cranky hanke Articles
Genre: Action War Thriller
Director: Kevin Macdonald (State of Play)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, Tom Holland, Harley Bird, Anna ChancellorThe Story: In the midst of an unidentified and unexplained war, four children struggle for survival in the English countryside. The Lowdown: An odd, but generally effective movie that benefits from strong performances and gets extra points for not explaining too much.
Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Steve McQueen (Shame)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong'oThe Story: The story of Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. The Lowdown: Powerful, brilliantly — and beautifully — made. It boasts a gallery of fine performances and should finally propel Chiwetel Ejiofor to the stardom he's deserved for 10 years. It's a fine film, but maybe not quite a masterpiece.
Genre: Fantasy Thriller
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Iñigo GarcésIn Brief: Guillermo del Toro's frequently brilliant ghost story The Devil's Backbone (2001) — set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War — is one of the filmmaker's best works. It blends supernatural and human horror in such a way that the dividing line is not entirely clear. Even though del Toro has gone the film one better with his masterful Pan's Labyrinth (2006), this is still a movie well worth having.
Director: Michele Soavi (Cemetery Man)
Starring: Kelly Curtis, Herbert Lom, Mariangela Giordano, Michael AdatteIn Brief: This is a makeup screening of The Sect (1991) that was originally scheduled a while back. It's a visually stunning, narratively unhinged (to the point of incoherence) Italian horror from Michele Soavi, who went on to make the splendid Cemetry Man (1994). While this bizarre Rosemary's Baby reimagining is nowhere near that horror masterpiece, it's pretty irresistible in terms of primo nonsense. This, after all, is a movie that boasts not only a homicidal bunny rabbit and a murderous handkerchief, but what is perhaps the damnedest Satanic sex scene of all time. Plus, there's the great Herbert Lom at his most hammily sinister and an ending that doesn't make a lick of sense.
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Charles Jarrott (Anne of a Thousand Days))
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Patrick McGoohan, Timothy DaltonIn Brief: Well, it does boast two of the greatest — possibly the greatest — actresses of 1960s and 70s British film in Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, but let's be honest, this is a thoroughly respectable British prestige picture from the folks who brought you the even more respectable Anne of a Thousand Days (1969). While Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) is decidedly more lively — and better acted — it's still the kind of picture you think it is. And you know it ends badly.
Genre: Comedy Drama
Director: Hal Ashby
Starring: Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack WardenIn Brief: Being There is a remarkable film that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. How this could have happened with a film that — among other things — houses Peter Sellers' greatest acting performance is a mystery of some note. It's a brilliant film about a simple-minded gardener (Sellers) who faces the real world for the first time when his employer dies. Everyone regards the gardener as deeply profound, deriving their own meanings from the sound bites he's learned from watching TV. More than funny, it's perceptive, sweet, sad and a little magical.
Director: Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben KingsleyThe Story: Sci-Fi yarn about the creation of a military boy-genius to lead an attack on an alien world. The Lowdown: Bombastic, self-important, lacking in wit and charm and just plain not very exciting, Ender's Game is definitely a long-shot for the next big franchise movie.
Genre: Animated Anthropomorphic Turkey Sci-Fi
Director: Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!)
Starring: (Voices) Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, George Takei, Amy Poehler, Keith DavidThe Story: Time-traveling turkeys go back to pilgrim times to prevent turkey from becoming the standard Thanksgiving fare. The Lowdown: It isn't clever. It isn't funny. It isn't very well made. It seems a lot longer than 90 minutes.
Director: Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary SteenburgenThe Story: A senior citizen and his three buddies reunite for a bachelor party in Las Vegas. The Lowdown: A pleasant enough comedy thanks to its cast, though it’s rarely amusing and far too one-note.
Director: J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Starring: Robert RedfordThe Story: A man fights for survival on a sinking boat in the middle of the ocean. The Lowdown: While it doesn't live up to the critical hype — at least not for me — this solo turn from Robert Redford is unusual fare and certainly worth a look. Bear in mind that it is one very taciturn man holding the screen for the entire length of the film.
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