Movie Reviews

Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Jake Abel, Kenny Wormald, Bill Camp

Love & Mercy

The Story: Two parts in the life of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson — separated by 20 years and used to illuminate each aspect. The Lowdown: Brilliantly conceived and almost as brilliantly realized, this is one of those rare musical biopics that truly gets to the essence of its subject — and in a creative…
Beer City Festival
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac, Jean Servais, Roger Dumas, Daniel Ceccaldi, Adolfo Celi

That Man from Rio (L’homme de Rio)

In Brief: Perhaps the most famous star of the French New Wave, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and almost certainly the least remembered director of that same Wave, Philippe de Broca, team up — along with Catherine Deneuve's tragically short-lived sister, Françoise Dorléac — for this wild and wooly adventure romp. Promoted as a spy spoof, though it…
Starring: Christopher Stamp, Kit Lambert (archival only), Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Heather Daltrey, Terence Stamp, Richard Barnes

Lambert & Stamp

The Story: Documentary on the men who helped shape The Who, and of the band itself. The Lowdown: A marvelously detailed — if ultimately messy and overstuffed — look into the history of The Who and the men who helped make it possible. Candid, perceptive and of interest even to viewers who aren't fans.
Starring: Tommy Tedesco, Herb Alpert, Hal Blaine, Glen Campbell, Carol Kaye, Leon Russell, Mickey Dolenz, Brian Wilson, Cher

The Wrecking Crew

The Story: A documentary on the session musicians who helped shape American pop and rock music in the 1960s and ’70s. The Lowdown: It doesn't reinvent the documentary — nor does it try to — but this look into a largely unknown aspect of pop music is a treat as it celebrates the faceless musicians…
Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, Sig Ruman

Only Angels Have Wings

In Brief: I first saw Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939) at two o'clock in the morning on the second day of a marathon festival of films from Columbia Pictures in a packed theater at the University of South Florida about 40 years ago. It had never to my knowledge popped up on any…
Starring: Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Lélia Wanick Salgado

The Salt of the Earth

The Story: Documentary on the life and work of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado. The Lowdown: Glorious to look at — at least when it sticks to black and white — and keenly perceptive, this isn't your standard documentary for most of its length.
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Malachi Kirby, Ian Hart, Philip Davis, Pauline Collins


In Brief: The closing film for this year's Asheville Jewish Film Festival, Dough, is an unlikely delight. On paper — and to a certain degree, in practice — this sounds like a movie that packs every culture-clash and generation-gap cliche imaginable into one small space. Jonathan Pryce plays Nat, an elderly Jewish baker who refuses…
Starring: Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters, Jo Van Fleet

The Tenant

In Brief: Roman Polanski's 1976 psychological horror film about a Polish immigrant (Polanski) losing his own personality to that of the woman who previously lived in his apartment (and who committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window) may well be the director's best film. It is certainly his creepiest — and made all…
Starring: Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Bruno Zanin, Luigi Rossi, Maria Antonietta Beluzzi


In Brief: If anyone ever asks why Federico Fellini is one of the greats of filmmaking, all that should be necessary is to direct them to his 1973 film, Amarcord. (If that fails, I suppose you might try 8 1/2 (1963), and if that fails, give up trying to reason with them.) Amarcord and 8 1/2 strike me as the most…
Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key


The Story: An upbeat teenager and a disgruntled older man become involved in the world of Tomorrowland. The Lowdown: Yes, there are some bright spots in it, but the story is poorly constructed, the payoff is too slight, the thematic implications are between confused and alarming — and the final result little more than an…
bad day
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis,Walter Brennan, Dean Jagger, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin

Bad Day at Black Rock

In Brief: Clocking in at a tight 81 minutes, John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock (1954) is everything you don't expect from a John Sturges movie. It's taut, tense, and it doesn't dawdle. The film is an expression of the increasingly leftist slant that MGM had taken after Dore Schary had managed to oust…
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements


The Story: An angry spirit kidnaps a young girl after her family moves into a house built upon an old cemetery. The Lowdown: Obviously superfluous, but dull and lacking in scares on top of it all.
those who
Starring: Pascal Greggory, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Charles Berling, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

In Brief: My entire familiarity with Patrice Chéreau prior to seeing Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998) rested on seeing the video presentation of his famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) 1976 staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth. In terms of his talents as a filmmaker this told me nothing, but…
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

Far from the Madding Crowd

The Story: A strong-willed woman in rural Victorian England deals with society, changing fortunes and the attentions of three very different men. The Lowdown: Splendid as drama and strong on character — the four leads, Mulligan, Schoenaerts, Sheen and Sturridge, are exceptional — this is one of the year's best films and easily one of…
Starring: Ethan Hawke, January Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz, Jake Abel, Peter Coyote (voice)

Good Kill

The Story: A fighter pilot turned drone controller finds himself increasingly questioning the morality of his job. The Lowdown: Strong performances, a trenchant message and brilliant uses of imagery help to overcome a screenplay that leans toward preachiness.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Story: Max Rockatansky helps transport some refugee concubines across the desert to a supposedly better land. The Lowdown: While it isn't likely to change your idea of cinema (at least I hope not), isn't worth the hype and has its share of problems, this is one wild — even hallucinatory — ride that's worth…
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin

Pitch Perfect 2

The Story: After an embarrassing performance nearly dooms their a capella group, the women of the Barden Bellas try to win an international competition to restore their good name. The Lowdown: The sequel to an exhaustingly dull, overlong, predictable and generally unfunny movie somehow one-ups its predecessor in all of those categories.
Starring: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper, Bonita Granville, John Loder

Now, Voyager

In Brief: If you deliberately took every soap-opera trope you could think of, packaged them in the glossiest movie the studio system could manage, threw in doses of culture for Hollywood's notion of intellectuals, filled it with top-notch movie stars and then served the whole with a swooping Max Steiner score (largely built around the…
manhattan murder
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler

Manhattan Murder Mystery

In Brief: Viewers who attend the showing of Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai on May 20 will quickly understand it's being followed  with Woody Allen's Manhattan Murder Mystery, since the two movies are connected. Otherwise, Manhattan Murder Mystery is probably best known as the film that reunited Allen with Diane Keaton, though that wasn't the original idea. That only came about after his…
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden

Blow Out

In Brief: Brian De Palma does Antonioni — replacing the damning image from Blowup with an incriminating sound recording (our protagonist is a movie sound effects man rather than a photographer). More aptly, I should say De Palma does Antonioni as one might imagine Antonioni on speed. That's to say that Blow Out (1981) is no slow-paced moody think-piece…
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Welcome to Me

The Story: A mentally ill woman wins the lottery and decides to host a talk show. The Lowdown: A comedic (?) exploration of psychological disorder that accomplishes nothing further than allowing Kristen Wiig to chew scenery.