Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, J.K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Ma

The Ladykillers

b>In Brief: The Coen Brothers' much misunderstood reimagining of the 1955 Ealing Studios Comedy of the same name finds Tom Hanks taking on the role originated by Alec Guinness — and making it his own. That's much the same thing the Coens did with the film — adhering to the basics of the story about a group of not-very-adept criminals using the home of an unsuspecting little old lady as their base of operations, while creating something completely fresh and original. It deserves another chance.
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg

Star Trek Into Darkness

The Story: Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew of the are sent on a mission to deal with a terrorist out to destroy Starfleet. The Lowdown: The plotting gets clunky and the action could be handled more effectively, but the characters — improved from the first film — keep this Star Trek entry mostly worth watching.
Starring: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Debbie Reynolds

That’s Entertainment

In Brief: Riding in on the last of the late 1960s/early 1970s nostalgia wave, That's Entertainment positioned itself as a documentary about the Hollywood musical. In truth, it was a two-hour commercial for MGM that presented one seriously skewed version of film history. That's not to say the film doesn't include some pretty impressive (and more than a few clunker) musical numbers — all culled from the MGM library — but it presents a very small fragment of the movie musical genre as if it was the whole story.

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 22-28: Fast and Epic Hangover

You know it’s a pretty dire week when the thing I’m most looking forward to is Fast & Furious 6. (And you can imagine how much it pains me to type those words.) There’s not even a single new art title to brighten the weekend (no, last Friday’s ActionFest offering, Java Heat, going to a full run doesn’t count) — merely three mainstream movies I find it hard to get jazzed about. These are the conditions that prevail.

Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Late Night Musings on Critics and Review Aggregation

Sitting here, staring at my computer screen while not really watching—off to the side— a movie even I don’t recognize on TCM, I find my mind wandering into the realm of considering the state of film criticism in our media-saturated world—and I’m not all that happy by what I see. But it’s less the criticism that bothers me than the way the moviegoing public seems to be taking it.

Starring: Kellan Lutz, Mickey Rourke, Ario Bayu. Frans Tumbuan

Java Heat

In Brief: The second ActionFest monthly screening is the same setup as last time with all proceeds going to Homeward Bound of Asheville, and the $10 admission includes free Ninja Porter (from Asheville Pizza) and soft drinks and popcorn from Carolina Cinemas. This time, viewers get the chance to see the film Java Heat starring Kellan Lutz (the Twilight films) and Mickey Rourke before its official opening. The film is a wild yarn — that doesn't always make sense — offering more style (the director obviously has seen a lot of Brian DePalma movies) than you probably expect, and a lot of often very explosive action that you probably do expect. Lutz makes a stolid, enigmatic hero and villains don't come any more perverse than Mickey Rourke.
Starring: Walter Matthau, Ossie Davis, Amy Irving, Martha Plimpton, Craig T. Nelson

I’m Not Rappaport

In Brief: Playwright and sometimes filmmaker Herb Gardner brings his play I'm Not Rappaport to the screen with Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis in the leads. The first hour of its rather too expansive running time is very good indeed, if not especially great filmmaking. Matthau and Davis make an appealing pair of old men — not exactly friends, but who else is around? — whiling away their time in Central Park, each with his own problems. The dialogue — while sounding like dialogue — is good and penetrating. Then we get to what amounts to the second act and the film's desire to evolve into a more elaborate drama bogs things down pretty fast. It remains easily watchable, but it turns into less by trying to be more.
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Luis Gnecco, Néstor Cantillana, Antonia Zegers


The Story: Fact-based drama about the campaign to overthrow Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet at the ballot box — and the marketing campaign that made it happen. The Lowdown: Funny, suspenseful, compelling entertainment that may only tell part of its historical story, but does so brilliantly.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher

The Great Gatsby

The Story: Film version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The Lowdown: A big, daring, audacious interpretation of the novel that brings it to life in ways you probably never dreamed possible. It's every inch a Baz Luhrmann film, so that will probably tell you a lot. You may not like it, but I'm calling it a must-see. Truly visionary filmmaking is so rare.
Starring: Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, Tyler James Williams


The Story: A working-class guy meets his girlfriend's upper-class family. Predicability ensues. The Lowdown: An energetic cast can do little to elevate this by-the-numbers, flat comedy that plays like a sitcom.
Starring: Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone / Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Arline Judge

The Frozen Ghost / Mysterious Mr. Wong

In Brief: It's finally the makeup showing of the canceled The Frozen Ghost (1945) starring Lon Chaney, Jr. in one of his better Inner Sanctum mysteries. This time it's paired with the full-tilt nonsense of the delightfully silly Mysterious Mr. Wong starring Bela Lugosi in the title role, Mr. Wong — a criminal mastermind matching wits against wisecracking reporter Wallace Ford (professional wisecracking reporter portrayer). It rarely makes good sense and even feels like a serial stuffed into a 60-minute movie, but it provides no end of bizarre entertainment with the most anticlimactic ending ever.
Starring: Bebe Neuwirth (voice)

Defiant Requiem

In Brief: Since the closing film of the Asheville Film Festival was not available for review, these comments are merely drawn from the film's press notes: "Defiant Requiem tells the little-known story of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin. Led by imprisoned conductor Rafael Schächter, the inmates of Terezin fought back...with art and music. Through hunger, disease and slave labor, the Jewish inmates of Terezin hold on to their humanity by staging plays, composing opera and using paper and ink to record the horrors around them. This creative rebellion reaches its peak when Schächter teaches a choir of 150 inmates one of the world's most difficult and powerful choral works, Verdi's 'Requiem,' re-imagined as a condemnation of the Nazis. The choir would ultimately confront the Nazis face to face."
Starring: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jacques Ledoux / Stepháne Bertola, Gunnar Ernblad, Marienette Dahlin

La Jetée / Mousse

In Brief: Chris Marker's La Jetée (1962) has been shown by World Cinema before, so the real story here is the screening of this year's winner for Best Short Film at Twin Rivers Media Festival, John Hellberg's Mousse. This is a charming and quirky, fairly long (40 minutes) short that details a robbery gone wrong in ways that can scarcely be imagined. It's all about what happens when a Frenchman named Mousse holds up a Swedish betting parlor on the biggest racing day of the year. He also happens upon the most conspicuously odd hostages he could hope for, an incredibly geriatric police force and a compatriot so drunk that he might be dead. Clever, amusing, well-made and more than a little surprising.
Starring: Eddie Cantor, Ethel Shutta, Paul Gregory, Eleanor Hunt, George Olsen and His Music


In Brief: Like a wonderful time capsule, Whoopee! offers us a glimpse into a world that hasn't existed for a very long time: the 1920s Broadway theater. Almost no one who was a part of that world is still with us, and even those who might have seen such a show are seriously diminished in number. Yet at the flick of a switch, Whoopee! — starring the legendary Eddie Cantor and the should-be-legendary Ethel Shutta — has the power to take us back to that world in all its antique charm. Whatever it lacks in cinematic style, it more than makes up for in its energetic, appealing cast, bright tunes and sheer good-natured nonsense.
Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John Williams

To Catch a Thief

In Brief: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (yes, this is where the famous fireworks kissing scene comes from) in one of the master's lighter and most pleasant 1950s films. The film is nothing more than a romantic suspenser soufflé of the kind that Hitchcock was rightly famous for. OK, despite some location work, the film does suffer from some of the most obvious rear screen and process work of Hitch's career, but with Cary Grant as a retired jewel thief trying to prove he really is retired to the police — with time out for romancing Grace Kelly, it doesn't matter much.
Starring: Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Walter Connolly

Libeled Lady

In Brief: Sophisticated comedy with Myrna Loy as the rich society girl who sues a newspaper for libel, Spencer Tracy as the beleagured managing editor, William Powell as a sharp former reporter who knows all the angles and Jean Harlow as Tracy's long-suffering fiancée. The plan is that Powell will marry Harlow, then seduce Loy and destroy her case. It's all the sort of thing that could only happen in the make-believe world of the movies, but that's exactly why it works so well and remains fresh and funny almost 80 years later.
Starring: Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval, Honoré Bostel, François Maisongrosse


In Brief: Jacques Tati's final theatrical film — and the swan song for his Monsieur Hulot character — is a strange affair in that Tati the performer takes a definite backseat to Tati the director. The results are a mixed bag, but a likable one. The plot is nothing more than having M. Hulot transport his fantasticated "camping car" from Paris to a car show in Amsterdam— and though Hulot is rarely the cause of the trouble this time, things do not go smoothly. Rarely hysterically funny, the film is instead mostly pleasantly goofy.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Max Thieriot, Jonah Bobo


The Story: Three interconnected and intercut stories about the perils of our modern Internet and cellphone-addicted world. The Lowdown: No topic may be more timely than the dehumanizing effects of our supposedly connected society, but making it into drama is a risky proposition — one that this effective film largely overcomes through strong characters and performances that always ring true.
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Louise Beavers

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

In Brief: While it may be faulted for being the film that domesticated Cary Grant — and that it owes a lot to George Washington Slept Here — there's no denying that Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is an entertaining picture with a cast that most movies would kill to have. It's the basic story of folks from the city meeting their match — and then some — when they try to escape the bustle of city life for country living. The script is witty and the performances spot on. Plus, Grant and Loy are almost as good a fit as Loy and William Powell were.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh

Moulin Rouge!

In Brief: If you've only ever seen Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001) on a TV screen, you really haven't seen Moulin Rouge! at all. This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater on the biggest screen possible — and that's just what the Asheville Film Society is offering with this month's Big Screen Budget title: a theatrical event from a brand new digital cinema print. Luhrmann's musical vision of Bohemian Paris in 1899 is an all-consuming audio-visual spectacular that requires size to really work. This revitalization of the musical genre is one of the most stunning and remarkable films of the first decade of the 21st century — at once revolutionary and with a keen sense of film and pop culture history. Here is a chance to see it as it was envisioned.