Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Oct. 19-25: Higher Ground Paranormal English Musketeers in Metropolis

In Theaters

An interesting week—at least in terms of the art side of the ledger. The mainstream side is another matter altogether, and a pretty grim one. Was the world really clamoring for the umpteenth version of The Three Musketeers or a second Johnny English movie or a third Paranormal Activity one? Certainly I wasn’t. On the other hand, we do have Emilio Estevez’s The Way opening at the Fine Arts and Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground opening at The Carolina, which also has two nights (Friday and Saturday) of the Giorgio Moroder version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. And there are a couple of four-waller things floating around, too, but that’s another matter altogether.

Now, I’ve seen The Way, Higher Ground and Metropolis—and they’re all reviewed in this week’s paper. I will go ahead and note that while I wasn’t wild about The Way I think it’s a film that a lot of people will be wild about. If you read the review and the subject matter appeals to you, then you should check it out. I also saw Higher Ground, and have no qualms recommending it. But I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t say that, really, Metropolis—even in this somewhat peculiar edition—is the best thing I saw. But let’s be honest here, Metropolis is better than a great many movies.

That, of course, brings us to these other things, and while I might prefer it, I don’t guess I can put them off any longer. And, in this case, I can certainly say that it’s not for want of trying.

Does anybody even remember Johnny English? If not, it was this incredibly flat-footed spy spoof from eight years ago that starred Rowan Atkinson. Think of it as Mr. Bean in a bad 1960s spy movie. The reason you probably don’t remember the movie is that it is that it was here and gone with all possible haste. In other words, it tanked. So why a sequel? Fact is that tanking doesn’t seem to necessarily preclude a sequel these days, but in the case of this particular case, it appears that the damned thing actually made money in other parts of the world. (Considering it looked like it was made for a buck and a quarter, that’s not that hard to believe.) Despite mostly bad reviews, it’s been number one at the box office in the UK for a couple weeks now. I can only presume that since Universal made the thing, they thought they might as well get some good out of it here. In any case, Johnny English Reborn is here—and you can have it.

It used to be that Halloween meant another Saw movie—and much as it grieves me to say it, those were the good old days. Now Halloween appears to mean another Paranormal Activity movie. In this case, it’s Paranormal Activity 3. And it promises to be more of the same, which is to say that it’s found-footage horror made up of faux security-camera footage. The first film was at least interesting in conceptual terms. The second did what I can only describe as a fellation number on the antlered beast. This one is directed by the guys who made the debatable—except in terms of box office disaster (no debate there)—Catfish, another quasi-pseudo documentary. This doesn’t purport to be real—they beat that horse long after it ceased to go clippity-clop on the second one—though it will undoubtedly be presented that way once the lights go down. It’s somehow tied to the same story/characters as the first two.

They’ve been knocking out movies based on The Three Musketeers since 1911. Yep, that’s 100 years of various forms of Musketeerage. Perhaps this latest one is somehow in honor of that. Or maybe the fact that it’s in 3D (apparently in the alternate shows format that has become popular ever since the shine started to dull on that gimmick) is the reason it’s back now. Certainly, it can’t be because there’s any real novelty to the idea of dressing it up with martial arts wire work. We had that back in 2001 with The Musketeer (which I likened to Crouching Musketeer, Hidden D’Artagnan). I like to think that this one exists to prove that Paul W.S. Anderson—especially with the help of Milla Jovovich—is actually capable of making the dumbest movie version yet. Look, I probably have to see this, but you have a choice in the matter.

There’s also some R-rated thriller called Retreat playing in one-week-only four-waller status at The Carolina. I know nothing about it, except that it stars Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell and Thandie Newton. Now, a film with that cast that has to rely on this kind of booking is … well, probably not very good, so I wouldn’t be expecting much from it. And then there’s some uplifting “inspired by a true story” thing—that seems to mix the uplifting sports picture with the faith-based movie—called The Mighty Macs at the Carmike. From all I can determine this is some self-released offering. Make of that what you will.

This week we lose The Guard and The Whistleblower at the Fine Arts, while Drive takes its leave of The Carolina. Mozart’s Sister is staying another week at the Fine Arts. Attack the Block gets a second week at The Carolina, and Sarah’s Key and Midnight in Paris (the latter in its twentieth week) are on split shows there.

Special Screenings

This week—in honor of Bela Lugosi’s birthday—the Thursday Horror Picture Show is running Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. (Chapter Three of Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) will start at 7:40.) World Cinema is showing The Sprit of the Beehive (1973) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society will run Jack Webb’s Dragnet (1954) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society has their Halloween offering—Bob Hope in George Marshall’s The Ghost Breakers (1940)—on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress—with expanded coverage of Dracula and The Ghost Breakers in the online edition.

On DVD

This week perhaps the best thing coming out on DVD is the underseen A Better Life, though the documentary Page One is certainly worth a look. And really, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides isn’t at all bad—assuming you like the series. Then there’s also Bad Teacher, Monte Carlo (no relation to the 1930 Ernst Lubitsch film), and Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. And there’s that curious unknown quantity called Red State, being a Kevin Smith film which never saw wide theatrical release.

Notable TV Screenings

Once again, this is a slack week on TCM so far as the unusual is concerned, so, yep, you are 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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7 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Oct. 19-25: Higher Ground Paranormal English Musketeers in Metropolis

  1. Xanadon't

    And there’s that curious unknown quantity called Red State, being a Kevin Smith film which never saw wide theatrical release.

    I was quite upset that Red State didn’t show here. Now having just watched it I’m relieved that my money was spared, if not my time.

  2. Ken Hanke

    You realize that this doesn’t keep me from feeling compelled to see the damned thing for myself.

  3. Xanadon't

    Fully. I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t the case- that attitude is part of why your column is as great as it is. Just so you know it’s currently available to watch Instantly on Netflix (If that’s your thing) I’d hate to think you unnecessarily spent good money for VOD or burned any fossil fuels trying to track the frackin thing down.

  4. Jeremy Dylan

    Don’t write off THE THREE MUSKETEERS sight unseen. The screenplay was penned by one of my idols – Andrew Davies, so it may be better than you expect.

  5. Jeremy Dylan

    We are officially in crossover territory on MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I’ll be popping down to my local multiplex on Sunday to recapture the magic.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Don’t write off THE THREE MUSKETEERS sight unseen. The screenplay was penned by one of my idols – Andrew Davies, so it may be better than you expect.

    Never seen a Paul W.S. Anderson movie, have you? You have more faith in writers than I do — principally, I think, because you base a lot of your admiration on TV series, which actually are more a writer’s medium than a director’s.

    We are officially in crossover territory on MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. I’ll be popping down to my local multiplex on Sunday to recapture the magic.

    Well, you’ve gotten your wish that it would still be playing here when it opened in Australia. At 20 — or is it 21? — weeks, it is far and away the longest-lived film in Asheville for 2011.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Fully. I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t the case- that attitude is part of why your column is as great as it is. Just so you know it’s currently available to watch Instantly on Netflix (If that’s your thing) I’d hate to think you unnecessarily spent good money for VOD or burned any fossil fuels trying to track the frackin thing down.

    I’ll likely get it from Marc at some point, though my interest isn’t likely to get me to hurry on down there.

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