Movie Reviews

Starring: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, Ken Howard, Donald Madden, John Cullum


In Brief: High on the list of "For people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like" is Peter H. Hunt's 1776. I freely admit I am not among their number. I watched 1776 once, after years of having avoided it, thanks to a high school classmate who…
Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson, Erland Josephson

The Passion of Anna

In Brief: World Cinema is revisiting this frequently overlooked Ingmar Bergman film. The U.S. title, The Passion of Anna, of The Passion (1969) is misleading, since it’s difficult to conclude that the film is really about Anna’s (Liv Ullmann) passion. Perhaps the American distributor simply thought it sounded sexier. In any case, the film is one of…
Starring: Carlos (as Max), Thomas Hayden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Jay Hernandez


The Story: A military working dog (MWD) returns from Afghanistan after his handler is killed and is adopted by the handler’s family. For no logical reason he then helps thwart a gun-running plot. The Lowdown: A dog of a film that never rises above emotional exploitation, despite excellent canine performances and beautiful WNC filming locations.
Starring: James Booth, Roy Kinnear, Marisa Mell, Alita Naughton, Bryan Pringle, Sandor Elès

French Dressing

In Brief: In honor of Ken Russell's 88th birthday, the Asheville Film Society is screening the filmmaker's rarely seen — never officially released in the U.S. — first feature, French Dressing (1964). Beating the British Film Invasion proper by a few months, this charming little seaside comedy romance is very, very British, but it also underscores…
Starring: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, Judith Godrèche

The Overnight

The Story: A couple newly arrived in L.A. accept a dinner invitation from someone who very well may have ulterior motives. The Lowdown: Though marketed as a comedy, The Overnight isn't all that funny. It's, in fact, better at being disconcerting. While not without its strong points, the film is too meandering and vague in…
Starring: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donohoe, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis, Catherine Oxenberg, Stratford Johns

The Lair of the White Worm

In Brief: July 3 would have been Ken Russell's 88th birthday and, to mark the event, Russell's 1988 horror comedy, The Lair of the White Worm, makes a return appearance at the Thursday Horror Picture Show. While it's one of the filmmaker's lighter works, it's also the Ken Russell picture that turned a lot of younger…
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Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine C. Hughes

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

The Story: A social misfit high-schooler is forced by his mother to befriend a girl in his class who's been diagnosed with leukemia. The Lowdown: It may sound like dreary, doomed romance teenage goo, but this smart, stylish film is anything but that. Rather, it's one of the delights of 2015. A must-see for discerning…
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi

Ted 2

The Story: The lethargic, crass, mysteriously anthropomorphic teddy bear Ted returns, this time fighting the law to be recognized as a human being. The Lowdown: Everything terrible about the original Ted —  the casual bigotry, the simple-minded pop culture references — but within the framework of an even lazier piece of filmmaking.
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Leif Erickson, Irene Hervey, Ralph Morgan, Don Porter, Nils Asther, Fay Helm, Doris Lloyd

Night Monster

In Brief: Ford Beebe’s economically-minded Night Monster (1942) not only uses the sets from The Wolf Man (1941), but also pilfers the Wolf Man’s feet for its nocturnal monster. It is, in any case, quite the best movie Beebe ever made. In fact, it’s hard to understand why Beebe — a specialist in serials and cowboy movies —…
Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Brady Corbet, Claudia Traisac, Carlos Bardem, Ana Giradot

Escobar: Paradise Lost

The Story: Fictionalized thriller about an innocent who is corrupted and betrayed by a real life character. The Lowdown: Note well that this is not a biopic on Pablo Escobar; it's a thriller crafted around Escobar. On that basis, it mostly works — at least once it gets going — and Benicio Del Toro is…
Starring: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Jennifer Ehle

A Little Chaos

The Story: A female landscape designer lands a position at Versailles constructing an outdoor ballroom for Louis XIV. The Lowdown: Stylish direction, a great cast, a plum role for Kate Winslet and numerous delights overcome the somewhat fragmented construction of this (loosely) historical romance.
Starring: (Voices) Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias

Inside Out

The Story: When a young girl's central memories are lost, it falls to two of her basic emotional components to find them. The Lowdown: A mix of the brilliant and the basic — a film that truly soars when it works, but doesn't quite work all of the time.
Starring: George Arliss, Violet Heming, Bette Davis, Andre Luguet, Louise Closser Hale, Ivan Simpson, Oscar Apfel

The Man Who Played God

In Brief: Touted as "A modern drama from real life," The Man Who Played God (1932) is actually a remake of George Arliss' 1922 silent version (now lost) of  a 1914 play. It is, however, one of that great actor's best films. It's also the movie where Arliss brought Bette Davis to Warner Bros. — at the suggestion…
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Will Ferrell, Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, Jason Schwartzman, Kristin Chenoweth


In Brief: The film version of Bewitched (2005) is a bullet I had dodged until now. (This is not the sort of movie I am apt to seek out unless I have to.) The truth is — the movie is not good, but neither is it (in a strictly relative sense) bad. It has a…
Starring: Jean Simmons, Dirk Bogarde, David Tomlinson, Marcel Poncin, Cathleen Nesbitt, Honor Blackman

So Long at the Fair

In Brief: Though signed by both Antony Darnborough and Terence Fisher (best known of the Hammer horror directors), So Long at the Fair (1950) is clearly the work of Fisher. (Darnborough only directed two movies — both with Fisher.) It has much the same visual flair as Fisher's horror pictures — and one very stylish…
Starring: (Voices) Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima, Susumu Terajima, Toshie Negishi

When Marnie Was There

The Story: A withdrawn young girl with asthma is sent to an isolated coastal town for her health. There she makes a strange, rather ethereal friend. The Lowdown: Lovingly handmade animated fantasy about the loneliness of childhood. Masterful and beautiful with moments of pure magic, and ultimately quite moving.
Starring: Andréa Ferréol, Brian Deacon, Eric Deacon, Frances Barber, Joss Ackland, Jim Davidson

A Zed & Two Noughts

In Brief: Almost exactly four years ago the AFS ran Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991). The showing started out with nearly 80 people. By the end, it was down to about 20 brave souls. I don't know if it was the fact that it's hard to follow, the fact that it boasts what the MPAA termed "pervasive…
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong

Jurassic World

The Story: A big, bad genetically engineered dinosaur runs wild at the Jurassic World theme park. The Lowdown: Better written, better directed and better acted than any film about rampaging dinosaurs has any right to be.
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, A$ap Rocky, Zoë Kravitz, Kimberly Elise


The Story: A trio of misfit teens ends up with a bag of drugs, a gun and a big problem. The Lowdown: An unexpected delight — a completely refreshing take on the coming-of-age comedy that succeeds by hewing closely to the subgenre's tropes while deftly turning them upside down and thwarting expectations at almost every turn.
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Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril

Deep Red (Profondo Rosso)

In Brief: Widely considered — at least by those who consider such things — to be Dario Argento's best film, Deep Red (1975) is perhaps more of a gory (except that people all seem to bleed red paint) giallo than an outright horror film. One thing is certain — it makes more sense (in strictly relative terms) than the…
Starring: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Edith Evanson, Joan Chandler, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier


In Brief: In the 1980s, the select films that Alfred Hitchcock had carefully retained the rights to were re-issued to theaters. The oldest of these, Rope (1948), had always been considered something of a failure — an experiment that didn't quite come off and that flopped on its original release. The surprise was that it…