Movie Reviews

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Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Una O'Connor, Dwight Frye, Elsa Lanchester

Bride of Frankenstein

In Brief: Tuesday would have been director James Whale's 125th birthday. It follows as sure as the sun will set and the moon will rise that the Thursday Horror Picture will mark the event with one of Whale's four classic horror films — and they don't come any more classic than his final work in the genre, Bride of Frankenstein (1935). This, after all, stands a good shot at the accolade of greatest horror film of all time, but it's actually much more than that. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Bride of Frankenstein Thursday, July 24 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: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Michael K. Williams

The Purge: Anarchy

The Story:  Sequel to last year's film about a reconfigured America where one night each year encourages purging the populace of the unemployed and homeless — and anyone else you just don't like. The Lowdown: While no less absurd than its dopey predecessor, this sequel is better made, more exciting and considerably more thought-provoking. It's still not all that good, though.
Starring: William Powell, Jean Arthur, James Gleason, Eric Blore, Robert Armstrong, Lila Lee, Grant Mitchell

The Ex-Mrs. Bradford

In Brief: Asheville Film Society favorite William Powell returns in The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936), a very enjoyable comedy-mystery from RKO that cashes in on Powell's own Thin Man series over at MGM. (Actually, it beat After the Thin Man into theaters.) Rather than teaming him with Myrna Loy, this film sets Powell up with Jean Arthur (playing his ex-wife of the title). The pair may not be Powell and Loy, but they make for an agreeable screen team in this slick little film.  The Asheville Film Society will screen The Ex-Mrs. Bradford Tuesday, July 29 , 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: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Nina Hoss, Robin Wright

A Most Wanted Man

The Story: Complex espionage tale involving a refugee, an inheritance and warring factions of counter-terrorist agencies. The Lowdown: More cerebral than exciting, A Man Most Wanted presents an unromantic and penetrating look into the world of modern espionage. It wants to be more than it is, but it's still good and contains a strong performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Starring: Anne Wiazemsky, Walter Green, Francois Lafarge, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Philippe Asselin

Au Hasard Balthazar

In Brief: Robert Bresson's symbolic drama Au Hasard Balthazar — the story of the mostly sad life of a donkey named Balthazar — makes a welcome return appearance at World Cinema. Do not think that this is any kind of cute movie with some humanized animal. It is anything but. It may not be quite the masterpiece it's often hailed as, but it's certainly an essential film. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Au Hasard Balthazar 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: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, John Qualen

The Searchers

In Brief: The Hendersonville Film Society ran John Ford's The Searchers (1956) about seven years ago, so it's certainly high time the movie showed back up on local screens. While I've never been convinced it's quite the masterpiece it's been hailed as — in part because of its influence on George Lucas and Star Wars making it better known than many of Ford's films — it is undeniably a fascinating work, and one that deepens with increased understanding of Ford's overall filmography.  The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Searchers Sunday, July 27, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Starring: Barbara Sayer, Tatsuo Ichikawa, Bernie Segal Larry Adams

The Mystery of George Masa

In Brief: Paul Bonesteel's 2002 documentary The Mystery of George Masa — originally shown on PBS in 2003 — tells the story of the enigmatic Japanese conservationist and photographer Masahar Iizuka (locally known as George Masa). Using a mix of interviews, tasteful dramatic recreations, archival photos and a ton of reasearch, Bonesteel paints as complete a portrait of Masa as we're likely to ever have. Local filmmaker Paul Bonesteel will speak and show his documentary film The Mystery of George Masa on Monday, July 28, as a fundraiser for the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO).  The showing will be in the McIntosh Room of the Blue Ridge Conference Hall, 180 West Campus Drive, at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock at 6 p.m.
Starring: (Voices of) Dane Cook, Ed Harris, Julie Bowen, Curtis Armstrong, Hal Holbrook

Planes: Fire & Rescue

The Story: A racing champion crop duster goes to fire and rescue school. The Lowdown: Even by the none-too-exacting standards of kiddie fare these days, this is just dire. It isn't funny. It isn't exciting. It ought to have gone straight-to-DVD — assuming it had to go anywhere.
Starring: Peter Millis, Tracey Johnston-Crum, Art Booth, Russ Wilson, Sam Jillian, Sonia D'Andrea, Joseph Barcia

The Quitters

In Brief: When local musician Hank Bones couldn't get a stage production of his musical The Quitters, he decided to make a film of it. Cheerfully admitting that he had no experience with film, he dived straight into the project — on a $9,000 budget — and with the help of friends and local actors managed to come up with the film at hand. Interestingly, rather than just present it as a photographed play, Bones shot it more like a movie. As filmmaking it's not exactly remarkable, but it does nicely convey the sense of the show, showcasing the play's clever songs and its gentle satire and is certainly fun. Wedge Brewery will show The Quitters on Saturday, July 26. Films start 15 minutes after sundown.
Starring: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric

Venus in Fur

The Story: A seemingly completely inappropriate actress goes out of her way to convince a writer-director that she should star in his new play. The Lowdown: Brilliant, bold filmmaking from a great filmmaker, who proves that at 80, he can still be at the top of his game. It's funny and perceptive and maybe a little terrifying — and just a great, great movie.
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rob Lowe

Sex Tape

The Story: A married couple accidentally lets their raunchy sex tape escape into the outside world. The Lowdown: A flatly directed, wholly unfunny R-rated comedy that’s devoid of edge, laughs or even titillation.
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.