The Story: In order to get an oil company contract, a small town has to bamboozle a young doctor into staying there. The Lowdown: It's predictable and a little pokey. It's contrived and improbable. But The Grand Seduction has its own slender charms and terrific chemistry between its leads, making it a minor pleasure.
The Story: A grumpy widower is forced to take in his estranged granddaughter, who he helps raise with a widowed neighbor. The Lowdown: An unfunny, flat piece of melodrama that wants desperately to be adult and a little bit raunchy but instead comes across as childish and boorish.
In Brief: Not really released in the U.S. (or much of anywhere, it seems), Francis Ford Coppola's wayward horror picture Twixt is by no means a success. In fact, it's a mess. That its sub-Stephen King story is being told, experienced or both (it's a mess, I tell you) by a writer (Val Kilmer) who is referred to as a cut-rate Stephen King, may make it seem self-aware, but it doesn't keep the whole thing from feeling like a bad King knockoff. At the same time, the film has great atmosphere and images of creepy beauty that almost make up for the frankly awful screenplay. A failure? Yes, but a fascinating one by a great filmmaker. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Twixt Thursday, July 31 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Howard Da Silva, Boris Karloff, Cecil Kellaway, Ward Bond, Katherine DeMille
In Brief: It's big. It's colorful. It's longer than it needs to be. It's exciting. It's filled with movie stars who look like movie stars. It's preposterous in the way that only a Cecil B. DeMille movie can be. Essentially, Unconquered is a Western — only instead of cowboys and Indians, we have pre-Revolutionary War settlers and Indians. But it plays just like one of DeMille's Westerns with its unscrupulous white villain supplying arms to the Native Americans. Gary Cooper is ... well, Gary Cooper. (What more do you want?) Paulette Goddard is gorgeous. Boris Karloff makes for a somewhat peculiar Native American chief on the warpath. The Asheville Film Society will screen Unconquered Tuesday, Aug. 5 , at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-Sik Choi, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Analeigh Tipton
The Story: A clueless young woman accidentally gets an overdose of a new drug that causes her brain capacity to expand, giving her something like superpowers. The Lowdown: Yes, it's so dumb that it ought to be kind of likable, but incoherence, lousy special effects, stretches of tedium and a ponderous tone make it just plain bad.
In Brief: If Werner Herzog is the most idiosyncratic of all filmmakers — and the case can be made — there's a good chance that Heart of Glass (1976) is his most idiosyncratic work. Theoretically, it's the story of a late 18th century village that descends into madness when the foreman of a glassworks dies, taking the secret of how their "ruby glass" is made. But it's also a film about prophesy, about Herzog's childhood, and it's performed by a cast Herzong supposedly hypnotized before takes. There is nothing quite like it. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Heart of Glass Friday, Aug. 1, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com.
The Story: A struggling actor whose father is dying of cancer tries to keep his life — and family — together. The Lowdown: With a pile of needless quirk, here’s a movie that feels like rudimentary indie filmmaking from a decade ago, only more insufferable and out-of-touch.
Starring: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal
The Story: Sword-for-hire Hercules agrees to help rid Thrace of a man trying to dethrone the king. The Lowdown: No, it's not really all that good, but this latest take — revisionist in nature — on Hercules is painless fun. Well-crafted action and a strong supporting cast make a difference.
In Brief: In 1930, Lewis Milestone made a film version of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. It was a breakthrough in sound filmmaking and one of the most powerful anti-war films ever made. It was a film that actually added something legendary to its literary source — the business of reaching for the butterfly at the end. It remains one of the world's great films. Unfortunately, that isn't what is being shown here. Instead, this is the reasonably adequate, uninspired, superfluous 1979 TV movie. Pity that. The Hendersonville Film Society will show All Quiet on the Western Front Sunday, Aug. 3, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: Rear Window (1954), often cited as Alfred Hitchcock's best and most sophisticated film, is back on the big screen for one night only — Wednesday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina as this month's Budget Big Screen movie. It's a chance to see the film in all the brilliance of its color detail and to immerse yourself in the world of James Stewart's convalescent photographer who becomes increasingly convinced that the man in the apartment opposite his has murdered his wife. It's as suspenseful and entertaining today as it was 60 years ago when it first appeared. Stewart was never better, Grace Kelly never more elegantly beautiful and Thelma Ritter never funnier. The Asheville Film Society is showing Rear Window Wednesday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m. in at The Carolina Asheville as part of the Budget Big Screen series. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public.
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Una O'Connor, Dwight Frye, Elsa Lanchester
In Brief: Tuesday would have been director James Whale's 125th birthday. It follows as sure as the sun will set and the moon will rise that the Thursday Horror Picture will mark the event with one of Whale's four classic horror films — and they don't come any more classic than his final work in the genre, Bride of Frankenstein (1935). This, after all, stands a good shot at the accolade of greatest horror film of all time, but it's actually much more than that. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Bride of Frankenstein Thursday, July 24 at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
The Story: Sequel to last year's film about a reconfigured America where one night each year encourages purging the populace of the unemployed and homeless — and anyone else you just don't like. The Lowdown: While no less absurd than its dopey predecessor, this sequel is better made, more exciting and considerably more thought-provoking. It's still not all that good, though.
Starring: William Powell, Jean Arthur, James Gleason, Eric Blore, Robert Armstrong, Lila Lee, Grant Mitchell
In Brief: Asheville Film Society favorite William Powell returns in The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936), a very enjoyable comedy-mystery from RKO that cashes in on Powell's own Thin Man series over at MGM. (Actually, it beat After the Thin Man into theaters.) Rather than teaming him with Myrna Loy, this film sets Powell up with Jean Arthur (playing his ex-wife of the title). The pair may not be Powell and Loy, but they make for an agreeable screen team in this slick little film. The Asheville Film Society will screen The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Tuesday, July 29 , at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Nina Hoss, Robin Wright
The Story: Complex espionage tale involving a refugee, an inheritance and warring factions of counter-terrorist agencies. The Lowdown: More cerebral than exciting, A Man Most Wanted presents an unromantic and penetrating look into the world of modern espionage. It wants to be more than it is, but it's still good and contains a strong performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman.
In Brief: Robert Bresson's symbolic drama Au Hasard Balthazar — the story of the mostly sad life of a donkey named Balthazar — makes a welcome return appearance at World Cinema. Do not think that this is any kind of cute movie with some humanized animal. It is anything but. It may not be quite the masterpiece it's often hailed as, but it's certainly an essential film. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Au Hasard Balthazar Friday, July 18, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com.
In Brief: The Hendersonville Film Society ran John Ford's The Searchers (1956) about seven years ago, so it's certainly high time the movie showed back up on local screens. While I've never been convinced it's quite the masterpiece it's been hailed as — in part because of its influence on George Lucas and Star Wars making it better known than many of Ford's films — it is undeniably a fascinating work, and one that deepens with increased understanding of Ford's overall filmography. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Searchers Sunday, July 27, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: Paul Bonesteel's 2002 documentary The Mystery of George Masa — originally shown on PBS in 2003 — tells the story of the enigmatic Japanese conservationist and photographer Masahar Iizuka (locally known as George Masa). Using a mix of interviews, tasteful dramatic recreations, archival photos and a ton of reasearch, Bonesteel paints as complete a portrait of Masa as we're likely to ever have. Local filmmaker Paul Bonesteel will speak and show his documentary film The Mystery of George Masa on Monday, July 28, as a fundraiser for the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO). The showing will be in the McIntosh Room of the Blue Ridge Conference Hall, 180 West Campus Drive, at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock at 6 p.m.
The Story: A racing champion crop duster goes to fire and rescue school. The Lowdown: Even by the none-too-exacting standards of kiddie fare these days, this is just dire. It isn't funny. It isn't exciting. It ought to have gone straight-to-DVD — assuming it had to go anywhere.
Starring: Peter Millis, Tracey Johnston-Crum, Art Booth, Russ Wilson, Sam Jillian, Sonia D'Andrea, Joseph Barcia
In Brief: When local musician Hank Bones couldn't get a stage production of his musical The Quitters, he decided to make a film of it. Cheerfully admitting that he had no experience with film, he dived straight into the project — on a $9,000 budget — and with the help of friends and local actors managed to come up with the film at hand. Interestingly, rather than just present it as a photographed play, Bones shot it more like a movie. As filmmaking it's not exactly remarkable, but it does nicely convey the sense of the show, showcasing the play's clever songs and its gentle satire and is certainly fun. Wedge Brewery will show The Quitters on Saturday, July 26. Films start 15 minutes after sundown.
The Story: A seemingly completely inappropriate actress goes out of her way to convince a writer-director that she should star in his new play. The Lowdown: Brilliant, bold filmmaking from a great filmmaker, who proves that at 80, he can still be at the top of his game. It's funny and perceptive and maybe a little terrifying — and just a great, great movie.