Monday, September 1, 2014

As Above, So Below

Review by Pete Roche


Abandon all hope, ye who enter this movie.

Okay, so maybe AS ABOVE, SO BELOW isn’t quite that bad.  It’s just that the script doesn’t really go anyplace, except in circles.  Kind of like the labyrinthine tombs featured in the film.

Directed by John Erick Dowdle (QUARANTINE, DEVIL), this latest exercise in “found footage” horror ushers viewers into the real-life 18th century catacombs that run for miles beneath that romantic city of lights, Paris, for voyeuristic glimpses of the misadventures of a team of youthful explorers who lose their way—and nearly their minds—while hunting for treasure.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Trip to Italy (opens in Cleveland on August 29th at the Cedar Lee Theatre and the Capitol Theatre)

[THE TRIP TO ITALY opens in Cleveland on Friday August 29th at the Cedar Lee Theatre and the Capitol Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

One could make a plausible argument that THE TRIP TO ITALY doesn't really qualify as a movie. Like it's predecessor THE TRIP (2010), it's a British TV series that has been edited down into a feature length film (there's a little over an hour missing here). Also like it's predecessor, there really isn't a plot, or underlying theme. It's just comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves as they visit various hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations while keeping up a near constant stream of witty repartee and impersonations. Whatever it is, though, it's funny.

Italy is a gorgeous country with many fantastic sights to see, and the travelogue aspects of THE TRIP TO ITALY certainly bear that out. But hell, there's any number of travel and food programs that could give you that kind of thing. What they don't have is Brydon and Coogan riffing on the cast of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES or imagining what the preserved bodies of victims of Mount Vesuvius might be thinking. Director Michael Winterbottom, who has made a number of fine films, really doesn't have to do much but make sure the cameras are running here, but sometimes just knowing to step back and let yours stars do their thing is the best choice a director can make. 3 out of 4 stars.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Repost: Finding Vivian Maier (August 30th and 31st at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[FINDING VIVIAN MAIER screens Saturday August 30th at 9:20 pm and Sunday August 31st at 4:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque..]

Review by Bob Ignizio

It's kind of like the most interesting episode of Storage Wars ever. John Maloof (who co-wrote and directed this documentary with Charlie Siskel) bought some boxes of negatives at an auction. Those negatives turned out to be an amazing stash of never before seen street photographs of Chicago. Initially Maloof didn't do much with the photos, since everyone he talked to said they were nothing special. But once he had time to sit down and really go through what he had, he realized just how important this collection was.

Elena (August 28th and 29th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ELENA screens Thursday August 28th at 9:30 pm and Friday August 29th at 7:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

I’m not sure whether ELENA falls more into the camp of art or art therapy. addressing the tragic issue of major depression and suicide - as it has impacted her own family - Petra Costa's feature is a strikingly lyrical visual poem, blending freshly shot, surreal material with family home movies and low-resolution archival videos.

The filmmaker's narration is a wispy open letter read together late sister Elena Costa, a Brazilian stage actress and occasional model. Both Petra and Elena were daughters of a pair of card-carrying 1960s Brazilian communists, and, like a lot of things on the political Left, the marriage failed. This seemed to wound Elena most deeply, and she withdrew into performance, earning media notices at home for her theater work.

The Motel Life (now on video)

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

I promised myself in writing this review I wouldn't make any gratuitous Robin Williams references. For many reasons. (1) It's somewhat disrespectful to the late entertainer and his bereaved family - not to mention that everyone else is doing it. (2) For some odd reason, this review may be re-posted or re-read at some point in the future, when the suicide of Williams is no longer a front-page headline, and would only come across as a sicko non-sequitur, and (3) if you haven't learned from reading me yet that showbiz ruins lives and destroys people, you'll never learn.

Also, I don't want to be tempted to make my Robin-Williams-suicide-connected-to-Cleveland wisecrack. That one is just bad taste, even by my lowly standards.

Besides, you get me started on the topic, I'll never stop. So let's just pretend you've just scrolled down about 40 paragraphs of me or so riffing about Robin Williams and suicide. Now you finally get to the movie review. There, see? Think of the time and negative thoughts towards myself I just saved you.

Horses of God (August 29th and 30th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[HORSES OF GOD screens Friday August 29th at 9:10 pm and Saturday August 30th at 7:05 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Taking the Cassablanca bombings of 2003 as its starting point, HORSES OF GOD tells the story of two brothers who wind up becoming suicide bombers. We meet the brothers as young boys. Tarek (Abdelhakim Rachid) is the younger of the two, an avid soccer fan whose nickname Yachine comes from his favorite player. Yachine's older brother Hamid (Abdelilah Rachid) is more focused on taking care of their family and protecting his younger brother from bullies. The boys live a hard life in the slums and frustration naturally builds. That frustration bursts out one day when Hamid throws a rock at a police officer and winds up serving two years in jail.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Review by Bob Ignizio

To quote the Ramones, “Second verse, same as the first.” That about sums up Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez' SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. Arguably, it may even be a better overall film than its predecessor, 2005's SIN CITY, but now that the novelty has worn off the film's hyper stylized black and white blend of live action performances and digital sets, it loses some of the impact it might otherwise have had. That means DAME has to rely more on its stories, which as is the case in the comics these films are derived from, tend to be less interesting than the way in which they're presented.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Land Ho! (opens August 22nd in Cleveland exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre)

[LAND HO! opens in Cleveland on Friday August 22nd exclusively at the Cedar Lee Theatre.]



Review by Pamela Zoslov

LAND HO!, a modest independent film written and directed by Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, evokes memories of many a buddy road-trip movie — two mismatched pals take off together, and hijinks ensue — but with some noteworthy qualities of its own. First there is Iceland, photographed in all its rugged, explosive beauty by Andrew Katz. And then there are the fine actors Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoom, who play septuagenarian former brothers-in-law who try to “get their groove back” with a trip to Iceland, visiting museums, discotheques, spas and campsites, bonding and clashing along the way.

The Freshman (August 21st and 24th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE FRESHMAN screens Thursday August 21st at 7:00 pm and Sunday August 24th at 4:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

There are some people in this world who refuse to watch black and white movies, let alone silent ones. They presume, incorrectly, that such films will be dated and hokey and hold no relevance to them. These folks need to see a movie like THE FRESHMAN. The premise, the plot, the pacing, and the jokes all feel very much contemporary, and unlike the films of Chaplin or Keaton, could probably work just as well as a talkie. Sure, there are aspects of the film that date it, but not much more than if one were to make a film today and set it in the 1920s.

Go Down Death (August 21st and 24th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[GO DOWN DEATH screens Thursday August 21st at 8:40 pm and Sunday August 24th at 8:25 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands and say, “I don't get it.” Sure, on some level, one will “get” that GO DOWN DEATH is a surreal medication on mortality, at least for the first hour and 10 minutes before it abruptly shifts gears into something completely different. Exactly what writer/director Aaron Schimberg is trying to say about the subject, or why we should care, is more difficult to pin down.

The basic concept is that this film is an adaptation of a six page pamphlet written by (fictitious) folklorist Jonathan Mallory Sinus. There's a little boy who digs graves talking to his doctor, who transforms from one actor into another. There are soldiers running around in the woods. There's a brothel populated by all kinds of odd characters including an amputee who feels that losing his leg made him more his true self.