Caspule Film Reviews


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Carmen & Geoffrey (US, 2005) Dancers/choreographers/actors Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder first met in 1954 on a production of Truman Capote's House of Flowers. Already established members of the dance community, they became friends and ultimately married. Directed by Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob, this documentary explores their relationship by utilizing a mix of present-day interviews and archival footage. With its constant references to choreographers and dancers, the movie is more intended for dance enthusiasts than general filmgoers, something that comes out as Lavallade's biographer discusses things like the place the two hold in art-world history. Still, they are colorful enough as characters (especially the tall, deep-voiced Holder) that the documentary more or less holds your interest for its 85-minute running time. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 8. ***(Jeff Niesel)

City Lights (US, 1931) Charlie Chaplin stars as a "little tramp" in this classic comedy. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11, and 1:15 p.m. Sunday, July 12.

Forbidden Lies (Australia, 2007) Not long after her memoir Honor Bound becomes an international best-seller, author Norma Khouri has to account for some of the discrepancies in her book about the "honor killing" of her Jordanian friend. Things start to unravel when a Jordanian reporter points out that some of the places mentioned in the book didn't exist at the time of the woman's death. Khouri quickly starts to backpedal, admitting that she changed some of the names and dates to protect her friends and family. With a bit more investigation, it becomes clear she made the whole thing up. This is the topic of Anna Broinowski's fascinating documentary that reveals not only that the book was a work of fiction, but that Khouri has a history of fraudulent behavior. While some of the dramatic re-enactments are rather silly (Broinowski could have just stuck with her interview subjects), the film uncovers surprise after surprise in exposing Khouri's elaborate con. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Friday, July 10, and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, July 11. ***(Niesel)

I Love You, Beth Cooper Class valedictorian Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is obsessed with head cheerleader Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere). So when he gives his graduation speech, he confesses his love for the buxom blonde, pissing off her burly boyfriend Kevin (Shawn Roberts) in the process. Afterward, Beth tells Denis his speech was “sweet” and even brings her equally bodacious gal pals to his graduation party. Trouble arrives, however, when Kevin and his buddies show up and trash the place, making Beth take poor Denis under her protective wing. As Beth and Denis try to elude Kevin and his cronies, the two predictably bond, even though Denis discovers Beth is a lot wilder than he thought (she drives her compact car around like some kind maniac). While Christopher Columbus’ (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stepmom) film starts with a good enough premise (Denis’ speech makes for a particularly awkward opening), things quickly go downhill as the film follows a familiar opposites-attract trajectory. ** (Jeff Niesel)

The Lost Son of Havana (US, 2009) Former big-league hurler Luis Tiant is the subject of this terrific documentary directed by Jonathan Hock. Tiant, one of the first Cubans to play in the majors, came into the league with the Cleveland Indians. He had a stellar career that found him notching more than 20 wins in 1968 and winning a couple of World Series games for the Boston Red Sox, throwing an astonishing 173 pitches in one of the wins. The film follows Tiant as he returns to Havana for the first time in 36 years, visiting old friends and stopping at the playground where he first learned to play ball as he tries to make peace with his past. An affable character who's always chomping on a cigar, Tiant is a great subject — both kind and colorful, openly sharing old baseball stories and family memories. Stick around for the credits where you can see Tiant hamming it up with present-day major league players. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 15. *** 1/2 (Niesel)

Moon Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a Lunar Industries worker stationed on the moon, is coming to the end of a three-year stint, and the isolation is getting to him. He's talking to himself and hallucinating, even though he has companionship of sorts from a robot named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Sam's thrown for a loop when another Sam Bell, an apparent clone (also played by Rockwell), shows up. The two find that they've been programmed with the same memories of their wife and daughter, and after arguing about who's original and who's not, they ultimately figure out they're the latest in a long line of clones. The directorial debut from College of Wooster grad Duncan Jones, David Bowie's son (which would perhaps explain his infatuation with outer space), Moon is a trippy flick that hearkens back to sci-fi flicks like Alien and Outland. While its slow pace is sometimes aggravating, its old-school visuals are terrific, and Rockwell is great as a clone who just wants to phone home. *** (Niesel)

Nursery University (US, 2008) This documentary about competitive Manhattan preschools sheds new light on the pomposity of upper-class New Yorkers who want to give their children every chance they can to ensure they'll become successful. The affluent couples interviewed truly believe that the best nursery school is the gateway to the best kindergarten, and ultimately the best grade and high school — even if it costs as much as $20,000 a semester and requires hiring a consulting service to the tune of $4,000. One woman even starts to cry as she says, "You just want to give your kid the best chance. We're not going to have him go to a public school in Harlem or something." Directors Marc H. Simon and Matthew Makar follow several parents as they struggle to get their kids admitted into top nursery schools. Simon and Makar provide a balanced look at the application process and even have the good sense to interview a number of detractors who call it a "blood sport." Cleveland Museum of Art Recital Hall. At 5:15 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 15. ***(Niesel)

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (US, 2007) A couple of Viking warriors get left behind on the shores of North America and are forced to cope with harsh conditions and restless natives in this film that imagines what life was like before America was colonized. The film has an air of authenticity, as we see our two heroes struggle to make lean-to shelters and hunt wild animals they can eat. They even get separated at one point, but a run-in with a native brings them back together as they attempt to "conquer" the land that their Viking pals left behind. But the generic heavy-metal soundtrack and long, slow passages that involve little or no dialogue make the movie an adventure flick with much standing in the way of genuine adventure. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Friday, July 10. **(Niesel)

The Song of Sparrows (Iran, 2008) A father loses his job and then his soul in this Iranian film. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 11, and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 12.

In Theaters

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo return as the voices of Manny, Diego and Sid, a motley group of animals who've become a "herd." Manny the mammoth has settled into domestic bliss with Ellie (Queen Latifah), who's expecting a baby. But all isn't well with Diego and Sid. Diego feels he's losing his ferocity and thinks it might be time for him to move on, and Sid's feeling like he needs to start a family of his own. So when Sid stumbles upon a set of dinosaur eggs, he goes against Manny's wishes, waits for them to hatch and adopts the babies. Mama dinosaur isn't happy that some sloth has stolen her babies and tracks them down and whisks them (and Sid) back to her underground home. Manny, Ellie and even Diego all realize they need to help Sid, even if it means endangering their own lives. There aren't any surprises here, and the whole dinosaur thing is rather random. But Romano, Leary and Leguizamo have given their respective characters real personality, and Latifah, who joined the franchise with the second film, 2006's Meltdown, is terrific. ***(Niesel)

Public Enemies Johnny Depp doesn't really look much like John Dillinger, the notorious 1930s bank robber. Dillinger was weasely, with a permanent half-scowl/half-smirk. Plus, he didn't have Depp's heavenly high cheekbones. Still, in Public Enemies, Depp plays Dillinger as such a charming and chivalrous guy that it may forever alter future generations' perception of Chicago's gangland don. But Public Enemies isn't meant to be a historically faultless portrait of that blood-riddled period. Director and co-writer Michael Mann skirted reality altogether in Miami Vice. This is entertainment. And for 140 minutes, Depp, Mann and the best-dressed gangsters you've ever seen do a bang-up job entertaining us. *** (Michael Gallucci)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Nobody went to the first Transformers for Shia LaBeouf. Nobody went for Megan Fox either (well, maybe some of us did). Everybody who saw that summer blockbuster two years ago went for the robots — the shape-shifting, ass-kicking, totally awesome robots. In this overblown sequel, director Michael Bay wisely keeps the camera on the Autobots and Decepticons for most of the movie, shoving aside what little plot there is to make room for big, explosive set pieces where tons of shit blows up. This time around, the "story" has something to do with a reborn and revenge-minded Megatron returning to Earth to kidnap LaBeouf's Sam and then take over the planet. But who really cares? It's all about bigger and badder battles that span Sam's front yard to the Egyptian desert. At two and a half hours, there's plenty of time to get to know Revenge of the Fallen's bots, but Bay is more focused on big bangs, cheap laughs and having his metal heroes call opponents "punk-ass Decepticons." LaBeouf and Fox are back; so are Bumblebee, Optimus Prime and a bunch of little Gremlin-like Transformers. Sam is in college now, giving Bay the opportunity to cause some major property damage on campus. He also introduces a horny coed who's a literal man-eater. But too much of Revenge of the Fallen is loud, plodding and totally obnoxious. ** 1/2 (Gallucci)

Up Up is an eyes-wide-open fantasy about Carl Fredricksen (voiced by the always-cranky Edward Asner), whose lifelong dream of being a globe-trotting adventurer has been halted every step of the way. He marries his childhood best friend, a girl who shares his dreams and quest for adventure. Over the years, they live and love and try to scrape up enough cash to visit Paradise Falls, a mythical wilderness in South America. After his wife dies, Carl — now an old man with a bad back and an even worse temperament — spends his days in his ramshackle house, which stands in the middle of a construction site (Carl refuses to sell, even as high-rises go up around him). After he assaults a worker on his property, the court orders him to a retirement community. So Carl hatches a plan to escape to Paradise Falls by attaching hundreds of balloons to his house. Surprisingly, it works, and he sets sail serenely above the city streets. All goes well until he hears a knock at the door and finds Russell, an overweight and chatty Wilderness Explorer (it's like a Boy Scout) who needs one more badge to advance to the next level. A brutal storm steers Carl and Russell miraculously in the middle of Paradise Falls' outlining forest. And then Carl's real adventure begins. Unlike the meditative WALL-E, Up is filled with thrilling action scenes and colorful set pieces. Like WALL-E, it's a stunning visual work with an eco-friendly message. *** 1/2 (Gallucci)

Whatever Works Casting about for an idea, Woody Allen dusted off a script he wrote in the'70s for Zero Mostel. The great Zero being long dead, we have Larry David as Boris Yellnikov, a misanthropic ex-physicist who rants against everything from religion to love and dismisses most humans as "incompetent morons" and "inchworms." The persona is as familiar as a cranky old friend, and while Woody still inhabits it best, David is far from the worst fit. The story is a funny, often hilarious farce centering on this hypochondriacal hermit who spends his days waxing philosophical with his friends (Michael McKean, Adam Brooks, Lyle Kanouse) and teaching chess to children, whom he insults mercilessly. One night, Melodie (Evan Rachel Wood), a pretty Southern teenage runaway, appears at the doorstep of his dismal apartment. Boris reluctantly takes her in and schools her in his cynical attitudes. As always in Allen's romances, the young girl wearies of her neurotic older mate, and several un-couplings and re-couplings occur. The redemptive finale, reminiscent of Hannah and Her Sisters, is unexpectedly uplifting. *** 1/2 (Zoslov)

Year One Zed (Jack Black) is an inept primitive hunter forced to leave his tribe after he gets caught eating from the tree of knowledge. Zed's friend Oh (Michael Cera) tags along, and as the two wander through the ancient world, they encounter various biblical characters including, Cain (David Cross) and Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Eventually, a plot of sorts begins to emerge: Zed and Oh learn that their former tribespeople, including a couple of girls (Juno Temple and June Diane Raphael) for whom they have the hots, have been sold into slavery and taken to Sodom. So the hapless duo set out on a rescue mission. Directed and co-written by Harold Ramis, Year One definitely has the feel of a movie from the guy who wrote Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack and Stripes. Like those films, this follows the tried-and-true formula of casting strong comedic leads as lovable losers who get beaten down but ultimately come out on top. The movie slips a little when it reaches beyond just trying to make us laugh to insert a half-assed message about people making their own destinies. Still, Year One is a reasonably entertaining film with a generous number of laughs. ***(Ignizio)

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