Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Review by Pamela Zoslov

This fall, Hollywood is offering a crash course in modern sociopolitical history. The curriculum includes the women's suffrage movement in England (SUFFRAGETTE), American tinkering with overseas elections (OUR BRAND IS CRISIS), the human cost of techno-capitalism (STEVE JOBS), press coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal (SPOTLIGHT) and the Bush-Kerry election (TRUTH), and the story of embattled whistleblower Edward Snowden (SNOWDEN).

But for pure entertainment, it will be hard to surpass TRUMBO, the zesty dramatization of the struggles of celebrated Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo, who was imprisoned and blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947. While blacklisted, Trumbo, who had been one of Hollywood's highest-paid writers, won two Academy Awards for screenplays he wrote under other names.

The Good Dinosaur

Review by Bob Ignizio

It isn’t so much that THE GOOD DINOSAUR is a bad movie. It’s just that, the CARS movies aside, we’ve come to expect better from Pixar.

Set in an alternate universe where dinosaurs never died out, THE GOOD DINOSAUR tells the story of Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa), runt of the litter in a family of Apatosaurs (what folks my age grew up calling Brontosaursuses). The additional centuries have allowed the gigantic creatures to evidently evolve further along intellectually than evidence suggests they did on our earth, developing language skills and even figuring out how to farm and use tools.

Victor Frankenstein

Review by Bob Ignizio

You can’t have Thanksgiving without a turkey (or a tofurkey if you’re vegetarian). Well, not only is VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN one prize turkey, it also comes with a bonus ham courtesy of James McAvoy’s scenery-chewing performance in the title role.  You want stuffing with that? Don’t worry, Chefs Paul McGuigan (director) and Max Landis (screenwriter) have stuffed their bird to overflowing with unnecessary secondary characters and subplots.

Like practically every movie adapted from well known source material these days, VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN goes to great pains to convince us that, while we may know this story, we don’t really know this story. In fact, narrator Daniel Radcliffe tells us as much right off the bat. And despite the film’s title, this really is his story.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I Am Thor (November 24th at the Capitol Theatre - 1 show only!)

[I AM THOR screens Tuesday November 24th at 7:30 pm – one show only!]

Review by Bob Ignizio

The stories of big rocks stars don’t interest me nearly as much as the eccentrics and cult acts who live on the fringe of the music business. Luckily for me, the last few years have brought a veritable treasure trove of documentaries on just such artists. We’ve had docs on Daniel Johnston, Roky Erickson, Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling, Canadian metal heads Anvil, and Detroit proto punks Death, to name just a few of the more prominent examples. And now comes Ryan Wise’s I AM THOR, a loving look at the muscular metal vocalist who has been plying his trade in one for or another since the mid seventies. And like fellow Canucks Anvil, although he’s had brushes with the mainstream, he never quite made it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Review by Matt Finley

(this review has some spoilers... for ALIEN 3)

There’s a sequence midway through THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 in which Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and a battalion of rebel soldiers splash through a claustrophobic network of underground tunnels in an attempt to evade lurking swarms of unseen monsters. Flashlight scopes mounted to futuristic assault weapons send narrow beams of light across the eerie dark. A motion detector noncommittally hums. Holy Hudson. Director Francis Lawrence is cribbing shot for shot from ALIENS. And I love it.

I mention this up front because, first of all, the scene erupts into one of the most thrilling, brutal action sequences of the entire franchise; also, in my review of THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1, I half-jokingly compared a part featuring the rescue of a cat amid steam jets, spinning beacon lights and a portentous automated countdown to the penultimate setpiece of the original ALIEN. At the time, I was convinced I’d made the connection out of sheer ALIEN fanatic pareidolia. Now, I’m beginning to wonder…

Bone Tomahawk (now on video)

[BONE TOMAHAWK is now available on video and on demand.]

Review by Wayne Richards

The extraordinary difficulties in getting a movie made in Hollywood have been well documented. Television shows, books and documentaries dedicated to telling behind-the-scenes stories and the unique struggles in the creation of films are quite prevalent in the realm of entertainment. Getting financing for a film, hiring capable and cooperative actors and choosing a director with the ability to be efficient with time and to stay within a given budget are just a few essential factors in reaching a successful outcome. The fact that first-time director S. Craig Zahler filmed BONE TOMAHAWK in three weeks (shooting 16 hour days) on a shoestring budget is miraculous. And what is even more remarkable is that a directorial debut on such a low budget (estimated $1.8 million) could include such an esteemed cast of A-list talent.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Review by Candice Lee Catullo

ROOM eloquently combines the tension and reality of a true-to-life crime story with dream-like storytelling. Inspired by 5-year-old Jack’s point of view on life in and out of captivity with his young mom, this dreamy quality is beautiful and entrancing. Only intensified by one of the world’s most immovable forces, a mother’s love.

The title, ROOM, is also the pronoun with which the main characters refer to the tiny backyard shed they are locked inside. Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay (THE SMURFS 2, BEFORE I WAKE), talks about room in the loving way that only a child could, “good morning room,” he says each morning. But his mother, played by Brie Larson (THE SPECTACULAR NOW, SHORT TERM 12, DON JON), is living in a hellish alternate reality, unlike the one she has painted for her son.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Victoria (opens in Cleveland November 13th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[VICTORIA opens in Cleveland on Friday November 13th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

“One City. One Night. One Take,” announces the poster for the German movie VICTORIA. Sebastian Schipper, the German director and co-writer, is the latest filmmaker to attempt the “one-take” film, supposedly made in one long, continuous take without cuts or edits. In the age of digital cameras, this is less a technical feat than when Alfred Hitchcock used it in the 1948 ROPE, in which he had to focus on the back of an actor's suit coat while changing film reels. But it still is a dizzying experience, and perhaps more exciting for the actors and cameraman than for the viewer. (THE RUSSIAN ARK in 2002 also was shot in a single take, to not terribly interesting effect.)

Dope Island: Halle Berry's new divorce tragedy inspires a revisit to a Dope Island posting of years past

By Charles Cassady, Jr.

Recently my wife felt in the mood for an October-ish suspense film and inserted into the aging DVD player something I'd been after her to watch for years, PERFECT STRANGER, from 2007. It is not remembered in the annals as one of star Halle Berry's (or director James Foley's) better outings by most high-paid critics out there. But PERFECT STRANGER holds a warm place in my memory. Before the picture opened wide, MGM and the local publicity agency were kind enough to actually bring Halle Berry back to her hometown of greater Cleveland, accompanied by co-star Giovanni Ribisi, for a red-carpet gala this-never-happens-here Hollywood-style advance screening in Valley View.

This cinematic venue not only stands just around the corner from where we had recently bought the house (that ruined our lives), it was down the street from my wife's then-job at a decent local ad/PR agency (that didn't have the good sense to hire me).

Physicist-astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson is coming to Playhouse Square. He'll earn his huge speaker's fee if he can prove on a chalkboard that somewhere in the infinity of all possible alternative/parallel universes, this lady would actually talk to you.
So this PERFECT STRANGER screening was a perfect storm of perfect perfection for us bright-eyed new homeowners. But it turned out my wife had a prior commitment that night. As the household's resident well-connected area freelance movie critic (my paper hadn't gone out of business yet) I had been looking forward to escorting my tall leggy spouse past the velvet ropes (yes, they had velvet ropes) to the elite press section, just like a true media power couple. But she couldn't make it. In consolation my wife set me up on a playdate with a fellow employee at her agency who expressed interest in going, a guy named Doug. So I took him out instead of my wife. You know something, though? The sex afterwards just wasn't the same. Rimshot! Wakka wakka wakka!

Rebel Without a Cause (opens in Cleveland November 13th at the Capitol Theatre)

[REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE opens Friday November 13th at the Capitol Theatre for one week only.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

“Yer tearin’ me apaaaart!” If you thought that agonized line originated with THE ROOM you are a sad, sad character. Go back to writing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY fan fiction in crayon and trying to sell the studios on a TWILIGHT/HUNGER GAMES crossover (sad thing is, you’ll probably succeed and go on to a much better life than I ever had).

The statement originally came from screenplay of the 1955 immortal REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Yes, it’s a bit dated by modern gangsta-rap and sext-message tastes. But for a generation of viewers it’s still the troubled-youth drama to which all troubled-youth dramas must measure. Plus, I’m told, fans of classic American automobiles get multiple cargasms from viewing.