Friday, June 14, 2019

'Toy Story 4'-Themed RV Coming to Crocker Park on Tuesday

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2019 at 11:28 AM

An RV figures prominently in the forthcoming Pixar film Toy Story 4. And to build anticipation for the film (it arrives in theaters on June 21), a Toy Story 4-themed RV has hit the road and will stop in 20 cities.

From 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, it'll arrive at Crocker Park (near BRIO) to provide photo opportunities for fans. There will also be film-themed prizes and carnival games.

Two film ambassadors will be on hand to share details about the film’s old and new characters.

Admission is free.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Film About Local Activist Sister Catherine Walsh to Premiere in Akron Next Week

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 11:42 AM

  • Courtesy of Angela Miller
A Catholic nun, "Sister" Catherine Walsh acts like a sister to the people in her life and treats like her own family. The new locally produced documentary film SISTER: The Life Ministry of Sister Catherine Walsh celebrates the inspirational woman’s life and ministry on the occasion of her 60th Jubilee of devotion to God in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Here’s the Schedule for the Capitol Theatre’s Third Annual Pride Month Film Series

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 1:32 PM

The Capitol Theatre has just announced that its third annual Pride Month Film Series will begin on Tuesday with a screening of the newly restored flick Before Stonewall. The film documents the infamous raid that took place on the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, igniting the gay liberation movement. Opening night includes a reception with happy hour drink specials and desserts from locally based Bitchy Vegan Homo.

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'Rocketman' Doesn't Focus Enough on Elton John's Musical Accomplishments

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 11:24 AM

  • Paramount Pictures
Throughout a career that stretches back decades, flamboyant singer-songwriter Elton John has sold millions of records and played to stadiums full of fans. A Rock Hall Inductee, John recently announced he’s going to retire from touring, leaving behind a remarkable legacy, and the new biopic Rocketman touches upon some of that history.

Too much of the movie, however, dwells on John’s battle with drugs and alcohol, and the film, which opens area-wide on Friday, loses its narrative thread about half-way through.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Numerous Film and TV Stars to Participate in Upcoming Retro Invasion Weekend

Posted By on Mon, May 20, 2019 at 4:14 PM

  • Courtesy of Joe Ostrica
Celebrities Joe Bob Briggs (The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs, MonsterVision, Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater), Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Last American Virgin, Amityville II) and Mark Metcalf (National Lampoon's Animal House, Buffy the Vampire Slayer One Crazy Summer, Seinfeld) will all be on hand for the upcoming Retro Invasion Weekend, a four-day event taking place from May 30 to June 2 at the Double Tree by Hilton in Westlake.

The whole thing kicks off with special a VIP party on Thursday, May 30, and a few VIP tickets still remain for that event. They cost $70.

During the weekend, there'll be a special reunion and screening of the cult slasher film Intruder. Star Danny Hicks (Evil Dead 2, Spider-Man 2, Darkman, Maniac Cop) and makeup FX artist Robert Kurtzman will be on hand for that.

There will also be a Just One of the Guys reunion with Clayton Rohner (April Fool's Day, Modern Girls, The Relic), Toni Hudson (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Nothing in Common, School Spirit), Arye Gross (House II: The Second Story, Soul Man, Minority Report, The X-Files), director Lisa Gottlieb (Freddy's Nightmares, Dream On, Boy Meets World), Jonathan Tiersten (SLEEPAWAY CAMP, The Perfect House, The Return to Sleepaway Camp, Terror Tales) and Marty Schiff (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Out of Control).

Northeast Ohio filmmaker J.R. Bookwalter (The Dead Next Door, Robot Ninja, Witchouse 2, Ozone) will be on hand as will horror artist Ghoulish Gary.

About 75 vendors are participating. They'll sell a variety of art, posters, movies, toys, collectibles, vinyl, unique crafts, T-shirts and much more.

A University of Akron graduate, organizer Joe Ostrica worked as a journalist for 22 years and has made several films.

“I've been fascinated with movies and filmmaking since a very young age and have been going to conventions the past 20 years,” he says in a press release about the convention. “I've been to them as a fan, a vendor and a filmmaker. I've put on more than 40 events, whether zombie walk food drives, zombie proms, movie screenings with bands and burlesque, etc. Putting on a unique convention like Retro Invasion Weekend was the next natural progression for me. The entire weekend is a look into my personal tastes as a lover of film and pop culture."

Weekend passes cost $60, and individual day passes for Friday, May 31 ($25), Saturday, June 1 ($30), and Sunday June 2 ($20) will be available at the door.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Cinematheque Is One of 20 Theaters to Screen Scorsese's New Dylan Documentary

Posted By on Fri, May 17, 2019 at 12:08 PM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is one of only 20 theaters worldwide to host an advance screening of the Netflix-produced movie, Rolling Thunder: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. The movie screens at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11.

The documentary follows Dylan In the fall of 1975 when he embarked on the first leg of a concert tour that saw him performing at more intimate venues in smaller cities, often playing with special guests that ranged from Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell to Roger McGuinn, Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith.

Scorsese’s movie includes new interviews with Dylan and other tour participants. Tickets cost $12, or $9 for Cinematheque members and students.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Admit that John Wick is a Garbage Franchise You Cowards

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 2:06 PM

A promo image for John Wick Chapter 2
  • A promo image for John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick is a hyper-violent action franchise about men's fashion and pet ownership in New York City. It stars a bruised and grunting Keanu Reeves as a retired hit man and features some of the most senseless, brutal, boring fight choreography in the history of cinema. Its deranged narrative architecture, the central plank of which is that roughly half of the world's population, and all of its homeless people, belong to secretive, hierarchical associations of assassins, is hands-down the dumbest ever conceived. It is impossible to enjoy even as pure fantasy, yet it remains beloved by the county's savviest culture critics, who were smitten by the simplicity of a man going on a killing spree to avenge his dog, (the plot of 2014's John Wick).

The franchise's unbearable third installment, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, (the latin phrase meaning "prepare for war"), opens Friday in wide release. Its gleeful excesses — the particulars of which I'll touch on below — will no doubt receive the same herdlike rave reviews that the first two did.

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017), for example, was pronounced "more audacious, bolder and more violent" than its predecessor ( The mind-numbing gun fights were "like a dance," (MTV News) "some of the most elegant action since the 1980s," (The Age). It offered "more cohesive doses of ferocious thrills" than its CGI-infused counterparts, (IndieWire). The film scored an improbable 89% Fresh on RottenTomatoes, better than the 87% of the first film, and the critical consensus was that everyone should shut up and allow themselves to mindlessly escape, to disregard the plot holes because it was "crazily entertaining," (Arizona Republic).  

These films are no such thing.

The biggest and most disgusting problem with John Wick, one that was most consistently pronounced in the second film, but most grotesquely so in the third, is that the films are meant to be adrenaline highs, "action from start to finish," but the action is inhumanly violent to a monotonous degree. Gratuitous doesn't even begin to cover it. 

Most of these interminable mob fight scenes feature Wick unloading clip after clip of bullets into the heads of his enemies. In the third film, these enemies are often obscured by scarves or helmets, so we can forget that it's human beings he's offing so casually. 

The aging Reeves has about three moves in his hand-to-hand combat arsenal, his favorite of which is a little takedown maneuver where he wrestles a bad guy to the floor and then shoots him in the head at close range. He then shoots the corpse in the head two or three more times.

It is a film of nonstop head shots. This is not only monotonous and boring to watch — it may as well be a command on a gaming device's controller (X = head shot) — but deeply disturbing. In a showdown late in the third film, Wick defends the Continental Hotel from a battalion of intruders. These intruders wear sophisticated body armor and helmets that can't be pierced by bullets at long range, so Wick has to shoot each one in the head five or six times up close to get the job done. It'd be almost parodic if it weren't so repulsive. Wick sometimes even opens up a visor and shoots an assailant directly in the face a few times. These assailants rarely fight back convincingly, especially in the hand-to-hand sequences in which the trained martial artist actors can be seen working double-duty to pretend that a slow and gimpy fifty-something Reeves is giving them a workout. Usually they just submit to getting their brains blown out. 

I noted this head shot tendency with disgust in the second film and was distraught to learn that nothing had changed in the third. Or, actually that's not true. One thing has changed. The franchise has now giddily discovered knives. Blades of every length and variety are on display in the third installment and are just as excessively deployed to slash and chop and thrust and stab at the heads and necks and eyes of everyone in sight.

John Wick is "excommunicado" from the "High Table" — his secret assassin organization — which means that most of New York City descends upon him in the hopes of collecting a high-dollar reward. In an opening scene, Wick kills an assassin (played by the NBA's Boban Marjanovic) by bashing a hardcover book into his mouth and then snapping his neck over the book's spine. Cool move! A few minutes later, Wick finds himself in an armory of sorts and dispatches a mob of attackers with knives and axes and machetes. In multiple cases, he stabs someone in the head and then bangs on the inserted blade so it goes deeper into the head. In one shot, he pushes a knife slowly into someone's eye. Once most of them are dead, Wick sees one of the bloodied bodies removing a knife from his chest — still alive — so he throws an axe at his face.

Mindless escapism! Fun!

Most of the violence, though, to reiterate, is just endless gun battles indistinguishable from videogame massacres. Halle Berry joins the fray in Parabellum for a big fight in Casablanca — don't ask — when she and Wick take on 60-80 opponents in a Riad courtyard. As usual, they shoot everyone in the head multiple times. In this fight, Halle Berry has two German Shepherds with her, and they mangle the bad guys' private parts or chew on the corpses as the fighting rages on. In one egregious instance, Berry's character fires two bullets into the chest and leg of an opponent — everything is at extremely close range — and then invites her dog to attack. The dog immediately charges and begins savaging the guy's crotch as he's dying. Berry then fires into his neck and head a couple of times. 

Some of these battles are more coherently staged than others. But there's no drama or tension involved in any of it. It's just mowing down nameless, faceless foot soldiers. 

This mindlessness is not compelling or fun. In fact, as I keep saying, it's extremely boring. In a late showdown at the Continental Hotel, Wick takes on, sans guns, two martial artists (including Rayan Yuhian, Mad Dog from The Raid: Redemption, a good action movie). And these dudes throw Wick through a series of glass walls or displays or something. There are like seven of these glass structures in the room where they're fighting and they throw or kick Wick through every single one. In immediate succession. There's no creativity or ingenuity in this choreography. Wick keeps standing up and then getting kicked through the next pane of glass. Is this a joke? Was this supposed to be multiple takes? It's unreal. But it demonstrates the filmmakers to be obsessed with new moves or kill ideas as they discover them. Early on, for example, Wick finds himself in a stable and uses horses to kick his attackers in the face. This is actually a fairly inventive idea, in terms of fight choreography. But then he proceeds to do the same thing like three or four more times. It's gratuitous to the nth.  

All this excessive, intimate, depraved violence is exacerbated by the utter stupidity of the story lines loosely stringing together the bloody encounters that are the franchise's only purpose.

Wick is retired, sort of, from an organization called the "High Table" which appears to oversee all other assassin organizations, one of which is made up of homeless people (or assassins disguised as homeless people?) led by Laurence Fishburne, whose main idiosyncratic character trait is that he speaks with a Shakespearian lilt — he is a king? — and uses carrier pigeons to communicate with his network.

Wick is also maybe named Jardani Jovovich and maybe belongs to a Belarussian organized criminal outfit, under whose protection he is shipped to North Africa to escape his death, passage he secures by being branded with an Orthodox cross. There are more amulets and trinkets and coins and pseudo-cultish ritualism than the National Treasure and Indiana Jones franchises combined.

In Morocco, the guy who oversees the High Table turns out to be some sort of Bedouin royal figure. (What?) But he doesn't seem all that connected to the High Table's central administration, which seems a bit like that time travel organization in The Umbrella Academy. It's all weirdly analog. Hits are tabulated on a big chalkboard and disseminated via 80s computers and intercoms and actual switchboards. Moreover, none of these assassins are ever called upon to assassinate anyone of importance. All they seem to be interested in is killing each other. It's like an Albanian blood feud. 

All this shit is nonsense and I'm realizing that it's not even worth trying to explain. The script for Parabellum seems to be exclusively influenced by Wikipedia searches for the Yakuza and the Illuminati. It doesn't withstand even the slightest narrative scrutiny, but does make at least one Matrix callback.  

It all sucks. And there's no end in sight.   

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