Monday, July 28, 2014

Pizza Shop: The Movie (now on video)

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Not long ago, the still-young Kevin Smith announced his retirement from filmmaking, the medium he had entered with such a transgressive splash exactly 20 years ago (sigh) in CLERKS. I suppose I can resolve with a few keystrokes whether Smith is set to keep this vow, or if it's just some hoax or "performance art" (like Joaquin Phoenix's ruse about voluntarily ending his acting career). But I won't check just yet. Don't want my hopes dashed. Bad enough LeBron caved in and will come back to Cleveland.

Why don't I want Kevin Smith to ever shoot a frame again? Some of Mr. Smith's work I quite enjoyed. Some I didn't. Some I don't have plans to watch, ever. But the point is, the singular DIY filmmaker is also a popular speaker, author, and, of course, comic-book entrepreneur and self-described "media whore." So, in my opinion, any way you slice it, Kevin Smith has enough going on upstairs to suggest he's really got better things to do than to go and make more films. I wish him a productive retirement.

The Double (July 31st and August 1st at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE DOUBLE screens Thursday July 31st at 7:55 pm and Friday August 1st at 9:15 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Based on a novella by Dostoyevsky, THE DOUBLE concerns Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a low level office worker shy to the point of near invisibility. Simon has a crush on fellow employee Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) but can't bring himself to talk to her, instead watching her with a telescope from his apartment like Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW. While doing so, he sees a man on a ledge across the way wave to him and commit suicide by jumping. Both Simon and Hanna go outside when the police arrive, and this leads to a not-quite-a-date at a nearby diner.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hercules

Review by Pete Roche


You’ve got to check your brain at the box office when it comes to seeing historical actioners and period pieces at the cinema.  The rule is even more applicable when anteing up for films whose narratives draw from source material where the facts were sketchy to begin with, like gladiator movies and Bible-based epics.  

That’s why we don’t balk when the Nazis and Israelites (or aliens from other galaxies) in summer blockbusters speak Americanized English.  It’s a dispensation we afford moviemakers because we want to be sucked into the action as quickly, without the encumbrance of subtitles.  

Hercules is the Roman name for Greek hero Heracles, the brawny demigod sired by Jupiter and born unto a mortal woman.  But modern books and movies typically refer to the legendary strongman by his Roman handle, which—if the writers are consistent—makes his Olympian papa Zeus. 

Lucy

Review by Bob Ignizio

A seemingly ordinary young woman named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced by drug dealer Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi) to deliver a new designer drug insider her abdominal cavity in LUCY, the latest stylish thriller from writer/director Luc Besson. The package breaks open inside of our protagonist when one of the thugs she is delivering it to roughs her up. This gives Lucy a megadose of the drug that unlocks heightened intelligence, heightened senses, and even super powers. 

With her new-found abilities and the help of French police officer Pierre (Amr Waked), Lucy tracks down three other drug mules. She needs their stash to literally keep herself together until she can figure out how to pass along all the profound knowledge now residing in her head to brain expert Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).

And So It Goes

Review by Milan Paurich


Anyone who loves Diane Keaton will experience a whiff of nostalgia when she takes the stage in Rob Reiner’s AND SO IT GOES. Keaton doesn’t sing “Seems Like Old Times” or “It Had to Be You,” but the ANNIE HALL flashbacks linger pleasantly throughout the rest of the movie. It’s like an impromptu reunion with a dear old friend you’d lost touch with.

Since Reiner already made his own ANNIE HALL homage with 1989’s WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, that musical reminder of Woody Allen’s seminal ‘70s masterpiece was surely intentional. Of course, everything about
AND SO... feels a tad deliberate and calculated for effect. Still, as predictable and formulaic as much of the film is, it satisfies like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. (Think breaded veal cutlet with mushroom gravy and a side of lumpy mashed potatoes.)


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Will LeBron be there? GeekFest, returns to the Akron Public Library, July 26

Event preview by Charles Cassady, Jr.

By now you all know I have this thing about people who manage to leave Cleveland. Those brave souls who journey at last to the outside world, where, even in today's death-spiral Recession, there are more opportunities to make their fortunes, to seek glory, good relationships and personal fulfillment...But you know something? I notice then, a few years later, they all come crawling back to Cleveland. Muttering brokenly something about how they missed the Flats. Or that life isn't the same without The Plain Dealer society page/"Mary Mary." column. Or that, while Paris and London have certain charms, they're nothing compared to Cleveland!

I've seen it happen with filmmakers (too often); I've seen it happen with writers and journos (hi, Michael Heaton. How did you ever survive in that dull cowtown that is San Francisco?). Now the latest boomerang Clevelander? LeBron James.

Wish I Was Here

Review by Pamela Zoslov

There's a scene in Zach Braff's new movie WISH I WAS HERE in which Braff, playing a struggling actor at an audition, gives a fellow thespian (played by Jim Parsons) some advice on how to play the part. I had the urge to give Braff, who directed the film he co-wrote with his brother, Adam, some advice: Stick with the comedy.

The movie, like so many others, starts strongly. Braff, known for his generation-defining GARDEN STATE and his role on Scrubs, draws on personal experience to portray an upper-middle-class Jewish milieu with knowing, sardonic humor. Braff plays Aidan Bloom, an actor with a wife (Kate Hudson) and two kids. Aidan hasn't had a role for a long time (“since the dandruff commercial”), allowing his wife Sarah to support the family. His father, Saul (Mandy Patinkin) pays the kids' school tuition, on the condition that they attend an Orthodox Jewish day school. Aidan's daughter, Grace (Joey King) loves the school and is more devout than her parents; her goofy younger brother, Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) is largely indifferent.

'Young & Beautiful' (July 25th and 26th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL screens Friday July 25th at 7:15 pm and Saturday July 26th at 8:50 pm at the Cleveland ICinematheque.]

Review by Milan Paurich


In Francois Ozon’s YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL, 17-year old Isabelle (a strikingly assured Marine Vacth) loses her virginity while on vacation with her family. Upon returning home, she decides to start turning tricks at 300 francs a pop. Except for an odd moment during the deflowering scene when Isabelle briefly steps out of her body to watch herself having sex, Ozon provides no explanation for his protagonist’s behavior.


Yes, Isabelle can detach herself emotionally from sex. But so do a lot of other people—male and female, young and old—without necessarily choosing prostitution as a career path. The lack of any psychological grounding for her actions ultimately renders YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL as affectless and shallow as Isabelle herself. By electing to withhold such vital information, Ozon makes it increasingly easy to emotionally detach yourself from his film.

Birth of the Living Dead (now on video)

Review by Bob Ignizio

At one point in the documentary BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD, George Romero, director of the seminal 1968 horror film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, makes a point of telling BIRTH director Rob Kuhns that he didn't “make” his film by himself. No one makes a movie alone; it's a collaborative effort, and as Romero points out, even this documentary wouldn't be possible without the efforts of its crew.

Unfortunately, Kuhns seems to miss the point as none of the other cast and crew members of NIGHT get to relate their stories of making the classic horror flick. Romero does a pretty good job of telling how the film came to be and seems to go out of his way to give credit where it's due, but it goes without saying that some of the other people involved would have seen things from a different and equally relevant perspective. Given the short running time of BIRTH, and the fact that most of those involved still seem more than happy to talk about their experiences making NIGHT at horror conventions and in other forums, it's hard to understand why Kuhns didn't talk to any of the other surviving participants.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Planes: Fire and Rescue

Review by Bob Ignizio

The first PLANES was little more than a watered down version of the same “big race” plotlines used in the CARS films from which it was spun off. It was easily one of the laziest, most worthless animated features to ever get a theatrical release. Thankfully, while it's still no classic worthy of the Disney name, PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE at least makes an effort to tell an original story, and to flesh out its anthropomorphic aviation vehicles into real characters.

After having transformed from lowly cropduster to world champion race plane in the previous film, Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) returns home like a conquering hero. But while practicing for his next big race, Dusty discovers that his gear box is going bad. If he pushes himself to the degree necessary for racing, it could mean his demise.