cranky hanke Articles
Director: Lindsay Anderson (O Lucky Man!)
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Christine NoonanIn Brief: Lindsay Anderson's landmark film If.... shook up world cinema, made a star of fairly obscure TV actor Malcolm McDowell and set Anderson on the road to creating his famous trilogy (If...., O Lucky Man!, Britannia Hospital). That's a pretty impressive accomplishment, but his tale of the resentment at an English boys school — for Anderson, a microcosm of British society — turning into open revolt captured the imagination as few films had done. It remains a powerful and disturbing film to this day.
Director: Lech Majewski (Wojacek)
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte RamplingIn Brief: Almost impossible to critique as a film, The Mill and the Cross is a true cinematic oddity. It's a strikingly visual, but dramatically lacking, recreation of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting The Procession to Calvary, illustrating the elements, some of the models and the political allegory behind the art. As drama, it rarely works well, but makes up for this with its stunning painterly visuals and atmosphere.
Director: Ti West (The Innkeepers)
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, AJ BowenIn Brief: One of the more interesting of current horror movie directors, Ti West made his breakthrough (at least in horror circles) with this surprisingly effective 2009 attempt to create a 1980s-style scare flick. In this case, it's all about a college girl who takes a babysitting job at an isolated house — a job that turns out to be something else entirely when she realizes she's about to be used in a Satanic ritual. The movie is of the slow-burn variety, the kind that works on building dread before breaking through into all-out terror. Not a great horror film, but a good one.
Genre: Fact-Based Comedy Drama with Music
Director: Wayne Blair
Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda TapsellThe Story: Fact-based story of an Aborigine all-girl singing group that toured as entertainers in Vietnam. The Lowdown: Despite its "true story" underpinnings, the film is largely a standard show-biz story that succeeds beautifully as entertainment — enhanced by a dynamite soundtrack and winning performances.
Genre: Thriller Drama
Director: Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding)
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, Kiefer Sutherland, Om PuriThe Story: A tale told in flashback about the transformation of an America-loving Pakistani into a radical — possibly terrorist — professor. The Lowdown: Complex cultural examination of a young Pakistani — brilliantly played by Riz Ahmed — tied to a thriller/suspense frame. It doesn't all work, but it's still compelling.
Director: Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Bee Season)
Starring: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgård, Joanna Vanderham, Onata AprileThe Story: A little girl becomes the object of a bitter custody battle between her divorcing parents. The Lowdown: Solid modernized version of the Henry James novel, What Maisie Knew is undeniably well made and acted, but it's a hard film to like.
Genre: Thriller Romance Melodrama
Director: Alfred E. Green (Disraeli)
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Joan Blondell, Guy Kibbee, Alan HaleIn Brief: Character and incident-packed film about the goings-on at a large train station in a slice-of-life fashion — though most train stations probably (even in 1932) don't have feds on the lookout for a counterfeiting ring or a girl being stalked by a degenerate sex-fiend on a regular basis. Those two aspects dovetail and form the main plot. Full of pre-code comedy, Warner Bros. contract players, snappy dialogue and some amazingly fluid camerawork.
Genre: Horror Comedy
Director: Albert S. Rogell (The Last Warning)
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Broderick Crawford, Hugh Herbert, Bela Lugosi, Anne GwynneIn Brief: No, it's not the 1934 classic, nor does it have anything to do with Edgar Allan Poe (though it claims otherwise). The 1941 film called The Black Cat is an old dark-house comedy thriller that's a very obvious attempt by Universal to cash in on Paramount's Bob Hope comedy thrillers. OK, so Broderick Crawford is no Bob Hope, but the results are an agreeable little movie that's both funny and atmospheric -- and sometimes surprisingly grim.
Genre: Comedy Drama
Director: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Michael Esper, Adam Driver, Charlotte D'AmboiseThe Story: The life and times of a 27-year-old dancer as she navigates an uncharted course through New York, life and relationships. The Lowdown: A sparkling, sweet, sad, funny film that might restore your faith in indie film — all built around a winning performance from Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote the film).
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