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Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 8-14: Kill Judge Alexander Dracula Happiness

In Theaters. Something tells me this week isn’t likely to be as strong in the mainstream department, but there’s a joker amidst those three that might surprise on starpower. (I seriously doubt there’ll be as pleasant a surprise as Gone Girl.) Maybe. The art side of the ledger is a harder call, but there are […]

New Movie Releases

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Starring: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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The Story: A put-upon young boy gets his wish that his family finds out what a bad day is like when they're on the receiving end. The Lowdown: A very long 80 minutes of obvious slapstick and loud performances pitched to the family-friendly crowd, which should demand better.
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Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance

Dracula Untold

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The Story: The story of how Dracula got the way he is. The Lowdown: Slapdash, but slick, horror done in comic book terms. Too little horror, too much CGI — and yet another attempt to make a great villain sympathetic with an origin story. Phooey.
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Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Emma Thompson

Men, Women & Children

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The Story: Eight intercut — sometimes connected — stories of life in the age of omnipresent social media. The Lowdown: It's a worthy idea and there are some moments of grace, but this takedown of society losing actual human connection through its online and text messaging simulation of interaction is too unfocused and overstuffed to be the movie it wants to be.
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Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton

The Judge

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The Story: A hotshot defense attorney is forced into defending his estranged dad’s murder charge. The Lowdown: A gooey mess of shameless Oscar bait clichés that’s watchable and little else.

Special Screenings This Week

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Starring: Altinay Ghelich Taghani, Soghra Karimi, Zahra Mohammadi, Habib Haddad

Daughters of the Sun

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In Brief: This debut feature from Iranian director Maryam Shahriar is a specialized film for specialized tastes. Those with a keen interest in Iranian cinema should probably add at least a half-star to my rating. Others might approach this slow-moving, unrelentingly grim movie about a young rural Iranian woman (Altinay Ghelich Taghani), forced into having her head shaved and farmed out to a nearby rugmaker to supervise the weaving of Persian rugs, with caution. In essence, she's been stripped of her sexual identity and sold into slavery (or maybe it's weavery). Basically, it's 90 minutes of hard luck and quiet desperation with a main character who rarely talks. I can't say it isn't well made — though I suspect the Facets DVD does it no favors — but neither can I say it appeals to me. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Daughters of the Sun Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
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Starring: Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi, Leila Hyams, The Panther Woman (Kathleen Burke), Arthur Hohl

Island of Lost Souls

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In Brief: Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls (1932) is without a doubt the grimmest and most completely horrific of all “golden age” horror films. That’s a statement that few are going to argue with. (It was banned — much to the delight of H.G. Wells, who hated what the filmmakers had done with his source novel — in the UK until 1958.) Its horrors are more straightforward and more in-your-face than anything else of the time. It's a nasty bit of goods, but it’s a magnificent nasty bit of goods. This ultrastylish tale of the sadistic Dr. Moreau and his island full of half-human horrors (led by Bela Lugosi) he’s made from animals — not to mention his plans to breed one of them with a shipwreck victim (Richard Arlen) — is just as slick as it is “sick,” and one of the absolute essentials of the first wave of horror movies. Kathleen Burke (billed as The Panther Woman) got her role as the sexy half-human Lota by winning Paramount's "Panther Woman of America" contest. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Island of Lost Souls Thursday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six  at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Roger Daltrey, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas, Fiona Lewis, John Justin, Ringo Starr

Lisztomania

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In Brief: Lisi Russell (Mrs. Ken Russell) joins the Asheville Film Society to introduce this special Budget Big Screen showing of Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975),  a movie she was slated to costar in — that is until her mother found out about it. It is hands down the most unrestrained film ever made by the filmmaker — a man not exactly known for restraint. It's a big, outrageous comic strip take on the lives of Franz Liszt (Roger Daltrey) and Richard Wagner (Paul Nicholas) — with a guest appearance by Ringo Starr as the pope. In other words, it's 19th century musical giants, the rock stars of their day. It has vampires, Adolph Hitler (as the Frankenstein Monster), Nazis, Thor, a mad scientist, Charlie Chaplin, a flame-throwing piano, a rocket ship — everything you could hope for in a musical biopic and more. It is unlike anything you've ever seen. That's a promise. The Asheville Film Society is showing Lisztomania Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in at The Carolina Asheville as part of the Budget Big Screen series. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public. Special guest Lisi Russell (Ken Russell's widow) will introduce the film with Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
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Starring: Sammi Davis, Paul McGann, Amanda Donohoe, Christopher Gable, David Hemmings, Glenda Jackson

The Rainbow

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In Brief: Ken Russell's last large-scale theatrical work, The Rainbow (1989) was the most elaborate of the three films he made for producer Dan Ireland at Vestron Pictures. In many ways, it was an attempt to recapture the quality of Women in Love from 20 years earlier. After all, D.H. Lawrence's novel was the book that led to Women in Love. So surrounding himself with a cast he mostly knew and trusted, Russell set out to make a masterpiece. While he didn't quite do that — thanks to a central casting error — he came pretty close and made a beautiful, deeply sensual film, his most ambitious work of the 1980s. What he hadn't reckoned on was the restructuring of Vestron and the closing of their theatrical arm, leaving him with a very good — sometimes great — movie that almost no one got the chance to see. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Rainbow Sunday, Oct. 19, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
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Starring: Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, John Williams, Henry Daniell, Una O'Connor

Witness for the Prosecution

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In Brief: According to the credits, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich were the stars of Billy Wilder's excellent film version of Agatha Christie's hit play Witness for the Prosecution. But let's face it, the movie belongs to Charles Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Robards, the ailing but wily barrister defending Power on a murder charge. The premise finds Sir Wilfrid — with bossy nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester) in tow — fresh out of the hospital after a heart attack. In theory, he is only to handle quiet, easy civil cases, but this quickly proves to be purely a theory when — mostly because he's after a forbidden cigar — he hears the case of Leonard Vole (Power), an American war hero charged with murdering a 56-year-old widow for her money. His only slender hope is the testimony of his wife (Dietrich), who, as things turn out, is not his wife (owing to a previous marriage) and ends up being the title witness for the prosecution. It's a clever, twisty tale with a surprise ending that the producers were very protective of (the film ends with a voice-over asking viewers not to reveal the ending). Dietrich is excellent, and so is the supporting cast. The only weak link is Power, who looks too old and frankly sick for the part. But the real draw here is Laughton. The Asheville Film Society will screen Witness for the Prosecution Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.