Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 1-7: Rodriguez brings out the big knives

In theaters

Apart from the special screening of Tommy at The Carolina on Wed., Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m., this week belongs to more or less mainstream offerings—three of them to be exact. One of the films is probably negligible, but The American (which opens Wednesday) and Machete hold more than a little interest—much more than you’d expect for traditionally dull (cinematically speaking, of course) Labor Day weekend.

Since The American opens early (Clapton knows why—except to make the job of movie listings harder), I’ll look at it first. I have no opinion on the director, Anton Corbijn, since I’ve never seen his biopic on Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, Control. I do have an opinion on George Clooney. I think he’s the only true “movie star” we have and he can actually act in the bargain. The trailer makes the movie look all kinds of stylish—OK, so one shot looks like an outtake from an Audi commercial—and possibly suspenseful. (Granted, almost anything can be made to look stylish for two minutes.) So where does that leave us? Hard to tell. The few reviews that are up at this point do not come from sources I tend to pay a lot of attention to. Put me down as interested, leaning cautiously optimistic.

I freely admit to being pretty darned jazzed about Machete—even if Robert Rodriguez has a co-director, Ethan Maniquis (who has worked as an editor for Rodriguez), on the project. Frankly, the film deserves kudos just for quirkiest casting of the year: Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Jeff Fahey and, of course, a bit for Tom Savini. If ever there was a cast to conjure with—and a roster you never expected to see in one movie—this is that cast. The film is an expansion on the fake trailer seen in Grindhouse (2007), which was hysterically funny and over-the-top in itself. (Now, if only Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright would expand on their Grindhouse trailers.)

There’s nothing about the film in terms of reviews yet, but I don’t personally care. Nothing could keep me from seeing this one. Unfortunately, something will keep me from reviewing it, because not letting Justin Souther review a Robert Rodriguez movie would be like someone keeping me from reviewing a Ken Russell or Tim Burton picture. In other words, it’s just not happening. But I will be watching.

I will also be watching the romcom Going the Distance with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, and I can’t say that this fills me with joy—and not just because the early reviews have mostly been unkind. (In all fairness, the only reviewers who’ve had their say that have any impact on me are from the trades.) The trailer is dull and lackluster, and the premise of the characters trying to keep a long-distance relationship alive isn’t very enticing. Barrymore is an engaging actress and Long is a likable-enough lightweight, but I don’t think either one can carry a story this thin. Oh, well, we’ll see. Or I will. The rest of you have a choice.

The only thing new on the art-film scene this week lies in The Carolina picking up Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. The Fine Arts is holding both The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Kids Are All Right. The Carolina is keeping Get Low, The Kids Are All Right and Winter’s Bone. I believe that, come Friday, the Beaucatcher will be the only theater still showing Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I would not expect this to last, because it’s probably only there now because of a dearth of available titles.

In the realm of special showings this week, the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Ken Russell’s Altered States (1980) at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 2, in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. And in keeping with the Ken Russell theme that starts with the Wednesday showing of Tommy, on Tuesday, Sept. 7, the Asheville Film Society will show Russell’s Valentino (1977) at 8 p.m., also in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina. World Cinema has the documentary Winged Migration (2003) at 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 3, at the Courtyard Gallery in the Phil Mechanic building. Another documentary, We Want the Light (2006), is this week’s offering from the Hendersonville Film Society on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville.

On DVD

This week finds the very good Harry Brown with a brilliant performance from Michael Caine coming to DVD, but it also finds the encroachment of the execrable Marmaduke and the rather flat, but more innocuous Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?. You stand warned. Times are lean.

Notable TV screenings

And the times are lean on TCM this week, as well—at least insofar as anything out of the ordinary is concerned. I do want to make note, however, that Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) is showing at 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 6. This shattering movie about old age is something that everyone should see. It’s been on before and it’s probably going to show up in the Asheville Film Society roster in November, but its presence should always be noted. At 11:45 p.m. that same night, TCM has Jacques Tati’s Playtime (1967). This is a Tati film I have never seen, so I’m not weighing in on it, though Tati’s comedies are usually worth at least one viewing. There’s simply nothing quite like them.

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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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28 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 1-7: Rodriguez brings out the big knives

  1. DrSerizawa

    I’ve been waiting for Machete ever since the great fake trailer. Danny Trejo is one of the all time great ‘B’ actors IMHO… who are often better than too many ‘A’ actors. I’m off to the woods for the Labor Day weekend but Machete is a definite yes for the next weekend.

  2. Dionysis

    Why not go for broke and run Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’? I’ll loan you my DVD copy if needed; the image and sound quality are certainly good enough to insult or traumatize most any audience. Why fool around with namby-pamby stuff?

    On, and on ‘Machete’, that is one heck of a cast list, even with the inclusion of Lindsay Lohan.

  3. Also out on dvd is the excellent British serial killer films RED RIDING TRILOGY.

    Another budget-buster for me this week with tv shows: Sons of Anarchy Sea 2, House Sea 6, Brothers & Sisters Sea 4, Parenthood Sea 1 and NCIS LA Sea 1.

  4. MACHETE has just been slated for an early November release in Oz, doubling the number of films I’m looking forward to this year. No word on when we’re seeing THE AMERICAN.

    Clooney is today’s best answer to Cary Grant and his selection of projects over the last decade has been pretty exceptional –

    O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?
    OCEAN’S ELEVEN
    SPY KIDS
    CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND
    INTOLERABLE CRUELTY
    GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK
    SYRIANA
    MICHAEL CLAYTON
    BURN AFTER READING
    FANTASTIC MR. FOX
    THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS
    UP IN THE AIR

    And that’s just the highlights. Even the middling fare – LEATHERHEADS, SOLARIS, etc. – is a cut above the average.

  5. Ken Hanke

    Why not go for broke and run Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’? I’ll loan you my DVD copy if needed; the image and sound quality are certainly good enough to insult or traumatize most any audience.

    I have the same bootleg you have (they all share a common source) and it’s just not good enough to project. If it was, I would run it. I live in hope of a real release — and with all the attention KR’s been getting this summer, I suspect we’ll start seeing some long awaited titles in the not too distant future.

    On, and on ‘Machete’, that is one heck of a cast list, even with the inclusion of Lindsay Lohan.

    There was a time when she was not a liability. Perhaps that will happen again.

  6. Ken Hanke

    Clooney is today’s best answer to Cary Grant and his selection of projects over the last decade has been pretty exceptional

    All in all, I agree. Well, not Solaris.

  7. Me

    Ken you should check out Anton Corbijn’s Control its a pretty great biopic, hes also directed some classic music videos.

    It’s going to be pretty tuff for Machete to be better than Black Dynamite.

  8. Me

    Clooney is today’s best answer to Cary Grant and his selection of projects over the last decade has been pretty exceptional

    All in all, I agree. Well, not Solaris.

    Nobody should have the audacity to remake a film like Solaris even Soderbergh.

  9. Me

    Also out on dvd is the excellent British serial killer films RED RIDING TRILOGY.

    Another budget-buster for me this week with tv shows: Sons of Anarchy Sea 2, House Sea 6, Brothers & Sisters Sea 4, Parenthood Sea 1 and NCIS LA Sea 1.

    I’m interested in seeing what the director of Man on Wire can do with something that isn’t a documentary, i might check that one out i didn’t know it was going to be released so soon.

  10. Me

    Ebert gave The American 4 stars and compared Clooney’s character to Alain Delon in Le Samourai, this might be better than expected.

  11. Dionysis

    “THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have tried twice to sit through that film (the premise was intriquing, and I know a bit about the military’s experiments in remote viewing), but found it a snoozer (although Clooney’s performance was fine). I also agree that Solaris wasn’t among his stronger films.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Ken you should check out Anton Corbijn’s Control its a pretty great biopic, hes also directed some classic music videos.

    The stumbling block is that I have little interest in most of the artists he’s made music videos for. If The American blows me away, I will check out Control, however.

    It’s going to be pretty tuff for Machete to be better than Black Dynamite.

    Not having seen Black Dynamite, I won’t be weighing in on that.

    Nobody should have the audacity to remake a film like Solaris even Soderbergh.

    Just to be clear, the original bores me, too.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have tried twice to sit through that film (the premise was intriquing, and I know a bit about the military’s experiments in remote viewing), but found it a snoozer (although Clooney’s performance was fine).

    I liked it up till the ending, which is close to non-existent. Thing is, with the talent involved, I ought to have loved it — and I didn’t. I do have the cardboard goat from the standee stashed around here some place, though.

  14. Dionysis

    “I do have the cardboard goat from the standee stashed around here some place, though.”

    The goat’s performance was top-flight.

  15. Maybe it’s just me, but I have tried twice to sit through that film (the premise was intriquing, and I know a bit about the military’s experiments in remote viewing), but found it a snoozer (although Clooney’s performance was fine). I also agree that Solaris wasn’t among his stronger films.

    It was an interesting failure to me, like THE INVENTION OF LYING. Both are worth watching, but I get pissed on thinking what they could have been.

  16. Me

    Nobody should have the audacity to remake a film like Solaris even Soderbergh.

    Just to be clear, the original bores me, too.

    I forgot you don’t like slow moving films but Solaris is a classic. Tarkovsky is one of my favorite directors.

    I know you don’t like Cassevettes either, but what about some of those early neorealism films do you like any of them? Theres been a resurgence of neorealism films of late, if i can remember correctly didn’t you like Goodbye Solo?

  17. Ken Hanke

    It was an interesting failure to me, like THE INVENTION OF LYING.

    I like Invention of Lying better. I’ve actually seen it twice. I can’t actually imagine wanting to see Goats again.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I forgot you don’t like slow moving films but Solaris is a classic.

    So I’m told.

    I know you don’t like Cassevettes either, but what about some of those early neorealism films do you like any of them? Theres been a resurgence of neorealism films of late, if i can remember correctly didn’t you like Goodbye Solo?

    I admired Goodbye Solo, which isn’t quite the same. It’s not a style of movie that resonates with me personally. I have a much greater affinity for classically formal or highly stylized film.

  19. It was an interesting failure to me, like THE INVENTION OF LYING.

    I don’t think THE INVENTION OF LYING is a failure. There are aspects of the film that could be funnier, but I think it’s a very good and funny film.

  20. Ken Hanke

    Having now seen Machete and since I’m not reviewing it, I’ll say I’d be mighty surprised if Black Dynamite is even in the same ballpark in terms of sheer outrageousness.

  21. I don’t think THE INVENTION OF LYING is a failure. There are aspects of the film that could be funnier, but I think it’s a very good and funny film.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the film. However, it could have been a scathing social commentary and slips into that all too easy romantic comedy.

  22. Having now seen Machete and since I’m not reviewing it, I’ll say I’d be mighty surprised if Black Dynamite is even in the same ballpark in terms of sheer outrageousness.

    You’re right, it’s not in the same ballpark due to Black Dynamite being AWESOME.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the film. However, it could have been a scathing social commentary and slips into that all too easy romantic comedy.

    I know folks who are pretty offended by its social commentary as it stands.

    Black Dynamite being AWESOME.

    I doubt it’s as awesome as MACHETE.

  24. Don’t get me wrong, I like the film. However, it could have been a scathing social commentary and slips into that all too easy romantic comedy.
    I like the balance it has between those two forms – it keeps it from being too polemical.

  25. I know folks who are pretty offended by its social commentary as it stands.

    Good.

    I doubt it’s as awesome as MACHETE.

    I’ll let you know this week. Machete looks like it might be trying too hard.

  26. Ken Hanke

    I’ll let you know this week. Machete looks like it might be trying too hard.

    It’s probably going to depend on how many bonus points you’re giving Black Dynamite for being made for almost no money, having a non-star cast and never getting a proper release. I know someone who thought it was great for just those reasons. He’s also the reason I haven’t seen it.

  27. DrSerizawa

    You simply cannot miss the thrill packed climax of “Black Dynamite”. I certainly never expected to see anything quite like it. Nearly as good as a stampede of monkey.

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