Angels and Insects (US/Britain, 1995) - An eccentric, visually lush and decadently romantic mixture of period drama and anthropology and upper-class-twit bashing, based on A.S. Byatt's novella Morpho Eugenia. A penniless Victorian entymologist (Mark Rylance) is hosted by a wealthy English family. He observes uncomfortable parallels between insect and human behavior as he falls in love with a social butterfly, played by Patsy Kensit. Lazy, brilliantly-costumed and propertied aristocrats waited on by armies of servants equal hive-dwelling queens and their drones, get it? Well, yes we do, sort of early on, but there are some memorably hothouse moments and filigree. Filmed at stately Arbury Hall in Warwickshire which was ravaged by the 30,000 soldier ants that escaped during production. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 6:45 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21. (Charles Cassady)
Carnival Night (USSR, 1956) - This comedy chronicles how a strict new director threatens a cheerful New Year's Eve celebration at the Economics Institute. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:50 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20.
The Changeling - Written by veteran TV producer J. Michael Stracynski after a year of meticulous research, Clint Eastwood's period thriller tells the story of Christine Collins, an L.A. single mother whose son, Walter, disappeared in 1928, setting off a bizarre series of events that exposed deep corruption in the L.A. Police Department. Angelina Jolie plays Collins, a phone-company supervisor who, in the mode of the day, glides across the switchboard floor in roller skates. When her beloved Walter (Gattlin Griffith) disappears, Collins tries to enlist the help of an indifferent LAPD. After five months, the police announce they have found the boy in Illinois, but when the child arrives, Collins knows he isn't her son. The movie hews closely to the facts of the case though mercifully doesn't dramatize the more sensational details of the "Wineville Chicken Coop Murders." Jolie is affecting in a performance much quieter than her excellent histrionics in A Mighty Heart. 1/2 (Pamela Zoslov)
High School Musical 3: Senior Year - The last year of high school is when most teens are confronted by difficult decisions and often become sexually active and experiment with drugs. Not in the world of High School Musical, where boyfriends and girlfriends kiss each other on the cheek and nobody ever swears. This squeaky clean flick centers on Troy (Zac Efron), a Renaissance guy who's the star on the basketball team and one of the top drama students, and his significant other Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), a drama major who's just got a scholarship to Stanford. They're both committed to each other but have been accepted to colleges separated by 1,000 miles. That conflict, which the two address with all the maturity of young adults, provides the major tension (if you can call it that) in the movie. But these two goodie- two -shoes lead such perfect lives, they're not likely to elicit your sympathy. And when they break into sappy ballads or conventional pop tunes, they're more than likely to annoy the hell out of you. (Jeff Niesel)
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - Escape 2 Africa picks up where the other Madagascar left off. The four animals - lion Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), who were raised in captivity and pampered in a New York City zoo all their lives - are still stranded in the wild and want to go home. With the help of cross-dressing, egomaniacal lemur King Julien (Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen in full off-the-hook mode), a pair of uppity monkeys and a bunch of straight-talkin', take-charge penguins, the stars board a broken-down plane bound for New York. The movie dispenses with Julien's "I like to move it, move it" signature showstopper early, leaving him plenty of time to dress in drag, plot his takeover of New York and arrange an impromptu volcano sacrifice. Escape 2 Africa pops during these scenes. The rest of the time it merely diverts the kids with the usual throwaway jokes about boogers and big butts, while Mom and Dad smirk knowingly at the Planet of the Apes and Twilight Zone references. 1/2 (Michael Gallucci)
Man on Wire - On the morning of August 7, 1974, New Yorkers watched in awe as an unstoppable Frenchman by the name of Philippe Petit pirouetted on a tightrope between the magnificent Twin Towers without a net. Inspired by an article about the towers when they were still under construction, Petit, a juggler and tightrope walker, made it his goal to journey between what would be the two tallest buildings in the world. Directed by James Marsh, the documentary focuses mainly on the obsessive planning of Petit and his accomplices. It includes actual footage, black-and-white reenactments and intimate interviews. Man on Wire is a fearless example of following one's dreams and facing the ultimate obstacle in life, and unveils a gripping story about a mad genius and exactly how he made it to the top of the World Trade Center without any detection. At times, listening to him recount his stunt is like watching the heist in Ocean's Eleven unfold. Yeah, the story drags on and the introduction of different characters is confusing, but the adventure is continuously intriguing. Only a small portion of the film is dedicated to actual tightrope walking, but images of Petit 1,350 feet above ground are priceless: He spends 45 minutes in the air, lying down, kneeling and saluting. A photograph of Petit with an airplane flying above is equally eerie. Although 9/11 is never once mentioned, watching Petit dance on top of the world becomes a beautiful and emotional memorial. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22 and at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23. 1/2 (Lauren Yusko)
Pride and Glory - Edward Norton plays a straight-arrow detective whose investigation of a cop killing leads him back to the force. It's hardly original, and the storytelling is sloppy and confusing, since the script by brothers Gavin and Gregory O'Connor is little more than a collection of tired clichés. As director, Gavin O'Connor apparently thinks all you need to achieve gritty realism is a non-stop barrage of profanity and shaky handheld camera shots. Supposedly, the O'Connor brothers' father was a police officer, and they grew up immersed in that world. That may well be, but apparently their background didn't give them any experiences to draw upon that we haven't seen in a dozen other cop movies. There are some decent performances from Norton, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight, but their efforts feel wasted. (Robert Ignizio)
Quantum of Solace - Casino Royale, the first Bond film to star the brooding Daniel Craig as the debonair spy, borrowed heavily from the Bourne franchise and did some reinventing of its own. And it goes way deeper than the leaps and bounds of the breathtaking chase scene. Bond killed men with his bare hands (just like Bourne!), he relied on brains rather than some high-tech thingamajig to get out of jams (just like Bourne!) and it all ended on a downer note (yep, just like Bourne). That's where Quantum of Solace, the 22nd James Bond film, picks up. Immediately after the death of his girlfriend at the hands of the enigmatic Quantum organization, Bond speeds through Italy's winding mountain roads, in a gripping pre-titles sequence, with one of the group's masterminds tied up in his trunk. But before Bond and his secret-service colleagues (including boss M, played by a stern Judi Dench) have a chance to question the shadowy Mr. White, he escapes with the help of a Quantum mole. While Quantum of Solace features a typically convoluted Bondsian plot, it's mostly personal this time, as Bond and a new gal pal (Olga Kurylenko) set out for revenge. (Gallucci)
Role Models - Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and Danny (Paul Rudd) have got it made. Wheeler is a ladies man who seems to hook up with someone different every night. Danny is living with his girlfriend Beth (Elizabeth Banks), a brainy beauty who's a practicing lawyer. But for whatever reason, Danny just isn't happy. So one day, he loses it as he's in the middle of telling a group of kids to stay away from drugs (one of his duties as the spokesperson for an energy drink called Minotaur). As a result, he and Wheeler must do community service with a Big Brother-type organization called Sturdy Wings. That only leads to more trouble as Wheeler is paired with a potty-mouthed African-American kid (Bobb'e J. Thompson) and Danny ends up with a Dungeons and Dragons-obsessed nerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). A Shaker Heights native, director David Wain (The Ten, Wet Hot American Summer) doesn't settle for sentimentality and often errs on the side of obnoxious, but at a time when Judd Apatow seems to have cornered the market on edgy comedy, it's good to see someone else take a worthwhile stab at it. (Niesel)
The Russian Question (USSR, 1947) - An American journalist who's lived in socialist Russia writes a book about his experiences. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20.
Santouri: The Music Man (Iran, 2007) - Filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui will appear in person to introduce his latest film and answer audience questions after the screening. Banned in Iran, Santouri follows Ali (Bahram Radan), a popular singer-songwriter and player of the santoor (an ancient stringed instrument), as he spirals into heroin addiction and destroys his life and career. Radan gives a gut-wrenching performance as the film's talented but severely flawed protagonist who loses everything and alienates the people closest to him because he can't control his addiction, which, the film implies, is the by-product of living in a repressed country. A mix of modern and traditional music, the soundtrack is terrific, too. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22. (Niesel)
Soul Men - Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac play Louis Hinds and Floyd Henderson, a couple of retired soul singers inspired to make a comeback when their partner Marcus Hooks (John Legend) dies. The plot is pretty conventional as Louis and Floyd take a road trip from Los Angeles to the Apollo in New York, where they plan to perform at a memorial service. Along the way, they discover Louis' daughter Cleo (Sharon Leal) can sing and bring her along. Their de facto manager Phillip (Adam Herschman) meets them in Memphis and joins the ride too. As routine as it all is, the chemistry between Mac and Jackson is terrific, and the two deliver their funny, expletive-laced lines as if they're not even scripted. 1/2 (Niesel)
Zack and Miri Make a Porno - Roommates and BFFs Zack (Judd Apatow mascot Seth Rogen, sporting enough unbecoming facial hair to make him resemble a Sasquatch monster) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks in an unintentionally amusing segue from her recent stint as Laura Bush in W.) are so cash-strapped they can't afford to pay their rent or utility bills. Director Kevin Smith gives away the "solution" to the financial crunch in the film's title, but the idea that anyone could make a killing with an amateur porn video in the XTube era seems preposterous. Why pay for something you can get for free 24/7 on the internet? And choosing to make Zack and Miri's porno a hardcore send-up of Star Wars (titled, duh, Star Whores) only dates the entire concept further. The romantic stuff - Zack and Miri come to the realization that, golly gee, they complete each other - might have carried more weight if the characters hadn't been portrayed in such grossly unflattering, coarsely caricatured terms until that bottom-of-the-ninth-inning descent into Nora Ephron territory. It's tough to care whether these working-class schlubs get their happily-ever-after if we've never particularly warmed to them in the first place. (Paurich)
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