by Jeff Niesel
This weekend, Pixar's new film Up will undoubtedly clean up at the box office. It deserves every penny it gets as it's a love story/adventure film that's yet another fine offering from the animation company. The Cedar Lee, though, opens four new films, all of which are acclaimed. Capsules follow.
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. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)
Lemon Tree After the Israeli defense minister (Doron Tavory) moves into a new house on the border between Israel and the West Bank, he begins fortifying the place. He implements security measures, installing video surveillance cameras and putting up barbed-wire fences. He also offers a Palestinian widow named Salma (Hiam Abbass) compensation for her lemon grove, which he plans to uproot. She wants to keep her lemon trees, however, and hires a lawyer to keep the defense minister from cutting them down. Though the Israeli court rules against her, she takes her case to an international court, determined to keep her grove. Complicating matters is the fact that the Defense Minister’s wife Mira (Rona Lipaz-Michael) ends up on Salma’s side. Based on a true story involving olive trees, Eran Riklis’ film is thankfully less about politics and more about personal choices and relationships. *** (Niesel)
Limits of Control 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. But this longtime Jarmusch enthusiast thinks it’s the Akron native’s strongest work since 1995’s Dead Man. If Dead Man was Jarmusch’s cockeyed paean to, among other things, spaghetti westerns, Control has the feel of a Godardian riff on (Jean-Pierre) Melville. Or is that a Melvillian riff on Godard? Either way, it’s not likely to win him any new converts. The Jarmusch fan base, however, should start queuing up now, since films this unapologetically rarefied never last long in North American theaters — not even art houses like the Cedar-Lee. 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. **** (Milan Paurich)
Tyson James Toback’s new documentary is a fascinating look at the former heavyweight champ who’s had one of the most notoriously controversial careers of anyone who’s ever entered the ring. Essentially an extended interview with its subject, the movie pulls no punches in recounting his life, starting with a troubled youth going in and out of juvenile detention centers and ending with his evolution into the proud father who maintains he’s a new man now that he leads a quiet life in the suburbs just outside of Las Vegas. When he was not yet 20, Tyson found a much-needed mentor in trainer Cus D’Amato, who not only taught him how to win but also instilled a sense of discipline, fleeting as it was. From that point, Tyson became one of boxing’s most menacing fighters. The film touches upon all the controversy: the Robin Givens abuse charges, which Tyson still denies; the ugly, ear-biting fight with Evander Holyfield, which Tyson says he can’t recall because he blacked out; and the now-strained relationship with sleazy promoter Don King, about whom Tyson has nothing good to say. Almost apologetic, the soft-spoken (albeit with that distinctively high-pitched voice) Tyson certainly doesn’t gloss over any of this. And yet the film’s point of view is purely one-dimensional; we never hear from Givens, Holyfield or King. All we get is Tyson on Tyson. And that limitation keeps a good movie from becoming a great one. ** 1/2 (Niesel)