New Movie Releases

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Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Richard Colson Baker, Danny Glover

Beyond the Lights

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The Story: An up-and-coming pop star, struggling with her rise to fame, falls in love with a humble police officer. The Lowdown: A mature, realistic romance that struggles due to a lack of cinematic style and dramatic tension.
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Starring: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Kevin Bankston, William Binney

Citizenfour

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The Story: Activist documentary on whistle-blower Edward Snowden. The Lowdown: Clearly — and unquestioningly — in the pro-Snowden camp, this film lacks balance, which is expected in this type of movie. But it also tries to create urgency with a story where we already know the ending (such as it is). Worthy, but a good bit shy of greatness.
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Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle, Laurie Holden, Rachel Melvin

Dumb and Dumber To

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The Story: Twenty years after the fact, we get the further adventures of Harry and Lloyd. The Lowdown: The “much-anticipated” (they say) sequel to Dumb and Dumber (1994) is a shapeless retread of things that supposedly worked in the first movie. One of the worst films of 2014.

Special Screenings This Week

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Starring: Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Tony McCoy, Loretta King, Harvey B. Dunn, George Becwar, Dolores Fuller

Bride of the Monster

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In Brief:  Though it comes a week early, it can be fairly said that this is the Thursday Horror Picture Show's Thanksgiving turkey, but what an entertaining turkey it is. Saying that Bride of the Monster (1955) is the best movie Ed Wood ever made isn’t exactly showering it with praise, since that’s based on the sliding scale of relative claims. In any other context — except that of the true Lugosiphile who understands that to truly love Lugosi is to love bad Bela — this is dire stuff. This is Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff, some kind of unhinged Soviet scientist driven from his homeland and forced to take up residency in a swamp with only stock footage of an octopus and a hulking mute Tibetan named Lobo (Tor Johnson) for company. To while away the time, he continues his experiments for turning humans into “atomic supermen” — with the most economical lab you ever saw. His principle equipment — apart from a refrigerator and a stove — seems to be a photo enlarger and a stainless steel mixing bowl with spark plugs stuck in it. It hardly matters since none of his experiments ever survive the attempt. Everything you may have heard about Bride of the Monster is probably true — deliriously so. A very special classic — of a sort. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Bride of the Monster Thursday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six  at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeberg, Erland Josephson

Hour of the Wolf

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In Brief: Exempting the multi-director film Stimulantia (1967), Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968) follows his equally disturbing Persona (1966) and is stylistically and tonally very similar. Why Hour of the Wolf  is classified as a horror-drama and Persona as a drama is a matter for debate. Both are nightmarish. Both deal (as does a lot of Bergman) with identity and the effects of isolation. But Hour of the Wolf — which is basically about an artist (and by extension, his wife) going insane on a lonely island — is steeped in the language of the horror film, with its Gothic trappings and collection of grotesque characters, in a way that Persona is not. You can, if you choose, ignore the horror content of Persona, but Hour of the Wolf is another matter. Yes, it’s art house horror, but it’s horror all the same — and creepier than most horror pictures. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Hour of the Wolf Friday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
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Starring: Will Rogers, Tom Brown, Anita Louise, Stepin Fetchit, Henry B. Walthall, David Landau, Hattie McDaniel

Judge Priest

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In Brief: Will Rogers once called John Ford’s Judge Priest the best movie he ever made. Of course, he was promoting the film when he said that. Whether or not it’s quite true, it’s easily his most controversial — and most problematic for modern viewers. The story — adapted from the writings of American humorist and occasional actor Irvin S. Cobb — takes place in a heavily romanticized 19th-century small town in Kentucky where the Civil War and the Confederacy are very much a part of everyday life. In fact, most of the characters — including Rogers’ title character — are Confederate veterans. It can be easy to take this undeniably sentimental and sympathetic approach to the Confederacy at face value — especially with Stepin Fetchit (here given special billing) as Rogers’ servant and confidante, Jeff Poindexter — and think of the movie as racist and reactionary. And to some degree it is, but this is Ford, and nothing is as easy as it seems. The film — while clearly celebrating a glamorized view of the Old South — lays bare the hypocrisy, pomposity and bigotry that lies beneath the outward gentility of this world. Judge Priest himself is a champion of the disenfranchised and the social outcasts — a man who honors the glorified past but recognizes its shortcomings and injustices. Take it in the context of its time and as a fairly major work of a major filmmaker. The Asheville Film Society will screen Judge Priest Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Matthew Allis

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

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In Brief: This is a make-up showing of The Day Carl Sandburg Died, which the Hendersonville Film Society had slated to run some considerable time ago. The film is a scrupulously detailed, reasonably comprehensive and beautifully presented documentary on the great American poet Carl Sandburg from Asheville filmmaker Paul Bonesteel. Whatever you think you know about Sandburg, I suspect this movie — and the people in it — know more than you do, and it’s quite a pleasure to find out. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Day Carl Sandburg Died Sunday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
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Starring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert

The Great Dictator

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In Brief: For their final Budget Big Screen film of 2014 (the free Tuesday and Thursday showings will continue through the winter and the BBS series will return in the spring), the Asheville Film Society is running Charles Chaplin’s first talkie, The Great Dictator (1940). Chaplin held out against talking pictures longer than anyone — feeling that dialogue would kill his Little Tramp character, but this was something different. While vestiges of the Tramp were certainly evident in his Jewish Barber character, the larger thrust here was Chaplin’s satire on Adolf Hitler — here presented by Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel, the great dictator of the title. It was perhaps an act of revenge of a sort, since Hitler had co-opted Chaplin’s mustache. But there’s more here — much more. Chaplin had something to say, and he would use his newfound voice to say it. His Hynkel is an amazing caricature of Hitler — the garbled phony German speeches sound like the real thing — and represents some of Chaplin’s finest comedic moments. However there’s a deeper — frankly terrifying — aspect to this bold film, which is brazenly set in the period “between two world wars” — something that in 1940 was inevitable, but which was rarely expressed openly. It is Chaplin at his best and bravest — a genuine classic of film by one of its greatest masters at the height of his power. The Asheville Film Society is showing The Great Dictator Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina Asheville as part of the Budget Big Screen series. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public. Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther will introduce the film.