Movie Reviews

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Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, John Magaro

Carol

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The Story: Romance between an older woman and a younger one in the early 1950s. The Lowdown: Beautifully crafted, meticulously detailed, wonderfully performed, yet somehow a little too cool to work quite as well as it should.
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Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck

The Revenant

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The Story: Fact-based tale of survival in the wilderness of 1820s American frontier.  The Lowdown: Technically marvelous, but emotionally it's pretty much a dreary dead end.
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Starring: Nastassja Kinski, Rolf Hoppe. Herbert Gronemeyer, Anja-Christine Preussler, Edda Seippel

Spring Symphony

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In Brief: Reasonably accurate (with a modicum of subtext that's so slight as to be almost nonexistent) account of the early years of composer Robert Schumann (Herbert Groenemeyer) and Clara Wieck (Nasstassja Kinski). Spring Symphony (1983) is the sort of biopic that gives biopics a bad name. It runs no risks and is so intent…
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Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress

Daddy’s Home

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The Story: A stepfather yearning for the acceptance of his wife’s children suddenly finds himself competing with their biological father, who’s decided to return to their lives. The Lowdown: About 30 minutes worth of plot stretched over an hour and a half, with the added benefit of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg at their most…
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Starring: Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress

What’s New Pussycat?

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In Brief: When it came out in 1965, Clive Donner's What's New Pussycat? was considered rather distasteful — even vulgar — as well as frantic, unstructured and rather silly. All of this is perhaps true, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. (Not everyone disliked it; Andrew Sarris championed the film in 1965.) It's unlikely a…
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Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini

Joy

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The Story: The story of the woman who created the Miracle Mop. The Lowdown: Call David O. Russell's latest a magnificently wayward and uniquely American success story. It's by turns funny and charming — and, yes, it's a little shaggy, but that may be part of its quality.
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Starring: Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen, O.J. Simpson, Lionel Stander, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner

The Cassandra Crossing

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In Brief: The Velveeta runs thick in this Lew Grade and Carlo Ponti co-production that tries cash in on the waning days of the 1970s disaster movie craze with this weird hybrid medical-thriller-and-disaster picture. The Cassandra Crossing (1976) is directed with minimum artistry by George Pan Costamos (who would change the Pan to "P" and…
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Starring: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Matias Varela

Point Break

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The Story: A former “extreme poly-athlete” and current FBI recruit infiltrates a crime ring of thrill-seeking Robin Hoods. The Lowdown: For all the supposedly exciting stuff happening in this movie, what a boring slog it is — short on intelligent plot and anything resembling a sympathetic character.
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Starring: Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, John Carradine, Wanda McKay, Michael Ames, Henry Hall

Voodoo Man

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In Brief: That existential classic Voodoo Man (1944) was specifically chosen for New Year's Eve because its brevity allows the viewer ample time to start off the evening with the movie and be safely home and out of harm's way before the madness kicks in — or, alternatively, to go become a part of the madness. It's…
about-time
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, Joshua McGuire

About Time

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In Brief: This is the closest the Asheville Film Society could come to a movie that's kind of seasonal, since the film's basic holiday connection (New Year's Eve) is tenuous, but no matter. Richard Curtis' About Time — the third (and supposedly final) of Curtis' directorial efforts — is suitable enough, and I don't think anyone will complain.…
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Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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The Story: Sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. The Lowdown: Definitely a movie made for — and by — fans. It does exactly what it needs to be a crowd-pleaser in that regard. But whether it breaks any new ground ... not so much.
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Starring: Jason Lee, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tony Hale, John Waters

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

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The Story: Alvin, Simon and Theodore try to preclude their adoptive father Dave’s happiness by traveling to Miami in the hopes of sabotaging his proposal to a new girlfriend. The Lowdown: You already know, if you’re going to have to see this film. If Star Wars is sold out or if your children’s sadism can…
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Starring: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Eddie Marsan, Luke Wilson

Concussion

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The Story: Fact-based story about the Pittsburgh pathologist who blew the whistle on the NFL cover-up on brain damage in football. The Lowdown: Mostly pretty effective agitprop drama, but with an unfortunate tendency toward speech-making and a rushed — and overly melodramatic — conclusion.
Youth
Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Paul Dano, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda

Youth

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The Story: The lives of two old friends staying at a health spa in the Alps are at the center of this expansive film. The Lowdown: The best film of the year has arrived — a grand banquet of sight and sound that is at once funny and tragic. This is an absolute must-see.
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Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin

Sisters

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The Story: After finding out their childhood home has sold, two 40-something sisters decide to have one last massive party like the ones they threw in high school. The Lowdown: An occasionably funny attempt at a raunchy, slapstick-heavy comedy that’s way too long, but floats by on the strength of its cast.
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Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Adrian Schiller, Amber Heard

The Danish Girl

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The Story: The sort-of-fact-based story of one of the earliest attempts at a sex-change. The Lowdown: A good-looking film on a daring subject that does not overcome its too genteel, tepid approach — or its confused portrait of its main character.
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Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Karen Gillan, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro

The Big Short

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The Story: Fact-based, absurd, farcical and very bitter dark comedy about the few who made money off the collapse of the housing market by betting against it. The Lowdown: A brilliant, blistering, angry and very awkwardly funny look at a tragic situation. A stylish, whirligig farce of a tragedy. Unique and uncomfortably essential.
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Starring: Janis Joplin, Cat Power (voice), Peter Albin, Karleen Bennett, Dick Cavett, John Cooke, D.A. Pennebaker

Janis: Little Girl Blue

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The Story: Documentary on the life and music of Janis Joplin. The Lowdown: Solid, amazingly well-researched film that becomes something more by the inclusion of excerpts from Joplin's letters as a kind of narration.
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Starring: Rade Serbedzija, Katrin Cartlidge, Grégoire Colin, Labina Mitevska, Jay Villiers

Before the Rain

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In Brief: I'd never even heard of Milcho Manchevski or his 1994 debut feature film, Before the Rain, until World Cinema programmed it into their mix. That's not too surprising since stark dramas about the Muslim/Christian conflict in Macedonia aren't likely to get much play in the West — even with a Best Foreign Language…
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Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin

Black Christmas

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In Brief: Merry Christmas from the Thursday Horror Picture Show with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (yes, the same Bob Clark who made A Christmas Story). What better way to celebrate the season than with the original “slasher” picture? Yes, Black Christmas pretty much started it all — predating Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Though it flopped in 1974 (despite being…
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Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland

In the Heart of the Sea

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The Story: The "true" story that inspired Moby Dick — at least in theory. The Lowdown: Sure, it's well made for what it is. Unfortunately, what it is ... is a tough slog of epic proportions — and not the kind of epic the filmmakers intended.