Movie Reviews

Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Jean Dixon, Mischa Auer, Alan Dinehart

My Man Godfrey

In Brief: The Asheville Film Society kicks off its debut at the Grail Moviehouse with Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey (1936), one of the essential “screwball” comedies. It may even be the essential one. From its glossy credits (probably the most striking title design of the decade) onward, it’s a slick, rich-looking production (despite its Depression-era setting)…
Starring: Magda Vásáryová, Josef Kemr, Nada Hejna, Jaroslav Moucka, Frantisek Velecký

Marketa Lazarová

In Brief: I have read that, in a 1998 survey of Czech critics, Frantisek Vlácil’s Marketa Lazarová (1967) was voted the greatest Czech film ever made. Setting aside the questions of how many Czech critics there are and just how much competition there is for that accolade (oh, I’ll get mail for that), I have to say…
Starring: David Prowse, Jeremy Bulloch, Angus MacInnes, Paul Blake, Derek Lyons, Garrick Hagon, John Chapman, Laurie Goode, Pam Rose

Elstree 1976

The Story: An in-depth look at the background actors who performed in the original Star Wars trilogy and how their connection with one of the most successful properties in film history continues to affect their lives. The Lowdown: While probably only essential viewing for the Star Wars completist, Elstree 1976 is an engaging look at the…
6 Miranda Dr.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz, Lucy Fry, Ming-Na Wen

The Darkness

The Story: After their son brings home a haunted artifact from the Grand Canyon, a family finds themselves terrorized by ancient spirits. The Lowdown: A run-of-the-mill attempt at a scarefest, with dull characters, little atmosphere and zero scares.
Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O'Connell, Dominic West, Caitriona Balfe, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Denham

Money Monster

The Story: An angry investor who relied on a TV show's stock tips and lost everything takes the show and its host hostage. The Lowdown: Often witty, frequently exciting, but neither as modern nor as important as it seems to think it is. Viewed as entertainment, however, it's worth a look.
Starring: Abel Salazar, Ariadna Welter, Germán Robles, David Silva, Luis Aragón

The Brainiac (El Barón del Terror)

In Brief: The Thursday Horror Picture is scheduled to return this week at a new venue, the Grail Moviehouse, and at a new time, 7:30 p.m. The opening feature is that 1962 classic of Mexi-horror, The Brainiac (El Barón del Terror). Often billed as "the most bizarre movie ever," there's no doubt that The Brainiac stands…
Starring: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, Sid Melton, Virginia Capers

Lady Sings the Blues

In Brief: For reasons unclear to me now, I didn't see Sidney J. Furie's Lady Sings the Blues when it came out in 1972 and just never bumped into it until this screening came along. I'm glad to have finally seen it, but I doubt I'll watch it a second time. It's pretty much a…
Starring: Michael Solomonov

In Search of Israeli Cuisine

In Brief: The Asheville Jewish Film Festival wraps up this year with Roger Sherman's In Search of Israeli Cuisine as their closing night event (see pricing information below). This is a fairly straightforward documentary that does exactly what its title says. It follows Israeli-American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov as he travels around Israeli (there seems to be…
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch, Michael McKean

The Meddler

The Story: A widow moves to L.A. to be near her daughter — and to do, on a large scale, what the title suggests. The Lowdown: Susan Sarandon shines in this unassuming, likable and sometimes even surprising comedy that manages to miss nearly every pitfall.
Starring: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, Gwen Eckhaus

The Vanishing

In Brief: George Sluizer’s The Vanishing (1988) made such an art house splash when it got to the U.S. in 1991 that Hollywood brought the director over to — you guessed it — remake his film in English with a more American-friendly cast. Also called The Vanishing, it earned tepid box office results and a good deal of…
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Gene Barry, Jacques Aubuchon, James Mitchum, Keely Smith, Sandra Knight

Thunder Road

In Brief: Tying into the article in last week's Xpress on the making of the film, Thunder Road (1958) is back for one show at the Fine Arts Theatre. The drive-in perennial is locally famous for having been shot around Asheville (with the Asheville area playing the part of Tennessee). But its real claim to…
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie

Captain America: Civil War

The Story: Captain America becomes an outlaw after Ironman sidles up to the U.N. to force superheroes to become registered government agents. The Lowdown: A generally entertaining and faithful comic book adaptation that suffers from some spotty direction and too much superhero padding.
Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Northam, Devika Bhise

The Man Who Knew Infinity

The Story: Biographical film on Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and his friendship with Cambridge professor G.H. Hardy. The Lowdown: Thoroughly standard biopic that doesn't challenge the viewer but is uniformly entertaining, splendidly acted and strikingly intelligent.
Starring: Hideko Takamine, Masayuki Mori, Reiko Dan, Tatsuya Nakadai

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

In Brief: I won’t say that seeing When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) for the first time was a revelatory experience, but it was sufficiently rewarding that I’d like to see more of Mikio Naruse's work (which dates back to 1930). If nothing else, it’s striking to see a filmmaker of that vintage fixated on…
Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Mark McKenna, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Don Wycherley

Sing Street

The Story: A 15-year-old Dublin boy decides to form a rock band to impress a slightly older girl. The Lowdown: Good-hearted, charming, winning little movie with doses of genuine magic — and an authentic sense of time and place and youthfulness. It might restore your faith in the musical film. One of the very best…
Starring: Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Akim Tamiroff, Katina Paxinou, Arturo de Cordova

For Whom the Bell Tolls

In Brief: Ernest Hemingway claimed that he wrote the character of Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls with Gary Cooper in mind — an interesting turn of events since Hemingway was no fan of A Farewell to Arms (1932), which had starred Cooper. Regardless, I guess we can assume this gives Sam Wood's…
Starring: Burghart Klaussner, Ronald Zehrfeld, Robert Atzorn, Lilith Stangenberg, Jörg Schüttauf

The People vs. Fritz Bauer

In Brief: Before you roll your eyes over "yet another movie about Nazi hunters," you should know that this third film in the 2016 Asheville Jewish Film Festival is something very different. The People vs. Fritz Bauer (2015) is a fact-based work about the machinery behind both protecting and capturing Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. But…
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Sudeikis, Margo Martindale, Aasif Mandvi, Jennifer Garner

Mother’s Day

The Story: Several tenuously connected groups of people examine maternal relationships in the days leading up to the titular holiday. The Lowdown: Garry Marshall has done it again! And, by “it,” I mean waste the movie-going public’s time and money with an ill-conceived and poorly executed cash-grab.
Starring: (Voices of) James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward, Armin Shimerman, Rosario Dawson, Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Sylvester Stallone, Bella Thorne

Ratchet & Clank

The Story: Some sort of alien cat creature and his defective robot sidekick fight an evil oligarch intent on remaking the galaxy in his image. The Lowdown: A 90-minute commercial for the reboot of a 15-year-old video game, Ratchet & Clank is a real clunker.
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Bruno Ganz, Henry Czerny, Jurgen Prochnow


The Story: An octogenarian — with some kind of dementia — is sent to hunt down and kill a former Nazi guard from Auschwitz. The Lowdown: A pretty preposterous concept that almost transcends its unbelievable premise by virtue of Christopher Plummer's performance — and which is rarely less than entertaining.
Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Darrell Britt-Gibson


The Story: After his new kitten is kidnapped, a heartbroken stoner and his square cousin infiltrate an LA gang to get him back. The Lowdown: A decidedly overdrawn and one-note comedy with a few high points, but a whole lot of disappointing lows.