Friday, February 12, 2016

Okay, best thing ever: Star Wars nights at local karate/kenpo dojo, February 12 and 26

It’s just like a Star Wars movie, live, happening right in front of you! Only with better acting and dialogue, probably.

Strongsville’s AA Kenpo Karate Studios, following the lead of various similar classes and cosplayers nationwide, now offers “Jedi Lightsaber” classes, a sort of modified form of Japanese swordsmanship tied in with the Star Wars film series.

It’s actually pretty clever, really; arguably one of the best ideas George Lucas had in all of Star Wars was to tap into the Asian martial-arts traditions and conflicts of good master/bad master, an Eastern vibe that most mainstream movie critics didn’t even take very seriously as drama at all until CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON came along. Lucas was way ahead of mainstream tastemakers on that score.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Arabian Nights Volume 2: The Desolate One (February 13th and 14th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ARABIAN NIGHTS VOLUME 2: THE DESOLATE ONE screens Saturday February 13th at 6:45 pm and Sunday February 14th at 8:35 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Scherezade returns with more surreal and satirical tales of 21st century Portugese life under austerity in Miguel Gomes’ ARABIAN NIGHTS VOLUME 2: THE DESOLATE ONE. As with the first film in this trilogy, THE DESOLATE ONE is not an adaptation of the 1001 Nights, but rather uses its structure to address more contemporary concerns in a fable like format. The specifics of the stories have changed, but the overall style and thematic concerns remain the same.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Repost: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (February 12th at CWRU Strosacker Auditorium)

[TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL screens Friday February 12th at 7, 9, and 11:00 pm at the Case Western Reserve University Strosacker Auditorium.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

There's a long tradition of horror films pitting naïve city slickers against stereotypical backwoods psychopaths. I suppose that's because hillbillies are one of the few groups it's still acceptable to pick on in these politically correct times. Finally, with TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL, we get a horror comedy that shows rednecks in a positive light.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) have just realized their dream of buying a vacation cabin in the woods where they can go fishing, drink a few beers, and just generally hang out and be guys. The place is a fixer-upper, though, and the previous occupants must have had the same decorator as the family in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. So the boys head out to do some work, bringing along an assortment of chain saws, axes, and even a wood chipper.

Ranking the Coen Brothers 17 Films

 This last week saw the release of HAIL, CAESAR!, the 17th feature film from brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. For the last 32 years, the Coen brothers have assembled a filmography that includes every type of genre there is. Their output is compelling, creating work that is accessible to the masses while never compromising its quality to do so (save for a film or two). The brothers make movies in and about America. Most share the narrative: the folly of man, particularly in the pursuit of greed. Underneath that narrative simmers humor, tragedy, gripping dialogue and beautiful photography to create an experience unique to the Coen’s.

Ranking their films (not including their wonderful short-film in PARIS JE T’AIME) is a fool's errand. Of their 17 films, 10 can be considered classics or masterpieces (not to use the term lightly), and the rest an assortment of fine filmmaking. Often, mood determines the Coen brothers film I need that day, or maybe that year. The past decade of Coen brother releases still feel fresh. The Coen’s produce work that grows and matures on you. They give you so much to think about that there is no right way of compiling this list (in the pursuit of ranking their films, you’re sure to offend a few). Having seen HAIL, CAESAR! only a day ago, its inclusion is perhaps absurd. But like any good Coen brothers character, I’ll proceed on despite my own absurdity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Buzzard (now on video)

I've found the Johnny Manziel 2014-2016 soap opera with the Cleveland Browns to be a fascinating descent into the NE Ohio abyss. I mean who among us, who has long sought a job in the wasteland that is the Cleveland-area economy, hasn't wondered about who DID get hired. And what did that individual turn out to be? 

I mean, what's with local recruiters? Do they know that when the drugs test turns out "positive" that it's a bad sign? Perhaps there's been a persistent misprint in HR handbooks. 

Or maybe midwest life, from the Browns to the corporate world, is a lot like what's portrayed in the Rust Belt dark comedy BUZZARD, from Michigan-based filmmaker Joel Potrykus. Mr. Potrykus, I suspect, knows this recession well; who gets by in it, and who doesn't. I wouldn't quite call this nifty indie borderline-horror effort a traditional "workplace comedy." But, during the character study of an incorrigible punk and non-team player, it's hard not to think about what goes on, really, in all those glass-windowed offices full of cubicles and pods, to which many of we applicants remain strangers.

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.