Genre: Compilation Documentary
Director: Jack Haley, Jr.
Starring: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Debbie ReynoldsIn Brief: Riding in on the last of the late 1960s/early 1970s nostalgia wave, That's Entertainment positioned itself as a documentary about the Hollywood musical. In truth, it was a two-hour commercial for MGM that presented one seriously skewed version of film history. That's not to say the film doesn't include some pretty impressive (and more than a few clunker) musical numbers — all culled from the MGM library — but it presents a very small fragment of the movie musical genre as if it was the whole story.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Irma P. Hall, J.K. Simmons, Marlon Wayans, Tzi Mab>In Brief: The Coen Brothers' much misunderstood reimagining of the 1955 Ealing Studios Comedy of the same name finds Tom Hanks taking on the role originated by Alec Guinness — and making it his own. That's much the same thing the Coens did with the film — adhering to the basics of the story about a group of not-very-adept criminals using the home of an unsuspecting little old lady as their base of operations, while creating something completely fresh and original. It deserves another chance.
Genre: Sci Fi
Director: Motoyoshi Oda
Starring: Hiroshi Koizumi, Setsuko Wakayama, Minoru Chiaki, Takashi ShimuraIn Brief: It's the first Godzilla sequel and, despite the fact that it was rushed to cash in on the original film so that it was in theaters within four months of Godzilla, it's still a reasonably good entry. It's also the last of the series that can be taken seriously — at least sort of seriously. As far as Japanese giant monster pictures are concerned, Godzilla Raids Again is something of an essential.
Genre: Psychological Horror
Director: David Mun
Starring: Rachel Marie Lewis, Christian Oliver, Marietta March, Jordan RhodesIn Brief: This year's feature film winner of the Twin Rivers Media Festival marks the first time a horror movie has taken the prize. But David Mun's House of Good and Evil isn't your typical horror film. Rather, this is psychological horror about a couple trying to get their lives — and marriage — back on track in the wake of a tragedy by moving into an isolated old house in the country. What happens there isn't at all what they expect. Not everything in the films works — it goes on too long and it cheats a bit — but it's a well-acted, good-looking film that plays up atmosphere more than shocks.
Director: Charles Walters (High Society)
Starring: Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar, Jim Hutton, John Standing, Miiko TakaIn Brief: Pack Memorial Library concludes its Cary Grant series with — appropriately enough — Grant's last film, Walk Don't Run. It's an agreeable enough remake of George Stevens' 1943 comedy The More the Merrier — moved from crowded wartime Washington to crowded Tokyo during the 1964 summer Olympics. The problem with it — from a box office standpoint — was that audiences wanted Cary Grant as a leading man, and what they got was Grant as a middle-aged businessman playing matchmaker for Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar. It just wasn't a popular idea, though it plays better now as a lesser tier Grant picture.
Director: Conor Allyn
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Mickey Rourke, Ario Bayu. Frans TumbuanIn Brief: The second ActionFest monthly screening is the same setup as last time with all proceeds going to Homeward Bound of Asheville, and the $10 admission includes free Ninja Porter (from Asheville Pizza) and soft drinks and popcorn from Carolina Cinemas. This time, viewers get the chance to see the film Java Heat starring Kellan Lutz (the Twilight films) and Mickey Rourke before its official opening. The film is a wild yarn — that doesn't always make sense — offering more style (the director obviously has seen a lot of Brian DePalma movies) than you probably expect, and a lot of often very explosive action that you probably do expect. Lutz makes a stolid, enigmatic hero and villains don't come any more perverse than Mickey Rourke.
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis, John WilliamsIn Brief: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly (yes, this is where the famous fireworks kissing scene comes from) in one of the master's lighter and most pleasant 1950s films. The film is nothing more than a romantic suspenser soufflé of the kind that Hitchcock was rightly famous for. OK, despite some location work, the film does suffer from some of the most obvious rear screen and process work of Hitch's career, but with Cary Grant as a retired jewel thief trying to prove he really is retired to the police — with time out for romancing Grace Kelly, it doesn't matter much.
Director: Doug Schultz
Starring: Bebe Neuwirth (voice)In Brief: Since the closing film of the Asheville Film Festival was not available for review, these comments are merely drawn from the film's press notes: "Defiant Requiem tells the little-known story of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin. Led by imprisoned conductor Rafael Schächter, the inmates of Terezin fought back...with art and music. Through hunger, disease and slave labor, the Jewish inmates of Terezin hold on to their humanity by staging plays, composing opera and using paper and ink to record the horrors around them. This creative rebellion reaches its peak when Schächter teaches a choir of 150 inmates one of the world's most difficult and powerful choral works, Verdi's 'Requiem,' re-imagined as a condemnation of the Nazis. The choir would ultimately confront the Nazis face to face."
Genre: Musical Comedy
Director: Thornton Freeland (Flying Down to Rio)
Starring: Eddie Cantor, Ethel Shutta, Paul Gregory, Eleanor Hunt, George Olsen and His MusicIn Brief: Like a wonderful time capsule, Whoopee! offers us a glimpse into a world that hasn't existed for a very long time: the 1920s Broadway theater. Almost no one who was a part of that world is still with us, and even those who might have seen such a show are seriously diminished in number. Yet at the flick of a switch, Whoopee! — starring the legendary Eddie Cantor and the should-be-legendary Ethel Shutta — has the power to take us back to that world in all its antique charm. Whatever it lacks in cinematic style, it more than makes up for in its energetic, appealing cast, bright tunes and sheer good-natured nonsense.
Director: Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns)
Starring: Walter Matthau, Ossie Davis, Amy Irving, Martha Plimpton, Craig T. NelsonIn Brief: Playwright and sometimes filmmaker Herb Gardner brings his play I'm Not Rappaport to the screen with Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis in the leads. The first hour of its rather too expansive running time is very good indeed, if not especially great filmmaking. Matthau and Davis make an appealing pair of old men — not exactly friends, but who else is around? — whiling away their time in Central Park, each with his own problems. The dialogue — while sounding like dialogue — is good and penetrating. Then we get to what amounts to the second act and the film's desire to evolve into a more elaborate drama bogs things down pretty fast. It remains easily watchable, but it turns into less by trying to be more.
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