Alcatraz Is Not an Island (U.S., 2001) In 1969, a group of Native Americans aspiring to attain "positive recognition" staged a sit-in at Alcatraz, claiming a provision that allows Native Americans to purchase unused federal property (the island's prison was shut down at the time). This documentary retraces the events that led up to the occupation. Led by Mohawk Richard Oakes, a large group eventually take up residence. But after Oakes' daughter falls on a concrete slab and dies, the organizers begin to reevaluate their position. And when the government sends in the feds, things get really ugly. The film doesn't drift from straightforward storytelling, but it doesn't need to. It does an effective job of revisiting an activist event that culminated with a march on Washington, D.C. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 28. *** (Jeff Niesel)
The Back-up Plan Reviewed at clevescene.com.
The Bicycle Thief (Italy, 1948) Vittorio De Sica's 1948 neo-realist classic The Bicycle Thief is one of the saddest movies ever made. Be prepared for some Cinema Paradiso/Field of Dreams-sized bawling. (Bring Kleenex. Seriously.) Set in postwar Rome — where it was shot on location using real people, not actors — the film tells the story of out-of-work father Antonio, who finds a job hanging movie posters around town. When his bike (which he's specifically told he needs for work) is stolen, Antonio's world starts to crumble around him. He knows that his family will starve without the bike, and he's run out of other options. The final scenes with Antonio and his young son are among the most heartbreaking ever filmed. You've been warned. The Bicycle Thief celebrated its 60th anniversary a couple years ago with a new 35mm print, which will show at the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 25. **** (Michael Gallucci)
City Island This movie is named for a small nautical community located just beyond the Bronx, where Vince Rizzo (Andy Garcia), a prison guard and aspiring actor, lives with his family. Everyone is hiding a secret — ranging from the trivial (smoking) to the shocking (a secret love child). All secrets come to the surface after Vince brings home Tony (Steven Strait), a recently paroled car thief. Amusingly, Tony is the most innocent member of the motley family, which includes smart-mouthed teen Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), who's privately obsessed with fat girls; daughter Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido), secretly working as a stripper; and Vince, who hides the fact that he's taking an acting class, where he befriends Molly (adorable Emily Mortimer), leading his hard-edged wife Joyce (Julianna Marguiles) to suspect he's being unfaithful. It scarcely matters that not every story element is entirely believable (the handsome Garcia as a working-class schlub, for one), because writer and director Raymond De Felitta's screenplay is sensitive, sweet, and often poetic, and the performances are just about perfect. Cedar Lee Theatre. *** 1/2 (Pamela Zoslov)
A Film With Me in It (Ireland, 2008) Ian Fitzgibbon's ingenious black comedy plays like an irresistible cross between mid-1960s Richard Lester (think The Knack) with early Danny Boyle (especially Shallow Grave). Dublin layabouts Mark (Mark Doherty who also scripted) and Pierce (Dylan Moran) get themselves into a heap of trouble after a rapid succession of (fatal) household accidents results in the death of four people and a pet dog. Whiplash pacing, crackerjack comic timing, and spot-on performances make this one of the most unexpectedly delightful surprises of the spring movie season. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 22, and 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 23. *** (Milan Paurich)
In the Land of the Headhunters (U.S., 1914) The first film to feature an all-indigenous cast. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 1 p.m. Sunday, April 25.
In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong/France, 2000) After discovering that their spouses are having an affair, a man and a woman (the incomparable Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) are inexorably drawn together in 1962 Hong Kong. Old-world social decorum, however, stands in the way of their relationship proceeding to the next logical step. Wong Kar-wai, the most postmodern of contemporary directors, has the heart and soul of the great romantic poets, and you can literally get drunk on his film's rhapsodic beauty (Chris Doyle did the world-class cinematography). Wong's masterpiece is so besotted with aching, palpable yearning, and desire that it could very well induce a case of the vapors. Prepare to be seduced. At the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:35 p.m. Thursday, April 22, and 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 23. **** (Milan Paurich)
The Losers Reviewed at clevescene.com.
Oceans Reviewed at clevescene.com.
One-Eyed Jacks (U.S., 1961) Marlon Brando's only directorial credit was this very adult Western, which the mercurial star took over after original helmer Stanley Kubrick withdrew because of creative differences. Kubrick was notorious for overshooting; Brando took it even further, exposing more than a million of feet of celluloid and ballooning the budget threefold. Brando plays Rio, a bank bandit whose raids along the Mexican border go on hold when his disloyal partner Dad (Karl Malden) abandons him to a posse of Mexican police. Escaping prison five years later, Rio hooks up with some other outlaws and heads for the Monterey Peninsula, where Dad has done a career 180 and become a town's benevolent-despot sheriff and straight-arrow family man. Rio's vague revenge scheme involves emptying the local bank, but when he sees Dad now has a pretty stepdaughter (Audrey Hepburn-ish ingenue Pina Pellicer, the plans start to change. For all the behind-the-scenes drama, it's a sturdy, if lengthy and anticlimactic, psychological oater, with echoes of Cape Fear. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 25. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)
Ricky (France, 2009) The latest triumph from chameleon-like French wunderkind François Ozon (Swimming Pool, Eight Women) is a kitchen-sink fairy tale about an adorable toddler (the titular Ricky) who sprouts wings and begins to fly. Although Ricky's working-class parents (Alexandra Lamy and With a Friend Like Harry's Sergi López) do their best to keep his, uh, condition under wraps, the hue and cry that erupts once news leaks out creates a predictable media frenzy. Are we supposed to take Ricky's magical appendages (and flying skills) literally? Or are they simply a metaphor for some Ozon-ian political statement about the systemic repression of minorities and/or the underclass? After two viewings, I'm still not entirely certain. The genius of the film (adapted from a short story by Rose Tremain) lies in its ability to convince us that Ricky can indeed fly, and even ponder, "Why the hell not?" Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:10 p.m. Saturday, April 24, and 9:10 p.m. Sunday, April 25. *** 1/2 (Paurich)
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)
Date Night This likable comedy has a lot of the right stuff: the ingenious pairing of Tina Fey and Steve Carell as a married couple from New Jersey; a fairly funny screenplay by Josh Klausner; and a delightful supporting cast featuring Mark Ruffalo, Kristen Wiig, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Mark Wahlberg. The story centers on Phil and Claire Foster (Carell and Fey), a tax lawyer and his realtor wife who are bored with their workaday lives. Even their occasional "date night" has become routine, so they try to recapture some excitement with dinner at an overpriced Manhattan bistro. They steal another couple's reservation, which plunges them into a perilous misadventure involving rogue cops, blackmail, and a corrupt D.A. The fluid rapport between the leads — sexy-smart Fey and diffident semi-nerd Carrel — is the movie's most appealing element. They're jokey, affectionate, and irritable, just like a real couple. Comedically, there are as many misses as hits, and the action plot, climaxed by a high-decibel car chase, at times threatens to overwhelm the humor. But the movie offers a high quotient of laughs: Claire, fleeing two gunmen with Phil, screeches, "I don't want the kids to live with your mother! She's awful!"; Phil desperately begging a hunky, habitually bare-chested security expert (Wahlberg) to, for the love of God, put on a shirt. Be sure to stay for the closing-credits outtakes. *** (Zoslov)
Death at a Funeral After his ill-fated Wicker Man revision, once cutting-edge filmmaker Neil LaBute remakes another British property, and the good news is that humor here is intentional. It's a so-so Americanization of the 2007 Death at a Funeral, an ensemble farce of escalating disaster and humiliation at an upscale funeral held in a plush home, in which the wrong corpse delivered at the outset is the least that goes wrong. Following the Frank Oz original nearly scene for scene, this features a largely black cast — Chris Rock, replacing Matthew McFayden, as an eldest son staging the affair, suffering sibling competition from his hotshot novelist brother (Martin Lawrence, replacing Rupert Graves), as well as the blackmail demands of a gay dwarf (Peter Dinklage, repeating his 2007 role), secret lover of the deceased. There's also a loose-cannon container of designer drugs making folks hallucinate, nasty old Uncle Russell (local union hero Danny Glover), and, yes, bare-ass nudity and projectile-excrement gags (fortunately not at the same time). Rock and Lawrence play off each other well, though the film paradoxically goes out of its way to be colorblind in its interaction of black and white characters. More acknowledgment of the race change might have lent some extra juice. ** 1/2 (Cassady)
Hot Tub Time Machine There are those who will laugh at a good projectile-vomit gag, and then there are those who do not believe there is such a thing as a good projectile-vomit gag. Which side of that divide you fall on should be a fair indicator of whether or not you'll enjoy Hot Tub Time Machine, which manages to include gags involving just about every bodily fluid and function imaginable. As for plot, there's a hot tub, and it's a time machine. Old friends Adam (John Cusack), Nick (Craig Robinson) and Lou (Rob Corddry), along with Adam's nephew Jacob (Clark Duke), get into the hot tub and wind up inadvertently transported back to 1986. Once in the past, the characters encounter a standard "snobs vs. slobs" conflict, engage in lots of alcohol and drug use, and indulge in a hearty helping of sex and nudity. It's like a cross between Back to the Future and Hot Dog — The Movie. The talent and likeability of the cast helps a lot, and you get the feeling the filmmakers have a genuine love for the much-maligned genre of '80s teen sex comedies. *** (Robert Ignizio)
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)
Kick-Ass Given that Superman debuted in 1938, you'd think by now someone would have been impressionable enough to attempt to emulate the comic hero in real life. What would happen if they did? Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to find out by donning a green wetsuit and christening himself Kick-Ass. Unknown to Dave, he's not the only one playing dress-up. Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), are playing for keeps too. They've got an arsenal that would make Rambo jealous, and they intend to use it to bring down crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). Also getting in on the costume party is D'Amico's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who goes by the name Red Mist. At times, the character of Kick-Ass feels almost like a supporting player in his own movie, but that's fine, because there's such a strong ensemble cast. Moretz damn near steals the movie as Hit Girl, and in Big Daddy, Cage has found another role as perfectly suited to his fearless acting style as last year's The Bad Lieutenant. This is a gleefully violent and offensive movie, filled with gore, profanity, and stuff that's just plain wrong. *** 1/2 (Ignizio)
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)