Flame & Citron Based on a true story, this is a companion piece of sorts to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. No, Danish Nazi hunters Flame (Thure Lindhardt) and Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) don't skin their victims, but they do relentlessly go after anyone and everyone who has ever pledged allegiance to Das Fuhrer. They start to question their assignments, however, when it seems they might be assassinating innocent people, so they strike out on their own and put together a renegade team of hit men. Adding to the drama is the fact that Flame has trouble separating himself from his girlfriend Ketty (Stine Stengade), whom he suspects could be a sympathizer. Featuring a veteran group of Danish actors and actresses, director Ole Christian Madsen's film is one of the highest grossing Danish movies of all time. You can see why. It's visually striking, and the numerous plot twists keep the story interesting right to its brutal end. Cedar Lee Theatre. ***(Jeff Niesel)
Herb & Dorothy (US, 2008) Herb and Dorothy Vogel have spent 40 years amassing one of the world's best art collections. And they did it without spending a ton of cash either; he worked as a postal worker and she was a librarian. He paid for the art, and she paid the bills. They just happened to be in the right place (New York) at the right time (the '60s). With an extensive collection of interviews and photos, Megumi Sasaki's documentary chronicles their journey from casual art fans to collectors and includes vintage footage of guys like Chuck Close, Christo and Robert Mangold, all of whom counted the Vogels as their patrons from day one. While the Vogels aren't particularly sophisticated when it comes to talking about art (they essentially buy what they like), they're so down-to-earth, you can't help but fall in love with them. No wonder so many artists were willing to give them a drastic discount. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13. ***(Niesel)
I Can Do Bad All By Myself Reviewed at clevescene.com.
Ice People (France/U.S., 2008) While beautifully filmed, this documentary about four geologists looking for fossils in Antarctica doesn't have any real drama. Sure, the crew weathers a snowstorm or two and on occasion has to climb to the top of a wind generator to fix a turbine, but it's all pretty dull stuff. We mostly see them digging holes and pulling out fragments of ice and particles that we can only assume have some kind of scientific significance. We get to know the subjects (one is a avowed Christian, even though he admits it clashes with his science background, and another guy figured moving 10,000 miles away from his ex-wife wasn't such a bad idea), but Anne Aghion's film is nothing more than a slice of life, albeit in an exotic setting that's like no other. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9. **(Niesel)
The Limits of Control (Spain/US/Japan, 2009) Jim Jarmusch-come-latelys who dug 2005's (relatively conventional by Jarmusch standards) Broken Flowers will probably grit their teeth throughout The Limits of Control. Isaach De Bankolé plays Lone Man, a typically taciturn, largely inscrutable 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. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13. ***(Paurich)
My One and Only George Deveraux (Logan Lerman) is a 15-year-old who shows up at a car dealership one day with enough cash to buy a Cadillac. While the salesmen question his ability to make the purchase, it turns out the money's legit. George lives on New York's Upper East Side with his wealthy parents Dan (Kevin Bacon) and Ann (Renee Zellweger), and his mother has sent him to buy a car so they can leave their philandering father. So he gets the car and picks up his mother, and they head off to Boston to start their life over, not knowing that they'd wind up traipsing across the country before finally ending up in sunny California. Directed by Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, Brimstone and Treacle), this period piece that's based on the childhood experiences of actor George Hamilton captures the many contradictions of 1950s America, where promiscuity often ran rampant despite outward appearances. But it takes far too long for the plot to develop and ultimately is of little consequence. Shaker Cinemas. **(Niesel)
9 Little surprise that Tim Burton is one of the producers of this CG-animated story about a group of tiny creatures (they look like grown-up versions of Little Big Planet's Sackboy) trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The film's bleak look and tone resemble the dark gothic mood of Burton's best work. But director Shane Acker's movie (originally a short that was nominated for an Oscar) isn't nearly as playful as The Nightmare Before Christmas. In fact, it's downright depressing at times (hint: don't get too attached to the little fellas). In an alternate world where machines declared war on man and wiped out everyone, all that remains is a small tribe of stitched-together individuals with electronic innards that bring them life. The last in line — who's named 9 and voiced by Elijah Wood — accidentally rouses a towering metal monster, which creates an army of walking, flying and stalking machines to hunt down the nine sackpeople. 9 is visually striking, with its backdrop of hissing factories and washed-out landscapes. But it feels slight, clocking in at about 75 minutes. (And did we mention it's kinda depressing? Don't bring the little ones.) Still, sci-fi and animation fans will relish the film's apocalyptic splendor. ***(Michael Gallucci)
Sorority Row Reviewed at clevescene.com.
Under our Skin (US, 2008) A documentary about an alleged Lyme disease epidemic. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, and 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
The Unmistaken Child (Israel, 2008) Pedestrian documentary about Nepalese monk Tenzin Zopa's four-year search for the reincarnation of his Tibetan master. The most intriguing parts of the film involve anxious stage parents "auditioning" their gurgling infants for this plum gig. The fact that none of the toddlers has the slightest idea who Zopa is or what's expected of them gives their testing sequences the feel of slightly surreal Stupid Pet Tricks. You're never remotely convinced that the child Zopa ultimately decides is his reborn master was the reincarnation of anyone. But maybe you have to be a Buddhist to accept that sort of thing on faith alone. While an abbreviated version of Nati Baratz's overlong, prosaic movie could have made serviceable TLC or Discovery Channel fodder, it seems conspicuously out of place on the big screen. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:05 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13. ** (Paurich)
Whiteout Reviewed at clevescene.com.
A Wink and a Smile (U.S., 2008) A documentary about 10 women who all sign up for a class on burlesque stripping, Deirdre Allen Timmons' film is guilty of overanalyzing things. In a series of interviews with the participants, we hear the usual things about body types and empowerment. Miss Indigo Blue, headmistress at Seattle's Academy of Burlesque, helps the women develop their stage personas and learn dance moves during the six-week course. Behind-the-scenes footage includes classroom lectures ("please wear a tampon and cut the string") and intimate interviews with the subjects. And yes, there's plenty of footage of burlesque strip shows, some of which include brief bits of nudity. The film culminates with a show at a local coffeehouse. Indigo Blue calls the performance an "amazing spectacle" and then goes on about how much the participants' confidence has grown. She gets no argument here, but that's really stating the obvious in a film that tells more than it shows. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16. ** (Niesel)
All About Steve Much like Drew Barrymore's Flower Films and Reese Witherspoon's Type A Films, Sandra Bullock's production company Fortis Films nurtures projects featuring strong female leads. It produced the silly All About Steve, a harmless and really quite sweet romp that finds Bullock sporting a honeyed auburn shag and shiny red knee-high boots. She plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle creator whose one — very short — blind date with blue-eyed news cameraman Steve (Bradley Cooper) breaks her free from a sheltered, rather antisocial life with her parents (the delightful Howard Hesseman and Beth Grant). She follows Steve on assignment around the country, chasing big new stories with his producer Angus (Ken Jeong) and the ambitious and generally clueless — at least about, you know, news and the proper tone to use when reporting it — journalist Hartman (a hilarious Thomas Haden Church). Mary is an enthusiastic, sex-starved woman who goes looking for love and finds friends, fans and a few practical uses for her encyclopedic knowledge. Clever writing — especially the news-seeking trio's smart slapstick — buoys the silliness to a higher level of fun. ***(Wendy Ward)
District 9 On the surface, District 9 is about aliens. But its subtext is pretty clear to anyone familiar with segregation. District 9 is about oppression. And standing up for rights. And wanting to go home. It's a rebel movie, but the rebels are aliens who have been crammed into a South African slum for more than 20 years. Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (from a short film he made in 2005), District 9 came together after he and producer Peter Jackson couldn't get their Halo movie off the ground. And in a way, the kinda creepy and totally bloody District 9 plays a lot like Halo, with some very awesome guns capable of blasting the hell out of anything that gets in their way. But District 9 is more subtle than the hit videogame franchise, building conflict and a sense of confinement before turning into a limb-severing showdown between military pricks, displaced aliens and a good-guy researcher who's slowly transforming into one of the creatures. The movie's handheld-camera, documentary- style approach is played out by now, but it serves District 9's narrative, even if it sorta breaks the rules during the movie's final act. By the end, the big-ass weapons come out, and District 9 swerves a little into popcorn-movie territory. But not even a ginormous robot suit can divert from the film's undertones of what it means to be an alien in a place where you've lived for so long. ***(Gallucci)
The Final Destination While at a racetrack, Nick (Bobby Campo) has a premonition that one of the cars will crash into the stands, causing considerable death and mayhem. He makes a scene, and along with his friends and a few other spectators, leaves the track just in time to miss seeing the vision come true. Any relief is short lived, however, as the survivors soon begin dying in various grisly ways. Sound familiar? If you've seen any of the previous Final Destination films, you've seen this one. The only difference is this latest installment is playing in 3-D at selected theaters. Since director David Ellis doesn't do much with the technology, that's not much of a selling point. The acting is bad, there's no suspense and the premise is feeling awfully tired at this point. As is par for the course with the series, there are at least a few inventive kills. One death involving a swimming pool drain and another in an escalator are particularly nasty, but even gore fans have to be getting bored with this series by now. *(Ignizio)
Halloween 2 Halloween 2 starts with an explanation of the symbolic meaning of a white horse, which immediately raises a red flag that director Rob Zombie is taking himself too seriously. However, the sequence that immediately follows — essentially a condensed remake of the original Halloween II — offers up some pretty effective moments. That is, until it all turns out to have been a dream. It's hard to say which is more numbing: the relentless brutality, the heavy-handed symbolism, the overabundance of dream sequences and flashbacks, or the seemingly endless stream of scenes and ideas lifted from other films. Zombie even goes so far as to steal the endings of both Psycho and Night of the Living Dead, because apparently one plagiarized ending that calls attention to a better film just isn't enough. There are some good performances and even a few decent scenes scattered about in Halloween II, but it's not worth having to sit through the rest of the movie to get to them. *(Ignizio)
Inglourious Basterds Opening with a "Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France" intro, Inglourious Basterds' first chapter (yes, Tarantino divides his film into episodes again) introduces a couple characters — an SS colonel and a Jewish girl whose family he kills — who weave in and out of the movie. It's 1941, and Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt, with cocked eyebrows, a Tennessee accent and Clark Gable's mustache) recruits eight Jewish-American soldiers to "kill Nazis." But because Aldo is descended from Native Americans, his gang doesn't just kill Nazis; they scalp them too. Aldo's warriors eventually hook up with a German spy (National Treasure's Diane Kruger), and they hatch a plan to take out most of the Third Reich's top tier, including Hitler and Goebbels. Even though Tarantino isn't on rapid-fire here, there are parts of Inglourious Basterds that are every bit as accomplished as Pulp Fiction. He still gets a kick making movies, and the evidence is onscreen. ***(Gallucci)
Taking Woodstock Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) used Elliot Tiber's memoir as the basis for a film that follows Tiber (Demetri Martin) — a young, closeted gay Jewish kid — as he helps bring the music festival to Bethel, New York. As he tries to help his parents (Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton) keep their tiny Catskills motel from foreclosure, Elliot sees a newspaper article about the cancellation of a nearby concert and contacts organizer Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) and puts him in touch with Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), who owns an enormous dairy farm down the road. The two work out a deal and the concert is scheduled, though Elliot (and everyone else, for that matter) has no idea about the scope of what's about to take place. As more and more people start arriving on the site, Elliot befriends a cross-dressing Marine (Liev Schreiber) and a half-psychotic Vietnam vet (Emile Hirsch) who open his eyes to a larger world. While the movie includes nearly a dozen snippets of songs that were played at Woodstock, you never see a single live performance. And in that respect, the movie stays faithful to the concert's true spirit and captures the way it became a cultural happening. *** (Niesel)
The Time Traveler's Wife Told out of sequence, The Time Traveler's Wife begins with the death of young Henry's mother, who's killed in a horrible car accident. But Henry, in the back seat at the time of the accident, manages to live, thanks to his ability to travel through time. Flash forward a few years and Henry (Eric Bana) is all grown up, working in a library. When Clare (Rachel McAdams) approaches him, she realizes she knows him. Turns out an older Henry befriended a much younger Clare on his time travels, and they would meet regularly in a large field on the property where Clare grew up. Confusing, yes, but the filmmakers go to great lengths to simplify things. The two get married, and everything is going smoothly until they try to have a baby. It turns out the fetus is a time traveler too, and one miscarriage follows another until they get some help from a somewhat skeptical doctor (Stephen Tobolowsky). While the time-traveling sequences are artfully done (thanks to some nifty digital effects, Henry simply fades away on the screen), the love story is the film's focus. Much like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the film is about a couple who have to fight against the odds so they can be together. The movie definitely falls into the chick-flick realm, but don't hold that against it. ***(Niesel)