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Capsule Film Reviews 

Opening

Adam In the opening scenes of writer-director Max Mayer's drama about a man with Asperger's syndrome, Adam (Hugh Dancy) is at his father's funeral. While we never see his dad, we get the sense that Adam's going to be lost without him. After all, this is a guy who eats the same thing every day (bran for breakfast, mac and cheese for dinner) and keeps his brownstone apartment in meticulous order. Asperger's is a mild form of autism that makes it difficult for Adam to communicate, even though he's physicist-smart. So when he meets his lovely brunette neighbor Beth (Rose Byrne), he has trouble telling her how much he likes her, though at one point he blurts out that he's sexually aroused. The two begin a relationship that goes along smoothly until, in predictable fashion, Adam has one of his fits, forcing Beth to break up with him. Of course, in the next scene, Adam overcomes his fear of the outside world and pursues Beth. He tries to convince her to help him with his new job at an observatory, which requires that he move to California. The film's trajectory recalls a made-for-TV special, and a subplot concerning Beth's fraudulent father (Peter Gallagher) is completely extraneous. While Dancy and Byrne have decent chemistry, the whole thing is pretty schmaltzy. ** (Jeff Niesel)

Adoration Video-obsessed teen Simon (Devon Bostick) gets carried away with a class assignment that requires him to imagine what his life would have been like if he had been born to different parents. So Simon creates a fictional story in which his father (Noam Jenkins) was a terrorist who blew up a plane. Once his story gets on the Internet, it causes a good deal of controversy because everyone thinks it's true. It doesn't help that Simon is an orphan, and his only role models are a coarse tow-truck-driver uncle Tom (Scott Speedman) and racist grandfather. Because Simon mixes his life with the character he's created, the movie's plot is often confusing and difficult to follow. Yet Atom Egoyan's film has intensity and shows just how complex (and screwed up) human relationships can get — especially when Simon's teacher Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian) starts to second-guess the assignment and begins stalking his uncle, until she reveals a secret from her past. Cedar Lee Theatre. ***(Niesel)

Kabei: Our Mother (Japan, 2008) The idyllic life of a Japanese family takes a sudden turn when the police show up one night and detain father Teruyo Nogami (Miku Sato) for violating the "peace preservation law." A philosophy professor who has the works of Nietszche and Goethe in his collection, Teruyo doesn't adapt his ideas to the country's fascist bent. So after he's locked in prison, his wife Kayo (Sayuri Yoshinaga) takes on the role of raising two daughters and struggles to make ends meet. She eventually gets a job teaching at a primary school that pays the bills and learns to endure without her husband, though she never loses faith in him. A well-crafted period piece, Yoji Yamada's film provides a glimpse into family life during the 1940s. Based on the memoirs of a young girl who grew up during the period, it shows how tumultuous things were at that time in Japan, as nationalism ran rampant and communists and other dissidents were considered traitors. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23. ***(Niesel)

The Lady Eve (U.S., 1941) Barbara Stanwyck plays a con artist in this Preston Sturges farce. At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23.

Léon Morin, Priest (France/Italy, 1961) A young priest tries to convert a Jewish widow in Jean-Pierre Melville's film. At 9:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.

The Marc Pease Experience While a bad case of stagefright kept Marc Pease (Jason Schwartzman) from delivering his solo as the Tin Man in a high-school production of The Wiz, that blunder hasn't kept him from pursuing his musical ambitions. Eight years out of high school and now a limo driver, he's the main man behind an a capella group called the Meridian 8, and even though they keep downsizing, Marc is determined to sell his condo and use the money to record a demo. The problem is, he wants to enlist Jon Gribble (Ben Stiller), his high-school drama teacher who hasn't returned Marc's phone calls since Marc blew it as the Tin Man. This concept didn't work so well for Hamlet 2, last year's misguided comedy with Steve Coogan, and it doesn't go over much better here, though both Schwartzman and Stiller are terrific in the few scenes they share together (notably a brawl in Gribble's office). Still, the film has some good moments: Marc is such a lovable loser, you can't help but cheer him on as he tries to battle the demons that turned him into the drama club's goat. Valley View Cinemas. ** 1/2 (Niesel)

Milestones (U.S., 1975) A new restored print of Robert Kramer's classic film about the '60s. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23.

The Pleasure of Being Robbed (U.S., 2008) Twentysomething New Yorker Eleonore (cowriter Eleonore Hendricks) hopscotches around Manhattan stealing grapes, kittens, even a Volvo, seemingly for the sheer fun of getting away with it. Is she a klepto? Some kind of criminally inclined performance artist? Twenty-five-year-old first-time director Josh Safdie never gets around to telling us what makes Eleonore tick — since his movie only runs 70 minutes, perhaps he ran out of time — which is the central flaw of this mildly intriguing DIY indie. There are pleasures to be gleaned here (Hendricks is a screen natural, and Safdie evinces a neatly understated sense of deadpan humor), but like the film itself, they're mostly of the small-change variety. As a calling card for director-for-hire gigs on network and cable sitcoms like The Office or Flight of the Conchords, it does its job in reasonably expedient fashion. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:25 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, and 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21. ** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

Post Grad Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) is that girl you hated in college. An attractive straight-A student who participated in all the right extracurricular activities, she’s the one who seems destined for success and is set on working at the city’s biggest and best publishing house. But a funny thing happens on the way to the publishing house. She doesn’t get the gig. Rival Jessica Bard (Catherine Reitman) is hired instead, sending Ryden into a tailspin. Complicating matters is the fact that Ryden leans so heavily on her best friend Adam (Friday Night Lights’ Zach Gilford). He’s clearly in love with her, but she’d rather keep the relationship platonic and falls for the hunky guy-next-door (Rodrigo Santoro) instead. While the film’s not as quirky as, say, Juno, it does go for a similar vibe, particularly when it comes to Ryden’s family. Her goofy dad (an unhinged Michael Keaton), madcap grandmother (Carol Burnett) and manic mom (Jane Lynch) are such oddball characters, they provide it with the comic relief it needs. ** 1/2 (Niesel)

The Room (US, 2003) Among film hipsters on the West Coast, cult notoriety has been conferred upon writer-director-producer-star-mogul Tommy Wiseau's tragic psychodrama. Wiseau, who kinda seems (in more ways than one) like Fabio crossed with Ed Wood, plays the lead role (no surprise there) of Johnny, a nice-guy San Francisco banking exec whose idyllic life starts to fall apart a month before his planned nuptials. Fiancée Lisa secretly doesn't love him anymore (we are told this about four or five times) and is carrying on an affair with Mark, Johnny's "best friend" (we are told this about 400-500 times). With English-as-a-second-language dialogue, characters who awkwardly entrez and exeunt, laughable love interludes and from-hunger acting, the world may now be laughing at Mr. Wiseau, not with him. But grant The Room this much: It's not an amateur Tarantino/Lucas/Spielberg/Romero genre clone, like so many turkeys, but bravely blazes its own way, à la Wood's singular Glen or Glenda. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:50 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)

Shorts While Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, the Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl) makes kids' flicks that aren't necessarily smart enough to appeal to adults, they're a step above the kind of stuff that usually passes for family entertainment. Shorts centers on the trials and tribulations of one Toe Thompson (Jimmy Bennett), a defenseless kid who gets picked on at school by the daughter and son of Mr. Black (James Spader), the town's power-hungry millionaire who's devised a contraption that transforms a cell phone into a toaster (but doesn't, thankfully, have Transformers-like powers). When Toe discovers a secret rock that enables its owner's wishes to come true, everyone from his mother and father (Leslie Mann and Jon Cryer) to his germophobic neighbor (William H. Macy) tries to get their hands on the thing, sending the small suburban community into an uproar. Toe tells his story out of sequence (hence the "shorts" title), and Rodriguez often lets the story spiral out of control. But it's good, campy fun that never has to rely too heavily on special effects to make its point that self-discovery is key. ***(Niesel)

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