The Story: A search for the philosopher's stone in the Paris catacombs turns deadly in a supernatural way. The Lowdown: Pretty bottom-of-the-barrel horror made that much worse by nausea-inducing shaky-cam and often incoherent direction.
In Brief: Having fallen on hard times since his glory days in silent cinema, E.A. Dupont found himself working with the exploitation (see the obligatory cheesecake scene) team of Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg and turning out The Neanderthal Man (1953) — a film that might best be described as having been scraped off the underside of the bottom of the barrel. That, of course, means the movie is like catnip to lovers of Bad Cinema. Its big name star is Robert Shayne (best known as Inspector Henderson in the 1950s Superman TV series), who plays a loony scientist out to prove something or other that starts with a saber-toothed tiger and ends with transforming himself into the title character and running amok — as all Neanderthal men are wont to do. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Neanderthal Man Thursday, Sept. 4, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
The Story: A retired spy is pulled back into action and hunted by a former protégé. The Lowdown: A generally unlikable, convoluted, silly and worn out espionage thriller that’s needlessly overwrought and brainless.
In Brief: Released in the US (usually on the bottom of a double bill) as Every Day's a Holiday (Seaside Swingers) (1965) is the film that attempted to do for Freddie and the Dreamers what A Hard Day's Night (1964) did for The Beatles. It didn't. Not only was James Hill no Richard Lester, but Freddie and the Dreamers were most certainly no Beatles. Very much a treasure trove of early 1960s British Invasion styles. The Asheville Film Society will screen Every Day's a Holiday (Seaside Swingers) Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
In Brief: It's the film of the play (by John Van Druten) of the book (by Christopher Isherwood) that would eventually become Cabaret. In fact, while the story is similar, I Am a Camera just belongs to a different world than Cabaret — so much so that comparisons, while inevitable, are largely meaningless. Though usually referred to as drama, the film is more a sophisticated comedy than anything else — one that so angered the old Legion of Decency folks that it was "condemned" by the Catholic Church in America. It seems pretty silly now, but the film does contain premarital sex, a possible abortion and coded homosexuality. The Hendersonville Film Society will show I Am a Camera Sunday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
The Story: A couple whose marriage is disintegrating is sent on a weekend getaway that has unexpected results. The Lowdown: When it works, this high-concept look at the nature of relationships works beautifully. But it doesn't always work. Even then, it remains interesting, but delivers less than it promises.
The Story: The fanciful — and doomed — romance of a wealthy young man and the girl he falls for. The Lowdown: There is more pure invention in the first five minutes of Mood Indigo than in just about all the other films this year put together. That's both its magical greatness and why some viewers will find it altogether too much. For those up to it, though, it's wonderful.
The Story: Two aging ex-brothers-in-law go on a road trip in Iceland. The Lowdown: A somewhat meandering, not terrifically adventurous but thoroughly likable little character study that benefits from sharp performances and Icelandic scenery.
In Brief: Yasujirô Ozu's Good Morning (1959) is typical of the filmmaker's work in that it looks, rather disapprovingly, at the growing westernization of post-war Japan. But Good Morning — with its story of two boys refusing to speak until their father buys a TV set — is slighter, warmer and more accepting than most of Ozu's films. It is by no means a major work, but it's a pleasant one. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Good Morning Friday, Sept. 5, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
The Story: A high school football coach — burdened with an over-decade-long winning streak — must learn how to motivate his players and bond with his family. The Lowdown: A dull, preachy, troublesome film that’s dramatically inert and purely predictable from a storytelling standpoint.
In Brief: It's directed by someone you've never heard of. It stars people you've never heard of. It was promoted with "Alive ... without a body ... fed by an unspeakable horror from hell!" And it's absolutely indefensible as anything other than no-budget cheese that is wildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons. This, after all, is the story of a mad scientist whose fiancée is killed in a car wreck. He responds in the only reasonable way — keeping her head alive in what looks suspiciously like a darkroom tray in his basement lab, right next to the closet where he keeps an ill-tempered failed experiment. His plan, of course, is to find a new body for his beloved — so he goes cruising strippers to find one. A movie of great charm. The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Brain That Wouldn't Die Thursday, Aug. 28, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
In Brief: While Ingmar Bergman's Shame (1968) is an undeniably powerful work, it's also one of the director's most unrelentingly grim works — and with Bergman, that's saying a lot. In other words, approach with a bit of caution, and don't expect a lot of laughs. It's also not a wholly accessible work. Much that happens — including the source of the tension between the couple at its center — is never explained. In essence, we're watching the disintegration of two human beings caught in their own problems and a war they don't understand. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Shame Friday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
The Story: A teenage girl with a promising future is in a car wreck with her family, and her out-of-body self has to decide whether to live or not. The Lowdown: Shamelessly manipulative assault on the tear ducts that will work for the excessively sentimental and, possibly, fans of the YA novel from which it's adapted.
In Brief: Festooned with Oscars (including Best Picture), phenomenally popular 26 years ago and undeniably well-made, Barry Levinson's Rain Man (1988) is nonetheless a shamelessly manipulative work, and not one I'd want to visit too often. The story is basically an odd couple buddy road trip — except the buddies (Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise) are estranged brothers, and one of them (Hoffman) is an autistic savant. The only reason for the relationship is that Cruise (always best at playing unlikable) is hoping to get control of the $3 million his father has left in trust for his newfound brother. Your mileage with this will depend a lot on your taste for such stories. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Rain Man Sunday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
In Brief: In one of his finest performances, John Barrymore is cast against type as a Jewish lawyer who has risen from poverty to the top of the legal profession in William Wyler's film of the popular Elmer Rice play, Counsellor at Law (1933). (It was the first film of which Wyler was proud.) The drama centers on Barrymore's carefully built world crashing down when a case from his past threatens to destroy his career, and his less than supportive (and plainly anti-Semitic) wife (Doris Kenyon) opts not to stand by him, but to run off with a younger, more socially acceptable man (Melvyn Douglas). By turns sarcastically funny and heart-wrenchingly tragic, it's a triumph for both star and director. The Asheville Film Society will screen Counsellor at Law Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
The Story: Both a sequel and a prequel to the 2005 cult hit. The Lowdown: Not as fresh as the first film, but it's still good unwholesome fun (not for the easily offended) — and it's one terrific-looking movie in the bargain.
In Brief: Nominated for six Oscars (winning three), Roman Polanski's Tess (1979) just might be the director's best film — certainly, it's his most beautiful and lyrical. Dedicated to his late wife, Sharon Tate, the film is also possibly his most deeply personal work. Adapted — pretty faithfully — from Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the film recounts the tragic life of Tess Durbeyfield (Nastassja Kinski), whose life is marked for all time when she is seduced (raped might be nearer the mark) by a wealthy man. It's at once a strongly romantic work and one that is critical of the way women were treated at the time. An altogether compelling and deeply moving film — and quite possibly the most gorgeously photographed movie of all time. The Asheville Film Society is showing Tess Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina Asheville as part of the Budget Big Screen series. Admission is $6 for AFS members and $8 for the general public.
The Story: The Expendables go after one of their own, a nefarious villain long thought dead. The Lowdown: A superbly uneven and overtly uninteresting journey into machismo and stuff blowing up.
In Brief: The next-to-last film in François Truffaut's Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) series is also probably the least successful of the lot. It is certainly the slightest and most prone to rambling. The freshness of the "New Wave" was long gone by 1970 when Truffaut made Bed & Board, and the attempt to make this film emulate the off-the-cuff feel of the earlier films sometimes seems just plain unfocused. (Vignettes have been replaced by digressions that go nowhere.) But Bed & Board is not without its charms or its place in the series, even though our "hero" on occasion comes across as a self-absorbed jerk. Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Bed & Board Friday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
In Brief: The most famous of all Sherlock Holmes stories gets the Hammer horror treatment — not inappropriate for a tale about a hound from hell — and the results are very good indeed. In fact, this 1959 film may well be the best version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is certainly the most unnerving version and one of the only films to present Holmes (Peter Cushing) as a twitchy, arrogant drug-addict. The well-known story lends itself nicely to the spooky treatment, it looks terrific and the performances could scarcely be bettered. The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Hound of the Baskervilles Sunday, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
The Story: A young man in a supposedly utopian society is chosen to receive the forbidden real history of the world. The Lowdown: Imperfect, but largely well-done and much more provocative — even disturbing — than the usual YA dysfunctional society sci-fi.