FLICKS: George Hamilton at FliFF29

Posted on 20 November 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


While it is later this year, it is hard to believe that the 29th Annual Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival concludes this weekend. One of Robin Williams last films, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas will be screened this Sunday night at Cinema Paradiso. The two screenings will also present a special tribute to the fallen idol.

This weekend also features multiple tributes to Palm Beach resident George Hamilton. While best known as a sun-tanned icon from 1960s beach blanket movies, Hamilton’s resume is far more diverse and concrete. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Hamilton produced and starred in Love at First Bite (as a disco dancing Dracula) and Zorro: The Gay Blade. Both were lightweight comedies, conservatively produced, and provided Hamilton a nice nest egg for his later years.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Hamilton revealed performance potential at an early age when he attended Palm Beach High School. His first film Crime & Punishment, U.S.A was a modern adaptation of Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky Crime & Punishment. His persona as a “sun burned lothario” became evident in color motion pictures, most notably Where the Boys Are and Light in the Piazza, starring Yvette Mimieux and Olivia de Havilland.

When Robert Duvall turned down his appearance in The Godfather: Part III, Hamilton became Al Pacino’s lawyer. In contrast to portraying a smooth professional in Brooks Brothers suits, Hamilton gave a sincere performance as singer Hank Williams in Your Cheatin’ Heart.

While Hamilton will be acknowledged at the Awards Gala Friday night, this Saturday evening he will be hosting, At Home, On Stage at Cinema Paradiso- FTL.This program is a 90 minute presentation that features film clips and montages. Hamilton will be the Master of Ceremonies of this one-man performance and will be taking questions from the audience. Info: www.fliff.com

With FLiFF29 wrapping up this weekend, it is now time to consolidate my top 10 list for the end of 2014. At the moment, there are not enough films for a Top 10. Therefore, I am reviewing DVDs from highly recommended word of mouth considerations.

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FLICKS: Local influence at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival

Posted on 13 November 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Having actors Jason Alexander and Pamela Shaw screen their movie Lucky Stiff at the Amaturo Theater in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale was cool Friday night under the glowing moon, but it was the locals who really shined at the 29th Annual Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. Given that we have another two weeks of screenings and parties, the FLiFF29 juggernaut is just gaining momentum.

Evolving from an Off Broadway musical, director Christopher Ashley filled Lucky Stiff with many cinematic touches. While most of the narrative takes place in Monte Carlo, most of the film was shot in a California studio with special effects technology. Throughout the movie, there is cartoon animation that enhances the corny themes that are found in American musicals. While this film is not a great movie, it is a goofy time passer.

Friday night set the stage for a fun weekend at Cinema Paradiso. Florida local Peter Wein, the radio host of Peter’s Living Room, set up his studio in the patio and interviewed the talent who were screening their movies. Along with co-host Audrey Lynn, Peter interviewed the cast and crew of Human Capital, Pie Lady of Pie Town and Traitors. Do a Google search for Peter’s Living Room and The Wei Network and one can hear these far-ranging interviews.

When dark skies began to absorb the Sunday skyline, It seemed as if luck was running out on FLiFF29. However, this miserable weather set the perfect stage for An Honest Liar, the documentary about Plantation resident, James Randi. While the first 2/3 of the movie features The Amazing Randi’s public career as a magician, the final portion of the film focuses on Randi’s private revelation. Randi also provides a lesson on class and dignity as he confronts a public storm that threatens his happiness. Always the consummate showman, at age 86, the Amazing Randi concluded his Q& A with a magic trick, much to the delight of the audience.

Week Two presents the FLiFF29 Centerpiece film, Frank vs. God at the Sunrise Civic Center Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. David Frank (Henry Ian Cusick) suffers travails similar to that of the Old Testament’s long-suffering Job. When his insurance company refuses to pay a claim, due to “an act of God,” Frank decides to sue God.

Given his work on the long-running television show Lost, Cusick appears to be the perfect casting choice as Frank. Cusick will be attending the party following the film; it’s co-sponsored by locals Diane Sobo and Cyndi Boyar.

As to why she decided to sponsor this film, Boyar responded, “I have a friend who is a big fan of Lost and Henry Ian Cusick.

I love the Sunrise Civic Center and this seemed like a natural fit.”

After this weekend, FLiFF29 will be 2/3 complete with many films selling out. For tickets and information, visit www.fliff.com or call 954-525-FILM.

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Posted on 06 November 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com The place for movie lovers to be this weekend will be downtown Ft. Lauderdale. The Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) opens Writer/Director Christopher Nolan’s eagerly awaited Interstellar on the recently remodeled 5-storey IMAX screen with new 56 sound speakers. Interstellar is expected to docked at MODS until the final episode of The Hobbit trilogy burrows in for Christmas.

The red carpet for the 29th Annual Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLiFF29) will be unfurled Friday night at the Amaturo Theater with a screening of Lucky Stiff. Lucky Stiff is a farcical comedy about a British nephew who must fulfill his late uncle’s wishes, or lose $6 million inheritance. While the film features one of the last performances of FLiFF favorite Dennis Farina, the film will showcase FLiFF honoree Jason Alexander.


Jason Alexander and Pamela Shaw in “Lucky Stiff.”

While best known for playing George Costanza in Seinfeld, Alexander started his career in theater. When he landed his first job on Broadway, he dropped out of his theater studies in Boston.

Working with Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Neil Simon, Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim proved to be enough education for Alexander. He has worked steadily as an actor. It is refreshing to see Alexander pop up in movies like Pretty Woman, Shallow Hal and Star Trek Voyager. He is scheduled to walk the Amaturo Theater red carpet Friday night (be there by 7:10 p.m.).

Also expected to walk the red carpet Friday night is local celebrity The Amazing Randi. With the help of Kickstarter, The Amazing Randi, aka James Randi, has been working with Directors Justin Weinstein & Tyler Measom to create An Honest Liar. This is a documentary about Randi’s unique career as an illusionist. While he gained fame on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Randi built Alice Cooper’s guillotine and used his “free time” to debunk phony psychics. The South Florida premier of An Honest Liar is this weekend.

The Amazing Randi and the Head of Alice Cooper

James “The Amazing” Randi with “the head of Alice Cooper.”

FLiFF29 features a unique movie from Denmark, The Salvation. Best known for his work as television’s Hannibal Lechter, Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Danish western about a settler who kills, his violence breeds violence and the fine line between cowardice and bravery is revealed. This film will be screening Veteran’s Day at Cinema Paradiso-Ft. Lauderdale and is sponsored by Rob Davis.

FLiFF29 will be an intense, but fluid event for the next three weeks. To keep in touch with the latest schedules and times, please visit the website www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: Sinister Simon, Annabelle & Automatonophobia

Posted on 30 October 2014 by L.Moore

Sinister Simon Grindhouse Picture

Photo by Sid Graves from Cemetery Prints. (Sinister Simon compares himself to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula)

By Dave Montalbano


It was Thanksgiving break 31 years ago when Simon “walked into” Palm Aire at Coral Key. This ventriloquist dummy was a gift from my brother and Simon was a “hint” that the first grandchildren were on the way for my parents. Immediately, I saw Simon’s potential as a Sinister horror movie star.

When I was a communications major at Florida State, I had scripted a short subject silent movie about Simon stalking a sorority sister. The film was never shot. Simon laid dormant for many years until I decided to clean out my apartment. In the current digital age, Simon came alive and created his own YouTube Channel. His most watched episode features local Scream Queen Linnea Quigley, which fulfilled Sinister Simon’s dreams of becoming a horror icon.

Automatonophobia is a morbid fear of ventriloquist dummies, animatronic creatures, wax statues and any inanimate object that simulates a sentient being. Besides having a similar sounding name, the most profitable movie of October, Annabelle shares this morbid fear of inanimate objects coming alive.

Annabelle, the doll, was introduced as a peripheral prop in last year’s sleeper hit, The Conjuring. Both movies rely on stillness and routine domestic situations, similar to successful motion pictures like What Lies Beneath, The Exorcist and The Sixth Sense. Yet, one thing all five of these movies have in common is the audience recognition that the characters on the big screen are living in a dangerous situation.

Before Hannibal Lechter became his public alter ego, Sir Anthony Hopkins starred in Magic, costarring Burgess Meredith and Ann Margaret. Hopkins portrayed a night club ventriloquist who has a fear of success. As Hopkins loses his nerve, his alter ego – “Fats the Dummy” – decides to aggressively pursue success. This 107 minute movie feels like an extension of three Twilight Zone episodes that starred Telly Savalas, Cliff Robertson and pesky dolls that seek to dominate the protagonist’s soul.

Eight years ago, vampires were in the forefront of popular horror culture, only to be replaced by zombies. After zombies, what is next? Perhaps, it will be puppets and dolls that will spread automatonophobia to the masses. The Curse of Chucky returned to the serial-killer possessed doll to big screen box office success, after a two decade hiatus.

Tomorrow night, Fright Asylum converts Cinema Paradiso into Cinema Inferno. Sinister Simon will NOT be in attendance, because Fright Asylum hosts Woody & Manny find Simon too frightening. BOO! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Info: www.fliff.com.


Cinema Dave rescues actress Linnea Quigley from the clutches of Sinister Simon.

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FLICKS: Vincent Price Returns

Posted on 23 October 2014 by L.Moore

FrightAsylum FrankieBust (2)By Dave Montalbano


Though he has been gone 21 years ago this Halloween Season, Vincent Price makes a return to the big screen in The Last Man on Earth Halloween night at Cinema Paradiso.

While the film begins at 9 p.m., “Happy Hour” begins at 8 p.m. when Michelle Fresita’s signature “Vampire Wine,” “Bloody Marys” and succulent chocolates will be served. The evening will also feature a costume contest and prizes include: annual memberships for Cinema Paradiso, Fright Asylum coffee mugs, autographed copies of Davy Jones & the Heart of Darkness and The Querulous Nights of Athena Minerva.

A Vincent Price horror film is an appropriate way to kick off is what we hope will be an ongoing partnership between Fright Asylum and Cinema Paradiso, home of the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FliFF).

FLiFF honored Vincent Price in 1991 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, one year after the actor’s last screen appearance in Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp. Price also narrated the documentary The Devil’s Triangle, which explored the mysteries involving the missing ships and airplanes off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. Like many a conspiracy, this documentary seems to have disappeared from public consumption, but has resurfaced in four parts on YouTube.

Vincent Price has remained a cultural figure in popular culture. His voice can be heard on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the best selling album of all time. Seven years before Thriller, Price lent his voice to Alice Cooper’s first solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare. Price’s vocal tones have inspired many actors and actresses. At the recent Spooky Empire Convention, Pat Carroll discussed how Vincent Price influenced her reading of Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyworld.

By the time he did The Last Man on Earth, Vincent Price had been cementing his image as the new “King of Horror” for his work in William Castle movies (The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill) and his Edgar Allen Poe/Roger Corman series (The Masque of Red Death, The House of Usher, The Tomb of Ligeia). The Last Man on Earth will be celebrating its 50th anniversary screening Halloween night.

The Last Man on Earth is based on Richard Matheson’s horror fiction novel I Am Legend. His book was adapted for film twice more as The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston in the Vincent Price role and, most recently, as I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith. Of the three films, the Vincent Price version has been the most influential.

While attending Carnegie Mellon University, George Romero talked with two of his Pittsburgh friends, John Russo and Gary Streiner about directing a movie that “… had a taste for the bizarre.” The film was Night of the Living Dead, which begat the current zombie-craze currently fueled by AMC Television series The Walking Dead. Romero has long admitted that The Last Man on Earth was a direct influence on his work.

Despite portraying despicable villains and cultural maniacs, the real Vincent Price was a dedicated professional and likeable movie star who always had time for his fans. One month before his passing in 1993, I received a letter that just might be Vincent Price’s last autograph. Fright Asylum and I are honored to return Vincent Price to the Big Screen this Halloween night at Cinema Paradiso. (For more information, visit www.fliff.com/Film/1798/Fright_Asylum_Halloween_Special

Vincent Price's last autograph (2)

Cinema Dave had a response from Vincent Price himself!

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FLICKS: Rudderless

Posted on 16 October 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


As advertised, Rudderless looks like a film along the lines of Coal Miner’s Daughter, Walk the Line and Almost Famous. With Billy Crudup’s participation, this film feels like a spiritual sequel to Almost Famous, as if we are meeting Crudup’s character 14 years later.

Crudup portrays Sam, an advertising rep who closes a big deal. He calls his college- aged son in an effort to celebrate his success, but the phone only takes messages. While watching television at a bar, Sam sees that his son’s college has become the location of work-place violence.

A few years later, Sam has become a recluse, living alone on a sailboat and estranged from his wife, Emily (Felicity Huffman), who openly grieves for the loss of their son. Negligent from domestic responsibilities, Sam will have nothing to do with cleaning out their son’s room. One day, Emily brings their son’s stuff to Sam’s garbage bin. Ignoring it at first, Sam finds his son’s guitar and music tracks for songs that he has written.

While attending an open mic contest, Sam meets Quentin (Anton Yelchin). The two form a band and start playing the dead son’s music. Things seem redemptive until the son’s girlfriend (Selena Gomez) shows up, disgusted by Sam’s playlist. Thus Rudderless becomes a film with much more depth than advertised.

Making his directorial debut, character actor William H. Macy directs with a confident ebb and flow. The drama is real, but not over the top. The comedy is laugh out loud funny with echoes from previous movies.

Despite the sunny cinematography, there is a darkness beyond the theme of grief; Sam and Emily’s son was the shooter who killed the university students. Thus, the beautiful music takes on sinister attributes.

Rudderless is a film that makes one look beyond the obvious.

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FLICKS: Gone Girl

Posted on 09 October 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Literary Cinema” began 10 years ago in the Broward County Main Library with a screening of Masque of the Red Death starring Jane Asher and Vincent Price.

From the written word to the moving image, “Literary Cinema” lasted for five years and presented 49 movies with an emphasis on stories from Edgar Allen Poe, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Glendon Swarthout.

In the past five years, best-selling titles like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson have met audience expectations with mixed results. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been on the best-seller’s list less than two years and has already become a box office success. Gone Girl opens with an ambiguous Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) roaming around small town, Missouri. It is his 5th wedding anniversary, but Nick seems more interested in playing board games with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). When a nosy neighbor interrupts Nick to tell him that his cat is outside the house, Nick returns home to find that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) is gone.

If you have read the book jacket or have seen the television commercials, you know that Amy’s disappearance causes a media sensation. Yet, there is more to the story than just a routine thriller and there is a reason why reliable character actors such as Missi Pyle, Sela Ward and Tyler Perry have major supporting roles in this film.

Best known for his noir work in films like Se7en, The Game, Zodiac and The Social Network, David Fincher is the perfect director for this flick. His camera work is not showy or flashy, but he draws the audience into this uneven world of Nick and Amy. Pay attention to many visual cues that involve closing doors and the symbolic critique of privacy.

At 2 ½ hours, Gone Girl drags a bit before reaching its conclusion. While I was told that the movie is true to the book, I felt that if I read the book , I would not really need to pay and go see the movie.

Of note, Annabelle almost matched Gone Girl for last weekend’s box office crown. A spin off from last year’s sleeper hit, The Conjuring, Annabelle was produced for less than $10 million and has already turned a profit. It will be fascinating to see how this new horror movie franchise progresses with their Chrisitian/Horror themes.

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FLICKS: The Liberator, MODS & Adventures in Charity 2

Posted on 02 October 2014 by L.Moore

flicks100214By Dave Montalbano


The Liberator opens this weekend, smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month. It is the story of Simon Bolivar (Edgar Ramirez), who planted the seed for the growth of Bolivia. Bolivar fought over 100 battles and traveled more distanced to expel the Spanish Empire from South America. Instead of conquest, Bolivar sought to return the land to the people and liberate them.

In two weeks, The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery IMAX Theater (MODS) opens its doors after a summer of refurbishment, remodeling and redecorating. The improvements include a new 60’ x 80’ giant screen, new luxury seats, new sound system and the addition of a digital projector to complement the giant 15/70 film projector.

While the plan is to show more mainstream Hollywood Blockbusters on the big screen, MODS will continue their tradition of scientific documentaries. To open the new theater, the 3D film Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure will be shown. The movie was filmed with microscopic technology to reveal the hidden world beneath flora and the trees.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3 D is about an endangered species of creatures who have shown a propensity for survival. Lemurs were castaway creatures who settled upon the island of Madagascar. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary was playing at MODS even before the refurbishment.

MODS will also feature its first deliberate monster movie with the screening of Dracula Untold, which weaves fantasy and reality. Prince Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) is a historical figure who defended Romania from the Turkish Invasion. Much like my novella Davy Jones & the Heart of Darkness, this film reveals the tragic circumstances that turn a heroic man into a monster, creating a myth that spans generations.

Now that he has completed his Dark Knight-Batman trilogy, perhaps writer/director Christopher Nolan will complete his trilogy of movie titles that begin with the letter “I” – that began with Insomnia and Inception, both thought provoking movies with fantastic ensemble cast. Interstellar continues Nolan’s tradition of strong narrative structure that features Oscarwinning actors Matthew Mc- Conaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine.

MODS closes out the season with Peter Jackson’s last Hobbit movie, The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies. Based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s children’s book, this film promises to be the epic conclusion of The Hobbit trilogy, which lays the groundwork to Peter Jackson’s Award-winning The Lords of the Rings trilogy.

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FLICKS: A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Skeleton Twins & FLIFF

Posted on 26 September 2014 by L.Moore


By Dave Montalbano


For over 30 years, Liam Neeson has been a consistent character actor in support of actors like Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, and the Batman.

In his recent film releases, such as Taken, The Grey and Non Stop, Neeson has taken on the role as the iconic leading man in American movies. With A Walk Among the Tombstones, Neeson gives a simple performance, but with nuanced moments of vulnerability and nobility.

Former New York cop turned private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is hired by a shabby character that he meets at an AA meeting.

The shabby character reveals that his brother is a drug kingpin who needs a private investigator. It turns out that the wife of the drug kingpin has been murdered and the crime lord wants revenge.

However, revenge is not easy because the motives seem convoluted. Could the killers be from a rival gang? Could this be a conspiracy grown from the incompetency of the DEA?

Scudder unravels this mystery while confronting a personal demon of his own, alcoholism.

The best part about this film is the relationship between Scudder and TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), a homeless boy with sickle cell anemia. The relationship grows out of respect for great detective literature from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with life lessons about the importance of maintaining good pistol maintenance.

The biggest flaw in this film is the climatic ending. As Scudder takes matters into his own hands, we heard a narration expressing the 12 Steps of alcohol recovery. While the intention may have been noble, the juxtaposition between audio and the visual is jarring.

On a lighter note, The Skeleton Twins starring Saturday Night Live alumnus Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig opens this weekend. It is a story about estranged twins who decide to come to grips with maturity.

The 2014 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival has announced their celebrity line-up for the season, featuring veterans Jason Alexander and George Hamilton. The daughters of David Mamet and Robert Carradine, Clara Mamet and Ever Carradine, respectively, will be in attendance to promote their independent projects.

For more information about dates, times and ticket sales, call 954-252- FILM (3456) or visit www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: Dolphin Tale 2 & My Old Lady

Posted on 18 September 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal. Com

It was with a sense of melancholia that I went to go see Dolphin Tale 2. When the box office results were announced, that sense of melancholia returned. In between bouts of melancholia, I kept thinking about what a life-affirming movie Dolphin Tale 2 is. I had to visit the website www.seewinter.com because I wanted to learn more about the main characters.

It is based on a true story set on the Florida West Coast. In terms of story and character development, this film is an improvement over the original Dolphin Tale. It is far less gimmicky. Writer/ Director Charlie Martin Smith has crafted an entertaining story with truthful emotional transitions from grief to personal triumph for dolphin, bird, sea turtle and humans seeking salvation.

It is business as usual at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Boss Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) retains the mission statement of “Rescue, Rehab, Release.” With Winter (the amputee dolphin heroine from the first movie) being utilized as a major tourist attraction, Dr. Clay employs his daughter, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) as capable research assistants.

Being a social creature, Winter suffers from grief when her “roommate” dies. Marine Biologists agree that Winter needs the social interaction to survive. When college recruiters witness Sawyer’s attention to Winter’s medical needs, they award the Marine Biologist prodigy a full scholarship. As these two dramas play themselves out, one realizes that Dolphin Tale 2 is a universal drama about an individual’s rite of passage. Parents – this is a GOOD family film. It is better than what current box office totals have revealed.

My Old Lady opens tomorrow. With a title like that, one expects a follow-up joke from the old television sitcom Married with Children. Yet with Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith, there is a level of sophistication with nuanced humor.

Mathias Gold (Kline) returns to Paris to settle the estate of his late father. Upon arrival, Mathias learns that Mathilde (Smith) and her daughter Chloe (Thomas Scott) have retained a form of French squatter’s rights on the property. As boundary lines form between the man and the women, Mathias uncovers an inconsistent behavior pattern of his dearly departed Dad.

Based on his play, writer/ director Israel Horovitz does not landlock the camera and keeps the action moving on the big screen. When dramatically appropriate, Horovitz uses static shots to enhance the drama. With pros like Kline, Scott Thomas and Smith, My Old Lady becomes a special motion picture.

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