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Monday, November 30, 2009

Recap of the Corner Alley's Big Lebowski Party

Posted By on Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 2:17 PM

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The third annual The Big Lebowski bowling party returned to downtown's Corner Alley last night and drew a good crowd of about 70 people. While anyone who wore a bathrobe in honor of the film’s protagonist, The Dude (Jeff Bridges), got a coupon for free popcorn at any Cleveland Cinemas theater, only a handful of attendees showed up in their nightgowns. The bar served up plenty of the Dude's favorite drinks, White Russians. While we suspect many attended the event simply for the $2 drink specials, the bowling lanes were kept busy all night. The only film that the Cedar Lee shows each year as part of its Cult Classic Film Series, The Big Lebowski screens at 9:30 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, December 5, at the Cedar Lee Theatre. Go to clevelandcinemas.com for more information.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Malls R Us has its local premiere tonight at CMA

Posted By on Fri, Nov 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM

A documentary about shopping malls, Malls R Us screens tonight at 7 and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. Here is our review of the movie.

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Malls R Us (France/Canada, 2009) This documentary commences with the premise that malls offer shopping “as a communal activity to fill the void.” Not exactly a revelation. The film begins at the largest mall in North America, a sprawling 170-acre place in Edmonton, Canada. There are 840 stores designed to keep shoppers there as long as possible. Between showing clips from Dawn of the Dead and featuring interviews with infamous mall creators like Rubin Stahl and Sheldon Gordon, the movie provides a good overview of mall culture. Hell, there’s even a short segment with sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury, who discusses the disorienting nature of most malls. And of course, when it comes time to visit dying malls, the filmmakers head to Cleveland to see the now-shuttered Randall Park Mall. You gotta admire the global perspective: The filmmakers go to India to see tracks of green space turned into retail areas and visit Paris to interview shoppers. But too much of this documentary simply states the obvious. ** 1/2

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Nov 26, 2009 at 9:53 AM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.

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Beeswax (U.S., 2009) Mumblecore auteur Andrew Bujalski continues his survey of the French New Wave he began with Funny Ha Ha and 2005’s superb Mutual Appreciation. In the writer/director/actor’s third feature, Eric Rohmer serves as Bujalski’s guiding muse. Two sisters, responsible Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) and free spirit Lauren (Maggie Hatcher), clash over the running of the vintage clothing store they’re partners in. As usual in Bujalski films — and mumblecore projects in general — little of consequence transpires. Life, however, is lived in all of its fly-on-the-wall, warts-and-all boho-hipster glory. If the filmmaking wasn’t so rigorously disciplined, the naturalness of the writing and performances (the Hatchers are actual twins) might lead you to believe that you’re watching real lives unfold. Bujalski again proves that he’s one of the most interesting young directors on the independent film scene. At 9:35 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28, and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30. *** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

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Cloud Nine (Germany, 2008) It’s not even five minutes into the infidelity drama Cloud 9 when two senior citizens get naked and go at it. Get used to it: There are plenty of senior moments here, with old people fornicating, performing oral sex, masturbating and doing things you usually don’t see Grandma and Grandpa doing on camera. Make no mistake: You’re not looking at Brad and Angelina. These people are wrinkly and sagging. Director Andreas Dresen doesn’t turn away from his aged actors. At one point, there’s a long, unbroken shot of his star checking out her naked body in a mirror. In fact, there are many long, silent moments in Cloud 9, and they all add up to one of the most honest representations of senior-citizen sex you’ll ever see onscreen. But none of it is exploitative in this moving film about sixtysomething Inge (Ursula Werner) who’s having an affair with 76-year-old Karl (Horst Westphal). At 7:35 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 and at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29. *** (Michael Gallucci)

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Juliet of the Spirits (Italy/France, 1965) Federico Fellini’s phantasmagoria, his first film in color, is said by some to be the female version of his autobiographical classic 8 1/2. Fellini’s wife, pixie-like actress Giulietta Masina, plays the title character, an affluent Italian housewife surrounded by a kaleidoscope of gurus, friends, memories, admirer/suitors, orgies and temptations, most of which are spirits raised by fears that her husband, a gentlemanly but distant sort often absent, is having an extramarital affair with a younger woman. She wavers on hiring detectives to follow him while engulfed (like the indecisive, creatively blocked filmmaker-hero of 8 1/2) by surreal memories — in this case a Catholic-school girlhood, a scandalous father, and temptations and liberation symbolized by the sexpot next door. Any way you slice it, Juliet (or every other female in sight, real or imagined) just isn’t very smart. So she’d be the last one to ask what-the-PMS-hell the cryptic ending means. Oh well, it’s Federico's world (never mind that it’s supposed to be Giulietta’s); we're just visiting. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29, and 8:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Boondock Saints II joins the ranks of sequels that suck

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 8:11 PM

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Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, the ill-conceived sequel to the 1999 cult classic The Boondock Saints, might be one of the year’s worst movies. Poorly written and acted, the film commences in Ireland where we see the two MacManus brothers Connor (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy (Norman Reedus) working on a farm. Bearded and barely recognizable, they’ve seemingly left behind their life of crime. But once they get news that a priest they knew was mercilessly gunned down in a Boston church, they trim the beards and set off to the States to get vengeance, adopting a Mexican brawler named Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr.) along the way. Once they get on U.S. soil, the shootouts commence and the brothers get a little assistance from both their friends on the force and Special Agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz). While some of the trash-talking and outlandish action sequences recall Tarantino, this low-budget movie doesn’t benefit from the fact that most of the humor seems unintentional. And the numerous plot twists and false endings are ultimately just annoying. *

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Ninja Assassin lacks a strong personality

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 11:51 PM

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Ninja Assassin is a movie about guys in black pajamas who hide in the shadows with swords and razor-sharp metal stars waiting to kill people. Such films were at the peak of their popularity in the '80s, and while they were seldom good, at least they were usually good, violent fun. Sho Kosugi starred in just about all of the ninja movies made back then, and he's rightly given a sizeable role in this update of the genre as Ozuno, the harsh master who trains the film’s hero, Raizo (Rain). Eventually Raizo chooses to walk a different path than the one of evil his master had intended for him. This brings us to the present, where forensic investigator Mika (Naomie Harris) finds herself in trouble after learning too much about the secrets of the ninja. It’s nothing special in the plot department, but no one watches these movies for their original and insightful stories. Far more damaging: Rain makes a bland hero; the action scenes are shot in a choppy and confusingly edited style; and the gratuitous CGI bloodshed looks ridiculous. **

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Comedian Artie Lange discusses his new CD/DVD

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM

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Best known for providing wise-ass remarks on The Howard Stern Show, Artie Lange, a former longeshoreman from New Jersey, has been a working comic since landing a role on MADtv in the earlier 1990s. He joined The Howard Stern Show in 2001, filling the position left vacant after Jackie Martling left the show. Often ridiculed for being overweight and out-of-shape (not to mention cantankerous and prone to causing trouble), Lange continues to work on the show despite having once turned in his resignation after a physical altercation with his personal assistant. He’s also had numerous substance abuse issues that have been well-publicized (and made him the butt of many of Stern’s jokes). Lange recently issued Jack and Coke, a live CD (the DVD version is slated to be out in January) and called to talk about the disc and his addiction problems.

How is it that Jack and Coke is your first-ever comedy CD?
I put out a DVD in 2004. It’s called It’s the Whiskey Talking. At the time, they said we could print a CD but they weren’t sure of the quality. So this is really my second stand-up project. The last five years, between the radio show and writing and touring and doing the movie and book, I’ve been busy. This is an hour and a half. It shows you how shitty I am when it comes to your comedy batting average. Between the two releases, there’s two hours and 20 minutes of stand up out there that I’m proud of. And I’ve written about ten hours of material. The combination of the road and morning radio hasn’t killed me, but it’s come close. If I keep doing it, it will kill me. This is everything I’ve been touring with for the past four years.

Continue reading »

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Gotta Dance makes its local premiere tonight at CMA

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 10:55 AM

A documentary about a group of senior citizens dancers who bonded after a season of performing during New Jersey Nets' home games, Gotta Dance makes its local premiere tonight at 7 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. It also screens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22.

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Gotta Dance (U.S., 2008) Last year, the New Jersey Nets basketball team decided to put together a senior dance crew and sent out a call for dancers over the age of 60. Lo and behold, a ragtag group of grannies and grandpas showed up. This documentary follows the evolution of the dancers as they first audition and then train, developing hip-hop dance moves to the music of Jay-Z and Kanye West. As much as the concept of “senior dance” team is a real novelty, it’s hard to get too worked about the drama here. Will the team get its dance moves down in time for the team’s home opener? Does the motley crew of housewives, therapists and paralegals end up bonding in the end? As much as the movie has a certain amount of heart and effectively profiles the diverse group of individuals who tried out for the team, it just doesn’t transcend its subject matter. Gotta Dance would have been better off as a reality TV series. **

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