Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Founder

By George M. Thomas
Michael Keaton is Ray Kroc in The Founder.

He’s considered the founder of the fast food behemoth known as McDonald’s, but although he may have been a visionary, as shown with many warts, Ray Kroc was a snake oil salesman and weasel.

Ultimately, that’s the charm of THE FOUNDER, the latest effort from John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side).

Hancock, directing from a script by Robert D. Siegel, doesn’t hesitate to show Kroc (portrayed by Michael Keaton), a man who has been lionized in the past, for the flawed, opportunistic individual he was.

Kroc’s version of the American Dream belonged to someone else – Dick (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) in this case. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The CWRU Sci-Fi Marathon, making American college great again, January 20-21

Either scenes from METROPOLIS or Hillary Clinton leading angry audiences members to Strosacker Auditorum for the Sci Fi Marathon.

This weekend a brave group of college-campus student-activists and progressive community members will participate in the most COURAGEOUS act of protest-art against TRUMP yet conceivable! They will sequester themselves in Strosacker Auditorium and force themselves to endure a torturous 36 hours (estimated) of nonstop science fiction and fantasy and horror features, short subjects, cartoons, trailers, TV episodes or whatever, not ending the ordeal until early hours of Sunday morning.

In the spirit of high-profile hunger strikes by Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Aung San Su Kii that brought down other TYRANNICAL DICTATORSHIP REGIMES, this act of pure SUFFERING and RESOLUTE MASOCHISM in plain view of the EYES OF THE WORLD will undoubtedly inflame the country to RISE UP together against the villain TRUMP at his very inauguration, overthrowing the EVIL FASCIST REPUBLICAN and instill HILLARY CLINTON as the rightfully elected ABSOLUTE EMPRESS OF THE GALAXY!

...Or, it's just another installment of the CWRU Sci-Fi Marathon. Whatever way the liberal media elites want to spin it.

All Governments Lie (January 19th and 21st at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE screens Thursday January 19th at 8:20 pm and Saturday January 21st at 8:35 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

The name I.F. (“Izzy”) Stone is spoken of in reverent tones among left-leaning journalists. The investigative reporter and publisher of his own four-page newsletter, I.F. Stone's Weekly, from 1953 to 1971, Stone was a model of fearless, crusading reporting.

Basing his reporting on his analyses of government documents, Stone wrote about World War II, the Korean War, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, and was the first reporter to question the veracity of the Gulf of Tonkin incident that Lyndon Johnson used to escalate the Vietnam War. In the '60s, you could see the puckish Stone as a regular guest on the Dick Cavett Show, critiquing the war. (Imagine seeing an antiwar journalist on late-night TV now; in many ways we've regressed, not progressed.). An annual award is given in Stone's name to honor the work of independent investigative journalists.

20th Century Women

Review by Pamela Zoslov

In his 2010 film BEGINNERS, writer-director Mike Mills reflected on the life of his father, who came out as gay at the age of 75. With 20th CENTURY WOMEN, he turns his attention to his mother, Jan, a strong, independent woman with a pilot's license and a bohemian sense of style. In the movie she is called Dorothea, and she is played by Annette Bening, with a cigarette — Salem, “because it's healthier” — perennially balanced between her fingers.

The film is set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979, when Jamie (Lucas Jade Zuman), Dorothea's only child and the director's alter ego, is 15. The movie opens with a gambit similar to the one in Beginners, where Mills compiles vintage photos and stock footage and re-creations of the period in which his mother grew up. These are accompanied by narration about Dorothea's life as a child of the Depression, along these lines: “Dorothea Fields was born in 1924. People drove sad cars to sad homes. But the people were real.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (January 18th and 21st at the Capitol Theatre)

[ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES screens Wednesday January 18th at 7:30 pm and Saturday January 21st at 11.59 pm at the Capitol Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

A pair of hot shot snowboarders and their manager run afoul of the toxic undead at an alpine ski resort in ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES. There are obvious lifts from Peter Jackson's DEAD/ALIVE (BRAINDEAD in most countries outside the U.S.) and Edgar Wright's SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but mostly it feels like a Troma film with a bigger budget. Whether that's a good or bad thing is relative.

The movie wastes little time getting in gear, as a couple of entrepreneurs with a new snow making machine try to interest a Russian investor in their machine. Unfortunately the machine has a breakdown, spewing glowing green liquid on the investor. And as any 80s horror fan knows, glowing green liquid always comes with unpleasant side effects.

Book Review: The Films of Sam Mendes - Under One Hour

'The Films of Sam Mendes - Under One Hour' by Michael Jolls

Review by Bob Ignizio

There are some directors whose style and recurring themes make it easy to label them as "auteurs". Even casual film fans have some understanding of the techniques Hitchcock uses to be the "Master of Suspense", the particular voice they can expect from a Spike Lee joint, the witty (and often profane) dialogue and hip musical soundtrack that make a Tarantino film, the visual style and complex themes to be found in a Kubrick movie.

But there are other filmmakers who, even though they are consistent in the quality of their work, don't immediately stand out. Directors who, despite a strong body of work, we can sometimes take for granted. For me, one such filmmaker is Sam Mendes.

The Bye Bye Man

Review by Bob Ignizio

A trio of college students move into a creepy old house together. Shortly after taking up residence, they find themselves terrorized by a paranormal force that causes hallucinations and, eventually, leads to violence.

Elliot (Douglas Smith) and Sasha (Cressida Bonas) are an item. John (Lucien Laviscount) is Elliot's best friend, and possibly carries a torch for Sasha, as well. After settling in to their rented digs, they discover a nightstand that has strange writing inside its drawer – "Don't think it, don't say it" is scrawled over and over again. Beneath the contact paper with this cryptic writing, which Elliot of course peels off, the drawer reads "The Bye Bye Man".

Friday, January 13, 2017

Monster Trucks

Review by Bob Ignizio

When a movie's title doubles as its plot synopsis, you know you're not dealing with Oscar caliber material. And so it is with MONSTER TRUCKS, from director Chris Wedge (ICE AGE, EPIC) and screenwriter Derek Connolly (JURASSIC WORLD, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED). 

It's a movie about subterranean creatures who get pulled to the surface by a dastardly, greedy oil company. 2 of the creatures are captured, but a third gets away and, before long, has taken up residence in the old pick-up truck belonging to bad boy high school student Tripp Cooley (Lucas Till), who looks like the love child of Patrick Swayze and Kurt Russell.

After some initial freaking out about, you know, a giant monster living in his truck, Tripp befriends the beast and, along with his cute but uptight tutor Meredith (Jane Levy).

Live By Night

By George M. Thomas

Ben Affleck and Zoe Saldana in Live By
As a filmmaker it’s been fair to say that Ben Affleck has earned the reputation as steady.

As his subject matter as a director started in his hometown of Boston with THE TOWN and veered into history with ARGO,  Affleck displayed natural skill as a director.  He continues that with LIVE BY NIGHT, a cinematic trip that combines both - his love for Boston with a loving look back into history.

While Boston isn’t the complete focus, it plays a distinct role in who Doug MacRay (Affleck), the film’s morally fluid center, is even as he takes hold of a criminal enterprise in Prohibition-era Tampa, Fla.

LIVE BY NIGHT possesses a sense of style along with memorable characters and a captivating story.   It’s an old fashioned morality tale trussed up with some modern trappings.

But at its heart is the story of MacRay, a young guy making the mistakes young guys make.  He’s impetuous.  He’s intelligent and he’s ambitious.

Claire in Motion (opens January 13th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[CLAIRE IN MOTION opens in Cleveland on Friday January 13th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Ohio University professor of ornithology Paul (Chris Beetem) goes off for a weekend of survival camping and never returns, leaving his wife Claire (Betsy Brandt) (also a professor, of math) and son Connor (Zev Haworth) to wonder if something horrible has happened, or if he's callously left them behind. The police don't turn up much, but they do find that Paul had been working on an art project with attractive blonde hipster Allison (Anna Margaret Hollyman).

After a few weeks with no further leads, the police give up the search. Claire keeps on posting flyers and doing her own investigations, and eventually meets with Allison. Allison offers up blithe, empty headed blather, some of which is particularly tactless. She assures Claire there was nothing more than friendship between her and Paul, but even if the two never had sex, they clearly shared some kind of intimacy, as Allison seems to know things about Paul's mental and emotional state that Claire did not.