Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 5-11: The Iron Man cometh

In theaters

It’s the weekend that Iron Man 2 opens. What else do you need to know? Whether or not you’re keen on seeing it, it’s the big news this week—and besides the only other thing opening is Babies. So you might as well settle back and enjoy it as best you can. Personally, I’m OK with it, but I’m not exactly a-dither. I liked the original, but I wasn’t as crazy about it as a lot of people seemed to be. I thought—and still think—that it had an amazingly flat ending that was mostly overlooked due to the charisma of Robert Downey Jr. and the surprising chemistry between him and Gwyneth Paltrow.

That will undoubtedly be alive and well in round two—and, with apologies to Jeff Bridges, I can’t say I’m not pretty jazzed about the prospect of Mickey Rourke playing a Russian villain. Throw in Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell and the prospects are improving all the time. And while there’s been the expected carping and kvetching about this not being as good as the original (isn’t there always?), there have also been some remarks about Iron Man 2 going a long way toward a repeat of its predecessor’s unsatisfying big final scene. Let’s hope so. Clapton knows, after last week’s double dose of A Nightmare on Elm Street and (sweet merciful King of Glory!) Furry Vengeance we’re owed something by the movie industry.

Of course, there’s also the French documentary Babies. No, you needn’t run screaming for the exits over its nationality, because it doesn’t appear to require reading subtitles. What it appears to require, rather, is the belief that nothing could be cuter than spending 79 minutes watching cute babies do cute things. (I may have to rethink my qualms about all the cutaways to the Boston terrier in The Back-up Plan.) For folks who find babies endlessly fascinating, it’s probably just what the pediatrician prescribed. Others, however, may be less enthused about watching the one-year progress of four babies from different parts of the world—the U.S., Japan, Mongolia and Namibia—for the length of even a reasonably short feature. Both camps know who they are.

At the same time, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Greenberg are still with us at the Fine Arts. In fact, the utterly polarizing Greenberg actually did better in its second week than its first, but it definitely seems to more than alienate some viewers. More amazingly, The Ghost Writer is hanging on at the Carolina, as are Mother, Chloe and North Face, though the latter three have been reduced to two shows a day come Friday. Alice in Wonderland in 3-D still adorns the Beaucatcher—at least during the daylight hours. In the evenings, it makes way for a third print of Iron Man 2. If there’s anybody out there who hasn’t seen and wants to see The Runaways, make it quick. After Thursday it will be gone from the Carolina.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show makes its monthly appearance this Saturday at 11 p.m. at the Carolina. The Hendersonville Film Society skips this week, owing to Mother’s Day, but World Cinema brings in Andrzej Wajda’s highly acclaimed Man of Iron at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Courtyard Gallery. And, of course, Mr. Souther and I will be hosting the Thursday Horror Picture Show at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina. This week is the double feature of the classic Karloff-Lugosi horror thrillers The Black Cat and The Raven—and, yes, it’s free, so come out and join us for the mayhem.

On DVD

While I did think Rob Marshall’s Nine was better than either its critical or box-office reception indicated at Christmastime, I can’t claim that I believe anyone should run right out and rent it or buy it on DVD. I’ll merely note that it got a raw deal and that it hits DVD this week. On the other hand, I will warn you against Leap Year, a romantic comedy that works overtime to prove that not all movies built around Amy Adams are worthwhile—and proves it spectacularly. That still is probably preferable to Dwayne Johnson in just about anything, but especially in Tooth Fairy. I didn’t review it and I didn’t see it and that can remain unchanged.

However, all is not lost this week in the realm of the DVD. Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro is finally making it to DVD. Asheville is one of the few places where Tetro played theatrically—albeit not for very long—so some of you know what a tremendous and special film this is. It’s easily the best thing Coppola has made since Apocalypse Now. That’s a strong statement, but I think the film supports it. Unfortunately, some of its impact and sheer beauty will be lost on even the best home video setup, but it should retain enough to allow you to get a feel for what a stunning work this is—and to make you kick yourself for missing it in the theater if you did.

Notable TV screenings

The Fountainhead 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, TCM
OK, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is a fairly silly novel—a mix of about 10 percent insightful observation and 90 percent crackpot philosophy (oh, I’ll hear about that from some quarters). But King Vidor’s 1949 film of it—from a screenplay by La Rand herself—is an overwrought, overheated delight that oozes with the sexuality of stars Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. (That they were embroiled in a real-life affair at the time may enter into this.) Vidor himself had no great love for the book, and in fact argued that the ending where Howard Roark (Cooper) blows up his compromised vision for a housing project was absurd and needed changing. (It is not on record as to how he wanted it changed.) But with Rand overseeing the production, that wasn’t happening. So instead Vidor busied himself with the sexuality of the thing and crafting what is probably the most utterly stylized film of its era. This was made at a time when movies were more and more embracing “realism” and often shooting on location. Not so here. Nearly everything is exaggerated and larger-than-life. Symbolism and psychological sets dominate everything. It’s hard to take it terribly seriously—which may be a good thing, considering aspects of its theme and its rape-fantasy level of “romance”—but it’s certainly something to see. Whether you find its symbols and pretensions meaningful or unintentionally funny, they’re undeniably entertaining.

Jewel Robbery 6 a.m. Saturday, May 8, TCM
William Powell and Kay Francis star in William Dieterle’s Jewel Robbery (1932), one of the great—and often overlooked—comedy gems of what may just be the best year the movies ever had. (Yes, I know that’s supposed to have been 1939, but it isn’t.) It may also be the most amazingly pre-code movie you’ll ever encounter. If there’s any aspect of the impending 1934 production code that Jewel Robbery doesn’t cheerfully break, it wasn’t for want of trying. Powell plays a sophisticated (OK, it’s Powell so that’s a given) thief, who makes off with Kay Francis’ jewels and her affections during a robbery. (You may well be surprised at how Powell subdues his victims while he makes his getaway—and even more surprised by how much the victims seem to like his method.) Of course, the fact that she’s married ought to be a stumbling block, but hey, this is pre-code, and given the choice between the sexy, sophisticated Powell and the rather dull Henry Kolker, who plays Francis’ husband, it’s impossible to question her choice. Then again, aren’t criminals supposed to suffer the consequences of their crimes? Well, in the land of the pre-code film that’s not such a given. Granting that 6 a.m. is a most unreasonable hour for a movie like this to be shown, I’ll merely note that this is the reason Tivo and DVR were made.

Murder in the Private Car 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, TCM
“Hell and a lot of laughter breaks loose in Murder in the Private Car” and “24 hours on a speeding train with a mad man and the world’s dumbest detective” is how the trailer promotes this 1934 mystery/comedy starring Charlie Ruggles (“the world’s dumbest detective”) and Una Merkel. That’s actually a pretty fair assessment. (The fact that it’s also trumpeted as being based on the “hit” play The Rear Car seems to use the word “hit” rather loosely.) Chances are that you’ve never heard of this bizarre little B picture. I’d never heard of it until about 20 years ago when someone sent me a copy of it that had been taped off TNT back when TNT was exploring the MGM, Warner Bros. and RKO vaults Ted Turner had acquired. It was your proverbial love at first sight. It’s a fairly ridiculous thriller with a bumbling detective (he calls himself a “deflector”) trying to prevent the murder of a newly found heiress (Mary Carlisle) on her way to claim her inheritance. (Newly found heiresses are always at risk, you know.) In essence, it’s an old dark-house mystery—complete with clutching hands—that’s been transported to a train. If you can imagine any possible genre convention, it’s in here—right down to the ever popular escaped gorilla. Look, you’ve got your man in a gorilla suit (Ray Corrigan), you’ve got your threatening notes, you’ve got your sudden plunges into darkness. And if that’s not enough, you’ve got a circus train wreck (which affords the spectacle of Charlie Ruggles holding a kangaroo by the tail) and a runaway-train-car finale. It would be absurd to ask for more.

SHARE
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."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

53 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 5-11: The Iron Man cometh

  1. In essence, it’s an old dark-house mystery—complete with clutching hands—that’s been transported to a train.
    Based on the film’s release date, the play must have predated Murder on the Orient Express. Interesting…

  2. Ken Hanke

    Based on the film’s release date, the play must have predated Murder on the Orient Express. Interesting…

    Dame Agatha was not always scrupulously original. Her And Then There Were None bears more than a slight resemblance to a 1930 novel called Invisible Host, which was filmed in 1934 as The Ninth Guest (and then reworked — without credit — as the Karloff vehicle The Man They Could Not Hang). But in this case, I think it unlikely she’d ever heard of the play The Rear Car, which apart from being the source for this film, I can find no trace of. I doubt it was a hit of any kind and probably never made it to Broadway or the West End. Anyhow, she didn’t include a gorilla or a kangaroo. (And I doubt the play did.)

  3. Ken Hanke

    Whats the word on the Banksy film is it coming to The Carolina?

    Exit Through the Gift Shop is supposed to open at the Fine Arts, but there’s no word on when.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I know. Perhaps future adaptations can correct this oversight

    Any movie can be improved by a man in a gorilla suit. Tell me it wouldn’t improve Gone with the Wind, I dare you.

  5. Any movie can be improved by a man in a gorilla suit. Tell me it wouldn’t improve Gone with the Wind, I dare you.
    I couldn’t agree more. I’m writing one into a screenplay right at this moment.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m writing one into a screenplay right at this moment

    Do not overlook the vast potential of a monkey stampede.

  7. Dread P. Roberts

    Any movie can be improved by a man in a gorilla suit. Tell me it wouldn’t improve Gone with the Wind, I dare you.

    Be resonable sir. How could anyone possibly argue with that.

    Do not overlook the vast potential of a monkey stampede.
    Slightly beyond my budget.

    You can always paint a bunch of cats brown, and scare the hell out of them when you have the camera in place. Never underestimate the power of creative improvization.

  8. Ken Hanke

    You can always paint a bunch of cats brown, and scare the hell out of them when you have the camera in place. Never underestimate the power of creative improvization.

    Excellent suggestion. Seeing as Jeremy’s in Australia, I wouldn’t be against a wallaby stampede either, though it lacks simian value.

  9. Dread P. Roberts

    Excellent suggestion. Seeing as Jeremy’s in Australia, I wouldn’t be against a wallaby stampede either, though it lacks simian value.

    Well, if Jeremy could somehow accquire just one chimp, then I have an idea – have one camera filming the chimp jumping up and down (with a look of terror on his face, mind you), pointing at the impending doom of the wallaby stampede on the horizon. He’s desperately trying to warn others, but they just don’t understand him. The cameras cut from chimp to wallabies, faster and faster, as the stampede draws near. Intense stuff.

  10. Well, if Jeremy could somehow accquire just one chimp, then I have an idea – have one camera filming the chimp jumping up and down (with a look of terror on his face, mind you), pointing at the impending doom of the wallaby stampede on the horizon. He’s desperately trying to warn others, but they just don’t understand him. The cameras cut from chimp to wallabies, faster and faster, as the stampede draws near. Intense stuff.
    It would beat the climax of IRON MAN II all to hell!

  11. Ken Hanke

    It would beat the climax of IRON MAN II all to hell!

    Oh, dear, I was hoping that was the climax of Iron Man 2.

  12. Ken Hanke

    IRON MAN 2 expectations have turned into a frenzy due to this…

    The sad thing is that that clip isn’t any different from what you see on the CNN entertainment news.

  13. DrSerizawa

    So, no baboon stampedes this week either, eh? Too bad. Iron Man2 looks interesting. I rather liked the first one and am thankful that RDJr got his act together. I simply like everything I’ve seen him in since he got out of stir. I do hope we get more than a one note performance from Scarlett.

    I simply don’t know what I would do without TCM. It’s the only reason I have cable.

  14. I do hope we get more than a one note performance from Scarlett.
    Her performance is fine, but she’s given very little to do and the character is pretty superfluous. I would imagine she’s mainly there to set up either IRON MAN III or THE AVENGERS.

  15. Ken Hanke

    So, no baboon stampedes this week either, eh?

    Seemingly no.

    I do hope we get more than a one note performance from Scarlett

    Well, we’re bound to get at least two notes. (I tried to resist that. Honest.)

    I simply don’t know what I would do without TCM. It’s the only reason I have cable.

    You mean there are other channels?

  16. Sean Williams

    You mean there are other channels?

    There’s always H.B.O. — “Hey, Beastmaster’s On”.

  17. DrSerizawa

    Her performance is fine, but she’s given very little to do and the character is pretty superfluous.

    What? A superfluous character in a Hollywood actioner? Now I’m shocked! Maybe she should have worn the gorilla suit.

  18. Ken Hanke

    There’s always H.B.O.—“Hey, Beastmaster’s On”.

    Even without that drawback, the pay movie channels are, for me, like living through last year all over again — only usually in pan and scan.

  19. Dionysis

    “I simply don’t know what I would do without TCM. It’s the only reason I have cable.”

    “You mean there are other channels?”

    Hey, the Independent Film Channel isn’t too shabby either.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Hey, the Independent Film Channel isn’t too shabby either.

    That’s probably true, but I never can remember where it is on Direct TV, nor can I remember to check what’s on it.

  21. Dionysis

    “That’s probably true, but I never can remember where it is on Direct TV, nor can I remember to check what’s on it.”

    I have DirecTV as well; IFC recently moved from channel 550 to 559. They really do have some good stuff on there, including many indie films (kind of expected with their name, I guess).

  22. Maybe she should have worn the gorilla suit.
    I would have no problem with a film starring Scarlett Johanssen in a gorilla suit.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I looked over the IFC schedule for the next few weeks, and it rather looked like a rerun of the last five years of my life. Most of it was of the “once was enough” or things I already own variety. Sundance shakes out about the same way. I realize it’s partly the fact that I don’t like indie stuff nearly as much as I’m supposed to, but I think the kickers are these channels lack the comfort value of TCM and the “wow, I’ve been waiting to get that for years!” value, too. (Now, if someone spots either of them running Love and Human Remains, I’d appreciate a heads-up.) This is not, by the way, a quality assessment, merely a matter of personal taste.

  24. Me

    I love TCM but most of the movies they play are from around the same time period 30’s-50’s which don’t get me wrong but i wish they would shake it up a little more often.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I love TCM but most of the movies they play are from around the same time period 30’s-50’s which don’t get me wrong but i wish they would shake it up a little more often

    While I have some complaints about the tendency to show best-known films 12 times to more obscure titles once, I understand the logic behind that. I also deplore the excessive Oscar reverence and the fact that Robert Osborne and company have such a safe and narrow idea of “essentials.” And there’s way too much MGM worship.

    But I don’t have a problem with the ratio of older to newer movies. The 30s-50s is actually at least three distinct eras (I’d lean more toward five than three), so they don’t lump together into a single era for me. They’re also eras that are far less well-served by DVD or any other channel. I can buy or rent most things made in the last 30 years.

  26. Me

    By five do you mean 30’s-70’s? That’s what i was getting at i wish they would include more from the new Hollywood Era.

  27. Me

    Ken did you ever get to see the Z Channel back in the day i wish there was something like that around today?

  28. Ken Hanke

    By five do you mean 30’s-70’s? That’s what i was getting at i wish they would include more from the new Hollywood Era.

    No, I was objecting to calling 30s-50s an era as if there was a unifying type of movie for all those years when in fact those years break down into several different eras. Anyway, if I could wish away anything, it would be the bulk of of 1950s westerns and musicals. I don’t really feel the need of more in the way of newer movies from them for the reason I cited previously. I could, in fact, do without any more showings of, say, Ordinary People. I also remember all too well that more and more inroads into newer movies was the beginning of the end of AMC as a source for older movies.

    Ken did you ever get to see the Z Channel back in the day i wish there was something like that around today?

    No, that was never anywhere that I was.

  29. DrSerizawa

    I could, in fact, do without any more showings of, say, Ordinary People.

    I can proudly say that I’ve never seen it. Mary Tyler Moore gives me seizures.

    I also remember all too well that more and more inroads into newer movies was the beginning of the end of AMC as a source for older movies.

    That and the switch from no commercials to more commercials than TNT. It was also the last era where I watched anything on AMC. Come to think of it even TNT used to show decent stuff. I especially liked Monstervision. Now so many stations just show Law & Order, CSI and NCIS, etc reruns I’m wondering what happened? Can so many stations showing the same stuff actually make money? I guess so. But as far as I’m concerned AMC is RIP.

  30. Ken Hanke

    I can proudly say that I’ve never seen it. Mary Tyler Moore gives me seizures

    Not sure I’d go that far, but I’m also not sure I’ve ever watched the whole movie — at least in one sitting.

    That and the switch from no commercials to more commercials than TNT. It was also the last era where I watched anything on AMC.

    Before that, it was so full of 1950s B product that it started to be said that AMC stood for “Audie Murphy Channel.” My defection started in that era. I noticed the other day when the video projector in the Cinema Lounge at the Carolina had been left on AMC that they were showing a pan-and-scan of Polanski’s The Ninth Gate — in edited for television terms with commercials. I was not impressed.

    I think TNT stopped running movies when TCM came into being. But, boy, did they run some choice obscurities on there when they were new!

  31. Me

    AMC at least has a couple of good television shows being Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but as far as movies go yeah its pretty bad.

  32. Me

    Ordinary People was right after the new Hollywood period wasn’t it?

  33. Ken Hanke

    AMC at least has a couple of good television shows being Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but as far as movies go yeah its pretty bad

    Which is the point when we’re talking about movie channels.

    Ordinary People was right after the new Hollywood period wasn’t it?

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “new Hollywood period.”

  34. Ken Hanke

    Wait, are you saying you really don’t know what “The New Hollywood” period is?

    I know the period. I didn’t know it had grown a name. It used to be the era that followed the death of the superstar director era.

    No offense but sometimes i wonder how you got a job as a movie critic

    Would you tell me two things — 1. How is possible to not take offense at that remark? And 2. Why do you bother reading what I have to say and engaging me in conversation if you actually wonder that?

  35. Me

    I think its been called “New Hollywood” for at least 20 years or more.

  36. Ken Hanke

    It’s been called that by a handful of writers of academic books dating back to around 1993 from what I can tell. Is it in common usage? Not that I’m aware of. It probably depends on what circles you move in. Obviously, I don’t move in the right circles for you. I’d as soon leave it at that.

  37. Dread P. Roberts

    I’ve got some questions – who the hell cares about a period title like “New Hollywood”? Why does it matter what some people like to call a certain period? How does this, in any way, determine ones many markedly meaningful movie merits? (Too many M’s? Perhaps.)

  38. Me

    Its not just “some people” its the standard term for it, any film critic should no something like that its just the basics like New Wave, Silent Era or any other period.

  39. Ken Hanke

    Then why don’t you go read one of the critics who does “no” that and fits your definitions of what is acceptable in a film critic?

  40. Me

    I say a lot of dumb things on the internet sometimes that really make me look back and cringe “why did i say that”. I would like to apologize it just surprised me that you didn’t know the term was all.

  41. Ken Hanke

    Forget it. No bones were broken. A lot of times I think our jargon is strictly determined by when we were originally studying the topic.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.