a_most_violent_year
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks

A Most Violent Year


The Story: A man in the heating oil business deals with hijackers and corruption in his pursuit of expanding his business to the next level. The Lowdown: A good — consistently entertaining and interesting — movie that hurts itself by trying too hard to be a great one. Definitely worth seeing, but it's just not…
400
Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble

The 400 Blows


In Brief: François Truffaut's first feature The 400 Blows (1959) struck a blow of its own as the first of the New Wave films — movies that came as a reaction to what was perceived as the stodginess of classical French filmmaking (and filmmaking around the world for that matter). It was a movement that would change…
operation
Starring: Sophia Loren, George Peppard, Tom Courtenay, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle, Lilli Palmer

Operation Crossbow


In Brief: Reasonably well-produced, fairly standard 1960s war movie (there seemed to be a new one every week through 1967, mostly thanks to the wildly popular The Guns of Navarone in 1961), Operation Crossbow (1965) was largely sold on Sophia Loren's name (well, it was produced by husband Carlo Ponti). It was good business sense…
day2
Starring: Konstantin Khabenskiy, Vladimir Menshov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina

Day Watch


In Brief: Timur Bekmambetov's Day Watch is, of course, the even more ambitious follow-up to Night Watch. (A third film was announced, but it appears to be dead in the water.) Everyone from the previous film is back for more — and by that I mean more of everything. It's bigger, it's over a half-hour longer, the effects…
cake-11
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Adriana Barraza, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington, Mamie Gummer, Felicity Huffman

Cake


The Story: A 40-ish woman suffering from chronic pain and loss tries to cope with her situation. The Lowdown: A modest, flawed, but mostly engaging drama that showcases a solid — and out of character — performance from Jennifer Aniston.
paddington2
Starring: Ben Whishaw (voice), Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Jim Broadbent, Nicole Kidman, Peter Capaldi

Paddington


The Story: A young bear from Peru tries to find a home in London. The Lowdown: Thoroughly charming, gently funny, stylish, great to look at and with a wonderful cast, there's just no excuse for missing this.
halfshot poster2
Starring: Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Dorothy Lee, Edna May Oliver, George MacFarlane, Leni Stengel

Half Shot at Sunrise


In Brief: This early sound Wheeler and Woolsey comedy (their fourth) finds the duo in great form as they milk every possible gag and pun — and a few impossible ones, too — to be found in the service comedy format. Actually, until the last reels, it's only slightly a normal service comedy, since our heroes are…
teorema
Starring: Silvana Mangano, Terence Stamp, Massimo Girotti, Anne Wiazemsky, Andrés José Cruz Soublette

Teorema (Theorem)


In Brief: While this surreal — and sexually charged — drama is certainly nowhere near the most unsettling thing Pier Paolo Pasolini ever made (that would be 1975's Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom), Teorema is high on the Not for Everyone list. It's less that the film is upsetting (though some will find…
150107_CBOX_CakePosterLarge

Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler January 21-27: Strange Mortdecai Boy Cake

  In Theaters.  Well, this week is juggernaut-free, which suits me just fine — not that I don’t understand the pull of last week’s newsmaking big winner. I just can’t join in the enthusiasm for it. Probably the most interesting thing this week is the chance to see whether or not Jennifer Aniston was “robbed” […]

ninth2
Starring: Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Neville Brand

The Ninth Configuration


In Brief: Most people know William Peter Blatty as the author of The Exorcist, but Blatty also made two films — The Ninth Configuration and The Exorcist III (which gets my vote as the best of all Exorcist movies). Adapting his novel, Twinkle Twinkle Killer Kane, Blatty proved himself a natural filmmaker right off the bat with The Ninth Configuration, a rich metaphysical comedy-tragedy,…
AmericanSniper1
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Jake McDorman, Ben Reed

American Sniper


The Story: Fact-based war drama about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The Lowdown: Clint Eastwood's latest will please many, but it's a simplistic movie with often slack direction and little to say beyond the obvious in a print-the-legend manner.
foxcatcher-steve-carell-channing-tatum
Starring: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Happ

Foxcatcher


The Story: The story of millionaire John du Pont and his ultimately murderous relationship with Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schultz. The Lowdown: A well-crafted, but slowly-paced prestige picture that manages to be fascinating and compelling, if never quite great.
antares
Starring: Petra Morze, Andrea Patton, Hary Prinz, Susanne Wuest, Denis Cubic, Andreas Kiendl

Antares


In Brief: There's this company called The Film Movement. It specializes in picking up art titles that played film festivals, but never managed to snag a U.S. distributor. Antares (2004) is one of them, and it's not hard to understand why this unrelentingly dour Austrian drama of marital infidelity had trouble finding that U.S. distributor. Really — apart…
nightwatch
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina

Night Watch


In Brief: Because Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch was released in the U.S. by Fox Searchlight and was in Russian with English subtitles, it opened here at the Fine Arts Theatre — and was gone in the twinkling of an eye. This stylized, stylish and very, very over-the-top vampire film was hardly the sort of thing that was geared to their…
selma-movie-corey-reynolds-david-oyelowo-and-colman-domingo
Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey

Selma


The Story: The events leading up to the historical civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The Lowdown: Less a biopic of Martin Luther King than a largely successful attempt to capture a point in history. Its relevance to today is startling.
The-Iron-Lady-8
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Susan Brown, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd

The Iron Lady


In Brief: Make no mistake: This is a two-and-a-half-star movie raised to four-star status solely on the performances of Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent. They make The Iron Lady (2011) worth a look, even though the movie itself — to put it kindly — is nothing special. The filmmaker — and more than a few critics…
the-interview-movie-seth-rogen-james-franco
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, Diana Bang, Timothy Simons

The Interview


The Story: A moron TV interviewer and his only slightly brighter producer are tapped by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-Un when the dictator invites the pair to North Korea. The Lowdown: More a curio than a good movie and of more interest for its notoriety than anything else, The Interview is basically a Crosby-Hope…
playtime
Starring: Jacques Tati, Barbara Dennek, Yves Barsacq, André Fouché, Georges Montant

Playtime


Jacques Tati is not only an acquired taste, but you have to be in the right mood for his films — and I perhaps wasn't when I saw Playtime (1967). While I admired what he was doing with this disastrously ambitious production, I enjoyed it far less than his other films — even the often…
mauvais3
Starring: Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant, Hans Meyer, Julie Delpy

Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood)


When the Asheville Film Society ran Leos Carax's third film, The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), one viewer called it the worst movie he'd ever seen. I feel certain there was a bit of hyperbole there, especially since no one else in a fairly packed house complained, but Carax is definitely not for everyone. His second film, Mauvais…