Friday, April 11, 2014

Oculus


Review by Joseph Anthony

If I were to tell you OCULUS was a film about two people trying to kill a mirror, you might feel inclined to pass on it. Don’t, it’s worth a serious look. You might not know anyone who made the film or the actors in it. Even director Mike Flanagen is a relative newcomer (though won’t be for long), but OCULUS is sure to please those looking for a scare. 

When young sister and brother Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) move into their brand new home, their father also purchases an antique mirror for his office. Things turn sour in a hurry, particularly between mom and dad, and the children are faced with constant bickering between their parents and accusations that dad is having an affair with a woman in his office. Things take a murderous turn shortly after. The question as to why these string of tense and peculiar events happen is what the movie revolves around.

Draft Day

Review by Pete Roche


Are you ready for some football?

Are you ready for some Cleveland Browns football…in April? 

High-five!

Yes, thanks to modern movie technology, filmmakers can do just about anything:  They can make Superman fly, resurrect the dinosaurs, transform a mild-mannered scientist into a raging Hulk, and yes…director Ivan Reitman (STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS) can turn the perennially-losing Brownies into a champs just in time for Easter dinner.

Rio 2

Review by Pete Roche


RIO ended with a triumphant musical number at the titular Brazlian city’s annual Carnival.  RIO 2 commences with a similarly bombastic New Year’s Eve celebration, during which director Carlos Saldanha (ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN) reintroduces us to the first film’s amusing animal ensemble. 

Former pet bird Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) has been successfully reintroduced into the wild and has learned to fly.  He and soul-made Jewel (Anne Hathaway) now live atop a sunny sanctuary with their three kids, who between them display all the quirks of your typical teenager:  chubby Carla (Rachel Chow) is musically-inclined daughter with an attitude; brainy Bia (Amandla Stenberg) is a petite Jewel clone; and free-spirited son Tiago (Pierce Gagnon) is a goofy miniature version of his dad.

Jesus People (opens in the Cleveland area April 11th exclusively at the Great Lakes Stadium 16 Theatre.)

[JESUS PEOPLE opens in Cleveland on Friday April 11th exclusively at The Great Lakes Stadium 16 Theatre.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

As JESUS PEOPLE begins, Pastor Jerry (Joel McCrary) learns from his doctor that he is dying. So he does what anyone in such a situation would do: he keeps the information from his wife and decides to start a Christian rock band to rescue his son from the influence of secular music. All this is conveyed using the mockumentary format made popular by Christopher Guest's films lke WAITING FOR GUFFMAN and BEST IN SHOW.

The characters are portrayed as nice but clueless, and the film seems to be unsure whether to really go for the throat or just softball it. The opening scene where Pastor Jerry is dressed down by his doctor inclines one to think the film will pursue the former path, but most of what follows lacks the appetite for such biting satire. Thankfully the film does deliver a fair number of mild laughs, and as with the casts of Guest's films, the actors do a good job of inhabiting their roles. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dope Island: The Fiend's superhero fix for those of you who couldn't go to Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The closest thing I had to New Year's resolution this year was that I'd start posting my dreams/nightmares online. If I haven't followed through, it's mainly because most of my dreams, as I can best foggily recall, were not of a very interesting nature. 

But I had a great one the other night. In it, I finally, FINALLY got hired at a local newspaper. I think it was the Morning Journal of Lorain, for whom I freelanced for 18 years before they downsized me (and just about everyone else) out a few years ago. But here, I was back on the team. When I showed up at the place you would never dream it was a financially struggling Ohio daily. The news offices were like a chain of airplane hangars or big-box stores, just vast spaces. Moreover, there was some kind of epic corporate musical-party celebration going on.  

A Q&A with Spike, of Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation (screening April 11th, 12th, and 13th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

Interview by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Ever since LeBron James left, the only significant thing about Cleveland, we can all agree, is the Cleveland Cinematheque, a venue of fine alternative cinema in University Circle.

But…now that there’s little or no chance LeBron will ever stop by, the only thing really significant about the Cleveland Cinematheque is that it regularly shows entries in the “Spike & Mike’s Festival of Animation.” This is a touring compilation that was originally put together in 1977 by rock musicians Craig `Spike’ Decker and the late Mike Gribble (d. 1994). They started showing cartoons interspersed with their sets in the band Sterno and The Flames, and they ultimately began exhibiting the animated shorts all by themselves.

The semi-regular Spike & Mike festivals have since come in two flavors – this, the `classic’ festival of new entries in general animation (which the Cleveland Cinematheque hasn’t shown in about ten years – so maybe that’s why LeBron left after all) and their “Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation,” a Cinematheque perennial.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Predator (April 5th at the CWRU Film Society, Strosacker Auditorium)

[PREDATOR screens Saturday April 5th at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at the CWRU Film Society, Strosacker Auditorium.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

The Case student film society display a bit of a sense of invention this week in reviving the original ALIEN back-to-back with the original PREDATOR. Hey kids, before you graduate into a no-job-opportunities world that's REALLY scary, get set for a creature-feature flashback weekend! Once you learn how many fruitless employment applications you're going to have to complete before going into the military out of pure desperation and face those nervous night patrols in Afghanistan, killer monsters from outer space don't seem quite so threatening anymore.

The original PREDATOR, from 1987, has gotten cited by culture-watching scorekeepers as one of the ultimate "guy movies" (I'd vote for something WW2 like GUNS OF NAVARONE or KELLY'S HEROES or THE GREAT ESCAPE, but nobody ever asks me). PREDATOR is a hyper-macho spectacle of biceps, bombs, guns, and catchphrases by bigger-than-life actors, like the line - the one with the least swear words - uttered by pro-wrestler and subsequent conspiracy-mongering politician Jesse `The Body' Ventura, "I ain't got time to bleed!"

(And even that actor was smart enough to oppose the Iraq invasion, while our leading candidates still aren't. That's scary too).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Review by Pete Roche


Production for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER snarled Cleveland traffic for an entire month last summer.  Directors (and Shaker Heights natives) Anthony and Joe Russo (WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD) clogged several main arteries and major intersections in hopes of capturing a bit of the superhero celluloid magic that’s become standard for Spring / Summer blockbusters over the last fifteen years.  Were the rush-hour headaches worth it?

Depends on who you ask.  The movie—the latest installment in Marvel’s ongoing AVENGERS-related saga (and third major superhero flick partly shot in C-Town, counting SPIDER-MAN 3)—won’t sway those who never cared much for cartoon heroes, comic books, or the lure of Hollywood spotlights in the first place. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 (opens in Cleveland April 4th exclusively at the Capitol Theatre)

[NYMPHOMANIAC, VOLUME 1 opens in Cleveland on Friday April 4th exclusively at the Capitol Theater.]

Review by Milan Paurich

It’s amusing to think what audiences who flocked to softcore cream puffs like DAGMAR’S HOT PANTS, INC. and INGA back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s would have made of a provocation as 
flagrantly transgressive as Lars von Trier’s remarkable NYMPHOMANIAC, VOLUME 1. Would they have been titillated? Scandalized? Amused? Certainly the lines would have been around the block.

In 2014, von Trier’s latest cause celebre will earn most of its domestic coin as a VOD (both parts of NYMPHOMANIAC are currently available on most American cable providers’ “On Demand” services), and only the hardiest cineastes will bother trekking out to see it. If they can even find it, that is. The only area theater brave enough to show von Trier’s magnum opus is Cleveland Cinemas' Capitol Theater. (VOLUME 1 opens Friday, April 4th; VOLUME 2, April 18th.)

Horrors of Spider Island (screens April 5 at Cinema Wasteland)

[HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND screens Saturday April 5th 
Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.


All this fuss about the 50th anniversary about the Beatles’ tour of the USA and the British Invasion; yet not much at all back in 2009 about the 50th anniversary of HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND. At least one aspect of the Obama Administration had priorities straight

HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND is a 1959 badfilm obscurity that I mainly knew from an evocative old Famous Monsters of Filmland cover. Forrest J Ackerman made it look far better than it ever could be. In some parts of the world it was called HOT IN PARADISE, or, variously, IT’S HOT IN PARADISE or A CORPSE HANGS IN THE WEB, but in a more descriptive moniker is became HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND.

I downloaded HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND in all its MPEG glory. Wow, I am speechless. Sort of a West German-Yugoslavia badly-dubbed horror take on what would be a 1959 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Plot has eight dancers/strippers and one male manager en route to a Singapore showbiz gig surviving a plane crash and getting marooned on a lonely Pacific island.