Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Review by Ric Nimrod

The MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE film franchise is almost 20 years old. Not bad for a series of movies based on a TV show from the 60s. In fact, the show only lasted 7 years and the brand is far more recognized as THE Tom Cruise (KNIGHT AND DAY, RISKY BUSINESS) franchise. 

So here in its 19th year we have a 5th entry named MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION (with a new one already scripted and ready to shoot next year), and despite the age of its leading man, a lean and mean 53 year old Cruise, the series is as frantic and action packed as ever. This new entry might not offer much new in the way of plotting or action but it rarely stops for air as the story unfolds and keeps you on the edge of your seat for much of its 131 minute runtime.

Stanford Experiment artifact at local film premiere

[Press release from The Nightlight Cinema.]

Dr. David Baker, Professor of Psychology at the University of Akron, will conduct a show-and-tell with an original artifact from the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment prior to the local premiere of the 2015 movie “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” The special screening with Dr. Baker will take place at The Nightlight Cinema (30 North High St., Akron) on August 31, 2015 at 9 p.m.

In the film “The Stanford Prison Experiment” Billy Crudup stars as Stanford University professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who, in 1971, cast 24 student volunteers as prisoners and guards in a simulated jail to examine the source of abusive behavior in the prison system. The results astonished the world, as participants went from middle-class undergrads to drunk-with-power sadists and submissive victims in just a few days. The film was the winner of two awards at the Sundance Film Festival, including Best Screenplay, and was created with the close participation of Dr. Zimbardo himself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Lego Brickumentary (opens July 31st exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY opens in Cleveland on Friday July 31st exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

How did an ordinary toy brick, invented in the 1940s in the workshop of a Danish carpenter, become a toy-industry powerhouse with a fanatical global following? We're talking about Lego, the subject of A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY, an exhaustive documentary about “a simple toy that became more than a toy,” in the words of the film's narrator, an animated Lego figure charmingly voiced by Jason Bateman.

The story of Lego began in Billund, Denmark, when Ole Kirk Christiansen began making wooden toys. He called his company “Lego” after the Danish phrase leg godt (“play well”), and in 1947 switched to plastic, producing interlocking bricks the company called “Automatic Binding Bricks.”

Horsehead (now on video)

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

This, un film de Romain Basset, was conceived under the working title "Fever" - which is much more apt for the feverish stream of surreal horror imagery, seemingly in tribute to yesteryear's hallucinatory Italian "giallo" cinema exemplified by cult-darling directors Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Michele Soavi (especially) and the father-son team of Mario and Lamberto Bava.
Only here there's even less of a solid plot, if possible. 

Out-and-out horror films are a rarity in French cinema, to the point that a lot of the genre's Gallic fear-fests default to surrealist Jean Cocteau and his ORPHEUS and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Well, HORSEHEAD isn't near that good, but one can at least see a certain influence in the thin plot, most of which appears to be a string of nightmares. 

The Stanford Prison Experiment (opens July 31st at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland and the Nightlight Cinema in Akron)

[THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT opens Friday July 31st at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland and the Nightlight Cinema in Akron.]

Review by Milan Paurich

The first thing you notice in THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT is the butt-ugly early-'70s coiffures and facial hair adorning nearly every cast member. That and the incessant smoking, both of which are a lazy director's shorthand for, "Psst: this is a period movie, folks." For awhile that's pretty much all I noticed. Oh, yeah. And trying to identify the familiar faces underneath all of that mangy hair.

Truth be told, the film's basic set-up--based on a controversial real-life 1971 study conducted by Stanford professor Philip Zimbardo--did little to grab me. Certainly not the ham-fisted way it was playing out courtesy of Tim Talbott's glib, facile script (based on Zimbardo's book, "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil") and Kyle Patrick Alvarez's equally unsubtle direction. To put it in academic terms, STANFORD PRI was flunking out as both psychology and sociology.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Review by Candice Lee Catullo

SOUTHPAW’s ringside boxing scenes are the least brutal part about this movie. Don’t take that the wrong way – the fight scenes are plenty raw and bloody (really bloody) – but the story outside the ring is dark, gritty, and bleak.

The story opens on the Light Heavyweight boxing champion of the world in his prime, undefeated at 43-0, where luxury oozes with swollen eyes and stitches. The scene is modern, crude and gaudy. And it’s all about the champion, Billy Hope, played by an extremely fit Jake Gyllenhaal (NIGHTCRAWLER, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, DONNIE DARKO). A product of New York City orphanages, Hope is a rags to riches poster child and a tough-as-nails bruiser. He shares everything with his wife Maureen played by Rachel McAdams (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, THE NOTEBOOK). They are absolutely perfect together, right down to the matching tattoos, and lend a tenderness to an otherwise garish atmosphere.

Sullivan's Travels (July 25th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS screens Saturday July 25th at 5:00 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

For me, Preston Sturges' SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, from 1941, belongs to a small handful of American screen classics from the golden age of the studio system - Ernst Lubitsch's TO BE OR NOT TO BE is another - that actually kind of depress me in a strange sort of way. Because, as much as I enjoy them, I mourn the fact that nobody makes movies this champagne-sparkle splendid anymore. We just can't. Not with all our digital-editing suites and cool camera technology, we just don't have the knack anymore to put together the ingredients of a perfect script, ideal casting, tasteful cheekiness, idol-level actors, pitch-perfect music etc.

Kind of like the way Cleveland can't win a sports championship, no matter what. Like the way the good jobs will never come back here.
Know what I mean? It's just sad, the quality we lost that can't be regained. SULLIVAN'S TRAVEL is just that great.


Review by Bob Ignizio

Extraterrestrials watch a video time capsule showing eighties arcade games, take it as a declaration of war, and send giant-size versions of the digital creatures back to earth to attack us. The only hope for our planet are the nerds who excelled at those games back in the day. With a high concept premise like this one, PIXELS had the potential to be this generation’s GHOSTBUSTERS. With Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison company producing, and Sandler in the lead role, PIXELS had the potential to be, well, another Adam Sandler movie. Which, in case  you’re one of the lucky few who has never seen any of his cinematic endeavors, generally ranges from mediocre to bad. PIXELS winds up just on the good side of mediocre, which is a win for Sandler, but still a loss given that it could have been better.

The Last Movie (July 25th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE LAST MOVIE screens Saturday July 25th at 9:20 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

I had read a bit about THE LAST MOVIE while growing up, all of it negative. Various critics made out that actor-director Dennis Hopper's followup to his trendsetting hit EASY RIDER was a great example of a sophomore disaster, as a drugged-out "artiste" of cinema, spoiled rotten and riding high on the success of the earlier picture (plus various hallucinogens and pharmaceuticals), was given free reign to do as he pleased, and turned in an unwatchable, pretentious hippie-influenced mess.

(Making him, oh, how radically different from any other filmmaker over the past 40 years? Just asking)

THE LAST MOVIE even had an entry in Michael Medved's anonymously co-authored book of film-depreciation The 50 Worst Films Ever Made (And How They Got That Way), one of my favorite volumes of bilious film lore in the 1970s, even though, once VHS was invented and I actually started SEEING some of the 50 worst films ever made, I discovered that many of them weren't all that bad after all.

Then, one day in the late 1990s, the last time I had any expendable finances or hope the future, I conducted a mass-purchase of cassettes on behalf of my friends at the late, great B-Ware Video and Books in Lakewood. In the cache I actually found a VHS release of THE LAST MOVIE on the obscure United Video of America label. 

A Murder in the Park (opens in Mentor July 24th at the Atlas Cinemas Great Lakes Stadium 16)

[A MURDER IN THE PARK opens in Mentor, OH on Friday July 24th exclusively at the Atlas Cinemas Great Lakes Stadium 16.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

It’s an established fact that in the American justice system, innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. In some cases, these people are even sentenced to death. So it goes without saying that, if there is evidence that exonerates these individuals, everything possible that can be done to free them, should be. That’s something even the staunchest death penalty supporter ought to be able to get behind.

But what if someone who really was guilty was convicted and then, because of the efforts of amateur investigators, wound up going free? And what if that resulted in someone innocent being convicted of the crime instead? As we see in the new documentary A MURDER IN THE PARK, that’s exactly what happened in the case of Anthony Porter.