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Genre: War Drama
Director: Philipp Kadelbach
Starring: Volker Bruch, Tom Schilling, Katharina Schüttler, Miriam Stein, Ludwig TrepteThe Story: An epic look at World War II from the point of view of five young Germans. The Lowdown: Solid, involving, somewhat clichéd and potentially controversial in its attempt to attain a degree of understanding for the "average" German point of view of WWII, Generation War falls short of greatness, but remains a compelling story.
Director: Ben Stoloff / Wallace Fox
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Wallace Ford, Sally Blane / Bela Lugosi, Luana Walters, Tristram CoffinIn Brief: A double dose of Bela Lugosi in two films that can only be called "personality vehicles" for the actor — Night of Terror (1933) and The Corpse Vanishes (1942). Night of Terror is the better made of the two, and is, in fact, the first true Lugosi vehicle. It trades on his name and features him doing all manner of things for no good reason other than the fact that he is Bela Lugosi. More threadbare, but just as much in the same mode, is The Corpse Vanishes. This is the fourth of Lugosi's infamous "Monogram Nine" films — and is easily the nastiest of the lot.
Genre: Biblical Drama
Director: Christopher Spencer
Starring: Diogo Morgado, Sebastian Knapp, Darwin Shaw, Roma Downey, Greg HicksThe Story: The story of the life of Jesus Christ, from his birth, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Lowdown: An overly sincere, bombastic, dramatically inert and melodramatic film that adds nothing to the story of Jesus’ life.
Director: David Lean
Starring: Charles Laughton, John Mills, Brenda de Banzie, Daphne Anderson, Prunella ScalesIn Brief: Just before David Lean set out on the path of the epic blockbuster, he gave us one final small black-and-white film, Hobson's Choice (1954), and it serves as a reminder of how great a filmmaker Lean was without the benefit of widescreen Technicolor spectacles. From its opening shot to its final fade-out, there's not an ill-chosen moment in this unassuming comedy about a tyrannical — and alcoholic — boot shop owner (Charles Laughton), his willful oldest daughter (Brenda de Banzie) and the timid bootmaker (John Mills) she marries. Charming, funny and just beautifully crafted.
Director: John Patrick Shanley (Joe Versus the Volcano)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola DavisIn Brief: The second film of the monthlong tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt (2008) finds the actor far removed from the supporting role of Almost Famous (2000) and co-starring with Meryl Streep. The film is an adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's play and was made by Shanley. Hoffman plays a priest at a Catholic school, where the school principal, Sister Aloysius (Streep), becomes convinced that he had improper relations with one of the boy students. This may sound pretty pat, but it isn't. In fact, it is startlingly layered and makes for gripping drama — thanks in no small part to Hoffman's ability to make us never quite certain what to believe.
Genre: Espionage Action
Director: McG (This Means War)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Amber Heard, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen, Tómas LemarquisThe Story: A CIA agent’s dying wish to reconnect with his estranged family is derailed when he’s offered a miracle cure for his disease — but only if he kills an especially nefarious target. The Lowdown: A disjointed, aimless and occasionally ugly action picture with zero spark.
Genre: Animated Biographical Fantasy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: (Voices) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley TucciThe Story: Fantasticated biopic of the man who designed the Japanese fighter plane, the Zero. The Lowdown: For his (supposed) final film Hayao Miyazaki has created a long, very romanticized, biographical work. It is a thing of great beauty and delicacy, but the central story may prove troubling to some viewers.
Director: Arthur Lubin (Black Friday)
Starring: Nelson Eddy, Susana Foster, Claude Rains, Edgar Barrier, Leo Carillo, Fritz LeiberIn Brief: Universal's big, splashy Technicolor 1943 remake (made on the same set) of its 1925 hit Phantom of the Opera is often dimissed as "too much opera" and "too little Phantom." There's some truth in that, but it's still a good — and certainly good-looking — thriller with its fair share of jolts. In its own way, this film added to the basics of the narrative by providing the Phantom with a backstory, which has found its way into many subsequent tellings of the tale.
Genre: Comedy-Drama with Music
Director: Cameron Crowe
Starring: Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Patrick Fugit, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Lee, Zooey DeschanelIn Brief: The Asheville Film Society launches its monthlong tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman with Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous (2000), a movie in which Hoffman had a supporting role as the cynical rock critic, Lester Bangs. It wasn't a big part — he has a handful of scenes throughout the film — but it was a distinctive role that everybody seems to remember, perhaps more than the film itself. The film is Crowe's semiautobiography — and it presents a clearly heartfelt summation of his feelings on rock music. It may not be quite as good as it seemed in 2000, but it's still good, and it's a key film for Hoffman.
Director: Federico Fellini
Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi, Dorian Gray, Aldo SilvaniIn Brief: The last of Fellini's true neorealist works, Nights of Cabiria (1957) is also one of his most emotional and emotionally devastating. At the same time, the film is strangely life-affirming, thanks to its indomitable main character, Cabiria. Cabiria (played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina) is a low-end prostitue who is one part waif and one part Chaplin's Tramp character. It won Fellini the Best Foreign Language Oscar and was a defining moment for Masina, but for some reason, it's one of the director's least-revived works.
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