Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz

Dressed to Kill

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In Brief: After the somewhat tepid response to The Fury, Brian De Palma went out of his way to court controversy with this splattery — and more than a little sleazy — 1980 thriller. And however you feel about it, the flick certainly worked to draw audiences with its sex, nudity and over-the-top violence. Designed as a mystery (even if not a very good one), the film succeeds mostly by virtue of De Palma's nonstop stylishness.
Starring: Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Dorothy Mackaill, Grant Mitchell, Elizabeth Patterson

No Man of Her Own

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In Brief: Clark Gable plays a gambler hiding out from the law in some upstate New York podunk town where he meets Carole Lombard, a bored, romance-starved librarian. She's interested but wary. He's determined — so determined that he agrees to marry her on a bet. Complications ensue in this pleasant comedy made several years before the two stars would become the Mr. and Mrs. Hollywood of legend. But the chemistry, or at least flashes of it, are already there.
Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau

North by Northwest

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In Brief: Alfred Hitchcock's final film of the 1950s marked his last collaboration with star Cary Grant. It's also the director's ultimate movie about an innocent man on the run for a crime he didn't commit — and is by far the most elaborate variation on that concept. Whether or not North by Northwest is the best of those films is very much a subjective call, but there's no denying that it's big, glossy entertainment — easily the most action-driven of Hitchcock's career — with classic set-pieces aplenty, perfect leads, a thrilling Bernard Herrmann musical score and "Master of Suspense" Hitch at the top of his later-era game.
Starring: Alain Delon, François Périer, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, Jacques Leroy

Le Samouraï

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In Brief: Jean-Pierre Melville's elegantly stylish, yet icy neo-noir thriller, Le Samouraï, holds up pretty nicely after 46 years, but it probably hasn't the same impact today that it originally did. Though it helped to set the standard for future neo-noirs, the film is curiously distinctive in many instances — especially in the casting of the striking Alain Delon as its hitman star. Fascinating but largely expressionless, Delon keeps the movie slightly at arm's length, which may be the idea.
Starring: Catherine Hessling, Charlotte Clasis, Pierre Champagne, Maurice Touzé

Whirlpool of Fate

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In Brief: Jean Renoir's debut film seems first and foremost intended to show off the charms and beauty of Renoir's star (and then-wife) Catherine Hessling. It's less a story than just a series of melodramatic events in which to drop Mrs. Renoir, and as such it's a pretty patchy affair. However, there's enough of the fledgling filmmaker to more than maintain interest, including a very strange and atypical nightmare sequence.
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne

Man of Steel

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The Story: A reworking of the Superman origin story. The Lowdown: A mixed bag of a movie that holds its own for about 90 minutes before turning into 45 minutes of noisy, repetitive action. It is not, however, without merit.
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M

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In Brief: Fritz Lang's first talkie, M, not only introduced the great filmmaker to sound, but introduced the world to the remarkable Peter Lorre. For both, the film is rightly famous, but there's more to admire in this exceptional work than just its historic significance. Both the film's story — involving the police and the criminal underworld searching for a serial child murderer — and the manner in which Lang presents the material still pack a punch more than 80 years later.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior, Walter Lassally

Before Midnight

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The Story: A look in on a day in the lives of the characters from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset nine years after we last saw them. The Lowdown: A beautiful — almost sublime — film about a relationship we've been following since 1995. Moving, authentic and a must-see.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge

The Purge

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The Story: In the near future, all crime — including murder — is legal for 12 hours one night of the year. The Lowdown: An intriguing — if screwy and not clearly thought-out — premise can't sustain this movie, which basically turns into every home-invasion thriller you've ever seen. It's better than some, worse than others, but largely indistinct.
Starring: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, Anthony Bushell, Ralph Richardson

The Ghoul

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In Brief: Long considered to be a lost film, The Ghoul is back in circulation and not merely the curio you might expect a 1933 British picture to be. It's a full-fledged classic of the horror genre from its richest era. Set in the creepiest old, dark house imaginable, filled with a first-rate cast and directed with great skill by its little-known director, this yarn about an Egyptologist (Karloff) coming back from the dead can now take its rightful place with the great Hollywood horrors of the 1930s.
Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock

Strangers on a Train

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In Brief: One of Alfred Hitchcock's most convoluted and perverse thrillers, Strangers on a Train — with its dark humor, unusual plot and technical panache — has held up better than many of the director's bigger and more famous films. What it lacks in big stars, it more than makes up for by being every inch a director's film — one where you marvel at the creativity on display.
Starring: Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, Tushka Bergen, Mira Sorvino

Barcelona

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In Brief: Whit Stillman's sophomore effort finds two Americans — an uptight businessman and his troublesome cousin — having their innate sense of entitlement tested in Barcelona. Similar in tone but more focused than his earlier film, Barcelona is dryly funny and thought-provoking entertainment.

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler June 12-18: This Is Man of Steel Before Midnight

Man of Steel opens this week. It will be at nearly every theater that could get it and on as many screens as possible—both 2D and 3D. That is all an awful lot of people probably need to know. For those with a penchant for guys with large and sinewy muscles in tights, this is probably what summer is all about this year—at least where movies are concerned. It isn’t all that’s opening, however. There’s another mainstream release and one of the most anticipated art titles of the season.

Starring: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgård, Joanna Vanderham, Onata Aprile

What Maisie Knew

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The Story: A little girl becomes the object of a bitter custody battle between her divorcing parents. The Lowdown: Solid modernized version of the Henry James novel, What Maisie Knew is undeniably well made and acted, but it's a hard film to like.
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte Rampling

The Mill and the Cross

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In Brief: Almost impossible to critique as a film, The Mill and the Cross is a true cinematic oddity. It's a strikingly visual, but dramatically lacking, recreation of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting The Procession to Calvary, illustrating the elements, some of the models and the political allegory behind the art. As drama, it rarely works well, but makes up for this with its stunning painterly visuals and atmosphere.
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ Bowen

The House of the Devil

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In Brief: One of the more interesting of current horror movie directors, Ti West made his breakthrough (at least in horror circles) with this surprisingly effective 2009 attempt to create a 1980s-style scare flick. In this case, it's all about a college girl who takes a babysitting job at an isolated house — a job that turns out to be something else entirely when she realizes she's about to be used in a Satanic ritual. The movie is of the slow-burn variety, the kind that works on building dread before breaking through into all-out terror. Not a great horror film, but a good one.
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Alan Hale

Union Depot

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In Brief: Character and incident-packed film about the goings-on at a large train station in a slice-of-life fashion — though most train stations probably (even in 1932) don't have feds on the lookout for a counterfeiting ring or a girl being stalked by a degenerate sex-fiend on a regular basis. Those two aspects dovetail and form the main plot. Full of pre-code comedy, Warner Bros. contract players, snappy dialogue and some amazingly fluid camerawork.
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell

The Sapphires

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The Story: Fact-based story of an Aborigine all-girl singing group that toured as entertainers in Vietnam. The Lowdown: Despite its "true story" underpinnings, the film is largely a standard show-biz story that succeeds beautifully as entertainment — enhanced by a dynamite soundtrack and winning performances.
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Om Puri

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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The Story: A tale told in flashback about the transformation of an America-loving Pakistani into a radical — possibly terrorist — professor. The Lowdown: Complex cultural examination of a young Pakistani — brilliantly played by Riz Ahmed — tied to a thriller/suspense frame. It doesn't all work, but it's still compelling.
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 — for Anderson, a microcosm of British society — turning into open revolt captured the imagination as few films had done. It remains a powerful and disturbing film to this day.