Movie Reviews

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Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.

John Wick: Chapter 2

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The Story: After resolving his blood-feud with the Russian mob (and having related the dog they murdered), John Wick is pulled back in to the assassin's underworld he sought to escape by an outstanding debt to an Italian Mafioso. The Lowdown: Everything you loved about the first John Wick film, but more of it.
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Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Victor Rasuk

Fifty Shades Darker

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The Story: Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele rekindle their tepid and implausible romance with significantly less kink than originally negotiated in their bizarre contract. The Lowdown: Fifty shades lazier. Fifty shades dumber. Fifty shades duller.
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Starring: Karen Black, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pilon, Jean-Louis Roux, Yvette Brind'amour, Lee Broker

The Pyx

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In Brief: Alternately title The Hooker Cult Murders, Canadian exploitation film The Pyx is most notable from an exemplary star turn from Karen Black (Easy Rider, Family Plot). Originally intended as a starring vehicle for James Mason, the film attempts to capitalize on contemporary cinematic trends established by prostitution themed melodramas such as Klute and occult suspense thrillers like Rosemary's Baby. Black plays a heroin-addicted…
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Starring: Dan Zukovic, Alex Rocco, Bruce Glover, Alex Zahara

Scammerhead

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In Brief: The Twin Rivers Media Festival kicks off with the North Carolina premier of Scammerhead, winner of the Best Narrative Feature award at the 2015 Trenton Film Festival and Best Feature at the 2015 Berkeley Video & Film Festival along with receiving multiple other nominations and awards on the festival circuit. Indie writer-director Dan Zukovic (The Last Big Thing)…
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Starring: Yves Montand, Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteil, Elisabeth Depardieu

Jean de Florette

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In Brief: Claude Berri’s Jean de Florette (1986) — adapted by Berri and longtime Roman Polanski collaborator Gérard Brach from Marcel Pagnol’s novel (itself drawn from Pagnol’s 1953 film Manon of the Spring) — is really only half a film, since it is meant to be followed by Berri’s Manon of the Spring. Worry not, however, because the Hendersonville Film…
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Starring: Paul Robeson, Julia Theresa Russell , Mercedes Gilbert, Chester A. Alexander

Body and Soul

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In Brief: In honor of Black History Month, the AFS presents a film from two icons of the Harlem Renaissance and early African-American cinema, Paul Robeson and Oscar Micheaux. Body and Soul (1925) was written, directed, produced and distributed by Micheaux and represents the screen debut of Robeson, who would go on to become a renowned…
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Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Hurt, Richard E. Grant, John Carroll Lynch, Beth Grant, Max Casella, Caspar Phillipson

Jackie

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The Story: Jackie Kennedy struggles to cope with her husband's death and maintain her composure under intensive public scrutiny in the weeks following JFK's assassination. The Lowdown: A moving emotional portrait that sheds new light on the internal landscape of an iconic American figure and the turmoil surrounding a pivotal moment in American history, earning Natalie Portman a…
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Starring: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden, Bonnie Morgan, Chuck Willis, Patrick Walker, Zach Roerig

Rings

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The Story: The demonic-girl-crawls-out-of-a-well video is back to kill more unsuspecting viewers, but this time she has the internet on her side. Also, her biological dad is revealed to have been a creep. Go figure. The Lowdown: An unnecessary sequel to a franchise I'd long considered dead, Rings contributes nothing of value to the mythos and somehow manages…
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Starring: Arch Hall, Jr., Marilyn Manning, Richard Alden, Helen Hovey, Don Russell

The Sadist

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In Brief: I canceled The Sadist in November to make way for a bit of post-election counter-programming, although in retrospect, this might have been almost as appropriate as what I screened instead. We're finally getting back around to this creepy thriller about a madman with his finger on the trigger and a penchant for pushing people…
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Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Melinda Kinnaman, Tomas von Brömssen

My Life as a Dog

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In Brief: Despite the controversy surrounding director Lasse Hallström's most recent film (A Dog's Purpose) and my personal disdain for the practices employed on set, I still have a soft-spot in my heart for My Life as a Dog (1985). The director's first mainstream success outside of Europe — unless you count ABBA: The Movie — My Life as…
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Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Alan Webb

The Taming of the Shrew

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In Brief: Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967) wasn’t the first time this Shakespeare play was served up with a famous married couple in the lead roles. No, that honor goes to Sam Taylor’s 1929 version starring Hollywood royalty of that era, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. (And whether or not the main…
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Starring: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lee Bowman, Astrid Allwyn, Maurice Moscovich

Love Affair

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In Brief: In honor of my least favorite holiday (you'll notice I didn't devote a month's worth of programming to this one), the AFS will be screening Leo McCarey's classic romantic comedy, Love Affair, this Valentine's Day. With a script that vacillates between pithy humor and tear-jerking melodrama from Donald Ogden Stewart (The Philadelphia Story) and Delmer Daves…
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Seasons

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The Story: The general history of the natural world, from the end of the last ice age to the present anthropocene, plays out through the biodiversity of a forest ecosystem. The Lowdown: A stunning visual spectacle with no shortage of purpose, this nature doc does more than simply record its subject — it draws the audience into the story.
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Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

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The Story: Zombie slaying savant Alice returns to tie up loose ends by retrieving an antidote to the virus that has wiped out most of humanity. Like a lost set of car keys, it's been hidden in the same place the whole mess started fifteen years ago (she probably should have looked there first). The Lowdown: More of…
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Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Macon Blair, Corey Stoll, Toby Kebbell, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach

Gold

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The Story: A gold prospector driven by a dream and a desire for approval gets embroiled in a scandal over a mine that might not be what it seems. The Lowdown: Based loosely on a true story but focused on a fictional character and set 15 years earlier than the events that inspired it, Gold is an amalgamation…
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Starring: Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, John Ortiz, Dennis Quaid, Juliet Rylance, Luke Kirby, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton, Pooch Hall, Josh Gad

A Dog’s Purpose

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The Story: A dog journeys through successive reincarnate lifetimes before being reunited with his original owner. The Lowdown: An emotionally manipulative exercise in heartstring tugging that would have been reprehensible enough even without the recently revealed evidence of alleged animal cruelty on set.
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Starring: Paula E. Sheppard, Linda Miller, Mildred Clinton, Niles McMaster, Jane Lowry, Rudolph Willrich, Michael Hardstark, Alphonso DeNoble, Garry Allen, Louisa Horton, Tom Signorelli, Brooke Shields

Alice, Sweet Alice

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In Brief: Most frequently referenced as the screen debut of a young Brooke Shields, writer-director Alfred Sole's 1976 religiously-themed proto-slasher Alice, Sweet Alice has justifiably built a cult following on the basis of its other merits — namely, a uniquely giallo-esque aesthetic heavily indebted to Hitchcock, Michael Powell's Peeping Tom and Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now. The film's heavily atmospheric sense of unrelenting…
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Starring: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michelle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault

M. Hulot’s Holiday

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In Brief: As a mere boy, I bumped into Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle on television — and didn’t like it. Many years later, I saw part of his Traffic — and didn’t like it. With that, I wrote off Tati’s work as something just not for me. And it was with that in mind that I faced seeing M. Hulot’s Holiday (from…