Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Retrieval (August 1st and 3rd at the Cleveland Museum of Art)

[THE RETRIEVAL screens Friday August 1st at 7:00 pm and Sunday August 3rd at 1:30 pm at the Cleveland Museum of Art.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

Marcus (Keston John) and Will (Ashton Sanders) are black slave catchers working for white bounty hunter Burrell (Bill Oberst, Jr.) during the American Civil War. Although Marcus is Will's Uncle, he doesn't have much use for the boy and even tries to sell him to Burrell before setting off after his latest quarry, a grave digger named Nate (Tishuan Scott) who has a hefty price on his head.

The plan is to convince Nate his brother is dying and wants to see him one last time before he expires. In this way, Nate will willingly walk himself back south into danger where he will eventually be captured by Burrell and his men. Will is entrusted with a crucial part of the plan, but the longer he spends time in Nate's company, the harder it is for him to go through with it. Initially hard and mistrusting, Nate eventually becomes something of a father figure to the Will. And yet a combination of fear over what will happen if he doesn't go through with the plan, and the promise of enough money to secure his future if he does, makes doing the right thing and warning Nate difficult for Will.

A People Uncounted (August 1st and 2nd at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[A PEOPLE UNCOUNTED screens Friday August 1st at 5:30 pm and Saturday August 2nd at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

I took a trolley tour recently of Cleveland's historic Riverside Cemetery, which has a section occupied by members of the city's small Roma, (“gypsy”) community. The cemetery tour guide, wearing a tall top hat, described the gypsys' traditional burial ceremony, an hours-long rite with festive music and a lengthy procession in which the casket is repeatedly placed on the ground, then lifted, on its journey to the grave.

Such colorful lore is noticeably absent from A PEOPLE UNCOUNTED, the 2011 documentary by Canadian director Aaron Yeger about the Roma. The well made documentary's purpose is to dispel stereotypes and to tell a larger, universal story about intolerance and persecution. The filmmakers visited 11 countries, collecting personal narratives from Holocaust survivors, historians, and activists that illuminate, in fascinating and deeply disturbing detail, the little known and poorly understood history of this nomadic people who for thousands of years have endured horrific abuse. The Roma were executed by Turks during World War I, and in World War II, more than a million gypsies were murdered. Others were herded into concentration camps and subjected to hideous medical experiments. One elderly survivor emotionally recalls, in horrific detail, his torture at the hands of the sadistic Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele.

Boyhood (opens in Cleveland August 1st)

Review by Bob Ignizio

Director Richard Linklater's BOYHOOD would be interesting for the way it was made, alone. Shot off and on over the span of 12 years, it follows a small group of actors as they and their characters grow and change before our eyes. But the changes are more than merely physical, and BOYHOOD is much more than what some might be inclined to write off as a gimmick movie.

Where so many “coming of age” films feel artificial and contrived, BOYHOOD seems to capture what it's really like for a boy to transform into a young man. It's a process that takes time, not something that happens over the course of one magical summer with one big dramatic moment where everything comes together.

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.