Movie Reviews

Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon


In Brief: Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965) is simply one of the damndest things you're ever likely to see. Godard took a popular noir-ish, pulp fiction detective, Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), and plopped him into a nightmarish sci-fi movie that seems to be part serious, part satire — or possibly one huge practical joke. Is Godard serious or not? Good…
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Krista Stadler


The Story: When a young boy renounces Christmas, the demonic Krampus comes to call. The Lowdown: It's not an outright disaster by any means, but neither is this seasonal horror picture anything to get excited about — unless you're already sold on Krampus.
Starring: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman

Love Actually

In Brief: I remember seeing Love Actually (2003) at one of those things they call a “sneak preview” (which are hardly sneaks, since they’re heavily advertised) and seeing the film completely cold in a packed theater. I had no idea what I was getting into — and only the vaguest idea who writer-turned-writer-director Richard Curtis was —…
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, David Thewlis, Sean Harris, Elizabeth Debecki


The Story: Film version of the Shakespeare play. The Lowdown: Shakespeare presented more in visual than verbal terms is an idea that is valid as film, but is on shakier ground as capturing the essence of the work. Still, this is unfailingly interesting and sometimes startling.
Starring: (Voices) Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliott

The Good Dinosaur

The Story: A young dinosaur proves himself on a series of adventures. The Lowdown: If you're old enough to read this, you're probably too old for the very thin story being told in Pixar's latest.
Starring: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Knife in the Water

In Brief: World Cinema is revisiting Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water (1962). I do not doubt (or even question) the importance of this film to the career of Roman Polanski, but I’ve never really enjoyed it. I was too young to get it at all when I first saw it in high school on…
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Max Adrian, Michael Gough

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

In Brief: Notable as the first Amicus Productions horror movie — and the first and best of their anthology films — Dr. Terror's House of Horrors is also, I confess, a kind of sentimental favorite. I saw it when I was nine years old and on my first — and, alas, only — date with…
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew


The Story: The illegitimate son of a boxing legend tracks down his late father’s one-time nemesis and longtime best friend Rocky Balboa to start his climb through the boxing ranks on his own terms. The Lowdown: With no surprises, this film shouldn’t work as well as it does, but a likable cast with some genuine…
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox, Charles Dance

Victor Frankenstein

The Story: A new take on the Frankenstein story. The Lowdown: Against all odds — and against the tide of critical disapproval — Victor Frankenstein turns out to be a worthy addition to the Frankenstein mythology. It is both fresh and conscious of its history, and anchored to great performances from its stars.
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson, Sterling Holloway

Remember the Night

In Brief: It's only in recent years that Mitchell Leisen's Remember the Night (1940) has come into its own as a holiday film — and I'm not at all sure why it took so long. (The generic title, which could easily be confused with at least three other movies, may be part of the problem.)…
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki


In Brief: Though he’d made better movies before this one — and would make better ones after it — Rashomon (1950) is the film that put Akira Kurosawa on the map as a major force in international film. The secret probably lies in the picture’s unusual structure, which not only functions as a hook, but…
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore

The Hunger Games Mockingjay — Part 2

The Story: Conclusion to the popular film series. The Lowdown: While it’s not a great film (was that even a possibility?), it’s a satisfying enough wrap-up to the story — one that boasts a sequence of genuine power.  
Starring: Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult

About a Boy

In Brief: The Asheville Film Society jumps into seasonal mode with Chris and Paul Weitz’s About a Boy (2002) — the film that demonstrated there was a lot more to these guys than Jason Biggs having conjugal relations with baked goods. It’s not, perhaps, standard Christmas season fare, but About a Boy isn’t your standard…
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Dean Norris, Alfred Molina, Joe Cole, Michael Kelly

Secret in Their Eyes

The Story: An unresolved 13-year-old murder case returns to haunt those involved. The Lowdown: Intelligent, and largely effective, Americanized remake of the 2010 Argentinian thriller. Great performances and a respect for the original mostly carry the day, but the plot-driven nature of the story is apt to disappoint viewers who already know where it’s all…
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Jessica Paré


The Story: The tale of a young Irish woman who moves to America. The Lowdown: You will find few better movies this year — and none that are more magical. This is an essential. Saoirse Ronan moves to the forefront of young actresses with this film.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Lizzy Kaplan, Michael Shannon

The Night Before

The Story:  Three longtime friends cling to youthful irresponsibility one last time as they put to rest a time-honored Christmas tradition: getting wasted and avoiding their families. The Lowdown: A broad farce cashing in on holiday angst that works better than it has any right to.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Eric Bana, Mark Rylance, Jim Sturgess

The Other Boleyn Girl

In Brief: This deadly dull Masterpiece Theatre-ish waxworks display came out in 2008 and quickly disappeared. It isn’t hard to understand why. Apart from a few “shocking” interjections of earthy dialogue, an array of truly tepid PG-13 sex scenes, a dose of 16th-century feminism and the absurdly bloodless beheadings, the film is dull, dull, dull.…
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K., John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg


The Story: Biopic of blacklisted screewriter Dalton Trumbo, and a picture of the whole HUAC era. The Lowdown: A savvy biopic that benefits from an often very funny script, excellent performances and an unfortunately still-relevant story.
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi

It’s a Wonderful Life

In Brief: I first saw It's a Wonderful Life (1946) when I was in the throes of Frank Capra idolatry — something born of being 18 and having read his autobiography — and I was primed to see it. I also don't think I have ever been more disappointed by a movie in my life.…
Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, Marisa Tomei, Anthony Mackie, June Squibb

Love the Coopers

The Story: A bunch of poorly-defined — but dysfunctional — characters grit their teeth to get through Christmas dinner. The Lowdown: On the short list for most annoying, predictable and mirthless Christmas movie ever made.
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup


The Story: The Boston Globe opts to investigate the possibility of the Catholic Church covering up for — even enabling — known pedophile priests. The Lowdown: Simply an amazing film that works as history, as justification for the value of real journalism and as a still relevant cautionary tale on the perils of willful ignorance.…