Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 23-29: Best Exotic Chernobyl Men in Black

In Theaters

Only three movies come our way this week. Two of them look … well, pretty grim — or so it seems to me. The third is something else altogether — and something that does much to make up for the other two. Some may disagree.

I was actually quite surprised that there was a press screening of John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this past weekend. Judging by its early box office, it struck me as pretty much a pre-sold movie, not much in need of local reviews or promotion. All the same, I found myself — along with most other area critics — ensconced at The Carolina far too early on Saturday morning to get an early look at the film. That, of course, is why you’ll find my review of it in this week’s paper.

I’ll go ahead and say here that the film was almost exactly what I expected it to be — and possibly a little bit more. That’s to say that there were a few aspects of the film that did not do just what I expected, which in this case was a pleasant change. The film’s cast and trailer probably tell you that I’m also just the right age to respond positively to the movie, but I do suspect its appeal might well extend beyond those of us of the “proper age.”

I’d also like to take this opportunity to note that while The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is opening at the Fine Arts and The Carolina, I hear it is also opening at one of the big box corporate theaters, which happens three or four times a year when a “sure bet” art or indie title comes out. And I’d encourage readers to stop and think — The Carolina and the Fine Arts bring us this type of film 12 months out of the year and not just when there’s a sure thing. Even if that doesn’t stir some sense of loyalty, it’s as well to remember that it’s only by supporting these theaters that Asheville will continue to have the range of films we now enjoy.

I’ll now climb down from my soap box to take a look at the other offerings. And, oh, yes, before anyone asks, we are not slated to get Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom until late June or even early July.

So that brings us to a little opus called Chernobyl Diaries. What is it? Well, it’s one of those mostly unknown (or little known) cast things from an untried director. The draw name here is Oren Peli, the Paranormal Activity gentleman. That will appeal to some, though I confess I am not among them — no matter how much I liked Insidious. The story involves a bunch of 20-something Americans who opt to indulge in “extreme tourism” with a jaunt to Chernobyl. Naturally, things go wrong — and they find themselves not alone in the deserted city. Whether they are at the mercy of radiation zombies or the Russian version of radiated inbred cannibal hillbillies, neither the trailer, nor the synopsis indicate. And there have been no reviews, though some “user review” on the IMDb assures us that the film is well made because it has “camera pans, static shots, close-ups, and about six montages of the friends bonding.” Well, that just about covers it all, I reckon.

I wasn’t wild about the original and pretty completely dislilked Men in Black II when it appeared ten years ago, so I can’t claim to be all that jazzed by the prospect of Men in Black III — even if it is available in 3D. Was there really a huge desire for this sequel? Or is it simply Will Smith’s bid to restore his box office lustre after committing suicide with a jellyfish in the egregious Seven Pounds — that one kept him off the screen (deservedly) for four years. Whatever the case, here’s the sequel — but this time there’s the addition of time travel. That affords us the prospect of seeing Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. So there’s that and there’s the 3D option and the improvement of CGI effects in the last decade. Me? I think I’ll go to Chernobyl, given that option.

This week we also lose some things. The Carolina is dropping Being Flynn and The Deep Blue Sea. The Fine Arts is dropping The Salt of Life, but holding onto Monsieur Lazhar.

Twin Rivers Media Festival

Before getting down to the usual listings, I’d like to point out that this week is the annual Twin Rivers Media Festival. Below is the press release on the festival:

The 19th Twin Rivers Media Film Festival opens Friday May 25th through 27th,  at the Phil Mechanics Building at 109 Roberts St, and offers the community a chance to view interesting films, enjoy good food and drink, and mingle with special guest filmmakers all in one weekend.

The nineteenth annual festival has more than 30 selections that include world premier feature films, shorts drama, documentary and animated films shown in the Flood Fine Arts Center Library and the Courtyard Gallery both at the Phil Mechanics Building in the River Arts District of Asheville.

The Courtyard Gallery, the group that organizes the festival, has brought independent filmmaking to the area for the past 20 years.

Cynthia Potter coordinator of the film fest, said “this festival is a great way to bring the community together. And while most of the offerings are from International filmmakers, there is quite a bit of local talent showcased this year.”

“There are offerings from many in the area plus a chance to meet some of the filmmakers,” she said.

A short film called Pin was written and produced by Mountains Plain in Asheville and other local directors with films in the festival include Linda McLean presenting a series of “Little Pearls” and Asheville local, Giuli Schacht, presenting a flash-mob film produced at the Daytona 500.  Giuli will be on hand to offer insights on how to coordinate a group of 600 dancers to spontaneously break out in dance during a large car race.

The wide range of films vary from one set on the streets of India, Moscow, Milan, or Paris to one taking place at a futuristic clinic in Jerusalem, offering a young girl treatments to forget the violations of her father.  Or here in the states an eighth grade student, from Fargo, SD explores how it feels to be bullied in school for being “different.”

Documentary films range from films examining the closing of 25% of California’s State Parks, to Nullification of Federal Government Power and films exploring the effects of Tween Queen Competitions on young girls.

“This year’s festival is bigger and more prestigious with films coming from every corner of the world and the US, and although we all have different objectives, this is a good place for independents to get feedback and learn about filmmaking,” Ms. Potter said.

Cynthia said she was also excited about the pot luck lunch discussions with the Veterans for Peace and members of the Baha’i faith on Saturday from 11am to 1:30 pm after screening the world premiere documentary, American Veterans: Discarded and Forgotten and Education Under Fire. a film dealing with the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran.

The Flood Fine Arts Center Library is the venue for the opening night festivities, which include food and wine, and live music. The opening night movie, Siberia, Monamour is a drama from the Russian Federation shot entirely in Siberia about a young child living with his grandfather who befriends one of the feral dogs that has killed his uncle.

“All three of the winning feature films should be seen this year,” states Ms. Potter, “this is a chance for Asheville audiences to view world premiers that will be distributed in theaters later this year.

All screenings are free and open to the public but a donation is suggested. The Twin Rivers Film Festival Schedule is:

Friday, May 25th—7:30 p.m. –  Kick Off with:
Siberia, Monamour Directed by Slava Ross, Moscow, Russian Federation

American Veterans: Discarded and Forgotten by Gary Null, NY, NY, 11 a.m.
pot luck lunch 12-1 p.m.
Education Under Fire, Jeff Kaufman, Director, 1 p.m.

1:30-8pm Documentary Films, Animation and Experimental Film Winners Flood Fine Arts Center Library
1:30-8pm Short Drama Films, Courtyard Gallery

1pm-6pm: Documentary Films: Courtyard Gallery
1pm-6pm: Animation/Experimental and Commercial Film Winner, Flood Fine Arts Library

Friday June 1st 8pm
The Duck Hunter, Egidio Veronesi, Director, Modena, Italy
A film about memory and how it takes unexpected twists and turns in your life

Friday June 8th 8pm
A.L.F., Lescure Jerome, Paris France
The Animal Liberation Front makes an attack on a lab and a drama-teacher must make a choice between an easy life or going to jail for his beliefs.

All screenings are free and open to the public at the Phil Mechanics Building at 109 Roberts St. in the River Arts District of Asheville. Call 828-273-3332 for more information.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show is showing the Mexican thriller The Man and the Monster (1959) on Thursday, May 24, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. (Also, this is the week the new pre-movie serial The Lost City (1935) starts.) World Cinema is showing the Twin Rivers Media Festival opening night film Siberia, Monamour at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 25, in both the Railroad Library and the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening The Young Victoria (2009) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 27, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society closes out their May schedule with A. Edward Sutherland’s Mississippi (1935) with W.C. Fields and Bing Crosby on Tuesday, May 29, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in the Xpress with expanded reviews in the online edition.


The biggie to me this week is The Woman in Black, but there’s also The Secret World of Arrietty. And I suppose we should make note of This Means War, though I’m not exactly sure why.

Notable TV Screenings

Another rather slack week, though on Friday, May 25, at midnight, TCM is running one of Frank Borzage’s oddest movies, Strange Cargo (1940). In fact, odd is perhaps too mild, since this sex and religion mix is about the most peculiar thing to ever get sneaked past the MGM honchos.

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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17 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 23-29: Best Exotic Chernobyl Men in Black

  1. Ken Hanke

    Yes, I saw it. I can’t say it does much for me one way or the other, but it’s so brief and gives so little feel of the movie (I hope).

  2. Orbit DVD

    Also out this week is RED TAILS, Ewan MacGregor & Eva Green in PERFECT SENSE, DRAGONSLAYER, TEEN WOLF S1(surprisingly good MTV series). A special treat is the Eclipse release of films by Robert Downey SENIOR. Robert Downey JUNIOR blamed his dad for his drug abuse, and now you can see why.

  3. Me

    Thanks Orbit i didnt know the Downey thing was coming out. Did you hear that there is going to be an interview/ discussion with him and PT Anderson posted online very soon according to MUBI i believe it was.

  4. Tonberry

    Now, this…this is a trailer:

    Well, I’ll give it credit that you can tell its a Baz Luhrmann movie just a few seconds in. Yet, I find the music used in the trailer EXTREMELY off putting (and this is coming from someone who has tapped his toe to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” quite a few times) for the setting.

    I love “The Great Gatsby,” and I’m curious to see Luhrmann’s version. However, I am not an admirer of his other films, and this doesn’t look to change that.

    But this my dear friends, this is a trailer….

  5. Ken Hanke

    I am not an admirer of his other films, and this doesn’t look to change that.

    Yes, well…you have your problems.

    But this my dear friends, this is a trailer….

    Alas, not for anything that excites me.

    My posts seem to be potent today.

    I can fix that and will.

  6. Me

    I agree i am not a fan at all, with the exception of maybe his interpretation of Romeo and Juliet which i thought the juxtaposition worked. I seen it in high school so maybe i was just too young to know better.

  7. Me

    Can’t wait for Beasts of the Southern Wild its been getting crazy hype.

  8. Tonberry

    Yes, well…you have your problems

    99, to be exact.

    I respect Baz Lurhmann, his movies just don’t give me the fever.

  9. Ken Hanke

    So what exactly gives you the fever about this other trailer? I admit I’d never even heard of it, but I sure don’t get the appeal.

  10. Andy

    Hopefully these box-office numbers will bring the release for [i]Moonrise Kingdom[/i] closer.

  11. Tonberry

    So what exactly gives you the fever about this other trailer? I admit I’d never even heard of it, but I sure don’t get the appeal.

    It has an Aurochs.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Hopefully these box-office numbers will bring the release for Moonrise Kingdom closer.

    You mean that phenomenal performance it had this weekend? Probably it will. Probably it’ll also mean the corporate behemoth will descend on it a la Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (though I’m delighted to say that both the Fine Arts and The Carolina beat them on that).

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