Favorite

Capsule Reviews Of Just About Everything 

Appaloosa - A decent enough western in the old-school tradition, Appaloosa reunites Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen for the first time since 2005's A History of Violence. This time, Harris and Mortensen play hired Wild West lawmen instead of mobster adversaries. Their relaxed, easygoing camaraderie is the best thing in Appaloosa, giving it the timeless quality of a vintage buddy movie like Newman and Redford's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker, Appaloosa is less a revisionist western than a pastiche of tried-and-true genre classics (Rio Bravo, High Noon, you name it). When Virgil (Harris) and Everett (Mortensen) ride into Appaloosa, it's only a matter of time before they butt heads - and exchange bullets - with local bad guy Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons in a neat switch from his usual Brit aristocrat roles) and his gang of scruffy varmints. Throwing a temporary monkey wrench into Everett and Virgil's male-bonding is another recent Appaloosa arrival, widowed coquette Allison (Renee Zellweger). Last year's 3:10 to Yuma remake remains the more satisfyingly retrograde cowboy flick, but Appaloosa ultimately passes muster as a decent Saturday night popcorn movie. 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

Baghead - Baghead is a clever, funny and suspenseful film about a group of low-level actors who decide to write their own movie in the hope of getting some attention. Chad (Steve Zissis) wants to use the movie to get closer to Michelle (Greta Gerwig), but Michelle has the hots for Matt (Ross Partridge), even though Matt's ex Catherine (Elise Muller) still has feelings for him. After Michelle dreams about seeing a man with a bag over his head, the group decides to use the dream as the basis for a horror movie. But as tensions in the group grow, they all begin to realize the horror movie they're writing just might be real. The suspense and soap-opera elements of the story are leavened with a fair amount of satire of indie-film clichés and stereotypes. Imagine something like Tropic Thunder making fun of self-absorbed indie-film types rather than self-absorbed Hollywood types, and you'd be pretty close to Baghead. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:55 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27. (Robert Ignizio)

Beverly Hills Chihuahua - Disney has told this story Ð pampered pooch takes up with some dogs from the other side of the tracks and learns about true friendship Ð before. But Lady and the Tramp doesn't have a scene in which human stars Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis bark at each other on their cell phones. And unlike the 1955 animated hit, the live-action Beverly Hills Chihuahua has little charm, wit or subtlety. Spoiled, booty-wearing Chihuahua Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) gets lost during a trip to Mexico. Over the next 90 minutes, she's recruited into a dog-fighting club, befriends a tough but lovable German Shepherd (Andy Garcia), gets conned by a rat and iguana (Cheech Marin and Paul Ridriguez), and eventually finds her bark. The dogs are cute; the fact that they say things like "talk to the paw" isn't. (Michael Gallucci)

Blindness - Portuguese author José Saramago was reluctant to grant film rights to his 1995 novel about an epidemic of "white blindness" that strikes citizens of an unnamed country. Saramago worried about how the novel's violence, rape and degradation would be treated by the filmmaker. The well-regarded Brazilian director Fernando Meiralles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) won the rights, on the condition that he set the film in an unrecognizable city (it was filmed primarily in S-o Paolo). Some of the author's fears, alas, were justified: Meiralles' film is a technically accomplished but often excruciating experience. Meiralles and screenwriter Don McKellar changed the setting from the 1930s or '40s to a contemporary period but retained its cast of allegorically named characters: Doctor (Mark Ruffalo), Doctor's Wife (Julianne Moore, who's excellent), Man With Black Eye Patch (Danny Glover), Bartender/King of Ward 3 (Gael Garc’a Bernal), Woman With Dark Glasses (Alice Braga). In the end, the characters' suffering (and, by extension, the audience's) feels unjustified and unredeemed. (Pamela Zoslov)

Body of Lies - The web of deceit in this taut political thriller tangles more than the CIA agent played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Everyone in the movie, all the way down to DiCaprio's seemingly throwaway love interest, is keeping secrets. All the double-crosses, lies and cagey spy stuff ultimately boil down to: Who's screwing whom? DiCaprio's Roger Ferris is a post-9/11 operative hopping from one Middle East battleground to another in search of bad guys with bombs. He's moved around by his boss (a frumpy Russell Crowe), who's thousands of miles away back home in the U.S., calling the shots on his cell phone as he drops off his kids at school. They try to weed out an Osama bin Laden-like terrorist leader by making deals, creating a fake terrorist group and engaging in some good old-fashioned shoot-outs. Director Ridley Scott stages the action scenes with the same explosive zip he brought to Gladiator, Blade Runner and Alien, while the top-notch cast (especially Mark Strong as the head of Jordanian intelligence) adeptly propels the story -- which thankfully isn't as convoluted as it could be, considering all the double-dealings going on. Despite a soggy ending that sorta goes against the film's main theme -- trust no one Ð Body of Lies is all about faith in a field that's fatally short on it. (Gallucci)

Burn After Reading - The change of pace offered here from the Coen brothers, who cleaned up last year at the Academy Awards for their intense No Country for Old Men, is likely to leave many fans scratching their collective heads. A whimsical story about a woman (Frances McDormand) who discovers a CD-ROM of what she thinks are top secret C.I.A. files, Burn After Reading hardly has the depth of No Country. And yet it's worth seeing just for the performance by John Malkovich, who stars as the hot-tempered CIA agent whose life falls apart before our eyes as he loses both his job and his marriage in one fell swoop. (Jeff Niesel)

Choke - Based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel about a guy so starved for affection, he's taken to choking himself in public places in order to get attention, Choke is just as twisted and disturbing as its source material. Protagonist Victor Mancini, a guy who works as a historical re-enactor at a Colonial Williamsburg theme park, is played perfectly in the film by madcap actor Sam Rockwell. A sexaholic who has a love/hate relationship with his dying mother (Anjelica Huston), Victor struggles with the abandonment issues of his past and tries to break his sexaholic habits by attending weekly recovery sessions. But more often than not, he ends up hooking up with other sexaholics for cheap, meaningless sex. Victor's struggle is the central conflict in the film, which stays so true to the book, it doesn't alter its bleak ending and often takes passages directly from the novel for the running voiceover. (Niesel)

City of Ember - Bill Murray stars as a corrupt mayor in this fantasy-adventure flick that's probably more suited to young viewers than adults. The "city of ember" is an underground village where the only light comes from a power generator. When teenagers Lina (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) find a box that includes an emergency plan that will get them out of the quickly deteriorating city, they start to set their escape into motion, infuriating the mayor and his team of cronies. While the movie, an adaptation of a Jeanne DuPrau novel, is well-crafted, its story doesn't have quite the same magic as the Harry Potter movies or even the recent Spiderwick Chronicles. 1/2 (Niesel)

The Duchess - There are a lot of reasons to like this historical biography starring Keira Knightley as Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806), an ancestor of Princess Diana. One of them has nothing to do with the movie itself: Knightley, whose modest bustline is highlighted by the movie's tightly corseted costumes, protested the studio's plan to digitally enlarge her breasts in the movie posters. We like her much better for that. Further, the movie, based on a book by Amanda Foreman and directed by Saul Dibb, is a dishy pleasure, all ravishing dresses, outlandish wigs, ornate sets and sex - especially sex. Although Georgiana was an active campaigner for the Whig Party and organizer of political and literary salons, she was better known, like her descendant Diana, for her trendsetting fashion and unusual marriage. The movie gives only cursory attention to Georgiana's political activities, thankfully preferring to focus on the sexier parts of her life. (Zoslov)

Eagle Eye - It knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you're awake. It knows your weekend plans and what you're having for dinner because it's monitoring the plague of electronic devices in our pockets and purses. The Patriot Act-protected title character in Eagle Eye is a self-aware, anti-terrorism surveillance computer that goes rogue - deciding to assassinate the leaders of America to end the self-imposed state of terror. The all-seeing robot uses its gathered information and control of all things electronic to rope in two unsuspecting civilians - Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan). Billy Bob Thornton is along for the ride as an FBI agent in pursuit of the pair. But good luck following the action - director D.J. Caruso's shaky shots are more disorienting than a 5-year old playing with a video camera. In the end, not even the snappy dialogue and charm of LaBeouf and Thornton can stop Eagle Eye's political nausea. (Jason Morgan)

Elegy - Philip Roth's novella The Dying Animal is a strange choice for a movie adaptation. A brief coda to Roth's Professor of Desire series about the sex-obsessed David Kepesh, it's basically a monologue in which college professor Kepesh recalls his affair with a Cuban American student 38 years his junior. Director Isabel Coixet apparently saw a tender romance in this slender phallocentric story and has made it into a glossy drama with the unusual casting choice of Ben Kingsley as Kepesh. Kingsley is a fine actor, but making Kepesh an Englishman is a bad idea, as he sounds a bit awkward at times. Penélope Cruz is lovely as Consuela Castillo, the object of Kepesh's desire, though she doesn't quite evoke the voluptuous siren whose breasts drove Roth's Kepesh into an erotic frenzy. The supporting roles fare better: Peter Sarsgaard is intense as Kepesh's resentful son, Patricia Clarkson is fine in the small role of Kepesh's longtime bedmate and Dennis Hopper is delightful as Kepesh's friend, poet George O'Hearn. The cinematography is beautiful and the soundtrack is filled with tasteful classical music, but there isn't enough story to sustain a feature film. 1/2 (Zoslov)

Eraserhead (US, 1977) - David Lynch's first feature shows in a newly restored print. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 and at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26.

The Express - The Express isn't just another sports movie. While it's ostensibly about the career of Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first black athlete to win the Heisman Trophy, and how his career was tragically cut short, it's about much more than that. The film stars Dennis Quaid as Ben Schwartzwalder, a former American soldier who took a no-nonsense attitude toward the football field. The movie's essentially a feel-good rags-to-riches story as it shows how Davis came from a small Pennsylvania mining town and slowly worked his way to the top of an already strong college football program, helping his team win a national title. While the tragic outcome of the story might have been better served with a simple postscript, the fact that the film's about 15 minutes too long isn't a huge detriment. (Niesel)

The Family That Preys - Director Tyler Perry's latest movie about middle-class African Americans offers the usual quotient of interracial affairs and illegitimate offspring. The story here surrounds a greedy son (Cole Hauser) who tries to wrest the family business out of the hands of his aging-but-obstinate mother (Kathy Bates), a wealthy white woman who would rather spend her time slumming with an African-American diner owner (Alfre Woodward). The set-up is all initially believable and Woodward and Bates have great chemistry. But at a certain point midway through, the movie crosses into soap-opera territory and resorts to the kind of drama you'd expect out of General Hospital, albeit with a bit more ethnic diversity. (Niesel)

Fireproof - Imagine a government bailout putting the Southern Baptists in charge of Fox Cable; then Rescue Me would look like this: Hotheaded Georgia firefighter Caleb (Kirk Cameron), an internet porn addict, turns to Jesus and a series of "love dares" (that's trademarked, evidently, judging by the book tie-ins being sold) to salvage his failing marriage to a hospital PR flack. Alas, winning the miserable bitch's ardor again is tougher than his lifesaving exploits. With production values of a circa 1980 (A.D.) TV movie, this Christian-inspirational drama from filmmaker-pastors Alex and Stephen Kendricks (after Facing the Giants) has the wisdom to know it can't compete with Backdraft in the visuals, so don't expect inferno-level action. Indeed, close your eyes and you'll swear (well, no you won't; nobody swears here) you're hearing an evangelical radio soap opera on WCRF-FM, complete with community-theater acting and sermonizing dialogue. And there's an audience for that, OK, but verily, ye must be Born Again to fully enter into what amounts to an infomercial for the Bible-centered covenant-marriage movement. At least the script is pretty frank in acknowledging wedded bliss is a ... flaming turd. (Charles Cassady)

Ghost Town - Brit funnyman Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Bertram Pincus, an uptight, Scrooge-like dentist who's so misanthropic, he likes the fact that his patients are often too numb to speak. But when Pincus encounters some health problems, he has to make an emergency trip to the hospital and wakes up to find out he came close to dying during an operation. As a result, once he's revived, he can see dead people, and his life takes an abrupt turn. One of the ghosts that talks to him is a guy named Frank Herlihy (Kinnear), who'll only leave Gervais alone if he agrees to break off his his engagement to widow Gwen (Tea Leoni). Bertram acquiesces but not because he likes Frank. In fact, he can't stand him and ends up not only befriending Gwen but also the guy she plans to marry. As much as the movie's about a guy so mean-spirited, he won't even hold the elevator for anyone but himself, it's also got a pretty big heart. Gervais, who helped develop the character with ideas of his own, is terrific, even if he's not really good-looking enough for the part. (Niesel)

A Girl Cut in Two - French director Claude Chabrol (Chocolat) delivers something like a Pedro Almodovar film with this drama that finds a famous author named Charles (Franois Berléand) and a rich businessmen named Paul (Beno”t Magimel) both vying for the attention of Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier), a vivacious newscaster who aspires to do more than weather forecasts. Neither suitor is particularly promising, however. Charles has been married for 25 years and tends to be condescending. Paul is a rich kid who doesn't take no for an answer, cavorting around town in a sports car that costs more than Gabrielle, who still lives with her mother, makes in a year. Eventually, Gabrielle marries Paul, but her heart still longs for Charles, and that's something the unstable Paul can't stand. Well-acted and superbly written, the film avoids its soap opera tendencies simply because it's so sophisticated, and the numerous tragic twists will constantly keep you guessing. (Niesel)

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People - Simon Pegg stars as Sidney Young, a curmudgeonly gossip writer who moves from England to New York with the hopes of establishing himself as a major player at an up-and-coming magazine. But his crude behavior and disdain for a power-playing publicist (Gillian Anderson) gets him into hot water with the publisher (Jeff Bridges) who tells him he needs to shape up or ship out. His only friend (Kirsten Dunst) is an aspiring author who's frustrated with her tabloid journalism career, but instead of cherishing his friendship with her, he lusts after a hot actress (Megan Fox) and ends up becoming the kind of sycophant he despises. There's not much chemistry between Dunst and Pegg, and the shoddily directed film feels more like something that was made for British television. (Niesel)

Igor - There isn't much to this CGI time-killer about a mad scientist's hunchbacked assistant who has aspirations of his own. So it's the little things that count: the title character (voiced by John Cusack), an Igor School grad with a Yes-Master degree who sounds like Boris Karloff when he's around others and like John Cusack when he's narrating the movie; his stitched-together creation, who mistakes Igor's "evil" orders for her name, Eva; and a pair of chatty inventions/sidekicks Ð a suicidal rabbit cursed with immortality (Steve Buscemi in full existential-angst mode) and a not-so-brilliant brain in a jar who accidentally scrawled "Brian" on the outside of his home in permanent ink. After his bumbling master's latest experiment ends fatally for the old guy, Igor gets the run of the lab and makes a monster, which he hopes will snag first place in the Evil Science Fair. Unfortunately, all the goodhearted Eva wants to do is act. The horror! 1/2 (Gallucci)

Lakeview Terrace - Samuel L. Jackson is Able Turner, a police officer and single dad. Turner's got a few issues about race, and when an interracial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) moves in next door he becomes the neighbor from hell. That premise could have made for an entertaining guilty pleasure in the vein of early '90s thrillers like Unlawful Entry, or it could have been the set-up for a serious drama about race relations and suburban rage. Unfortunately, Lakeview Terrace can't seem to make up its mind about which it wants to be. This is a movie that cloaks itself in an aura of false relevance but lacks the courage to address the issues it raises in any meaningful way. It's too bad because Abel Turner is an interesting character. He isn't a one-dimensional bad guy, and Jackson does a great job of humanizing him. Sadly, that effort is undermined every time the movie goes into standard thriller mode, culminating in a cheap and pointless ending. Lakeview Terrace is neither fun nor thought-provoking. It's just bad. (Ignizio)

Macario - This fantasy about a poor Mexican woodcutter was the first Mexican film nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Max Payne - Based on a popular video game character, this ultra-violent film starring Mark Wahlberg as vigilante cop Max Payne tries to be two things at once. On the one hand, it's a crime drama about a guy whose wife and child were killed during a robbery attempt. On the other, it's a sci-fi thriller about an experimental drug that will turn ordinary men into monsters with Hulk-like strength. Either way you take it, the convoluted plot takes so many twists and turns, it never really makes much sense, even as Max starts to get to the bottom of his wife's unsolved murder. (Niesel) Miracle at St. Anna - Spike Lee's wildly ambitious, two-and-a-half-hour-plus WW II epic has so many interesting elements (including the heretofore unexamined role of African-American soldiers who served in the 92nd Infantry's Buffalo Soldiers division) that it's a shame the movie feels so unfocused, digressive and needlessly cluttered. Adapted by author James McBride from his same-named novel, Lee's film is part war flick set in 1944 Tuscany, part 1980s New York murder mystery, part travelogue and part maudlin tearjerker about the bond between a soldier (Omar Benson Miller) and the 7-year-old Italian waif (Matteo Sciabordi) he protects from harm's way. A terrific cast (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Derek Luke, Kerry Washington and John Turturro) tries valiantly to make an impression but mostly gets lost amid all the noise, confusion and competing storylines. 1/2 (Paurich)

My Best Friend's Girl - Nothing new in this predictable romantic comedy. The insufferable Dane Cook plays Tank, a good-looking but obnoxious guy who's such a bad date, his buddies get him to go out with their ex-girlfriends because they know they'll come back to them after one night with the guy. But when his best friend and roommate Dustin (Jason Biggs) enlists his help, the plan backfires. Tank is obnoxious as ever, but the feisty Alexis (Kate Hudson) doesn't mind and ends up falling for him. Tank discovers he has feelings for her, too, and thus the film heads down a familiar path as Tank must choose between his best friend and his best friend's girl. While Alec Baldwin has a nice turn as Tank's insensitive and over-sexed dad, the movie had little going for it, especially since Cook thinks his fast-talking stand-up skills translate to the big screen (they don't). And yes, the Cars' song from which the movie takes its name plays incessantly throughout the film. (Niesel)

Nazarin (Mexico, 1959) - Luis Bunuel's film is about a young priest who attempts to live a pure Christian life. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 22.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - This film takes place over the course of one wild night. Set in New York's Lower East Side, it references the many clubs that exist in that part of town, as the teens hop from the Bowery Ballroom to the Mercury Lounge in search of a secret show by their favorite band, Where's Fluffy. Along the way, Nick (Michael Cera), the guitarist in a crappy queercore band, meets Norah (Kat Dennings), the daughter of a famous music producer, and she enlists him to be her boyfriend for the night, just to keep her superficial friend Tris (Alexis Dziena) from making fun of her. When it coincidentally turns out that Tris is the girl for whom Nick has been making mix disc after mix disc in the hopes of winning her back after she abruptly broke up with him, Norah has to rethink her whole plan. Nick is still hung up on Tris, and that's an obstacle Norah can't seem to overcome. Along the way, Norah's friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) gets so drunk, she wanders off, and Norah and the guys in Nick's band go out looking for her. The plot is a bit stagnant (think of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry and his friends can't find their car in the parking structure), and the only thing that (barely) holds the film together is its terrific soundtrack. 1/2 (Niesel)

Nights in Rodanthe - Nights in Rodanthe tells the story of Adrienne (Diane Lane), a middle-aged mother of two whose husband left her for another woman but now wants to return. Adrienne decides to think it over during a trip to look after a beachfront inn in North Carolina's Outer Banks owned by her friend, lively artist Jean (Viola Davis). The only guest at the inn is Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), a doctor with a troubled past. Having just left his marriage, Paul has come to coastal Rodanthe to talk to an old man named Torrelson (Scott Glenn), who is suing Paul over the death of his wife on his operating table. Paul and Adrienne strike up a friendship, which turns passionate after a hurricane pummels the bizarrely vulnerable inn. What's remarkable about the movie is the wide gulf between the skill of cast and crew and the banality of the material. (Zoslov)

Obscene (US, 2007) - Described by one of his many admirers as the "last maverick in American publishing," Grove Press and Evergreen Review founder Barney Rosset is the subject of Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor's wryly affectionate new documentary. The censorship battles that Rosset waged in defense of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, an unexpurgated Lady Chatterly's Lover and the X-rated Swedish art flick I am Curious (Yellow) are only part of the story. The film makes a persuasive case for Rosset's cultural and historical importance, and a treasure trove of archival material helps give it a pungently nostalgic flavor. Rosset, whose friends included everyone from Samuel Beckett to Alan Ginsberg and Jackson Pollock, lived an extraordinarily rich life, and Ortenberg and O'Connor are to be commended for doing their fascinating subject justice. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 25 and 8:45 p.m. Sunday, October 26. (Paurich)

Quarantine - Quarantine is a remake of a Spanish film ([Rec]) that was itself influenced by the documentary style of The Blair Witch Project and the basic premise of 28 Days Later. A TV news crew tags along with the fire department on a routine call to help a sick old lady in an apartment building. Turns out she's infected with a fast spreading disease that turns its victims into homicidal maniacs. Infected and uninfected alike are barricaded inside when the CDC arrives on the scene with military backup and a cover story. The movie isn't going to win any awards for originality, but sometimes all you want from a horror flick are a few good scares and characters who don't act too painfully stupid. In that respect, Quarantine delivers. It's by no means a classic, but Quarantine should please most serious horror fans, as well as those just looking for a fun scary flick for date night. Just try to avoid seeing the trailer beforehand. It gives away some important scenes, completely ruining their effect. 1/2 (Ignizio)

Religulous - If satire is what closes on Saturday night, does that mean that Larry Charles and Bill Maher's scattershot satirical documentary Religulous will throw in the towel after its first Saturday matinee? While too hit-and-miss to be considered a success, I sincerely hope that Religulous(the title means just what you think it does) sticks around a lot longer than that. At a time when right-wing hockey mamma Sarah Palin is hogging all of the spotlight, a thoughtful, well-considered and sometimes laugh-out-loud movie that dares to take gleeful potshots at organized religion of every persuasion is to be cherished. I only wish that Religulous wasn't so meandering and - at 103, stuffed-to-the-gills minutes - overlong. With some judicious editing it could have made a killer HBO special. 1/2 (Paurich)

Righteous Kill - Righteous Kill offers the kind of mild entertainment you'd expect from a straight-to-video crime thriller. You know, it's the sort of film that makes for a pleasant enough evening in front of the TV with a six-pack, but you wouldn't really want to plunk down 10 bucks to see it. Normally, you wouldn't expect a movie like this to star Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Nonetheless, here they are. DeNiro and Pacino have been in films together before (Heat, The Godfather 2), but this is their first true co-starring vehicle. The supporting cast - Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo and 50 Cent - is good, too. Director/producer John Avnet delivers a polished and professional looking film, but it's hard not to feel like you've seen this all before. Written by Russell Gerwitz (Inside Man), Righteous Kill thinks it's smarter and cleverer than it really is. As DeNiro and Pacino try to solve a series of vigilante murders, the script works so hard to misdirect the audience that it actually had the opposite effect on me. I still enjoyed the performances, and Gerwitz does give the actors a few good lines, but that doesn't entirely make up for the by-the-numbers plot. 1/2 (Ignizio)

The Secret Life of Bees - The subject matter of this movie, which is set in segregated South Carolina in the '60s, isn't exactly kids' stuff. Raised by an abusive father, Lily (Dakota Fanning) runs away from home with her caretaker Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) and eventually ends up meeting the honey-making Boatwright sisters, an African-American family led by the matriarchal August Boatwright (Queen Latifah), a proud woman whose thriving beekeeping business has given them an usual amount of autonomy. August and her sisters June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo) struggle to protect Lily from her abusive father as well as from the racist locals who don't like the fact that a white girl is living with an African-American family. Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball), who also adapted the book, went to great lengths to make sure the film was realistic. And it shows. The film works equally well as chick flick and period piece. (Niesel)

Sex Drive - I was wondering when the remorseless wheels of the remake mill were going to grind up The Sure Thing, Rob Reiner's well-remembered rutting-teen-comedy-with-a-brain starring John Cusack as the youth going cross-country to rendezvous with a sexy golden girl; would he or wouldn't he figure out that the demure brunette accompanying him was his soulmate instead? Well, the new Sex Drive claims a basis in some novel I'd never heard of but otherwise seems awfully like Reiner's film, updated with an internet twist and scriptwriter's eyes gazed crotchward. Sex Drive scores as lowbrow entertainment, opening with a pre-credit gag about slipping on sperm-soaked underpants, closing with a scrotum shot, as nice-guy Ian (Josh Zuckerman), a nebbish everyteen working a Mcjob at the mall food court, remains a love-starved virgin at the unspeakable age of 18. There's a bit of creativity in the plot mechanics. Seth Green has an amusing supporting role, and I can't totally hate a movie that includes the Broken Hearted Robot figure among the egregious product placements. (Cassady)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Vicky Cristina Barcelona finds director Woody Allen in a lighter mood, telling the story of two friends: dark-haired, sensible Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and blond, impulsive Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), who share a summer vacation - and a lover, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) - in Barcelona. After a weekend trip to Oviedo, Juan Antonio, to Vicky's disappointment, takes up with Cristina, who moves in with him. Vicky resigns herself to marrying the ambitious and reliable Doug (Chris Messina), who seems, by contrast, hopelessly dull. Cristina and Juan Antonio's romantic idyll is interrupted when he is forced to rescue his suicidal ex-wife Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), who moves into the house. After some initial mistrust, the three fall into a comfortable ménage. Later, Vicky tries to reignite the flame with Juan Antonio, resulting in an absurd twist of fate. It's a mere wisp of a movie, but the clever, talky script and fine cast make it go down like a cool glass of limonada. (Zoslov)

Vivre Sa Vie (France, 1962) - Divided into 12 "acts," Jean-Luc Godard's feature seems to fall between the seats as character-study drama, social document on the corrosive effects of prostitute and a rather tongue-in-cheek takeoff on literary themes (especially Emil Zola's novel Nana). Danish actress Anna Karina, briefly wife and muse of Godard, stars as Nana, a runaway young wife and mother. Bored with domesticity and determined to be a star, she deserts her husband, flirts briefly with film acting before beginning a no-apologies downward spiral, as a record-store clerk and finally as a big-city whore/madame and small-time mob moll. Some eccentric scenes consist solely of the backs of characters' heads as they converse, and the mild suspicion that the New Wave stylist is putting a big joke over on the viewer tends to undermine the serious intent of showing a heroine running out of options and forced (or, in Nana's case, seemingly forcing herself) to the streets as a "woman of the boulevards." In an extension of his guerilla filmmaking techniques, Godard here recorded the sound naturally, eschewing a studio audio mix in post-production. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23 and at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24. (Cassady)

The Women - "It's All About Men!" That was the slogan on the poster for The Women, the 1939 movie version of Clare Boothe Luce's catty, all-female Broadway play. Directed by George Cukor, the movie starred Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford. Diane English, who created TV's Murphy Brown, makes her feature debut with a remake starring Meg Ryan (who also produced). The result isn't as bad as you might expect, but far less funny than you might hope. Ryan plays Mary Hanes, a Connecticut wife who discovers her husband is having an affair. Her friends (Annette Bening, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith) rally around her and scope out the "other woman," a gold-digging Saks perfume clerk played by Eva Mendes. Though many of English's jokes fall flat, she offers a more sympathetic view of women than Luce, who cracked that the women who inspired her play "deserved to be smacked across the head with a meat ax." 1/2 (Zoslov)

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Staff Pick Events

  • Fat City @ Cleveland Museum of Art

    • Wed., Aug. 24
  • In Search of Israeli Cuisine @ Cleveland Cinematheque

    • Wed., Aug. 24
  • Hieronymus Bosch, Touched by the Devil @ Cleveland Museum of Art

    • Wed., Aug. 31

Facebook Activity

© 2016 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 241-7550
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation