Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph

The Way, Way Back

The Story: A lonely, awkward 14-year-old is forced to spend the summer at the beach with his mother and her new mean-spirited boyfriend. The Lowdown: It takes a while to find its footing, but this warmly nostalgic coming-of-age comedy wins out with its array of unusually well-crafted characters.
Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Henry Travers, Una O'Connor, Dudley Digges

The Invisible Man

In Brief: James Whale's masterful film version of H.G. Wells' novel made a star out of Claude Rains — and this despite the fact that his face wasn't seen until the film's final shot. It also has stood the test of time as one of the greatest of all horror films — good enough, in fact, that it completely transcends its genre to simply become a great film. Brimming with delicious black comedy and nonstop cinematic creativity, it's a film like no other — and here it's being shown in a beautifully restored version.
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Brian Cox


The Story: Those aging secret agents and cuddly hit men/women are at it again. The Lowdown: Strictly by the numbers, overlong rehash of the first film with most of the original cast plus Anthony Hopkins. Lots of shooting and explosions. Very little inspiration.
Starring: Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan

A Prairie Home Companion

In Brief: Robert Altman's final film is one of those rare occurrences in which a great filmmaker goes out on a high note. More, A Prairie Home Companion virtually serves as his own eulogy since the film is often a gently comedic exploration of death and its meaning. That it comes from a filmmaker fully aware of his own mortality (Paul Thomas Anderson was on call to step in and take over if Altman didn't complete the film) makes it all the more resonant. But don't get the idea that there's anything gloomy or maudlin here. This is first and foremost a comedy about the radio show that spawned the film.

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler July 24-30: Way, Way Back to Wolverine Station

Here we have a week with some slight — and very minor — confusion, but we’ll get to that later. What we know for sure is that this week finds two of the season’s most anticipated art/indie titles hitting town and the next Big Budget Would-be Blockbuster. That’s three movies — and one more that might show up yet — which is something of a relief after last week’s flood of movies.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke

Only God Forgives

The Story: Violent revenge thriller set in a nightmarish version of Bangkok. The Lowdown: Extremely violent, almost fetishistic thriller that moves at a hypnotically slow pace. It will offend some, bore others, fascinate the rest — and probably generate hate mail for me for even cautiously recommending it.
Starring: Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe

Call Me Madam

In Brief: Bright and breezy film version of the Irving Berlin stage hit starring Ethel Merman. While it's not what you'd call inspired filmmaking, it's filled with terrific songs, funny lines and clever situations. It's also the only film to give us any real sense of what made Merman such a sensation on the stage. (And, yes, that is George Sanders doing his own singing.)
Starring: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg, Chayim Sharir, Razia Israeli, Hila Feldman

Fill the Void

The Story: The story of a young Orthodox Hassidic girl and the question of whether she should marry her late sister's husband. The Lowdown: What could have been a fairly ordinary romantic drama is transformed into something freshly appealing by the unusual society in which it's placed.
Starring: Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofolo, Franco Citti, Silvana Corsini

Mamma Roma

In Brief: Largely dismissed — even vilified — upon its Italian release in 1962, this Pier Paolo Pasolini film about the semi-incestuous relationship between a middle-aged prostitute (Anna Magnani) and her son (Ettore Garofolo) didn't even get a proper U.S. release until Martin Scorsese brought it here in 1995. While it's hardly top-tier Pasolini, Mamma Rosa is not without its interest — especially in Anna Magnani's performance.
Starring: Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, Dyan Cannon, Irene Worth, Henry Jones


In Brief: Deathtrap (1982) is kind of the poor cousin to Sleuth — another gimmick-driven stage thriller brought to the big screen, also starring Michael Caine (only here in the equivalent of Laurence Olivier's role in the 1972 Sleuth). While Deathtrap is very much the lesser film, it scores as a kind of muggers' delight for its cast, and its central idea of a burnt-out playwright opting to murder a student and steal his play makes for a solid premise. The biggest problem — apart from being unable to overcome its stage origins — is that it never manages to really top its opening.
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Darren Criss, Matt Dillon, Annette Bening, Christopher Fitzgerald

Girl Most Likely

The Story: When a failed playwright stages a suicide bid to get her boyfriend back, she ends up in the care of her dubiously balanced mother. The Lowdown: Not a great comedy, but a very pleasant one with engaging performances and a few nice surprises.
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Clifton Collins Jr., Ron Perlman

Pacific Rim

The Story: It's giant robots vs. giant monsters as (of course) the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The Lowdown: It's big. It's deliberately dumb. And it's a lot of good-natured fun with all the stock giant-monster movie clichés intact. However, it must be noted that the robot vs. monster bouts tend to be too dark and shot too close-up to fully register.
Starring: Don Sullivan, Fred Graham, Lisa Simone, Shug Fisher, Bob Thompson, Janice Stone

The Giant Gila Monster

In Brief: Look, it's a 1959 movie called The Giant Gila Monster. That means the notoriously sluggish lizard sort of ambles around dicey miniature sets while largely unheard of actors react in horror to something that really isn't there. It's absolutely indefensible, low-rent nonsense, but that's what gives the movie its wayward appeal.
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter

2001: A Space Odyssey

In Brief: To say that Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film is almost beyond criticism is misleading, but not entirely untrue. No matter how you feel about 2001: A Space Odyssey, it's just too big to ignore. It presents the viewer with a mystery that can be interpreted and explored, but never actually solved — and in so doing becomes the cinematic equivalent of pondering the universe. It is a unique film event — and one that perhaps only completely works on the big screen, which this showing allows viewers the chance to experience. There had never been anything like it before and there's been nothing like it since.
Starring: Kiechiemon Nakamura, Nobuko Otowa, Kiwako Taichi, Kei Satô


In Brief: Kaneto Shindô had startled the international film scene with his Onibaba in 1964, so when his next three efforts created scarcely a ripple, he returned to the horror genre with Kuroneko (1968) — another period-piece ghost story. Once again, the film was surprisingly gory for an "art film," though that seemed less shocking by 1968. It's a good story, has several striking scenes and constantly looks terrific, but it lacks the visceral punch of Onibaba. Worse, it suffers from a long stretch involving the ghost vampires trapping and murdering a series of samurai warriors that's just the same basic scene over and over. Definitely worthwhile, but it just misses being great.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson

The Lone Ranger

The Story: Revisionist take on the origins of the Lone Ranger. The Lowdown: Big, spectacular, amazingly personal blend of the Western epic and comedy that addresses issues more weighty than one usually finds in summer movies — and this makes it troubling to some.
Starring: (Voices) Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan

Despicable Me 2

The Story: The formerly villainous Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to catch a new super criminal. The Lowdown: It contains all the elements of the agreeable original film, but the structure is a mess and, despite pleasing moments, it's just not very good.
Starring: Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler

20 Feet from Stardom

The Story: Documentary on the world of backup singers. The Lowdown: Charming, tuneful, occasionally moving and always entertaining about the singers who contributed so much to so many great songs.
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley

Singin’ in the Rain

In Brief: For whatever reason, Singin' in the Rain (1952) has become untouchable as far as criticism — and is even casually referred to as the best musical ever made. The point is certainly debatable, though the title number is beyond reproach and the whole enterprise has undeniable energy (that may or may not be entirely in its favor). One of the film's selling points — its comedic story about the advent of sound in motion pictures — is much stronger for viewers who are completely unfamiliar with the era. (The more you know, the less impressive this becomes.) It certainly works with an audience, but its status as the pinnacle of the musical film is another matter altogether.
Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Barbara Cupisiti, Asia Argento

The Church

In Brief: Michele Soavi's 1989 film was originally intended to be part of producer/co-writer Dario Argento's loosely connected Demons movies, and while it retains elements of those films — especially trapping the cast in a single location and contagious possessions — it is mostly its own beast. And a very curious beast it is. Like most Italian horror, it doesn't make a lot of sense, nor does it try to. It's mostly a collection of fairly grisly horror scenes hooked together by a slim plot concerning the awakening of demons imprisoned beneath the foundations of an old church. Visually, the film is very striking, and it manages to build a strong sense of dread, but viewers expecting a film on a par with Soavi's Cemetery Man (1994) may be disappointed.