FLICKS: Pelé: Birth of a Legend & Money Monster

Posted on 19 May 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


When the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil begin in three months, the country’s greatest sports hero, Pelé, could come out of retirement and be involved. It’s been almost four decades since he kicked his last soccer ball in a Cosmos/Santos exhibition game in New Jersey, yet Pelé’s legendary shadow stands tall. Opening tomorrow in limited release, Pelé: Birth of a Legend provides a taste of Pelé’s acrobatic performances on the soccer field.

The film opens with Pelé entering the World Cup stadium in Sweden, circa 1958 at only 17 years old. The film flashes back to Pelé’s rough and tumble childhood in Brazil, where his friends steal peanuts to buy soccer balls. By playing soccer in the streets, Pelé’s talent is noticed by school coaches. The rags to riches story begins.

Pelé: Birth of a Legend is a simple story. The strength of this film is the visualization on the big screen. Given that his best goals were preserved in grainy photography or kinescope tubes, this film uses contemporary cinematography to convey the athlete’s greatness. Soccer fans and families will appreciate this fine film.

Two of my favorite movie subjects are “monsters” and “money.” Therefore, I was one of the few people to see Money Monster last week. Many of the narrative surprises were revealed in the trailers and television commercials, so it is no big spoiler to reveal that a Wall Street mastermind is the cause of all George Clooney and Julia Roberts’ problems.

Clooney portrays The Money Monster, a hyperactive television financial advisor, like Jim Cramer from MSNBC. After making a bad pick on a stock, a gunman from Queens County enters the studio and holds the Money Monster hostage. Julia Roberts is the director who calls the shots from behind the scenes without even getting her hair messed up.

Despite numerous plot holes and obvious Bernie Sanders political bias, Money Monster contains many humorous moments, mostly at the expense of George Clooney’s character. Actress Jodie Foster directs this satirical flick, which was easily influenced by 1970s political thrillers like Network and The Parallax View. Save your money on Money Monster, this film will probably be in regular rotation on television by October.

There are some good movies on the big screen at the moment, including The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War. However, if you are a sports fan, find Pelé: Birth of a Legend.

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FLICKS: The Man Who Knew Infinity, Papa Hemingway in Cuba

Posted on 12 May 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


The Big Bang Theory reaches its 10th season finale this evening. Much like Frasier, The Big Bang Theory does not talk down to their audiences with its references more often found in the halls of academia. The Man Who Knew Infinity would feel comfortable hanging out with the likes of Sheldon Cooper and Frasier Crane.

Based on the real life of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), The Man who Knew Infinity is a biopic about an Indian who earns admittance to the University of Cambridge in England. Due to colonialism, Ramanujan confronts racism from academic circles.

Seeing Ramanujan’s potential, tenured professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) takes the Indian genius under his wing. His formulas and proofs earn Ramanujan an international reputation during World War I. Unfortunately, his health deteriorates as his mathematical discoveries begin to change the world.

For those who are not academically-inclined, The Man Who Knew Infinity will be a dull film to watch. Yet, the performances and relationship between Patel and Irons keep this film interesting and honest. Sheldon Cooper and Frasier Crane would love it.

Being advertised as “the first Hollywood Film made in Cuba,” Papa Hemingway in Cuba has been lingering in local cinemas. This biopic details Ernest Hemingway’s (Adrian Sparks) final years in Cuba before Fidel Castro took over the island.

Despite some gorgeous cinematography and memorable one-liners, the film looks amateurish. With a muddled narrative, the acting and the editing feel out of sync.

Can’t get enough of Cuban landscapes? Look for Three Days in Havana, which premiered at last year’s Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival and is available for streaming on Amazon.com. Gil Bellows (who co-directed with Tony Pantages) stars as an insurance salesman who gets caught in comic noir intrigue.

Papa Hemingway in Cuba and Three Days in Havana, which used many of the same locations, are sure to sell many cruises from South Florida to Cuba.

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FLICKS: Captain America: Civil War

Posted on 05 May 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


Since his Marvel debut on the big screen four years ago with Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers has become my favorite superhero. When he was chosen to receive the super soldier serum, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) selected Steve Rogers because he was a good man; it is Captain America’s best trait.

When Captain America: Civil War was announced, one wondered if Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) would still retain his goodness. Captain America’s adversary would be Tony Stark, alias Iron Man, (Robert Downey Jr.), the superhero who started this Marvel Cinema Universe eight years ago. In the comic book universe, the Captain America/Iron Man Civil War was a statement about Post-911 America, with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers representing the sides of security and liberty, respectfully.

The new movie opens with an incident from Dec. 16, 1991. The film flashes forward to the present day, in which Captain America leads the Avengers against the terrorist Crossbones (Frank Grillo). When there is collateral damage, the United Nations decides that the Avengers need oversight by an outside agency, and to be registered. While Tony Stark decides to go along to get along, Steve Rogers sees these new restrictions as destroying civil liberties.

To complicate matters, the Winter Soldier is loose. The Winter Soldier, alias Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is a childhood friend of Steve Rogers. As the United Nations debate superhero registration, an explosion occurs – causing more collateral damage. While the Winter Soldier is blamed, Steve Rogers suspects his old friend is the patsy.

Captain America: Civil War builds to a logical showdown. The movie lives up to its comic book visualization when the superheroes battle each other in a German airport. While there is much humor, there is an aggression we have not seen before in a Marvel Comic Books movie.

This aggression leads to more collateral damage, which forces this film into more serious territory.

Given previous visual epics, this Civil War ends with personal fight based on painful motives. We see sides to Tony Stark and Steve Rogers that we have not seen before. To directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s credit, this big revelation feels truthful.

Given this wild political year, Captain America: Civil War is a timely commentary about the present day. Captain America’s final words provide much wisdom, and he is still my favorite Marvel Comics superhero.

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FLICKS: The Huntsman: Winter’s War, plus special screenings of Purple Rain

Posted on 28 April 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


As I prepared for my screening of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, I had to compliment Carmike Cinema’s management [Broward 18 in Pompano] for their bustling box office and concession sales. Over the concession bar were two television screens dedicated to sports channels, so I was able to keep track of the Heat, Panthers and Marlins. Cinemas are becoming more timely and intimate. This concept really hit home when the manager informed me that he was redoing the weekend schedule to insert special screenings of Purple Rain, starring the late singer Prince [like many other national theaters].

Modern technology has made mass entertainment more impulsive. While tonight is supposed to present the final screenings of Purple Rain, if box office is good, one can predict this film being held over until Captain America: Civil War opens next week (May 6).

While The Jungle Book dominated the latest box office figures, the much maligned The Huntsman: Winter’s War opened with a respectable box office sum of $20 million. A prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, which starred Kristen Stewart as Snow White, this new film focuses on the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and the supposedly dead evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron).

It has been a Leap Year since Snow White and the Huntsman was last seen on the big screen. In that time, television shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time have provided much reinterpretation of the ancient fairy tales. Given the cultural and financial success of Disney’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”, (Frozen), it was only a matter of time before Freya (Emily Blunt) replaced the mythology of Snow White.

We learn that Freya and Ravenna were sisters. With her nasty disposition concealed by her two-faced charm, Ravenna manages to cook Freya’s child.

Heartbroken, Freya goes north, freezes her heart and wages war on all mankind.

As Freya assembles her military and develops her military academy for orphans, we meet the Young Huntsman, who is infatuated with a red-headed archer named Sara (who grows up to look like Jessica Chastain). The Huntsman and Sara share swashbuckling adventures together and eventually get caught in the snare of the evil queens. Will anyone live to be happily ever after?

Based on the poor rating on RottenTomatoes.com, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is likely to be nominated for multiple Razzy Awards. However, there is a sense of fun about this movie and the actors appear to be having a good time swashbuckling. While this film is too dark to take impressionable children to, the crowd really warmed up to the action sequence in which the Huntsman, Sara and some dwarfs steal the magic mirror from a Minotaur guardian. The Huntsman: Winter’s War will be a bigger hit on DVD.

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FLICKS: The Jungle Book

Posted on 21 April 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


Two decades before Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan, an orphan raised by apes, Rudyard Kipling created Mowgli, an orphan raised by wolves. While Tarzan headlined his own series of African adventures in 25 novels, Mowgli is the main human character from an ensemble of characters featured in Kipling’s The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, which is set in the mysterious jungles of India.

Released in 1967, Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book was the last animated film influenced by a dying Walt Disney. The film is best remembered for its bouncy tunes (“Bare Necessities”) and optimism, which Disney insisted upon. However, Kipling’s original tales contain stark lessons about jungle law, mortality and dark truths.

Director John Favreau manages to balance the scary and the humor in the newest incarnation of The Jungle Book. From the breathtaking opening scenes to the final closing credits, this 105-minute family film needs to be seen on the big screen.

Kipling’s original The Jungle Book is a series of short stories in which Mowgli’s rite of passage is the narrative core. From alpha wolf Akela (voiced in the movie by Giancarlo Espositio), we learn the Law of the Jungle. From Baloo the sloth bear (Bill Murray), we learn the importance of letting the bare necessities of life come to you. For Mowgli (Nell Sethi), each encounter prepares this feral boy for his showdown with Shere Kahn (Idris Elba), the lame tiger who killed Mowgli’s parents.

The character animation is superb and expertly matches the vocal talent. Baloo the bear shares DNA with Murray’s lackadaisical Ghostbusters character. Elba’s voice is suitable for the villainous menace of Shere Kahn. In a cameo role, Scarlett Johansson’s vocal intonations provide slippery seduction as Kaa the Snake.

During the 2017 awards season, expect The Jungle Book to achieve many awards for visualization.

Pay the extra couple of bucks and see this film in 3-D, and the bigger the screen the better. The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science IMAX Theater will screen this film through Thursday, April 28.

Breathe deep, dear readers, the Summer Blockbuster Season has begun. Before Captain America Civil Wars, X-Men Apocalypse and Independence Day Resurgence start crowding each other, go see The Jungle Book on the big screen.

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FLICKS: I Saw the Light, PBiFF closes

Posted on 14 April 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


The Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBiFF) concludes this evening at the Cinemark 20 Palace in Boca Raton with the screening of Silver Skies, a film which premiered in South Florida six months ago at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. As a member of the ensemble cast, Florida’s suntanned ambassador George Hamilton appeared at the screening.

Having played Hank Williams in the MGM production of Your Cheatin’ Heart in 1964, I asked Hamilton that night about the buzz related to Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of the Alabama Legend in the now-released biopic I Saw the Light. Hamilton was very complimentary to Hiddleston and said, “This will be a different film. Being an independent film, they will be able to show things that we were unable to show with a big studio.”

To the producer’s credit, the new Hank Williams film does not get as down and dirty as it could in retelling the life of this country music legend. During the opening credits, the immaculately dressed Hank Williams sings a signature tune, as if he were giving a concert from heaven.

The film flashes back to 1944 when Hank is married to Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) by a justice of the peace in a gas station on a rainy night. The next scene features him in a performance that is interrupted by a jealous husband, upset with Hank’s song lyrics. These two abutted scenes best describe the final nine years of Hank Williams’ rollercoaster life.

With the deaths of John Belushi, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse we’ve all witnessed the tragedy of talented artists slain by personal demons.

Hank Williams was no exception. Given his medical ailment (Spina bifida), professional demands (touring 11 months of the year) and shattered domestic life (Audrey’s singing ambition marred by a total lack of talent), a sensitive man like Williams was doomed to fail.

The saying goes, “country music is three chords and the truth.” British Actor Tom Hiddleston’s performance serves this country music principle. The womanizing charm and alcoholic despair is given a unique vulnerability by Hiddleston’s dignified performance. He is matched every step in the way by Olsen’s balanced performance as Audrey, who is part lover, part shrew.

George Hamilton’s You’re Cheatin’ Heart was produced with Audrey Williams’ supervision. I Saw the Light is based on the book, Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt and William (Bill) MacEwen in an effort to cite objective sources.

While Hank Williams III (the singer’s grandson) has denounced the film and Hiddleston’s performance, I Saw the Light provides a fine introduction to music that has stood the test of nearly seven decades.

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Batman v. Superman, PBiFF opens & Cinema Dave to speak after The Searchers

Posted on 07 April 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


Tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Cinema Paradiso courtyard [503 SE 6 St., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301], Cinema Dave will attend the screening of John Ford’s masterpiece, The Searchers, starring John Wayne, and give a post-film discussion.

Acclaimed by the American Film Institute, this film inspired modern film titans like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino. Beyond breathtaking visuals and a compelling story, The Searchers is an American treasure that has withstood the test of time.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Despite the phenomenal box office, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will not stand the test of time. While not hating the movie as much as mainstream critics, viewers of Batman v. Superman are not as exuberant leaving the big screen as they were leaving Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Miracles from Heaven.

A direct sequel to Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice deals with the destruction created by the invaders from Superman’s home planet. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) lost employees who were collateral damage when General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Superman (Henry Cavill) flew through the Wayne Enterprise Building.

In the guise of his secret identity — intrepid reporter Clark Kent — Superman is concerned about the vigilante behavior of this Batman, Bruce Wayne’s covert identity. Lurking in the passive-aggressive background like a Siamese fighting fish is Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg), whose jealousy of Bruce Wayne and Superman plants the seeds for more mutual destruction.

Batman v Superman has some golden character moments portrayed by a strong supporting cast, most notably Diane Lane, the adorable Amy Adams, Larry Fishburne and Kevin Costner. The big letdown in this film is the showdown between the Dark Night and the Man of Steel.

The emotional connection one feels earlier in the film is lost amid the overblown special effects, which might have looked great on a giant IMAX screen. When released on DVD, Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice’s dullness will abound due to distracting technical flaws.

PBiFF opens

The Palm Beach International Film Festival opened last night. It has films in venues from Palm Beach Gardens to Boca Raton’s Cinemark Palace. The Cinemark Palace will close PBiFF with Silver Skies, a George Hamilton comedy that premiered at last year’s FLiFF.

Check out Ovation, which will be screened on Friday, April 8 and Wednesday, April 13. Directed by Henry Jaglom, Ovation is a romantic comedy about a stage actress who falls for a television star.

For information, visit the PBiFF website, www.pbifilmfest.org.


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FLICKS: Marguerite & Miracles from Heaven

Posted on 31 March 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


They don’t have much talent, but they got a lot of guts,” said my Aunt Virginia about a garage concert my cousins and I held on a backyard in Westfield, New Jersey, circa 1990. Encouraged by a family reunion and fueled by a keg of beer, we sang all forms of American tunes and Italian folk music. We were good, or so we thought. The video revealed a definite lack of vocal talent.

Set in an age before the advent of video recording (early 20th Century), Marguerite features a protagonist who believes she is an opera diva. Unfortunately for Marguerite (Catherine Frot), she is tone deaf and she cannot hear the limitations of her vocal intonations. However, she is a high society patron of the arts, so the Hoi Poloi crowd tolerates Marguerite’s scratchy vocals because of her generous donations to the arts.

In this narcissistic age, a film like Marguerite is very timely. The first half of the movie is very comedic as we watch hypocrites praise Marguerite to her face, but mock her behind her back. For the first 90 minutes, Marguerite is a satirical comedy; however, this film is over two hours long.

When Marguerite hears her first criticism, the film becomes more serious. To prove herself, she takes lessons from a second rate opera singer. Her goal is to sing at a opera house in Paris for a charity benefit. Marguerite concludes with many motifs that one expects from a five act opera.

While fictional, this film is based on a true story about a delusional American dowager who thought she could sing opera, but she sounded like Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer. This French language (with English subtitles) film won multiple awards at the Venice and Cesar film festivals. Marguerite opens tomorrow.

With the Lenten Season over and the further onslaught of Summer Blockbuster movies impending, take the time to see Miracles from Heaven. Based on a true story, Jennifer Garner stars as the mother of a sick child with a stomach disease. After many painful medical examinations and procedures, the daughter returns home and falls into a hollow oak tree. What happens next is a profound mystery.

After seeing the noir Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice with its computerized claustrophobia (more next week), Miracles from Heaven seemed like a breath of fresh air with amazing cinematography celebrating life. With the appearance of a special butterfly and a soulful rendition of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun,” Miracles from Heaven is the best feel good movie of the year.

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FLICKS: With a busy weekend at the box office, Hello, My Name is Doris shines

Posted on 24 March 2016 by LeslieM

flicks032416By the time people read this column, many will know who won the Batman v. Superman fight this Easter weekend. There is no denying the marketing juggernaut that DC Comics and Warner Brothers studios have created to compete with the Marvel/Disney comic book franchise. While Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is expected to dominate the box office, it will be the execution of story, character development and visual imagery that will determine the sustainability of the DC Comic book franchise.

There are many “human” alternatives to this comic book option. Having premiered at the Palm Beach International Film Festival 14 years ago, My Big Fat Greek Wedding changed the box office paradigm for independent film distribution. Writer and lead actress Nia Vardalos and her Big Fat Greek Wedding ensemble cast return this weekend for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.

The documentary Look at Us Now, Mother! expands this weekend at local theaters. The dysfunctional family pain is real, yet the theme of forgiveness is very appropriate this holiday weekend.

The most fun movie on the big screen this weekend is Hello, My Name is Doris. As the title character, Sally Field is getting her best notices as a leading lady since the 1980s. We have all met someone like “Doris” before, but Field adds depth to create a well-rounded character. Only an actress of Field’s caliber can balance the broad and subtle nuances of a truthful performance.

Doris is a frumpy gal who has lived too many years with her mother, who has recently departed. While taking an elevator ride to the office, she bumps up against artist John Fremont (Max Greenfield). Despite being three times John’s age, Doris feels a stirring in her womanhood. With subtle shades of Harold and Maude, My Name is Doris contains broad comedy in dream sequences.

Like a good episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, this film acknowledges pain. Screenwriters Laura Terruso and Michael Showalter (who also directed) use the pain to set up the punch line, which acts as a cathartic release. One golden moment features the nerdy Doris trying to dance to modern music. At first, she is stiff and awkward; but, by the end of the scene, Doris finds her beat and her mojo.

As I write this column, news of the Brussels terrorist attacks is unfolding. Say a prayer and find some soul refuge this Easter. There is plenty of escapism that can be found at your local movie theater this weekend. Make it a great Easter!

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FLICKS: Look at Us Now, Mother! & 10 Cloverfield Lane

Posted on 17 March 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


While Mother’s Day may be the best time to release this documentary, Look at Us Now, Mother! opens tomorrow in local theaters. With recent footage shot in Boca Raton, this film features writer/director Gayle Kirschenbaum’s strained relationship with her mother. Using family photos and Super 8mm home movies, one sees how similar mother and daughter Kirschenbaum really are. We learn that both generations of Kirschenbaums have fiery tempers. There are skeletons in the family closet that are exhumed during the course of this documentary.

Look at Us Now, Mother! is a documentary about forgiveness, and Gayle Kirschenbaum succeeds with her thesis. Through the fights and catty remarks, this film provides humor about family foibles.

The mysterious 10 Cloverfield Lane opened last week, exceeding box office expectations. Categorized as a horror movie, this film places emphasis on three characters with varied motivations.

Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) breaks up with her boyfriend (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and drives into a car accident. When she awakes, she has received medical care from Howard (John Goodman), a man with personality quirks. Howard informs Michelle that they have a roommate, Emmett (John Gallagher), who also has an injury. Howard claims he is protecting his guests from the enemies outside his bunker.

Unpredictable is what 10 Cloverfield Lane is all about. Clichés and red herrings are hinted at, but the narrative meanders from scares to light comedy and some sweet moments involving some pathetic people.

This film is producer J.J. Abram’s follow up to Cloverfield, a monster movie he produced eight years ago. Abrams has created his own Twilight Zone anthology for the big screen under the auspices of Cloverfield. Hopefully, he won’t wait another eight years to reveal his next one.

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