Film » Film Capsules

Film Capsules



Before Tomorrow (Canada, 2008) The final chapter of a trilogy that includes The Fast Runner and The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, co-directors Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu's film takes place in a remote arctic village in 1840. Ninioq (Ivalu), an Inuit fisherwoman, and Maniq (Paul-Dylan Ivalu), her 10-year-old grandchild, are on an island drying fish. They're waiting for members of their tribe to pick them up so they can return to the mainland. When tragedy strikes (as it often does when you're trying to eke out a living in such primitive conditions), the two have to fight just to survive and must fend off wolves and other predators. Shot like a documentary, the film is a convincing period piece. It's beautifully filmed too. But the slow-moving story takes too long to develop, and unnecessarily long shots of the wind blowing across the arctic tundra don't help the pacing either. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Friday, April 9, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 11. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)

Black Waters of Echo's Pond Reviewed at

Date Night Reviewed at

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Late Swedish author/journalist Stieg Larsson's posthumously published novel gets a competently gripping adaptation in director Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The movie takes its time in entangling a reporter-turned-investigator and hacking punkette into its central multigenerational family mystery, but once it gets there it becomes a solid old-fashioned slab of detective fiction. When the movie opens, investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has just lost a libel case filed by a wealthy Swedish businessman, causing Blomkvist to leave his publication in disgrace and await his prison sentence. Freshly unemployed, he's contacted by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), an elderly member of the Vanger family that operates the Vanger Company industrial empire. Back in the 1960s, Vanger's favorite niece Harriet went missing, and he presumes she was murdered. Blomkvist agrees, but doesn't think he'll turn anything up, though he catches a break when Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), computer-hacking investigator, enters his life. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the first of a trilogy, and all three have been made into Swedish movies starring the dynamite duo of Rapace and Nyqvist that have already been released in their home country. It doesn't aspire to reinvent the crime flick; it merely delivers the genre. But, goddamn, does it deliver. Cedar Lee Theatre. **** (Bret McCabe)

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (U.S., 2009) A previously un-produced screenplay by the late Tennessee Williams is the inspiration for first-time director Jodie Markell's prosaic, plodding slice of southern gothic, about the havoc wreaked by a spoiled debutante (Bryce Dallas Howard) in 1920s Mississippi. Despite the best efforts of a first-rate cast (including the sublime Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margaret and Chris Evans as the heroine's reluctant swain), Markell never makes a convincing case for Williams' hoary script being "discovered" at this late date. The general torpor of this creaky, micro-budgeted production suggests something that might have aired on PBS a few decades ago as a sub-par edition of American Playhouse. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and 8:20 p.m. Sunday, April 11. * 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

Mary and Max (Australia, 2009) Oscar-winning Australian animator Adam Elliot's claymation feature tells the ostentatiously quirky story of an epistolary relationship forged in 1976 between eight-year-old Melbourne misfit Mary (voiced by Bethany Whitmore as a child and Toni Collette as an adult) and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a middle-aged New York Jew suffering from Asperger Syndrome. Elliot's sometimes off-putting mix of gallows humor, egregious sentimentality and poop jokes (lots of poop jokes) distracts from the painstaking craftsmanship that went into the making of his stop-motion animated film. The lack of a compelling narrative and truly engaging characters ultimately makes Mary and Max less than the sum of its intermittently impressive parts. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:25 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 11. ** 1/2 (Paurich)

Mulholland Dr. (France/U.S., 2001) Looking like a curvy duo right off the cover of a 1950s lesbian pulp paperback (which is foreshadowing), Naomi Watts stars opposite Laura Harring in director David Lynch's 2001 "love story set in the city of dreams" (a.k.a. Hollywood). Watts is Betty, an aspiring actress bunking in L.A., into whose life and career (and shower) slinks Harring as Rita, amnesiac after a highly suspect limousine crash. Against a backdrop of movie-studio intrigue, danger and auditions, Rita insinuates herself further into Betty's personal and professional life. This is such a headspinner that you almost don't want to know it started as a pilot for a Twin Peaks-esque TV series. When the network bailed, Lynch reworked the two-and-a-half-hours of exposition, multiple characters and mood-setting, and capped it conclusively with a double-axle surprise ending that works perfectly with the reality-vs-artifice-vs-avarice pervasive in film, art, ghosts and life. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:05 p.m. Thursday, April 8, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 9. *** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)

Night of Lust (France, 1963) Two rival gang leaders spar in this French sexploitation flick. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 8, and 10:15 p.m. Friday, April 9.

Small Change (France, 1976) François Truffaut revisits his childhood in this semi-autobiographical film. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 10, and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 11.

In Theaters

Clash of the Titans Like a clunky old classic car, the analog 1981 Clash of the Titans is still more fun than this remake. The plot is the quest of fashionably glum hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) to hack his way through a bunch of Todd McFarlane-style monsters to find out how to defeat Lord of the Underworld Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his gigantic ultimate-weapon creature, the Kraken. The twist is that the ancient Aegeans have evidently been reading evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and the recurring theme is man's revolt and rejection of the capricious gods, even more-or-less benevolent creator Zeus (Liam Neeson). Half-god son of the lusty Zeus, Perseus suppresses his Olympian superpowers most of the time. Even so, the likely audience for this is Gamepro subscribers, with CGI-frantic action scenes that look like cut-and-pastes from Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean. ** 1/2 (Cassady)

How to Train Your Dragon At a time when 3D/CGI 'toons are not only ubiquitous but virtually inescapable, How to Train Your Dragon, the latest release from DreamWorks' animation house is actually pretty decent Saturday matinee fare. Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois — the team responsible for Disney's underrated Lilo and Stitch — this boy-and-his-dragon charmer is great-looking and mercilessly bereft of the snarky attitude that makes so many "all-ages friendly" entertainments an endurance test for anyone over the age of 10. Inspired by Cressida Cowell's eight-volume kid-lit series, it tells a classically structured adventure story in expedient fashion and uses its 3D imagery judiciously, minus the usual cheap carny tricks. Jay Baruchel (She's Out of My League) provides the voice for Hiccup, the nerdy Viking teenager who adopts an injured dragon named Toothless, becomes an accidental hero and earns his alpha-male father's respect in the process. The insufferable Gerard Butler — using his authentic Scottish burr instead of his fingernails-on-a-blackboard "American" accent — voices Hiccup's dad, and he is relatively easy to take for a change. Nobody's reinventing the wheel here, but you could do a lot worse. *** (Paurich)

Why Did I Get Married Too? Conspicuously absent from this tiresome sequel — in which the same four couples from Tyler Perry's 2007 gabfest spend a week in the Caribbean dissecting their marital woes ad nauseum — are originality, wit, pathos, nuance and decent performances. Even old pros like Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson look like rank amateurs under Perry's inept tutelage. After writing, directing and starring in 10 films since 2005, Perry's cinematic oeuvre has become so formulaic, dull and yes, "minstrelly," that you might think they were mass-produced from an assembly line in his Atlanta studio. Until Perry hires a real director (and writer), maybe it's time to call for a moratorium on these self-indulgent ego trips masquerading as movies. An African-American Douglas Sirk he ain't. * 1/2 (Paurich)

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