FLICKS: Queen and Country, PBiFF begins & Dan Aykroyd

Posted on 26 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Five-time Oscar bridesmaid, but never a bride, director John Boorman, has created indelible images on the big movie screen. He directed Lee Marvin in two savage movies, most notably Point Blank, which featured an all-star ensemble cast. Through the years, his visual acuity created both beautiful and nightmarish imagery in Deliverance, Excalibur and The Emerald Forest.

Released 28 years ago, Hope and Glory was his semi-autobiographic tale about his British childhood during the World War II blitzkrieg. Opening tomorrow is Queen and Country, which continues the adventures of Bill Rohan (Boorman’s alter ego) during the Korean War. While war is background theme to both movies, there is much humor in these films which present a character’s rite of passage. Queen and Country is Boorman’s big screen swan song, so expect an appropriate “goodbye” from a master craftsman.

The 20th Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBiFF) opens tonight with a red carpet screening of Welcome to Me at the Muvico Parisian 20 & IMAX at City Place in West Palm Beach. Saturday Night Live alumus Kristen Wiig (currently queen of independent film production) stars as a narcissist who suffers from a comical nervous breakdown. The cast includes Joan Cusack, Linda Cardellini, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The Lost Key will be part of PBiFF’s “Jewish Experience,” which features an assortment of 35 international films from Germany, Hungary, France, Cuba and Bulgaria. Bulgarian Rhapsody is the country’s recent representative of the Oscar race. Israeli actor Udi Persi from 10% My Child will be spending the week in Palm Beach County.

If history is a good indicator, this year’s PBiFF should be a lot of fun with many surprise guests and memorable experiences. With the grand finale being held at the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton, there is no excuse to miss! For further updates and information, please visit www.pbifilmfest.org.

Promoting his Crystal Head Vodka, Dan Aykroyd blew into town [March 20] as an energetic juggernaut. At ABC Liquors in Sunrise, Aykroyd was a human autograph machine as he signed vodka bottles, Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers memorabilia.

Blues History was made at Stache in Ft. Lauderdale when Aykroyd reunited on stage with South Florida resident and Blues Brother Matt “Guitar” Murphy for a mini reunion concert. The night was emotional and definitely defined the spirit of the Blues.

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FLICKS: 3 Hearts, Cinderella and PbiFF

Posted on 19 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After screening at the 32nd Miami International Film Festival, 3 Hearts opens in limited South Florida release tomorrow. Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde) misses his train, but finds comfort with Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). After an intense experience, the two part ways. Marc settles in and develops a deeper relationship with Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) with plans to marry. When meeting his future in-laws, including matriarch (Catherine Deneuve), Marc discovers that Sylvie and Sophie are sisters.

Nominated for numerous awards at the Venice and Lumiere Film Festivals, 3 Hearts is a French Film with English subtitles and features the plot device of a romantic triangle. With the cinematic legacy of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve, this film reveals that French storytelling is consistently modern.

It was French scholar Charles Perrault who penned European folk tales and crafted what we now know as the fairy tale Cinderella a.k.a. The Glass Slipper. As recent box office figures have revealed, this tale of love, romance and service has struck a chord with modern audiences.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Thor), the audience retraces the narrative about how Ella (Lily James) became “Cinderella.” We meet her adorable parents (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell, who was in Agent Carter) who teach their daughter that it is important to have the “courage to be kind.”

These life lessons go into effect when Ella’s parents die. A wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her sinister sisters (Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger) have Ella clean the furnace and she gets covered with “Cinders.” Considered “too dirty” to attend the Prince’s ball, Ella meets her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who gives the heroine a makeover. By now, one should figure out the rest of the plot.

Cinderella deserves its success. Kenneth Branagh makes the sugary romance palatable, the characters are not overblown and the actors ensemble chooses restraint. This film can best be summed up in one scene – Ella’s “walk of shame” — because it is a beautiful moment due to the heroine’s pure motives.

Next week, the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBiFF) celebrates 20 years with appearances from Tom Arnold, Ellar Coltrane and others, and music provided by TK Records, who has a South Florida connection with K.C. and the Sunshine Band. At this international festival, keep an eye out for The Lost Key, a Spanish documentary about a Rabbi who talks about intimacy, lust and love.


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FLICKS: Chappie, Eva & The Lovers

Posted on 12 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After viewing the last of the Academy Award Best Picture nominations, I thought it was time to take a break from the “serious” fare and view pure “escapist” entertainment like Chappie, featuring Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and acclaimed director Neill Bomkamp.

How could a film about science fiction robots fail?

While it does not quite fail, it does not succeed either.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant-future, robots have become the police force of Johannesburg, South Africa. Due to aggressive police policies, crime is minimal. However, there are a bunch of low intelligence thugs that like to steal money and create havoc. During a routine raid, a robot is shot down.

Enter Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), a genius inventor who seeks to make the robots more autonomous with his gifted software. Enter Arch Rival Vincent (Hugh Jackman) who has created a behemoth robot that relies on human communication. Enter boss Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) who only seeks a profit in selling low cost protectors of society.

Had Bradley not scrimped on the security budget, she would have noticed the criminal activities of Vincent and Deon. Eventually, Deon inserts his lifegiving software to the slain robot and “Chappie” is born. Chappie, who is kidnapped by South African gangsters, [portrayed by Ninja and Yolandi of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord] becomes acclimated to their culture and speaks their lingo.

Chappie is cute, but suffers from too many story logic flaws. It is also a movie that distracts you and makes you think of other science fiction movies like Wall-E, X-Men, Alien and Blomkamp’s Oscar-nominated science fiction flick District 9. Too bad, but the film is open-ended enough for a sequel.

This Friday the 13th features the opening of two new movies.

Eva is the recipient of 3 Goya Awards, Spain’s version of the academy awards. Like Chappie, it deals with robotics, but it also deals with human expression and emotions.

Sans robots, The Lovers is Roland Joffe’s return to prestige from his triumphs three decades ago with films like The Killing Fields and The Mission. Josh Hartnett is a marine biologist who travels from India to the Caribbean in the 18th century. This film also includes Bollywood Idol Bipasha Basu in her international film debut.

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FLICKS: Whiplash & Mr. Kaplan

Posted on 05 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


You can add Whiplash to the list of Oscar-nominated films that may be better than the actual winner [Birdman]. This is a very simple film in which young Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a first year drummer at a prestigious New York musical conservatory. The John Houseman of all educators, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is a scary influence who wants gifted drummers to be great. Thus, the road to hell is paved with misguided intentions between a student and his mentor.

The intensity of Neiman’s drive and the darkness of Fletcher’s motivation provide an epic quality to this simple story. Whiplash forces you to rethink what it means to be successful. Young people might sympathize with young Andrew’s drive, while a former teacher might agree with mastermind Fletcher’s methods of developing talent.

Paul Reiser portrays Neiman’s loving, but ineffectual father. Reiser’s few scenes emphasize the importance of family values over ephemeral success. When accepting his Oscar for his role as Fletcher, Simmons ignited social media with his acceptance speech that supported this subtle theme of Whiplash.

He said, “Call your mom, call your dad. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ‘em. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call them on the phone. Tell ‘em you love ‘em, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”

Mr. Kaplan opens tomorrow. This film was the official submission of Uruguay to the best foreign language film category of the 87th Academy Awards. Told in Spanish with English subtitles, this film provides serious themes about aging, the Holocaust and deadbeat dads, while creating some humorous moments.

Jacob Kaplan (Héctor Noguera) is the aging oddball of his community. Concerned that he might hurt himself, the family provides an assistant to drive Mr. Kaplan around town. While listening to the news, he learns that former Nazis have settled in his community. A child of the holocaust, Mr. Kaplan believes he has spotted a Nazi tormentor. With his befuddled assistant Contreras (Néstor Guzzini), Mr. Kaplan decides to kidnap the Nazi and send his tormentor to Israel.

Taking a cue from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Mr. Kaplan walks a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Not until the final scene does one realize that Mr. Kaplan is either heroic or delusional, but at least he managed to enjoy another adventure with his Sancho Panza.

[Note: Speaking of Don Quixote, the play Man of La Mancha is currently showing at The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton through March 28. Info: www.thewick.org.]

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FLICKS: Birdman, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks & DeliMan

Posted on 26 February 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


As a Florida State University Communications graduate, I took at least two classes in which Luis Bunuel’s films were examined. Working in cooperation with Spanish compatriot Salvador Dali, Brunuel surrealistic cinema inspired Mexican filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu. After directing the depressing Biutiful (2010), it seems that Inarritu decided to examine some of his recurring philosophy theories from a comedic perspective.

With the absurdist visuals, over-the-top-ensemble-acting and the story about a backstage nervous breakdown, one can see why the Academy Awards chose Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), as the best motion picture of 2014. In a year in which the motion picture industry made most of their box office mojo from costumed superheroes like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Birdman allows industry insiders to assuage their guilt from reaping benefits from themes they don’t necessary believe in.

Years after being out of the spotlight from playing the superhero Birdman, actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) seeks to perform in something “relevant.” Thomson funds a Randall Carver short story What We Talk About when We Talk About Love on Broadway. The film focuses on the final three preview rehearsals leading up to opening night.

Backstage, we witness intense backstage drama. Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone) helps her Dad backstage and is a recovering drug addict. Newly-hired method actor Mike (Edward Norton) gives a brilliant performance, but is a backstage louse. Mike’s girlfriend Lesley (Naomi Watts) has been a journeyman actress who is getting to perform on Broadway for the first time. Under pressure, backstage and alone, Riggan begins hearing the voice from “Birdman,” his dormant superego.

People either love or hate Birdman. The crowd I saw this film with departed the theater in silence. Some people walked out of Birdman, claiming that this was the first motion picture they have walked out of in four decades. Birdman is truly one of the most unique motion pictures to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and will be an influence upon future releases for artistically inclined producers and directors.

As I write this column, the ABC Network is releasing their celebrity participants on Dancing with the Stars, which will preview Monday night. Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks opens this weekend and features Gena Rowlands as a South Florida senior citizen who makes an offbeat friendship with Michael Minetti (Cheyenne Jackson), a gay dance instructor. This film explores the themes of intolerance and ageism, but also the spiritual redemption of dance.

My Dad would have turned 93 this weekend. One of my fondest memories was sharing a pastrami sandwich and coffee with him on Broadway 14 years ago. While Birdman retraces our steps on Broadway, the newly released DeliMan reminded me of how good that meal was, even though this documentary takes place in Houston.

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Imitation Game & 50 Shades of Grey

Posted on 19 February 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The Imitation Game premiered at the 2014 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival and it had generated so much Oscar buzz from the European Film Festival circuit that festival director Gregory Von Hausch could not guarantee a seat for a critic’s screening.

In the summer of 2002, I reviewed an espionage movie titled Enigma, which featured Kate Winslet as a code breaker who helped to defeat the Nazis. It was an absorbing story, but the screenplay ignored an important historical character,

Professor Alan Turing. Played by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, Turing is the central character of The Imitation Game.

The film opens in darkness with the sound of Morse code. We learn that Nazi U-boats have been sinking the British Navy and American conveys with ease. British spies have located the German “Enigma Machine,” but cannot decode Nazi transmissions.

Enter mathematician Alan Turing, a brilliant mind with poor social skills. Placing an ad in the British press, Turing assembles a team of code breakers by having them complete a complicated crossword puzzle. Among the most gifted code breakers is Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley). History shows that the good guys won World War II, but the cost of victory destroyed one man’s soul. For those in love with analogue technology, espionage drama and group dynamics, then The Imitation Game is the film for you.

50 Shades of Grey is not a film for everybody; it is not a film that people will not admit to enjoying, but it is a film that people will secretly covet at home. At a critic’s screening last Wednesday night, the audience laughed, got intensely quiet during the more graphic scenes and moaned during the cliffhanger ending. This is more a tribute to Sam Taylor- Johnson’s skills as a director than E.L. James’ skills as a writer.

With an 85 million dollar opening weekend box office take, expect Universal to continue filming their 50 Shades of Grey trilogy for future Valentine’s Days.

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FLICKS: Mommy, Above and Beyond & Shock Pop

Posted on 12 February 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


In the midst of Academy Awards season, two new movies are actually opening this weekend. Both Mommy and Above and Beyond are very diverse motion pictures. Each film will appeal to different audiences.

Mommy is a film from Montreal, Canada spoken in French with English subtitles. It was Canada’s submission to the Oscar race and was a Jury Prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival. Mommy is a simple story about a mother dealing with her mentally ill son.

The film opens with a car accident, as Mommy — Diane “Die” Despress (Anne Dorval) — cusses out the driver she hit. She is picking her son Steve (Antoine- Olivier Pilon) up from Detention. Steve’s behavior was so atrocious that detention can’t reform him and further disciplinary behavior modifications are expected.

Under this gloomy premise, Mommy has some beautiful moments. The Depress family makes friends with next door neighbor Kyla (Suzanne Clement), a shy academic with a stammer. From the emotional rollercoaster ride from happiness to sadness, the acting feels too real. This film is an exhaustive drama in the vein of a Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams play.

Above and Beyond is a spirited documentary about the formation of the Israeli Air Force, circa 1948. Produced by Nancy Spielberg, this film features interviews from surviving aviators and family members. Among the most recognizable faces is Pee Wee Herman (Paul Rubenfeld), whose late father was one of the most heroic pilots of the first wave of Israeli pilots.

Featuring a mix of archive footage seamlessly edited with special effects from Industrial Light and Magic, Above and Beyond is thrilling history retold. There is personal loss, but there are also so many life-affirming moments of young aviators in search of adventure. It is only through the wisdom of aging that these young adventurers realized they accomplished so much more for their family, faith and friends.

Tomorrow Freddy Krueger, Elvira, Dr. Who, Steven Bauer. Linnea Quigley and Herschell Gordon Lewis invade the Ft. Lauderdale Convention Center for Shock Pop. This is the biggest movie/comic book convention to come to South Florida in over a decade. For more information, visit www.shockpopcomiccon.com.

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FLICKS: The Theory of Everything & Shock Pop Comic Con

Posted on 05 February 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The Theory of Everything opens with young Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), who is attending the Cambridge University graduate school with a major in astrophysics. He meets and courts Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), a literature student. While there is a theoretical clash between these two individuals, a mutual respect develops. When Hawking makes a big theoretical breakthrough, his body begins to deteriorate.

Hawking is diagnosed with a motor neuron disease [ALS] and is given two years to live. As the two years pass, Hawking marries Jane, has children and becomes an international sensation with his theories about space, time and dimension. We witness the last time Hawking walks and when he holds his child.

Based on Jane Wilde-Hawking’s autobiography, The Theory of Everything presents the hardships of a family dealing with a special needs individual. We witness parents attempt to live a “normal life” for the sake of the children. Despite this bond, the call of academic spotlight provides the tipping point for the Hawking marriage.

Redmayne’s Hawking transitions from a geeky and energetic young man to an infirmed old man shackled to a wheelchair. The one constant theme of the performance is Hawking’s core spirit and humor.

Much like the X-Men and Dolphin Tale movies, I’ve witnessed more people in wheelchairs attending screenings of this film. At the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, one of the best films was titled CinemaAbility, a documentary about how Hollywood treats people with disabilities. Walter White’s son in TV’s Breaking Bad, actor RJ Mitte shared stories about being a working actor who actually has cerebral palsy. Mitte will be in town next weekend to talk about his career at the Shock Pop ComicCon. www.shockpopcomiccon.com/media-guests.html.

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FLICKS: Timbuktu and Selma

Posted on 29 January 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The best thing about the awards’ season is that interesting motion pictures are being released at local theaters. Timbuktu has been nominated for best foreign language motion picture, the first entry from Mauritania, a country from the continent of Africa. Timbuktu is a beautiful motion picture, but with a depressing theme about Sharia law. Not since The Stoning of Soraya M. has a motion picture so addressed the terrors of Islamic fundamentalism.

This film opens and closes with symbolism, a group of thugs race across the desert with automatic rifles — shooting at a racing deer, most likely a doe. Moments later, the thugs use sacred relics as target practice. The tone of the film shifts to a bucolic setting of farmers and cattle ranchers.

With low-key acting, we watch a husband and wife quietly discuss the affairs of the day. While under the tent, these individuals entertain themselves with stories and the playing of musical instruments. They talk about their dreams, expectations and a better future.

Yet, in town, we witness a primitive Orwellian world. The hooded thought police troll the streets in search of neighbors violating Sharia Law. Rumors, gossip and hearsay are treated as fact in the kangaroo court of the land. This surreal environment creates a distressing situation that eventually leads to multiple tragedies between honorable people and profane sycophants.

The word “Timbuktu” evokes exotic romance. Director Abderrahmane Sissako provides these expectations with glorious cinematography; but, he also creates a human story about a culture that is so foreign to the American way of life.

With much media hype, but modest box office gains, Selma has been nominated for best song and best motion picture. Much like last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Selma presents producer Oprah Winfrey’s perspective of civil rights history. Both films are entertaining with humane themes. Yet, when one walks out of Selma, one feels as if they sat in a historical lecture from a biased professor. The rhetoric veers toward propaganda with incomplete historical detail.

Most notably, the casting of British actors Tom Wilkinson and Tim Roth as President Johnson and Governor Wallace, respectively. The two British compatriots come across as stereotypical two-faced cackling villains, which detracts from David Oyelowo’s sincere performance as Martin Luther King Jr.

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FLICKS: Song One & American Sniper

Posted on 22 January 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Much like his previous success with the Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby and the box office champion Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper has managed to break a January box office record with an amazing $104 million gross.

It has garnered six Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor (Bradley Cooper’s performance as Navy Seal shooter Chris Kyle).

The film opens in a most dramatic fashion. While stationed on a rooftop in Iraq, Kyle targets a woman and a boy. In his telescopic lens, Kyle spots a hand grenade. Should he take the shot or not?

The film flashes back to Kyle’s youth in Texas. A successful rodeo rider, Kyle watches CNN news and sees an American Embassy being bombed. He realizes his life’s calling – to protect and defend the people of the United States of America.

American Sniper focuses on Kyle’s four tours of duty. While on leave, Kyle and his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller) raises two kids and attempts to adjust to civilian life. Yet, Kyle is haunted by the soldiers he feels he is abandoning on the battlefield.

From the opening scene to the quiet closing credits, everything about this film feels appropriate. As “the Legend,” Bradley Cooper gives a genuine performance of stoic emotion. He is a true soldier who cannot acknowledge his vulnerability — even to the woman he loves. American Sniper deserves its Oscar and Box Office success.

For quieter fair, Song One opens tomorrow, starring Anne Hathaway and Mary Steenburgen. This is a quiet drama about a guitar singer who becomes brain damaged after being hit by a taxicab. His estranged sister Franny (Hathaway) tries to reconnect with her comatose brother through his interests.

Song One is a simple, sweet movie about musical therapy. Romance blooms, but that is not the focal part of this fascinating movie. This film is about the importance of reconnecting a loved one through art and entertainment.

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