Movie Reviews

Mr. and Mrs. Smith



As slick a piece of high-concept star vehicle as you could hope for, Mr. and Mrs. Smith would be a lot slicker if it was shorn of about 20 minutes of what is finally a ponderous running time. The last act not only drags on forever, but manages to be strangely inconclusive at the same […]

High Tension (Haute Tension)



This French import is the year’s cause celebre of horror, but I didn’t find all that much to celebrate. That the film’s director has been tapped to helm a remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes seems just about right, since Alexandre Aja’s idea of horror seems thoroughly grounded (I’m tempted to say “bogged”) […]

Downfall



Sobering and somber, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall comes close to being the film it wants to be without quite getting there, owing to a certain literal-mindedness on the director’s part and a screenplay by producer Bernd Eichenger (who, incidentally, also produced Hans-Jurgen Syberberg’s legendary seven-and-a-half-hour Our Hitler: A Film from Germany) that tries to take in […]

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants



While there’s nothing exactly — or at least actively — wrong with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, neither is there anything all that right about it. As the title suggests, this movie is pretty much a teenage knock-off of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood — something that I presume extends to the source […]

The Goonies



This is a relic from that very frightening period when it appeared that Steven Spielberg was simply going to take over the world of film. If he couldn’t make the movie himself, he would produce it or executive produce it and, in the bargain, steamroll the nominal director — be it Tobe Hooper or Barry […]

The Ballad of Jack and Rose



I liked enough things about Rebecca Miller’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose that I want to give the film higher marks than it deserves — but its flaws run too deep to ignore. The movie starts out as an unusually insightful deconstruction of a bogus Garden of Eden relationship between a father and daughter […]

Lords of Dogtown



Having quite enough trouble staying upright without putting wheels under me, I freely confess that I have never been on a skateboard in my life. There was an unfortunate incident involving a pair of plastic roller skates when I was about 7, but that was enough to convince me that such pursuits come under the […]

Layer Cake



I watched Matthew Vaughn’s Brit gangster movie Layer Cake without so much as looking at the presskit, or in fact knowing that it even was a gangster flick. I note this because the movie immediately reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch — a meaner, somewhat less stylized Snatch — so it didn’t come as a […]

It’s All True



Calling It’s All True a documentary is really a bit wide of the mark, since the centerpiece of the film is an assemblage of the extant footage of the Four Men on a Raft section of the aborted 1941 Orson Welles’ project, It’s All True, but I’m not really sure what else to call this. […]

The Longest Yard



By a happy coincidence, I saw this film the same day I happened to watch Mervyn LeRoy’s 1931 pre-Code (read: before the Production Code emasculated movies for 30 years) newspaper melodrama, Five Star Final. The two movies have nothing in common, but there’s a scene in the LeRoy film where newspaperman Ziggie Feinstein outlines his […]

Madagascar



Before getting down to the specifics of this inoffensive but thoroughly inessential offering from Dreamworks Animation, I want to make an open plea to filmmakers everywhere: Let’s lay off the Chariots of Fire parodies and quit slapping Louis Armstrong’s recording of “What a Wonderful World” on soundtracks. The first is just no longer funny (if […]

Cinderella Man



“When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet,” claims the tag line for Ron Howard’s Depression-era drama about boxer James Braddock (Russell Crowe). Resisting the fact that I know there’s a rude gag in there somewhere, I’ll concede that the claim pretty much sums up the approach Howard takes with Cinderella […]

Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith



Fans — especially the more hardcore variety — should just add one-and-a-half stars to my rating of this supposedly final installment in the Star Wars saga and move on. I’m not a card-carrying Star Warvian (or whatever the Star Wars equivalent to a Trekkie is), but I did like a good many things about the […]

Plan 9 from Outer Space



Speaking as the guy who wrote the chapter on Edward D. Wood Jr. for a book entitled The Sleaze Merchants (my work only appears in the classiest tomes, you understand), I’m glad to see Asheville getting a dose of the peculiar delights of Ed Wood-style cinema. And those delights don’t come any more peculiar than […]

Look at Me (Comme une Image)



Yes, this film is French and it’s subtitled. These combined factors are apt to play against Agnes Jaoui’s second film, Look at Me, when it hits town this week, but I find myself asking why this should be. Asheville has a pretty darned savvy set of moviegoers, but from what I’ve seen in the past […]

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room



The pity of a movie like this one is that the people most in need of seeing it are the very people who won’t. They’ll brand it as “liberal agenda” propaganda and head off to see Star Wars, where the liberal agenda is washed clean in a sea of severed limbs and falls on ears […]

Unleashed



This movie has made my list of the top 10 most preposterous movies ever made, which isn’t to say that it’s not entertaining, in its way, merely that it’s … well, preposterous. Of course, that’s not entirely unexpected, given that the movie is the work of producer/writer Luc Besson and director Louis Leterrier, who last […]

The Adventures of Prince Achmed



This unusual film is the only movie scheduled for this season of Cinema in the Park, a free “series” of showings in downtown Asheville, and it’s certainly an interesting choice. Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed holds the distinction of being the first feature-length animated film — having preceded Disney’s Snow White and […]

Mindhunters



No, this is not very good movie. But it’s only fair to point out that those who say they’re outraged about this tricked-out splatter movie being a travesty of the 1939 Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None, seem to have overlooked the fact that Dame Agatha wasn’t being terribly original herself. The novel’s […]

Kicking and Screaming



The title of this spectacularly unfunny Will Ferrell flick is an apt description of what I felt like doing when I learned I’d be watching it. OK, I admit it — I don’t “get” Will Ferrell. Sure, Elf was a pleasant surprise, and Ferrell deserves a nod for tackling a more serious role in Woody […]