special screenings Articles
Director: Michael Winner
Starring: Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Burgess Meredith, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Ava GardnerIn Brief: Critically savaged at the time of its release in 1977 for being excessively gory and in shockingly bad taste, Michael Winner's The Sentinel has managed to become, well, almost respectable in the intervening years. Almost. It no longer seems that excessive (which may not be a good thing), even though its central premise of the entrance to hell being in a Brooklyn apartment building is still pretty silly. Now, its glossy professionalism and its undeniably creepy atmosphere are what stand out. No matter how dumb its premise seems, while the movie's on the screen, it's deliciously unsettling.
Genre: Allegorical Drama
Director: Victor Erice
Starring: Fernando Fernan Gomez, Teresa Gimpera, Ana Torrent, Isabel TelleriaIn Brief: World Cinema closes out 2013 (they return on Jan. 10) with an encore screening of Victor Erice's acclaimed The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), a story about a fanciful little girl in an isolated Spanish town in 1940, who is deeply affected by seeing the 1931 Frankenstein -- to the degree that she believes that a Loyalist soldier hiding in a barn is the Monster.
Director: Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now)
Starring: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Massey, Dana Gillespie, William HootkinsIn Brief: Brilliant filmmaking turns a fairly simple and utterly tawdry story into something approaching masterpiece status. Essentially, Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980) is the story of a "romance" that never should have happened between two people (played by Art Garfunkel and Theresa Russell) who never should have met. Nicolas Roeg — in his usual manner — presents the story as a nonlinear jigsaw puzzle of a movie where we can never be entirely sure when — or even if — we're seeing the truth. It's fairly unpleasant, but it's compelling.
Genre: Science Fiction Satire
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Brown, Tom JonesIn Brief: Back in the waning years of the 20th century, Tim Burton decided to make a movie based on (of all things) a somewhat notorious series of trading cards from 1962 called Mars Attacks! That idea seemed screwy enough, but it got screwier when Burton hired what remains his biggest-name cast and then proceeded to make a deliberately cheesy parody of 1950s sci-fi movies — complete with special effects that were meant to look cartoonish and hokey. The whole thing was intended to be a loving parody (or maybe satire), but audiences — and a lot of critics — didn't seem to get it or want it. The intervening years, however, have been kind to Mars Attacks! and while it may never be considered prime Burton, it's certainly no longer considered the misfire it was.
Director: Jacques Tourneur (Night of the Demon)
Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack HoltIn Brief: The first and in some ways the best (certainly it made the most money) of the famous nine-movie series made by producer Val Lewton at RKO in the 1940s, Cat People (1942) offered audiences something a little different in that it suggested its horrors more than it depicted them. (Ironically, it also introduced a new kind of shock effect — one still in use today.) The story of a young Serbian immigrant (Simone Simon) who believes she will turn into a cat (specifically, a panther) should her husband (Kent Smith) make love to her, wasn't quite like any horror movie before — nor was the film's psychological approach. The style of the film would soon become its own formula — just as predictable as those it was trying to supplant — but here, it's fresh and effective.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Richard Curtis (About Time)
Starring: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan RickmanIn Brief: Writer Richard Curtis' first film as a director is easily the best-loved of the three he's made. In terms of story lines, it's the most complex. In terms of pure, unadulterated joy, it is without equal from just about any filmmaker. Looking back on it after 10 years, Love Actually (2003) is also the only true Christmas holiday classic that this century has produced. It is an impeccable film with a flawless cast who are all at their best. Plus, it's the movie that introduced a lot of American viewers to Bill Nighy — and for that alone, we should be eternally grateful.
Genre: British Invasion Comedy-Drama
Director: Karel Reisz (Isadora)
Starring: David Warner, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Stephens, Irene Handl, Bernard BresslawIn Brief: David Warner stars in his signature role as Morgan Delt — the young man deemed "a suitable case for treatment" in Karel Reisz's best and best-known film. It's the first film that can be said to be a part of the 1960s British film invasion that starts to question the hollowness of "Swinging England." It is a tale of good communist boy (he was raised as such by his mother) — an artist with a gorilla fixation and a grim determination to keep wealthy wife Vanessa Redgrave from divorcing him. Funny, oddly touching and ultimately disturbing.
Genre: Fantasticated Comedy Romance
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Micmacs)
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge MerlinIn Brief: The Asheville Film Society kicks off a month of holiday treats with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's most popular film, Amélie (2001), the movie that introduced the world to the charms of Audrey Tautou in the title role. It's not actually a Christmas movie, but its red and green color scheme makes it feel like a wonderfully wrapped Christmas present — and a delightful gift it is. It's endlessly inventive and contains just about everything you could want in one movie — romance, comedy, mystery, suspense, fantasy and just a generally good time — as it follows our heroine on her journey of good deeds and self-realization.
Genre: Surrealist Comedy on Religion
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Paul Frenkeur, Laurent Terzieff, Edith Scob, Bernard VerleyIn Brief: Luis Buñuel’s playfully cheeky comedy about Catholicism finds the iconoclast surrealist and avowed atheist ("I'm still an atheist, thank God") in a surprisingly mellow mood. Oh, the film has its outrages against the Church and clearly finds religion very foolish indeed, but there's no real anger in this one. It's almost something of a romp. The biggest potential problem is that it works on the assumption that the viewer has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Catholicism.
Genre: Christian Anti-drug Gore Horror
Director: Brad F. Grinter, Steve Hawkes
Starring: A bunch of people you never heard of before and never will hear of again.In Brief: There is absolutely no excuse why Blood Freak was ever made, and there is somewhat less of an excuse as to why Orbit DVD is running it. That there is no excuse is, of course, exactly why this carbuncle on the posterior of cinema is being run — as a kind of Thanksgiving turkey. I will concede this much — it is the only faith-based, anti-drug gore movie with a turkey-headed monster ever made. That doesn't improve things much, but it makes it unique.
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