Thursday, March 30, 2023

You'll 'Like Movies' on CIFF closing night; 'Spinning Gold' turns oddly

"I Like Movies" rather easily won over 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival audiences when it world-premiered there last September, and now the Canadian coming-of-age charmer might turn the same tricks Sunday night when it closes the 47th annual Cleveland International Film Festival.

The film reeks of independent flair -- in a good way -- from early, current-millennium vibes to a committed cast of unknown players, headed by young Isaiah Lehtinen, as a high-schooler so obsessed with films (and all which such geeky fandom entails) that he's rarely easy to embrace.

Hey, some of us might even relate, at least until first-time feature writer/director Chandler Levack overwhelms us with moments enough to root the kid into NYU Film School. Give a hand, too, to ever-capable mom (Krista Bridges) and a radiant video-store boss (real find Romina D'Ugo).

Not rated by MPAA: 1:39; $ $ $ $ out of $5 (CIFF ticket info here.) 

I guess we might as well at least mention the small Cleveland connection to "Spinning Gold," too, which would be the special screening taking place tonight (March 30) at our city's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Otherwise, this oddly told story about how Casablanca Records became the biggest independent record company in the world, opens in limited release Friday in major markets across the country. 

Rock Hall of Famers The Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight, KISS, Parliament-Funkadelic (with funkmaster George Clinton), Donna Summer, and Bill Withers are among the music legends connected to the label, though actors take their personas and sing their most recognizable hits in the movie. 

In fact, casting becomes part of the strange production brew since no one seriously resembles the performer he or she is portraying. As a result, R&B artist Pink Sweat$, as Withers; rapper Wiz Khalifa, as Clinton; and singer-songwriter Tayla Parx, trying hard as Summer, come across more clunky than capable. The one legitimate highlight, though, involves Knight, played by Grammy winner Ledisi, who still knocks us out with "Midnight Train to Georgia" in one of the film's most engaging segments. 

Of course, the majority of plot moments follow the highs and lows in the career of Casablanca founder Neil Bogart (Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan), a unique character and man who lived for the moment, that is, assuming most of it is true. As told by one of Neil's sons, writer/director Timothy Scott Bogart, the tale pokes fun at veracity early on, then much later claims an orgy interlude, simply coming out of nowhere, helped rescue his old man from financial disaster. Would just love to love it, baby.

Rated "R" by MPAA: pervasive language, drug use, some sexual material and nudity; 2:17; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(Also opening Friday only in theaters: "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," "His Only Son," and "A Thousand and One." Streaming exclusive debuts: "Murder Mystery 2" (on Netflix). "Rye Lane(Hulu), and "Tetris" (AppleTV+).

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