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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FLICKS: Jurassic World

Posted on 18 June 2015 by L.Moore

flicks061815By Dave Montalbano

Those who have been reading my column for over 15 years know that I am not going to give Jurassic World a bad review. It has everything a summer blockbuster movie is supposed to have: action, adventure, romance and humor. I am certain when I see the film again, I will get really annoyed by some of the story flaws (Really- two Afghanistan Veterans would entrust their lives to a pilot without an aviation license?),but, overall, I am pleased that this film has been breaking box office records. It offers something for everyone.

It has been 22 years since visionary John Hammond opened Jurassic Park. The designer flaws were minimized and the dinosaur park has expanded into Jurassic World. As entertainment parks become more competitive, so does the need to draw new customers, thus creating a new exhibit – the Indominus Rex – a genetic Frankenstein monster made of predatory dinosaur DNA. When things go chaotic,animal expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) is called upon to tame the creature. Despite being an animal expert, the administrative brain trust ignore Grady’s wisdom and the situation gets worse.

The dinosaurs are the stars; yet,actors Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins and Judy Greer keep the human element interesting. The special effects extravaganza delivers first rate action sequences.

One standout scene involves Pratt’s battle with a pteranodon. While the scope of the scene is epic, it is the small details that make this scene nerve racking and dangerous.

Even the night time climax is presented with visual clarity,depending on where one sits. I was fortunate enough to see it at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science IMAX Theater (MODS) where the dinosaurs were actual size on a five-storey movie screen. The film will be showing at IMAX until June 30. I’ve heard reports that, at some screenings, people could not see the dinosaur’s heads on smaller screens.

While best known for portraying“Marty” in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, actor/stuntman Martin Klebba portrayed “the pteranodon” in Jurassic World. Wearing “motion capture pajamas,” Klebba was injured when actor Chris Pratt threw him down during a fight scene. Shaking it off, Klebba repeatedly performed the same stunt again in what became a very memorable scene from the movie.

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FLICKS: Gemma Bovary & MODS exhibits

Posted on 11 June 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


In the last two years, I have been seeking a more provincial life, less beer and pretzels – more wine and cheese.

Instead of watching sports that I am truly not interested in, I have been watching more sunsets.

I think about how bucolic and idyllic this life is, until I think about how bored I would be doing this activity everyday! Opening tomorrow, Gemma Bovary allows the viewer to visit the French Countryside, while not overextending one’s welcome.

Gemma Bovary is inspired by Gustave Flaubert’s tragic novella, Madame Bovary. The film has the same plot structure as Flaubert’s book, but with enough twists and turns to separate the literary from the cinema. This is a thought piece about dark subject matter, but with enough realistic humor to hold one’s interest for an hour and 39 minutes.

Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) is a baker in a small town in France that attracts many English people. A literary maven, Joubert takes interest in his new neighbors, whose last name is Bovary. Charlie (Jason Flemyng) and Gemma (Gemma Arterton) are friendly neighbors who eat a lot of bread.

When Charlie goes out of town on business, Joubert observes Gemma’s flirty behavior with gentlemen who can help her. Fantasy crosses into reality as Joubert witnesses infidelity, much like Flaubert’s misguided protagonist.

Best known for playing a “007 Bond Girl,” actress Gemma Arterton has undertaken many character roles in films like The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Clash of the Titans. As Gemma Bovary, Arterton finds the correct balance between femme fatale and naïve charm. When the climax is presented, one feels for the character. Gemma Bovary is a quiet respite from the noisy roar of blockbuster dinosaurs.

The Box Office gods have determined that Jurassic World will open big this weekend. It is now a question as to how big this film will be until the 4th of July holiday weekend. Beyond the spectacle of dinosaurs eating tourists, Jurassic World will expand upon the theories that author Michael Crichton introduced in his original novel, Jurassic Park.

To absorb this experience, check out Jurassic World at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery & Science (MODS) on the 5-storey IMAX screen. Besides seeing the giant MegaShark in the museum showroom, one can expect to see some exhibits devoted to paleontology. www.MODS.org.

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FLICKS: Tommorowland, The Farewell Party, The Connection & MODS

Posted on 04 June 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


It has taken me a week to wrap my mind around Tomorrowland. For 4/5ths of the movie, I was transported to the culture of my 1960s childhood, the irrational exuberance of President Kennedy’s New Frontier. We had rocket ships going to the moon and The Jetsons showed us that common man would have flying cars in the not too distant future. Then, Y2K happened, and my generation did not get our flying car.

Tomorrowland’s leading man George Clooney and I are roughly the same age. His character, Frank Walker, is presented as a science wiz kid who crosses theoretical swords with David Nix (Hugh Laurie) at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flatbush, Long Island. With a magic pin, young Frank sees visions of a positive future. When he reaches middle age, Frank becomes like Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino, a grumpy old man who tells children to stay away from his porch.

The teenager bothering Frank is Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), who also was given a magic pin from Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a young person associated with Governor Nix. Frank and Casey develop an uneasy alliance and use their technological wits to save the world.

In the final fifth of Tomorrowland, we face the obligatory showdown between Frank and Nix and the thrashing of ideas. The biggest problem with this film is that the villain’s concerns are really the state of the union today, instant gratification from violence is the norm. Instead of presenting a solution to our problems of the day, Tomorrowland subtly warns us that we are doomed.

The Farewell Party opens tomorrow. This 2014 Israeli film concerns itself with the social norms of senior citizens in an assisted living facility. With a touch of Doctor Kevorkian, this drama provides dark humor about euthanasia.

For those considering movie fare south of Lighthouse Point, Cinema Paradiso will be presenting The Connection, a French thriller starring Artist Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin as a narcotics officer trying to crack a major kingpin. This film is said to be France’s version of the Oscar-winning 1970s classic The French Connection starring Gene Hackman.

For info, visit www.fliff.com.

Last, but not least, the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Science and Discovery (MODS) has kicked off their summer blockbuster season. The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland and San Andreas are currently on the 5-storey screen. Next week, Jurassic World opens. Book your tickets early, for shows have been selling out.

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FLICKS: Poltergeist

Posted on 28 May 2015 by L.Moore

flicks052815By Dave Montalbano


It has been 33 summers since I last ushered at the United Artist Movies at Pompano and the two big films playing that week were Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Poltergeist. Produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist was perhaps a satirical look about the influence of television on the suburban family unit. Spielberg incorporated his childhood fears into this noisy ghost story and it was a box office winner, until E.T. the Extraterrestrial was released a few weeks later.

MGM released two more Poltergeist films, that were critical and box office disappointments. Whereas the first movie could be labeled a family movie with a roller coaster ride between horror and humor, the two sequels strove to create a darker mythology that many Christian organizations found insulting.

The new Poltergeist avoids insulting Christians and strives to simply tell a haunted house story with noisy ghosts.

In this revisionist reboot, we meet the Bowen family, who are moving to a new neighborhood. Pop Bowen (Sam Rockwell) is an unemployed father who supports his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is a writer. The parents have three children, teenager Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), middle schooler Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and youngest sibling Madison (Kennedi Clements), who already talks to invisible people.

Unlike the Freeling family (JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson) of the first movie, the Bowen family faces instant hardship their first night in the house. A tree and a clown doll attack Griffin, while big sister has cell phone trouble. During these attacks, Madison is sucked into the netherworld and can only communicate via the television set.

The tree, the clown doll and the ghosts in the television are repeated motifs from the original film. After three decades, the use of cell phones and wireless Internet updates the technology; however, there is nothing new to add to this Poltergeist saga. Like the disappointing Super 8 from four years ago, modern directors seem more focused about reviving Spielberg’s 1980s hoopla than telling a new story.

Had this film not been named Poltergeist, it would have been more accepted as a Saturday matinee popcorn-eating flick. It is fun to watch Sam Rockwell play against type as a concerned father; it is his most heroic role in a big budgeted motion picture. The child actors are endearing.

Much like the opening of King Tut’s tomb, there is a superstition of a “Poltergeist Curse” from the original trilogy. Playing the teenage sister, Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend on Halloween Eve the same year that the film was released. As the youngest sister, Heather O’Rourke died on the operating table before the release of Poltergeist 3. Only Oliver Robins (who played the Freeling brother) survived to adulthood. Besides writing and directing independent films, Robins owns his own marketing business that is inspired by horror movies.

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FLICKS: The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared & Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted on 21 May 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


There is a fine line between comedy and tragedy. George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road walks that tightrope in a big summer blockbuster release. However, this balance between comedy/ tragedy is never more evident than in The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, a Swedish film which opens tomorrow.

Opening with a picturesque cabin in the snow, the title character lets his kitty cat outside. When the cat does not return, the old man goes outside and sees that his only companion has been brutally killed by a fox.

It is a shocking scene; however, the tone abruptly shifts when the old man gets even with the fox.

Just imagine the Old Man getting dynamite from Wile E. Coyote’s ACME explosive kit.

It has been 30 years this summer since Mel Gibson’s last Mad Max movie, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, co-starring Tina Turner and Angelo Rossitto. While Gibson’s fortunes rose and crashed, there was always talk about continuing the Mad Max series. During the hiatus, writer/director George Miller wrote two Mad Max scripts with Mel Gibson in mind, but the actor aged himself out of the story.

Thomas Hardy does an excellent job stepping into Gibson’s shoes. Like Godzilla’s reveal last summer, George Miller takes his time letting the audience get used to the new Mad Max. By the time Mad Max takes command, the audience accepts the new mad man.

Max is not the maddest one in Fury Road, there is an assortment of crazies in this popcorn-eating flick. The most monstrous mad man is Immortan Jone (Hugh Keays-Byrne – who was “Toecutter Joe” in the original Mad Max), the supreme ruler who tells his dehydrated minions that “water is a luxury.” When the one-armed Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) hijacks a war machine that was on a gas run, the chase is on.

Mad Max: Fury Road is basically a continuing car chase in a post apocalyptic world of a despot society. What elevates these Mad Max movies is George Miller’s attention to detail. In this dystopian world of limited resources, Max uses ingenuity to keep carburetors cool in the Australian desert. He also manages to capture a society that is missing things like radio, television, Internet and wireless communication.

Both Mad Max: Fury Road and The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared provide thought provoking entertainment for the summer heat.

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