Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The Story: The latest entry in the Marvel Comics series. The Lowdown: It's too big. It's too frenzied. It's too full of characters it can't contain. Mostly, it's just too much everything. It's not bad — it will please a lot of people — but it provides a lot less fun than The Avengers did.
Starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker, Amanda Crew

The Age of Adaline

The Story: A woman who — through a freak accident — has been 29 for nearly 80 years falls in love with a man of about 30. The Lowdown: It has a solid romantic fantasy premise and excellent performances from the supporting cast, but the central romance itself is tepid and barely involving. It's by…
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn, Angela Winkler, Hanns Zischler

Clouds of Sils Maria

The Story: An aging actress agrees to appear in a revival of the play that launched her career, but playing the older lead character. The Lowdown: The first full five-star movie of 2015. A wholly remarkable and richly layered film examining the thin line between art and life, about change, aging, death and identity, built…
Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane

Citizen Kane

In Brief: This year marks the 100th birthday of Orson Welles -- May 6, in fact -- and the Hendersonville Film Society is marking the event with a screening of Welles' masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941). While that might seem the most obvious choice -- almost too obvious -- it really isn't. In fact, this is…
Starring: Ruddy Rodríguez, Rosmel Bustamante, Guillermo García, Gonzalo Cubero, Héctor Mercado

The House at the End of Time

In Brief: Alejandro Hidalgo's The House at the End of Time (2013) is exhibit B for the case that we are indeed in the midst of a horror film renaissance -- the only question is how much some of the best examples are even being seen. In the case of this Venezuelan movie (supposedly the country's first…
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Edouard Baer, Maria de Medeiros, Golshifteh Farahani, Isabella Rossellini

Chicken with Plums

In Brief: World Cinema is bringing back Chicken with Plums, a film that didn't get the attention it should have when it was released a few years ago. Playful, gorgeous to look at, cinematically brilliant and finally heartbreakingly sad, Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's 2011 film is one of those movies that ought to have played here…
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, Henry Fonda, Charles Butterworth, Beulah Bondi, Henrietta Crosman, Walter Brennan

The Moon’s Our Home

In Brief: Art imitates -- and attempts to improve upon -- life in William A. Seiter's The Moon's Our Home (1936), one of the least seen and least known of all classic screwball comedies. The reasons for its obscurity are vague, though they may be grounded in copyright issues involving the literary source (a serialized…
Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki


The Story: Some overage teenagers run afoul of a vengeful spirit online. The Lowdown: A strong contender for Worst Movie of 2015. This isn't even bargain-basement horror of the so-bad-it's-funny school. This is so-bad-it's-awful. That said, some have called it brilliant.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Jason Clarke, Vincent Cassel

Child 44

The Story: A Russian secret police agent becomes increasingly disillusioned with Stalin's Russia, especially concerning a series of child murders. The Lowdown: As a mystery, there's not much here. Also, it's too long and on the slow side. But as an examination of the grim final days of Stalinism, it's often fascinating.
Starring: Stanton Glantz, Jamy Ian Swiss, Bob Inglis, Frederick Singer, Tim Phillips, Marc Morano, Naomi Oreskes

Merchants of Doubt

The Story: Documentary about "experts" whose job is to cast doubt on scientific findings at the behest of their employers. The Lowdown: It probably won't change many minds — do these things ever? — and it may not tell you much you don't know, but this is a solid and surprisingly effective activist documentary.
Starring: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton

The Day of the Jackal

In Brief: It's big. It's glossy. It's competently professional. It rarely thrills, and it goes on for an unconscionable 143 minutes. In other words, it's a Fred Zinnemann film. Zinnemann is probably the last person I'd approach to make a thriller — and this movie illustrates why. What this shaggy yarn about an assassination attempt…
Starring: William Powell, Kay Francis, Scott Kolk, William B. Davidson, Thomas E. Jackson, Harry Walker

For the Defense

In Brief: For the Defense (1930) is a rare (I think TCM has played it once) early sound film starring William Powell and Kay Francis made while both were still under contract to Paramount, and while it's not up to their more famous Warner Bros. duo — One Way Passage and Jewel Robbery (both 1932) — it's a surprisingly…
Starring: David Alpay, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Brent Carver, Christopher Plummer


In Brief: To commemorate Armenian Genocide Day, World Cinema is showing Atom Egoyan's much misunderstood Ararat (2002), which deals with the Turkish government's 1915 genocide of its Armenian population. This is heady stuff. It's also heavily layered and told in an unusual manner, presenting the story from the perspective of an Armenian filmmaker and linking past…
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Ex Machina

The Story: A young employee of a computer company is brought to the isolated home of his boss to help determine whether or not his employer has really created artificial intelligence. The Lowdown: A coolly brilliant film from writer-turned-director Alex Garland that explores the nature of what it means to be human. Effective as both…
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Starring: Robert Powell, Georgina Hale, Lee Montague, Rosalie Crutchley, Antonia Ellis


In Brief: The Asheville Film Society's Budget Big Screen series returns with Asheville's own Lisi Russell introducing Ken Russell's Mahler — her late husband's brilliant biographical film on composer Gustav Mahler, a film conductor Klaus Tennstedt said was "the best film ever made about music." I'm not about to argue with him. Mahler is from the richest period…
Starring: Fredric March, Evelyn Venable, Sir Guy Standing, Katharine Alexander, Gail Patrick, Kent Taylor, Helen Westley

Death Takes a Holiday

In Brief: More a dark fantasy than an outright horror movie (though it has been claimed by the horror community), Death Takes a Holiday (1934) is the kind of film that could only have been made by Paramount Pictures and could only have been made at the time it was. Mitchell Leisen’s surprisingly complex (especially with its…
black magic
Starring: Orson Welles, Nancy Guild, Akim Tamiroff, Frank Latimore, Valentina Cortese, Margot Grahame

Black Magic

In Brief: Orson Welles has a scene-stealing field day in this rather free adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' Joseph Balsamo, Mémoires d'un Médecin — the story of Cagliostro (née Joseph Balsamo) rechristened Black Magic (1949) and starring Welles as, of course, Cagliostro. And based on the on-screen evidence, Welles stole more than scenes. Venerable Russian character…
Starring: Soran Ebrahim, Avaz Latif, Saddam Hossein Feysal, Hiresh Feysal Rahman

Turtles Can Fly

In Brief: When Turtles Can Fly (2004) first showed here, I wrote: The first thing you notice about Iranian filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly is how much more technically accomplished it is than most films we see from this part of the world. The colors are bright and vivid, the images are sharp and detailed, the compositions…