Movie Reviews

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Starring: Tommy Tedesco, Herb Alpert, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, Leon Russell, Mickey Dolenz, Brian Wilson, Cher

The Wrecking Crew

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The Story: A documentary on the session musicians who helped shape American pop and rock music in the 1960s and ’70s. The Lowdown: It doesn't reinvent the documentary — nor does it try to — but this look into a largely unknown aspect of pop music is a treat as it celebrates the faceless musicians…
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Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, Sig Ruman

Only Angels Have Wings

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In Brief: I first saw Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939) at two o'clock in the morning on the second day of a marathon festival of films from Columbia Pictures in a packed theater at the University of South Florida about 40 years ago. It had never to my knowledge popped up on any…
salt
Starring: Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Lélia Wanick Salgado

The Salt of the Earth

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The Story: Documentary on the life and work of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. The Lowdown: Glorious to look at — at least when it sticks to black and white — and keenly perceptive, this isn't your standard documentary for most of its length.
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Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Malachi Kirby, Ian Hart, Philip Davis, Pauline Collins

Dough

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In Brief: The closing film for this year's Asheville Jewish Film Festival, Dough, is an unlikely delight. On paper — and to a certain degree, in practice — this sounds like a movie that packs every culture-clash and generation-gap cliche imaginable into one small space. Jonathan Pryce plays Nat, an elderly Jewish baker who refuses…
tenant
Starring: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters, Jo Van Fleet

The Tenant

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In Brief: Roman Polanski's 1976 psychological horror film about a Polish immigrant (Polanski) losing his own personality to that of the woman who previously lived in his apartment (and who committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window) may well be the director's best film. It is certainly his creepiest — and made all…
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Starring: Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Bruno Zanin, Luigi Rossi, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi

Amarcord

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In Brief: If anyone ever asks why Federico Fellini is one of the greats of filmmaking, all that should be necessary is to direct them to his 1973 film, Amarcord. (If that fails, I suppose you might try 8 1/2 (1963), and if that fails, give up trying to reason with them.) Amarcord and 8 1/2 strike me as the most…
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Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key

Tomorrowland

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The Story: An upbeat teenager and a disgruntled older man become involved in the world of Tomorrowland. The Lowdown: Yes, there are some bright spots in it, but the story is poorly constructed, the payoff is too slight, the thematic implications are between confused and alarming — and the final result little more than an…
bad day
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis,Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin

Bad Day at Black Rock

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In Brief: Clocking in at a tight 81 minutes, John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock (1954) is everything you don't expect from a John Sturges movie. It's taut, tense, and it doesn't dawdle. The film is an expression of the increasingly leftist slant that MGM had taken after Dore Schary had managed to oust…
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Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements

Poltergeist

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The Story: An angry spirit kidnaps a young girl after her family moves into a house built upon an old cemetery. The Lowdown: Obviously superfluous, but dull and lacking in scares on top of it all.
those who
Starring: Pascal Greggory, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Charles Berling, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

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In Brief: My entire familiarity with Patrice Chéreau prior to seeing Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998) rested on seeing the video presentation of his famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) 1976 staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth. In terms of his talents as a filmmaker this told me nothing, but…
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Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

Far from the Madding Crowd

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The Story: A strong-willed woman in rural Victorian England deals with society, changing fortunes and the attentions of three very different men. The Lowdown: Splendid as drama and strong on character — the four leads, Mulligan, Schoenaerts, Sheen and Sturridge, are exceptional — this is one of the year's best films and easily one of…
good
Starring: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz, Jake Abel, Peter Coyote (voice)

Good Kill

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The Story: A fighter pilot turned drone controller finds himself increasingly questioning the morality of his job. The Lowdown: Strong performances, a trenchant message and brilliant uses of imagery help to overcome a screenplay that leans toward preachiness.
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Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman

Mad Max: Fury Road

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The Story: Max Rockatansky helps transport some refugee concubines across the desert to a supposedly better land. The Lowdown: While it isn't likely to change your idea of cinema (at least I hope not), isn't worth the hype and has its share of problems, this is one wild — even hallucinatory — ride that's worth…
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Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin

Pitch Perfect 2

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The Story: After an embarrassing performance nearly dooms their a capella group, the women of the Barden Bellas try to win an international competition to restore their good name. The Lowdown: The sequel to an exhaustingly dull, overlong, predictable and generally unfunny movie somehow one-ups its predecessor in all of those categories.
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Starring: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, John Loder

Now, Voyager

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In Brief: If you deliberately took every soap-opera trope you could think of, packaged them in the glossiest movie the studio system could manage, threw in doses of culture for Hollywood's notion of intellectuals, filled it with top-notch movie stars and then served the whole with a swooping Max Steiner score (largely built around the…
manhattan murder
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler

Manhattan Murder Mystery

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In Brief: Viewers who attend the showing of Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai on May 20 will quickly understand it's being followed  with Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery, since the two movies are connected. Otherwise, Manhattan Murder Mystery is probably best known as the film that reunited Allen with Diane Keaton, though that wasn't the original idea. That only came about after his…
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Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden

Blow Out

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In Brief: Brian De Palma does Antonioni — replacing the damning image from Blowup with an incriminating sound recording (our protagonist is a movie sound effects man rather than a photographer). More aptly, I should say De Palma does Antonioni as one might imagine Antonioni on speed. That's to say that Blow Out (1981) is no slow-paced moody think-piece…
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Starring: Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Welcome to Me

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The Story: A mentally ill woman wins the lottery and decides to host a talk show. The Lowdown: A comedic (?) exploration of psychological disorder that accomplishes nothing further than allowing Kristen Wiig to chew scenery.
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Starring: Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Glenn Anders, Erskine Sanford

The Lady from Shanghai

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In Brief: To commemorate Orson Welles' 100th birthday, the Asheville Film Society has booked the new 4K restoration of the filmmaker's 1947 twisty — and twisted — film noir thriller The Lady from Shanghai. Not as well known as some of Welles' works, The Lady from Shanghai is one of his most strikingly visual films…
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Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi, Federica Mastroianni, Fiore Argento

Phenomena (Creepers)

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In Brief: Heavy-metal music blares from the sound track — sometimes for no very good reason. Jennifer Connelly gets telepathic with insects. A crazed killer prowls a girls school (named for Richard Wagner — whose name is pronounced incorrectly in the film’s one use of narration) in Switzerland. Gory killings abound. There’s sleepwalking, unsafe buildings just anyone can…
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Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Geoffrey Rush, Jamie Lee Curtis, Leonor Varela, Harold Pinter

The Tailor of Panama

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In Brief: Never the most prolific of filmmakers (most of his films are separated by two to four years), Boorman had willfully bitten the hand that was feeding him at least twice with Zardoz and Exorcist II: The Heretic by convincing major studios to pour money into what were essentially limited audience “art” films disguised as mainstream productions.…