The Story: A teenage girl finds she's pregnant and makes arrangements to give her baby to a childless couple. The Lowdown: Avoiding the pitfalls of indie hipness, Juno emerges as a warm, witty film with terrific characters and performances.
The Story: A spoof of biopics, following the life of fictional rock star Dewey Cox. The Lowdown: A spoof with an OK concept that feels more like a really bad Saturday Night Live skit that never wants to end, rather than an actual movie.
The Story: A young widow receives letters from her late husband telling her how to get on with life. The Lowdown: A preposterous concept that's given an even more preposterous -- and amazingly overlong -- treatment, not helped by a miscast lead.
The Story: Treasure hunter-historian Ben Gates must find the lost city of gold to clear an ancestor's good name. The Lowdown: A mildly diverting adventure yarn that suffers from adhering too closely to formula.
The Story: A young student turned spy seduces a man who is collaborating with the Japanese in 1930s China with the object of having him assassinated. The Lowdown: Ang Lee's new film is a visual masterpiece that's constantly entertaining, but it never becomes profoundly moving.
The Story: An Afghan émigré in California finds his past coming back to haunt him in the form of a childhood debt owed to a friend he betrayed. The Lowdown: Perhaps it's a little too heavily plotted (and maybe too contrived), but Marc Forster's new film is nonetheless a compelling examination of personal guilt and possible redemption, and it's handled in an unusual manner.
The Story: A documentary railing against the evils of consumerism, told through the comedy/theater troupe of Rev. Billy and his Stop Shopping Crusade. The Lowdown: While it's hard to argue with the film's message, the clunky, shallow, pointless execution ultimately sinks it.
The Story: Wrongfully imprisoned barber Benjamin Barker returns to London as Sweeney Todd to have his revenge on those responsible for his plight. The Lowdown: A magnificent -- and magnificently over the top -- horror musical from Tim Burton that hits every aspect of both genres just right.
The Story: A young girl accidentally fixes her mom up with a mall Santa. The Lowdown: A by-the-books romantic comedy that almost works in its own limited capacity, but can’t overcome some wrongheaded decisions and a drawn-out plot.
Nazarín, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
The Story: Will Smith plays the "last man on earth" in this postapocalyptic zombie yarn. The Lowdown: Uneven special effects, a clunky structure and a lack of any real focus undermine this third attempt at filming this story.
The Story: Good-time Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson becomes involved in financing a covert war to help Afghanistan drive out the Russian army. The Lowdown: Biting satire, witty lines, brisk direction and beguiling performances from Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman make Mike Nichols' latest film a must-see.
The Story: A trio of singing chipmunks become wildly popular recording stars and success proves too much. The Lowdown: A thoroughly humdrum revival of an idea that needed cremation, not resuscitation.
The Story: A wealthy man convinces his wife's lover to stage a burglary for their mutual benefit. The Lowdown: High-powered performances from Michael Caine and Jude Law, brisk direction from Kenneth Branagh and a viciously barbed script from Harold Pinter make this new version of the Anthony Shaffer play a remarkable experience.
The Story: Six actors portray different aspects of Bob Dylan. The Lowdown: Todd Haynes' wildly experimental approach to the biographical film works most of the time with explosive creativity.
The Holy Mountain, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
The Story: A young girl is the key to fulfilling a prophecy that threatens the foundations of the ruling faction of her world. The Lowdown: Creative, entertaining and sometimes disturbing (in a good way), this is a fantasy film with more going for it than just elaborate effects.
El Topo, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.
The Asheville Arts Museum will show Drawing the Line: A Portrait of Keith Haring at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8, and Sunday, Dec. 9.
The Story: A young billionaire finds himself awake on the operating table and learns his team of surgeons is planning to kill him. The Lowdown: Unintended humor is the only possible excuse for this utterly absurd thriller.
The Story: Complications -- comedic and dramatic -- ensue when the Whitfield family gathers for a Christmas reunion. The Lowdown: A generally entertaining, well-made Christmas offering enlivened by likable characterizations and brisk direction.