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Starring: Gene Wilder, Harrison Ford, Val Bisoglio, George DiCenzo, Leo Fuchs, Beege Barkette

The Frisco Kid

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In Brief:  Robert Aldrich’s penultimate film (1979) is an easygoing work of some considerable charm that relies far too much on ethnic humor — mostly Jewish, but not entirely — to sit quite as comfortably as it might like. But the main interest in the film is probably Gene Wilder’s performance, which is interesting simply…
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Starring: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine Noonan

If….

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In Brief: Lindsay Anderson's landmark film If.... shook up world cinema, made a star of fairly obscure TV actor Malcolm McDowell and set Anderson on the road to creating his famous trilogy (If...., O Lucky Man!, Britannia Hospital). That's a pretty impressive accomplishment, but his tale of the resentment at an English boys school —…
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Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller

The Artist

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In Brief: A great deal of the appeal of The Artist is the pure novelty of the experience. It will probably be a lot of people’s first exposure to any silent film — at least as an entire feature-length movie — and in that respect, I suspect the film’s calculations are very shrewd indeed. Making it…
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Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Delphine Seyrig, Claude Jade, Michel Lonsdale

Stolen Kisses

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In Brief: The third film in François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel series, Stolen Kisses (1968) is probably the best after the original, which none of the sequels topped or even equaled. It's lightweight (a curiously insubstantial affair considering the political and cultural turmoil surrounding its making) and somewhat rambling, but very appealing and still embracing something…
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Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M

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In Brief: Yes, Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M (1931), has a few awkward moments, in which Lang hasn’t quite mastered the new medium, but this old warhorse of art cinema works more than it doesn’t, and still registers as a compelling work by one of the undisputed masters of film. And calling it an old…
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Starring: Bruce Spence, Wandjuk Marika, Roy Marika, Roy Barrett, Norman Kaye

Where the Green Ants Dream

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In Brief: Minor Werner Herzog, but make no mistake, Where the Green Ants Dream (1984) is still Herzog, and any movie by cinema's most idiosyncratic — sometimes just short of lunatic — filmmaker is worth at least one look. It's a kind of shaggy tale of the crimes against the Aborigines by the Australian government…
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Starring: Boris Karloff, Tim O'Kelly, Nancy Hsueh, Peter Bogdanovich, Arthur Peterson

Targets

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While it lacks the style and polish of the films that come after it, Peter Bogdanovich’s debut film, Targets (1968), is a first feature of note — one that still packs a punch (maybe a punch that hits even harder in contemporary times). Its history is part of movie legend, but it’s worth remembering that…
CIAO, PROFESSORE! (aka IO SPERIAMO CHE ME LA CAVO), Paolo Villaggio (center),  (l-r): Luigi Lastorina, Carmela Pecoraro, Pier Francesco Borruto, Adriano Pantaleo, 1992, (c)Miramax
Starring: Paolo Villaggio, Isa Danieli, Gigio Morra, Sergio Solli, Ester Carloni, Paolo Bonacelli

Ciao, Professore!

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For a time in the 1970s, Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller was the bee's knees of critical darlings — even managing to snare the admiration of that most hateful and hated critic John Simon (who makes Armond White look like a dilettante in the troll department). One wag even commented that had Wertmüller not existed, Simon…
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Starring: Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson, Dudley Manlove, Bela Lugosi

Plan 9 From Outer Space

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It's good to see Asheville getting a dose of the peculiar delights of Ed Wood-style cinema. And those delights don't come any more peculiar than Plan 9 from Outer Space. It may be the most enjoyable bad film of all time. Wood had no money, no credentials and, worst of all, no talent, but he didn't…
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Starring: Keiji Sada, Yoshiko Kuga, Chishû Ryû, Kuniko Miyake, Haruko Sugimura

Good Morning

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In Brief: OK, I’m not a huge fan of Yasujirô Ozu. I recognize his place in world cinema, but I’ve never warmed to his work on a personal level, I don’t care for his restrained style, and I don’t accept the idea that everything he made was of great importance. (If you’re an Ozu completist,…
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Starring: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Dagmara Dominiczyk, Richard Harris, Luis Guzman

The Count of Monte Cristo

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Kevin Reynolds' The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) is such a gloriously old-fashioned, swashbuckling adventure movie that it makes one wonder if we've been blaming the wrong Kevin for the cinematic atrocities that are Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The combination of Reynolds and the memory of the dreary attempt at putting Dumas…
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Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, Barbara Steele

8 1/2

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One of the undisputed classics of modern international film, 8 1/2 (its title literally meaning that it was Federico Fellini's eight-and-one-halfth film — seven full features and a couple short segments of omnibus films precede it) is the movie where the greatest of all Italian filmmakers moved completely away from traditional realism toward a more personal approach…
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Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Helen Morse, Celia Gregory

Agatha

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In Brief: Michael Apted's 1979 film — his conjecture as to what might have happened during the 11-day disappearance in 1926 of mystery novelist Agatha Christie — is one of the overlooked gems of '70s filmmaking. It may not be Apted's best film, but it is almost certainly his most visually sumptuous — thanks in no small…
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Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina

Midnight Run

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One of the better — yet probably least remembered — action comedies of the 1980s, Midnight Run (1988) is notable more for the chemistry of its two stars than for its actual script or Martin Brest’s so-so direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Quite a few films are worthwhile for the performance of one…
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Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley

Videodrome

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When you look at David Cronenberg’s nearly 30-year-old Videodrome (can it really be that long ago?), it’s incredible to realize how comparatively quaint the technology in the film is. It’s also hard not to realize that the points — warnings really — Cronenberg was making about technology overtaking our lives have only become more and…
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Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George "Buck" Flower, Peter Jason

They Live

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Conceptually, They Live is probably John Carpenter's best film. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Carpenter, the concept is better than the execution. Of the "modern" horrormeisters, Carpenter has always been the lightweight. The closest he got to a theme seemed to be in Halloween, with its implicit message that girls who "fooled around" get offed by…
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Starring: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray, Dorothee Blank, Michel Legrand

Cleo from 5 to 7

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This is the movie that placed Varda in the ranks of the New Wave filmmakers. Its concept is to follow the vapid title character, a pop singer, in faux real time (the title claims two hours, the film is 90 minutes) as she waits for a biopsy report she dreads. That’s it. But what matters…
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Starring: Kelly Curtis, Herbert Lom, Mariangela Giordano, Michael Adatte

The Sect

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Italian horror is a strange beast. Were I really pressed on the point, I’m not sure I could name a single Italian horror picture apart from Michele Soavi’s Cemetery Man (1994) that I’d call good in any normal sense of the word — and even that film isn’t the last word in logic or coherence. It is,…
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Starring: Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Orson Welles, Akim Tamiroff, Marlene Dietrich

Touch of Evil

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Perhaps the most legendary of all Orson Welles films, apart from Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil (1958) actually deserves its legend status—even if some of the legend is fabricated. (The notion put forth in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) that Universal was spuriously offering up Charlton Heston as a Mexican to Welles is nonsense, since…
Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Ernest Thesiger, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, Lilian Bond, Eva Moore

The Old Dark House

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James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932) is not by any means the first Old-Dark-House movie, but it’s the only one adapted from the J.B. Priestley novel by that name (though in Britain, the book was called Benighted). (We will not discuss that 1963 abomination by the same title.) The movie — believed to be…
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Starring: Bela Lugosi,Luana Walters, Tristram Coffin, Elizabeth Russell, Minerva Urcal, Angelo Rossitto

The Corpse Vanishes

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In Brief: Wallace Fox’s The Corpse Vanishes (1942) is the fourth of Lugosi’s Monogram Nine — and if nothing else, it’s hands down the nastiest of the lot. (It’s only competition is the same year’s Bowery at Midnight, which was also made by Mr. Fox.) Here we find Lugosi as Dr. Lorenz — mad scientist…