Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 14-20: Beats, Rhymes, Keys, Drives, Straw Dogs and more

In Theaters

Another week of movies is headed our way. This week we get two art titles — Sarah’s Key (The Carolina and Fine Arts) and Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (The Carolina) — and three mainstream ones — Drive, I Don’t Know How She Does It and Straw Dogs. Hopefully, the deserving titles in this set will generate more interest than last week’s did (pleasant weather and the Mountain State Fair did the box office no favors here).

As opposed to my usual statement about having seen this or that already, here we have a week where I haven’t seen any of the films that kick off on Friday, meaning that there aren’t any reviews to refer to in this week’s Xpress and everything that follows is what you should call conjecture. Funny thing is I’m interested in — or at least curious about — four of the five movies that are opening. The fifth one … well, into each life some rain must fall. And really compared to last week’s Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star just about anything is bound to be an improvement. (Then again, based on what Mr. Souther tells me, Bucky Larson makes the previous weeks trifecta of terror — Apollo 18, Seven Days in Utopia, Shark Night 3D — look pretty mild.)

So let’s take a gander at what we’re looking at looking at. Whatever else it may be said about this lot, it’s a decidedly varied assortment.

First, there’s Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. This actor-turned-filmmaker Michael Rappaport’s documentary on A Tribe Called Quest. I freely admit that I don’t know this group at all, so I’m reliant entirely on the press notes and the early reviews. It is described as a documentary about “one of the most influential and groundbreaking musical groups in hip-hop history. Having released five gold and platinum selling albums within eight years, A Tribe Called Quest has been one of the most commercially successful and artistically significant musical groups in recent history, and regarded as iconic pioneers of hip hop. The band’s sudden break-up in 1998 shocked the industry and saddened the scores of fans, whose appetite for the group’s innovative musical stylings never seems to diminish.” The documentary was made on their 2008 reunion tour. To date, it has a 91 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — 48 postive vs. five negative. And it should be noted that it seems to be more about the group and their conflicts with each other to a degree that the film is compelling even to people with little interest in hip-hop.

Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive follows his well-regarded Valhalla Rising (2009) and looks for all the world like an art movie that has managed to get a wide release. I say that less because of Refn’s directorial Cannes win than because of the claims that it contains elements of everyone from David Lynch to Quentin Tarantino to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Refn, in fact, says the fim is dedicated to Jodorowsky. So what is it exactly? Well, roughly, it’s a neo-noir about a stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who also works in his off hours as a getaway driver for criminals Given the genre we’re in, it follows that a crime will go wrong and Gosling will find himself — along with his next door neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her son — being chased by persons wishing to do them harm. It currently boasts a 93 percent approval rate, but it should be noted that a number of its 29 fresh reviews (there are two negatives) are not from the most reliable of sources.

I confess to a large adult-sized dose of skepticism when it comes to I Don’t Know How She Does It. What a dreadful title given that its star is Sarah Jessica Parker, since it leads to recognition of my own inability to know how she keeps getting movie deals. The trailer — hard-working, bread-winner mom (Parker) tries balance her career and family, while avoiding the temptation of having an affair with a business associate (Pierce Brosnan) — looks generic and fairly ghastly. The thing is, I’ve liked two films from director Douglas McGrath — Nicholas Nickleby and Infamous — and he did co-write Bullets Over Broadway with Woody Allen. Also, New York Magazine critic David Edelstein liked it, as did Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter. Maybe it’s better than I fear.

Then there’s Gilles Pacquet-Brenner’s Sarah’s Key. First off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas that wasn’t worth seeing. But more this looks like something a little different. It’s set in two eras. In the present, Kristin Scott Thomas plays an American journalist who is assigned to write an article about the Vel’ d’Hiv round up in 1942 — a black mark on French history where the national police rounded up Jews and housed them in conditions easily mistaken for something the Nazis themselves might have done. Many of the most unfortunate ended up being moved to Auschwitz. The film takes place in both times, and as her research continues Thomas’ character finds a connection between the round up and her French husband’s family. For this one, I’m headed to the first show on Friday morning.

And last we have Rod Lurie’s Southern-fried remake of Sam Peckinpah’s still-controversial 1971 film Straw Dogs. In the original, Dustin Hoffman played an inoffensive fellow who has moved with his wife (Susan George) to rural England where local rubes harass them, finally raping the wife and finally driving the man past the breaking point into the realm of vengeful fighting back. It wasn’t just the violence that made the film controversial (though that might have been enough), but the fact that it treats the rape in an ambiguous manner that suggests the wife enjoys it. I’ve already heard that the new film avoids that aspect. Otherwise, it seems to be pretty much the same thing — only transplanted to the American South and with James Marsden (who may always be the Easter Bunny to me after Hop) and Kate Bosworth replacing Hoffman and George. Now, I don’t object to remakes in general. They don’t hurt the originals and actually draw attention to them, but in this case I’m just baffled by the whole point of doing this.

I suppose I should also note — with a touch of weariness — that a 3D-ified version of The Lion King comes out this week. I’ll pass.

Now, last weekend was such a box office dud — look, even The Guard underperformed here — that two estimable films — Terri and The Devil’s Double — are leaving The Carolina after a single week. I find this very unfortunate, especially as concerns Terri. You have through Thursday to catch them. Also leaving The Carolina is Magic Trip. The Fine Arts drops both Another Earth and Midnight in Paris, but is keeping The Guard. Midnight in Paris, however, is hanging on at The Carolina.

Special Screenings

Charles Brabin’s The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) with Boris Karloff as Fu is this week’s Thursday Horror Picture Show on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. (It will be preceded by chapter 11 of Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) at 7:40 p.m.) Classic World Cinema is running Luis Buñuel’s The Extreminating Angel (1962) on Friday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The indestructible Gone with the Wind (1939) — or at least the first half (the second half in next week) — is this week’s film at the Hendersonville Film Society. It shows at 2 p..m on Sunday, Sept. 18, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is showing Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers (1970) on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all titles in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

The big DVD news for me this week is Julie Taymor’s barely released version of The Tempest. This died almost at birth last year and never made it to Asheville. Some say it’s awful, but I want to see for myself. Based on Taymor’s track record, I can’t believe it’s without interest.  Of course, there’s also Thor, which I think I liked more than most. Not sure I liked it will enough to see again, though. And there’s Hesher — another title that intrigued me, but never made it to town. Finally, there’s Meek’s Cutoff, a film I liked fine, but one that I’ve seen twice, which is probably enough.

Notable TV screenings

Whatever else TCM offers this week, it starts off with something not on DVD and rarely seen — Stephen Roberts’ The Story of Temple Drake (1933) starring Miriam Hopkins. This extremely pre-code film is the film version of William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, which even the pre-code censors would not allow to be filmed under its own name. In many ways — including an ending that completely subverts Faulkner’s — the film is a bit of a travesty, but it does capture the Faulkner atmosphere in a way no other version of any of his works has. And Hopkins is perfect in the role of Temple Drake. It’s showing at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Also on is William K. Howard’s The Power and the Glory (1933), a film often considered the forerunner of Citizen Kane (1941) — and it well may be with its flashback structure telling the life story of an industrialist (Spencer Tracy). But it definitely misses Kane‘s fireworks. It’s playing at 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.

 

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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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32 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 14-20: Beats, Rhymes, Keys, Drives, Straw Dogs and more

  1. Orbit DVD

    FYI The Tempest is blu-ray ONLY. The DVD comes out in December.

    Speaking of blu-ray, there are two of note. I’m way past idolizing anything George Lucas has ever done, so I’m not upset that he tweeked with the Star Wars movies again. As long as you fanboys keep buying them, he will keep tweeking them. THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS comes out next month.

    CITIZEN KANE comes out on blu-ray this week, and oddly packaged with it is a bare-boned dvd of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. Considering that the 70th anniversary is next year, I expect a deluxe edition to surface.

    HESHER is very good.

    Two shows on Starz to mention. SPARTACUS GODS OF THE ARENA is a backstory made while star Andy Whitfield was undergoing cancer treatment (he died two days ago). CAMELOT SEASON 1 is an interesting retelling with Eva Green as Morgana and Joseph Fiennes as Merlin.

    Also out for tv is GLEE SEASON 2, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA SEASON 6, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER SEASON 4 and RESCUE ME SEASON 6.

  2. Me

    Yeah Valhalla Rising but what about Bronson its a pretty good movie by Refn too.

    Ive been wondering about Hesher it got mixed reviews.

  3. Orbit DVD

    Yeah Valhalla Rising but what about Bronson its a pretty good movie by Refn too.

    I think Ken mostly watches films that are released theatrically. I don’t believe BRONSON made it here, and it is wonderful, as well as Refn’s PUSHER trilogy.

  4. Ken Hanke

    FYI The Tempest is blu-ray ONLY. The DVD comes out in December.

    Then it’s probably a good thing I ordered the Blu-ray.

    I think Ken mostly watches films that are released theatrically.

    That is mostly true — unless someone whose taste I trust tells me I should watch a thing. Even then, they’re probably going to have hand me a copy. The Tempest is an obvious exception and Hesher might be. A lot of people seem to find this peculiar or shallow or something. But consider that I review approx. four new movies a week and an additional four special screening movies. That’s around 400 movies a year.

  5. I’m hanging out for DRIVE based on the cast alone. Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan – sounds pretty swell to me.

    In case any other Aussies are reading, I should point out that my regular bitterness at not being able to attend AFS screenings will be abated in October when John Waters (the American director, not the Australian actor) will be curating a film festival at the Sydney Opera House. The lineup is:

    IRREVERSIBLE (Gasper Noe)
    ANTICHRIST (Lars Von Trier)
    UNITED 93 (Paul Greengrass)
    CECIL B. DEMENTED (John Waters)
    BOOM! (Joseph Losey)
    FUEGO (Armand Bo)
    ZOO (Robinson Devor)
    A DIRTY SHAME (John Waters)

    I have a ticket for the double bill of United 93 and Cecil B. Demented, and I’m strongly considering the Zoo/A Dirty Shame double bill. Ken, have you seen ZOO?

  6. Ken Hanke

    I’m hanging out for DRIVE based on the cast alone. Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan – sounds pretty swell to me.

    You’ll enjoy this week’s podcast when I remark that I don’t really know who Bryan Cranston is.

    I have a ticket for the double bill of United 93 and Cecil B. Demented, and I’m strongly considering the Zoo/A Dirty Shame double bill. Ken, have you seen ZOO?

    No. The only films I’ve seen on that list are United 93, Cecil B. Demented, Boom! and A Dirty Shame. Of those, the only one I’d sit through again is Cecil B. Demented. Is John going to talk before these movies? It’ll be worth going for that if he is.

  7. DrSerizawa

    Speaking of Meek’s Cutoff, we were down camping in southern Utah a few months back. We were near the place where Aron Ralston removed his own arm after getting pinned under the boulder which incident was turned into a movie. We were chatting with a Federal BLM Ranger who told us that the Fed Govt had bulldozed a a side road road to the place it occurred and put in a trailhead. So my friend Paul says, “Are they calling it the Ralston Cutoff?”

    He’s like that a lot.

  8. Jim Donato

    “First off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas that wasn’t worth seeing.” – Ken Hanke

    Then that statement assures me that you never saw “Under A Cherry Moon.”

  9. Ken Hanke

    He’s like that a lot.

    Then he’s probably worth keeping around.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Then that statement assures me that you never saw “Under A Cherry Moon.”

    Actually, I’m one the four or five people who actually saw it in a theater. I’ll likely get no end of grief over this, but I kind of liked it.

  11. You’ll enjoy this week’s podcast when I remark that I don’t really know who Bryan Cranston is.

    He’s the one who knocks!!!

    I know Ken won’t get that one, but to anyone who does – you’re cool.

    Is John going to talk before these movies? It’ll be worth going for that if he is.

    I believe that’s the idea.

  12. Xanadon't

    Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive follows his well-regarded Valhalla Rising

    If Valhalla Rising is indeed well-regarded, I have to say I’m surprised. Beyond some of the visuals- and even there much of the film simply looked like a music video to me- I was far from impressed. It’s a movie that simply didn’t work for me, enough so that a friend’s copy of Bronson has been collecting dust on my desk for over a month now.

    That said I am excited to see Drive, if as Jeremy Dylan said, only for the cast. And maybe in light of that I’ll finally watch Bronson as prelude as it seems to be getting some praise around here.

    @Jeremy Dylan- That’s one helluva film lineup. Yikes! Should be a strange and good time.

  13. Ken Hanke

    If Valhalla Rising is indeed well-regarded, I have to say I’m surprised.

    It may be the circles I move in. I have not seen it myself. I’m pretty sure I have a screener of Bronson, but I haven’t seen that either.

  14. Xanadon't

    I have not seen it myself. I’m pretty sure I have a screener of Bronson, but I haven’t seen that either.

    Actually that brings up a question I’ve often wondered about: As a film critic do you often find yourself going back and catching up on previous efforts from a director who has a new film coming out that you anticipate writing a review on? Particularly one that’s maybe surrounded with Oscar buzz as early as its release?
    Obviously, if let’s say you know you’re gonna be faced with reviewing the next Uwe Boll movie (Ha, maybe Justin Souther is out of town or something) it would be pure, fruitless masochism to catch up on his earlier work before hand. And obviously minor efforts don’t always inform larger ones (or often a marginal amount of the public knows of them and even less care). But with an already busy schedule (400 movie reviews a year, yikes) I wonder how often you feel obligated to visit a film that slipped through the cracks as a form of ‘outside research’.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Actually that brings up a question I’ve often wondered about: As a film critic do you often find yourself going back and catching up on previous efforts from a director who has a new film coming out that you anticipate writing a review on? Particularly one that’s maybe surrounded with Oscar buzz as early as its release?

    When I started doing this gig — coming off years of books and magazines where you had to put a film into a body of work context if you could — I would take this to absurd extremes. I even insisted on seeing Scary Movie before seeing Scary Movie 2. (But, hey, I’ve always said I probably woulda liked Malcolm X better if I’d seen parts I through IX first.) The impracticality of this soon became apparent if only in terms of time and logistics.

    In this case, the point is moot, since Justin asked me some time ago if he could review Drive — and he has seen Bronson and Valhalla Rising.

    It actually doesn’t arise all that often that there’s a film from a filmmaker who is totally unfamiliar to me unless it’s a debut work or the earlier works are shorts, foreign language films that never got released here, or TV works. In those cases, it’s often not even possible. Would I have liked or understood Legally Blonde any better if I’d seen Robert Luketic’s short film Titsiana Booberini? I’m doubtful. The only short film I can think of that I’d seen prior to someone’s debut feature is Martin McDonagh’s Six-Shooter, which I did see before In Bruges, but it had an Oscar win, which made it more available.

    Now I’m probably more apt to see a film first and see if it drives me into searching out earlier works. That said, I doubt very much that Alone in the Dark would have driven me to seek out House of the Dead (which I’d already seen) in the Uwe Boll oeuvre. Then again, much as I truly love Bharat Nalluri’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I have never considered checking out The Crow: Salvation.

  16. luluthebeast

    I think this will be a weekend for a play, as both community theaters are opening their seasons. It also helps that both Mary and I find SJP to be a vile actress and creature, I refuse to see the new STRAW DOGS on general principle and DRIVE seems generic enough to wait for it on cable.
    At least my sister will have a good movie to watch as I sent her my copy of the full-length, international version of FUKKATSU NO HI, possibly the best end of the world by virus movie ever made!

  17. Ken Hanke

    DRIVE seems generic enough to wait for it on cable.

    I think you may be wrong there.

    I sent her my copy of the full-length, international version of FUKKATSU NO HI, possibly the best end of the world by virus movie ever made!

    All 156 minutes of it…

  18. Ken Hanke

    Even for pre-code that wasn’t flying, but the prospect of it was why George Raft refused the role.

  19. luluthebeast

    [b]DRIVE seems generic enough to wait for it on cable.

    I think you may be wrong there[/b]

    Is it a lot better than the trailer makes it seem?

  20. Me

    Im with Ken how does it look generic? The trailer looked a little Michael Mannish, so that has me a little concerned.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Is it a lot better than the trailer makes it seem?

    Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t say for sure — and these people likening it to Lynch, Tarantino, Jodorowsky, Boorman, etc. may be totally wrong, but when I read things like that I get curious. I also assume the trailer is meant to appeal to the largest possible action thriller crowd, so I’m placing even less stock in the trailer than usual.

    Now, that said, Justin is the food-taster on this one, but that’s because he asked to review it some time back. You don’t think I’d really rather see a Sarah Jurrasic Parker movie?

  22. Ken Hanke

    The trailer looked a little Michael Mannish

    God, what an awful thought! Like I said, I’m sure the trailer is made to appeal to the widest possible, least discerning audiences imaginable.

  23. This has been a great year for films for me, but I am most excited about DRIVE. What I’m hearing is that it lives up to the hype.

    Refn is a director who wears his influences on his sleeve, positively I feel. BRONSON is obviously A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and VALHALLA RISING is EL TOPO and 2001.

  24. luluthebeast

    [b]You don’t think I’d really rather see a Sarah Jurrasic Parker movie?[/b]

    I would hope not!

  25. Ken Hanke

    This has been a great year for films for me

    I wish I felt that way, but I don’t.

  26. Xanadon't

    Well, just finished watching the red band trailer for Drive and really didn’t seen anything “red band” about it. Not much indication of anything that makes this look like a film dedicated to Jodorowsky. But even so, that’s a pretty intriguing tidbit of information which only further fuels my curiosity. I’ll be catching this one in the theater… even if not for a midnight show.

  27. Ken Hanke

    I can’t tell any difference between this so-called red band trailer and the green band one. Don’t feel left out. One point of wariness, when Marie Antoinette came out, Sofia Coppola was going on about how she was inspired by Ken Russell’s Lisztomania. I’m glad she told me because I’d never have guessed it.

  28. Me

    I just noticed Higher Ground is now missing from Fine Arts coming soon page. Do you know anything about that Ken?

  29. Ken Hanke

    I have it down as opening on Sept. 30 at The Carolina. I don’t know about the Fine Arts on this, but that’s the same weekend as the LGBTQ film festival is at the Fine Arts, isn’t it?

  30. Xanadon't

    Well, the reviews for Straw Dogs are beginning to roll in and the consensus is pretty underwhelming (currently 37% approval rating on RT) BUT… there’s a number of notable critics that have given it some respectable grades, so I’ll be interested in how you come down on it. Ha, I’ll very likely see it either way, but I’m hoping you end up making me feel less guilty for doing so.

  31. Ken Hanke

    I’m hoping you end up making me feel less guilty for doing so.

    Oh…dear…

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