Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 26-June 1: Sand, sex and some good stuff, too

In theaters

Yeah, you got sex in the city and sand in the desert this week. Come to think of it, you’ve got sex in the sand (which sounds monstrously uncomfortable to me), given that the Sex and the City ladies venture into exotic desert locales for Sex and the City 2. I can’t say I’m all that jazzed about either it or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but there are a couple non-mainstream items that more than make up for it. Unfortunately for me, I’ve already seen them.

Two films of note open this week: Exit Through the Gift Shop (Fine Arts) and The Square (Carolina Asheville). Since these are both films I’ve seen and since the reviews for both (and an interview with the director of The Square) appear in this week’s Xpress, I won’t say much about them here. I will, however, note that both are well worth your while. One may be the greatest put-on since Orson Welles convinced the U.S. that Martians were invading New Jersey—or perhaps not. The other very possibly heralds the arrival of an important new filmmaker.

I do want to encourage viewers to get to the Fine Arts to see James Ivory’s The City of Your Final Destination before it vanishes on Friday. I didn’t expect to like this film and was greatly surprised by how much I did like it. I’m even more surprised by how it has lingered in my mind. Unfortunately, almost no one went to see it over the weekend and it’s on the chopping block. It’s a pity, too, because it’s a film that definitely benefits from the big screen. Check out the review as soon as you can (it should be up in the online edition at midnight), and catch the film while you can.

Now about the mainstream things …

You already know if you’re going to go see Sex and the City 2—or if you’re going to be dragged to it. Nothing I can say is going to make the slightest bit of difference and we all know it. I saw the first one. It caused me no joy. I have agreed—in a show of solidarity—to sit through this one with Justin Souther, whose lot in life is to review it. It is perhaps worth considering that it has garnered three reviews so far on Rotten Tomatoes—and they are not pretty, to put the kindest possible construction on them.

In the end, it probably comes down to how much you feel the need to see Sarah Jessica Parker and company ride camels (stylish white camels, mind you), or how invested you are in whether Parker will throw over Chris Noth for John Corbett (two guys who prove you can take the star out of the TV, but you can’t take the TV out of the star). What’s a Liza Minnelli cameo or the stars doing a Karaoke version of “I Am Woman” to a roomful of oppressed Middle-Eastern women worth to you? Of course, my suspicions may be unfounded and this might turn out to be a delightful comedic treat. Being pleasantly surprised is always pleasant. In this case, it would certainly be a surprise.

I confess to knowing very little about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I know that a friend of mine who is fond of the video game on which it’s based is all a-dither over what the trailer promises. I know that it stars a buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal sporting hair that looks like it needs to be laid out on paper towels to drain like bacon. I know that Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina are in it, but then again Sir Ben was also in Thunderbirds and Uwe Boll’s BloodRayne, so his presence is certainly no barometer of quality. It looks big. It looks flashy. It oozes money. And it’s curious that none of the local theaters whose listings I’ve seen has it on more than one screen.

Still hanging on we have The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Fine Arts) and The Ghost Writer (Carolina). The return of City Island to local screens (Carolina) seems to have given that film a new lease on life—at least for a while. Alice in Wonderland has finally departed from the Beaucatcher, but is around in the first three slots at Asheville Pizza and Brewing for another week. Asheville Pizza will also offer the classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) in the 10 p.m. slot. This is one of those rare movies that only gets funnier with the passage of time.

On other fronts, we have the initial Tuesday-night Asheville Film Society screening tonight at 8 p.m. at the Carolina with the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple (1984)—a choice designed to put viewers in the mood for the AFS kickoff event on Friday, with a 7:55 p.m. showing of The Square followed by a small soiree in the Cinema Lounge. And, of course, there’s Frankenstein (1931) at the Thursday Horror Picture Show in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina at 8 p.m. (on Thursday, as you might have guessed).

On DVD

Well, this isn’t very exciting. The mainstream offerings this week amount to the Nicholas Sparks sudser Dear John and John Hillcoat’s film of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (talk about opposite ends of the literary spectrum!). I avoided the first one and plan on continuing that practice unless someone can come up with a really compelling reason why I should do otherwise. Most people seem to have avoided The Road, which I simply never got around to. Perhaps now I will. It’s certainly the only thing—mainstream or otherwise—that entices me this week.

Notable TV screenings

Things don’t get a lot brighter here, but I do find the following interesting and out-of-the-ordinary:

Early John Wayne-a-thon 6 a.m. till 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 26, TCM
In one of their birthday salutes, TCM has opted to honor John Wayne with a run of 11 of his early movies, followed by the movie where he “arrived,” Stagecoach (1939). I’m not much for John Wayne as a rule, but most of these early films are little-seen and a few deserve to be better known than they are. A couple of the movies on the list—Baby Face (1933) and The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933)—are cheats, because Wayne is in them, but only in very minor roles. During the era in question, most of Wayne’s work was in low-budget—sometimes poverty-row level—westerns. After a series of these for Warner Bros. came to an end with The Man from Monterey (1933), Wayne found himself at Monogram Pictures—hardly an auspicious move. The films being shown here are mostly from the Warner Bros. era with three of his Monogram oaters thrown in: The Sagebrush Trail (1933), Randy Rides Alone (1934) and The Star Packer (1934).

In all honesty, I’ve probably seen all these films over the years, but I remember almost nothing about any of them. I know that both Haunted Gold (1932) and The Star Packer (1934) fall into the peculiar realm of “strange on the range” by incorporating horror-movie elements. I’m curious to see those again, though vague memory tells me they’re not very exciting. What I’m really hoping is to discover the identity of an early Wayne film I saw and liked one afternoon about 40 years ago. I suspect it’s either The Man from Monterey (1932) or Somewhere in Sonora (1933). I guess I’ll know soon enough.

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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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5 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 26-June 1: Sand, sex and some good stuff, too

  1. One big omission from the dvd releases. TRUE BLOOD SEASON 2 is hokey, about vampires and the biggest hit that we’ve seen since THE WIRE.

    Another Criterion release this week is BY BRAKAGE VOLUME 2. Both volumes are now available on blu-ray as well.

  2. Ken Hanke

    One big omission from the dvd releases. TRUE BLOOD SEASON 2 is hokey, about vampires and the biggest hit that we’ve seen since THE WIRE

    Not an omission really, since I don’t deal with TV. I wouldn’t know where to begin.

  3. I’m of two minds of PRINCE OF PERSIA. On the one hand, it has potential to be an enjoyable adventure flick, Molina’s always good, Gyllenhall’s Clive Owen impressions sounds entertaining and I’ve been impressed by Gemma Arterton on occasion. On the other hand, the trailer hints at a mess of tepid CGI flim-flam and it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

  4. Ken Hanke

    the trailer hints at a mess of tepid CGI flim-flam and it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer

    Exactly my feelings on the matter. I don’t dread seeing it, but I’m not expecting a lot.

  5. Son of Rufus

    Man, there are very few things I wouldn’t give up for a chance to see Monty Python and the Holy Grail on the big screen. I’ve loved it ever since the first time I saw it in middle school. And it has always been slightly annoying how the animation never fits on the screen no matter if you watch on VHS or DVD. I assume that wouldn’t be the case in a theatrical version.

    As far as everything else mentioned in this article, I pretty much agree with the applicable stuff (I’m not considering the indie stuff applicable to me since there is nowhere nearby that shows limited release indie films).

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