Movie Review New
Director: Jacques Tourneur (Night of the Demon)
Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack HoltIn Brief: The first and in some ways the best (certainly it made the most money) of the famous nine-movie series made by producer Val Lewton at RKO in the 1940s, Cat People (1942) offered audiences something a little different in that it suggested its horrors more than it depicted them. (Ironically, it also introduced a new kind of shock effect — one still in use today.) The story of a young Serbian immigrant (Simone Simon) who believes she will turn into a cat (specifically, a panther) should her husband (Kent Smith) make love to her, wasn't quite like any horror movie before — nor was the film's psychological approach. The style of the film would soon become its own formula — just as predictable as those it was trying to supplant — but here, it's fresh and effective.
Genre: Animated Fantasy
Director: Chris Buck (Surf's Up), Jennifer Lee
Starring: (Voices) Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan TudykThe Story: A newly crowned queen — with the ability to freeze things — plunges her country into perpetual winter. The Lowdown: It's certainly dazzling to look at, but apart from the presence of two female leads and no real male hero, it's pretty standard Disney fare, decked out in a largely forgettable, but occasionally irritating, songs. Not a bad movie, but far from a great one.
Director: Gary Fleder (Don’t Say a Word)
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Izabela VidovicThe Story: A former Drug Enforcement Administration agent gets on the wrong side of a small-time meth dealer. The Lowdown: An unfortunately straight-faced actioner that never embraces its own inherent trashiness.
Director: Joseph Levy
Starring: Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, Cindy Breitback, Mike Breitbach, Thomas Keller, Francisco Martinez. Gabby MartinezThe Story: A look at three different restaurants of wildly different kinds. The Lowdown: Entertaining documentary that never quite manages to tie its three stories together. Definitely worth a look — especially if you need a break from the awards-season onslaught.
Genre: Holiday Musical
Director: Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me)
Starring: Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese GibsonThe Story: A frustrated teen is sent to Harlem for Christmas to stay with his estranged grandparents. The Lowdown: Despite a good heart and a respectful nature, the film lacks visual flare, has no memorable songs and relies too much on contrivances and melodrama.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Richard Curtis (About Time)
Starring: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan RickmanIn Brief: Writer Richard Curtis' first film as a director is easily the best-loved of the three he's made. In terms of story lines, it's the most complex. In terms of pure, unadulterated joy, it is without equal from just about any filmmaker. Looking back on it after 10 years, Love Actually (2003) is also the only true Christmas holiday classic that this century has produced. It is an impeccable film with a flawless cast who are all at their best. Plus, it's the movie that introduced a lot of American viewers to Bill Nighy — and for that alone, we should be eternally grateful.
Genre: British Invasion Comedy-Drama
Director: Karel Reisz (Isadora)
Starring: David Warner, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Stephens, Irene Handl, Bernard BresslawIn Brief: David Warner stars in his signature role as Morgan Delt — the young man deemed "a suitable case for treatment" in Karel Reisz's best and best-known film. It's the first film that can be said to be a part of the 1960s British film invasion that starts to question the hollowness of "Swinging England." It is a tale of good communist boy (he was raised as such by his mother) — an artist with a gorilla fixation and a grim determination to keep wealthy wife Vanessa Redgrave from divorcing him. Funny, oddly touching and ultimately disturbing.
Genre: Fantasticated Comedy Romance
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Micmacs)
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge MerlinIn Brief: The Asheville Film Society kicks off a month of holiday treats with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's most popular film, Amélie (2001), the movie that introduced the world to the charms of Audrey Tautou in the title role. It's not actually a Christmas movie, but its red and green color scheme makes it feel like a wonderfully wrapped Christmas present — and a delightful gift it is. It's endlessly inventive and contains just about everything you could want in one movie — romance, comedy, mystery, suspense, fantasy and just a generally good time — as it follows our heroine on her journey of good deeds and self-realization.
Director: Ken Scott (Starbuck)
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Simon Delaney, Bobby MoynihanThe Story: A deadbeat who donated sperm over 600 times in the ‘90s discovers that he has more than 500 children, with a hundred or so wanting to track him down. The Lowdown: While a low-key performance from Vince Vaughn and an overall kindhearted nature help, the movie’s just too schmaltzy and can’t maintain any dramatic momentum.
Genre: Surrealist Comedy on Religion
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Paul Frenkeur, Laurent Terzieff, Edith Scob, Bernard VerleyIn Brief: Luis Buñuel’s playfully cheeky comedy about Catholicism finds the iconoclast surrealist and avowed atheist ("I'm still an atheist, thank God") in a surprisingly mellow mood. Oh, the film has its outrages against the Church and clearly finds religion very foolish indeed, but there's no real anger in this one. It's almost something of a romp. The biggest potential problem is that it works on the assumption that the viewer has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Catholicism.
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