Starring: Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Jimmy Hunt, Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke

Invaders from Mars

In Brief: William Cameron Menzies’ Invaders from Mars has the unusual distinction of being one of the silliest and most threadbare 1950s science fiction movies and, at the same time, being one of the best. And it’s quite possibly one of maybe two or three that are actually effectively scary. The film was responsible for thousands — if…
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Wallace Shawn

Maggie’s Plan

The Story: A young New York academic decides to have a baby by artificial insemination and finds love, though not with the donor. The Lowdown: A little film of considerable charm and some degree of depth, the real joy of Maggie's Plan lies in the role it affords Greta Gerwig.
Starring: Ann Sheridan, Dennis O'Keefe, Robert Keith, Frank Jenks, John Qualen, Ross Elliott, J. Farrell MacDonald, Victor Sen Yung

Woman on the Run

In Brief: Almost startlingly good — and just barely rescued from oblivion — film noir from generally overlooked director Norman Foster. Co-writing the independently produced Woman on the Run (1950) with Alan Campbell, Foster came up with an unusually intelligent (and suspenseful without being in the least graphic) noir that made excellent use of its…
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The Story: When his second solo album flops, an egotistical, idiot pop star tries to regain his following with disastrous results. The Lowdown: High on my list for worst movie of the year. Unfunny, charmless, noisy and tedious.
Starring: Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Théret, Denis Mpunga, Sylvain Dieuaide, Aubrey Fenoy, Sophia Leboutte


The Story: An almost completely fictionalized account of an historic character who insisted on singing opera, despite having a terrible voice. The Lowdown: A real-life story (which gets its own film later this year) is turned into a tragi-comic film of startling beauty and complexity. Unless you're utterly allergic to subtitles, this is a must-see.
Starring: Hank Bones, Jon Corbin, Kevin Kehrberg, Lyndsay Pruett, Henry Westmoreland, Russ Wilson, Earl Sachais, Marvin Price, Cedric Mansell

Pearl’s Jam

In Brief: Hank Bones' second film is a little more cinematically adventurous than The Quitters (2014), but the content is also a good deal less sophisticated. That's more of a comment than a complaint, because nothing about Pearl's Jam suggests it was ever intended to be anything other than a fun little movie made by…
Starring: George Zucco, Johnny Downs, Anne Nagel, Glenn Strange

The Mad Monster

In Brief: If Bela Lugosi was the king of 1940s B horror, then surely George Zucco was the king of the C’s. Zucco’s claim to stardom rests on the six-picture contract (only five were made) he had with Producers Releasing Corp., or PRC Pictures as it’s generally known. Zucco's first starring role was in the gloriously goofy…
Starring: André Wilms, Kati Outinen, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Blondin Miguel, Quoc Dung Nguyen

Le Havre

In Brief: A pitch-perfect little movie from Aki Kaurismäki, Le Havre (2001) feels much more simple and old-fashioned than it is upon examination. Sure, the story of a reasonably shiftless French shoeshine man who befriends an illegal immigrant black boy is aimed at playing on our sentimentality, but it does so with piercingly deadpan wit…
Starring: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, June Duprez, Roland Young, Richard Haydn, Mischa Auer

And Then There Were None

In Brief: It’s rare that Agatha Christie’s books have been given a break on the movie screen, but René Clair’s 1945 filming of And Then There Were None definitely did right by Dame Agatha. For that matter, it also did right by its splendid roster of great character actors, and it gave French filmmaker Clair one…

The Second Annual More-or-Less Live Oscar Coverage — Updated with a Little Post-Mortem Snark

Just like last year, I’m setting this up so I can comment throughout the evening on the trainwreck (in my book) that is the year’s Oscars. Feel free to comment throughout, but remember, if you’re going to swear, let me know so I can clear your post. Is anyone here really involved in this year’s […]


Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler May 25-31 High-Rise Love & Friendship X-Men Splash Through the Looking Glass

In Theaters. This week we get two new mainstream movies (big budget variety), four art titles and the “offcial” opening (with two of the art titles) of the Grail Moviehouse. It can fairly be called a week of some note in the local movie world. And one with its share of choices. Of course, the […]

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Corrado Guzzanti, Aurore Clément

A Bigger Splash

The Story: A recovering rock star and her lover find their blissful isolation disturbed by very unexpected guests. The Lowdown: Maybe not great, but this trashy, lurid look at the lives of the rich and famous — that turns into a kind of thriller — is compelling viewing with a top-notch cast and great stylist…
Starring: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally, Allan Corduner, Sandra Nelson


In Brief: When De-Lovely came out in late summer 2004, I compared it to Peter Bogdanovich's At Long Last Love (1975) in the sense of it being another grand folly inspired by the music of Cole Porter. That remains true, though Bogdanovich fares better in that he wasn't making a biopic and has more style…
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy


The Story: Life in a modern (circa 1975) luxury high-rise as a vision of a microcosm dystopia. The Lowdown: Brutal, darkly funny, nightmarish, disturbing. Maybe going in knowing that about High-Rise will fortify you for the experience — at least you've been warned. One of the most startlingly original films of the year.
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman. Jessica Barden

The Lobster

The Story: People in the near future are forced to find a suitable partner or to be transformed into an animal. The Lowdown: With an unsettling, if fairly absurd, premise, this is one of the strangest films of the year. It defies easy classification. In fact, despite its dark comedy, nothing about the film is easy…
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien, Guy Usher, Donald Kerr, Yolande Donlan

The Devil Bat

In Brief: The Devil Bat (1940) marks the only time that Bela Lugosi worked for PRC Pictures. Whether once was enough (Lugosi had worked, and would work, at worse places) or whether his deal with Sam Katzman over at Monogram precluded further films is unknown. PRC was the lowest of the "real" studios, but it had…
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart, Ernest Truex, John Qualen

His Girl Friday

In Brief:  If you’ve never seen His Girl Friday (1940), this is definitely one of the greats from the “golden age” of movies — and it’s a film that still holds the record for the fastest dialogue in the history of movies. That crackling, witty banter is delivered by people who know exactly how to do…
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux, Fernand Gravey, Isa Miranda

La Ronde

In Brief: The films — the world — of Max Ophuls are certainly of a piece, in a similar tone of voice. All of them could be summed up with the same phrase used by the narrator (Anton Walbrook) of La Ronde (1950) when he explains that the story is set in 1900 Vienna: "I…