Friday, August 18, 2017

Wind River

Review by Bob Ignizio

The frozen body of a young woman is discovered on an Arapaho reservation by US Fish and Wildlife Service officer (and skilled hunter/tracker) Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), setting the plot in motion in WIND RIVER. The discovery hits Lambert hard. The victim was a friend of his daughter, who herself died under mysterious circumstances a few years back. So when out of her depth FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) asks for Lambert’s help, he agrees.

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan previously wrote the screenplays for SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER. Like those films, this is an intelligent, adult crime drama with a touch of social commentary. And also like those films, it arguably feels more exceptional than it is simply because the standards have been lowered. I don’t mean to take anything away from WIND RIVER, but this would just have been the level of quality audiences would have expected from a major studio drama in the seventies.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dave Made a Maze (opens August 18th at the Cedar Lee Theatre and the Nightlight Cinema]

[DAVE MADE A MAZE opens Friday August 18th at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland, OH and The Nightlight Cinema in Akron, OH.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

It’s rare these days to find a movie as original and imaginative as DAVE MADE A MAZE. Writer/director Bill Watterson (not the Calvin and Hobbes guy, but rather an actor and voice actor originally from Cleveland, OH) has crafted a bizarre fantasy that feels like part BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and part low budget cult horror/sci-fi fave CUBE.

The premise is that Dave (Nick Thune), a thirty-something artist who seems incapable of finishing anything he starts, builds a massive box fort in the apartment he shares with his more responsible better half, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). Annie comes home from a weekend trip to discover this cardboard monstrosity, which Dave claims he has been trapped in for 3 days. He also claims he can’t find his way out.

Annie is, understandably, flummoxed by this. Why not just tear the fort apart? But Dave refuses to do so, and also warns Annie against coming in after him. The fort is bigger and more dangerous on the inside than it appears.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Menashe (opens August 18th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[MENASHE opens in Cleveland on Friday August 18th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

Joshua Weinstein didn't have an easy time making his movie MENASHE. The filmmaker drew his cast of nonprofessional actors from members of the Hasidic Jewish community in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Many had never even seen a movie before. Some signed on and then dropped out, fearing the disapproval of their synagogues and their children's schools.

Weinstein doesn't speak Yiddish, the language in which the film was made, so he had an on-set translator who read the lines to him in English. He stood far away from the actors, directing them through earpieces, in order not to attract attention in the cloistered enclave, which takes a skeptical view of modernity. Financing came sporadically, and the movie took nearly two years to complete.

I Am The Blues (August 18th and 20th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[I AM THE BLUES screens Friday August 18th at 9:30 pm and Sunday August 20th at 6:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Following 81 year old bluesman Bobby Rush as he hits the road, I AM THE BLUES captures what’s left of a dying generation of American musicians.

In the bad old days of segregation, black musicians had their own network of clubs called the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. These black owned juke joints and roadhouses gave the early blues musicians a place to play, often for little more than a drink and some food. Many of the old establishments are gone, but not all of them, and as Rush goes on tour we get to see some of the surviving venues.

We also get to see many of Rush’s contemporaries who, like him, can still kill it live regardless of age. Among the featured performers are Barbara Lynn, Freddie King, and Lil’ Buck Sinegal. They and the other musicians featured here may not be household names now, but they made substantial contributions to music history.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time (opens August 11th at Cinemark at Valley View)

[ONCE UPON A TIME opens in Cleveland on Friday August 11th at Cinemark at Valley View.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

There’s a whole lot of plot in the epic action/romance/fantasy film ONCE UPON A TIME. Like, literally three lifetimes worth of plot. And not just ordinary lifetimes, but the lifetimes of immortal Chinese gods who live for hundreds of years, then get reborn to live hundreds more.

As is often the case in movies about gods, whatever their nationality, there’s lots of scheming and plotting by one deity against another. In this case, Bai Qian (Liu Yifei) is the immortal being plotted against, although we don’t initially know the details of who is doing the plotting or why. All we know when we are first introduced to her is that she has fallen from the heavens, and upon landing on earth, has lost much of her memory.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

Review by Bob Ignizio

In this week’s unnecessary sequel department, we’ve got THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE. Here’s your plot: Since rascally squirrel Surly (voice of Will Arnett) and his pals took over the nut shop in the first NUT JOB, the animals of Liberty Park have become a little too complacent. Only the more responsible squirrel Andie (Katherine Hegl) realizes that by relying on the stores of food at the shop, the critters are losing their natural ability to find food on their own.

And wouldn’t you know it, she’s right. When the nut shop blows up, Surly tries to find another easy source of sustenance, while Andie rallies her own faction of furballs to get back to nature. Both approaches run into trouble, however, in the form of a bribe taking mayor/real estate developer (Bobby Moynihan). He wants to tear out the unproductive green space where all the critters live, and put in an amusement park.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

True-crime Documentary Double-Feature Really Slays 'Em in Gordon Square, August 13.

Used to be every Friday the 13th, Paramount would have ready another cheapjack Jason Vorhees slasher-horror movie to open. Well, on Sunday the 13th a very different couple of murder stories will appear at the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland's Gordon Square arts district on the west side.

Mark Wade Stone and his Storyworks production company have been making local-interest documentaries for years, some in association with charismatic true-crime author/lecturer James Badal. Both will be in attendance at special 4 p.m. matinee of malice, spotlighting historic Cleveland crime (besides the records of the sports teams) on the big screen.

The Midwife (opens August 11th at the Capitol Theatre)

[THE MIDWIFE opens in Cleveland on Friday August 11th exclusively at the Capitol Theatre.]

Review by Zoe Brown
Martin Provost pairs up the grande dames of French cinema in the compelling character drama, THE MIDWIFE (Sage Femme). Appearing together for the first time on the silver screen, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot portray Beatrice and Claire, women bound by the past, and linked again to reconcile in the present.

Claire, the reserved and lackluster midwife of a soon to be closing maternity clinic, is content with a routine life of delivering babies, gardening, and mothering her young adult son. The unexpected call from Beatrice disrupts Claire’s dull existence, begins the process of forgiveness and reconciliation between the two, and becomes the impetus for Claire to learn how to live freely.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tomorrow (August 11th and 12th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[TOMORROW screens Friday August 11th at 9:30 pm and Satuday August 12th at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

The scientific consensus regarding climate change being real and, at least to a large degree, caused by human activity is near unanimous. Some people still choose to bury their heads in the sand for reasons of politics or profit, but most of the world accepts the reality of the situation. And it’s a reality that, when you really think about it, is kind of terrifying.

The international community (minus, sadly, the United States) is working on solving this problem under the auspices of the Paris Climate Accord. But is there anything that can be done on a smaller, more local level? Plenty, as it turns out.

Harmonium (August 10th and 13th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[HARMONIUM plays at the Cleveland Cinematheque on Thursday, August 10 at 8:50 p.m. and Sunday, August 13 at 8:15 p.m.]

Review by Eric Sever
The creeping destruction of a suburban Japanese family provides ripe territory for suspense in Koji Fukada’s slow-burning thriller HARMONIUM.

Toshio (Kanji Furutachi) is a husband and father with a past that comes back to haunt him in the form of an old acquaintance. When Yasaka (Tadanobu Asano) appears at Toshio’s workshop one day, the father hires the former friend, freshly out of prison, and even lets him move in.

Yasaka eventually ingratiates himself with Toshio’s daughter, teaching her how to perfect her harmonium playing, but when he begins a simmering flirtation with Toshio’s wife Akie (Mariko Tsutsui), the friendship begins to undermine the structure of the family.