Movie Reviews

Starring: Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock, Garrett Hedlund, Miyavi


The Story: The fact-based story of Louis Zamperini. The Lowdown: Safe, competent, well made, well acted, but far less involving than it ought to be given the story and subject.
Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Walter Abel, Virginia Dale, Louise Beavers

Holiday Inn

In Brief: Yeah, it's the film that gave us the song "White Christmas" (and inadvertently launched a hotel chain), but Mark Sanrich's richly entertaining Holiday Inn (1942) is the movie equivalent of a one-size-fits-all greeting card for just about every holiday to come down the pike. We get Christmas, New Year's Eve, Lincoln's birthday, Valentine's Day, Washington's birthday,…
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, James Corden, Lilla Crawford, Johnny Depp

Into the Woods

The Story: Musical revisionist take on classic fairy tales. The Lowdown: It ought to be more of an event than it is, but this film version of the Stephen Sondheim show is good and ought to please the fans.
Starring: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, Marcel Dalio

Donovan’s Reef

In Brief: John Ford’s Donovan’s Reef (1963) is a bona fide Christmas movie if ever there was one — but with the unusual setting of a South Seas island (played by Kauai, Hawaii, with studio work at Paramount in Hollywood). The truth is that while this is housed in a John Wayne vehicle in the John Ford barroom brawling mode,…
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yôko Tsukasa, Isuzu Yamada


In Brief: Yojimbo (1961) is one of Akira Kurosawa’s most entertaining films — and it was his biggest hit in Japan. I suppose you could say that’s because it’s one of his most accessible, though how a dark-humored Japanese Western based on an American hard-boiled crime novel became accessible is something of a puzzlement. Nonetheless,…
Starring: Claude Rains, Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel, David Manners, Francis L. Sullivan, Valerie Hobson

Mystery of Edwin Drood

In Brief: Somewhere between a really creepy mystery and a prestige picture, Stuart Walker’s Mystery of Edwin Drood was an attempt to match Walker’s film of Great Expectations (1934), and it is a part of the little known director’s best works that also included The Eagle and the Hawk (1933) and Werewolf of London (1935). Universal took Charles Dickens’ final — and unfinished…
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffmann, Keene McRae, W. Earl Brown


The Story: Fact-based story of Cheryl Strayed, based on her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  The Lowdown: A strong performance from Reese Witherspoon, a solid screenplay by Nick Hornby and assuredly creative direction by Jean-Marc Vallée make Wild a very good movie indeed.
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco

Top Five

The Story: A comedian and actor — who’s trying his best to be taken as a serious artist — spends the day with a New York Times reporter on the weekend of his wedding to a reality star and the opening of his new, big film. The Lowdown: While it takes its time to get…
Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul

Exodus: Gods and Kings

The Story: The story of Moses with CGI.  The Lowdown: Theologically dubious, dramatically inert and just plain boring even with all its state-of-the-art effects. And it goes on for two-and-a-half very long hours.
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear, Tim Purcell

The Babadook

The Story: A single mother and her son are plagued by a mysterious creature known as Mr. Babadook.  The Lowdown: An absolutely superb horror film that is actually a good bit more than a horror film. Done in a classical formal style, it may remind you of Kubrick's The Shining and the best of Polanski's…
il grido
Starring: Steve Cochran, Alida Valli, Betsy Blair, Gabriella Pallotta, Dorian Gray, Lynn Shaw

Il Grido

In Brief: As it turned out, Il Grido (1957) marked the end of Michelangelo Antonioni's neorealist period. When he returned in 1960 with L'Avventura, he had pretty completely transformed himself into the introspective, artier, more impenetrable filmmaker we think of as Antonioni. It is perhaps not surprising since that was the same year that Fellini…
Starring: Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold, Onslow Stevens, William Janney, Robert Barrat

Secret of the Blue Room

In Brief: Though Kurt Neumann's Secret of the Blue Room was a hardy — and well-loved — staple of the old Shock Theater TV package, it's really more of an old dark house mystery than an outright horror film. (That's only reasonable, I suppose, since it's partly made on redressed sets from James Whale's 1932 The Old Dark…
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter, John Lithgow, James Spader, Meryl Streep

The Homesman

The Story:  A self-sufficient frontier woman and the claim-jumper whose life she saves undertake transporting three dangerously unbalanced women back east. The Lowdown: A beautifully made and acted revisionist western — leavened with dark humor — that proves to be one of the year's most compelling films.
Starring: Bob Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Lloyd Nolan, Jane Darwell, William Frawley, Fred Clark

The Lemon Drop Kid

In Brief: It's become something of a Christmas staple now, but The Lemon Drop Kid was originally not well-received. Why? Well, it's a Christmas movie that came out in April — and it was all Bob Hope's fault. When he saw the finished film — intended for Christmas 1950 — he thought it was weak and needed…
Starring: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanny Metelius

Force Majeure

The Story: Marital drama about what happens in the wake of a threat where the husband shows himself to be less than his wife assumed. The Lowdown: The critics are mostly agreed that this Swedish drama about marital discord and patriarchal dysfunction is great stuff — Sweden has chosen it as its Oscar entry. Maybe…
Starring: Makhouredia Gueye, Ynousse N'Diaye, Isseu Niang, Serigne N'Diayes, Serigne Sow


In Brief: Ousmane Sembene’s Mandabi (The Money Order) (1968) is the sort of movie that is much prized by folks suffering from cultural inferiority complexes and by those who dote on the esoteric for its own sake. It’s a movie from Senegal — and is apparently notable for being shot in Wolof (the common language)…
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Chris Pine, Jamie Foxx, Chrisoph Waltz, Jennifer Aniston

Horrible Bosses 2

The Story: The three best friends at the center of Horrible Bosses are screwed out of a business deal and concoct a kidnapping plan to save themselves. The Lowdown: A generally entertaining — if none too spectacular — comedy with a few clever bits that’s held up by its cast.
Starring: Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russell, Joel Ashley, Morris Ankrum, Marjorie Eaton

Zombies of Mora Tau

In Brief: Before the arrival of George Romero’s reinvention of the zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead (1968), schlockmeister Edward L. Cahn’s Zombies of Mora Tau — made for even schlockier producer Sam Katzman — was pretty much the foundation of the zombie sub-genre for an entire generation of horror fans. Oh, it…
Penguins-of-Madagascar-Movie (1)
Starring: (Voices) Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Werner Herzog

Penguins of Madagascar

The Story: The Madagascar penguins get a movie of their own in which they match wits with a villainous octopus. The Lowdown: Breakneck paced, filled with rapid-fire gags and wordplay that are impossible to keep up with and blessed with a pleasing lunacy, Penguins of Madagascar mostly works but goes on a little too long.
Starring: Monty Woolley, Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Sara Allgood, Melville Cooper, J. Edward Bromberg

Life Begins at Eight-Thirty

In Brief: The Asheville Film Society eases into the Christmas season with Life Begins at Eight-Thirty — a film I’m pretty sure most of you have never heard of. It’s something I bumped into about 45 years ago on a long-defunct TV station that kept going by booking generally obscure movies and 1950s TV shows.…
Starring: George Arliss, Maureen O'Sullivan, Edward Arnold, Cesar Romero, Douglass Dumbrille

Cardinal Richelieu

In Brief: George Arliss — in his final Hollywood movie — takes on Cardinal Richelieu, and the results are more or less what you expect. In his version of Cardinal Richelieu (1935), the old boy is just as wily as the real one, but he's now become the wily hero of the story. In other…