Friday, July 1, 2016

The BFG



Review by Bob Ignizio

There's an old saying – can't see the forest for the trees. When a critic is in critic mode, there's always the risk of that happening. Of course it's our job to focus on the details, but sometimes in doing so we lose sight of the bigger picture.  

Take THE BFG. It tells the story of Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), an orphan girl who gets swept off into a world of adventure when a giant happens to notice her noticing him as he makes his late night rounds. I found it to be an okay kid's fantasy film, but a bit padded and, while not derivative, it still felt more than a bit familiar.

My five-year-old son, on the other hand, asked if there were some way he could go into the movie. Clearly there was some kind of movie magic at work here. It may not have affected me, but I can't deny the power it had on its target audience.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Notorious (July 2 at 5 p.m. and July 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque)




Yes, what the chances that most of the internet-educated kids who show up for this Alfred Hitchcock revival wind up rioting in the streets because they thought it was that rap movie about the Notorious B.I.G.? It’s okay; bottles being thrown and cars overturned will be good practice for the upcoming Notorious R.N.C.
 
As for this NOTORIOUS, know that it’s classic Alfred Hitchcock, a crackerjack spy thriller on the surface that hints at all sorts of perverse desire and undercurrents of psychological aberrations
beneath its glossy 1946 Hollywood surface.

Setting is the midst of WW2. Devlin (Cary Grant) is an Allied spy who gets close to Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), the “notorious” femme of the title. As the wealthy daughter of a known Nazi turncoat, she’s regarded by upper crust as an amoral, lascivious playgirl (in today’s terms, think “reality-TV star”). But she’s really a good girl at heart, Devlin learns.

The turning point in their relationship comes with a legendary steamy kissing scene, lasting a full three minutes. It shows nothing explicit, yet is somehow hotter than a lot of what goes on in R-rated movies. Hitchcock supposedly had a merry time getting that past the censors, chiefly by tweaking the script and dialogue to make it seem like all they’re doing is talking about chicken dinner.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Repost: The Birds (June 28th at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In)

THE BIRDS screens Tuesday June 28th at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In on a double bill with PSYCHO.]


Review by Bob Ignizio


I would like very much to say that Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS, like the best films by the “Master of Suspense”, holds up quite well for modern audiences. Well, that's about half true.


THE BIRDS begins with a painfully stupid “meet cute” between well-to-do party girl Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) and ruggedly handsome attorney Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor). Mitch has evidently met Melanie before, and didn't care much for her devil-may-care jokester ways, so he turns the tables on her by pretending to mistake her for a salesperson at a pet store where he has come to buy a pair of lovebirds for his sister. Despite acting as though she is upset by this ridiculous ruse, Melanie comes down with a serious case of the hots for Mitch.

Repost: Psycho (June 28th at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In)

[PSYCHO screens Tuesday June 28th at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In on a double bill with THE BIRDS.]
Review by Bob Ignizio
Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO has become such a part of the cultural consciousness that it's hard to imagine anyone today seeing the film in a spoiler-free environment. PSYCHO's key moments and iconic imagery show up on so many clip shows and have been parodied so often that everyone knows what happens when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) stops to spend the night at the little hotel run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) even if they've never seen the film itself. That it's still a movie well worth watching even without the element of surprise is a real testament to just how good it is.

The Shallows



Review by Bob Ignizio

Nemo and Dory aren't the only fish in the cinematic sea this June. As surfer/ex medical student Nancy (Blake Lively) learns the hard way, there's also a hungry bull shark lurking in THE SHALLOWS. Still grieving the loss of her mom to an unspecified illness, Nancy tries to find solace at a secluded Mexican beach that was special to her mother. It's a beautiful location that easily lives up to her driver's description of paradise.

Nancy doesn't quite have the spot to herself. There are a pair of local surfers there, as well. She's a bit cautious at first, but soon warms up to her fellow wave riders. However, when they leave as the sun is setting, she opts to stay behind to catch one more wave. This turns out to be a bad decision when Nancy finds herself a little further out than expected. The discovery of a partially eaten whale doesn't bode well, either.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dheepan

Review by Pamela Zoslov

French writer and director Jacques Audiard's seventh feature film, DHEEPAN, was the winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and has garnered many other awards as well. The timeliness of its story about refugees may have been a factor in its acclaim: the film focuses on the plight of Sri Lankan refugees, featuring unknown Tamil actors speaking the Tamil language and French. It is an unusual work — slow-paced, quiet, artfully filmed, emotionally understated and deeply humane, with a climactic paroxysm of violence said to be influenced by Sam Peckinpah's STRAW DOGS.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lost in Hong Kong (now on video)



I know you’re all celebrating the victory of the Cleveland basketball team right now, in bringing home the first major Cleveland sports trophy in 52 years (actually, if you count the Lake Erie Monsters hockey team winning a cup just months ago, it’s actually the second major Cleveland sports team to break “the curse”, but nobody is talking much about the Lake Erie Monsters’ achievement. Figures; that’s what happens when one stands up for cryptozoology)

I’ve been thinking, there actually are ways that the Cleveland Cavaliers could still lose at this point. Three most likely scenarios:

(1) LeBron’s announced SPACE JAM sequel will turn out unbearably horrible that the NBA will have to strike all LeBron James scores from the record books (like what happened with Joe Paterno). Thus the Cavs would retroactively lose Game Seven to the Golden State Warriors after all.

(2) It is announced that the Cavaliers organization failed to pay a special “incorporation renewal tax” imposed by Cuyahoga County Democrats in secret (because if anybody knew about it, the public might vote it down). When the team failed to file by the June 19 deadline, Cleveland Cavaliers ceased to exist as a legal corporate entity, and Golden State won the last game by default.

(3) Republicans, in a runup to having a “brokered” RNC convention in Cleveland to deny Donald Trump’s nomination, set a precedent by doing a “brokered” NBA final. The team with the most-monied lobbyists in Washington wins. At least the Cavs and Warriors both go down to defeat in this scenario; the championship will be handed either to a team of Islamic militants (backed by Saudi Arabia) or Chinese slave-factory workers.

Yes, China’s pretty much on the march this century, while Americans’ collective attentions, as always, are on other things, such as sports or whether certain Game of Thrones characters are alive or dead. Typical.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding Dory


Review by Joseph Anthony

Our favorite fishes, Nemo, Marlin, and Dory, are all back in FINDING DORY, the sequel to the now beloved Pixar film FINDING NEMO. Last time around Marlin (Albert Brooks), Nemo’s dad, had lost his son in the Pacific Ocean. His journey to find Nemo led him to encounter many other delightful characters, including a short-term memory loss afflicted blue tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).

Luckily for us, Marlin and Dory found little Nemo. As we revisit the gang, everyone is happily living together. Dory still can’t remember a whole lot, but she knows her new family of Marlin and Nemo. As she enjoys her new home, she starts having flashbacks to her childhood with her mom Jenny (Diane Keaton) and dad Charlie (Eugene Levy). Dory starts longing not only to remember more about her parents and childhood, but wants to set out to find them.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

El Cid (screening June 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque)



A 1961 medieval epic from the old days, when roving “international co-productions” mean giant, on-location shoots in venues such as Italy or, in this case Spain, EL CID does fall in with all the era’s Biblical spectacles and torn-from-the-pages-of-history kitsch in which part of the goal was the movie industry trying to be ever bigger and bolder and brighter-colored than its nasty little cheap, B&W competitor, television. Given that, however, director Anthony Mann’s eye-filling costumer does have some pretty resonant elements for the present day.

Later NRA figurehead Charlton Heston, a guy able to do larger-than-life with no problem who practically became synonymous with oversized, super-sized and cutting-edge-of-widescreen narratives (lessee, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY, BEN HUR, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, KHARTOUM, PLANET OF THE APES, EARTHQUAKE…sorry, liberals, the guy rocked) stars here. In war-torn 11th-century Spain, stalwart warrior-knight Rodrigo (Heston) runs afoul of the royal family again and again because of his inflexible Christian-based ethics and nobility.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Horror Hotel Weekend shows the Republicans how a REAL convention ought to go, June 9-12

  

Notice how Hillary Clinton keeps having coughing fits when she gives speeches in public. I hate to tell you, but I’ve seen lots of cheap cannibal-zombie movies, and that’s usually how the epidemic starts.

In order to know what to do next, I strongly suggest all of you attend Horror Hotel in Hudson.

Begun in 2012, Horror Hotel Weekend, at the Clarion Inn in Hudson, is an annual event convention spun off from The Indie Gathering, a long-running
series of meetings and conventions by/for do-it-yourself northeast Ohio filmmakers.

The big Indie Gathering festival happens in late summer. But from its submissions, organizers realized backyard filmmakers the world over jammed to horror and science-fiction genre shorts and features. Thus, in 2012, the decision to hold a Horror Hotel Weekend dedicated to the fantastic and the frightening.

So that must have been the zombie apocalypse predicted by the Mayan calendar.