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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The ten worst movies of the year

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 9:34 AM

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Nearly as sickeningly indulgent and morally reprehensible as Michael Bay's last putrid sequel, Bad Boys. Notice I said, "nearly." Be thankful for small favors.

2. The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day If a not-terribly bright, sexually confused 13-year-old boy who had seen Pulp Fiction too many times wrote and directed a movie, this might be the result.

3. Old Dogs Makes the previous Walt Becker/John Travolta collaboration (2007's ho-hum Wild Hogs) seem like vintage Lubitsch or Wilder by comparison.

4. Gamer Even more cringe—and migraine—inducing than codirectors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's other 2009 wankfest, Crank 2: High Voltage. Starring the currently ubiquitous (and well-nigh insufferable) Gerard Butler.

5. Planet 51 There were a lot of great animated films this year (see above), as well as plenty of bottom-feeders. This el-cheapo Sony throwaway was the worst of the lot.

6. The Ugly Truth I know that (romantic) comedy doesn't have to be pretty, but does it have to be so damn butt-"Ugly."

7. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done Ostriches, midgets and a sinister bowl of Jell-O figure prominently in this whatzit? collaboration between (director) Werner Herzog and (producer) David Lynch. A career low for both veteran auteurs.

8. The Brothers Bloom Writer-director Rain (Brick) Johnson followed his superb 2005 high school noir "Brick" with a failed Wes Anderson homage that repeatedly hit the same note of arch whimsy. Even with its top-tier cast (including Mark Ruffalo and Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz), this smarmy grifter farce failed on nearly every possible level.

9. Paranormal Activity The Emperor's New Clothes of horror flicks, this internet-driven phenom was akin to watching paint dry for 90 minutes. I guess P.T. Barnum was right.

10. The Hangover The most mean-spirited, thoroughly unpleasant comedy of the year was also one of its biggest hits. You know that a movie is in trouble when the most likable character is "Mike Tyson" (played by, er, Mike Tyson).


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

45365 returns to Cleveland Museum of Art

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 4:25 AM

A couple of years ago, brothers Bill and Turner Ross quit their Hollywood jobs and returned to Sidney, Ohio, to make a documentary about life in small-town America. For their film, 45365, they followed several subjects, including a man who gets arrested, the high-school football team and a woman preparing for her wedding. "For a long time, we had been collecting stories and ideas about growing up in a small midwestern town," says Turner. "Rather than fictionalizing it, we thought it was more sincere to film in that location and tell other people's stories." The movie debuted at the South by Southwest film festival in March and took home the Best Documentary Feature award. Since then, it's been making the festival rounds and screened in Cleveland in August. Now it's back at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350, at 7 tonight. Tickets are $8. Find more information at

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Q &A with (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 10:07 AM

Told out-of-order (like Memento), (500) Days of Summer is a break-up movie that’s as much a coming-of-age story as a romantic comedy. You see the break-up happen early on. While that would normally ruin any sort of suspense, this dramedy (or "bromance," if you will) doesn't suffer for its out-of-sequence narrative. Rather, the relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is intriguing enough to make the movie worth watching. The plot is simple: Tom meets Summer and instantly falls in love. They start dating, but Summer makes it clear she isn't looking for a committed relationship. Tom accepts that at first. But it's not long before he becomes jealous and possessive. Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt have great chemistry, even if the tension between them sometimes makes it difficult to watch. The film comes out today on DVD, and director Marc Webb recently spoke about its release and its numerous extras (audtions, featured commentary, storyboards, etc.).

(500) Days of Summer got great reviews. How satisfied were you with how well it did at the box office?
I was pretty satisfied. I feel like we were competing with movies that were literally 10 or 15 times the size of our movie. I think we held our own. There’s a fantasy that your movie will do $100 million, which obviously it didn’t do. I don’t feel like I was disappointed. It seemed to click with the right people, so I feel really good about it.

Continue reading »

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Nine sneak preview at Cinematheque on Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 6:27 PM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque's Fellini series is almost over, but as one final hurrah, the theater hosts a sneak preivew of Nine, the film based on the Broadway musical that's based on Fellini's classic film 8 1/2. Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), the movie stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren. The screening is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, and admission is free but Cinematheque members and CIA students will have priority seating. The film opens areawide on Dec. 25.

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Gartner Auditorium prepares to reopen

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 10:31 AM

Though the Cleveland Museum of Art’s recently renovated Gartner Auditoirum doesn’t open to the public until February 28, the museum hosted a media preview yesterday. While construction workers continued to put the finishing touches on the venue, a handful of media representatives walked through the hall as Massoud Saidpour, director of performing arts, music, and film, explained the reasons behind the extensive retooling of the hall. Almost five years ago, trustees voted to redo the place even though it would require the museum take its Viva! & Gala concerts off-site and shift movie screenings to the museum’s lecture hall. During that time, the museum hosted concerts at some 27 venues around town, attracting some 62,000 patrons while the film series continued unabated in the museum's lecture hall. Because of what Saidpour described as “acoustic issues,” the Gartner had to be retrofitted so that it could host a wider variety of programs. As a result, the interior walls were fitted with a concealed curtain system that can be electronically controlled to dampen the sound. “Visually opaque and acoustically transparent,” the new walls and ceiling now make the space perfect for everything from spoken word to dance and modern music. A new surround sound system has also been installed for films and the stage floor has been replaced with one suited to dance performances. The seats are all brand new and an advanced lighting system has been installed. The Gartner reopens with a Viva! & Gala concert by Berlin’s Max Raabe and his Palaste Orchestra and, between March 12 and April 30, will host free performances as part of its “Opening Nights Festival." The Gartner's new movie screen and surround sound system with an early April showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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The Wonder of It All makes its local premiere tonight at CMA

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 10:24 AM

A documentary about the various U.S. missions to the moon, The Wonder of It All screens tonight at 7 and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. Here is our review of the movie.

The Wonder of It All (U.S., 2007) In 1961, with the Cold War creating international tensions, President John F. Kennedy challenged the nation to send someone to the moon. At the time, the Russians had already been to outer space and were well ahead of the United States. But NASA accelerated its program and recruited several of the Air Force’s top pilots for its Apollo missions. This documentary includes interviews with seven astronauts who walked on the moon. They recount their training routines and go into great detail describing the moon’s dusty surface as well as the intense sunlight. “We were not a particularly, exuberant, extroverted group” says Buzz Aldrin, emphasizing that the astronauts were so focused, they didn’t think about much else. As an oral history, The Wonder of It All is a highly successful chronicle of the lunar experience. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. *** (Jeff Niesel)

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Avatar puts on a dazzling display

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 12:01 AM

It’s been a dozen years since king of the world James Cameron won a boatload of Oscars for Titanic. He apparently spent the downtime thinking about how to revolutionize movies with Avatar, his bloated and exhausting sci-fi epic about a tribe of tall, tailed and blue-hued creatures called Na’vi. It’s also one of the most visually stunning movies ever made. The film is set in 2154 on the forest planet of Pandora, where wheelchair-bound marine Jake Scully (Terminator Salvation’s Sam Worthington) is recruited for an ongoing project that fuses human and Na’vi DNA, resulting in “avatars” that look like Na’vi but retain human thoughts. It’s all very scientific, confusing and geeky. With a new body capable of sprinting as fast as any animal on Earth, Jake’s mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi so the military can mine the precious minerals their homes are built on (again, it’s all very scientific, confusing and geeky). It doesn’t take long for Jake to fall for one of the Na’vi (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek’s Uhura) and rethink his assignment. Avatar is pure sci-fi hokum with one-dimensional characters, heavy-handed narration and an unsurprising love story. But you’ve never seen a movie like this before. The CGI creatures and settings flourish in an alien world that charges from the screen (literally and dizzyingly if you see it in 3D, which I highly recommend). Like many of Cameron’s sci-fi excursions, Avatar includes a showdown between eggheads and military dickheads, spiritual/social/environmental subtext and butt-numbing length (it clocks in at 161 minutes). But Cameron’s achievements this time are mostly technical. There isn’t much of a human element (Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Giovanni Ribisi are here, but that hardly matters), and he’s made better films (like Aliens and the first two Terminators). But this hectic, dazzling movie — despite its flaws — is an innovative piece of cinema that changes the game, for better or worse, for everything that follows. ***

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