Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 24-Nov. 30: A faster burlesque tangled with other drugs

In theaters

Since it’s Thanksgiving, everything opens on Wednesday this week. The idea is not merely to cash in on the fact that school will be out, but also it serves the public function of providing something that families can do together without the need for actual interaction. In this regard, Hollywood probably prevents thousands of murders a year. That’s admirable. I cannot, however, pretend any great personal excitement over the bill of fare this year.

For a change, there are no art/indie titles this week—only a quartet of mainstream offerings designed to tempt every possible moviegoing taste. We have animation from Disney. We have a musical. We have an action picture. And we have a sort of romantic comedy. If we are wise, we also have Alka-Seltzer—and will remember that Tamara Drewe, Fair Game and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 are also still out there.

At the top of the list—mindful of the family market and its attendant kiddie quotient—there’s Tangled, a computer-animated rethinking of the Rapunzel story. The early reviews are filled with words like “awesome” and phrases like “one of the best films of the year.” The handful of nay-sayers are folks I rarely agree with, so maybe there’s something to it. We’ll see. Nothing about the trailer does it for me, though. It looks like it’s Disney doing the Shrek postmodern snarky thing. Considering that I have a hunch I’m reviewing it (Mr. Souther and I have not yet finished carving up who gets what with the week’s assortment), I would dearly love to discover that it truly is worthy of all the early praise.

Assuming Tangled is too tame for you, we also have Christina Aguilera in her dramatic debut—with a little assistance from Cher—in Burlesque. I can’t help it—I have visions of a Glitter (2001) for the 2010s here. And it doesn’t help in the least that I find the appeal of this whole neo-burlesque thing perplexing. The fact that this is a stock rags-to-sequins yarn about the proverbial green kid from the sticks who comes to the Big City to make good does suggest that there could be some kitsch value to it all. But again, I’m not feeling it—at least not from the trailer. In fact, I’m thoroughly sick of the trailer and its uncanny ability to cram every backstage musical cliché imaginable into two-and-a-half minutes.

Now I like Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, and I’ll concede that the trailer for Love and Other Drugs doesn’t look bad. I’m actually more interested in the film since it’s provoked such wildly divergent—and mostly negative—early reviews. I’m fully prepared for the fact that it mixes the romcom with soap and satire, and I’m not especially bothered by that. What worries me is the fact that it was directed by Edward Zwick—a man who can usually be counted on to bleed the fun out of anything through some weird compulsion to make an Important Statement. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him fail to accomplish this. The upshot is that I’m approaching this with extreme caution.

On the other hand, there’s always Faster—an R-rated actioner that pits Dwayne Johnson (we’ve totally dispensed with “The Rock,” I guess) as a venegeful ex-con, called simply “Driver” in the IMDb credits, against Billy Bob Thornton as a veteran cop, listed simply as “Cop.” In other words, you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get here. And as far as people who opine about such things on message boards are concerned, the return of Mr. Johnson to the realm of R-rated action fills a long-felt want. Judging by the character names—or lack thereof—this must be some sort of existential thriller involving archetypes rather than characters. Well, it’s either that or no one thought such frippery was necessary and that may be true. Personally, I’m fascinated by Johnson’s ability to keep his head neatly shaved but apparent inability to accomplish the same with his face.

While all this is going on, I should state that Four Lions ends today at The Carolina, but, as noted, Tamara Drewe remains. Both Fair Grame and Inside Job are sticking around the Fine Arts for one more week. Though this is almost certainly the last week for Inside Job, since both the Fine Arts and The Carolina are slated to open one of the biggest art titles of the year next week. (Yes, I know what it is. And, yes, I’ve seen it. And, no, I won’t tell you.)

In the area of special screenings we find World Cinema taking the Thanksgiving week off. The Thursday Horror Picture Show, however, serves up some seasonally appropriate fowl with Bride of the Monster (1955) and The Devil Bat (1940) on Thursday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. In the same turkey-centric vein, the Hendersonville Film Society closes out its year (they shut down for December) with The Story of Mankind (1957) on Sunday, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society offers Ernst Lubitsch’s One Hour With You (1932) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Short reviews of all these can be found in this week’s Xpress, with full reviews available in the online edition at www.mountainx.com/movies.

On DVD

I’m not whelmed by this week’s releases. I didn’t mind sitting through Eat Pray Love in the theater, but once was certainly enough. I kind of did mind sitting through the bogus documentary I’m Still Here, and I am most assuredly not doing it twice. The Expendables expended its minimal value on one viewing. And I am more than willing to accept Justin Souther’s view that Flipped was to be avoided. But cheer up: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse comes out next week.

Notable TV screenings

Absolutely nothing jumps out at me on TCM this week, so you’re left to your own devices.

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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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15 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 24-Nov. 30: A faster burlesque tangled with other drugs

  1. On the other hand, there’s always Faster—an R-rated actioner that pits Dwayne Johnson
    I find Johnson pretty agreeable when used right and I reckon he’d make a fine light action lead in a vaguely Bruce Willisy kind of way, but this doesn’t seem like that kind of picture.

  2. Me

    Notable Tv screening HBO is premiering Scorsese doc about Fran Lebowitz, it reaffirms that his best work these days is his documentaries.

  3. Ken Hanke

    it reaffirms that his best work these days is his documentaries.

    In your opinion. Definitely not in mine.

  4. DrSerizawa

    Hmmm. 8PM your time is 6PM my time. With the extended family coming to my place as usual for Thanksgiving maybe I’ll inflict my “Bride of the Monster” DVD on my guests. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a convert or two. Maybe I’ll have a smaller Thanksgiving next year.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Maybe I’ll have a smaller Thanksgiving next year.

    Is that inherently a bad thing?

  6. Hiker

    “since both the Fine Arts and The Carolina are slated to open one of the biggest art titles of the year next week. (Yes, I know what it is. And, yes, I’ve seen it. And, no, I won’t tell you.)”

    Hint please? Out of town & here’s the dilemma…whether to drive 1.5 hours to see TGWKTHN or (preferably) see it next week in A. Maybe I can wait if I know I can count on it being in A theaters by…?

  7. Hiker

    TGWKTHN…when? where? desperately need to know. btw…love your reviews.

  8. Ken Hanke

    TGWKTHN…when? where? desperately need to know.

    Actually, I don’t have a date on Hornet’s Nest. I was actually talking about (OK, I’ll say it) Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. I’d be surprised if Hornet’s Nest opens before Dec. 10 — and that date’s not firm.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Did you honestly think it was going to be a hit — even of art house proportions?

  10. Me

    Not at all, but i was hoping it would at least last a couple of weeks.

  11. Ken Hanke

    If it hadn’t been for the Wed. releases, it would have. Actually, it did surprisingly well in its first weekend, but the audience for it was simply limited.

  12. DrSerizawa

    Maybe they should have added more explosions, had cuts every 2 seconds and added some CGI car chases to “Four Lions”. And Megan Fox, don’t forget Megan Fox.

    I’d have gone to see it but the Salt Lake Film Society hasn’t hosted it. Another one for Netflix. Believe it or not the SLFC is screening major releases “Tamara Drewe” and “Fair Game”. I’m not sure why. It’s not like those aren’t already playing in every multiplex.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Maybe they should have added more explosions, had cuts every 2 seconds and added some CGI car chases to “Four Lions”. And Megan Fox, don’t forget Megan Fox.

    Honestly, even for an “art” title, it was a hard-sell. I was surprised it did as well as it did — subject, lack of stars and accents that might make you go for the optional subtitles when you rent the DVD. All these things worked against it.

    Believe it or not the SLFC is screening major releases “Tamara Drewe” and “Fair Game”. I’m not sure why. It’s not like those aren’t already playing in every multiplex.

    Actually, they are considered “art titles.” (Anything that doesn’t come from a major studio — or comes from one of their art/indie branches — comes under that heading.) I’m surprised they’re on multiple screens there. Now, the AFS did have a screening of Tamara Drewe as one of the perks you get for being an AFS member — a free showing of a new film a couple days before it opens. We did that with I Am Love, Ondine and The Extra Man, too. Of course, this requires permission from the distributor, which is one of the reasons we don’t do it more frequently. This, however, has nothing to do with our weekly Tue. night showings.

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