Movie Reviews

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, James Corden

Begin Again

The Story:  A jilted singer-songwriter and a washed-up record producer team up to produce an album on their own. The Lowdown: A mostly pleasant but deeply flawed little film that gets by on its stars and a sense of generosity.
Starring: Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Story: With humanity nearly wiped out by disease and supersmart apes living in the wilderness, human survivors and their intelligent simian counterparts attempt to build an uneasy alliance. The Lowdown: Deceptively goofy and far too self-important, the attempt to be a thoughtful, intelligent spectacle isn’t enough to give a free pass to what amounts to little less than the usual special effects-heavy summer blockbuster.
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Jacques Aubuchon, Jim Mitchum, Keely Smith, Sandra Knight

Thunder Road

In Brief: Wedge Brewery holds their annual showing of Asheville's own Thunder Road, the 1958 moonshine-running and fast-cars classic — well, a classic of this kind of backwoods-action melodrama. Wedge Brewery will show Thunder Road on Saturday, July 19. Films start 15 minutes after sundown.
Starring: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Tomoko Ai, Akihiko, Katsumasa, Goro Mutsumi

Terror of Mechagodzilla

In Brief: This is the last of the original series of Godzilla movies — starting with Gojira (Godzilla) in 1954 and ending in 1975 with this — and it's one that does much to right the mistakes of the 1970s entries. Bringing back the director who started it all, Ishiro Honda, and composer Akira Ifukube was a masterstroke. Bear in mind, we are talking about men in rubber suits playing giant monsters causing havoc and having smackdowns. This is not weighty stuff, but for the type of movie it is, this is what you're looking for. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Terror of Mechagodzilla Thursday, July 17 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: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon


In Brief: Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965) is simply one of the damndest things you're ever likely to see. Godard took a popular noir-ish, pulp fiction  detective, Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) and plopped him into a nightmarish sci-fi movie that seems to be part serious, part satire — or possibly one huge practical joke. Is Godard serious or not? Good luck reaching a conclusion on that, but it's kind of fun to try. And that may well be the point. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Alphaville 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,
Starring: Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Alessandro Nivola, Matt Craven

The Clearing

In Brief: The Clearing was partly shot in Asheville, giving it a certain local interest — though I fear that Asheville watchers may be disappointed that there’s nothing very specifically Ashevillian about it. Not that that’s so surprising, since the movie is supposed to be taking place in Pennsylvania, and most of the North Carolina footage appears to be the wooded scenes. The house in the film may also be local, but it isn’t presented in a manner by which you could really tell. I think the first scenes of Willem Dafoe in a parking garage are on the top floor of the one on Wall Street — though subsequent garage shots are curiously not on a top floor. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Clearing Sunday, July 20, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maria Bello, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, Moran Atias, James Franco, Kim Basinger

Third Person

The Story:  Three stories set in three different countries are intercut with each other. The Lowdown: A fascinating, flawed and occasionally maddening film with a terrific cast giving solid performances. It's wildly ambitious — probably too much so — overstuffed, overlong and yet compelling in ways that better films often aren't.
Starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Ramin Bahrani, Marlene Siskel

Life Itself

The Story:  Documentary on movie critic Roger Ebert. The Lowdown: Something of a mixed bag — and one that dodges the hard questions and comes across more like a celebration of its subject than an actual portrait. It nonetheless does a good job of capturing much of the essence of a man who loved the movies.
Starring: Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gordon Warnecke, Derrick Branche, Shirley Anne Field

My Beautiful Laundrette

In Brief: Since Stephen Frears had a movie up for a Best Picture Oscar — Philomena — last year, it's apt  that his first big hit, My Beautiful Laundrette, should be getting another look. This multicultural, multisexuality comedy-drama-romance kicked off Daniel Day-Lewis' career and made the first mark for a production company called Working Title. It was also a major breakthrough in how gay characters were treated onscreen. And best of all, it's funny, touching and entertaining, too.  The Asheville Film Society will screen My Beautiful Laundrette Tuesday, July 22 , 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: The Four Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Lillian Roth, Louis Sorin, Hal Thompson

Animal Crackers

In Brief: No one and nothing is quite safe at Mrs. Rittenhouse's (Margaret Dumont) swanky Long Island house party when the Marx Brothers show up. Worse, one of them, Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (Groucho), is her guest of honor. Zeppo is his secretary and, as usual, mostly fades into the background, while Signor Emmanuel Ravelli (Chico) and his accomplice, The Professor (Harpo), have been hired as musicians. What's bad news for Mrs. Rittenhouse is a lot of fun for the rest of us. There's a sort of a plot about a stolen painting and a mostly unobtrusive romance, but the film is primarily there to showcase the Marxes and some of their most famous routines. It's on the stagebound side, but it hardly matters.  
Starring: Andrew Lawrence, Gary Busey, C. Thomas Howell, Jillian Rose Reed, Andrew Caldwell

Confessions of a Womanizer

In Brief: This year's feature winner at the Twin Rivers Media Festival is an extremely likable — mostly due to its energetic cast — sex comedy that benefits to some degree by name performers, Gary Busey and C. Thomas Howell, in key supporting roles. The fact that it's mostly gorgeous looking in bright, pop art colors is another plus. It's a fairly basic romantic comedy about a young man (Andrew Lawrence) who doesn't think he wants a relationship but actually does — if only he was a little better at them. It would probably help if he didn't gravitate toward obvious head-cases. Apart from the presence of a transgendered hooker (Kelly Mantle), there's little here that's surprising, but it's well done and pleasant.  
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates, Gary Cole


The Story: After discovering her husband’s infidelity, a down-on-her-luck former fast-food employee and her alcoholic grandmother set off on a road trip. The Lowdown: An ugly, unfunny comedy of the supposedly raunchy R-rated variety that’s little more than noisy and grating.
Starring: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner, Dalton Sutton, Camron Owens, Dylan Cole


The Story: Story of a dysfunctional, motherless family in Texas, focused on the older, delinquent son. The Lowdown: An indie-basic tale of disaffected youth and their alcoholic dad in rural Texas. Some aspects are pleasing, but you've seen it all before.
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Michael Goodliffe

The Gorgon

In Brief: Back in their day, the Hammer horror films were considered to be quite graphic and bloody. Today, they seem positively restrained, but don’t sell the studio at its best short — and Terence Fisher’s The Gorgon (1964) is definitely Hammer at its best. Premise-wise you mightn’t think so, but somehow transporting a monster from Greek mythology to Germany circa 1900 actually works. Of course, realism isn’t exactly a staple of horror, nor is it a staple of Hammer, with its theatricality, its fairy-tale aura and its use of color that evokes the pre-Raphaelite painters. These latter elements, however, can create a potent mix of sinister creepiness, as they do here, especially with the presence of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  
Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams

Blood Simple

In Brief: As good as it is on its own merits, Blood Simple worked as the Coens Brothers' announcement of themselves to the moviegoing world — showing off, to the best of their ability on a low budget, exactly what they had to offer the movies. So much of what they indeed proved they did (and do) have to offer is in — even if only in sketchbook form — this one very savvy show-off movie. It constantly draws attention to itself and the filmmakers, showing over and over again how clever and original it is. I can only think of two other films that have been so effectively used a debut in this manner — Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave (1995) and the Wachowski Brothers’ Bound (1996). Here we are 30 years after it first appeared, and it hasn't dated at all. If anything, it's even better than it seemed in 1984.  
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ko Ah-sung


The Story: The last remnants of humanity, broken into class structures, are all aboard a super train that endlessly circles the otherwise frozen world — until revolt breaks out. The Lowdown: Brilliant, creative, exciting, suspenseful — and with much more on its mind than the usual blockbuster, Snowpiercer is a front-runner for one of the year's best films.
EARTH TO ECHO - 2014 FILM STILL -  TEO HALM - Photo Credit: Relativity Media
Starring: Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Teo Halm, Ella Wahlestedt

Earth to Echo

The Story: On their final night living together, three best friends find an extraterrestrial that shadowy government agents are after. The Lowdown: While it has its heart in the right place, this tween adventure flick is far too derivative and far too distracting within the confines of its found footage artifice to be more than passable entertainment.
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Claire Trevor, Henry B. Walthall, Alan Dinehart

Dante’s Inferno

In Brief: Harry Lachman's Dante's Inferno (1935) may be more of a curio than anything else, but what a curio it is. It was an expensive production with most of the money being spent on an elaborate vision of the title Inferno (based on Gustave Dore's engravings) — and the film would be worth seeing for this sequence alone. The story itself is still pretty solid, with Spencer Tracy (just before his move to MGM) as an unscrupulous carnival barker turned promoter, whose view of the Inferno attraction is to "put hell on a paying basis." He also has a tendency to cut corners and ignore safety standards — and thereby hangs much of the drama.  
deliver us
Starring: Eric Bana, Edgar Ramirez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, Joel McHale

Deliver Us from Evil

The Story: Fact-based hooey about a police sergeant who becomes involved in a case of demonic possession in the Bronx. The Lowdown: A somewhat atmospheric but way too long horror picture that has nothing new to offer.
Starring: Natasha Richardson, Julian Sands, Gabriel Byrne, Myriam Cyr, Timothy Spall


In Brief: Horror meets the biographical film in Ken Russell's Gothic (1986) — a stylish and very wild and woolly take on Lord Byron's (Gabriel Byrne) house party at the villa in Switzerland with Mary Shelley (Natasha Richardson), Percy Shelley (Julian Sands) and Dr. Polidori (Timothy Spall). This, of course, was the famous party that led to Mary writing Frankenstein. In Russell's take, these people are more like dissolute rock stars — complete with groupies and people cashing in on their notoriety — whose drug-fueled antics lead to madness and the creation (real or imagined?) of untold horrors. Did it happen like this? Well, let's say it could have, and it certainly provides one wild and creepy ride. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Gothic Thursday, July 3 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: Will Rogers, Anne Shirley, Irvin S. Cobb, Eugene Pallette, John McGuire, Berton Churchill, Stepin Fetchit

Steamboat Round the Bend

In Brief: Will Rogers' last movie, and his third in collaboration with director John Ford, is one of the comedian's most popular and one of his best. Rogers plays a patent medicine salesman with dreams of being a steamboat captain — dreams that are put on hold when his nephew (and future riverboat pilot) comes up on murder charges. Most of the film deals with trying find the witness to the murder who can clear the young man, but the point lies in Rogers' easy comedy and painting a loving — but not uncritical — picture of river life in the 1890s. It's a charming movie that I suspect Mark Twain would have loved.  The Asheville Film Society will screen Steamboat Round the Bend Tuesday, July 8 , at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.