Thursday, August 25, 2016

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (opens in Akron on August 26th at the Nightlight Cinema)

[LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD opens in Akron on Friday August 26th exclusively at The Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Werner Herzog has one of those hypnotic voices that draws you in to whatever subject he happens to be talking about. And with Herzog, it's safe to assume that whatever subject that is, he'll be looking at it from a point of view both unusual and insightful. In his latest documentary, LO AND BEHOLD: REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD, the subject Herzog turns his gaze (and voice) to is the internet.

Although he starts with a rough history of the internet, and some scientific explanations of what it is and how it works, what Herzog is most interested in here is the ways being online have affected human beings. And while he doesn't completely ignore the positive possibilities of a connected world, Herzog seems more interested in the dark side.

The Intervention (opens in Cleveland August 26th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[THE INTERVENTION opens in Cleveland on Friday August 26th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Regardless how one might feel about the often shoddy and tasteless films made by "Godfather of Gore" H. G. Lewis, the man himself was extremely savvy about the film business. One of his wisest insights on the film business, which he has stated on numerous occasions, is that for a small, independent filmmaker to be successful, they need to make the kinds of movies that the major studios either can't make, or won't make.

For Lewis in the sixties and seventies, that meant sex and gore films. If he were just getting started today, however, he'd most likely pursue a different path. The major studios now routinely show far more blood and guts in mainstream horror flicks, while the easy and legal availability of hardcore pornography makes the kind of silly nudie flicks Lewis produced obsolete. No, if he were just starting out now, he'd make a movie like Clea DuVall's THE INTERVENTION.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Equity (opens August 26th in Cleveland exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[EQUITY opens in Cleveland on Friday August 26th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

It's tempting to analogize the new Wall Street drama EQUITY and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Both boast of being “firsts” — first woman major-party presidential candidate, first movie about high finance written, directed by and starring women. What both narratives demonstrate is that women can be just as bad as, if not worse than, men.

EQUITY was written by Amy Fox and directed by Meera Menon, and stars Anna Gunn (of "Breaking Bad") as Naomi Bishop, an ambitious, hard-working investment banker for a top firm. She recently experienced a major failure in launching an IPO called Dynacorps — she “rubbed people the wrong way” and “ruffled some feathers” — and is hungry for a success. The big boss, who has that too-long hair that suggests sleaziness, is discouraging: “Naomi, it doesn't look like your year,” he says disdainfully while playing with the Jenga tower on his desk.

Level Up (opens in Akron on August 26th at The Nightlight Cinema)

[LEVEL UP opens in Akron on Friday August 26th exclusively at The Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Technology, particularly a technology as ubiquitous as the internet has become, has a tendency to engender fear in those who see its potential for misuse. That fear, in turn, is often channeled into works of art, including, of course, the movies. That's certainly been borne out by the volume of internet-inspired horror films and cautionary tales, among them DISCONNECT, UNFRIENDED, THE DEN, and FEARDOTCOM.  Only time will tell whether these films turn out to be prescient or quaintly laughable. In the meantime, director/co-writer Adam Randall gives us another film reflecting the anxieties of our modern age in LEVEL UP.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (opens August 19th in Cleveland exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS opens in Cleveland on Friday August 19th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Mark Satola

In the nearly 23 years since Frank Zappa died a few weeks shy of his 53rd birthday, the iconoclastic musician's legacy has been the foremost product of the Zappa Family Trust, in essence a cottage industry devoted to the preservation and propagation, under tightly controlled circumstances, of Zappa's music.

The death in 2015 of Frank's widow, Gail, created a rift among surviving members of the family, between son Ahmet and daughter Diva, inheritors of the Trust, and Dweezil Zappa, who since 2007 has been performing his father's music under the name “Zappa Plays Zappa.”

The resulting fracas, a tangle of lawyers, injunctions and wrangling over music licensing and grand rights, has created such a cloud of legal dust that it threatens to obscure the life and work of the man whose genius the Trust purports to celebrate.

Hell or High Water

By  George M. Thomas
Chris Pine, left, and Ben Foster star as brothers who rob banks in HELL
HELL OR HIGH WATER is the rare, engrossing movie that sticks with the viewer, making it easily the best movie of the summer.

The film's director David Mackenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (SICARIO) can be lauded for telling a gritty, emotionally resonant story, but HELL works on so many different levels that doing so would sell it short.

Mackenzie and Sheridan create a western for the 21st century.  It’s a morality tale layered with complex themes that will force many to question their belief system as they explore the issues of racism, corporatism, and the times in which we live.

It’s both a love letter to West Texas and an indictment of its past as two brothers, Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), resort to robbing banks for their livelihood. 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Review by Bob Ignizio

Fleeing from his vengeful grandfather, the one-eyed boy Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) and his mother wash up on an island. There he makes a living by telling stories in a nearby village. As Kubo tells his tales, he plays a traditional Japanese stringed instrument whose music brings origami figures to life to act out his words. The only problem is Kubo can't ever seem to finish his tales. Still, the villagers keep coming back for more, anyway.

Meanwhile, Kubo's mother lays in a semi catatonic state all day, becoming somewhat more aware and energetic in the evening. She warns Kubo to always be back by nightfall, but of course one day he ignores this advice and finds himself being chased by a pair of evil spirits that turn out to be his Aunts (both voiced by Rooney Mara). They've been sent by Kubo's grandfather, the Moon King (voice of Ralph Fiennes), to bring the boy back. But it's not just a family reunion the Moon King wants; he also has designs on Kubo's other eye.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (August 20 at 10:10 p.m. and August 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

Director Penelope Spheeris came to prominence in 1981 with her punk-rockumentary THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION. In 1988 she encored with a second installment of rock-musical freak sideshow stuff. This one was shot on a visibly larger budget. And for this go-around it's a carnival of preening black-leather hedons and poseurs of the hair-metal decade, resplendent in lurid arena-rock excess in Los Angeles, onstage and in self-aggrandizing interviews.

The mullet-wearing interviewees render opinions of drugs (against), alcoholism (for! for!), selling out (for), satanism (for), exploiting women (you betcha!). "Rock and roll is basically music made by people who were thinking with their crotches," said Paul Stanley of KISS, cuddling in bed with three Stepford groupies.

Meanwhile future reality-TV dad Ozzy Osbourne states if weren't a rock star he'd be in prison (almost immediately gangsta rappers stole that line for themselves in practically all their hip-hopumentaries). On a similar note, a probation officer discusses "de-metaling" lawbreaking rock fans.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sausage Party

Review by Bob Ignizio

It may look like the usual output of Pixar/Disney and their many imitators, but make no mistake: SAUSAGE PARTY is not for the kids. Co-directed by Greg Tiernan (an animation veteran who has worked for Disney, Don Bluth, and the folks behind Thomas the Tank Engine) and Conrad Vernon (director of MONSTERS VS. ALIENS and MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE'S MOST WANTED) from a screenplay written by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg, this is easily the edgiest animated feature to hit mainstream theatres since Ralph Bakshi's early seventies output (FRITZ THE CAT, COONSKIN, etc.).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins

Review by Pamela Zoslov

Florence Foster Jenkins is having a moment. The wealthy socialite and notably bad opera singer (1868-1948) who didn't let a lack of musical talent stop her from sharing her “gift” with concert audiences, is the subject of two films this year, the French film Marguerite and now Florence Foster Jenkins, a Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep. Stephen Frears, the talented British director of FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, joked, “If you're making a film and three other people aren't making the same film, there's something wrong.”