Movie Reviews

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Story: Magizoologist Newt Scamander must fight against opposition both ambiguous and overt in his quest to recover lost specimens from his mystical menagerie. The Lowdown: This Harry Potter-adjacent franchise-builder falls far short of being a Magical Mystery tour-de-force.
Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciaran Hinds, Ted Levine

Bleed for This

The Story: A cocky boxer ends up paralyzed in a car crash and is determined to enter the ring once more. The Lowdown: A generic, based-on-a-true-story tale of overcoming odds (and such) that works reasonably well but is nothing to get excited about.

Son of Paleface

In Brief: Possibly Bob Hope's crowning achievement, Son of Paleface re-teams Hope with Jane Russell in this sequel to 1948's Western farce The Paleface. Animator Frank Tashlin takes over directorial duties from Norman Z. McLeod, but a distinct continuity of style unites the 1952 story with its predecessor as a result of Tashlin's services as cowriter on both films. Tashlin's…
Starring: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan

The Kid

In Brief: By the time Charles Chaplin wrote, directed, produced and starred in the first feature-length production entirely under his own control, he was already the most famous movie star on Earth. Chaplin, being Chaplin, stuck with the formula that made his earlier short films so successful, but turned the heartstring tugging up to 11. Semi-autobiographically…
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Alex Hibbert, Jaden Piner, Janelle Monae


The Story: A young black man growing up in a Miami housing project must struggle with his sexual identity as the world around him threatens to break his spirit. The Lowdown: A remarkably affective tale with ramifications that reach far beyond its subject, Moonlight is a must-see.
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma


The Story: When mysterious alien spacecraft appear on Earth, one woman must learn to communicate with the visitors before humanity turns on them and destroys itself in the process. The Lowdown: Engaging and provocative, Arrival contributes a welcome touch of intellectualism to science fiction filmmaking.
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley, Jennifer Ingrum, Randy Evans, Clive Ashborn, Lily Holleman, April Showers, Stephen Wozniak

The Love Witch

The Story: Following the death of her husband (and police suspicion regarding her involvement), a Wiccan relocates to a small California town looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong ways. The Lowdown: A lovingly conceived pastiche of low-budget, late-1970s horror films, The Love Witch is a great idea poorly executed.
Starring: Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Kimberly Elise, Mo'Nique, J.B. Smoove

Almost Christmas

The Story: A widowed patriarch welcomes his out-sized, specifically dysfunctional family for the holidays. The Lowdown: Generic, flat and bloated with characters and plot, here's a holiday movie that only goes as far as its likable cast takes it.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt

Shut In

The Story: A child psychologist must find a way to rescue a young boy while isolated in her New England home by a deadly ice storm. The Lowdown: A flat, unoriginal thriller, with a good performance from Naomi Watts, that relies too much on its goofy twist ending.
Starring: Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Pierre Batches, Simone Mareuil, Jaime Miravilles, Georges Auric Le Comte de Beaumont, Le Vicomte de Noailles Marie-Laure de Noailles, Jacques-André Boiffard

Un Chien Andalou/Les Mystères du Château de Dé/L’Age d’Or

In Brief: The Asheville Film Society wraps up its November schedule with a staggeringly strange avant-garde triple-feature that should establish to absolutely anyone's satisfaction that modern experimental filmmakers will never hold a candle to the masters. First up we recreate the original 1929 double bill of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's seminal statement on Surrealism in cinema, the…
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enza Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda

The Bicycle Thieves

In Brief: It helps to understand the realities of life in post-War Italy to understand the birth of Italian Neo-Realism — something born as much from economic necessity as an artistic movement. Films like Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves (1948) were partly made simply because they were possible in a country where money was…
Starring: Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne

The Giant Claw

In Brief: The Thursday Horror Picture Show is serving Grade-A turkey this week with Fred F. Sears’ deliriously dreadful The Giant Claw. To give some barometer of its quality, consider that it was released in June of 1957, and even though Sears died in November of that same year, in the intervening five months he…
Starring: Michael Douglas, Terrence Mann, Alyson Reed, Cameron English, Vicki Frederick, Audrey Landers

A Chorus Line

In Brief: I've never been a fan of musicals, and A Chorus Line provides about as good an explanation as I can give as to why. Favoring style over substance yet somehow achieving neither, Richard Attenborough's 1985 adaptation of one of the longest-running and most successful stage musicals of all time seems to have missed the appeal of the…
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Tae Ri Kim, Ha Jung-woo, Jo Jin-woong, Kim Hae-suk, Moon So-ri

The Handmaiden

The Story: Love and betrayal complicate a young thief's aspirations when a ploy to con a wealthy heiress out of her fortune is complicated by a forbidden romance. The Lowdown: Scintillating, sexy and seriously strange, Park Chan-wook's latest film is a departure for the director and a delight for audiences.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong

Doctor Strange

The Story: A talented but narcissistic neurosurgeon must seek mystical skills to heal himself when a car crash destroys his hands, leading to his unwitting involvement in an interdimensional conflict between good and evil. The Lowdown: The now-classic Marvel Studios formula with visual effects that go to 11, Doctor Strange is "excelsior!" with a few minor caveats.
Starring: (voices) Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Russell Brand


The Story: When a group of grotesque giants threatens their way of life, a group of colorful trolls must muster the courage to stand up to them. The Lowdown: An aggressively cute animated musical, steeped in bright colors and hokey humor, that has little else to offer.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths

Hacksaw Ridge

The Story: Biopic of Army medic and conscientious objector Desmond Doss, who refused to carry a gun during his training and the Battle of Okinawa. The Lowdown: Andrew Garfield is horribly miscast, and the story often unnecessarily veers away from the compelling true story to explore Doss’ nightmares. War is hell, but this film often is too.
Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Serge Davri

Shoot the Piano Player

In Brief: François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960) is one of those celebrated films that I had somehow just never seen till this weekend. Oh, I’d seen clips and knew a little about it—and I’d suspected that the phony gangster-movie opening of Ken Russell’s 1966 TV film on composer Georges Delerue, Don’t Shoot the Composer, was based on…
Pepe le Moko 2
Starring: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Line Noro, Lucas Gridoux, Gabriel Gabrio, Charpin

Pépé le Moko

In Brief: Pépé le Moko is a massively influential film, and rightly so. Probably French poetic realist Julien Duvivier's best known work, this movie bridges the gap between poetic realism and the later emergence of film noir, presages Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, spawned a successful direct remake in the form of John Cromwell's Algiers and provided inspiration…
Starring: Janet McTeer, Aidan Quinn, Pat Carroll, Jane Adams


In Brief: Local interest runs high concerning writer-director Maggie Greenwald’s Songcatcher, owing to the fact that it was filmed around here. For that matter, parts of the film were made on the mountains not more than a few miles from where I’m writing this review. Thankfully, it turns out that Songcatcher is worth the fuss as…
Starring: Arch Hall, Jr., Marilyn Manning, Richard Alden, Helen Hovey, Don Russell

The Sadist

In Brief: Better than most B-movies have any right to be, James Landis' The Sadist is a surprisingly powerful post-noir proto-slasher that was the first to deal with the twisted true story of Charlie Starkweather, a tale that would later be addressed by Terrence Malick in Badlands and Oliver Stone in Natural Born Killers. This film benefits greatly from a bizarre,…