Friday, February 24, 2017

Get Out

Review by Bob Ignizio

Jordan Peele is best known for being one half of the comedy team Key and Peele, so you might expect his first film as writer/director would be an overt comedy. Instead, he has produced a potent mix of social commentary, and horror. Sure, there's some humor. But with GET OUT, Peele is more concerned with building slow-burn suspense, hitting viewers with visceral shocks, and leaving them with insights on race than he is with getting a laugh.

The film's set-up is that fine-art photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is preparing to meet his girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. She hasn't told them that Chris is black, but assures him they aren't racist. Nonetheless, Chris' best friend and TSA officer Rod (Lil Rel Howery) is worried that his pal could be walking into an awkward situation.

He doesn't know the half of it.

Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life (now on video)

[COLIN HAY: WAITING FOR MY REAL LIFE is now available on home video.]

Review by Pete Roche

Some would say Colin Hay had his fifteen minutes of fame in the early ‘80s, when Men at Work ruled the airwaves…and presided over a 300K-strong crowd at the US Festival in San Bernardino. The Australian band’s 'Business As Usual' debut spent an unprecedented fifteen straight weeks at the top of Billboard’s album chart. Follow-up 'Cargo' peaked at #3.

Not bad.

So what if Men at Work had fizzled out by ’85? Surely the royalties from “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?” promise Hay a secure retirement. Why not just walk off into the sunset satisfied with one’s “Brilliant Feat”? Isn’t the cover of ROLLING STONE enough anymore?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rock Dog

Review by Bob Ignizio

Stop me if you've heard this one before. In ROCK DOG, a misfit protagonist leaves home to go on a quest to find self-confidence, defeat a bunch of generically evil bad guys, and win the understanding and approval of his stodgy father. Along the way, he learns valuable lessons about following one's dreams, staying true to oneself, and the power of music.

Director/co-writer Ash Brannon may have gotten his start at Pixar, for whom he co-wrote and co-directed TOY STORY 2, but there's none of the heart, humor, or overall quality one would expect from that studio on display in ROCK DOG. This is an utterly disposable, by-the-numbers kid flick.

Repost: Room (February 24th at the Case Western Reserve Film Society Strosacker Auditorium)

[ROOM screens Friday February 24th at 7:00 pm, 9:30 pm, and midnight at the Case Western Reserve Film Society Strosacker Auditorium.]

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.

Staying Vertical (February 23rd and 24th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[STAYING VERTICAL screens Thursday February 23rd at 6:45 pm and Friday February 24th at 9:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Well, I certainly haven't seen a movie like STAYING VERTICAL before. Described by many reviews as some sort of comedy, I didn't laugh much, but was consistently perplexed.

With its utterly deadpan tone, you don't realize right away that this film takes place in a reality that is at least slightly skewed. Instead you find yourself trying to follow what seems a relatively straightforward plot about a screenwriter named Leo (Damien Bonnard) suffering from writer's block.

Leo takes a drive into the French countryside to clear his head and find inspiration. He also finds both men and women there to stimulate his libido. He wants to make it with a young man named Yano (Basile Meilleurat), but his advances are rebuffed. Instead he hooks up with a female shepherd named Marie (India Hair), and eventually has a child with her.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

VooDoo (opens February 24th at Tower City Cinemas)

[VOODOO opens Friday February 24 2017 in Cleveland exclusively at Tower City Cinemas.]

Review by Eric Sever

Generally abrasive but mercifully short, VOODOO is on-par with the usual straight-to-Redbox fare -- which is to say it's not really worth the watch, even if you catch it on cable for free.

The scant plot largely rests on the performance of Samantha Stewart who plays cursed heroine Dani Lamb. (Get it? She's the "lamb" being lead to slaughter. **eye roll**) Dani made the mistake of getting involved with a man whose wife is apparently a voodoo priestess. The betrayed spouse conjures bad juju against Dani, and it follows her all the way to L.A. where she is visiting her cousin.

The first half of this found footage movie feels like watching someone else's boring vacation video, populated by folks you have no interest in spending time with -- much like traveling with people who get on your nerves.

The Red Turtle (opens February 24th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[THE RED TURTLE opens in Cleveland on Friday February 24th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

THE RED TURTLE is a quiet, subtle, easy-going film. It is yet another variation on that tried and true notion of a man who washes up on the proverbial dessert island. There is food and water and places to take shelter, but the man nonetheless wastes no time trying to get back to civilization. Using the resources available to him, he makes a raft and sets out to sea, only to have his makeshift boat smashed to pieces. The culprit is the aquatic terrapin of the film's title, and each and every time the man builds another raft, the turtle breaks it apart before it gets more than a few yards from shore.

One day, however, the turtle makes the mistake of coming on land. The man hits it with a large bamboo stalk and leaves it turned over on its back. The turtle apparently dies, and then apparently transforms into a woman. This female companionship gives the man a reason to stay on the island, and we watch their relationship as time passes, and the two eventually become three with the addition of a son.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Great Wall

Review by Bob Ignizio

Critically acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou delivers a fantasy epic in which color-coded warriors and a grungy looking Matt Damon do battle with hordes of CGI monsters in the most expensive film ever shot entirely in China, THE GREAT WALL.

Mercenary William Garin (Damon) and his Spanish friend Pero (Perdo Pascal) are all that's left of a band of warriors hoping to get their hands on some of China's rumored super weapon, a mysterious black powder (gun powder, natch). Instead they stumble into a centuries-old battle between Chinese soldiers manning the Great Wall of China and some vaguely defined space monster dragon things that can only be killed by shooting them in the eye. And for some reason magnets make them zonk out. How does that work? I don't know, ask Insane Clown Posse.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Fist Fight

By George M. Thomas

Charlie Day and Ice Cube in Fist Fight.
FIST FIGHT wants to be so much more than the lowbrow comedy that it quickly reveals itself to be.

Director Richie Keen (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and his story team (is there a better way to refer to multiple screenwriter?) want very much to make a statement about the education system from all sides and rarely come up with any success in that area.

Lowbrow?  That they can do.  Serious satire? That escapes them.

Perhaps it’s because they tell the story from the perspective of two teachers who aren’t very…ummmm…sympathetic to start.

Neruda (now playing in Akron at The Nightlight Cinema)

[NERUDA opens in Akron on Friday February 17th exclusively at The Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

How much of Pablo Larrain's film NERUDA is fact and how much is fiction? That's the wrong question to ask. Written by Guillermo Calderón, NERUDA is loosely based on a period in the life of Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) when he was forced into exile. The film is fittingly poetic, and less concerned with literal truths than emotional ones. And while the basic details of who Neruda was and what he did are sketched out herein, NERUDA plays more like a fantastical detective thriller than a traditional biopic.

The plot is set in motion when, 3 years after the end of World War II. Neruda is a senator, and although he originally supported Chile's President, he is now one of his most outspoken critics. When the President begins cracking down on communists, Neruda realizes it won't be long before they come to throw him in jail. He knows he'll have to run but says, ""I'm not going to hide under a bed. This has to become a wild hunt."