Movie Reviews

Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki


In Brief: Though he’d made better movies before this one — and would make better ones after it — Rashomon (1950) is the film that put Akira Kurosawa on the map as a major force in international film. The secret probably lies in the picture’s unusual structure, which not only functions as a hook, but…
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore

The Hunger Games Mockingjay — Part 2

The Story: Conclusion to the popular film series. The Lowdown: While it’s not a great film (was that even a possibility?), it’s a satisfying enough wrap-up to the story — one that boasts a sequence of genuine power.  
Starring: Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult

About a Boy

In Brief: The Asheville Film Society jumps into seasonal mode with Chris and Paul Weitz’s About a Boy (2002) — the film that demonstrated there was a lot more to these guys than Jason Biggs having conjugal relations with baked goods. It’s not, perhaps, standard Christmas season fare, but About a Boy isn’t your standard…
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole, Michael Kelly

Secret in Their Eyes

The Story: An unresolved 13-year-old murder case returns to haunt those involved. The Lowdown: Intelligent, and largely effective, Americanized remake of the 2010 Argentinian thriller. Great performances and a respect for the original mostly carry the day, but the plot-driven nature of the story is apt to disappoint viewers who already know where it’s all…
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Jessica Paré


The Story: The tale of a young Irish woman who moves to America. The Lowdown: You will find few better movies this year — and none that are more magical. This is an essential. Saoirse Ronan moves to forefront of young actresses with this film.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Lizzy Kaplan, Michael Shannon

The Night Before

The Story:  Three longtime friends cling to youthful irresponsibility one last time as they put to rest a time-honored Christmas tradition: getting wasted and avoiding their families. The Lowdown: A broad farce cashing in on holiday angst that works better than it has any right to.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Mark Rylance, Jim Sturgess

The Other Boleyn Girl

In Brief: This deadly dull Masterpiece Theatre-ish waxworks display came out in 2008 and quickly disappeared. It isn’t hard to understand why. Apart from a few “shocking” interjections of earthy dialogue, an array of truly tepid PG-13 sex scenes, a dose of 16th-century feminism and the absurdly bloodless beheadings, the film is dull, dull, dull.…
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K., John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg


The Story: Biopic of blacklisted screewriter Dalton Trumbo, and a picture of the whole HUAC era. The Lowdown: A savvy biopic that benefits from an often very funny script, excellent performances and an unfortunately still-relevant story.
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi

It’s a Wonderful Life

In Brief: I first saw It's a Wonderful Life (1946) when I was in the throes of Frank Capra idolatry — something born of being 18 and having read his autobiography — and I was primed to see it. I also don't think I have ever been more disappointed by a movie in my life.…
Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, Marisa Tomei, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb

Love the Coopers

The Story: A bunch of poorly-defined — but dysfunctional — characters grit their teeth to get through Christmas dinner. The Lowdown: On the short list for most annoying, predictable and mirthless Christmas movie ever made.
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup


The Story: The Boston Globe opts to investigate the possibility of the Catholic Church covering up for — even enabling — known pedophile priests. The Lowdown: Simply an amazing film that works as history, as justification for the value of real journalism and as a still relevant cautionary tale on the perils of willful ignorance.…
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enza Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda

The Bicycle Thieves

In Brief:  It helps to understand the realities of life in post-War Italy to understand the birth of Italian Neo-Realism — something born as much from economic necessity as an artistic movement. Films like Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (1948) were partly made simply because they were possible in a country where money was scarce…
Starring: Finn Wittrock, Aaron Eckhart, Sarah Bolger, Robin Tunney

My All American

The Story: The true-life story of a perpetual underdog with aspirations of playing college football who ends up facing an even bigger challenge. The Lowdown: A paint-by-numbers inspirational sports flick that does exactly what you expect it to — with that being its biggest problem.
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, John Halliday, William Frawley, Ernest Cossart, Alan Mowbray


In Brief: Marlene Dietrich’s first film following the departure of her mentor, Josef von Sternberg, Desire (1936) is a stylish, glossy romantic comedy co-starring Gary Cooper. Dietrich — in a nonstop procession of those Travis Banton costumes — plays a member of a ring of jewel thieves who slips a string of stolen pearls in vacationing…
Starring: Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones

Pan’s Labyrinth

In Brief: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) (2006) is one of the most remarkable films of the 21st century — something I was not prepared for when I first saw it. Even while recognizing del Toro’s talent in his previous films (sometimes more obvious than other times), there was little in his work…
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Tom McCamus, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy


The Story: A woman held captive for seven years and her five-year-old son escape to the outside world and try to adapt. The Lowdown: Highly-acclaimed — and admittedly unusual — tale that doesn't live up to its premise or its reception. Others will disagree with that assessment.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Gabriel Byrne, James Brolin, Lou Diamond Phillips

The 33

The Story: Film version of the real-life event of the Chilean miners trapped in a cave-in. The Lowdown: It's well-made. It's well-intentioned, well-acted — and inclined to be on the slow side. The film seems less the problem than the idea that the story could, and should, be dramatized.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris


The Story: James Bond is back and out to save the world and his position in it, while uncovering his own past. The Lowdown: Lighter than the recent Bond movies, this is either a return to form, a winking homage to the whole series, or a dumbing down of the angsty, introspective Bond of the…
Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, Wylie Watson

The 39 Steps

In Brief:  It's the picture where Alfred Hitchcock introduced the concept of an innocent man on the run from both the police and the bad guys while trying to prove his innocence. It's also the movie with the very first of Hitchcock's ice-blonde leading ladies. And The 39 Steps (1935) can still hold its own with…
Starring: Laurie Anderson, Lolabelle

Heart of a Dog

The Story: Performance artist and musician Laurie Anderson examines her relationship with her pet rat terrier against the backdrop of death and post-9/11 paranoia. The Lowdown: A beguiling little film that’s either brilliant or hogwash, but most likely lives somewhere in between.
my fellow americans
Starring: Jack Lemmon, James Garner, Dan Aykroyd, John Heard, Wilford Brimley, Lauren Bacall

My Fellow Americans

In Brief: My Fellow Americans (1996) is a likable, if undistinguished, political action comedy — not a political satire. Though vaguely left-leaning, it is way too careful at being inoffensive to ever pass as satire. Certainly, it's agreeable entertainment, especially in the teaming of Jack Lemmon and James Garner as a pair of ex-presidents (of…