Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Friend Dahmer

Review by Bob Ignizio

It’s funny how a movie adaptation of a book can be faithful in very many ways, and yet still wind up missing the heart and soul of its source material. Such is the case with MY FRIEND DAHMER, adapted from the graphic novel by Clevelander John “Derf” Backderf. It’s an autobiographical tale in which Derf (played in the film by Alex Wolff) recounts his high school semi-friendship with Jeff Dahmer (Ross Lynch), who would go on to become one of the most infamous serial killers in American history.

At the time, Dahmer just seemed like a harmless weirdo whose bizarre antics provided Derf and his friends with a source of amusement. They made Dahmer a mascot of sorts, encouraging his odd disruptive behavior. Eventually, though, the fun came to an end as Jeff's dark side became more apparent. This was most obvious in his level of alcohol consumption, which even in the party hearty era of the seventies seemed excessive, and clearly not done for fun.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wonder Wheel: Wheel of Misfortune

By Pamela Zoslov

The number of films written and directed by Woody Allen is impressive — 48 since 1969, an average of one every year. That prolificity, writes Peter Biskind in the New York Times Book Review, often works against him. “The time when Allen’s every new release was a cause for celebration is long over; now we take him for granted,” Biskind writes, “and the thematic consistencies that are applauded in other auteurs are derided in Allen.” Biskind argues convincingly that Allen is “simply one of the great world-class directors, up there with his hero, Ingmar Bergman, and the rest.”
Kate Winslet as the troubled Ginny.
The volume of Allen’s output also means that some of the films will be less than great, like his latest, Wonder Wheel. But even the least successful of the films will have something thematically and stylistically memorable. Wonder Wheel, a nostalgia piece set on Coney Island at a time described broadly as “the 1950s,” the vintage theme-park setting is the star. Allen has always had good taste in cinematographers: Vittorio Storarro renders the tacky loveliness of the amusement park roller coasters, Ferris wheel, diners and signs in gloriously artificial carbro-print type colors. The story, a rather thin melodrama, doesn’t make as much use of its setting as it might, but what a wonderful setting it is!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wrapping things up

In case you haven't noticed, there hasn't been much action here on the Movie Blog for about a month.  Part of that is real life has been extremely busy for me. And the fact is, things show no sign of slowing down any time soon. But the truth is, if I were still as enthusiastic about doing this blog as I was when it started seven years and a month or so ago, I'd find the time. But the enthusiasm just isn't there anymore.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the blog during its run - Pamela Zoslov, Charles Cassady Jr., Pete Roche, George Thomas, Matt Finley, Joseph Anthony, Candice Lee Catullo, Eric Sever, Marcie Gainer, Eddie Fleisher, Milan Paurich, Grace Snyder,  Zoe Brown, Edward Mishic, R. J. Justavick, Ben Lybarger, Ric Nimrod, Jeff Niesel, and Wayne Richards.  
And of course, thanks to John Ewing and Timothy Harry at the Cleveland Cinematheque, Dave Huffman at Cleveland Cinemas, The Owens Group, Allied, and all the other great PR people, filmmakers, and distributors who provided The Cleveland Movie Blog with advance access to the films covered here. 

And finally, thank you to the readers who visited this site.

With what little free time I have, there are only so many creative projects I can pursue. And I feel as if I've pursued this one as far as I want to. It's been a lot of fun, but now it's time to move on to something else. And it'll be kind of nice to go back to watching movies just for fun, too. Not to mention not having to watch the ones that aren't any fun all the way to the end just because I have to write a review.

I'm still planning on doing a year-end best/worst wrap up at the end of the month, and after that... 

Bob Ignizio

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Survivalist (now on video)

The SHOUT! Factory video release of Stephen Fingleton’s grim, minimalist dystopian drama-thriller is an item which actually works best in the DVD/Blu-ray format - not downloads, not on a big screen, not even on good old VHS. The menu presence of a handful of related Fingleton-scripted short subjects, clearly set in the same doomsday vein as the feature (one is, in fact, the prequel), makes the whole experience complete. That it's a complete feelbad mini-spectacle, well. that's for your individual tastes.

Some viewers may note a resemblance to Hollywood's film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with its small cast's ground-zero-eye-view of the post-apocalypse. Only an opening graphic gives the backstory, that oil and electricity have run out for mankind, cueing a massive population die-off.

Now only remnants of humanity fight it out, these particular ones in some green part of the UK (the film was Northern Ireland production, and the milieu certainly does have a tragic aura).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Escape From New York (screens Oct.13 and Oct. 15 at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK screens Friday October 13th at 7:30 pm and Sunday October 15th at 9:50 pm at the Cleveland Cinemathque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

All his career John Carpenter has told folks that he’s really only wanted to make “westerns.” Yet he has consistently delivered horror and science-fiction and the occasional one-off nonconformist like a good TV biopic of Elvis Presley (featuring Kurt Russell) or the police thriller ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, which is regarded as a partial remake of RIO BRAVO. Okay, but not since his student-film days, if I’m not mistaken, has the dude actually delivered a genuine western.

Maybe he’s doing one of those things from The Little Prince, in which there’s a drawing of a lamb that is so perfect it’s just the box in which the lamb resides; you will never actually see a lamb, but you can still just imagine how the drawing is exactly right (sort of like my career). Same with John Carpenter and his “westerns.”

Carpenter’s 1981 flick ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, at least, does have the DNA of a proper Hollywood-studio western, in the Howard Hawks no-funny-business filmmaking style (most recently personified by Clint Eastwood’s work behind the cameras), hitched to a high-concept dystopia plot.

Friday, October 6, 2017

31 Days of Halloween 2017: Cold Moon (now playing at Tower City Cinemas)

[31 Days of Halloween 2017: COLD MOON opens today in Cleveland exclusively at Tower City Cinemas.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

The late writer Michael McDowell is best known these days, if at all, for co-writing the screenplay to BEETLEJUICE, which led to further film work in the nineties. But during the eighties, he cranked out a number of pulpy horror novels, including the then ubiquitous “Blackwater” series. Early in his career he wrote the novel ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’, published as a paperback original in 1980. That novel has now been adapted into the film COLD MOON by director Griff Furst and his co-writer, Jack Snyder.

At first, COLD MOON plays like a fairly typical seventies gothic slasher movie, something along the lines of BLOOD AND LACE or THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, perhaps. That means unlike a FRIDAY THE 13TH eighties style slasher, there’s more emphasis on character, place, and subtext. We sense there will be a little more meat on its cinematic bones than just seeing how high a body count the killer can rack up, and what interesting forms the deaths might take.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

31 Days of Halloween 2017: Antibirth

[31 Days of Halloween 2017: ANTIBIRTH is now available on home video and streaming.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Lou (Natasha Leone) is the kind of girl whose hard partying lifestyle could plausibly lead to a situation like the one in which she finds herself in ANTIBIRTH. To be specific, she is evidently pregnant despite not having had (to her memory) sexual intercourse for the last 6 months. But hazy memories point to the possibility that something may have happened at a druggy warehouse party. Maybe she was raped by Gabriel (Mark Allen Webber), a small time drug dealer and sammer, or his buddy Warren (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos). Or maybe some other, stranger kind of violation took place.

Lou looks for support from her friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny), Gabriel’s girlfriend. But it is Lorna (Meg Tilly), a mysterious drifter who talks about alien impregnations, who ultimately helps Lou get to the horrifying truth.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

All Things Must Pass (screening at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival)

[ALL THINGS MUST PASS screens Thursday October 5th at 7:00 pm at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Filmmaker/actor/Hollywood royalty Colin Hanks - staying offscreen for the duration here – shows a gift for nostalgia beyond his young years as he directed ALL THINGS MUST PASS, the chronicle of Tower Records. Remember them? It was a giant music/entertainment retailer and tastemaker that seemed unstoppable  until it collapsed, seemingly overnight, at the start of the 21st century.

Founded in Sacramento as a humble scheme to sell used jukebox 45s at a Tower drugstore, the chain grew by leaps and bounds, as the initial success spurred CEO Russ Solomon to move into vending all-new vinyl LPs at prime locations on the West Coast, under the slogan “No Music No Life.”

What Hanks does quite well is show how Russ Solomon ended up one of those unsung-hero retailers who steered creative industry choices, as the artists themselves began finding their own muses via the inventory. His LA emporium, in fact, observed special hours to accommodate star shopper Elton John (John is interviewed here, as are Bruce Springsteen and David Grohl). 

31 Days of Halloween 2017: Death Note (now available on Netflix)

[31 Days of Halloween 2017: DEATH NOTE is now available on Netflix.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

A high school student finds a magical book that lets him kill anyone he wants just by writing their name in DEATH NOTE. Based on a Japanese manga which was, in turn, previously filmed as an anime feature film, director/writer Adam Wingard’s version tries to adapt the premise for western audiences.

The student in question is Light Turner (Nat Wolf), a smart kid who sells term papers and is still coping with the murder of his mother. Once he finds the book and starts reading it, a demon named Ryuk (voice of Willem DaFoe) appears and explains that he can kill anyone Light wants him to, provided he writes the victim’s name in the book and can concentrate on their face.

Light decides to use this newfound power over life and death to be something of a superhero, taking out the kind of bad guys his policeman father (Shea Whigham) often has to let go due to technicalities. Sort of a supernatural Dirty Harry, if you will.

Nosferatu (October 6th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[NOSFERATU screens Friday October 6th at 9:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque. Live musical accompaniment by The Invincible Czars.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

For those who don't already know, F.W. Murnau's silent horror classic NOSFERATU is in reality a very thinly disguised and very much unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'. Stoker's heirs were not pleased and tried to have every copy of the film destroyed, but like any good movie monster NOSFERATU managed to rise from the grave. It is now considered one of the undisputed classics of the horror genre, one of those films that film historians and critics will tell you that you simply have to see in order to have an appreciation for the development of cinematic art, blah, blah, blah. And they're right, of course, but that's not why you should watch it. You should watch NOSFERATU because, even at almost a century old, it's still fun to watch.