Starring: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Story: A put-upon young boy gets his wish that his family finds out what a bad day is like when they're on the receiving end. The Lowdown: A very long 80 minutes of obvious slapstick and loud performances pitched to the family-friendly crowd, which should demand better.
Starring: Mark Landis, Matthew Leininger, Aaron Cowan, Jill Chancey

Art and Craft

The Story: Documentary about a very peculiar art forger — one who makes gifts of his forgeries to altogether-too-credulous museums. The Lowdown: Immensely likable little documentary about a singularly strange man with a penchant for gifting museums with his forgeries of the works of famous artists. It's pretty indifferent as filmmaking, but its subject and the questions it raises carry it.
Starring: Altinay Ghelich Taghani, Soghra Karimi, Zahra Mohammadi, Habib Haddad

Daughters of the Sun

In Brief: This debut feature from Iranian director Maryam Shahriar is a specialized film for specialized tastes. Those with a keen interest in Iranian cinema should probably add at least a half-star to my rating. Others might approach this slow-moving, unrelentingly grim movie about a young rural Iranian woman (Altinay Ghelich Taghani), forced into having her head shaved and farmed out to a nearby rugmaker to supervise the weaving of Persian rugs, with caution. In essence, she's been stripped of her sexual identity and sold into slavery (or maybe it's weavery). Basically, it's 90 minutes of hard luck and quiet desperation with a main character who rarely talks. I can't say it isn't well made — though I suspect the Facets DVD does it no favors — but neither can I say it appeals to me. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Daughters of the Sun Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Emma Thompson

Men, Women & Children

The Story: Eight intercut — sometimes connected — stories of life in the age of omnipresent social media. The Lowdown: It's a worthy idea and there are some moments of grace, but this takedown of society losing actual human connection through its online and text messaging simulation of interaction is too unfocused and overstuffed to be the movie it wants to be.
Starring: Sammi Davis, Paul McGann, Amanda Donohoe, Christopher Gable, David Hemmings, Glenda Jackson

The Rainbow

In Brief: Ken Russell's last large-scale theatrical work, The Rainbow (1989) was the most elaborate of the three films he made for producer Dan Ireland at Vestron Pictures. In many ways, it was an attempt to recapture the quality of Women in Love from 20 years earlier. After all, D.H. Lawrence's novel was the book that led to Women in Love. So surrounding himself with a cast he mostly knew and trusted, Russell set out to make a masterpiece. While he didn't quite do that — thanks to a central casting error — he came pretty close and made a beautiful, deeply sensual film, his most ambitious work of the 1980s. What he hadn't reckoned on was the restructuring of Vestron and the closing of their theatrical arm, leaving him with a very good — sometimes great — movie that almost no one got the chance to see. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Rainbow Sunday, Oct. 19, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Starring: Roger Daltrey, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Fiona Lewis, John Justin, Ringo Starr


In Brief: Lisi Russell (Mrs. Ken Russell) joins the Asheville Film Society to introduce this special Budget Big Screen showing of Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975),  a movie she was slated to costar in — that is until her mother found out about it. It is hands down the most unrestrained film ever made by the filmmaker — a man not exactly known for restraint. It's a big, outrageous comic strip take on the lives of Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) and Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas) — with a guest appearance by Ringo Starr as the pope. In other words, it's 19th century musical giants, the rock stars of their day. It has vampires, Adolph Hitler (as the Frankenstein Monster), Nazis, Thor, a mad scientist, Charlie Chaplin, a flame-throwing piano, a rocket ship — everything you could hope for in a musical biopic and more. It is unlike anything you've ever seen. That's a promise. The Asheville Film Society is showing Lisztomania Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in at The Carolina Asheville as part of the Budget Big Screen series. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public. Special guest Lisi Russell (Ken Russell's widow) will introduce the film with Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr., George Macready

The Alligator People

In Brief: Yes, it's got a ridiculous title — and boasts an even more ridiculous, yet utterly charming, monster — but Roy Del Ruth's The Alligator People is actually one of the better horror movies of the 1950s. The script by Orville H. Hampton is tightly constructed and reasonably literate (within the limits of the concept), and the acting is good. The real selling point, however, is Hollywood veteran Del Ruth's utterly professional handling of the material. He and the cast keep admirably straight faces in a tale of a young woman (Beverly Garland) discovering that her new husband (Richard Crane) is mutating into ... well, an alligator thanks to a misguided medical experiment by a refreshingly not mad scientist (George Macready). Plus, there's a booze-soaked performance from Lon Chaney Jr., a kind of backwoods Captain Hook, who is obsessed with shooting alligators (not that he ever hits one) in revenge for one of the critters inhospitably eating his hand. A lot of fun and better than it should be. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Alligator People Thursday, Oct. 9, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six  at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kôji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza


In Brief: Alejandro González Iñárritu and his writing partner Guillermo Arriaga made their bid to move into the mainstream with Babel (2006), a film that was nothing if not ambitious. Taking their standard approach of multiple stories that ultimately connect to create a larger picture, they moved a step further by making the stories global — the U.S., Mexico, Morocco and Japan. They also attempted to become grander in terms of theme, trying to create a movie that examines the difficulty humans have in communicating with each other. And in the main, they succeed. But at what? They made a film that’s more to be admired than liked, more to be thought about than felt. It’s a good film — maybe close to a great one — but one that I have no desire to revisit. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Babel Friday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens

Gone Girl

The Story: When a man's wife goes missing, the attention shifts from sympathetic to suspicion that he murdered her. The Lowdown: Deeply cynical, darkly funny, sometimes brutal, very powerful filmmaking that may make you a little queasy, but will almost certainly entertain you to no end.
Annabelle Movie
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola, Kerry O'Malley


The Story: A young couple are menaced by a creepy doll that's possessed by a demon. The Lowdown: Fairly perfunctory horror that purports to be the origin story of the doll seen early on in last year's The Conjuring. There are a few good shocks, but a lack of atmosphere and a truly awful script pretty much negate them.
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, Reginald Denny / Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, Dennis Hoey

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror / Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon

In Brief: These are the first two movies in Universal's famous Sherlock Holmes series with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. The studio opted to bring the duo back by streamlining and updating the concept. Instead of costly period pieces, they would make Holmes and Watson contemporary and build a series of classy B-pictures around them. So the debut entry, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, found Holmes tackling fifth columnists working against England through a broadcaster calling himself the Voice of Terror. Slick, quick moving and shamelessly propagandistic, it caught on with the public, paving the way for the superior Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, where the series hit its stride. After all, if Holmes fighting the Nazis was good, Holmes fighting Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill oozing malevolence) and the Nazis was even better. It was less of a propaganda piece, had a better sense of the characters and benefited from director Roy William Neill, who would helm the remaining ten films in the series. Neill brought a strong sense of atmosphere to the series that made the films look more expensive than they were. His approach defined the series and made Rathbone and Bruce the defining Holmes and Watson for a generation. The Asheville Film Society will screen Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror and Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.  
Starring: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer

Hector and the Search for Happiness

The Story: A disgruntled psychiatrist goes on a journey — literal and spiritual — to try to understand what makes people happy. The Lowdown: It's too long, takes too long finding its footing and doesn't offer any new answers, but Hector and the Search for Happiness is a pleasant little movie that wears its heart on its sleeve and isn't afraid to be a little corny, making for a pleasing, likable trip to the movies.
39 steps
Starring: Robert Powell, David Warner, Eric Porter, Karen Dotrice, John Mills, Ronald Pickup

The Thirty-Nine Steps

In Brief: Often touted as being a faithful adaptation of John Buchan's novel, Don Sharp's The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978) — the only version of the story where 39 is spelled out — might better be called "more faithful than the earlier versions." As a film, it's not in the same universe as Hitchcock's 1935 version, but it's slick fun that seems more inclined to want to cash in on the popularity of the Agatha Christie films than anything else – but with a lot less budget. Robert Powell makes a good lead — though he lacks the humor of Robert Donat in the Hitchcock film — and the rest of the cast certainly help. The most distinctive aspect of this version may be the decision to play it like a thrill comedy, especially in its climax with Powell dangling from the face of Big Ben. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Thirty-Nine Steps Sunday, Oct. 12, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Robert Patrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Sheen, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia

Kill the Messenger

The Story: Fact-based story of reporter Gary Webb, who linked the CIA to using the drug trade to fund Nicaraguan militias. The Lowdown: Slick, glossy crusading reporter movie with a strong lead performance, but also lacking in being anything other than a basic example of its genre.

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 8-14: Kill Judge Alexander Dracula Happiness

In Theaters. Something tells me this week isn’t likely to be as strong in the mainstream department, but there’s a joker amidst those three that might surprise on starpower. (I seriously doubt there’ll be as pleasant a surprise as Gone Girl.) Maybe. The art side of the ledger is a harder call, but there are […]

Starring: (Voices) Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade

The Boxtrolls

The Story: A status-seeking villain demonizes and plans on destroying a peaceful community of harmless trolls to achieve his goals. The Lowdown: Not quite up to the two previous films from the Laika studios, but with more than enough twisted creativity to make it very worthwhile.
Starring: Paul Henreid, Lizabeth Scott, André Morell, Mary Mackenzie, John Wood

Stolen Face

In Brief: Undeniably entertaining, but laughably preposterous lightweight film noir from the pre-horror days of Hammer Films, Stolen Face (1952) is fairly typical of its period. Like many British films of the 1950s, it trades on the presence of a Hollywood star who could longer afford to be too choosy, but whose name still had enough selling power at the box office to make the film exportable to the U.S. With Stolen Face, Hammer had two such stars — Paul Henreid and Lizabeth Scott — to dress up the silly story of a plastic surgeon who transforms a scarred notorious criminal into a dead ringer for the woman he loved and lost. This works about as well as you might suppose and becomes even more complicated when his lost love comes back. Yes, it really is as unlikely as it sounds. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Stolen Face Sunday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye


In Brief: The Thursday Horror Picture Show opens October — the month of Halloween — with Tod Browning's Dracula (1931), the movie from which the first wave of the horror film stems. To call it the horror picture that started it all would not be overstating the case. It set the tone and style for what was to come. Yes, later films smoothed out some of its more awkward moments, and better horror movies would come after it, but that takes nothing away from Dracula's accomplishments, nor does it alter the fact that it's the movie that gave the world Bela Lugosi as Dracula in a performance that is just as strange and compelling today as it ever was. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Dracula Thursday, Oct. 2, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six  at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Sidney Toler, Sheila Ryan, Sen Yung, Ethel Griffies / Sidney Toler, Douglas Dumbrille, Sen Yung, Ethel Griffies

Dead Men Tell / Castle in the Desert

In Brief: It's a double feature of Charlie Chan mysteries from the final days of the series at 20th Century Fox, and unlike most last films in a series, the Fox Chans went out on a high note — thanks in no small part to the stylishly atmospheric direction of former painter Harry Lachman. (Lachman himself was only a few movies away from retiring.) Both films star Sidney Toler, who had succeeded Warner Oland as the famous detective in 1938 upon Oland's death, and both find him helped or hindered by Sen Yung as "No. 2 son" Jimmy Chan. The first, Dead Men Tell (1941), is the more atmospheric of the two, but the second — and final film in the series — Castle in the Desert (1942) is probably the better mystery. Both are compact — running a minute or two over an hour — fast paced, slickly made fun. Perfect examples of the artistry of the studio system. The Asheville Film Society will screen Dead Men Tell and Castle in the Desert Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: (Voices) Doudou Gueye Thiaw, Maimouna N'Diaye, Awa Sene Sarr

Kirikou and the Sorceress

In Brief: There are modest pleasures to be found in French animator Michel Ocelot's Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998), but viewers who are not especially interested in French animation or African folklore (as filtered through the filmmaker's vision) may find its pleasures a little too modest. The film recounts the story of Kirikou, who is born — actually, he demands to be born — with something like adult mental faculties. He's more than precocious and in infancy sets himself against an evil sorceress who is terrorizing his village.  Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Kirikou and the Sorceress Friday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,