Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 11-17: The end of the world and a film festival

Asheville Film Festival

Yeah, it’s scaled back and it’s bereft of cool special guests, but it’s still the 2009 Asheville Film Festival and it’s this week. Even with the cutbacks and a dubious decision or two, the AFF has managed to secure three noteworthy special-event films: An Education on opening night, That Evening Sun and Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire on closing night. The last is particularly noteworthy since Precious broke records this past weekend by grossing an unheard of average of more than $100,000 per theater in its limited (18 theaters) release. Here’s an early chance to see what the fuss is about.

Don’t overlook An Education or That Evening Sun either. The former—starring Peter Sarsgaasrd, Alfred Molina and a young woman named Carey Mulligan—is one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and its newcomer star has received nothing but raves. That Evening Sun is a very Southern film from Ray McKinnon’s (Randy and the Mob) Ginny Mule Productions. McKinnon didn’t direct this time, but he’s in the film—along with the always interesting Walt Goggins and star Hal Holbrook. The word from my fellow South Eastern Film Critics Association members who’ve seen it is that it’s very fine indeed.

The competition films have their delights, too, and bear checking out (see the article on them in last week’s Xpress: www.mountainx.com/ae/2009/cranky_hankes_take_on_the_2009_asheville_film_festival_competition_feature_ ). Plus—and this is very important—there are a number of local films on the slate, including Paul Schattel’s new movie, Alison, and Michael Knox’s (he’s the fellow who got us Sita Sings the Blues and Bart Got a Room for last year’s festival) circus documentary Tearing Down the Tent. It’s always worthwhile to get out and support local filmmakers.

In theaters

There are only two mainstream releases this week: the inevitable 2012 cash-in, 2012, and Pirate Radio. The former is from big-budget schlockmeister Roland Emmerich, who gave us such incredibly silly trash as The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 10,000 B.C. (2008). That should tell you as much as you need to know about 2012—possibly more than you need to know. However, since moviegoers never seem to tire of watching property damage on the big screen, it’s almost certain to be a hit. If nothing else, you can keep track of the various national monuments destroyed by CGI effects over the course of the film. This has the makings of a drinking game, come to think of it.

Richard Curtis’ (Love Actually) Pirate Radio started life as The Boat That Rocked and has been seen under that title already in the U.K. and Australia. For that matter, it was briefly advertised here with that name. So-so box-office numbers and mixed reviews prompted Focus Features to come up with a more appealing (they think) title for its U.S. release—and they appear to have recut and shortened the film, as well. It’s unwise to trust the running times given by theater chains, but one source gives the new running time as 126 minutes and another has it at 115. If the latter is true, then Pirate Radio is a full 20 minutes shy of its original length—a substantial change. The signs aren’t good, but I’m cautiously optimistic all the same. The trailer looks good. Plus, the cast is good and there’s a tasty array of 1960s pop and rock on the sound track—not all of it from standard greatest-hits packages. We’ll see.

Otherwise, the only new thing is the LeBron James documentary, More Than a Game, interest in which likely depends on your interest in James and basketball.

Still barely hanging on till Friday at the Carolina Asheville are It Might Get Loud, The Baader Meinhof Complex and Thirst—all of which are worth your attention and all of which ought to have done better than they did. As concerns Thirst, which almost no one went to see, all I’ll say is that I don’t want to hear another word about how Asheville is crying out for Korean horror pictures. The French film Paris fared somewhat better and will remain—on a two-show-a-day basis—for another week. Coco Before Chanel is pre-empted at the Fine Arts this weekend for the film festival, but will be back Monday through Thursday. Catch it while you can, because next Friday it makes way for the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man.

When it appears next week, A Serious Man will mark the beginning of the push in big fall/winter releases—of both the popular and award-worthy variety. Yes, that means that we’re in for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, but with any luck at all it’ll also mean that Asheville’s on the first expansion list for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. You take the bitter with the sweet.

On DVD

Some critics are saying that Fantastic Mr. Fox offers a serious challenge to Up as the best animated movie of the year, so here’s your chance to see just what an amazing claim that is with the DVD release of Up this week. Personally, I’m not sure that I think it’s even reasonable to compare the two, since they represent very different kinds of animation. In any case, Up isn’t merely the best animated film so far this year, it’s quite simply one of the best movies of 2009 of any kind.

The week’s other releases are pretty negligible. Also up is the dismally sleazy romantic comedy The Ugly Truth, which lives up to the second word of its title at least. And theaters can finally throw out all those posters and other promotional material for the endlessly delayed The Accidental Husband, which accidentally has gone straight to DVD. I grant you that the trailers looked pretty bad, but that it could possibly be any worse than The Ugly Truth seems incredible.

In the attempt to sell fans the same movie as many times as possible, we now have Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut, which seems to have nothing to do with circumcising that big blue willy that bothered so many people in the theatrical release. No, this is the final—really final—cut of the film that, according to the press release, weaves the Tales of the Black Freighter into the director’s cut of an already awfully long movie.

Notable TV screenings

Wow! Here’s a puzzler! For the first time ever, I can find nothing that stands out in the coming week’s listings for Turner Classic Movies. (That the Fox Movie Channel is wanting is certainly no surprise.) Now this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing worthwhile on, mind you. There are quite a few worthwhile titles—including Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1950) and Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963)—but it’s all pretty much from the standard playlist. That means you get likable fare such as the underrated (if far from remarkable) 1938 Busby Berkeley movie The Garden of the Moon. In other words, it’s mostly made up of movies that TCM owns and runs with some frequency. I usually eye the listings with a view toward pointing out the more obscure titles and titles that aren’t available on DVD. And there’s just nothing of that sort to be had this week. Hopefully, next week will prove more interesting. This week, you’re on your own.

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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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29 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Nov. 11-17: The end of the world and a film festival

  1. Ken Hanke

    Sir Ian McKellar as Number 2!

    Sir Ian might appreciate the endorsement more if you got his name right — McKellen. Of course, getting him is a plus, but you also get Jim Caviezel, which is not.

  2. Ken Hanke

    From the previews I’ve seen it looks pretty good.

    Let’s say I’m skeptical of it, but I’ll give it a chance — not however to the extent of building my weekend around it. That’s why God invented Tivo and DV-R.

  3. Well, it doesn’t come on until Sunday night, so I’d say more like a good way to kick back after a good weekend than “building my weekend around it”. As a Prisoner fan, I’ve been waiting for some sort of re-make for years. I believe at one point there was a push to get Lance Henriksen to play number 6 in a movie version. It’s too bad Patrick McGoohan and Leo McKern aren’t still around to see it – good or bad – you can only watch the original 17 episodes so many times…

  4. Ken Hanke

    Well, it doesn’t come on until Sunday night

    Yes, but it starts about the time I’ll be getting out of Precious so some time-shifting is required.

    you can only watch the original 17 episodes so many times…

    Oh, I’ve never found that to be true — at least not as concerns Free for All, A Change of Mind, The Girl Who Was Death and Fall Out. And since I don’t visit the others nearly so often, they’re usually pretty welcome, too.

  5. Steven

    I’m a bit skeptical on how The Prisoner will turn out. Either way, I have too many television shows I need to catch up on. Lost being at the top of the list (I have a suspicion that Ken isn’t too into this show).

  6. Ken Hanke

    I have a suspicion that Ken isn’t too into this show

    I’ve never seen it, but that’s not surprising. Apart from a couple seasons of Oz (I got bored with it by the third season), I haven’t followed a TV series in 20 years.

  7. Jim Donato

    Like Ken, I have also devalued TV. I relinquished the ability to receive a signal over 16 years ago to no regret. The last few years of TV watching for me (88-92) were a one-series-per-week proposition. The last two shows I gave a darn about were Twin Peaks and Ren & Stimpy. My wife works in a library, though, and librarians make recommendations to all and sundry. She brought home the magnificent Canadian series Slings & Arrows and watching and re-watching the three seasons of DVD boxes instantly put this series into my pantheon of my favorite television shows of all time with the following company: Batman (1966), The Prisoner (1967), SCTV (1977).

    The notion of this Prisoner redux quite frankly fills me with inertia. The odds of it merely annoying me are astronomically high. The odds of it bettering in any way the original production? Even higher. The only way The Prisoner could have been bettered, in my opinion, was if the reliance on fisticuffs and “action” for the groundlings had been scaled back to make it even more cerebral. I sincerely doubt that this has happened with the new series. I just looked into this at the AMC website and it seems like this new series consists of about 6 re-filmed versions of episodes from the original series. Wha…?

  8. Steven

    [b]. The last two shows I gave a darn about were Twin Peaks and Ren & Stimpy. [/b]

    I’ve been meaning to check out Twin Peaks for the longest time.

    I haven’t been really into a television show in quite some time. The last show I was [i]really[/i] into was Six Feet Under.

  9. Ken Hanke

    don’t forget about It’s Your Funeral!

    I kind of like Hammer Into Anvil, too, but it doesn’t quite make the endlessly watchable stack.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Like Ken, I have also devalued TV. I relinquished the ability to receive a signal over 16 years ago to no regret.

    If it weren’t for TCM, I could easily do without TV altogether — as far as receiving a signal is concerned. I’m not saying that there’s nothing out there of any value, but even if there is — and I freely admit that the bits and pieces I saw of something called Carnivale looked at least very stylish — I’m damned if I know where I’d find the time.

    The notion of this Prisoner redux quite frankly fills me with inertia. The odds of it merely annoying me are astronomically high.

    That’s pretty much where I am, though I will give it a try — even if I find Jim Caviezel to be an actor who can suck the charisma out of anything.

  11. @ JD: Last time I checked, no one is going to be forced to watch the new Prisoner (but that would make for a good episode). If you “relinquished the ability to receive a signal over 16 years ago” then you wont be able to watch it anyway. I don’t expect it to “better” the original, but I do hope it “betters” most of the garbage we are constantly bombarded with. FWIW, I haven’t followed a TV show since the X-Files.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Actual Film Festival News

    As some may know the closing night film Precious was sold out by some time on Wednesday. As a result a second show has been scheduled for 10 p.m. Sunday night. If you’re interested, I’d lose no time in getting down to Pack Place and buying tickets, because the original show vanished in no time.

  13. Vince Lugo

    I saw 2012 on friday and enjoyed it thoroughly. I am a fan of most of Roland Emmerich’s work and felt that he redeemed himself here after how terrible 10,000 BC was. With a $225 million opening weekend (worldwide, that is), I think Emmerich has a hit on his hands. Personally, I’m hoping and praying that 2012 will beat the tar out of New Moon so those movies will go away and never be heard from again.

  14. Jim Donato

    At any rate the new Prisoner could act as a calling card for the original series. At any rate, Ian McKellen is a great choice for #2. But since the original’s been available on home video since the early 80s, I would imagine that anyone who was interested could have experienced the original at any time in the last 27 or so years. I think that The Prisoner was probably the first TV series ever released in its entirety on home video (it helped that there were only 17 episodes) and paint me a funny color and put me out on the sidewalk if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s ever been out of print since about 1982 when I first noticed the MPI tapes (VHS & Beta)! I first saw it in the afternoon some time in what felt like 1969 when. Syndication? It haunted my young mind for years before I finally read about in in ’77. I didn’t actually see it for about 5 years later but what can I say? It lives up to the reputation for sure.

  15. Leigh

    I was so looking forward to Pirate Radio. What a disappointment! I hung in there for about 45 minutes and then had to leave. (And I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually left a movie before the credits.) This movie should have gone straight to Red Box video.

  16. Ken Hanke

    I was so looking forward to Pirate Radio. What a disappointment! I hung in there for about 45 minutes and then had to leave.

    Wow! What a difference of opinion we have here! I absolutely loved the film and would have sat through it again at the next show had that been practical!

  17. Ken Hanke

    Personally, I’m hoping and praying that 2012 will beat the tar out of New Moon so those movies will go away and never be heard from again.

    While I found 2012 to be amusing trash and wouldn’t mind seeing this happen, it’s not going to. New Moon has already broken records for presales.

  18. “At any rate the new Prisoner could act as a calling card for the original series.”

    Yes, I wonder how many new Prisoner fans we will now have . It doesn’t top the original (that would be impossible), but it is fun to compare the two. Perhaps IFC will show the entire original series again!

  19. Dionysis

    “I was so looking forward to Pirate Radio. What a disappointment! I hung in there for about 45 minutes and then had to leave.”

    “Wow! What a difference of opinion we have here! I absolutely loved the film and would have sat through it again at the next show had that been practical!”

    What a quandary. I had planned to see this movie one evening this week. Ken, will you be reviewing this film?

    It would be interesting to know why Leigh didn’t like it. I have been really stoked to see this from the first preview.

  20. Leigh

    Hi Ken,

    Maybe I didn’t hang in there long enough. I don’t mind “bawdy” at all, but the part that I sat through struck me as juvenile. Maybe I’ll give it another try….

  21. Ken Hanke

    Ken, will you be reviewing this film?

    It’ll be in Wednesday’s paper, which means it’ll be online about midnight Tuesday usually.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Maybe I didn’t hang in there long enough. I don’t mind “bawdy” at all, but the part that I sat through struck me as juvenile. Maybe I’ll give it another try…

    If you made it 45 minutes, then you made to what I’ll call the cookies-and-milk scene. If that didn’t sell you, then I doubt you can be sold. Also, I’d say that there is much about the film — or the behaviour in it — that is juvenile. But doesn’t that reflect a lot of the times? This is all on the edge of the so-called sexual revolution, many aspects of which have their juvenile side. The guys in the film are, in many ways, overgrown kids — some of them virtually are kids — and much of this is a gesture of thumbing their noses at authority. So juvenile is probably just about right. Whether the whole film would justify that for you, I don’t know.

  23. Leigh

    Thanks, Ken, for your thoughtful reply. Every now and then I see a film that, for me, wasn’t as much fun to watch as it may have been for those involved to make. However, I do look forward to reading your review!

  24. Ken Hanke

    Every now and then I see a film that, for me, wasn’t as much fun to watch as it may have been for those involved to make.

    That’s pretty much an illusory thing. While the actors might be enjoying themselves while the camera is rolling, 90-plus% of making a film consists of waiting around and is rarely much fun. That they can make it look like fun is something of an accomplishment in itself.

    I saw large chunks of Pirate Radio again tonight and, as I suspected, I liked it even more than the first time. The earlier scenes didn’t meander for me on a second look, which may simply be the benefit of knowing where it was going. That is often the case.

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