Genre: Fantasy Romance
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Weist, Alan Arkin, Vincent PriceIn Brief: The first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp made Depp a bonafide movie star and established Burton as one of the movies' great fantasists. It's a magical film of many delights and layers that remains as fresh today as it did in 1990 when it first appeared. (It also remains Burton's favorite, as well as composer Danny Elfman's favorite of his scores.) The modern fairy tale classic is back on the big screen — on which Burton's stunning imagery can be fully appreciated — for one show only on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at The Carolina.
Genre: Black Comedy Horror
Director: James Whale
Starring: Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Ernest Thesiger, Gloria Stuart, Raymond Massey, Lilian Bond, Eva MooreIn Brief: This year's Halloween offering from the Asheville Film Society is James Whale's classic — and long considered lost — The Old Dark House, starring Boris Karloff. Stranded by a rainstorm and landslides, a group of travelers takes refuge with a very peculiar family in an old, dark house. The film is one of the delights of Golden Age horror — as much a black comedy as a horror film when all is said and done. That's not to say there's no menace (oh, there's plenty of that), but it's all underscored with dark and extremely quirky humor. Essential viewing.
Genre: Comedy with Music
Director: Julian Jarrold (Brideshead Revisited)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton, Sarah-Jane Potts, Nick Frost, Linda BassettIn Brief: Effortlessly charming musical comedy about a young man who tries to save the family shoe business by focusing on the drag queen niche market — with shoes that exude sexiness but can withstand the weight of a man. Calling on the aid of a drag queen to help design the shoes — a not entirely welcome presence at the factory — he sometimes feels he's gotten more than he bargained for. A delight of a little movie pushed to something like greatness by Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola — a performance of humor, power and considerable complexity.
Genre: Musical Comedy
Director: Mark Sandrich (Top Hat)
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet HilliardIn Brief: Follow the Fleet (1936) is the fifth of the Astaire-Rogers pictures, and as a movie, it's perhaps the weakest so far (there are weaker ones to come). Its plot is no great shakes — centering not on Fred and Ginger, but on the rather colorless romance of Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard. It does, however, give us no less than eight Irving Berlin songs and three great Astaire-Rogers numbers, making for tuneful entertainment. And there's a monkey, too.
Director: Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez, Sophie OkonedoIn Brief: Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou star in Stephen Frears' 2003 thriller Dirty Pretty Things. It's a story about the seedy underside of London as experienced by illegal and barely legal immigrants who work at a posh but very unsavory hotel, one that serves as a center for criminal activities. This ranges from sketchy employment practices to prostitution to the organ transplant black market. This is one of those rare films that effectively straddles the line between commercial movie and art film, and it holds up beautifully after the passage of 10 years. A definite must-see of 21st century film.
Genre: Mystery Comedy
Director: Michael Curtiz / George Archainbaud
Starring: William Powell, Margaret Lindsay, Ruth Donnelly / Edna May Oliver, James Gleason, Robert ArmstrongIn Brief: Here we have a double feature consisting of two tight pre-Code mysteries (each barely over 60 minutes). First up is William Powell in Michael Curtiz' stylish Private Detective 62 (1933), a typical snappy Warner Bros. melodrama that finds gumshoe Powell coming to the aid of society dame Margaret Lindsay — after first being hired to find some dirt on her. Fast, funny, hard-boiled stuff raised to a higher level by the presence of its star. Then there's the less-stylish but every bit as much fun Penguin Pool Murder (1932), the first of a brief series of comedy-mysteries starring Edna May Oliver and James Gleason as mismatched sleuths. She's an acid-tongued school teacher who insists on helping N.Y. detective Gleason on a murder case at the city aquarium.
Genre: Dark Comedy Satire
Director: Tony Richardson (Tom Jones)
Starring: Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Anjanette Comer, John Gielgud, Lionel StanderIn Brief: It was the film "with something to offend everyone," and it's my guess that while Tony Richardson's The Loved One is less shocking today than it was in 1965, it still contains more than its share of outrages against anything approaching good taste. Its tale of Hollywood funerary practices, movie studios, pet cemeteries, fad religions and general American excess as seen through the eyes of unscrupulous British poet is rich with potential offenses — and Richardson and writer Terry Southern find most of them. To put it into perspective, this is a movie with Liberace as a coffin salesman.
Genre: Quasi-Historical Drama
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, John C. ReillyIn Brief: Martin Scorsese's Gangs on New York (2002) is an epic in the best and truest sense of that oft overused word. It's big, it's sprawling, it's filled with larger-than-life characters. It's also quite violent and long — both of necessity to the story being told. The film marks Scorsese's first work of the 21st century — and, for my money, it's his best film to date. Its boldly revisionist story — that, it should be noted, often places real people in a time they didn't inhabit — was one that was fully suited to his operatic sensibility. It is, I believe, a masterpiece.
Director: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz, Irv GoochIn Brief: Calling Michel Gondry's 2008 film a comedy does it a great disservice. This incredibly warm and gentle film is much more than that. Its premise — VHS video store workers replace the accidentally erased movies with decidedly low-rent versions of their own — is really just a springboard to examine much broader concerns of memory, fantasy, community, family and the very nature of movies themselves. There's nothing quite like it, and there are few modern films so completely free of cynicism, snark and irony. It's a lovely little film that manages to be utterly sweet without ever being cloying.
Genre: Stylish Heist Comedy
Director: William Dieterle (Lawyer Man)
Starring: William Powell, Kay Francis, Helen Vinson, Hardie Albright, Alan MowbrayIn Brief: Scintillating, sophisticated heist comedy that finds both its stars — William Powell and Kay Francis — and its director (the undervalued William Dieterle) at the height of their powers. Deliciously Pre-Code and every inch adult entertainment (in the best sense) about a slick jewel thief and the bored rich woman who encounters him during one of his jobs. Perhaps the closest Warner Bros. ever came to the kind of stylish film we usually associate with Paramount.
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