As we head into the post-awards, pre-summer period known as The Dead Zone (see Legion, The Spy Next Door, The Tooth Fairy, as well as a dumpster-load of upcoming titles), the 2010 Jewish & Israeli Film Festival should be an oasis for filmgoers seeking fare that strays from Hollywood formula. And while the festival obviously centers on films that fall in line with its namesake, viewers of any faith or nationality are likely to appreciate and enjoy its humanist-leaning, character-driven offerings.
The six-day fest (Jan 30-Feb. 4) opens Saturday with Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor’s A Matter of Size, a comedy about four overweight friends in Ramle, Israel, who decide to start a sumo wrestling club. It was nominated for 14 “Ofir” awards (the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars), won “Best Comedy” at the Traverse City Festival in Michigan and was pimped as “thoroughly enjoyable” by the MTV Movies Blog, so it must be doing something right. The 7 p.m. opening night screening, which takes place at the Mayerson Jewish Community Center (8485 Ridge Road, Amberley Village), will also include a “decadent chocolate desert” as part of the $18 ticket price.
The festival also includes five other feature-length films that vary in style, genre and degrees of acclaim: Andrew Jacobs’ Four Seasons, Ayelet Menahemi’s Noodle, Eitan Anner’s Love and Dance, Ludi Boeken’s Saviors in the Night and Doron Benevisti’s Bittersweet.
Each film will screen at least once at the Mayerson JCC, with some also screening in other locations like Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati. Tickets for single films are $10 ($7 for seniors/students) or $50 ($35 for seniors/students) for a festival pass. Get details about the festival and buy tickets here.
Elsewhere, Crazy Heart — a decent movie elevated by Jeff Bridges’ affecting performance as a wounded, Waylon Jennings-esque Country singer — highlights this week’s traditional movie-house releases.
And isn’t ironic that the same week a local Jewish film festival appears, Mel Gibson makes return to the screen as an actor for the first time since 2003. And in a film in which he plays a revenge-obsessed dude frothing at the mouth with rage? Why so much hate, Mel?
CRAZY HEART — Jeff Bridges has been steadily rolling on screen for so long that it is easy to overlook him or simply forget the numerous stops along the way. But he’s back again, and Country singer-songwriter Bad Blake (Bridges) in rookie director Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart is poised to be the destination of distinction. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire and Mariemont theatres.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: B
EDGE OF DARKNESS — Acting in his first film since 2003, Mel Gibson is a bit rusty as retiring Boston homicide detective Thomas Craven in a part corporate thriller, part old-school revenge fantasy that feels dated from the start. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: C-
WHEN IN ROME — Kristen Bell, whose 10 minutes in the spotlight is (or should be) rapidly evaporating, stars as an upwardly mobile New Yorker who takes a trip to Rome in an effort to kick-start her lackluster love life. While there, she throws magic coins into a fountain of love, thereby setting off the romantic comedy hijinks in director Mark Steven Johnson’s latest effort (he’s the same dude who gave us Ghost Rider and Daredevil). The supporting cast includes Danny Devito, Dax Shepard, Anjelica Huston, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett and John Heder. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.