Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 21-27: Point Blank Killer Dolphin Moneyball Abduction

In Theaters

This week it’s four mainstream titles—Abduction, Dolphin Tale, Killer Elite, Moneyball (opening most places)—up against one lonely art title—Point Blank (opening at The Carolina). There’s little doubt about what’s going to come out on top here. Moneyball seems destined to be the big winner at the box office. Other questions remain. Will Taylor Lautner prove he’s more than a beefy boy with big biceps? Can Morgan Freeman fix an amputee dolphin? Can Brad Pitt make baseball stats interesting? Will Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro become the Groucho, Harpo and Chico of action pictures? All will be revealed over the weekend—depending on how intrepid you are. At one point, it seemed that Machine Gun Preacher was opening locally, but apparently it’s not.

I’ve already seen Point Blank—and I’ll be seeing it again at an Asheville Film Society screening on Wednesday (it doesn’t open to the general public till Friday). The review’s in this week’s paper where it tied with Drive for the week’s top pick. In other words, this French action thriller is what we might call the bee’s knees. I’ll leave it to the review to tell you why.

Now, about this other stuff…

Abduction is, of course, the movie that’s meant—within PG-13 limits so the teenage girls can still get in—to get Taylor Lautner out of the Twilight realm by proving he’s like, you know, a real actor in a real movie. All well and good, I suppose, even if he appears to be from the Corey Haim School of acting in seven out of nine stills and posters. The fact that Alfred Molina, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello and Sigourney Weaver may help in one sense (the film) and hurt in another (Lautner’s acting skills). The plot with Lautner finding out that his family isn’t his family and that some government agency sounds awfully like Hanna. John Singleton—a filmmaker who is on the uneven side—in the director’s chair could go either way.

And next we have Dolphin Tale. I have no earthly idea what event took place that made me agree to sit through this. It may have taken place in a passing hallucination, but it seems either I told Mr. Souther that I would review it, or he told me that he wouldn’t. What it is some family-friendly fact-based tale about a dolphin named Winter who loses her tail in crab trap. She is befriended in the aquarium by young Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble, Marley & Me), who ropes prosthetics whiz Dr. McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) into fixing her up with a new tail. Besides Morgan Freeman, the movie’s also got Ashley Judd, Harry Connick, Jr. and Kris Kristofferson. I like the fact that director Charles Martin Smith (primarily known as an actor) started his directing dalliances back in 1986 with the R rated heavy metal horror picture Trick or Treat. Maybe Ozzy will show up here? Naw.

And there’s Killer Elite. What is going on here? First we have a movie called Point Blank that has nothing to do with the John Boorman film of that title. Now we have a movie called Killer Elite that has nothing to do with the Sam Peckinpah movie of the same name. Instead we have an action picture from newcomer filmmaker Gary McKendry starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro, which we are told is “based on a shocking true story.” Apparently it has something to do with ex-special ops agent Statham and his mentor (De Niro) trying to thwart some dastardly (possible shocking) scheme by Owen, who heads it a secret military group. Right now, it has six reviews that are split down the middle. However, two of the bad ones are from sources I consider negligible, but then so are two of the good ones.

The theoretical Big Picture is Moneyball. Hey, it stars Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill and Robin Wright. It was directed by Bennett Miller (Capote). The screenplay was co-authored by Aaron Sorkin, who is still hot from The Social Network. It looks clearly poised to be the week’s winner—at least financially. It’s another fact-based story. This one’s about Billy Beane (Pitt) who rethinks how baseball teams are put together—with the help of Peter Brand (Hill), a guy with an economics degree, no understanding of baseball, but a mastery of spreadsheets and statistics. Early reviews are strong and stress that you don’t need to like or understand the game in order to like the movie. Maybe it’s the fact that I wasn’t as whelmed by Miller’s Capote (I think Douglas McGrath’s Infamous was at least twice as good, and so was its Capote), but I’m not as enthused as I’m supposed to be. We’ll see.

And sneaking in from nowhere is something called Mardi Gras that smells a lot like a four-waller. It was made by Phil Dornfeld, whose biggest credits are as an associate producer on a couple of Scary Movie entries (and finding someone to associate with the producers of those was probably no mean trick). It has C-list actors and the official site says: ” For three college guys, it’s senior year and the co-ed experience has left them high and dry. Their solution: A road trip to Mardi Gras, where beautiful babes are happy to lift their shirts and open containers are always welcome. But after dressing in drag, breaking into Carmen Electra’s hotel room, starring in a scandalous sex show and accidentally exploding a feces bomb in a swank hotel lobby, will the Mardi Gras magic kick in and their wildest fantasies come true?” What more could possibly want to know? It sounds nothing like the 1958 Pat Boone movie of the same name.

Leaving us this week—after only one week—is the documentary Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest. Otherwise, the art product is holding steady The Guard is sticking around at the Fine Arts. Midnight in Paris is still at The Carolina. And Sarah’s Key is on for another week at both The Carolina and the Fine Arts.

Special Screenings

Before getting down to the usual offerings, let’s note a couple of others. First, there’s the Asheville Film Society free members only screening of Point Blank on Wed., Sept. 21 at 7:30 at The Carolina. Not a member? Well, you can fix that for ten bucks.

There’s also this:
“The Carolina Asheville Invites you to a Celebration of Tangible Peace, Non-Violence & Community Building for the International Day of Peace on September 21. There will be a free screening of The Day After Peace in the Cinema Lounge on Wed., Sept. 21 at 7:00 p.m.

“In his second award-winning documentary, The Day After Peace follows director Jeremy Gilley in his work towards a globally observed day of ceasefire and non-violence. Even after the member states of the UN unanimously adopt Peace Day, the struggle isn’t over. As the years pass, there’s not a single ceasefire. The voices of the cynics are growing louder – and now Gilley’s non-profit organization, Peace One Day, is in dire financial straits. But he can’t let it fail. The film’s breathtaking conclusion finds Gilley joined by Jude Law in Afghanistan, attempting to spearhead a massive vaccination against polio on Peace Day. The film is a moving testament to the power of the individual and the perseverance of the human spirit.”

The Thursday Horror Picture Show this week is Vincent Price in Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) on Thu., Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh on Fri., Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is screening Part Two of Gone with the Wind (1939) on Sun., Sept. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society screens Peter O’Toole in his Oscar-nominated performance in Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class (1972) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Sept. 27 in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. More on all these titles—except Gone with the Wind—in this week’s Xpress.

On DVD

I’m probably missing something, but the only notable things I see out to are Today’s Special—a charming, little film that was a modest success at the Fine Arts—and Bridesmaids—a huge success most places, but not a film I feel any need to ever see again myself.

Notable TV screenings

I can’t say there’s nothing—after all Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight (1932) and Lewis Milestone’s Hallelujah, I’m a Bum! make for a nice double bill starting at 8 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 24—but all in all, this is one of those weeks where most everything on TCM is on with a certain frequency.  So, you are mostly on your own here.

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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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15 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler Sept. 21-27: Point Blank Killer Dolphin Moneyball Abduction

  1. DrSerizawa

    I don’t know but Mardi Gras makes Dolphin Tale sound survivable. But since I’m not a movie critic I don’t have to sit through either of them. Heh heh.

    Machine Gun Preacher sounded promising until I looked it up and saw it’s an inspirational faith based movie. And here I was hoping for something in the vein of a redneck preacher taking his 45caliber ministry to the streets of Detroit…. “Accept Jesus or eat lead sinners! Take that, Drug Legalization activists! (ratatatatat!)”

    No such luck.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I don’t know but Mardi Gras makes Dolphin Tale sound survivable. But since I’m not a movie critic I don’t have to sit through either of them. Heh heh.

    Well, no one’s bothering with Mardi Gras. It’s hardly worth it, since it’s only there for a week. Dolphin Tale, alas…

  3. I’m tempted toward MONEYBALL due to Aaron Sorkin having taken one of the passes at the screenplay, but I don’t remember the last time I liked a sports movie, so it’s still up in the air.

    • Ken Hanke

      Logistically, it makes more sense for me to do Killer Elite, so Mr. Souther is probably getting Moneyball.

  4. Me

    If Moneyball is half as good as the last baseball movie i saw Sugar i will be happy with it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    There aren’t many films I won’t take The Ruling Class over.

  6. Me

    I never checked out Infamous it seemed like a rip off of the other film at the time. Doesn’t it have Sandra Bullock in it? By default it cant be better than Capote.

  7. I never checked out Infamous it seemed like a rip off of the other film at the time.

    I don’t see how two films about historical events can be seen as ripping off one another.

    By default it cant be better than Capote.
    It is.

  8. Me

    When one film comes out the following year after the other one has been successful and they both have the same plot, it just seems like they are trying to piggyback a more successful film. I just had preconceived notions about it that i couldn’t buy into.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Well, you were wrong. And it didn’t work — nor could it work — quite the way you are imagining.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Toby Jones made a better Capote than Hoffman did imo.

    I’d agree with that. I’d go further and say that Sandra Bullock made a better Harper Lee than Catherine Keener (and I love Catherine Keener). Actually, I think everyone was better in Infamous and the film itself was more interesting and certainly less funereal in its pacing.

  11. DrSerizawa

    I’m just glad that Midnight In Paris was still at the local Carmike last weekend. That’s the state of movies this year unfortunately.

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