The Story: Four mutated turtles and a plucky journalist try to stop an evil scientist and an even eviler samurai. The Lowdown: Bargain-basement Michael Bay pastiche and a lot of sound and fury make for a noisy, not very fun action flick.
In Brief: I confess that the charms of The Red Balloon (1956) wore rather thin for me a very long time ago (and the idea that this 34-minute film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has always struck me as ridiculous), but this (mostly) gentle fantasy about a little boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son) who is befriended by a balloon is a great favorite with many people. If you've never seen it, you should at least once. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present The Red Balloon Friday, Aug. 15, 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: When an Indian family opens a restaurant across the street from a classy French restaurant in a small town in France, trouble — and romance — follows. The Lowdown: A luminous Helen Mirren leads a first-rate cast in this familiar but thoroughly charming and appealing culture-clash, food-centered romantic comedy.
Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Kirstin Rudrüd, Harve Presnell
In Brief: This is one of those few Coen Brothers films that I just don't quite get the fuss over. I have no problem with the pitch-black comedy, and I don't especially mind the film's downright cruelty. But the lack of even one character — other than Frances McDormand's Marge (who doesn't enter the film until about the 30-minute mark) — to give a damn about leaves me (at least) with a film that I don't give a damn about. Everybody in the movie is both unpleasant and remarkably stupid. I would never say it's bad, and I'd certainly never try to dissuade anyone from loving it, but I can't claim to be an admirer. Wedge Brewery will show Fargo on Sat., Aug. 16. Films start 15 minutes after sundown. They are shown outside. We have a limited number of chairs, so it's a good idea to pack a folding chair or a blanket, and maybe a jacket because it does get chilly when the sun goes down. El Kimchi has great Mexican/Korean street food for purchase, but no popcorn! So, if popcorn is part of someone's movie experience, they'll need to pack that, too.
The Story: The life and times of James Brown, from extreme poverty to the height of his fame and beyond. The Lowdown: While its non-linear narrative is interesting as filmmaking, it’s not enough to conceal the numerous biopic pitfalls that drag the film down.
In Brief: While it's certainly visually striking and avoids being a standard biopic, Carlos Saura's Goya in Bordeaux comes with its own set of problems. First of all, Saura assumes that the viewer knows a lot more about Spanish painter Francisco Goya than is probable. Second, the film — with its transparent scrim walls — often feels like a stage production. Third — and most bothersome — it's all done at a very slow pace that tends to make it all feel like an academic exercise of notable stuffiness. That's too bad, because there are moments of brilliance here, and the performances of Francisco Rabal and Maribel Verdú are worth the film's longueurs.
The Story: A mismatched — and pretty ragged — quartet of unlikely heroes may be the only chance to save the universe. The Lowdown: A thoroughly engaging, funny, exciting, even charming sci-fi actioner with an appealing cast that makes for excellent summer movie fare.
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Steven Prince, Marco Perella
The Story: A film — shot over a period of 12 years — that chronicles the life of one boy from childhood to the beginning of adulthood. The Lowdown: Unlike anything you've seen, Richard Linklater's Boyhood is a must-see work of quiet, subtle power that nearly justifies the great reputation that precedes its arrival.
In Brief: It's a double dose of Bela Lugosi at the Thursday Horror Picture Show this week, showcasing both the sublime and the sublimely ridiculous. White Zombie (1932) — the first zombie movie ever — is one of Lugosi's best films. Despite some surprisingly graphic moments, the film is more like a fairy tale with strange poetry, the feeling of a silent movie and Lugosi in possibly his most wholly evil performance. On the other end of the spectrum, there's The Ape Man (1943) — one of Lugosi's infamous "Monogram Nine" and a film that fully lives up to its title with everything that implies. B-grade lunacy at its finest.
In Brief: Georges Franju's Judex (1963) is one fascinating oddity — both a remake of and homage to Louis Feuillade's 1916 serial about a caped vigilante crime fighter who calls himself Judex (meaning justice). It's essentially a simple revenge tale that's made complex by almost nonstop double-crosses and reversals (hey, it's from a serial). While Franju's film is certainly more compact than the original, it retains both the story essentials and most of the aesthetics of the 1916 film. Franju's camera is a little more fluid and there's more shot breakdown, but the look is much the same. Its greatest asset perhaps is that it never feels like it's attempting to be quaint.
In Brief: Though its romanticizing of spousal abuse seems both weird and wrong today, Ferenc Molnár's play, Liliom, was a big hit in Hungary and later on Broadway. That it would be filmed by Frank Borzage — a filmmaker who specialized in stories of transcendence — during that brief period when Fox Film was trying for artistic credibility (1926-30) was inevitable. The results are striking, extraordinary and sometimes just plain odd. Entirely made on studio sets, the film is utterly artificial in its German Expressionist style — an effect enhanced by the deliberately stilted dialogue. If you know the musical Carousel, you know the story — in somewhat altered and sanitized form — of Liliom, an egotistical carnival barker, and Julie, the girl who ill-advisedly loves him. This version, however — in spite of its flaws — is the one that truly captures the play's strange poetry.
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.