Posted on 27 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After retiring from the NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneer Superbowl Champion Simeon Rice attended a New York film school to prepare to become a filmmaker.

After directing his first short subject, When I was King, Simeon poured his energies into writing Unsullied, a gritty thriller that follows Reagan Farrow (Murray Gray), a track star, who is kidnapped by a pair of sociopaths after her car breaks down on a deserted road.

Being a student of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Quentin Tarantino, Rice’s latest film feels like a cross between The Most Dangerous Game, Apocalypto and Deliverance.

Seeing Deliverance, I was on edge. Time is standing on its own high sense of tension and anxiety. With film, once you see an image, you cannot un-see it!” said Rice.

Deliverance shares the same rural landscape as Unsullied.

Rice and his crew spent more time scouting rural locations near Tampa Bay than the actual production of the film, which was shot in 23 days last autumn. Simeon has high praise for his production crew and he acknowledges the contributions of his leading actors.

Murray Gray is a deep thinker and is wise beyond her years.

Rusty Joiner, who plays Noah Evans, is the consummate Southern gentleman, often holding the door for a lady. On screen, he entered another dimension and created Satan personified, the kind of church boy you do not trust,” he explained.

Given that he chose to film Unsullied in Florida and had a good experience with the community, perhaps he can become an advocate for the Florida film industry; he defiantly has a streak of independence about him.

But Rice did not come from Florida originally. He grew up in the South Side of Chicago in the worst part of town.

Of his youth, he said, “Being a kid on the street with gang violence, you have to think. You become a straight shooter. It prepared me to make quick decisions on the set.”

Rice has already completed another script titled Full Tilt, a tense drama about backroom poker.

Although he has delved now into film, he still thinks about his previous career.

When asked if he misses football, he said, “Yes! Maybe not a preseason game, but I miss the game itself. It is something that is hotwired in me.”

The film will be shown at selected locations on August 28. To find out more about the film and where film is shown, visit http://unsulliedthefilm.com.

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FLICKS: Marshland

Posted on 20 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


In Spanish Language with English subtitles, Marshland (La isla mínima) opens tomorrow in area theaters. It is a gritty crime procedural that is simplistically presented with static cinematography. This simplicity is deceptive.

The setting is a marshland near Villafranco, Spain, circa 1980. Though Generalissimo Francisco Franco had been dead for five years, the ghost of his dictatorship remains. There seems to be a seasonal crime wave during harvest season. During an annual festival, two teenage girls disappear.

Two detectives are called in to investigate. While both detectives have different political views about law enforcement, both individuals also have unrelated skeletons in their closet. However, when the two girls are found brutally and shamefully murdered, the two detectives put aside their differences to catch the killer.

Is this the work of a singular serial killer or a systematic ritual from organized crime? These two plot threads unravel into a logical climax. Like any good mystery, multiple clues and red herrings are placed within the storyline. The two detectives propel the narrative, but part of the fun of this film is the quirky characters that detour the investigation.

The world of Marshland feels like the south of the border version of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Writer/Director Alberto Rodriquez makes this his personal film noir, filled with gothic detail. One can see the nightmarish visualization of Spanish Master Francisco Goya in Marshland’s visualization.

This film is definitely a vacation from the dog days of the August box office releases. This simple film will create haunted memories.

Javier Gutiérrez, one of the actors who played one of the detectives, is expected to visit the Movies at Lake Worth and Cinema Paradiso this weekend.

For more details, contact Cinema Paradiso at 954-525- FILM (3456) and the Movies at Lake Worth 561-968-4545.

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FLICKS: Shaun the Sheep & Cinema Paradiso offerings

Posted on 13 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


We have truly reached the dog days of August with the Motion Picture Box Office as Hollywood releases overhyped financial bombs like the Fantastic Four. This August echoes last August when The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For were released to pathetic box office returns.

Shaun the Sheep Movie opened poorly in the United States last weekend, but has achieved respectable gross overseas. This film is another stop-motion animation with British charm and humor. Unlike their other films Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit or Chicken Run, this film features no dialogue. The only words that are heard are from the thematic original songs heard on the soundtrack.

The film opens in the 1970s (You can tell by the farmer’s disco clothing and his cassette tapes) in which the farmer takes pictures of his prize sheep. The years fast forward and we see that the farmer has aged, but his clothing has not changed. He, his sheep dog and sheep live a structured and routine life.

Though a series of unfortunate events, the farmer is knocked out in his trailer. The farm animals party too hard, the trailer becomes unhitched, careens down the hill and lands in the big city. The animals follow their master and it is chaos.

To enjoy this film, you have to enter the state of mind that you use to watch a baseball game or golf tournament. This film is a visual feast of sophisticated humor, but has a warm heart and a gentle spirit. I just don’t know why Shaun the Sheep was singled out because this movie is really an ensemble piece.

Cinema Paradiso features the opening of two new movies this weekend: People Places Things and 10,000 Saints.

10,000 Saints features an actor’s ensemble best known for their contributions to independent cinema: Asa Butterfield, Ethan Hawke and Hailee Steinfeld.

People Places Things is a light comedy set in New York City. It is the story of a graphic novelist and college professor who must balance his job between the demands of work and being the single father of two 5-year-old twins.

For more information, visit www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: Mr. Holmes

Posted on 06 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


It was late one July night that I stayed up with my cousin Ronny and my brother Carm to watch Sherlock Homes and the Secret Weapon, starring Basil Rathbone. While Rathbone will always be the ultimate Holmes for me, the modern day search for authenticity has created some fine performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now the Master Thespian Sir Ian McKellan portrays the Master Detective in Mr. Holmes.

Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind written by Mitch Cullin, Mr. Holmes examines the mystery of regret and usefulness. Living in a cottage near the White Cliffs of Dover, Holmes has left London and has basically lived in seclusion for 30 years. A man of eclectic interests, Holmes devotes most of his time to tending bees.

While running an errand for Mr. Holmes, young Roger (Milo Parker) uncovers an incomplete manuscript about Sherlock Holmes’ last case. Angered at first, Holmes completes the manuscript, but not before confronting an emotional secret from his past.

Running under two hours, Mr. Holmes packs a lot of plot. Yet, under Bill Condon’s direction, Mr. Holmes unfolds at a leisurely pace. This pacing allows the actors to breathe life into their characters. While not as heralded as Sir Ian McKellan’s showy performance, Laura Linney reveals much about Mrs. Munro with only an askance glance, a revealing voice, and a voice that is always trying to prevent itself from screaming.

Mr. Holmes is likely to generate Oscar buzz for Sir Ian McKellan. It is a culmination of so many roles the actor has played in the past 18 years.

Every emotion is on display, yet the actor never loses control of the character’s genius.

While the big studios are mass marketing the latest Mission Impossible and Fantastic Four, South Florida is about to screen some independent films locally that have created some overseas buzz. Opening August 20 at Cinema Paradiso is Marshland (La isla minima), a thriller set in a secluded area in the South of Spain.

On Saturday August 15, Cinema Paradiso will also be screening Thomas R. Dicken’s Aliens: Zone-X. The director Thomas R. Dickens, who worked as an animator, modeler and technical director on the Scooby Doo movies, will attend the screening.

Info: www.fliff.com

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Posted on 30 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

Thus far, two studios have dominated the box office, Disney and Universal. 2015 will be remembered for Universal’s blockbusters Jurassic World, Furious 7 and 50 Shades of Grey, while Disney featured family favorites like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out and Cinderella. Currently Disney’s Ant-Man is keeping box office momentum surging during this record-breaking summer.

Being part of the Marvel Comics Universe, Ant-Man is both a stand-alone movie and another chapter of The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America universe. For entertainment purposes, this film stands alone with multiple “Easter eggs” found in the fabric of the film.

Meet Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a gifted scientist who works in association with Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and S.H.I.E.L.D., circa 1989. Professor Pym discovers a scientific breakthrough, but he does not want to share it with S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that he is losing faith in. Pym goes into exile and contemplates his family’s future.

Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a divorced father who spent time in jail for stealing money from a thieving corporation to give it back to those who lost it. Lang has a hard time landing a rent-paying job and has a harder time providing child support for his adorable daughter. Despite his prison record, Professor Pym spots a nobler quality in Lang and recruits him.

From the movie poster alone, one can deduce that Pym’s scientific breakthrough is to create a suit that shrinks a normal-sized man to the size of the ant, while obtaining extra strength and faster speed. Like Mickey from the Rocky series, Pym trains Lang to be the best Ant-Man he can be.

Not since Captain America: The First Avenger has Marvel provided us with an origin story. It is a timely move that reboots the franchise for people entering Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe and reduces the complication of knowing the relationships between many costumed characters.

In fact, the scale is so reduced that the big showdown occurs in a children’s bedroom, with sly nods to a child’s evening spent reading comic books and playing with non-electronic games.

Ant-Man delivers good old-fashioned popcorn-eating Saturday Matinee fun and may be the last hurrah for the blockbuster summer of 2015.

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FLICKS: Cartel Land

Posted on 22 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


As Americans brace themselves for the presidential election, there is no doubt that border security will become one of the hottest topics. Beyond the political name calling, there are individuals on both sides of the fence who want a better future for their children.

Unfortunately, there are societal predators that prey upon the innocent and make life miserable for people on both sides.

The documentary Cartel Land opens with a cartel of predatory tics cooking crystal meth in the forest looking like a family found picnicking at Pioneer Park.

Spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, the patriarch acknowledges the evil of his product, but notes that people pay the cartel millions of dollars for his meth. The master criminal states, “Only God can stop us.”

The film then splits focus between north and south of the border. In Arizona, we see Tim “Nailer” Foley, a vigilante who tracks down illegal immigrants. A former drug addict, he had a moment of clarity, sobered up and felt that roaming the hills of Altar Valley was the best way to redeem himself from the past. We witness his hiking adventures.

We see Dr. Jose Mireles organize his own crime watch organization – Grupo de Autodefensa on Feb. 24, 2013. Autodefensa inspires the local population to eliminate their drug-pushing neighbors and eradicate major gangs such as the Knights Templar.

As inspiring as Dr. Mireles is, the glory gives way to government intrusion and political corruption. Cartel Land takes on a tragic tone and one sees a defeatist culture that gives into country bullies.

Director Matthew Heineman provides clarity. Though the emphasis features Dr. Mireles’s tragedy, the audience sees drug dealers cooking meth, not unlike Walter White’s cook from Breaking Bad. These details provide human complexity that goes beyond simple political rhetoric.

Cartel Land is on limited screens, but go see it. It may provide much insight before you cast your vote in 2016.

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FLICKS: Terminator Genisys & Cartel

Posted on 16 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


With 2015 more than half way over and the San Diego Comic Con in the rear view mirror, I must admit that I’ve enjoyed more big screen movies this year than in 2014.

I’ve also heard people’s honest reaction and applause at the end of the post credits sequence.

Terminator Genisys did not receive such a reaction. Despite the hype in rebooting the Terminator franchise, this film cost more money to produce than it received in box office revenue. James Cameron’s original Terminator was a science fiction romp that was in tune with the times in which it was made. The best science fiction is reflexive like that. With an emphasis on Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper-like theories about time travel, Terminator Genisys feels out of synch with 2015 popular culture.

Told from the perspective of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the time traveling hero from the first and fourth movie, the audience learns that machines have taken over Earth. The surviving humans are led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), the messianic hero of the previous four movies. As in the first movie, Connor sends Reese back in time to stop the machines from taking over the world. Unlike the first time travel mission in 1984, there is a technical glitch to change the time line in 2017.

This film features too many dialogue scenes with this kind of information. Even though he was a peripheral character in this fifth Terminator movie, it is truly Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as “Pops” Terminator that connects the audience to any empathy.

I’m old, but not obsolete,” he says at one point in the movie – a truism to be sure, but Arnold’s box office has declined drastically since he served as the Governor of California. His last box office success was Terminator: Rise of the Machines 12 years ago. Yet, his diminished screen persona steals each scene with deadpan humor from the lead characters as played by Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke and Emilia Clarke, who is no Linda Hamilton.

With Donald Trump’s recent comments about border security and Joachin “El Chapo” Guzman’s prison escape from a Mexican prison, be on the lookout for the documentary, Cartel Land. Promising unprecedented access, this 98-minute documentary presents two vigilante groups who seek to eliminate a common enemy, the drug cartel.

If I can’t make it to the movies this weekend, I will be reading Harper Lee’s long-awaited book, Go Set a Watchman.

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FLICKS: Love & Mercy

Posted on 09 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Over the last holiday weekend, I’ve been seeking music that has been simple and truthful, thinking back to my early years on Long Island.

In my preschool years, California Girls by the Beach Boys was the 33 & 1/3 single I constantly played on the family record player before the days of Hi Fi. The Beatles dominated the 1960s, but the Beach Boys, though beat up, are still a dominant force 50 years later. The most creative Beach Boy, Brian Wilson, received a Kennedy Center Honor during the Bush Administration.

Unlike successful linear bio pics like Coal Miner’s Daughter and Walk the Line, Love & Mercy focuses on Brian Wilson and the focus is split between two actors. Detailing the musician’s fall and rise, Paul Dano portrays “Young Brian” and John Cusack portrays “Middle Aged Wilson.” The result is a fascinating motion picture about madness, acceptance and creativity.

After years of successful concert touring, Young Brian suffers a panic attack on a jet airplane. Upon returning home, Brian informs his brothers and Mike Love (Jake Abel) that he will work on the music for their next album. The result is Pet Sounds. Released in 1966 in reaction to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul LP, Pet Sounds is a critical favorite, but a financial disappointment. As the brothers seek to return to the old surfing sound, Wilson seeks to go off the deep end.

We later see Middle Aged Wilson impulsively purchase a blue Cadillac from Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). There is an instant attraction between the two people, but she is put off by Brian’s bodyguards – in particular Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Dr. Landy eventually tells her that Wilson is a paranoid schizophrenic. Melinda suspects that Dr. Landy is abusing him.

By splitting the focus between young and middleaged Wilson, the theme of redemption becomes obvious. The closing credits featuring documentary footage of the real Brian Wilson singing his current curtain call song, Love & Mercy, makes this film a life affirming movie.

This film takes one into the mind of a genius musician, and how the fine line between genius and madness is often crossed for a man like Brian Wilson.

We also listen to the simple beauty of Wilson’s world.

With all the chaos in the world today, take the time to listen to some Beach Boys songs this summer. If you do, your world will be filled with “Love & Mercy.”

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FLICKS: The Overnight & the PBS special

Posted on 02 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Following in the brotherly footsteps of the Peter/ Robert Farrelly and Joel/ Ethan Cohen, Jay and Mark Duplass are poised to be the next fraternal force in the entertainment industry.

Their HBO show Togetherness has already become a critical and ratings success. Co-starring Melanie Lynskey, it is an intimate portrayal of married couples and their comedic sexual foibles. While the Duplass brothers only serve as executive producers, the movie The Overnight feels like one of their productions.

Written and directed by Patrick Brice, this film presents an ensemble actor’s showcase for Jason Schwartzman (Shopgirl), Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and French actress Judith Godreche. Scott and Schilling portray Alex and Emily, a married couple who have transplanted from Seattle to California with their little boy.

One day in the park, the little boy makes a new friend, who is the son of Kurt (Schwartzman). Kurt invites Alex, Emily and their son to his mansion for a sleepover. Once the boys go to sleep, things get very strange for the grownups.

In this low budget independent film, Brice proves to be an economical director. He makes the most of every moment with shot composition that highlights the verbal interaction between the actors.

Case in point, when Alex and Kurt talk about their artistic influences, Kurt’s paintings of human anatomy are in the background – which undercuts the artist’s pretension. Not all the comedy is so cerebral. The film sets private moments of serious intimacy (often involving nudity) that sometimes get interrupted at the worse possible moments.

While Kurt and his wife come across as California’s version of Gomez and Morticia Addams, Alex and Emily are to represent the conduit for the audience. The way they quickly devolve into recreational drug usage is where The Overnight loses its verisimilitude.

Unlike the disappointing Memorial Day box office weekend, this 4th of July weekend is projected to be a winner as Terminator Genysis opens. Given that Jurassic World is still a box office juggernaut, seating might be easier to get for The Overnight.

For those who wish to stay at home during the fireworks launch, PBS will feature A Capitol Fourth. The concert will include everything from Barry Manilow and K.C. and the Sunshine Band to reliable tough guy Robert Davi, who will be paying tribute to Frank Sinatra on what would be the crooner’s centennial year.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day !

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FLICKS: Inside Out, Cinema Paradiso films

Posted on 25 June 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


While Jurassic World is still the champion of the box office, Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out scored $91 million over the weekend.

Disney/Pixar created a string of critical and financial successes with films like Monsters Inc., A Bug’s Life, Wall-E, Ratatouille, Up, and peaking with Toy Story 3.

Since 2010, however, Disney/Pixar has been dominated by rival companies and Disney’s own internal production company. But, Inside Out returns Disney/Pixar to its former glory.

Inside Out is a simple story about Riley, an 11-year-old girl who moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. The genius of this movie is that most of the dramatic conflict is Riley’s internal struggle between Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black) and Fear (Bill Hader). The emotions are personified with individual characteristics and provide each voice actor a field day.

The first five minutes of the film presents a happy family unit. The move from Minnesota to California is presented as an adventure, creating fond memories. Yet, when the dust settles from the move, Sad begins to intrude on Riley’s core memories, tarnishing the past. When Joy tries to prevent this from happening, the two emotions are sucked into the netherworld of the subconscious.

While remaining “a kids movie,” Inside Out enters the realm of a college freshman psychology class. In Riley’s subconscious, we meet her baby fears (party clowns) and her invisible friend, Bing Bong (Richard Kind). This part of the film takes on a darker hue, much like the melancholia many 11-year-olds face through the rites of passage.

Much like the crowd reactions to Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 2 & 3, children are comforting their parents who are sniffling and tearing up. The film provides the psychological double entendre that makes the Disney/Pixar partnership a continuing cinematic force to be reckoned with. It is also an entertaining flick with a superb musical score from Michael Giacchio, who also scored Jurassic World. Giacchio is the next generation’s John Williams.

Meanwhile, at Cinema Paradiso The Farewell Party opens June 26 at Cinema Paradiso, Hollywood. An award-winning film from both the Israeli and Venice film festivals, it is a dark comedy in Hebrew with English subtitles about euthanasia. July 9-16, Cinema Paradiso, Ft. Lauderdale, will be presenting “Filmed in Broward,” sponsored by Broward 100, a celebration of films produced here. Line-up includes crowd favorites like True Lies, Body Heat, Married to the Mob, Analyze This, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and more. For more info., visit www.fliff.com.

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