Movie Reviews

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Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudeikis, Margo Martindale, Aasif Mandvi, Jennifer Garner

Mother’s Day

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The Story: Several tenuously connected groups of people examine maternal relationships in the days leading up to the titular holiday. The Lowdown: Garry Marshall has done it again! And, by “it,” I mean waste the movie-going public’s time and money with an ill-conceived and poorly executed cash-grab.
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Starring: (Voices of) James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Armin Shimerman, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Sylvester Stallone, Bella Thorne

Ratchet & Clank

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The Story: Some sort of alien cat creature and his defective robot sidekick fight an evil oligarch intent on remaking the galaxy in his image. The Lowdown: A 90-minute commercial for the reboot of a 15-year-old video game, Ratchet & Clank is a real clunker.
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Starring: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Bruno Ganz, Henry Czerny, Jurgen Prochnow

Remember

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The Story: An octogenarian — with some kind of dementia — is sent to hunt down and kill a former Nazi guard from Auschwitz. The Lowdown: A pretty preposterous concept that almost transcends its unbelievable premise by virtue of Christopher Plummer's performance — and which is rarely less than entertaining.
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Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Darrell Britt-Gibson

Keanu

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The Story: After his new kitten is kidnapped, a heartbroken stoner and his square cousin infiltrate an LA gang to get him back. The Lowdown: A decidedly overdrawn and one-note comedy with a few high points, but a whole lot of disappointing lows.
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Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M

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In Brief: Fritz Lang's first talkie, 1931's M, definitely shows its age in terms of the technical aspects of early sound — though there's no denying it's a big improvement over his final silent, The Woman in the Moon (1929), which I've been working my way through for years. However, it still has the power to grip…
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Starring: Giovanni Ribisi, Joely Richardson, Adrian Sparks, Shaun Toub, James Remar, Mariel Hemingway

Papa Hemingway in Cuba

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The Story: A young reporter befriends Ernest Hemingway and spends time with him in Cuba shortly before the author’s suicide. The Lowdown: Unadulterated veneration of Hemingway during a stage in his life when he probably didn’t deserve it, Papa contributes nothing novel to the author’s posthumous mythos.
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Starring: Moran Rosenblatt, Reymond Amsallem, Elisha Banai, Irit Kaplan, Shlomi Koriat, Tzvi Shissel

Apples from the Desert

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In Brief: This week, the Asheville Jewish Film Festival is showing the Israeli drama Apples from the Desert (2014). Moran Rosenblatt stars as Rebecca Abravanel, an only child who is unfulfilled by her strictly Orthodox life in modern Jerusalem, under the patriarchal hand of an unbending father (Shlomi Koriat) and a subservient mother (Reymond Amsallem).…
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Starring: Loredana Detto, Sandro Panseri, Mara Revel, Guido Spadea, Tullio Kezich

Il Posto

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In Brief: By the time Ermanno Olmi made Il Posto in 1961, the Italian neo-realist movement (born more of circumstance than a desire to change film) was pretty much a thing of the past. His choice of making a film more or less in that style, however, seems more grounded in his work as a documentarian than…
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Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Patrick Stewart, Joe Cole, Callum Turner

Green Room

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The Story: Desperate for money, a touring punk band takes an ill-considered gig playing a neo-Nazi compound where they accidentally witness a murder that pits them in a struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. Predictably, most of them do not. The Lowdown: A brutal and relentless film, Green Room is a remarkably well-crafted genre effort…
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Starring: Peter Ascoli, Julian Bond, Stephanie Deutsch, Richard J. Powell, Maya Angelou

Rosenwald

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In Brief: The opening-night film for this year's Fine Arts Asheville Jewish Film Festival is Aviva Kempner's Rosenwald (2015), an appealing film about the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. The film is very much of a piece with Kempner's Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009), which had the advertising tagline, "The Most Famous Woman You Never Heard Of." That's exactly…
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Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom, George Sanders, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark

A Shot in the Dark

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In Brief: Designed as a follow-up to the original The Pink Panther (1963), A Shot in the Dark (1964) finds Blake Edwards and co-author William Peter Blatty turning to Harry Kurnitz’ play of the same name as a basis for the sequel. Using the play as a springboard gave the film the kind of form and structure that’s…
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Starring: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville

Elvis & Nixon

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The Story: Elvis Presley’s aides orchestrate a meeting with President Richard M. Nixon when the King decides he wants to become an undercover hippie-busting federal agent (or, if you believe his wife’s account, was convinced that a federal badge would allow him to carry guns and drugs with impunity while traveling). The Lowdown: Based on…
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Starring: Don Cheadle. Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy E. Corinealdi, LaKeith Lee Stanfield

Miles Ahead

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The Story: Fantasticated — nearly phantasmagorical — biographical film on jazz great Miles Davis. The Lowdown: A radical — but completely accessible and richly entertaining — approach to the much disdained biopic genre. Propelled by a towering performance by director, co-writer and star Don Cheadle, this is what movies ought to be all about. See…
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Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

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The Story: As two supernatural sisters attempt to take over the Enchanted Forest, a group of daring fighters tries to stop them. The Lowdown: Despite a good cast and some neat visuals, a pointless attempt at forcing a new series on the world, one that simply doesn’t have the verve or story to be of…
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Starring: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Tyler Hoechlin, Glenn Powell, Wyatt Russell, J. Quentin Johnson

Everybody Wants Some!!

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The Story: A south Texas college freshman on a baseball scholarship in the early ’80s navigates the interpersonal dynamics of his new team in the days before classes start. The Lowdown: While the premise and plot may harken back to the trivial sex farces of the ’80s, Everybody is imbued with the heart and humor…
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Starring: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve

Barbershop: The Next Cut

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The Story: With their neighborhood falling to pieces, a local barber decides to bring change to his community. The Lowdown: A surprisingly welcome visit from a long (somewhat) forgotten series that’s far from perfect, but gets points for being both entertaining and pertinent (although perhaps a bit pat).
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Starring: Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Ben Whishaw, Tom Conti, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina

The Tempest

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In Brief: There were few movies I was so looking forward to in 2010 than Julie Taymor's version of The Tempest. Unfortunately, it died (at $277,000 on a $20 million budget) long before it penetrated the provinces. Upshot? I, of course, snatched up the DVD as soon as possible. Result? Disappointment, but nowhere near the…
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Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Jordi Mollà, Michael Pitt

Criminal

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The Story: The CIA implants a murdered agent’s memories into the mind of a brain-damaged convict in the hopes of thwarting a Spanish anarchist’s nebulous scheme to take control of America’s weapons systems. The Lowdown: A cast that should’ve known better is dragged down by a thoroughly terrible script in this criminally stupid potboiler.
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Starring: Neel Sethi, (Voices of) Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling

The Jungle Book

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The Story: A young boy is raised by wolves in the jungle, only to become a pawn in the power struggles of wilderness politics. The Lowdown: The dark, gritty reboot of the 1967 animated film that nobody wanted or needed, The Jungle Book is interesting to look at but lacks the heart of the original…
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Starring: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Massey, Dana Gillespie, William Hootkins

Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession

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In Brief: It’s hard to imagine now, but when Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession came out back in 1980, it was a very big deal. The film was the talk of the film publications of the era. Not only was it Nicolas Roeg’s first film since The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), but it was the film…
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Starring: Tom Hanks, Alexander Black, Sarita Choudhury, Ben Whishaw, Tom Skerritt

A Hologram for the King

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The Story: A failed American business consultant facing a midlife crisis tries to sell a new teleconferencing technology to the King of Saudi Arabia. The Lowdown:  A surprisingly heartfelt and restrained exploration of some very weighty topics, A Hologram for the King offers an engaging perspective on American exceptionalism in a global sociological context without…