Thursday, May 24, 2018

Why is 'SOLO?'

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 11:51 AM

Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
  • Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story.
If you dispense with the notion that 28-year-old Alden Ehrenreich is playing a "young Han Solo" in Solo: A Star Wars Story, the latest installment in what has quickly become a sprawling cinematic universe, you'll have a much less fidgety viewing experience. 

Think of Ehrenreich as a Hank Bolo or a Stan Bulbo or a Frank Grillo. Definitely don't compare his hair or his height or his voice or his little simper to Harrison Ford's. It's a fool's errand. Ehrenreich is not the Han Solo of Star Wars, and watching him give what is honestly a creditable performance exposes the folly of Disney's origin story, which was originally directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (the Lego Movie dudes) but was handed off to Ron Howard mid-stream after manifold tales of on-set incompetence and what Lord and Miller referred to as "deep fundamental philosophical differences" in filmmaking styles.

Given the shake-up, I'd been anticipating even more sloppiness, narrative jogs and tonal inconsistency — directors obviously being in the habit of advancing personalized and often opposing interpretations of line delivery and character arcs — but Solo holds up as a story, for the most part. I thought it was a lot less bumpy than Rogue One, which everyone now seems to worship but which I thought was riddled with bad choices and, the occasional stunning moment notwithstanding, presented more like fan fiction than the meticulously plotted product of a multi-billion-dollar studio. 

In Solo, Han is a scrappy urchin living under the thumb of an aquatic criminal boss named Lady Proxima. He and his girlfriend Qi'Ra (Emilia Clarke, in her best performance to date) attempt a daring escape off their heavy-industrial mob-controlled planet in the film's opening sequence. Han then joins the Empire with the hopes of becoming a pilot and soon falls in with a ragtag band of outlaws, led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton.)

The criminal syndicates, in this expanding Star Wars narrative build-out, are concerned with the acquisition of hyperfuel and its key ingredient, coaxium. Beckett and his crew must steal a huge amount of it for the mob boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the theft of which comprises the main action of the film. The best sequence is teased in the trailers. It's a sci-fi take on a great train robbery. Han, Beckett, Val and the crew attempt to hijack a mountainside transport shuttle but encounter a few unforeseen challenges as they do. Get pumped. It's great. 

It pains me to report that Donald Glover is weak as Lando Calrissian — like, super weak — and a B-storyline involving him and his robot L3 (voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bride, is one of the more bizarre and stupid elements the franchise has endeavored to capture onscreen. 

Ehrenreich, to his credit, plays a charming, rakish outlaw. His name just happens to be Han Solo, which is not Ehrenreich's fault! He's a lovable character. He just has zero of the moral complications and me-first pigheadedness that made Harrison Ford's Solo the adored anti-hero that he was. Han was the original trilogy's favorite character, if not the most recognizable (that distinction goes to Vader), and one of the most beloved movie characters of all time, trailing only Indiana Jones and James Bond on Empire's list. It's natural that Disney and Lucasfilm want to cash in.

Han's relationship with Qi'Ra is one of the most satisfying story lines. There are unanswered questions by the film's end, and a wholly unwelcome, preposterous cameo, which invites truly scary ideas about what they're cooking up for a sequel, but Clarke aquits herself well in a complicated role and delivers perhaps the film's most memorable line.

Just don't bother trying to make logical connections between the Han Solo of this film's end and the Han Solo of A New Hope's beginning.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

HBO's New 'Fahrenheit 451' Adaptation is Inexplicably Set in Cleveland

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 9:44 AM

  • Sam Allard / Scene
HBO Films' Fahrenheit 451 is inexplicably set in Cleveland, Ohio. The adaptation of the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel, a sci-fi classic, stars Michael B. Jordan as fireman Guy Montag in a dystopian near-future where books are burned, independent thought has been outlawed, and pivotal moments occur in "the woods outside Bedford." 

The most bizarre thing about the film, which is often on the edge of being decent, is that Cleveland looks like freaking Shanghai. Projected onto massive skyscrapers are live-streams of book burnings and exhortations from the "Ministry," to "Stay Vivid" on "the nine," the apparent evolution of the internet after a (recent?) Second World War that left millions dead.

The Nine is run by an Alexa-like operating system named "Yuxie." And to the extent that there is written language, words have been mongrelized and hideously abbreviated into emoji-like glyphs.

In an early scene, the Cleveland fire department gives a school presentation. It was actually one of the few scenes that I found compelling, in large part because it's easy to see how kids would view a charming, studly guy like Michael B. Jordan as a celebrity. But before a giddy burning demonstration for the youngsters, both To the Lighthouse and Moby Dick are shown on screens. Each are about a paragraph long. Anything beyond that, says Captain Beatty (played by a steely Michael Shannon), is insanity.

Later, after Montag has begun to question the truth about his world, a rebel type named Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), tells him that there were once 6,000 languages in the world. "Now there are less than 16."

Check out the image above. That's Captain Beatty in conference with other Ohio fire chiefs, dudes from Cincinnati, Dayton, Canton, Akron, Toledo and I think Youngstown. The big face in the middle is the Columbus chief. Lol. They're getting ready to go on an enforcement spree to track down a piece of software or code or something called the Omnis that I never quite understood.

Anyway, there aren't any recognizable Cleveland landmarks. The train that Montag takes to visit Clarisse is clearly not the Rapid. But at one point, a fire truck rumbles over a bridge that feels vaguely Cleveland-ish.

Reddit user Scruff91 summed things up eloquently:

"Movie sucks, but with some friends and booze it's pretty fucking fun to rip apart. Especially if you're all from Cleveland. It's like a Black Mirror episode that sucks and features great actors giving the worst performances of their careers. But it's also set in Cleveland with hella skyscrapers and holograms and shit. Would recommend."

Fahrenheit 451 premiered Saturday and is now available on all HBO streaming platforms. 
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Capitol Theatre to Host Special Screenings for Pride Month

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 2:17 PM

The Constitution.
  • The Constitution.
To celebrate Pride Month, the Capitol Theatre has partnered with the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland to present a special film series.

The program kicks off on June 5 with a screening of The Constitution, a film about a gay professor who gets attacked by a homophobic ground of young men and women. The movie, which is in Croatian with English subtitles, won the Grand Prize of the Americas for Best Film in the World Competition section at the Montreal World Film Festival as well as the European Film Critic Award at the Pula Film Festival.

Continue reading »

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Winless Cleveland Browns to be Featured on HBO's 'Hard Knocks' This Summer

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 1:01 PM

  • Photo by Sam Allard
HBO has finally gotten its way. After years of prodding the Cleveland Browns football organization to be a subject on its much lauded sports program Hard Knocks, the cable outlet announced today that the team is participating in the 12th season of the show.

Browns fans don't need to be reminded of the turmoil surrounding the last two seasons under head coach Hue Jackson, with only one win to their name. This record, in combination with the recently-drafted star Baker Mayfield, has the makings of a juicy comeback story TV viewers love (and Cleveland die-hards are praying for).

Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, according to a statement, seem thrilled the show is featuring their trying Cleveland team:
“We have been asked multiple times about being featured on Hard Knocks, and we really felt like it was our turn this year and the timing was right. We want to be great partners in this league, and we also recognize Hard Knocks gives fans a special opportunity to learn more about our team and players.

“Organizationally, we are confident about where we are headed, but we have a lot of work to do in order for this franchise to earn the respect of our fans on the field. We understand winning is ultimately most important to our fans. We’re looking forward to partnering with HBO and NFL Films to show how our team is working hard at training camp to prepare for the 2018 season.”
Coach Jackson, who is set to jump in Lake Erie for charity (and to save face) next month, said in a statement that since he's been a part of the show before, he knows the positives it can bring.

"I want people to see how much our players and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland," he said.

The program's film crew is set to descend on the team's training camp this summer, with plans to shoot thousands of hours worth of behind-the-scenes footage. Actor Liev Schreiber, serving as the show's narrator, will make the whole the thing sound a little better when the show premiers August 7. 
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Retro Tuesdays at the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In Are the Best Way to Spend the Summer

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 11:03 AM

  • Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In | Twitter

Sometimes there are experiences worth going the extra mile, like The Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In theater in North Ridgeville.

As audiences grow increasingly frustrated with people talking, texting or bringing their young children to movie theaters with $15 popcorn, the drive-in is a perfect way to catch a new film without having to worry about any of the riff-raff brought on by other people ... or yourself.

But with with incredible resources like the Cinematheque or one of the Cleveland Cinemas theaters to catch the latest flick, it's difficult to convince devout Clevelanders to drive a half hour just to watch a movie from the comfort of their car.

The thing is, visiting the Aut-O-Rama is a magical experience. Built in 1965 by the Sherman family, the drive-in is still owned and operated by the third generation of the Sherman Family. Drive-in theaters were once a staple of Americana, but are now dying out at a rapid rate.

According to a study released by Quartz, as of March there were only 348 drive-in movie theaters in the country, down from 443 theaters in 2000. Drive-in theaters account for only about 1.5 percent of all movie theaters in the country. For comparison, there were over 2400 drive-in theaters in 1980.

Still, the Aut-O-Rama offers a old-school concession stand of delicious treats you couldn't get at your standard theater, complete with the classic "dancing hot dog" commercials between films. Pizza, meatball subs, hamburgers, chicken wings, fries, ice cream, pretzels, nachos and even fried green beans are available making dinner and a movie a one stop shop.

You can catch the latest films on the weekends, but the Aut-O-Rama also offers classic double features for Retro Tuesday as well as a four picture movie marathon around Halloween.

The Retro Tuesday double feature series will begin on June 5 and feature the following films:

June 5: Grease and Fast Times at Ridgemont High
June 12: 48 Hours and Beverly Hills Cop
June 19: Dirty Dancing and Thelma and Louise
June 26: Stand By Me and The Outsiders
July 10: Blade Runner and Flash Gordon
July 17: Goonies and Gremlins
July 24: Home Alone and Christmas Vacation
July 31: Full Metal Jacket and Platoon
August 7: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade*
August 14: Friday and Next Friday
August 21: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein
*denotes triple feature

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In is located at 33395 Lorain Road in North Ridgeville. For showtimes and ticket pricing, check out its website here
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

'Disobedience' Shows Hollywood Still Doesn't Understand How To Tell A Lesbian Love Story

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 1:23 PM

  • Courtesy of Bleecker Street
Based on Naomi Alderman's novel of the same name, Disobedience challenges the obdurate viewpoints of religion by presenting a stunning film in a world that is as dismal as it is beautiful.

Ronit (Rachel Weisz) has returned to her estranged home in Hendon upon hearing the news that her father (Anton Lesser), a highly respected Jewish Orthodox rabbi has passed away. Since leaving the Orthodox community, she has since started a life of photographing tattooed men, having casual sexual encounters and living well outside the restrictions of her family's faith.

It is on this return home that Ronit reunites with Esti (Rachel McAdams), her former lover who has since married the tight-laced Dovid (Alessandro Nivola). As to be expected, Esti is immediately conflicted and caught between the safety of Dovid's traditional values and the exciting, free-spirited whirlwind that comes with loving Ronit.

Director Sebastián Lelio is a remarkable talent. Before Disobedience, his Oscar award-winning film A Fantastic Woman was a triumphant look at the love between a man and a transwoman. Unfortunately, it seems as if he expired his capacity to present a compelling love story between a non-heteronormative couple with his previous masterpiece.

Disobedience is a gorgeous film with captivating cinematography, but the story unfortunately feels stuck in a very binary way of feeling. McAdams and Weisz deliver compelling performances, but the material wants Weisz to be an Orthodox version of a manic-pixie dream girl and McAdams to forever be torn between what's expected and what she desires.

The "forbidden love" between Ronit and Esti feels melodramatic, and the religious background feels like a cheap way to explain away the characters' repressed feelings. While the relationship between the two women is and should be the center of the film, the necessary conflict from Dovid feels a bit wasted.

Despite the film's nearly two-hour run time, Disobedience feels like there's something missing. The complexities of the Jewish Orthodox church and its feelings on homosexuality feel unexplored, and the severity of Esti and Ronit's relationship feel brushed over.

However, credit must be given to Lelio for directing a six-minute scene between Esti and Ronit that is one of the most authentic portrayals of lesbian intimacy ever presented on the silver screen. Never once does their exchange feel titillating or manufactured for the male gaze. Rather, it's an actual moment of lesbian sexuality that resembles the way lesbians actually have sex. For this, Disobedience earns its well-deserved praise.

The film is beautiful and will likely garner a fanbase of lesbian women looking for any sort of representation as well as appeal to heterosexual masses who are a sucker for any gay love story under the guise of "progressiveness," but Disobedience ultimately feels like its message is a nail being beaten by a hammer named "religion and sexuality are complicated."

With the success of films like Call Me By Your Name and Love, Simon, it seems as if filmmakers are finally homing in on the complexities and nuances of homosexual relationships between men. Unfortunately, with films like Carol and now Disobedience, it seems that lesbian relationships are still experiencing some growing pains.

Disobedience opens tomorrow at the Cedar Lee Theatre at 7 p.m. The Cedar Lee is located at 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

87-Year-Old William Shatner Beaming into Akron Civic Theatre This Fall

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 11:40 AM

  • Photo Provided
William Shatner may be older than your grandparents, but this famed actor, singer and cheeseball refuses to throw in the towel. At 87, Shatner plans to appear at the Akron Civic Theatre Sept. 23 for a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the entire Star Trek film enterprise.

Following the night's showing, Captain Kirk himself will take to the stage to answer fans' burning questions. He'll also no doubt tell a bunch of stories about himself, a subject he knows well.

The film screening and talk is just part of a recent spat of shows put on by the Canadian legend. 

Tickets go on sale for the Akron performance on Friday and start at $50. VIP packages are also available for those willing to shell out the dough. You can even get a picture with the actor.

While we all wait in anticipation for Shatner's arrival, here's a bit of "musical magic" to rock your world: 
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