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Capsule Reviews

For current film offerings around town



Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (US, 1970) Paul Newman and Robert Redford star as the infamous outlaws. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, June 6, and 8:50 p.m. Sunday, June 7.

Enlighten Up Determined to prove that under the right circumstances, yoga can transform even the most jaded person, yoga enthusiast and documentary moviemaker Kate Churchill selected Nick Rosen, a New York City journalist, to be her guinea pig. She flies him all over the world so he can be exposed to a variety of different practices, each more spiritual than the next. He meets Dr. Madan Kataria, the "Guru of Giggling"(who instructs him in the ways of Laughter Yoga), and Diamond Dallas Page, a proponent of "Yoga For Regular Guys." He travels to India and then back to the U.S. And yet, he remains unconvinced of yoga's transforming powers, sending Churchill into such a rage that she stops talking to him for a short time. While the tension would normally make for a good documentary, here it just feels awkward and uncomfortable, especially since neither Churchill nor Rosen are particularly sympathetic characters. Cedar Lee Theatre. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)

Land of the Lost Sid and Marty Kroft’s original Land of the Lost was by no means a shining moment in television history, but it was harmless enough fun for the Saturday morning kiddie audience of the ’70s. This big screen version takes the basic premise of that series. While on an expedition, Marshall (Will Ferrell), Will (Danny McBride) and Holly (Anna Friel) are transported by a device of Marshall’s design to a strange world inhabited by an ape man Chakka (Jorma Taccone), dinosaurs and alien lizard men called Sleestaks. Unlike the show, however, the movie goes for intentional laughs with gratuitous breast fondling, gay jokes, dinosaur urine showers and a little light blasphemy. We're a long way from Saturday morning here, and none of the jokes are even remotely funny. * (Robert Ignizio)

Leave Her to Heaven (US, 1945) A restored print of John M. Stahl's film about a femme fatale. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Friday, June 5, and 9:35 p.m. Saturday, June 6.

Mock Up on Mu (US, 2008) Culture jammer Craig Baldwin spins an outlandish sci-fi story in this collage. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 10.

Red Psalm (Hungary, 1971) Miklós Jancsó won the Best Director prize at Cannes for this film about a Hungarian farm worker revolt. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6, and 7 p.m. Sunday, June 7.

Rudo y Cursi One of the best films that screened at this year's Cleveland International Film Festival, Rudo y Cursi reunites Y Tu Mamá Tabién stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna as a pair of small-town siblings who have aspirations of playing professional soccer. Tato (Bernal) and Beto (Luna) get their chance to go pro when they're "discovered" by a sleazy sports agent who's made it his mission to find young soccer players and place them with major teams. Both players become minor celebrities, though each has trouble controlling the wealth and fame that comes his way. The two end up as bitter rivals, playing for opposing teams, and must try to redeem themselves in one final showdown that features a surprise ending. With Rudo y Cursi, Mexican writer-director Carlo Cuarón, who co-wrote Y Tu Mamá Tabién with his brother Alfonso, has crafted a terrific story that's alternately funny and tragic and deserving of every bit of critical praise it's received. Cedar Lee Theatre. *** (Niesel)

Shadows (Macedonia/Germany/Italy/Bulgaria/Spain, 2007) A Macedonian doctor survives a car crash only to run into a number of eccentric people who start speaking to him in code. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, and 9:10 p.m. Friday, June 5.

Summer Hours "Beauty is beauty .. .you notice it," elderly matriarch Hélène Berthier (screen veteran Edith Scob) remarks at the beginning of French chameleon Olivier Assayas' exquisite, ineffably lovely new film, and that pretty well sums up this sublime achievement as well. After Helene's death, her three grown children (Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling and Jérémie Renier) descend upon her country home to divvy up the estate and their mother's belongings. Shockingly, there are no tearful recriminations or buried family skeletons to spark phony melodrama. The Berthiers are that rare screen family that genuinely seems to like each other. The delicacy of emotions conveyed through the pitch-perfect performances and Assayas' rigorous, unfussy mise-en-scene is so palpable and genuinely touching that it bears comparison with Jean Renoir's humanist masterpieces. Here is that rare film so infused with feeling that it can literally take your breath away. Cedar Lee Theatre. ***(Milan Paurich)

Theater of War (US, 2008) Documentary filmmaker John Walter's (How to Draw a Bunny) probing, in-depth look at a 2006 Public Theater production of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children provides filmgoers with a fascinating look into the creative process. It's as much about Brecht's legacy and how his seminal late '30s work — set against the backdrop of the Thirty Years' War — holds up a mirror to U.S. involvement in Iraq as it is about the prodigiously talented individuals, including director George C. Wolfe, Tony Kushner (who did the new translation) and stars Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, responsible for breathing new life into a 70-year-old play. There's something wonderfully ennobling about watching art come to life before your eyes, and Walter doesn't stint on cataloging the blood, sweat and tears that go into creating theatrical alchemy. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Friday, June 5. *** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

In Theaters

Angels and Demons Director Ron Howard's 2006 Da Vinci Code adaptation relieved the book of its one saving grace: briskness. Critics panned the movie as bloated and contrived. Stung by the reviews, Howard rethought his approach before adapting Brown's Angels and Demons (which was published before Da Vinci, but which Howard treats as a sequel). With writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, he condensed the plot and made things less stagy, using the handheld camera techniques he employed in Frost/Nixon. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard professor Robert Langdon, who's summoned to the Vatican to investigate a plot to kill four cardinals and destroy St. Peter's Basilica with a stolen anti-matter device, whose developer, physicist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), teams up with Langdon. There's a lot of dashing about, some ghastly killings, a possibly murdered pope, ominous pseudo-Carmina Burana choral music and a visually impressive scene involving an airplane. Hanks seems strangely detached, even though he's the central character. The movie lacks even the frisson of the forbidden. The Vatican isn't protesting it, as it did The Da Vinci Code, since the story is more or less pro-church. What fun is that? *** (Pamela Zoslov)

Brothers Bloom A couple of orphans, Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) learn at an early age that they have a knack for conning people. It all starts when they trick their classmates into thinking there's a monster in a cave, and they charge their fellow students admission to see said monster, really just one of the brothers. Of course, they get caught on a regular basis and move from foster home to foster home. Flash-forward a few years. Stephen and Bloom, now young adults, have figured out how to pull off heists without getting caught. They've partnered up with Bang-Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), an Asian woman who doesn't speak, and have pulled off one lucrative job after another. They could retire on their earnings, but they decide to pull off one last con and find an heiress, Penelope (Rachel Weisz), who could easily be bilked of her millions. The problem is that Bloom falls in love with her. Much like Wes Anderson, director Rian Johnson (Brick) relies on quirky characters and distinctively colorful cinematography to create an alternate, anachronistic universe. While the film predictably blurs the lines between what's a con and what's not, its intriguing narrative holds it together. Cedar Lee Theatre. ** 1/2 (Niesel)

Dance Flick There are so many Wayans family members listed in the credits of this parody film, it's got to be a joke. It's a fitfully funny spoof of the sub-genre of urban hip-hop/R&B dance melodramas like Stomp the Yard, How She Move, Roll Bounce and Step Up 2 the Streets. Not that such dancerz-n-the-hood programmers don't deserve it or are somehow beyond parody. But there just isn't much sport in knocking Honey off its perch. The main achievement for the Wayanses would seem to be delivering their lampoons within the confines of a PG-13 rating (they nearly got an NC-17 for their original cut of Scary Movie). Flick mainly satirizes 2000's Save the Last Dance, with shoutouts to Fame, Hairspray, Dreamgirls, Halle Berry's driving mishaps, etc. After family tragedy, would-be ballerina Megan (Shoshana Bush) attends showbizzy inner-city Musical High School and strikes up interracial romance with Thomas (Damon Wayans Jr.), a classmate whose "crew" participates in dance-offs at the nearby Club Violence. Team Wayans have some fun with the clichés, like one young thug so at-risk he literally has guns for hands. But for the Wayanses at their best, check out their In Living Color TV show on DVD. **(Charles Cassady)

Drag Me to Hell Sam Raimi, who made the Evil Dead series before moving on to mainstream success with movies like Spider-Man, effortlessly blends scares, laughs and thrills in Drag Me to Hell. It's a film that should satisfy fans waiting for Evil Dead 4, as well as general audiences looking for a summer roller-coaster ride. We're given believable characters we actually care about, and there's even some thematic depth concerning the idea that a good person can commit one misdeed and wind up in a living hell. But mostly this movie just wants to entertain. Raimi uses plenty of his trademark gross-outs, slapstick gags and creative camera moves to that end, but those elements never overwhelm the film. Where the Evil Dead series was the work of a raw but talented newcomer, Drag Me to Hell shows a mature and assured directorial hand that knows exactly what buttons to push with an audience while still telling a decent story. *** 1/2 (Robert Ignizio)

Limits of Control Isaach De Bankolé plays Lone Man, a typically taciturn, largely inscrutable Jim Jarmusch protagonist who gives every appearance of being a somnambulist, despite the fact that his character never seems to sleep. A pointedly obfuscating series of encounters with equally confounding, baldly monickered types (Tilda Swinton is Blonde, Gael García Bernal is Mexican) passes for plot (never a big deal in Jarmusch land anyway). Like most Jarmusch films, The Limits of Control is basically a series of repetitions, and the transcendental beauty of cinematographer Chris Doyle's gorgeously lit, rigorously composed images makes the experience damn near hypnotic. Cedar Lee Theatre. ***(Paurich)

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian The original Night at the Museum basically ran on the premise of "What happens at the museum after the doors are locked for the night?" Apparently, it's some wacky stuff. Lock Ben Stiller in there with all the historic artifacts, and you'll get even more wackiness. This CGI-heavy and pop- culture-speckled sequel to the 2006 hit is more of the same. This time, Stiller's former night watchman Larry — now a successful entrepreneur behind a bunch of infomercial crap, including a glow-in-the-dark flashlight — must save his old natural history museum pals from an evil resurrected pharaoh (played by a lisping Hank Azaria) who's stolen the magic tablet that brings them to life. Adding to that otherworldly problem, most of the museum's artifacts have been packed away and shipped to the Smithsonian for storage. All of the first film's characters return: Owen Wilson's cowboy, Robin Williams' Teddy Roosevelt, the talking Easter Island statue, the monkey. The Smithsonian adds a bunch of new historical and pop-culture icons to the mix, including Amelia Earhart (a peppy and excellent Amy Adams), General Custer, Ivan the Terrible, Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch. This Museum is also loaded with cameos by various Office stars, Saturday Night Live alum and Jonah Hill, who plays an overzealous guard who squares off against Larry in one of the movie's funniest scenes. But a few new twists — classic paintings and photographs now come to life — can't hide the blah plot, which is pretty much an excuse to trot out some clever sight gags. Some of them are funny; some of them are spectacular in a CGI kinda way. Too bad the story is neither. ** 1/2 (Michael Gallucci)

Star Trek J. J. Abrams' much-anticipated remake/reboot/prequel/sequel to Paramount's Star Trek series isn't your father's Star Trek, not by light years. It's more like your snotty little iPod-plugged nephew's. The plot: In the 23rd century, Starfleet up-and-comer George Kirk is killed with his ship when a time-space warp materializes a gang of nasty, vengeful Romulans from 127 years in the future, piloting their own enormous Death Star (more like a Death Squid, given the production design). George's wife gives birth to a nervy punk named James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), who grows up a motorcycle delinquent around the space-shipyards of Iowa. Meanwhile on Vulcan, planet of serene logic and repressed emotion, the persecuted half-human prodigy Spock (Zachary Quinto) grows up with a mild anger-management problem. It's a good thing this is so entertaining, because the eventual return to deep-space naval battle with the Romulan Death Squid (the villains just conveniently disappear from the narrative for a quarter-century) is hardly stuff Where No One Has Gone Before. *** (Cassady)

Terminator Salvation Arriving on the heels of Star Trek, a film that successfully re-launched a franchise that had grown tired and stale, Terminator Salvation isn't going to seem as inventive as J. J. Abrams' flick. Directed by McG, a former music-video guy who's successfully made the jump to the big screen, the film commences in 2003 as a prisoner named Marcus (Sam Worthington) decides to give his body to science right before he's executed. Flash forward to 2018, and John Connor (Christian Bale this time around) heads up a group of resistance fighters who are taking on the "machines" dead-set on wiping out the human race. The explosive opening battle scene sets the tone for the movie. It's one loud, vicious fight that finds the red-eyed Terminator machines and an arsenal of spaceships giving the humans all they can handle. As far as sequel/prequels go, Terminator Salvation does the trick. Bale is terrific as the steely John Connor, and Worthington is solid as the half-human Marcus. It's just too bad it has to compete with the superior Star Trek. ***(Niesel)

Up Up is an eyes-wide-open fantasy about Carl Fredricksen (voiced by the always-cranky Edward Asner), whose lifelong dream of being a globe-trotting adventurer has been halted every step of the way. He marries his childhood best friend, a girl who shares his dreams and quest for adventure. Over the years, they live and love and try to scrape up enough cash to visit Paradise Falls, a mythical wilderness in South America. After his wife dies, Carl — now an old man with a bad back and an even worse temperament — spends his days in his ramshackle house, which stands in the middle of a construction site (Carl refuses to sell, even as high-rises go up around him). After he assaults a worker on his property, the court orders him to a retirement community. So Carl hatches a plan to escape to Paradise Falls by attaching hundreds of balloons to his house. Surprisingly, it works, and he sets sail serenely above the city streets. All goes well until he hears a knock at the door and finds Russell, an overweight and chatty Wilderness Explorer (it's like a Boy Scout) who needs one more badge to advance to the next level. A brutal storm steers Carl and Russell miraculously in the middle of Paradise Falls' outlining forest. And then Carl's real adventure begins. Unlike the meditative WALL-E, Up is filled with thrilling action scenes and colorful set pieces. Like WALL-E, it's a stunning visual work with an eco-friendly message. *** 1/2 (Gallucci)

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