Movie Reviews

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Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, James Gregory

The Manchurian Candidate

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In Brief: If it weren’t for some tepid and not very believable action scenes with Frank Sinatra, John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) might just be the best political thriller ever made. Even with those reservations, this story about communist brainwashing of Korean War soldiers going hand-in-hand with homegrown U.S. perfidy is heady stuff. It must…
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Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom Murray, Henry Bergman

The Gold Rush

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In Brief: The Gold Rush marked Chaplin’s first Charlie Chaplin film to be released by his own company, United Artists, and was his most ambitious project to date (1925). And it remained one of his personal favorites. He went so far as to recut, score and narrate a reissue version in 1942. Today, it battles City Lights and Modern Times for…
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Starring: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Pütter, Hadewych Minis, Lucy Russell, Ingrid Bisu, Vlad Ivanov, Victoria Cociaș

Toni Erdmann

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The Story: An aging father tries to reconnect with his uptight adult daughter, whose resistance prompts him to insinuate himself into her life through a series of increasingly strange gestures. The Lowdown: Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? I'm not quite sure — but I can say with absolute certainty that it's great.
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Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Milton "Lil Rel" Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, Lakeith Stanfield

Get Out

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The Story: A young black man travels to the suburbs to meet his white girlfriend's seemingly well-meaning family, but finds himself ensnared in a racially motivated conspiracy that surpasses even his most grave misgivings. The Lowdown: Incisive and insightful, funny and scary, Jordan Peele's directorial debut is a perfect example of the capacity for broad entertainment to be used as…
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Marwan Kenzari

Collide

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The Story: After a heist goes wrong, a young man must thwart various baddies and save the love of his life. The Lowdown: Inconsequential, sure, but a surprisingly fun and engaging action film with a cast that knows how to have fun with this kind of schlock.
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Starring: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliott.

Rock Dog

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The Story: A young Tibetan Mastiff trained to defend a sheep village tries to forge his own path as a rock star. The Lowdown: A thoroughly uninspired excuse for a feature that would be far more acceptable as a straight-to-streaming footnote of a film.
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Starring: Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, Dick Miller, Jack Nicholson, Charles B. Griffith

The Little Shop of Horrors

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In Brief: I may be in the minority when it comes to my views on Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) — specifically, my assertion that it's a better film than Frank Oz's musical remake or the off-Broadway adaptation that provided its basis. To be clear, it is in no way superior from a technical perspective,…
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Starring: Chishū Ryū, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, So Yamamura, Kyōko Kagawa, Haruko Sugimura

Tokyo Story

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In Brief: Yasujirô Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) is not only one of the best films of an illustrious career, it's one of the crowning achievements of cinema as an art form. While Ozu may not have the same level of popular recognition as other Japanese filmmakers like Kurosawa, the humanistic sensibilities of his films convey an emotional…
"Atonement" wins Golden Globe Award as best drama motion pictures in Beverly Hills
Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Vanessa Redgrave

Atonement

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In Brief: When Joe Wright’s sophomore effort Atonement hit Cannes, words like “masterpiece” and phrases like “an instant classic” (what does that mean? add water and stir?) came tumbling forth like oranges from a faulty sack. Being something of a skeptic — and always wary of high-toned dramas that smack of Merchant-Ivory or Masterpiece Theatre —…
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Starring: Henry Kendall, Joan Barry, Percy Marmont, Betty Amann, Elsie Randolph

Rich and Strange

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In Brief: As is the case with any artist's creative progression, Alfred Hitchcock took some time to find his voice. Rich and Strange (1931) is in some respects the closest he came during his early British career to codifying the tone that would define later work like The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps, with one distinct difference — it's not a…
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Starring: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi

A Cure for Wellness

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The Story: An ambitious and corrupt young financial professional is tasked with retrieving his firm's CEO from a remote medical institution in the picturesque Swiss Alps, but things are far stranger than they first seem. The Lowdown: Visually interesting, if highly derivative, genre catch-all that overstays its welcome.
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Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Dean Norris, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani, Dennis Haysbert

Fist Fight

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The Story: A beleaguered English teacher, already locked in a fight for his job, is challenged to a more literal fight when he fails to cover for a hotheaded coworker. The Lowdown: Stupid fun anchored by a decent performance from Charlie Day.
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Starring: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Lin Gengxin, Junkai Wang, Zheng Kai, Cheney Chen, Xuan Huang, Yu Xintian, Liu Qiong

The Great Wall

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The Story: Two European mercenaries stumble upon the secret behind the Great Wall of China's true purpose — defense against subterranean (or maybe extraterrestrial, who cares?) man-eating dino-dog monsters. The Lowdown: The Great Wall may not be the worst, but it certainly ranks among the laziest and most exploitative.
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Starring: Joseph Cotten, Rosalba Neri, Paul Muller

Lady Frankenstein

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In Brief: Joseph Cotten must have had some seriously bad karma to earn his late career descent into schlock — case in point, Lady Frankenstein. The former Citizen Kane and Shadow of a Doubt actor plays Baron Frankenstein in this 1971 pseudo-feminist Italian sequel to the classic tale, the same year as his turn in The Abominable Dr. Phibes and…
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Starring: Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey

Band of Outsiders (Bande à Part)

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In Brief: Perhaps not as frequently screened as Jean-Luc Godard staples like Breathless, Band of Outsiders is essential viewing in full for those who are only familiar with its oft-homaged dance sequence or its famed Louvre footrace. Intended to be more commercial than the previous year's Contempt, Godard's notable quip, ''All you need to make a movie is a girl and…
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Starring: Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart, Hippolyte Girardot, Margarita Lozano

Manon of the Spring

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In Brief: Manon of the Spring (1986) is the sequel — or more properly, second part — of Jean de Florette (1986), which the Hendersonville Film Society showed last week. In essence, this film tells the rest of the story — what happens after Jean de Florette (Gérard Depardieu) dies. The film takes place 10 years later with Jean’s…
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Starring: Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, El Brendel, Roscoe Karns, Gary Cooper

Wings

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In Brief: William A. Wellman's Wings (1927) won the very first Oscar for best picture — and unlike many Oscar winners since then, it was a deserved honor. It's also one of those rare Oscar winners that holds up to this day. First of all, it's truly an epic, but it's an epic grounded in…
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Starring: James Baldwin, Samuel L. Jackson (narrator)

I Am Not Your Negro

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The Story: Writer and activist James Baldwin's unfinished book Remember This House examines racial inequality in America through the lens of martyred civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The Lowdown: Director Raoul Peck delivers a powerful documentary that does justice, not only to Baldwin, but also to civil rights issues that are just as relevant today…
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Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie, Chasten Harmon, Barry Shabaka Henley, William Jackson Harper, Rizwan Manji

Paterson

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The Story: A  bus driver and aspiring poet leads a quiet existence in Paterson, New Jersey. The Lowdown: Much more engaging and impactful than its modest premise would suggest, another masterwork from writer-director Jim Jarmusch.
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Starring: Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis, Jenny Slate, Michael Cera, Mariah Carey, Billy Dee Williams, Héctor Elizondo, Eddie Izzard

The Lego Batman Movie

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The Story: After refusing to acknowledge the depth of his hatred for The Joker, Batman must overcome his isolate tendencies and build relationships in order to thwart an evil plot and save Gotham City. The Lowdown: Combining the frenetic lunacy of The Lego Movie while acknowledging the absurd grittiness of modern superhero movies, The Lego Batman Movie explores long-abandoned facets of…