Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Keith StanfieldThe Story: A look into the lives of some young social workers and their charges in a foster care center. The Lowdown: Disarming in its honesty and simplicity, Short Term 12 arrives on the local film scene with little fanfare, which is too bad because it's a little gem of a movie.
Director: Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Wentworth MillerIn Brief: Critically reviled at the time of its release — especially for something that was clearly Oscar-bait — Robert Benton's The Human Stain (2003) isn't so much a bad movie as it's an underwhelming one. It's a film that never takes off due to Benton's decidedly old-fashioned filmmaking and its overbearing attempt to be Important. The story of an aged professor (Anthony Hopkins) discharged for racism (despite being secretly black himself) and his affair with a younger woman (Nicole Kidman) would have been better served by embracing its soapy underpinnings than by taking a high-toned literary approach.
Director: Michael McGowan (Saint Ralph)
Starring: James Cromwell, Geneviève Bujold, Julie Stewart, Rick Roberts, Campbell Scott, George R. Robertson, Jonathan PottsThe Story: An elderly man tries to cope with his wife's Alzheimer's and a battle with a building inspector. The Lowdown: This is one-half of a pretty good film that's compromised by a silly straw-man plot (to goose the uplift quotient), but raised by terrific performances from James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold.
Director: Frank Lloyd
Starring: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor, Herbert MundinIn Brief: Frank Lloyd's 1933 film adaptation of Noel Coward's stage play won Oscars (best picture and best director) and was one of the big prestige pictures of its year. Today, the luster of this time-spanning (1899-1932) ode to the British character has dimmed considerably. It is, however, a worthy film that ought to be better known, and its restoration and Blu-ray incarnation is easily the best way to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the picture.
Genre: Martial Arts Romance
Director: Wong Kar-wai (My Blueberry Nights)
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Ziyi Zhang, Qingxiang Wang, Jin Zhang, Hye-Kyo SongThe Story: The story of martial arts master Ip Man. The Lowdown: An occasionally elegant, beautiful — and even heartbreaking — film that’s never quite great, likely due to a truncated, dumbed down version created for American audiences.
Genre: Adventure Romance
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau (Bon Voyage)
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Olivier Martinez, Pierre Arditi, François CluzetIn Brief: The Horseman on the Roof may have been made in 1995, but it feels like a film from a much earlier era — even with its outbursts of nudity and grisly images of a cholera plague. It's utterly romantic, but in an almost absurdly chaste manner. In fact its stars, Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez, have nothing that could be called a love scene. That may be a plus or a minus, depending on how you feel about these things. In essence, it's an adventure yarn about two people trying to travel through cholera-ridden France — she to get to her elderly husband, he to take funds home to Italy for a revolution against the Austrian occupation. Great? By no means, but it's good-looking and entertaining.
Genre: Coming-of-Age Drama Comedy
Director: James Ponsoldt (Smashed)
Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle ChandlerThe Story: Coming-of-age teen romance involving an unlikely couple. The Lowdown: Much-praised teen drama that I found a good bit less than terrific. The leads are likable enough, even when their characters are less so.
Genre: Drama with Bitter Comedy
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Canavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K.The Story: A woman whose husband left her widowed, with nothing but the wreckage of his illegal financial empire — and a lot of high-toned notions — finds her life spinning out of control. The Lowdown: A rich, beautifully crafted and intricate film from Woody Allen that qualifies as essential viewing.
Local production company Down Poor Pictures is premiering its first independent feature film, Ringside Rosary, at the Fine Arts Theatre on Aug. 15. Filmed mostly in Asheville, with a local cast and crew, the drama tells the story of a boxer trying to shed his criminal past.
Director: Paul Andrew Williams (Cherry Tree Lane)
Starring: Terence Stamp, Christopher Eccleston, Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Orla HillThe Story: A crusty old man finds himself rejuvenated — against his will — by becoming involved in his late wife's choral group. The Lowdown: There's nothing remotely surprising here, but Unfinished Song is a small gem of feel-good (in the best sense) comedy-drama.
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