Breaking Upwards When boredom sets in for a young New York couple (Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones, playing themselves), the two must devise ways to refresh their relationship. First, they spend certain days of the week away from each other, not even calling. That works, to a point. Daryl spends more time with his parents, and Zoe goes shopping whenever she wants. But trouble starts when they attend what's essentially a swingers' club and decide they should start seeing other people. Partly based on reality, the film comes off as an artsy reality-TV show in its attempt to play like a documentary. But its low-budget charm quickly wears thin, particularly because Wein's acting abilities don't match Jones'. Capitol Theatre. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)
Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (U.S., 2010) This documentary examines the life of architect Samuel Mockbee and the low-budget Rural Studio he helmed at Auburn University. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 5.
Creation (Britain, 2009) Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly portray Charles and Emma Darwin in this biopic. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:10 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and 8:55 p.m. Sunday, May 2.
Gigante (Uruguay/Argentina/Germany/Spain, 2009) A supermarket security guard (Horacio Camandule) falls for a co-worker in this realist love story. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 29, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 30.
The Little Traitor Based on the Amos Oz novel Panther in the Basement
, this film about the British occupation of Palestine shortly after World War II opens with the young Proffy (Ido Port) scrambling to make it home before curfew. Much to his father's (Rami Heuberger) chagrin, he barely makes it home. It turns out Proffy is a bit of rebel. He's assembled a small crew of kids that act out harmless insurgent activities, like spray painting "British go home" on city walls. British Sergeant Stephen Dunlop (Alfred Molina) catches him, but instead of turning the troublemaker in, he befriends him, and soon the two are spending afternoons together playing chess and studying Biblical passages. Proffy comes to realize "my enemy is more my friend than my friends" because his friends think he's a traitor. A well-filmed period piece, the movie is a heartfelt story about how cultural differences are overcome. Cedar Lee Theatre. *** (Niesel)
Make Way for Tomorrow (U.S., 1937) An elderly couple loses its home in this Depression-era film. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:15 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 2.
Nightmare on Elm Street Reviewed at clevescene.com.
North Face (Germany/Austria/Switzerland, 2008) Based on a true story of a 1936 climb, The North Face is a period piece about a duo of daring mountaineers. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:20 p.m. Saturday, May 1, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 2.
The Yellow Handkerchief A trio forms an unlikely bond, as Brett (William Hurt), a former oil-rig worker just released from prison, randomly meets up with Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) and Martine (Kristen Stewart), two teens looking to get out of town. There's a bit of tension as Gordy unsuccessfully tries to put the moves on Martine, who trusts Brett more than Gordy. Ironically, the ex-convict turns out to be the peacemaker and ends up as the head of this makeshift family (Gordy and Martine both come from broken homes). Once Gordy and Martine realize Brett is still hung up on the woman (Maria Bello) that he left behind, they try to get him back on track. Set in post-Katrina Louisiana, director Udayan Prasad (My Son the Fanatic) uses flashbacks to tell Brett's story. While the film never really catches fire, Hurt is terrific as a troubled man whose sensitivity is often misunderstood. Cedar Lee Theatre. ** 1/2 (Niesel)
The Back-up Plan For pet-shop owner Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), a "back-up plan" means having a baby, even if she's not in a relationship. The Back-up Plan opens with Zoe in stirrups preparing to be artificially inseminated. Then she meets good-looking Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) on her way home from the doctor as they try to grab the same cab. Predictably, the two fall in love. But when things get hot and heavy on a weekend getaway, Zoe has to tell Stan that she's pregnant with a mystery man's baby. Of course, Stan freaks out, and the rest of this romantic comedy is about how they must learn to trust each other. Yawn. Looking particularly fit at 40, Lopez is as attractive as ever. And O'Loughlin has a shirtless sequence that suggests he's no slouch either. But the two have zero chemistry, and the film hits a real lull after they start dating. The movie has several subplots (Zoe joins the wacko group "Single Mothers and Proud") that don't go anywhere. This isn't the worst movie J. Lo has ever made, but it hardly qualifies as a comeback. ** (Niesel)
The Bounty Hunter She hasn't starred in a good movie since, oh, 2002's The Good Girl. So why is Jennifer Aniston Hollywood's second highest-paid actress (just behind romantic rival Angelina Jolie)? You might ponder this during the dull spots in her latest, The Bounty Hunter. Despite her Architectural Digest house and compulsively sculpted face, she has an appealing regular-girl charm, amply in evidence in this shambling screwball comedy directed by Andy Tennant. Aniston plays New York Daily News reporter Nicole Hurley, the kind of journalist found in no newsroom on earth, pursuing hot leads while wearing skin-tight miniskirts and six-inch spike heels. Arrested after a police scuffle, Nicole jumps bail to follow a lead on a murder case. Her ex-husband Milo (Gerard Butler), an ex-cop turned bounty hunter, gets the job of apprehending her. They set off on an acrimonious road trip through Atlantic City that involves Milo locking Nicole into a car trunk, vengeful bookies gunning for Milo, murderous tattoo artists gunning for Nicole, and Milo and Nicole fighting, flirting and contemplating a reunion. The plot gears grind rather sluggishly, and there are few real sparks generated between Aniston and the Scottish Butler, whose American accent makes him sound like he's from nowhere. Yet, like Aniston, the movie has a redeeming amiability. Sarah Thorp's screenplay furnishes some laughs, and the zesty supporting cast includes Christine Baranski as Nicole's mom, a bawdy casino singer; Jason Sudeikis as the nerdy reporter in love with Nicole; and Cathy Moriarty as a ruthless bookie. ** 1/2 (Pamela Zoslov)
Clash of the Titans Like a clunky old classic car, the analog 1981 Clash of the Titans is still more fun than this remake. The plot is the quest of fashionably glum hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) to hack his way through a bunch of Todd McFarlane-style monsters to find out how to defeat Lord of the Underworld Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his gigantic ultimate-weapon creature, the Kraken. The twist is that the ancient Aegeans have evidently been reading evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and the recurring theme is man's revolt and rejection of the capricious gods, even more-or-less benevolent creator Zeus (Liam Neeson). Half-god son of the lusty Zeus, Perseus suppresses his Olympian superpowers most of the time. Even so, the likely audience for this is Gamepro subscribers, with CGI-frantic action scenes that look like cut-and-pastes from Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)
Date Night Directed by Shawn Levy, this likable comedy has a lot of the right stuff: the ingenious pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a married couple from New Jersey; a fairly funny screenplay by Josh Klausner; and a delightful supporting cast featuring Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg. The story centers on Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey), a tax lawyer and his realtor wife, who are bored with their workaday lives. Even their occasional "date night" has become routine, so they try to recapture some excitement with dinner at an overpriced Manhattan bistro. They steal another couple's reservation, which plunges them into a perilous misadventure involving rogue cops, blackmail and a corrupt D.A. The fluid rapport between the leads, sexy-smart Fey and diffident semi-nerd Carrel, is the movie's most appealing element. They're jokey, affectionate and irritable, just like a real couple. Comedically, there are as many misses as hits, and the action plot, climaxed by a high-decibel car chase, at times threatens to overwhelm the humor. But the movie offers a high quotient of laughs: Claire, fleeing two gunmen with Phil, screeching, "I don't want the kids to live with your mother! She's awful!"; Phil desperately begging a hunky, habitually bare-chested security expert (Wahlberg) to, for the love of God, put on a shirt. Be sure to stay for the closing-credits outtakes. *** (Pamela Zoslov)
Death at a Funeral After his ill-fated Wicker Man revision, once cutting-edge filmmaker Neil LaBute remakes another British property, and the good news is that humor here is intentional. It's a so-so Americanization of the 2007 Death at a Funeral, an ensemble farce of escalating disaster and humiliation at an upscale funeral held in a plush home, in which the wrong corpse delivered at the outset is the least that goes wrong. Following the Frank Oz original nearly scene for scene, this has a largely black cast — Chris Rock, replacing Matthew McFayden, as an eldest son staging the affair, suffering sibling competition from his hotshot novelist brother (Martin Lawrence, replacing Rupert Graves), as well as the blackmail demands of a gay dwarf (Peter Dinklage, repeating his 2007 role), secret lover of the deceased. There's also a loose-cannon container of designer drugs making folks hallucinate, nasty old Uncle Russell (local union hero Danny Glover), and, yes, the bare-ass nudity and projectile-excrement gags retained (fortunately not at the same time). Rock and Lawrence play off each other well, though the picture paradoxically goes out of its way to be colorblind in its interaction of black and white characters. More acknowledgment of the race change might have lent some extra juice. ** 1/2 (Cassady)
Hot Tub Time Machine There are those who will laugh at a good projectile-vomit gag, and then there are those who do not believe there is such a thing as a good projectile-vomit gag. Which side of that divide you fall on should be a fair indicator of whether or not you'll enjoy Hot Tub Time Machine, which manages to include gags involving just about every bodily fluid and function imaginable. As for plot, there's a hot tub, and it's a time machine. Old friends Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry), along with Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), get into the hot tub and wind up inadvertently transported back to 1986. Once in the past, the characters encounter a standard "snobs vs. slobs" conflict, engage in lots of alcohol and drug use, and indulge in a hearty helping of sex and nudity. It's like a cross between Back to the Future and Hot Dog — The Movie. The talent and likeability of the cast helps a lot, and you get the feeling the filmmakers have a genuine love for the much-maligned genre of '80s teen sex comedies. *** (Robert Ignizio)
How to Train Your Dragon At a time when 3D/CGI 'toons are not only ubiquitous but virtually inescapable, How to Train Your Dragon, the latest release from DreamWorks' animation house is actually pretty decent Saturday matinee fare. Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois — the team responsible for Disney's underrated Lilo and Stitch — this boy-and-his-dragon charmer is great-looking and mercilessly bereft of the snarky attitude that makes so many "all-ages friendly" entertainments an endurance test for anyone over the age of 10. Inspired by Cressida Cowell's eight-volume kid-lit series, it tells a classically structured adventure story in expedient fashion and uses its 3D imagery judiciously, minus the usual cheap carny tricks. Jay Baruchel (She's Out of My League) provides the voice for Hiccup, the nerdy Viking teenager who adopts an injured dragon named Toothless, becomes an accidental hero and earns his alpha-male father's respect in the process. The insufferable Gerard Butler — using his authentic Scottish burr instead of his fingernails-on-a-blackboard "American" accent — voices Hiccup's dad, and he is relatively easy to take for a change. Nobody's reinventing the wheel here, but you could do a lot worse. *** (Milan Paurich)
Kick-Ass Given that Superman debuted in 1938, you'd think by now someone would have been impressionable enough to attempt to emulate his or her comic hero in real life. What would happen if they did? Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to find out by donning a green wetsuit and christening himself Kick-Ass. Unknown to Dave, he's not the only one playing dress-up. Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), are playing for keeps too. They've got an arsenal that would make Rambo jealous, and they intend to use it to bring down crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). Also getting in on the costume party is D'Amico's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who goes by the name Red Mist. At times, the character of Kick-Ass feels almost like a supporting player in his own movie, but that's fine because there's such a strong ensemble cast. Moretz damn near steals the movie as Hit Girl, and in Big Daddy, Cage has found another role as perfectly suited to his fearless acting style as last year's The Bad Lieutenant. This is a gleefully violent and offensive movie, filled with gore, profanity and stuff that's just plain wrong. *** 1/2 (Ignizio)
The Last Song The Last Song is about a rebellious New York teen named Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) whose mom (Kelly Preston) brings her and her weepy little brother (Bobby Coleman) to spend the summer with Dad (Greg Kinnear) at his Windswept Beachfront House in Tybee Island, Georgia. Dad has little to do but tinker at making a stained-glass window for a church that burned down under suspicious circumstances. Under Dad's tutelage, Ronnie was a piano prodigy at age five, but since her parents' divorce, she hasn't played a note. Nonetheless, she has been accepted into Juilliard without even having to audition. Dressed in black and wearing combat boots on the beach, sullen Ronnie meets Will (real-life boyfriend Liam Hemsworth), a handsome, WASP-y volleyball player who takes an inexplicable shine to her, to the chagrin of his rich, uptight mom. Will volunteers at the aquarium, where he takes Ronnie swimming in the fish tanks. Through Will's transformative love, Ronnie opens her heart, rescues some baby sea turtles, plays some bad new-age piano music, wears a frilly dress to Will's sister's fancy wedding and grows closer to her dad. The movie may raise lumps in the throat among those susceptible, but its appeal is probably limited to young Miley Cyrus fans and diehard devotees of Nicholas Sparks. * 1/2 (Zoslov)
The Losers The Losers is more or less a variation on The A-Team, also due for a big-screen treatment this summer. A super bad-ass special-forces team consisting of Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Jensen (Chris Evans), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), and Pooch (Columbus Short) run afoul of rogue CIA agent Max (Jason Patric) when they refuse to carry out a mission that would have resulted in the deaths of several innocent children. Max tries to kill the team and has them smeared as bad guys for good measure, but they survive and go underground. Eventually, the sexy and mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) shows up and offers them a chance to get revenge and their lives back. This is an enjoyable enough action flick with a few moments of inspired lunacy, and the cast is likable, especially Morgan and Elba. But director Sylvain White goes overboard with the style and attitude, constantly reminding us how hip, cool, and edgy his movie is, with its slow-motion visual style and unnecessary jump cuts. ** 1/2 (Ignizio)
Why Did I Get Married Too? Conspicuously absent from this tiresome sequel — in which the same four couples from Tyler Perry's 2007 gabfest spend a week in the Caribbean dissecting their marital woes ad nauseum — are originality, wit, pathos, nuance and decent performances. Even old pros like Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson look like rank amateurs under Perry's inept tutelage. After writing, directing and starring in 10 films since 2005, Perry's cinematic oeuvre has become so formulaic, dull and yes, "minstrelly," that you might think they were mass-produced from an assembly line in his Atlanta studio. Until Perry hires a real director (and writer), maybe it's time to call for a moratorium on these self-indulgent ego trips masquerading as movies. An African-American Douglas Sirk he ain't. * 1/2 (Paurich)