and The Kid with the Bike. The Fine Arts is splitting the underperforming Footnote with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, but I expect them both to vanish next week. That hold-over of The Raid: Redemption at the Carmike has also come to an end.

Special Screenings

The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is the debatable classic Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) on Thursday, May 3, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is showing the Oscar-nominated animated film Persepolis (2008) at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 4, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. Lady Jane (1986) is this weeks Hendersonville Film Society offering at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 6, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society starts priming the area for the new Tim Burton film by screening Burton’s classic Ed Wood (1994) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all movies in this week’s paper with expanded coverage in the online edition.


It’s not exactly a prime week on DVD, but we do get Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. But at the same time, there’s Joyful Noise and New Year’s Eve. Really, the best thing out is Martin Scorsese’s nearly four-hour documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which I got some time back from a friend who’d been to Scotland where it’s been available for some time. If you’re a fan, it’s definitely a must. If you’re not, you probably aren’t considering it anyway.

Notable TV screenings

Well, TCM is largely in its usual suspects mode, but we do have Cecil B. DeMille’s absolutely preposterous first talkie Dynamite (1929) at 7 a.m. on Thursday, May 3. For his first sound movie, DeMille opted for a spectacularly ridiculous story about society woman Kay Johnson who needs a husband in order to gain an inheritance, so she marries death row convict Charles Bickford. Guess who gets pardoned at the last minute? Complications ensue. Since it was a sound picture, DeMille seems to have crammed it with as much noise as was humanly possible. Just be glad it’s not in five channel surround.

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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9 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 2-8: Avenger Damsels in Deep Blue Distress

  1. luluthebeast

    While THE AVENGERS will be getting my Friday Senior Matinee Special ($4.50 in 2D) I would love to see both DAMSEL’S IN DISTRESS and THE DEEP BLUE SEA on the big screen, but I will be surprised if they ever make it here to Green Bay, so I will probably have to wait for On-Demand. Five screens between two theaters taken up by THE AVENGERS and other movies that should have been out of here a couple of weeks ago.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I will probably have to wait for On-Demand

    I honestly don’t think Asheville knows how good it’s got it in the art/indie/offbeat movie department.

    • luluthebeast

      You’re right. At least in Milwaukee we had a couple of art movie houses. Sometimes they will sneak one into the smallest theater for a week, but I will always prefer to see a film on the big screen.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Glad you finally got to check out the Harrison documentary.

    Isn’t it curious that like the Who film The Kids Are Alright, this doesn’t actually include the song referenced in the title on its soundtrack?

  4. Ken Hanke

    I will always prefer to see a film on the big screen.

    Exempting those you’d have preferred not to see at all?

  5. DrSerizawa

    In other news, Scarlett Johansson was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damm. (ba da bing!)

  6. Ken Hanke

    Until they mend their ways and give Gustav von Seyffertitz a star, I refuse to acknowledge the whole thing.

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