Movie Reviews

THE AGE OF ADALINE
Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew

The Age of Adaline

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The Story: A woman who — through a freak accident — has been 29 for nearly 80 years falls in love with a man of about 30. The Lowdown: It has a solid romantic fantasy premise and excellent performances from the supporting cast, but the central romance itself is tepid and barely involving. It's by…
cloud-of-sils-mariab
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn, Angela Winkler, Hanns Zischler

Clouds of Sils Maria

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The Story: An aging actress agrees to appear in a revival of the play that launched her career, but playing the older lead character. The Lowdown: The first full five-star movie of 2015. A wholly remarkable and richly layered film examining the thin line between art and life, about change, aging, death and identity, built…
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Starring: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Yilmaz Erdogan

The Water Diviner

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The Story: An Australian farmer whose sons died at the Battle of Gallipoli sets out to find their remains. The Lowdown: Actor/director Crowe makes a thoroughly sincere, if ultimately forgettable, feature directing debut.
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Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane

Citizen Kane

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In Brief: This year marks the 100th birthday of Orson Welles -- May 6, in fact -- and the Hendersonville Film Society is marking the event with a screening of Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941). While that might seem the most obvious choice -- almost too obvious -- it really isn't. In fact, this is…
house2
Starring: Ruddy Rodríguez, Rosmel Bustamante, Guillermo García, Gonzalo Cubero, Héctor Mercado

The House at the End of Time

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In Brief: Alejandro Hidalgo's The House at the End of Time (2013) is exhibit B for the case that we are indeed in the midst of a horror film renaissance -- the only question is how much some of the best examples are even being seen. In the case of this Venezuelan movie (supposedly the country's first…
chicken
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Maria de Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani, Isabella Rossellini

Chicken with Plums

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In Brief: World Cinema is bringing back Chicken with Plums, a film that didn't get the attention it should have when it was released a few years ago. Playful, gorgeous to look at, cinematically brilliant and finally heartbreakingly sad, Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's 2011 film is one of those movies that ought to have played here…
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Starring: Margaret Sullavan, Henry Fonda, Charles Butterworth, Beulah Bondi, Henrietta Crosman, Walter Brennan

The Moon’s Our Home

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In Brief: Art imitates -- and attempts to improve upon -- life in William A. Seiter's The Moon's Our Home (1936), one of the least seen and least known of all classic screwball comedies. The reasons for its obscurity are vague, though they may be grounded in copyright issues involving the literary source (a serialized…
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Starring: Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Rapaport, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jakob Salvati

Little Boy

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The Story: A young boy in World War II California turns to the Catholic Church for reassurance when his deployed father is captured by the Japanese. The Lowdown: A painfully slow and contrived period piece that attempts to examine the power of faith, with appalling results.
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Starring: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Eduardo Verástegui, Neal McDonough, David Henrie

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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The Story: Mall cop Paul Blart returns, clumsily fighting crime in Las Vegas during a convention. The Lowdown: A tired and embarrassing comedy that’s based on a grotesque view of everyday people and a penchant for the cheapest of jokes.
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Starring: Jonah Hill, James Franco, Felicity Jones, Ethan Suplee, Robert John Burke

True Story

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The Story: A disgraced journalist has the story of a lifetime fall into his lap when a fugitive accused of murdering his family turns up in Mexico pretending to be him. The Lowdown: A self-serious crime drama that’s impossible to actually take seriously, one that’s too straight-faced and thematically droll.
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Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki

Unfriended

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The Story: Some overage teenagers run afoul of a vengeful spirit online. The Lowdown: A strong contender for Worst Movie of 2015. This isn't even bargain-basement horror of the so-bad-it's-funny school. This is so-bad-it's-awful. That said, some have called it brilliant.
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Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel

Child 44

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The Story: A Russian secret police agent becomes increasingly disillusioned with Stalin's Russia, especially concerning a series of child murders. The Lowdown: As a mystery, there's not much here. Also, it's too long and on the slow side. But as an examination of the grim final days of Stalinism, it's often fascinating.
jackal
Starring: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton

The Day of the Jackal

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In Brief: It's big. It's glossy. It's competently professional. It rarely thrills, and it goes on for an unconscionable 143 minutes. In other words, it's a Fred Zinnemann film. Zinnemann is probably the last person I'd approach to make a thriller — and this movie illustrates why. What this shaggy yarn about an assassination attempt…
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Starring: Stanton Glantz, Jamy Ian Swiss, Bob Inglis, Frederick Singer, Tim Phillips, Marc Morano, Naomi Oreskes

Merchants of Doubt

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The Story: Documentary about "experts" whose job is to cast doubt on scientific findings at the behest of their employers. The Lowdown: It probably won't change many minds — do these things ever? — and it may not tell you much you don't know, but this is a solid and surprisingly effective activist documentary.
forthedefense
Starring: William Powell, Kay Francis, Scott Kolk, William B. Davidson, Thomas E. Jackson, Harry Walker

For the Defense

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In Brief: For the Defense (1930) is a rare (I think TCM has played it once) early sound film starring William Powell and Kay Francis made while both were still under contract to Paramount, and while it's not up to their more famous Warner Bros. duo — One Way Passage and Jewel Robbery (both 1932) — it's a surprisingly…
EX-Machina-Movie-2015
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Ex Machina

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The Story: A young employee of a computer company is brought to the isolated home of his boss to help determine whether or not his employer has really created artificial intelligence. The Lowdown: A coolly brilliant film from writer-turned-director Alex Garland that explores the nature of what it means to be human. Effective as both…
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Starring: David Alpay, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Christopher Plummer

Ararat

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In Brief: To commemorate Armenian Genocide Day, World Cinema is showing Atom Egoyan's much misunderstood Ararat (2002), which deals with the Turkish government's 1915 genocide of its Armenian population. This is heady stuff. It's also heavily layered and told in an unusual manner, presenting the story from the perspective of an Armenian filmmaker and linking past…
mahler h
Starring: Robert Powell, Georgina Hale, Lee Montague, Rosalie Crutchley, Antonia Ellis

Mahler

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In Brief: The Asheville Film Society's Budget Big Screen series returns with Asheville's own Lisi Russell introducing Ken Russell's Mahler — her late husband's brilliant biographical film on composer Gustav Mahler, a film conductor Klaus Tennstedt said was "the best film ever made about music." I'm not about to argue with him. Mahler is from the richest period…
death
Starring: Fredric March, Evelyn Venable, Sir Guy Standing, Katharine Alexander, Gail Patrick, Kent Taylor, Helen Westley

Death Takes a Holiday

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In Brief: More a dark fantasy than an outright horror movie (though it has been claimed by the horror community), Death Takes a Holiday (1934) is the kind of film that could only have been made by Paramount Pictures and could only have been made at the time it was. Mitchell Leisen’s surprisingly complex (especially with its…
black magic
Starring: Orson Welles, Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff, Frank Latimore, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame

Black Magic

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In Brief: Orson Welles has a scene-stealing field day in this rather free adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' Joseph Balsamo, Mémoires d'un Médecin — the story of Cagliostro (née Joseph Balsamo) rechristened Black Magic (1949) and starring Welles as, of course, Cagliostro. And based on the on-screen evidence, Welles stole more than scenes. Venerable Russian character…
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Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin

The Longest Ride

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The Story: The past of an old, dying man and two young lovers intertwine as he looks back at his past love. The Lowdown: An incredibly goopy, way too long and overwhelmingly chintzy saccharine romance with dull leads and zero points of interest.