Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Lure (March 23rd and 26th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE LURE screens Thursday March 23 at 8:35 pm and Sunday March 26th at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Eric Sever

Take some of the darker elements of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" and set the story in a smoky, Soviet era discotheque, and you might get some idea of what you can expect in the THE LURE.

As a Polish horror-comedy-romance-musical with plenty of gore and nudity, director Agnieszka SmoczyƄska's film is one slippery fish. (Yeah, I said it.) Defying traditional classification, the story of two human-eating mermaids being taken in by a family of strip club performers is told with a suprising amount of sentiment and character development.

Kinga Preis gives a particularly compelling performance as the beautiful, but hard-living mother figure to the band of mucisians who take two mermaids, Silver and Golden (Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska), under their wings to feature them in their bawdy musical acts. Preis is equally watchable whether she's performing on stage or in the danker moments of her character's everyday life.

The Devil's Candy (opens March 24th at the Capitol Theatre)

[THE DEVIL'S CANDY opens in Cleveland on Friday March 24th exclusively at the Capitol Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

There are plenty of minority groups who have suffered worse indignities at the hands of Hollywood than metalheads. Nonetheless, it's fair to say that most cinematic depictions of headbangers have tended towards the stereotypical. To be specific, they have generally been portrayed as good natured but dumb longhairs whose only ambition in life is to party. Bill and Ted. Wayne and Garth. Beavis and Butthead. You get the idea.

So it's kind of refreshing to see Jesse (Ethan Embry), the metal-loving main character in THE DEVIL'S CANDY, shown in a decidedly more nuanced light. He's a loving father and husband who works as an artist. And while he may have tattoos and long hair and listen to Slayer and Metallica, he's not a moron or a space case.

The Last Word (opens in northeast Ohio Friday March 24th)

Review by Pamela Zoslov

Old people — what is to be done about them? In Washington, House Speaker Paul Ryan and company want to throw them off the public dole (“entitlements,” in the ruthless Republican argot). In Hollywood, seniors are either ignored or cast in formulaic comedies.

In these vehicles, the old stars play problem people: goofy, profane, ornery, or having a constellation of disagreeable traits. The movies, which have starred Sally Field, Lily Tomlin, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and, the champion of the genre, Robert De Niro, pair the veteran performer with a younger, less luminous actor. Misadventures ensue. Often a road trip is involved, or a senior sexcapade. Estrangements are healed, lessons are learned, an old parent is redeemed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

CIFF41 Tickets Now On Sale

[Press release from the Cleveland International Film Festival.]
Tickets to the 41st Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), presented by Dollar Bank, are now on sale.  Ticket prices for films are $14 per film for CIFF members and $16 for non-members.  Tickets are available online, by telephone (1.877.304.FILM), in-person at the Film Festival Box Office in the lobby of Tower City Cinemas, or by mail using the Program Guide order form.  Program Guides are available at all Dollar Bank branches and throughout the area.

CIFF41 will take place March 29 – April 9, 2017 at Tower City Cinemas and select neighborhood screening locations.  The Festival will showcase 202 feature films and 216 short films representing 71 countries.  Be sure to check for program updates between now and April 9th.  

Counter Clockwise (now on video)

[COUNTER CLOCKWISE is no available on home video and VOD.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Filmmaker George Moise' agreeably low-budget time-travel yarn had me for while…then lost me…then had me…then lost me etc. I suppose on balance it’s pretty good, aspiring essentially to being a cause-effect teaser in the tradition of 12 MONKEYS and DONNIE DARKO (other stated inspirations were the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy and an indie I never saw, TIMECRIMES). I might even throw in there local writer James Renner’s novel The Man From Primrose Lane (even though that’s a bit of a spoiler).

These are not bad associates, at least when things stay fairly cerebral. Which is about more than half the time in COUNTER CLOCKWISE. Nebbishy inventor Ethan (Michael Kopelow) working in a private lab on platforms that, a la THE FLY, teleport living things (there’s a one-eyed dog he uses as a test animal), crosses the wrong wire and ends up with a time machine instead.

Experimenting on himself, he zaps himself into his lab a months into the future - to find the complex closed down, his beloved wife murdered, his mother institutionalized, and himself a notorious fugitive, object of a manhunt as a brutal mass-murderer.

Behemoth (March 23rd at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[BEHEMOTH screens Thursday March 23rd at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Here’s the trivia question to end all trivia questions: What were the two major 2016 theatrical features inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Yes, the obvious answer is Ron Howard’s lackluster Tom-Hanks-in-a-Dan-Brown-adventure-conspiracy-novel adaptation INFERNO.

But then there was Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang's documentary-expose BEHEMOTH. Better reviews than the Howard film, too. The French co-production pontificates – mostly in visuals, shot by Zhao himself - on the environmental/spiritual devastation wrought by China's rapid industrial progress.

Borrowing chapter headings and sparse narration from Dante's Divine Comedy, Zhou’s striking, otherwise non-narrative feature (original title “Bei Xi Mo Shou”) depicts hellish moonscapes and rapacious underground coal-mining operations in Mongolia. Verdant green hillsides and grazing cattle here show up starkly side-by-side with miles of spreading, lifeless, rubble-strewn waste.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Review by George M. Thomas

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast.
At their heart fairy tales generally tend to function as morality plays – something that the audience can chew on while being entertained.

The animated version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, released in 1992, was no exception.  Its moral centered primarily around treating individuals – especially outsiders – with kindness and tolerance.

The live-action remake takes that little morsel and expands upon it and turns BEAUTY into a morality tale for a new century.  With a cast that might rival that of Broadway’s HAMILTON in the area of diversity, it embraces the idea of a world of tolerance, acceptance and universal love.

Much of the brouhaha that surrounds the movie will come courtesy of director Bill Condon’s admission that LeFou (played by Josh Gad), the sidekick to the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans), is gay. Dude has a man-crush on Mr. Vain that can be seen from Earth’s orbit for those aware of his sly little flirtations. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Donald Cried (opens March 17th at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[DONALD CRIED opens in Cleveland on Friday March 17th exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

The manboy. The slacker. The lovable loser. Call him what you will, but he's become a staple of modern films. Usually portrayed as benign, and often depicted as possessing a kind of wisdom about life that those who give in to maturity and responsibility lack, you've seen these sort of characters in films like JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME, OUR IDIOT BROTHER, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, and many more. DONALD CRIED presents us with the creepier and more annoying flipside of the characters in those films.

But before we meet Donald, the manboy of the film's title, we meet Peter (Jesse Wakeman). Peter works in the finance business in the big city. When his grandmother passes away, he has to return home to pick up her belongings and her ashes, and set up the sale of her home. It should be a relatively quick and easy process, but the loss of his wallet and a car that won't start throw a wrench into things.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Savageland (now on video)

[SAVAGELAND is now available on home video.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Sorry Marvel fans, SAVAGELAND isn't a surprise entry in the MCU bringing Kazar and Shanna the She Devil to cinematic life. Rather it is a horror film presented in faux documentary format about Francisco Salazar (Noe Montes), an illegal immigrant laborer and amateur photographer accused of committing a mass murder spree in a small Arizona border town. The evidence for his guilt is weak, but thanks to anti-immigrant prejudice and the desire to find a scapegoat, Salazar gets convicted. On his appeal, however, new and disturbing evidence seems to indicate that not only is he innocent, but the real culprits represent an unimaginable horror.

Not a bad premise, to be sure, and throwing a little social commentary about current attitudes towards illegal immigrants into the mix gives the film some added thematic weight. SAVAGELAND was conceived before Donald Trump's presidential run and talk of wall building, but there is a character clearly modeled after Sheriff Joe Arpao (Sheriff Parano, played by George Lionel Savage), and the general attitudes expressed by this character and others are in line with things Trump and his supporters have said and done with regards to immigration. Through this subtext, the film does a good job of conveying the dangers that a more aggressive policy towards illegal immigrants can have unintended negative consequences.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Cleveland's Screaming (now on video)

Review by Bob Ignizio

*NOTE* After numerous edits, and a release via the digital-only platform distrify in 2013, CLEVELAND'S SCREAMING! has finally been given a physical home video release on DVD. Some further tweaking has been done to the film proper by Cleveland hardcore scene veterans Tom Dark and Mary Ellen Tomazic, notably a spoken introduction to the film by Dark, but the film proper has not been changed much since the version we reviewed here in 2013. With that in mind, the review that follows is also more or less the same as the one I posted then.

The 2006 documentary AMERICAN HARDCORE did a pretty good job documenting the beginnings of hardcore punk in the early eighties. But having cast a (nation)wide net and working within the expected time constraints of a feature film, it was a given that not everything one might have wanted to see in such a film could make the final cut. For instance, pretty much the entirety of the Akron/Cleveland hardcore scene.