Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey


The Story: The events leading up to the historical civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The Lowdown: Less a biopic of Martin Luther King than a largely successful attempt to capture a point in history. Its relevance to today is startling.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Susan Brown, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd

The Iron Lady

In Brief: Make no mistake: This is a two-and-a-half-star movie raised to four-star status solely on the performances of Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent. They make The Iron Lady (2011) worth a look, even though the movie itself — to put it kindly — is nothing special. The filmmaker — and more than a few critics…
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons

The Interview

The Story: A moron TV interviewer and his only slightly brighter producer are tapped by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-Un when the dictator invites the pair to North Korea. The Lowdown: More a curio than a good movie and of more interest for its notoriety than anything else, The Interview is basically a Crosby-Hope…
Starring: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Yves Barsacq, André Fouché, Georges Montant


Jacques Tati is not only an acquired taste, but you have to be in the right mood for his films — and I perhaps wasn't when I saw Playtime (1967). While I admired what he was doing with this disastrously ambitious production, I enjoyed it far less than his other films — even the often…
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant, Hans Meyer, Julie Delpy

Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood)

When the Asheville Film Society ran Leos Carax's third film, The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), one viewer called it the worst movie he'd ever seen. I feel certain there was a bit of hyperbole there, especially since no one else in a fairly packed house complained, but Carax is definitely not for everyone. His second film, Mauvais…
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, John Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Katherine Waterston, Benicio Del Toro, Joanna Newsom

Inherent Vice

The Story: A stoner private eye in 1970 L.A. becomes embroiled in a twisty and dangerous mystery. The Lowdown: A determinedly complex and intentionally messy work that's rich in strange characters, offbeat comedy and a deeply human element underlying it all. It won't be to everyone's liking, but this is a great film.
Starring: Vincent Price, Margaret Lindsay, George Sanders, Dick Foran, Nan Grey, Cecil Kellaway

The House of the Seven Gables

Despite tacking on a backstory, Universal Pictures' 1940 stab at Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables clocks in at a tidy 90 minutes. (I have often wished all of Hawthorne's books had a similar economy.) It's also a reasonable approximation of the story, handled with a fair amount of style by refugee German…
Starring: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye

Creature with the Atom Brain

Pure cheese sci-fi horror from good ol' Sam Katzman. In fact, it may be the lowest budget of all his 1950s thrillers, but Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) is so very 1950s — right down Richard Denning as the pipe-smoking egghead scientist who puts together the solution — that it's a delight. Possibly, its delights are…
Starring: Carole Lombard, Allan Dinehart, Vivienne Osborne, Randolph Scott, H.B. Warner, Beryl Mercer


In Brief: White Zombie (1932) prompted Paramount — still a tentative player in the horror genre at the time — to give Victor and Edward Halperin a one picture deal with the studio. Though lacking a major horror star like they'd had with Bela Lugosi in White Zombie, the arrangement gave them studio backing and…
Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Donald Dillaway, Jackie Lyn Dufton, Mary Carr, James Finlayson

Pack Up Your Troubles

In Brief: Laurel and Hardy's second feature film, Pack Up Your Troubles, is much smoother than their first, Pardon Us (1931), though it is often considered inferior to it. I'm not sure why, since it follows a similar approach. Both films play like three interconnected shorts — and the best of their work was the short…
Starring: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jill Eikenberry


In Brief: I object to Arthur on the basic principle that the cuddly, lovable alcoholic is a worn-out concept that puts a happy face on something that is neither cuddly, nor happy. It's a comedic notion that's older than the movies and had outlived its value long before this movie was made in 1981. That…

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler December 31-January 6: January Is Upon Us

In Theaters. It was as inevitable as Dick Clark’s shrinking posthumous billing on New Year’s Rocking Eve that January would arrive bearing slim tidings mixed with the nuggets of expanding Oscar-bait releases that have yet too penetrate the provinces. Well, this week we get none of the latter (next week promises to be better) and […]

Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Jon Polito, Terence Stamp

Big Eyes

The Story: The story of Margaret Keane, the painter of all those big-eyed children in the 1960s. The Lowdown: A rewarding, funny, moving, even slightly frightening look into the world of art and artists from Tim Burton that benefits from the talents of Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Mark Strong, Charles Dance

The Imitation Game

The Story: The story of Alan Turing, the math genius who headed up breaking the secret of the German Enigma machine. The Lowdown: Sure, it's Oscar-bait, but if only all Oscar-bait was this finely crafted and intelligent, awards season would be a much more pleasant experience. Terrific direction, writing and performances carry the day.
Celebrity Sightings In New York City - December 2, 2013
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Cameron Diaz, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje


The Story: Film version of the Broadway show. The Lowdown: By no means the disaster some have claimed, this new take on Annie is often clever and stylish and unfailingly good humored, but it's also uneven and a bit shy of greatness.
Starring: Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi


The Story: The fact-based story of Louis Zamperini. The Lowdown: Safe, competent, well made, well acted, but far less involving than it ought to be given the story and subject.
Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Walter Abel, Virginia Dale, Louise Beavers

Holiday Inn

In Brief: Yeah, it's the film that gave us the song "White Christmas" (and inadvertently launched a hotel chain), but Mark Sanrich's richly entertaining Holiday Inn (1942) is the movie equivalent of a one-size-fits-all greeting card for just about every holiday to come down the pike. We get Christmas, New Year's Eve, Lincoln's birthday, Valentine's Day, Washington's birthday,…