Monday, December 22, 2014

The Chef, the Actor and the Scoundrel (now on video)

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

I've been lucky to be in the pipeline for a number of big-budget features from China. You remember China? Not the lady wrestler but that giant, oft-underestimated country all the way around the world that now makes all our stuff? China probably even prints lots of "BUY AMERICAN" stickers for US clients now seeking the jobs done more quickly and cheaply than local labor; I wouldn't be surprised.

I hear media populist pundits now and then say that China's actually in deep recession, backsliding into backwardness, no longer a major player in the world economy. That strikes me rather as whistling while walking past our own graveyard, if you know what I mean. Sort of like the way that Cleveland sports fans still pretend we have a hope of a championship one of these years.

Yes, maybe it will happen, maybe it won't, but if China emerges as the dominant superpower of the 21st century, surprise winner of the Cold War, while Russia and America collapse inwards of their own rottenness, well...that would appeal to my affection for a well-plotted Hollywood ending.

The One I Love (now on video and Netflix instant)

Review by Wayne Richards

Can the perfect weekend getaway heal a deeply wounded marriage?  The unhappy couple in THE ONE I LOVE search for answers to that question in director Charlie McDowell‘s tame debut.  The story begins in a therapy session where Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) are looking back at what used to make their marriage work, as they recall events that have caused them to drift apart.  With the aid of their therapist (played by Ted Danson), they try to mend the broken relationship and reach an understanding of what needs to happen for them to find happiness again.  The therapist hands them a brochure detailing an idyllic Californian retreat and recommends the two spend a weekend in picturesque seclusion to renew their love and start over.

Elyria filmmaker working on short film "The Last Course"

[Press release from filmmaker Marielle Brinda.]
Elyria native Marielle Brinda is making a movie and she needs your help!  That's right, the former resident of the Cleveland area is setting out to establish herself as a writer / director with a short film project entitled, "The Last Course." 

So what is the movie about? "Well, it's a dark family drama with a new twist on the classic ghost story. You'll laugh. You'll cry.  You may run to your room and blast David Bowie's, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, but it will not disappoint," she says. 

Marielle is a budding director living in Los Angeles.  She has been working in the film industry for the past seven years, mainly in post production as an assistant sound / picture editor, and is now focused on production and development. She has also produced and directed various narrative, corporate, reality, and documentary projects.  She is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago's film program (class of 2007), is an avid writer (screenwriter), and has won various screenwriting awards through the years.  Now, she wants to see her stories come to life. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Review by Bob Ignizio

You probably shouldn't expect too much out of the third installment in a corporate kiddie franchise like NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB. Those low expectations combined with sad recent events involving one of the film's supporting players, Robin Williams, come together to give what might otherwise have been a throwaway scene some genuine emotional impact. If you don't tear up at least a little bit when Williams, as Teddy Roosevelt, gives his farewell speech, your heart must be made of stone.

The plot this time around finds the magic tablet that allows the exhibits in the American Museum of Natural History to come to life losing its power thanks to some kind of mystical tarnish. To find out what's wrong, museum guard Larry (Ben Stiller) sets off to the British Museum at the suggestion of Ahkmenrah (Rami Malek). The young pharaoh believes his father Merenkahre (Ben Kingsley), on display at the other museum, will know what to do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Review by Matt Finley

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is my clear favorite of the (bleeping Balrogs, I can't believe they made it a) trilogy.   

Clocking in at just under the 150-minute mark, the final entry in director Peter Jackson’s trilogy adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is the shortest of the three - a fact that would be wholly meaningless if it weren’t also the most focused. Taking it’s first 15 minutes to breezily wrap up the dragon rampage that cliffhung the prior film, FIVE ARMIES jumps right into its titular conflict - a massive confrontation between men, dwarves, elves and orcs that resolves THE HOBBIT while acting as a flashpoint for the coming Ring War that will be at the center of THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (now showing at the Nightlight Cinema in Akron, OH through December 18th)

[A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is showing at the Nightlight Cinema in Akron, OH through December 18th.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Earlier this year, Jim Jarmusch's vampire film ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE was released, and a very find film it was. Had Jarmusch chosen to deal with the undead earlier in his career, and had he been an Iranian woman instead of a guy from Northeast Ohio, he might well have come up with something like A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE instead. Of course that's a simplification; writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour has her own themes and stylistic touches, but the similarities to the early work of Jarmusch and other similarly inclined post-punk indie filmmakers who got their start in the early eighties are unmistakeable.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Virunga (now available on video and Netflix instant)

Review by Bob Ignizio

Virunga National Park, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a hotbed of violence and political instability, is home to the last mountain gorillas in the world. There, a team of armed park rangers do their best to protect the great apes from poachers and the country's various warring factions. Making matters worse, oil has recently been discovered under the park, and despite its status as protected land the British owned oil company Soco is bound and determined to drill, baby, drill. As one individual associated with the company says, captured on hidden camera by journalist Mélanie Gouby, “I can’t believe that people are protecting the park just for monkeys. Who cares about fucking monkeys?” Thankfully, the park rangers do. In fact, they care enough to lay down their lives – 130 have died protecting the great apes since 1994.

The Apocalypse Couple (a short film from NE Ohio filmmaker Miki Blak)

[The Apocalypse Couple is a short film from NE Ohio filmmaker Miki Blak.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

In Miki Blak's latest short film The Apocalypse Couple, a mixed race couple are trying to survive in the aftermath of the apocalypse. The man narrates, talking about how the two of them have gotten each other through their living nightmare. As we soon discover, though, the relationship is somewhat thornier than advertised, and even at the end of the world people can still get hung up on the same old problems. A small gesture at the film's end, however, offers a glimmer of hope in a still uncertain future.

This is a very minimalist film, consisting of two actors in a few rooms having a conversation, but that's all that's really necessary for it to get its themes across. Running just a little under fifteen minutes, one can imagine this as an episode of some smart sci-fi/anthology series like The Twilight Zone if such programs still existed. The acting feels a bit stiff and stagy, and the hand-held camera roams a bit too much for my taste, but overall The Apocalypse Couple is worth the relatively small amount of time it asks you to invest. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.

For more info, visit the short's facebook page.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Review by Pamela Zoslov

In her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed writes of her 1,100-mile journey on the PCT — a 2,663-mile hiking trail that runs from the U.S. Border with Mexico to the U.S.-Canada border — to heal herself after the death of her mother, her descent into heroin addiction and promiscuity, and her divorce. Strayed undertook the three-month solo desert trek without much knowledge or preparation, and the book details her injured feet, lost toenails, encounters with rattlesnakes, and the strain of her impossibly heavy backpack, dubbed “The Monster” by fellow hikers on the trail.

Repost: Jingle Bell Rocks! (opens in Akron Deceomber 12th exclusively at the Nightlight Cinema)

[JINGLE BELL ROCKS! opens in Akron on Friday December 12th exclusively at the Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

However you feel about Christmas, even if you loathe the holiday or are ambivalent to it, there's probably a Christmas song for you. For Vancouver based JINGLE BELL ROCKS! director Mitchell Kezin, that song was Nat King Cole's “The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot”. It's a song about a kid with an absentee dad who, despite being good and having a perfectly reasonable Christmas list, winds up being passed over by Old Saint Nick. “The Christmas Song” it ain't, but nonetheless it struck a chord with Mitch, whose own father was frequently absent (or might as well have been) around the holidays.

As strange as it might seem, that one dreary carol started Mitch down what he thought was a lonely road collecting Christmas music, and despite the film's title, not just of the rock and roll variety. As it turns out, though, there's actually a sizable underground of Christmas music collectors, many of whom put great time and effort into searching for rare records and then making mix CDs of their finds for friends and family each year. Once Mitch realized how widespread his hobby was, he decided to make a movie about it.