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Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler April 2-8: Captain America with Large Supporting Cast

Captain America: The Winter Soldier crashes, bursts and bludgeons his way into theaters this Friday (or Thursday night for the Truly Dedicated) and no mere mortal mainstream movies dare to challenge his might. Locally, however, no less than four art titles willing to stand up to the onslaught. They won’t defeat him, of course, but they’re willing to give his tights a tug.

Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino

Veronica Mars

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The Story: Big screen follow-up (seven years later) to the cult TV series. The Lowdown: Despite hints of something greater and an engaging performance by Kristen Bell, this is really for fans of the show. Otherwise, it's strictly OK.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Joshua Peace

Enemy

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The Story: A man discovers he has an exact double and decides to meet him. The Lowdown: Claustrophobic, psychological horror is the order of the day with Enemy, a film that will appeal mostly to cineastes in search of the unusual and the unsettling.
Starring: Keiji Sada, Yoshiko Kuga, Chishû Ryû, Kuniko Miyake, Haruko Sugimura

Good Morning

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In Brief: Yasujirô Ozu's Good Morning (1959) is typical of the filmmaker's work in that it looks, rather disapprovingly, at the growing westernization of post-war Japan. But Good Morning — with its story of two boys refusing to speak until their father buys a TV set — is slighter, warmer and more accepting than most…
Starring: John Agar, Gloria Talbott, Arthur Shields, John Dierkes, Molly McCart

Daughter of Dr. Jekyll

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In Brief: Edgar G. Ulmer's (yes, the same guy who made the 1934 The Black Cat) Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) is lacking in both budget and sense. It somehow manages to not only confuse Mr. Hyde with a werewolf, but it comes up with the screwy idea that a drug-induced monster could be an…
Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Philip Merivale, Richard Long

The Stranger

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In Brief: Orson Welles' most financially successful (and therefore least admired) film, The Stranger is a fairly straightforward suspense thriller — but it's a suspense thriller that only Welles could make. Its hero is a Nazi hunter (Edward G. Robinson) who's obsessed to the point of being a little unbalanced. Its villain is an unregenerate…
Starring: Alberto Sordi, Brunella Bovo, Leopoldo Trieste, Giulietta Masina

The White Sheik

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In Brief: Federico Fellini's first film The White Sheik (1952) is often brushed aside as a minor work — almost as if it wasn't a "real" Fellini movie at all. That's too bad, because this relatively simple comedy about a honeymoon gone wrong when the wife sneaks off just to meet her hero, The White…
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper, David A.R. White, Trisha LaFache, Dean Cain, Willie Robertson

God’s Not Dead

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The Story: A Christian student argues for the existence of God against his atheist professor. The Lowdown: Your basic "faith-based" movie complete with its stereotypical villains and rigged arguments. It will please those it's aimed at, but isn't likely to do much for anyone else.
Starring: Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Edward Fox, Zena Walker, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gough

The Dresser

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In Brief: A solid film version the play The Dresser about a failing Shakespearean ham actor (based on Sir Donald Wolfit) and the fussy, gay dresser who keeps him going. Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay are splendid in the leads, and the rest of the cast keeps up with them. Peter Yates' direction isn't anything…
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham. Tony Revolori, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody. Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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The Story: The story of the last great days of the Grand Budapest Hotel and its legendary concierge, M. Gustave H. The Lowdown: Absolutely breathtaking in its design, its cinematic flair and its tragicomic tone, which is masked by a deliberately absurd, thrill-comedy plot. Wes Anderson is at the peak of his form here —…
Starring: Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Amy Smart, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown

Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club

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The Story: A group of single mothers must band together to keep their kids from being expelled from a private school. The Lowdown: Predictable — and predictably soapy — Tyler Perry comedy-drama with all the trimmings one expects, but, interestingly, without the usual preaching. It's not exactly good, but he's made much worse.
Starring: Paulina Garcia, Sergio Hernández, Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora, Luz Jiminez

Gloria

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The Story: A divorced woman on the edge of 60 decides to start living her life rather than watching from the sidelines. The Lowdown: Refreshingly frank look at love — and life — in an age group the movies tend to shy away from. A very good film made into an essential one by Paulina…
Starring: David Farrar, Kathleen Byron, Jack Hawkins, Milton Rosmer, Michael Gough, Sidney James

The Small Back Room

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In Brief: Little seen, The Small Back Room (1949) is very much a lesser work from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger — seeming even more so on the heels of the previous year's The Red Shoes. That doesn't mean that this film about the personal and professional troubles of an expert at bomb defusing (David…
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Tom Sturridge, Gemma Arterton

Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)

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In Brief: The Asheville Film Society concludes its monthlong tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with Richard Curtis' (Love Actually) Pirate Radio — or rather with the film's longer UK version, The Boat That Rocked. Hoffman heads up an ensemble cast as the only American DJ on a pirate radio ship (loosely based on Radio Caroline)…

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 19-25: The Grand Budapest Hotel Is Open for Business

Like a harbinger of the end of a winter that seemed utterly disinclined to go away — and the typical dead-of-winter parade of dreary movies (at least the ones actually released this year) — Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel comes to town this week. It’s a joy. It’s a wonderment. It’s a delight. It’s a must-see. It’s a film I didn’t mind in the least getting up early Saturday morning to be at a 9 a.m. press screening at The Carolina to see. Oh, yeah, there’s some other stuff opening, too. I’ll get to those eventually.

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler March 12-18: Need for Better Father Chemistry Club

Where did all these movies come from? That’s a rhetorical question, but there are six of the things this week — six. I know rabbits that don’t breed like that. (And before anybody asks, Veronica Mars is a limited release and to the best of my knowledge is not opening here — at least not this week.) We’ve got three art titles, two mainstream titles and one that isn’t really either one. Come with me and I will explain.

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph, Ann Carter, Eve March, Julia Dean, Elizabeth Russell, Sir Lancelot

The Curse of the Cat People

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In Brief: Though undeniably a sequel to 1942's Cat People, The Curse of the Cat People (1944) is almost not a horror film. It can even be argued that its fantasy elements all take place inside the mind of its young heroine (Ann Carter), but it does have characters from the original film and addresses…
Starring: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Rirî Furankî

Like Father, Like Son

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The Story: Two families have to deal with the fact that their 6-year-old boys were switched at birth. The Lowdown: Delicate, intensely moving family drama with strong performances — a subtle, yet provocative exploration of what it means to be a family and what makes a father.
Starring: John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Arthur Shields

The Quiet Man

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In Brief: John Ford and John Wayne scored one of their biggest — and perhaps best-loved — hits with this unassuming Irish comedy about a retired American boxer (Wayne) migrating to Ireland and the trouble and love he finds there. On the downside, the movie really is too long, and the attitudes about the roles…
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest

Synecdoche, New York

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In Brief: Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York (2008) represents not just one of the actor's most accomplished performances but one of his most challenging. It is also easily the most challenging film that's being shown as part of a monthlong tribute to Hoffman. It is a rich, fantasticated,…