pick of the week
Genre: Christmas Fantasy
Director: Brian Desmond-Hurst
Starring: Alastair Sim, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael HordernIn Brief: The definitive Ebeneezer Scrooge — Alastair Sim — in the definitive film version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is this year's Christmas film from the Asheville Film Society. Really, what else needs to be said about this film? If you've never seen it, you're missing a big slice of Christmas.
Director: Joseph Levy
Starring: Grant Achatz, Nick Kokonas, Cindy Breitback, Mike Breitbach, Thomas Keller, Francisco Martinez. Gabby MartinezThe Story: A look at three different restaurants of wildly different kinds. The Lowdown: Entertaining documentary that never quite manages to tie its three stories together. Definitely worth a look — especially if you need a break from the awards-season onslaught.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama Comedy
Director: Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Mare Winningham, Barbara Jefford, Ruth McCabe, Peter HermannThe Story: Fact-based story of the search for a child given up for adoption 50 years after the fact. The Lowdown: Beautifully crafted, intelligently written and anchored by marvelously nuanced performances from Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, Philomena is a delightful, emotionally satisfying awards-season surprise.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O'Hare, Dallas Roberts, Steve Zahn, Griffin DunneThe Story: Fact-based story of a Texas homophobe who contracts AIDS and almost inadvertently becomes a major force in the gay community in battling the disease — if not in exactly orthodox methods. The Lowdown: Brilliant performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto propel this finely-crafted film into the realm of the must-see. It's a strong work that refuses cheap sentimentality.
Genre: Romantic Comedy Fantasy
Director: Richard Curtis (Love Actually)
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Tom Hollander, Joshua McGuireThe Story: A romantic comedy fantasy more or less grounded in the idea that our main character can travel back in time. The Lowdown: Utterly charming, funny and touching, the film finds writer-director Richard Curtis at the peak of his game — and with just the cast to bring it to life. Unless you're a hopeless curmudgeon, this is a must-see. If you are a hopeless curmudgeon, this may help cure that.
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.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Cámara, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth, Raúl Arévalo, Carlos ArecesThe Story: On a plane with mechanical failures, a crew of quirky flight attendants and passengers deal with imminent doom in their own melodramatic and perverse ways. The Lowdown: Minor Almodovar that’s nevertheless wonderfully absurd and constantly in bad taste, and one of the year’s funniest films when it’s on its game.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama
Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, Marcia Gay Harden, Mark Duplass, Paul Giamatti, Colin Hanks, Jacki WeaverThe Story: Fact-based drama about the JFK assassination and its immediate aftermath. The Lowdown: Visceral, fast-paced recreation of the events that took place over the course of Nov. 22-25, 1963. Parkland opts to plunge the viewer into the chaos and confusion of the tragic events, and the results are remarkable.
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Keith StanfieldThe Story: A look into the lives of some young social workers and their charges in a foster care center. The Lowdown: Disarming in its honesty and simplicity, Short Term 12 arrives on the local film scene with little fanfare, which is too bad because it's a little gem of a movie.
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Director: Nicole Holofcener (Please Give)
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi GevinsonThe Story: A woman finds her romance with a seemingly compatible man undermined when it turns out that he's the ex-husband of a new friend of hers. The Lowdown: Unfailingly pleasant but awkwardly plotted film that ultimately wins out on the strength of James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
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