cranky hanke Articles
Genre: Hyper-Stylized Musical
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard RoxburghIn Brief: If you've only ever seen Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! (2001) on a TV screen, you really haven't seen Moulin Rouge! at all. This is a movie that needs to be seen in a theater on the biggest screen possible — and that's just what the Asheville Film Society is offering with this month's Big Screen Budget title: a theatrical event from a brand new digital cinema print. Luhrmann's musical vision of Bohemian Paris in 1899 is an all-consuming audio-visual spectacular that requires size to really work. This revitalization of the musical genre is one of the most stunning and remarkable films of the first decade of the 21st century — at once revolutionary and with a keen sense of film and pop culture history. Here is a chance to see it as it was envisioned.
Genre: Sci-Fi Comic Book Action
Director: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben KingsleyThe Story: Tony Stark (Iron Man) does battle with a terrorist super criminal -- sort of. The Lowdown: It's big. It's noisy. And it's mostly a dull mess that's marginally saved by its star. Very marginally.
Director: Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Max Thieriot, Jonah BoboThe Story: Three interconnected and intercut stories about the perils of our modern Internet and cellphone-addicted world. The Lowdown: No topic may be more timely than the dehumanizing effects of our supposedly connected society, but making it into drama is a risky proposition — one that this effective film largely overcomes through strong characters and performances that always ring true.
Director: Cate Shortland (Somersault)
Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, Nele Trebs, Andre Frid, Mika SeidelThe Story: At the end of World War II, the children of a Nazi officer must make their way, by themselves, across occupied Germany. The Lowdown: An occasionally ugly, emotionally detached film that scores points for its complexity and ability to never cop out.
Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Gilles Bourdos (Afterwards)
Starring: Michel Bouquet, Christa Theret, Vincent Rottiers, Thomas DoretThe Story: Biographical drama about the aged painter, his future filmmaker son and the young woman who inspired them both during the summer of 1915. The Lowdown: An almost impossibly beautiful-looking film — one so visually arresting that it more than makes up for the leisurely nature of its approach. Actually, the story itself is much deeper and revelatory than may be suggested at first glance.
Director: H.C. Potter (The Farmer's Daughter)
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Louise BeaversIn Brief: While it may be faulted for being the film that domesticated Cary Grant — and that it owes a lot to George Washington Slept Here — there's no denying that Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is an entertaining picture with a cast that most movies would kill to have. It's the basic story of folks from the city meeting their match — and then some — when they try to escape the bustle of city life for country living. The script is witty and the performances spot on. Plus, Grant and Loy are almost as good a fit as Loy and William Powell were.
Director: Jack Conway (Too Hot to Handle)
Starring: Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Walter ConnollyIn Brief: Sophisticated comedy with Myrna Loy as the rich society girl who sues a newspaper for libel, Spencer Tracy as the beleagured managing editor, William Powell as a sharp former reporter who knows all the angles and Jean Harlow as Tracy's long-suffering fiancée. The plan is that Powell will marry Harlow, then seduce Loy and destroy her case. It's all the sort of thing that could only happen in the make-believe world of the movies, but that's exactly why it works so well and remains fresh and funny almost 80 years later.
Director: Jacques Tati
Starring: Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval, Honoré Bostel, François MaisongrosseIn Brief: Jacques Tati's final theatrical film — and the swan song for his Monsieur Hulot character — is a strange affair in that Tati the performer takes a definite backseat to Tati the director. The results are a mixed bag, but a likable one. The plot is nothing more than having M. Hulot transport his fantasticated "camping car" from Paris to a car show in Amsterdam— and though Hulot is rarely the cause of the trouble this time, things do not go smoothly. Rarely hysterically funny, the film is instead mostly pleasantly goofy.
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Director: Archie Mayo (The Doorway to Hell)
Starring: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Flectcher, Luis Alberni, Carmel MyersIn Brief: One of the most stylish and effective of all early horror talkies, Svengali is a perfect blend of atmosphere, writing and a towering performance by star John Barrymore in one of his two or three best performances. The story, taken from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, had already been filmed a half-dozen times as a silent, but this was to become the definitive version of the tale of the lovestruck musical genius Svengali (Barrymore) who transforms the unresponsive object of his affections, Trilby (Marian Marsh), into a great opera singer by hypnosis. By turns horrific, darkly funny and even moving.
Director: Mikael Buch
Starring: Nicholas Maury, Carmen Maura, Jean-François Stévenin, Amira CasarIn Brief: Wild — but warm and winning — comedy invades the Asheville Jewish Film Festival with Let My People Go!. It's all about Ruben, an awkward young gay Jewish Frenchman living with his boyfriend in Finland. When the two have a falling out, Ruben has no choice but to run back to his eccentric family in Paris. Very unpredictable — and funny — events await him there, along with more than a few revelations about his family in the bargain. As a bonus, Pedro Almodóvar's former muse Carmen Maura co-stars as Ruben's mother.
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