Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wetlands (November 29th and 30th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[WETLANDS screens Saturday November 29th at 9:45 pm and Sunday November 30th at 8:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

If you think penises, sperm, and bodily fluids are gross, you should just forget about sex altogether.” So says seventeen year old Helen (Carla Juri), the protagonist of David Wnendt's WETLANDS, as she narrates her story. She might just as easily be talking about the film itself, though. Outside of an early John Waters comedy or straight up pornography, rarely has a movie so revelled in the excretions of the human body to the degree this one does, alternating eroticism with uncomfortable gross-outs.

Or maybe it's all eroticism, depending on your personal tastes. Certainly Helen finds the kind of things that would make the average person gag a turn on, and despite her questionable hygiene practices plenty of guys (and girls) find her attractive. Helen's fun comes to an end, however, when she cuts herself shaving around the anal area and winds up in the hospital needing an operation.

Horrible Bosses 2

Review by Pamela Zoslov

Here's a surprise, a comedy sequel that isn't a huge disappointment. Even with a change of director and writers, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, the follow-up to the 2011 black comedy, works fairly well. It may lack its predecessor's appealing raison d'etre – to act out audience fantasies of vengeance against abusive employers – but it compensates with a flurry of funny, silly, raunchy jokes, so many, delivered so rapidly, that a second viewing might be required. This is not a meaningful or important movie, just something wickedly amusing to lift early-winter spirits. These kinds of movies aren't for everyone – for god's sake, don't bring the children -- but I can't get enough of them.

Penguins of Madagascar

Review by Bob Ignizio

Having previously appeared in the three MADAGASCAR feature films and being spun off into a TV series on Nickelodeon, the PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR now get their own feature film. The plot involves an angry octopus named Dave (voice of John Malkovich) trying to get revenges on Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon), and Private (Christopher Knights), collectively the Penguins of the title. Seems as though every time Dave would settle in to a zoo, marine park, or aquarium and win over the adoring public, the penguins would be shipped in and steal his thunder. There's just no way a homely cephalopod can compete with such plucky cuteness.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Review by Pamela Zoslov

At the Toronto International Film Festival screening of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, about the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane, Hawking's nurse could be seen wiping a tear from Hawking's cheek. That is an eloquent endorsement of this rich and moving film, directed by James Marsh from an excellent screenplay by Anthony McCarten. It is a very traditional film, very well made, and quite worthy of its subject.

Other actors have portrayed Hawking, including Benedict Cumberbatch in a well-regarded BBC film, but Eddie Redmayne captures something of Hawking's mischievous character; even when largely paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate except through his now-famous voice simulator, Redmayne's Hawking has a glint in his eye and a child's sense of play. Redmayne brilliantly captures the ambitious young genius in his school days, and also realistically inhabits Hawking's physical deterioration — no small feat — after the scientist's diagnosis, at age 21, of motor neurone disease during his last year at Oxford. At the time, Hawking was given two years to live. He is now 72, his survival due in no small part to Jane's support..

Let Me Out (now on video)

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

I shouldn't perhaps mention this, but I have my Christmas gifts already picked out for local filmmaker Robert Banks, who is currently in post-production with a full-scale 35mm celluloid feature drama he is shooting with his students at the New Bridge arts school in downtown Cleveland. I'm giving Robert a few of my spare DVDs and Blu-rays (it's not as though I have anything else, really), one of which is sure to hit home for him right now. Like I said, nobody tell Robert. Yeah, sure, as if anybody is reading this right now.

One of the cinematic assortments in my theoretical holiday gift basket is the 2013 South Korean import LET ME OUT, which was - dig this, Robert - created by filmmakers/instructors Jae Soh and Chang Lae Kim at the Seoul Institute for the Arts, using their own students. So...your idea wasn't all that original. But at least watch what these guys did for compare-contrast and cautionary tales out of film-class life.

The Overnighters (November 25th at the Capitol Theatre - one show only!)

[THE OVERNIGHTERS screens Tuesday November 25th at 7:30 pm at the Capitol Theatre - one show only!.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

THE OVERNIGHTERS. As it turns out, though, getting a job may be easier than finding an affordable place to live. Feeling a responsibility to help, Pastor Jay Reinke allows the migrants to stay at his church, some inside, others living in cars and RVs in the parking lot. It may be the Christian thing to do, but not all of Reinke's parishioners (let alone the townspeople in general) are happy with Reinke's acts of charity.
A frakking boom floods the small town of Williston, North Dakota with job seekers from all over the country in Jesse Moss' documentary

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Review by Matt Finley

When last we saw two-time Hunger Games competitor Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), she had just broken out of the arena and found sanctuary with a group of District 13 rebels under the leadership of game designer-turned-revolutionary Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman).  THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE director Francis Lawrence's THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 1, an adaptation of the first half of the final book in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy, picks up several weeks later, and chronicles the final steps in Katniss' transformation from The Girl On Fire - would-be political plaything of the odious President Snow (Donald Sutherland) - into the Mockingjay - propaganda icon for a political revolution led by newly introduced rebel general, President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dope Island: Just in time for Pearl Harbor Day, the latest from Japan

As my regular readers (the columnist laughs ruefully, pauses) ...know, I have a sideline watching and reviewing fresh home-video releases in Japanese animation.

This is a curious personal situation, as Japanese history and culture holds certain negative associations for me. Pearl Harbor, the Rape of Nanking, the bad KARATE KID sequels and some other disagreeable episodes that the Chinese and the Koreans and the Filipinos won't soon forget.

Why would Japan, this sequestered, homogeneous nation of rigid, militaristic fanatics who elevated their Emperor Hirohito to the level of god, come to nurture a most amazing industry of "manga" comic books and eye-dazzling animation. With incredible emotional depth, unique themes and nuances? Nothing in Japan's old-school scrollworks, samurai swords, incomprehensible kabuki theater or calligraphy looks to my foreign-devil-barbarian POV like Speed Racer or Pokemon - enjoyable stuff, in which, by the way, almost no characters even resemble ethnic Japanese, not even remotely. Where'd they get the mojo?

Yeah, fans say the style was set by the genius artist Osamu Tezuka, and everyone afterwords just imitated his Astro Boy aesthete. But here's my alternative conspiracy theory:

Viridiana (November 20 at 6:45 the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[VIRIDIANA screens Thursday November 20th at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Iconoclastic writer-director Luis Bunuel's VIRIDIANA was pretty hot stuff in 1961; I do fear that in our now-jaded era (hey, a just dropped the name of Jaded Era, a band that wouldn't give me an interview for an article once), not many will see what all the fuss was about. Still, it's got a sinister edge to it that I think still comes across.

The production was considered the utmost in anti-Christian blasphemy and sacrilege in its day. But, just as with the novel The Satanic Verses, you'd have to be really steeped in the religion to get what all the fuss is about with the zealots, especially in today's tasteless-movie marketplace.

The title character (played by Silvia Pinal) is a pretty young novice nun, about to take her vows and enter a Catholic convent for life. Her mother superior, however, persuades the reluctant Viridiana to first pay a grateful visit to a wealthy uncle who has forked over money to Viridiana (and the school) all her life. The heroine accepts, even though she presumes to shun the material wealth of the guy's mansion in favor of an austere religious life. And she suspects the guy is a bit of a creep.

Frank (November 21st and 22nd at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[FRANK screens Friday November 21st at 10:10 pm and Saturday November 22nd at 7:25 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Rock & roll has always had its share of eccentrics who walk that fine line between genius and insanity. These are artists who generally don't achieve commercial success, but rather attract a loyal cult following. People like Roky Erickson, Skip Spence, Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, and Wesley Willis. The title character in FRANK would fit in well with that company. His face hidden behind an oversize paper mache head which he never takes off, Frank (Michael Fassbender) fronts the experimental rock band The Soronprfbs – theremin player Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), drummer Nana (Carla Azar), and bassist Baraque (Francois Civil). There's also a keyboard player, but he's just attempted to kill himself leaving the band in the lurch for their gig that night.