Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 3-9: Soap, a doc, a comedy, animated 3-D and a biopic

In theaters

Well, here we go again—and, no, I don’t mean the fact that another Tyler Perry movie is coming out. Once more, a title has sneaked into town while I wasn’t looking (or at least after the print deadline). The week started out with the promise of For Colored Girls, The Tillman Story, Due Date and Megamind. Then last night out of nowhere Nowhere Boy was added to the list. I’m not complaining, mind you, because it’s a film I’m actually anxious to see, and one I was beginning to think was passing us by altogether.

Since I have no idea which of the mainstream titles—that is everything except Nowhere Boy and The Tillman Story—is the most anticipated (it’s probably a case of demographics), I’ll take them on alphabetically, I reckon. That means we’ll start with Due Date, the updated rethinking of Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), even if it technically isn’t. It’s Todd Phillips’ (of course) R-rated follow-up to his R-rated hit The Hangover, the movie that catapulted Zach Galifianakis to stardom. Mr. G. is back again, teamed with Robert Downey Jr. as the hapless guy who gets trapped into a road trip with Galifianakis’ character, who, according to the trailers, may be the world’s dumbest human being. The film will likely rise or fall based entirely on their chemistry. Nothing in the trailer suggests it has anything else particularly fresh about it.

Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls is the film version of the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Presumably, its title had to be shortened for the Twitter generation. It marks a departure for Perry, since this is the first time he has worked from material that isn’t his. As usual, he has managed to corral a sizable amount of talent and/or recognizable names—Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg—to aid him in his efforts. Early word has it that Mr. Perry has wrestled the play to the ground and turned it into yet another of his overheated soap operas. I already know I have to find out for myself. The rest of you have a choice.

Megamind—inevitably in 3-D on some screens—is the latest bout of animation from Dreamworks and the first from director Tom McGrath since Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008). There are the anticipated pricey voice actors—in this case, Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller—though I’ve yet to be convinced that voice actors really sell animated films. (They must do something, since Hollywood has been using them at least as far back as 1960 with the American dubbing of Alakazam the Great.) The trades—Hollywood Reporter and Variety—are split on it. I admit that the trailer doesn’t excite me much. It just looks too much like Despicable Me all over again.

Then there are the “art” titles. Sam Taylor Wood’s Nowhere Boy—a film about John Lennon’s (Aaron Johnson) pre-Beatles teenage years—has gotten good reviews. It rates an 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. It has not—despite the presence of Kristin Scott Thomas as Lennon’s Aunt Mimi—been raking in the money, even on the art circuit. This may or may not have something to do with the, shall we say, quixotic manner in which the Weinstein’s have been handling their product this year. Perhaps it’s just too specialized. In any case, it’s probably the film I’m most interested in seeing. That it has been booked into the Beaucatcher will likely not help matters. Nothing against the Beaucatcher, but art and indie titles have not traditionally fared well there.

Speaking of the quixotic Weinstein’s and strong approval ratings, the Fine Arts opens The Tillman Story this week. This is Amir Bar-Levi’s acclaimed documentary about NFL player Pat Tillman who walked away from a multimillion-dollar contract to go fight in Iraq and who was killed by friendly fire. His death was then used for propaganda purposes by the military, turning him into something he never was or intended to be. This film comes to town with a 92-percent approval rating. It boasts 71 good reviews against six bad ones. Considering that one of the bad ones comes from the ever-popular Armond White, a lot of people would probably lower the number to five.

As for what stays and what goes this week, I’m going ahead and telling you that the Weekly Pick in this week’s Xpress is Jack Goes Boating. Why am I telling you this before the issue hits the streets? Simply because it fared so poorly over the weekend that this Thursday is its last day. So if you have any interest in it, a certain degree of hurry-up is involved. It’s briefly at the Fine Arts. Departing from The Carolina is Never Let Me Go, though You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Heartbreaker and Catfish are hanging on at least one more week.

The special screenings this week start with Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) from the Thursday Horror Picture Show on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema brings back Jeunet and Caro’s Delicatessen (1991) at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic Studios building. Terence Fisher’s Four Sided Triangle (1953) is showing courtesy of the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lakepoint Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has the original 1934 version of Little Miss Marker at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 9, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. Reviews of all these are in this week’s Xpress, with extended reviews in the online edition at www.mountainx.com/movies.

On DVD

This may be the most peculiar week I’ve seen in terms of new mainstream releases. Why? Well, apart from Toy Story 3, there aren’t any! In fact, of the other titles listed, the only one that even played in Asheville at all is Neil Marshall’s Centurion, which was part of ActionFest last spring.

Personally, I’m most interested in a new set of Bing Crosby pictures from Universal—and this is mostly because, within its confines, they’ve finally found a home for the 1935 W.C. Fields picture Mississippi. I’m not sorry to see Sing You Sinners (1938) either, if only because I’ve never seen it before. And Bing’s very pleasant, but generally overlooked Welcome Stranger (1947). Those titles alone will get me to pick the set up.

Notable TV screenings

Foreign Correspondent Friday, Nov. 5, at 3:45 p.m.
This is Alfred Hitchcock’s second American film and somehow it always seems to get overlooked. I can’t think why—except that maybe it’s too much like his British pictures, though that strikes me as a good thing. It’s got a nice cast with Joel McCrea and Laraine Day in the leads and Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman, Robert Benchley and Edmund Gwenn in support. There are some amazing set pieces, breathtaking visuals, nice comedy—and even a patriotic ending that actually works without seeming in the least jingoistic. If you’ve missed this one, it’s a must-see Hitchcock movie.

Fritz Lang Tribute
Well, TCM is catching up with us in terms of Fritz Lang, since they’re screening the restored Metropolis (1927) at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 6—and following it up with his Spies (1928) at 12 a.m. and M (1931) at 2:30 a.m. If you weren’t able to make it to Metropolis on the big screen last week, this will give you some idea of what you missed. If you did, you might want to check out the other two titles. Spies is particularly engaging—a kind of Hitchcockian thriller (before there was such a thing) that was made in part to try to recoup the losses on the incredibly expensive Metropolis. Viewers who saw Metropolis may recognize Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Rotwang, the inventor) as master criminal Haghi in this film. As for M—surely I don’t have to tell anyone what it is!

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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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17 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 3-9: Soap, a doc, a comedy, animated 3-D and a biopic

  1. Dionysis

    “Early word has it that Mr. Perry has wrestled the play to the ground and turned it into yet another of his overheated soap operas. I already know I have to find out for myself.”

    There might be treatment for that compulsion.

    You may already know this, but a previously unreleased (in this country) Hammer film, ‘Vampire Circus’, is being released on Blu-ray Dec. 14. Also, three Roger Corman fun schlockers on two discs coming Jan. 18, with restored, correct aspect ratio versions of ‘War of the Satellites’, ‘Not of This Earth’ and my favorite of the three, ‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’.

  2. Ken Hanke

    There might be treatment for that compulsion.

    Not so much a compulsion as a job requirement — combined with the inevitable Justin Souther argument that I’m the resident Tyler Perry expert.

    Also, three Roger Corman fun schlockers on two discs coming Jan. 18, with restored, correct aspect ratio versions of ‘War of the Satellites’, ‘Not of This Earth’ and my favorite of the three, ‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’

    I have vaguely pleasant memories of Not of This Earth from childhood and I’d be curious to see it again.

  3. Dionysis

    Tyler Perry movies have shown up on Showtime, and I’ve tried at least twice to watch a couple of them, but admit that after about 10 or 15 minutes, I cried ‘uncle’ and gave up.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Tyler Perry movies have shown up on Showtime, and I’ve tried at least twice to watch a couple of them, but admit that after about 10 or 15 minutes, I cried ‘uncle’ and gave up.

    I’ve made up for it, since I have seen each and every one of them from beginning to end. There have been flashes of worthwhile things in a few of them, but I wouldn’t say that any of them are actually good. Some of them, on the other hand, are definitely bad.

  5. Dionysis

    “Some of them…are definitely bad.”

    I don’t remember which of his films I tried to watch, but I guess they fell into that category.

  6. Dread P. Roberts

    This may be the most peculiar week I’ve seen in terms of new mainstream releases. Why? Well, apart from Toy Story 3, there aren’t any!

    I’m a little bit curious if this might, in part, be due to the fact that there are a ton of ‘new‘ blu-ray titles cropping up – both this week and the surrounding weeks. Might that affect distribution?

    http://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=5393

  7. Ken Hanke

    I don’t remember which of his films I tried to watch, but I guess they fell into that category

    Probably, since the better ones start out stronger and then collapse under his limitations as a dramatist. In one instance, though, Meet the Browns best aspects are later in the film. Understand, though, we’re talking a kind of sliding scale here and I’m comparing the films to each other and not to the world of movies overall.

  8. DrSerizawa

    DrSerizawa… still a proud member of the “Never Ever Ever Seen Anything By Tyler Perry Society” and determined to stay that way.

    the inevitable Justin Souther argument that I’m the resident Tyler Perry expert.

    What’s the point of being the big cheese if you can’t misuse your authority once in a while? Tell Justin that his movie reviewing experience needs broadening so he that can better reach out to new demographic boundaries and become a more well rounded critic and that his added experience will attract new public to the Mountain Xpress.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I’m a little bit curious if this might, in part, be due to the fact that there are a ton of ‘new’ blu-ray titles cropping up – both this week and the surrounding weeks. Might that affect distribution?

    Possibly, though a lot of those titles are also marginal or “special interest.” I suspect what we’re seeing more than anything reflects holding back with an eye toward the Xmas sales push. Other factors might include the fact that some of the bigger titles are only now in second-run release. Plus, this hasn’t been exactly the greatest year the movies have ever had.

  10. Ken Hanke

    DrSerizawa… still a proud member of the “Never Ever Ever Seen Anything By Tyler Perry Society” and determined to stay that way

    It’s a little late for me, I fear.

    What’s the point of being the big cheese if you can’t misuse your authority once in a while?

    I think I’ve done that before.

    Tell Justin that his movie reviewing experience needs broadening so he that can better reach out to new demographic boundaries and become a more well rounded critic and that his added experience will attract new public to the Mountain Xpress.

    Justin is young, not a maroon.

  11. DrSerizawa

    Justin is young, not a maroon.

    I had no intention of communicating such a concept. I know that Justin is a fully competent movie reviewer. I was just musing on the sort of BS my own boss uses when he wants me to do something unpalatable.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I was just musing on the sort of BS my own boss uses when he wants me to do something unpalatable.

    Of course, I’m victim to Justin’s line of BS about being the “Tyler Perry Expert in Residence.”

  13. Ugly John

    Thanks for the postings of Asheville Film Society schedule. I took my 14 year-old daughter to see “The Cat and the Canary” last week and we both loved it. She was pretty creeped out by the spooky parts! We both enjoyed Hope, especially his response to the line, “Do you believe in reincarnation? People coming back from the dead?” when he responded, “You mean like the Republicans?” Daughter’s been a fan of FDR, so knew enough to catch the reference. Awfully modern reference too I guess.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Thanks for the postings of Asheville Film Society schedule. I took my 14 year-old daughter to see “The Cat and the Canary” last week and we both loved it.

    Keep an eye out — we do a fair amount of programming that’s certainly suitable for a 14-year-old. This coming Tuesday is Little Miss Marker, which she may consider herself too old for, but she probably isn’t. The week after probably isn’t suitable — Shadow of the Vampire — but then I don’t know you or what you allow her to watch. But the following week is the PG-rated animated film, Millenium Actress, and the week after that the 1932 Ernst Lubitsh musical comedy One Hour with You. It’s pretty sophisticated, but I don’t think many people would object to a teenager seeing it.

  15. Tonberry

    I’d particularly be interested in suggestions for a proper—or even improper—Christmas horror picture. I know what the obvious choice is

    That’s “Gremlins,” right?

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