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Friday, April 30, 2010

Bluebeard makes its local debut at CMA

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 5:18 AM

Bluebeard, Catherine Breillat's feminist adaptation of a fairytale, makes its local premiere at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall at 7 tonight and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 2. Here's our review of the film.

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Bluebeard (France, 2009) Catherine Breillat (Romance, Anatomy of Hell) adapts a Charles Perrault fairytale in this film about two sisters (Marilou Lopes-Benites and Lola Giovannetti) who read a fairytale about a rich Lord (Dominque Thomas) with a hideous blue beard who has trouble finding eligible women to marry because. While two sisters read the story, sisters Marie-Catherine (Lola Creton) and Anne (Daphne Baiwir) living in another century all together experience it firsthand. The film’s framework can be confusing at times but the story is a good one that takes an unexpected turn when Marie-Catherine becomes so attached to the ogre-like Lord. She even dislikes it when he leaves her alone in the caste for too long. But after discovering the bodies of the women he’s killed, her perspective changes and the film careens toward a tragic conclusion. *** (Jeff Niesel)

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM

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

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Creation (Britain, 2009) Decorous, stately and a just a wee bit dull, director Jon Amiel's (The Singing Detective, Sommersby) lugubrious biopic about Origin of Species author Charles Darwin can't seem to make up its mind which story it wants to tell. Told in flashbacks and flash forwards that confuse rather than enhance the narrative, Amiel and screenwriter John Collee devote more time to Darwin's various family traumas (including the death of his beloved daughter, Annie, at age 10) than it does to his revolutionary theories. Neither Paul Bettany nor a wan Jennifer Connelly inject much life, or even charisma, into their lackluster portrayals of Charles and Emma Darwin, and the film is stolen by an orangutan named Jenny who delivers the only truly memorable performance. While Creation might have sufficed as one of HBO's lesser historical dramas (e.g., last year's drowsy Brendan Gleeson/Winston Churchill flick, Into the Storm), it seems curiously out of place on the big screen. No wonder its theatrical release stalled out after flopping in a few big-city art houses earlier this year. At 7:10 p.m. Saturday, May 1 and at 8:55 p.m. Sunday, May 2. ** (Milan Paurich)

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Gigante (Uruguay/Argentina/Germany/Spain, 2009) Imagine Seth Rogen's subversive dark comedy Observe and Report with all the "pervy" parts (and most of the violence) left out, and you'll have a good idea of the considerable charms of Uruguayan writer-director Adrian Biniez's appealing debut effort. Roly-poly, painfully shy supermarket security guard Jara (Horacio Camandule, terrific) develops a crush on comely co-worker Julia (Leonor Svarcas), and like mall cop Paul Blart before him, does everything within his (limited) powers to impress her, and draw her attention away from less, er, deserving suitors. As self-effacing and sweetly earnest as Jara himself, Gigante is easy to over-praise for all the things it's not (e.g., crude, overblown or mean-spirited). Yet Biniez's deft, understated touch and two excellent lead performances make it pretty hard to resist his neo-realist inflected urban fairy tale. At 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 29 and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 30. *** (Milan Paurich)

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The North Face (Germany/Austria/Switzerland, 2008) Based on a true story of a 1938 climb, during which a group of mountaineers tried to scale the "Murder Wall" in the Swiss Alps, Philipp Stölzl's docudrama is a faithful recreation that follows the efforts of a German duo — Toni (Benno Fürmann) and Andi (Florian Lukas) — as they try to make the treacherous ascent. Initially, things go well; they make good progress after a single day of climbing. But when a blizzard sets in, things go horribly wrong. Luise (Johanna Wokalek), an aspiring young journalist, and Toni and Andi's childhood friend, is sent to report on the attempted climb but soon decides she can't objectively cover their attempt when it becomes apparent that they might not even survive. You won't confuse The North Face with a Hollywood film like Cliffhanger the extensive climbing scenes are incredibly realistic and stay true to the techniques of the day. And to the filmmakers' credit, the love story that emerges never becomes too corny. At 9:20 p.m. Saturday, May 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 2. *** (Niesel)

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A Nightmare on Elm Street relies on predictable scare tactics

Posted By on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 8:14 AM

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Jackie Earle Haley stalks the dreams of high school students as razor-gloved killer Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Haley takes on the role made famous by Robert Englund in the 1984 low-budget horror film of the same name and its many sequels, and his performance here is excellent, bringing back a real sense of menace and sadism to a character that had grown increasingly silly over time. That’s about it for the positives, though. Everything else about this new Nightmare is just mediocre. In terms of plot, there’s very little difference/ The film offers the usual tendencies to sacrifice character development in favor of action. Aside from Freddy, none of the characters are even remotely interesting. Rooney Mara’s Nancy mumbles and stumbles her way through the movie, never once rising to the level of an engaging heroine, and the rest of the cast is just as forgettable. Director Samuel Bayer is competent enough as a visual stylist, but he’s got no feel for the rhythm of this kind of film, throwing one loud scare after another at the audience to the point that it just becomes annoying. As for the stuff real nightmares are made of, you won’t find it here. **

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Alcatraz Is Not an Island makes its local debut at CMA

Posted By on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 at 5:29 AM

A documentary about Native Americans who staged a sit-in on Alcatraz in the '60s, Alcatraz is Not an Island makes its local premiere tonight at 7 at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. Here's our review of the film.

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Alcatraz Is Not an Island (U.S., 2001) In 1969, a group of Native Americans aspiring to attain “a positive recognition” staged a sit-in on Alcatraz, which they maintained they could legitimately claim because of a provision that allows Native Americans to purchase unused federal property (at that time, the island’s prison was shut down). This documentary retraces the events that led up to the occupation of the island. Led by Mohawk Richard Oakes, a large group of Native Americans eventually take up residence. But after Oakes’ daughter falls onto a concrete slab and eventually dies, the organizers begin to reevaluate their position. And when the government sends in the feds, things get really ugly. The film doesn’t drift from straightforward storytelling, but it doesn’t need to either. It does an effective job of revisiting an activist event that culminated with a significant march on Washington D.C. ***

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Win tickets to see Road House

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

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Road House is the featured film of Cleveland Cinema's Late Shift series and screens at 9 p.m. and midnight, Saturday, May 1 at the Cedar Lee Theatre. It is a 1989 American action film directed by Rowdy Herrington and starring Patrick Swayze and Sam Elliott as bouncers at a seedy roadside bar who protect a small town in Missouri from a corrupt businessman. For your chance to win, send an email to freetickets@clevescene.com, use the subject heading Road House and answer the following trivia question: "In what 2001 film, also a Cleveland Cinemas Late Shift favorite, did Patrick Swayze star as a motivational speaker?" Winners will be announced on Thursday, April 29 and need to pick up the tickets at the Cleveland Scene office by Friday. Please supply your name, address and phone number.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 6:12 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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The Bicycle Thief (Italy, 1948) Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 neo-realist classic The Bicycle Thief is one of the saddest movies ever made. Be prepared for some Cinema Paradiso/Field of Dreams-sized bawling. (Bring Kleenex. Seriously.) Set in postwar Rome — where it was shot on location using real people, not actors — the film tells the story of out-of-work father Antonio, who finds a job hanging movie posters around town. When his bike (which he’s specifically told he needs for work) is stolen, Antonio’s world starts to crumble around him. He knows that his family will starve without the bike, and he’s run out of other options. The final scenes with Antonio and his young son are among the most heartbreaking ever filmed. You’ve been warned. The Bicycle Thief celebrated its 60th anniversary a couple years ago with a new 35mm print. 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 25. **** (Michael Gallucci)

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A Film with Me in It (Ireland, 2008) Ian Fitzgibbon’s ingenious black comedy plays like an irresistible cross between mid-1960s Richard Lester (think The Knack) with early Danny Boyle (especially Shallow Grave). Dublin layabouts Mark (Mark Doherty who also scripted) and Pierce (Dylan Moran) get themselves into a heap of trouble after a rapid succession of (fatal) household accidents result in the death of four people and a pet dog. Whiplash pacing, crackerjack comic timing and spot-on performances make this one of the most unexpectedly delightful surprises of the spring movie season. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 22, and 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 23. *** (Milan Paurich)

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In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong/France, 2000) After discovering that their spouses are having an affair, a man and a woman (the incomparable Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) in 1962 Hong Kong are inexorably drawn together. Old-world social decorum, however, stands in the way of their relationship proceeding to the next logical step. Wong Kar-wai, the most postmodern of contemporary directors, has the heart and soul of the great romantic poets, and you can literally get drunk on his film’s rhapsodic beauty (Chris Doyle did the world-class cinematography). Wong’s masterpiece is so besotted with aching, palpable yearning and desire that it could very well induce a case of the vapors. Prepare to be seduced. At 8:35 p.m. Thursday, April 22, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 23. **** (Milan Paurich)

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One-Eyed Jacks (U.S., 1961) Marlon Brando’s only directorial credit was this very adult Western which the mercurial star took over after original helmer Stanley Kubrick withdrew because of creative differences. Kubrick was notorious for overshooting; Brando took it even further, exposing more than a million of feet of celluloid and ballooning the budget threefold. Brando is Rio, a bank bandit whose raids along the Mexican border go on hold when his disloyal partner Dad (Karl Malden) abandons him to a posse of Mexican police. Escaping prison five years later, Rio hooks up with some other outlaws and heads for the Monterey Peninsula, where Dad has done a career 180 and become a town’s benevolent-despot sheriff and straight-arrow family man. Rio’s vague revenge scheme involves emptying the local bank, but when he sees Dad now has a pretty stepdaughter (Audrey Hepburn-ish ingenue Pina Pellicer, who would commit suicide at age 30), the plans start to change. For all the behind-the-scenes drama, it’s a sturdy, if lengthy and anticlimactic, psychological oater, with trace echoes of Cape Fear. At 9 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Ricky (France, 2009) The latest triumph from chameleon-like French wunderkind François Ozon (Swimming Pool, Eight Women) is a kitchen-sink fairy tale about an adorable toddler (the titular Ricky) who sprouts wings and begins to fly. Although Ricky’s working-class parents (Alexandra Lamy and Sergi López of With a Friend Like Harry) do their best to keep his, uh, condition under wraps, the hue and cry that erupts once news leaks out creates a predictable media frenzy. Are we supposed to take Ricky’s magical appendages (and flying skills) literally? Or are they simply a metaphor for some Ozon-ian political statement about the systemic repression of minorities and/or the underclass? After two viewings, I’m still not entirely certain. The genius of the film (adapted from a short story by Rose Tremain) lies in its ability to convince us that Ricky can indeed fly; and even ponder, “Why the hell not?” At 7:10 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 9:10 p.m. Sunday, April 25. *** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Back-up Plan is a predictable romantic comedy

Posted By on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 6:31 AM

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Everyone has a “back-up plan.” For pet shop owner Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), that means having a baby even if she’s not in a relationship. The Back-up Plan begins with a shot of Zoe in stirrups preparing to be artificially inseminated. As chance would have it, she meets the good-looking Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) on her way home from the doctor as they try to grab the same cab. And, predictably enough, 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 also 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. **

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