Movie Reviews

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Starring: Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Paul Geoffrey

Excalibur

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In Brief: I remember seeing John Boorman’s Excalibur when it first came out in 1981. I remember being completely blown away by its visual splendor and Boorman’s fascinating attempt to present the Arthurian legend in terms of Wagner opera (which pervades the soundtrack). I also remember the scorn with which the film was received by a number…
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Starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Horovitz, Maria Dizzia, Charles Grodin

While We’re Young

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The Story: Generation X-ers in midlife crisis mode fall under the spell of millennial hipsters. The Lowdown: Here we have the year's first great film — a sharply penetrating satire on generational foibles and modern life. Writer-director Noah Baumbach pulls of the incredible feat of taking no prisoners without ever being cruel. A must-see.
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Starring: Seymour Bernstein, Andrew Harvey, Michael Kimmelman, Kimball Gallagher, Junko Ichikawa, Marcus Ostermiller

Seymour: An Introduction

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The Story: A loving look in on classical pianist Seymour Bernstein. The Lowdown: A thoroughly charming, warm look at a man who may make you rethink what "greatness" means. If you only see one documentary this year, make it this one.
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Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Antje Traue, Katie Holmes, Charles Dance, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce

Woman in Gold

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The Story: Fact-based story of a Holocaust survivor fighting to regain art works stolen from her family by the Nazis. The Lowdown: Solid drama of the cultural-historical kind that simplifies much but gets the essentials right. Occasionally heavy-handed, but it makes a fine vehicle for Helen Mirren and — surprisingly — Ryan Reynolds.
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Starring: Craig Wasson, Melanie Griffith, Gregg Henry, Deborah Shelton, Guy Boyd, Dennis Franz

Body Double

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In Brief: It would be difficult to decide which of Brian De Palma's movies is the most ... well, insane, but Body Double (1984) — his heady mix of Rear Window, Vertigo and De Palma over-the-top crazy — is certainly in the running. While there's no escaping the heavy dose of Hitchcock — and I'm not sure I'd…
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Starring: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Craig T. Nelson, Alison Brie, T.I.

Get Hard

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The Story: After being framed for fraud, a millionaire hires the guy who washes his car to teach him how to survive prison. The Lowdown: A puerile mix of lazy, tasteless prison rape jokes, homophobia and occasional fits of casual racism, but with the added benefit of Will Ferrell mugging.
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Starring: (Voices) Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones

Home

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The Story: A disgraced invading alien and a young earth girl team up to find her relocated mother. The Lowdown: Colorful, dull, unoriginal and often irritating. Strictly for younger children and Rihanna fans.
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Starring: Jay Baker, Pat Barlow, Lloyd Berry, Deborah Foreman

April Fool’s Day

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In Brief: This was a "fan pick" — and one that happened to fall on the right day (or close enough). Apparently, April Fool's Day is well-loved — at least by those who saw it when it came out in 1986 and were at an impressionable age. Even if I had seen it when it…
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Starring: Ted Neely, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Bob Bingham, Josh Mostel

Jesus Christ Superstar

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In Brief: It's the Asheville Film Society's slightly late Easter offering — Norman Jewison's Jesus Christ Superstar, a film that has kind of fallen by the wayside over the years. I'm not sure why. Most complaints usually center on the casting of Ted Neely as Jesus — despite the fact that man has made a…
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Starring: Erica Rivas, Diego Gentile, Julieta Zylberberg, Rita Cortese, Ricardo Darín, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado

Wild Tales

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The Story: Six anarchic, darkly comic tales with the unifying themes of revenge and losing control. The Lowdown: Often hilariously funny satire on human nature at its most extreme — as seen through a collection of stories. Mostly delicious in its anarchy and bleakly amused worldview, though some stories are better than others.
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Starring: Christopher Gable, Judith Paris, Kenneth Colley, Vladek Sheybal, James Mellor, Otto Diamant

Dance of the Seven Veils

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In Brief: Ken Russell's Dance of the Seven Veils (1970) — subtitled A Comic Strip in 7 Episodes on the Life of Richard Strauss — was his final film for the BBC Omnibus program. It was broadcast only once, followed by a hailstorm of controversy (an attempt by Britain's "Watchdog for Morality" Mary Whitehouse to…
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Starring: Viacheslav Fetisov, Anatoli Karpov, Alexei Kasatonov, Scotty Bowman

Red Army

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The Story: The story of the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team. The Lowdown: An occasionally interesting sports documentary that gives some insight into life inside the USSR and the idea of nationalism but adds little else.
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Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris

Serena

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The Story: A corrupt timber baron makes a fatal choice in marrying a mysterious woman with a murky past. The Lowdown: Chock-full of melodrama and outrageous contrivances, there's no way to call Serena good, but it's one fascinating hot mess that's entertainingly trashy.
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Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi

It Follows

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The Story: An implacable, nameless monster is passed on like an STD in this original, maybe even brilliant, horror thriller. The Lowdown: Horror fans — and indeed anyone interested in quality independent film — take note, this critically-acclaimed movie is the goods in the world of truly unnerving, but surprisingly nongory, film.
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Starring: Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Alexa PenaVega, Delroy Lindo, Ted McGinley, Brian Bosworth, Cybill Shepherd, Lee Majors

Do You Believe?

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The Story: Multistory tale of characters grappling with putting faith into action. The Lowdown: Less hysterical on the topic of religion than its predecessor, God's Not Dead, this is still the same old preaching-to-the-choir stuff — only overstuffed with characters, some better actors but little actual substance.
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Starring: Jon Hall, Leon Errol, John Carradine, Alan Curtis, Evelyn Ankers, Gale Sondergaard

The Invisible Man’s Revenge

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In Brief: Apart from his inevitable encounters with Abbott and Costello, The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944) was the swan song for the Universal "monster" who just never really caught on. James Whale's original The Invisible Man (1933) is one of the key horror classics of all time. The rather tepid, unfocused follow-ups are another matter. The problem seems to…
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Starring: Jason Robards, Richard Jordan, David Selby, Anne Archer, Alec Guinness, M. Emmet Walsh

Raise the Titanic

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In Brief: It's the movie that helped drive Lew Grade — or Sir Lew Grade or Lord Grade (depending on where you are in his career) — from the film business. It's also the movie that kept writer Clive Cussler from allowing any of his novels to be filmed for the next 25 years. (He…
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Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney

Insurgent

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The Story: "Divergent" Tris must stop the evil dystopian government of future Chicago and avenge the death of her family. The Lowdown: Dull, self-serious and derivative sci-fi of the teen romance variety.
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Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, Eric Blore

The Lady Eve

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In Brief: Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve (1941) marked the writer-director’s move into the realm of the full-blown A picture with A-list stars — Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck — and the Paramount high gloss his first two films had lacked. The result was one of Sturges’ most popular films and probably as close as he ever…
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Starring: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance

The Gunman

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The Story: A sniper, years after a life-altering job, must go on the run to save his life. The Lowdown: An occasionally interesting yet overly unimaginative action flick with a miscast lead.
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Starring: (Voices) Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites

Persepolis

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In Brief: Pretty amazing film version of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical comic Persepolis, about an Iranian girl growing up in the shadow of two oppressive regimes. Though playful in tone, it's a narrative that goes much deeper than one might expect. That said, this marks the fourth time this has been shown since the film's 2008 theatrical…