Thursday, February 4, 2016

Boy and the World (opens in Akron February 5th at the Nightlight Cinema)

[BOY AND THE WORLD opens in Akron Friday February 5th at the Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

There are some movies that I admire and respect far more than I like them. Ale Abreu's BOY AND THE WORLD is just such a film. It’s the kind of imaginative, highly artistic animated film that seeks to push the boundaries of the form. No anthropomorphic animals or vehicles or toys rendered in the all too familiar CGI style we’ve come to expect from Disney/Pixar and their imitators. This is animation with a distinctive artistic style and voice, rendered largely by hand (although these days, at least a computer assist is all but certain) that looks like nothing else you’ve ever seen on screen.

So what’s the problem? For this reviewer, it’s all far too abstract and boring. And I almost hate myself for writing that, given how cookie cutter most animated kids fare is. This is something truly original, I feel like I should be singing its praises. But I can’t, because as I sat there watching the film’s impressionistic critique of modern life, all without any dialogue, nothing was connecting with me.

Hail Caesar

Review by Bob Ignizio

The Coen Brothers have long shown a fascination with old Hollywood. Classic cinema runs through the veins of almost all of their films, sometimes subtly as in their neo noir debut BLOOD SIMPLE, sometimes more overtly as in their homage to Hollywood screwball comedies THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, or in straight up remakes of classic films like THE LADYKILLERS and TRUE GRIT. But no Cohen Brothers film to date has given them the opportunity to celebrate old movies and old movie making techniques to the extent that their latest effort, HAIL, CAESAR!, has.

45 Years (opens in Cleveland February 5th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[45 YEARS opens in Cleveland on Friday February 5th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Even after almost half a century spent married to someone, do we really know them? In his 45 YEARS, writer/director Andrew Haigh seems to be saying, “no”. The title of the film reflects how long retired teacher Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and retired factory worker Geoff (Tom Courtenay) have been married. In fact, they are getting ready to celebrate that fact with a party. But in the final week leading up to their anniversary, Geoff gets some shocking and surprising news.

Before he knew Kate, Geoff was in love with a woman named Katya who died in a mountain climbing accident in Switzerland. Her body was trapped and frozen in a crevasse where it remained, seemingly irretrievable. Now, thanks to global warming, her perfectly preserved corpse has been found, and since Geoff was listed as her next of kin, the authorities have notified him.

Jackie Brown (February 6th at the Cedar Lee)

[JACKIE BROWN screens Saturday February 6th at 9:30 pm and midnight at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

It’s important to remember that JACKIE BROWN, in 1997, was boy wonder Quentin Tarantino third feature – and his first following the smash-hit-phenom from 1993 that was PULP FICTION. Yes, in the years between those two, fans wondered what could the electrifying Tarantino possibly pull out of his unleashed id this time? In the meantime, whole books were written about the former video clerk and B-movie nut-turned-superstar director/producer/impresario and his earlier triumphs with PULP and RESERVOIR DOGS.

Well, when JACKIE BROWN – an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch – finally premiered, a number of folks were let down. Possibly even more fans than were disappointed by STAR WARS (I DON’T EVEN CARE WHAT EPISODE IT WAS) THE PHANTOM MENACE.

Because, well, dude, where’s my decapitations? Where’s the weird stuff? Where are the shot-by-shot tributes to some 1970s badly English-dubbed Yugoslavian grindhouse softcore horror movie nobody but QT ever saw during its limited run in some condemned LA fleapit?

Listen, fanboys, you got your old Quentin Tarantino back with the KILL BILL series, not to mention INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, DJANGO UNCHAINED and THE HATEFUL EIGHT. As for JACKIE BROWN, a curious one-off in Tarantino's ouvre of B- and Z-movie tributes with A-movie casts and budgets, look at it this way: it’s almost as though a late-career Quentin Tarentino movie fell through a wormhole in time and space from, oh, say 20 or 30 years from now. When the director has finally grown up, gotten his heart broken more often, and is an older, wiser, sadder and more sedate Tarantino that the one we know now, the kung-fu connoisseur who is the yin to Robert Rodriguez’…other yin.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arabian Nights Volume 1: The Restless One (February 6th and 7th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ARABIAN NIGHTS VOLUME 1: THE RESTLESS ONE screens Saturday February 6th at 6:45 pm and Sunday February 7th at 8:15 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Although it takes its name from the classic literary collection, ARABIAN NIGHTS VOLUME 1: THE RESTLESS ONE is not an adaptation. Rather it takes the structure of One Thousand and One Nights,  in which the wife of a murderous sultan keeps herself alive by telling her husband stories each night that end on a cliffhanger. Well, that’s the conceit, anyway. It doesn’t quite feel that way, despite efforts to sell viewers on the notion through onscreen titles, but honestly it doesn’t matter. The film nonetheless accomplishes the task of connecting its disparate tales.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Labyrinth (January 24 at 8:30 p.m. and January 25 at 7 p.m. at the Nightlight, Akron)

For a film that received wildly uneven critical reactions in its time - some critics were crazy about it, some thought it was an embarrassingly pretentious piece of pop-music/fairytale - the Muppet epic LABYRINTH ...probably still would receive wildly uneven critical reactions in this time. Probably for the same reasons (plus, not enough swag, bribes, prostitutes and drugs given by studio PR to the bought-off internet critics during the all-expenses-paid press junket).

For what it's worth, I am one of this film's admirers, and I've always wanted to write about it. Now it's in revival thanks to VIP cast member David Bowie tragically dying. I am sure his fans will blame me.

Before you gender-confused glam-rock types on heroin and/or nostalgic baby boomer yuppies come after me with your sharpened artificial fingernails and gold-plated pitchforks, listen to me: Bowie was not right-off-the-bat cast as Jareth the Goblin King in the fantasy. I have it on good authority a number of musical icons were under consideration for the role back in 1986, including Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson. I guess if you want to lynch anyone, it's director Jim Henson; HE'S the one you want! If it weren't for him, Bowie might still be alive today! Death to Jim Henson! Death to Jim Henson...oh, right, I forgot. (sigh)

Aliens (January 23 at 7 & 9:30 p.m. at the Case Western-Reserve University Film Society, Strosacker Auditorium)

Here’s my pet theory to why life went so badly downhill, personally and professionally. Why I’m blacklisted in every industry and career field. Why females have treated me like the ebola virus (actually, statistically, I think ebola has gotten luckier more often than myself). Why things for Charles Cassady are generally just a series of humiliations, punishments and rejections.

Because I’ve always felt a little cold toward James Cameron’s ALIENS. In fact, when it first came out in 1986 I only gave it two and a half stars.

(The few remaining readers of the Cleveland Movie Blog at this point quit to support ISIS. It actually works out well for them; they get hired as tenured professors at Kent State University)

Yes, ALIENS, the smash sequel to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. The Cameron continuation was bigger, faster and more amped-up than Scott’s moody, cramped original. I’ll admit, at the time it was a refreshing change from the general Hollywood routine in the 1980s for sequels to be ever-cheaper, downtrending copies, cranked out for a quick buck.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Man of Aran (January 24 at 1:30 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Morley Lecture Hall)

Long before reality-TV made you wonder what was real and what was scripted, the first name- brand documentary filmmaker, Robert Flaherty, was way ahead of the Kardashians in terms of artful artifice.  I like to think that Flaherty's films will still be screened when the Jenner-Kardashian sideshow tent is closed and forgotten. But I’ve been wrong before.

The 1934 MAN OF ARAN is Flahertys famed, elemental view of the hardy inhabitants of Aran, a stormswept island off Ireland's west coast, sometimes romanticized as the UK equivalent of the literal ends of the Earth (ah, its not Cleveland after all, as so many have claimed) for its barren shores and harsh climate.  

Flaherty, his wife and assistants spent years living here, researching and building their own film-processing lab. The feature is arguably more of a docu-drama than a documentary; the `family' at the center were unrelated islanders, carefully cast, and Flaherty avoided prosaic community activities like church, socializing and cattle-driving.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nanook of the North (January 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Museum of Art Morley Lecture Hall)

[NANOOK OF THE NORTH screens Sunday January 17th at 1:30 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art Morley Lecture Hall.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

So overwhelming is the reputation of NAN00K OF THE NORTH, from 1922, that many histories cite it, incorrectly, as the first documentary ever made.

Drawing upon years of experience in northern mining camps and fur-trading posts, Robert Flaherty shot his idea of the daily struggles of a family of Inuits (the "happy-go-lucky Eskimo," as a title card puts it) from the Itimivuit tribe on the northeast coast of Hudson Bay. His nonfiction hero is Nanook (a name translating as "bear"), a well-known hunter in the region.

Opening scene is a timeless attention-grabber: Nanook emerging from what looks like a one-man kayak, only to be followed by his wife Nyla ("the Smiling One"), children, and dog, all somehow impossibly crammed into the tiny vessel. That sets the tone for the activities shown throughout, like seal and walrus hunts and the construction of an igloo, crucial to subsist in the harsh, frozen environment. Flaherty holds back just enough information from the viewer to pose some riddles during the film, and reportedly audiences would break into spontaneous applause upon realizing just what "the finishing touch" on the igloo was.

The 41th annual CWRU Film Society Science-Fiction Marathon falls to Earth Jan. 15-16

I suggest that last weekend's Golden Globes were the last straw that sucked away the life of David Bowie (and/or, for you horror fans, Angus Scrimm). Anyone with me?

Truly, there's only about one reason I look forward to January in Cleveland anymore, and it has nothing to do with congratulatory award shows. No, my only light in darkest winter is the Case Western-Reserve University Science-Fiction Marathon, a customary kickoff to the semester of the CWRU Film Society, right here in University Circle.

It is 24-hours-plus of nonstop mind-breaking sci-fi/fantasy features, short subjects, cartoons, trailers, giveaways, contests and more, selected from up and down movie history (and quality). The Marathon has been a CWRU tradition for an amazing 41 years. Spawned by the campus student-film society - but with attendance open to anyone who can take it - the CWRU Sci-Fi Marathon has a national reputation as an endurance test for fans of SF and fantasy.