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Capsule Reviews 

OPENING

Blithe Spirit (Britain, 1945) - A novelist is haunted by his dead ex-wife in this David Lean film with an Oscar-winning script by Noel Coward. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 4.

La Verite (France/Italy, 1960) - Brigitte Bardot stars as a woman on trial for the murder of her sister's fiancé. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:40 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 and at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 1.

Napoleon (France, 1927) - Abel Gance's silent film about the rise of Napoleon shows in a newly restored print. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

A Passage to India (Britain, 1945) - David Lean's final film is about a British woman who travels to colonial India and finds herself in trouble. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1.

Riptide (France, 1948) - Mysteries abound as a distraught young man checks into a Normandy hotel in this rare film noir classic. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 and at 9:15 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27.

Synecdoche, New York - The love-it-or-hate-it movie of the year, Synecdoche, New York will separate Charlie Kaufman-come-latelys from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind/Being John Malkovich scenarist's hardcore fans. After only one viewing, it's not easy to comprehend the film. But that's a normal reaction to any film as meta, multi-layered and crazily ambitious as this homegrown variant on Fellini's epochal, hallucinatory, "artist-through-the-looking-glass" masterpiece 8 1/2. The fact that Caden's theatrical crazy-quilt more closely resembles a movie than a stage piece - a huge, out-of-control movie in which an auteur director has been given carte blanche by deep-pocketed Hollywood suits - is surely deliberate. Yet there's method to Kaufman's madness, and Synecdoche, New York is as exhilarating and (frequently exasperating) as it is spectacularly entertaining. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Monday, March 2. (Milan Paurich)

ONGOING

Confessions of a Shopaholic - Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) has run into a bit of bad luck. The home and garden magazine she writes for has just shut down, and she can't afford her rent. Instead of adopting a frugal lifestyle, however, she continues to frequent sample sales and designer-clothing boutiques. Her addiction to buying new clothes is so bad that the mannequins have even started talking to her. It's ironic, then, when she gets a job working at a business magazine and launches a column about how to stay out of debt. It's inevitable that her inability to control her own spending habits will be exposed and undo the celebrity status she attains through her column. Based on the Sophie Kinsella novel, P.J. Hogan's film has some good moments (mostly because Fisher is so adept at physical comedy, tripping and flinging herself around relentlessly). But the film quickly fizzles as it takes on a more serious tone and develops the rather routine love story between Rebecca and her editor Luke (Hugh Dancy). (Niesel)

Fired Up - When high-school football stars Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) get wind of an upcoming cheerleading clinic where they can meet 300 young co-eds, they weasel their way out of football training camp and convince head cheerleader Carly (Sarah Roemer) that they really want to be part of the cheer team. Hijinks ensue, and the two guys find the gorgeous girls ready, willing and able. Along the way, Shawn falls for Carly and starts taking the whole cheerleading competition seriously, which annoys his more frivolous pal. Needless to say, there's a finale during which Shawn and Nick overcome their aversion to cheering to bond with their teammates. While some of the fast-talking dialogue and repartee is clever and funny, the pedestrian directing, average acting and

predictable storyline make this flick completely disposable. (Niesel)

Friday the 13th - Like all Friday the 13th films, this remake works from the same plot: a bunch of dumb teenagers in the woods drinking, smoking pot and having sex, only to be killed in various ways by deformed slasher Jason Voorhees. But the elements just don't gel in a satisfying way. It's like "serious" filmmakers tried to copy the original movies, but without any real understanding of what made them work. So they spill plenty of blood on the screen, but none of the kill scenes are particularly inventive or memorable. Even the gratuitous nudity feels more gratuitous here. Of course, such distinctions won't matter to most. Those looking for a horror film with a few good scares will find it here, while those who hate the genre will see no difference between this Friday and its predecessors. (Robert Ignizio)

He's Just Not That Into You - Director Ken Kwapis (License to Wed, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) assembled an all-star cast to film this unfilmable book of anecdotes about why men treat women badly even when they like them. While the acting is generally solid across the board, the movie, much like the book, has only moments of inspiration. The intertwining relationships - Janine (Jennifer Connelly) is married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) who's having an affair with Anna (Scarlett Johansson), who's been in and out of a relationship with Conor (Kevin Connolly), who's just blown off Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), who now seeks comfort from Conor's friend Alex (Justin Long) - seem a bit too fabricated here, making the setting (a very spruced-up Baltimore) seem more like some kind of small town. Still, Goodwin is terrific as the frightfully insecure Gigi and the always solid Connelly (not the typically smug Connolly) is excellent as a woman who'll do anything to save her marriage. 1/2 (Niesel)

The International - Much like 2007's Michael Clayton, The International is about one man's quest to get to the bottom of a conspiracy. In this case, that man is renegade Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen), who's been trying to convict a Luxembourg bank of dabbling in organized crime. Salinger brings in his New York-based higher-up, Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), to help him track the evidence -- first to New York then to Milan and Istanbul -- before he can get any final answers. There's never a dull moment, and even though Watts and Owen don't get quite enough screen time together, that's a minor quibble with this thinking man's thriller. (Niesel) Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle's latest is an irresistible, ingeniously structured hodgepodge of Bollywood (the souped-up romanticism and Day-Glo colors) and Charles Dickens (a classical narrative arc). The story of 18-year-old street kid Jamal (Dev Patel, amiable if emotionally opaque) raised in the Mumbai ghetto who makes a killing on that country's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, it's a rags-to-riches fairy-tale shot in glittery, in-your-face fashion, with lots of jump cuts and distorted fisheye lenses. Convulsively entertaining, Slumdog Millionaire certainly looks like no other film, and it's only afterwards that the whole thing begins to disassemble a bit in your head. Is Boyle merely serving up a kickier form of colonial imperialism, tsk-tsking the sad lot of disenfranchised third-worlders like Jamal and his ragamuffin friends? After just one viewing, it's not certain. But the bitter aftertaste that kicks in once the sugar rush fades makes you wonder if Slumdog Millionaire isn't really just a Richard Attenborough movie in flashier threads. (Paurich)

Taken - After years of work as a "preventer," as he calls himself, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is slowly putting his life back in order. He's moved to Los Angeles to be close to his 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), of whom he's very protective, even though she now lives with her mother (Famke Janssen). So when Kim tells her dad she's going to Paris to vacation with a girlfriend, he worries about her safety. When she's abducted by a group of scumbag Albanians who turn unsuspecting young tourists into prostitutes, he does what any father with a background in espionage and intelligence affairs would do: He sets out to find the bastards and kill them. Like James Bond or even Jason Bourne, Bryan Miller gets himself in and out of one improbable situation after the other, hotwiring cars, posing as a French policeman and eluding the bad guys in an intense off-road chase along the way. Neeson, though more than up for the role's physical requirements, isn't quite as charismatic as a Daniel Craig or Matt Damon. Still, the movie's suspenseful enough and packs plenty of action into its lean 90-minute running time. 1/2 (Niesel)

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