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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FLICKS: The D Train and Tangerines

Posted on 14 May 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


When the original Poltergeist was released in the summer of 1982, I was disturbed by one scene.

It wasn’t the scene where the man ripped his face off or when the corpses attacked JoBeth Williams in the pool, but the scene when a child caught their parents smoking a joint.

A national film columnist claimed the scene was “charming.” I was concerned about the pot smoking parents being a poor role model.

Hollywood did clean up act and actually supported First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. Perceptions changed when candidate Bill Clinton talked about smoking marijuana — but not “inhaling.” Thirty years later, recreational drug usage has become status quo in popular culture.

This perception is evident in Jack Black’s new movie, The D Train. Black portrays Dan Landsman, chairman of his high school reunion committee. Despite being married with a teenage boy, Landsman is not very well liked by his committee members. When spotting his classmate Oliver Lawless (James Marsden) in an exotic television commercial, Landsman decides to recruit the seemingly successful movie star.

Oliver and Dan hit it off, do drugs, meet movie stars and have a one night stand with each other.

After recruiting Oliver, Dan returns, the conquering hero. Yet, Dan feels conflicted about cheating on his wife with another man; but still enjoys the limelight of being the reunion king.

Having played the same role for over a decade, Jack Black makes some punch lines work with his unique facial expressions, much like Jack Benny would do when he would look at the audience and slap his face. However, this film lacks empathy from the very beginning and this film cannot be saved by facial expressions. The D Train is a train wreck.

For more serious fare, Tangerines opens tomorrow at the Living Room Theater on the FAU Campus. Nominated for Best Foreign Language motion picture, this film explores the 1992 conflict between two former satellite nations of the former Soviet Union.

Amidst the conflict, a farmer attempts to grow tangerines. Two opposing and injured soldiers end up on the farmer’s doorstep. Despite vows to kill each other, the two warriors use their recovery time to consider new perspectives about the bucolic world they are now living in.

With Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2 opening this weekend, Tangerines is a vacation from the ordinary film.

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FLICKS: Felix and Meira, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted on 07 May 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


One of the stereotypes about comic book fans is how lonely individuals come out of the woodwork for a comic book movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron.

With a domestic gross of $191 million, lonely individuals found unity at local movie theaters this past weekend.

Slightly down the evolutionary box office chain is Felix and Meira, which opens this weekend in limited South Florida cinemas.

This is a quiet motion picture about two lonely people who find each other (without the virtue of comic books).

Felix (Martin Dubreuil) is grieving the loss of his father. Meira (Hadas Yaron) is a new mother who is trapped in a loveless marriage to a Hassidic man. Living for years in the same Montreal neighborhood, Felix and Meira meet for the first time as adults.

As Felix and Meira grow and learn about themselves, their friendship becomes more passionate. Traveling from Brooklyn, New York to Venice, Italy, the two develop a deeper connection by finding new interests in things like dancing and blues music.

Will Felix and Meira’s relationship prosper? Stay tuned to the last frame of film and draw your own conclusion.

The conclusion of Avengers: Age of Ultron is solid, but open-ended enough to carry the Marvel supehero comic book franchise through 2019. With nine previous motion pictures produced since 2008, the wisdom of each of these Marvel films is the self-contained storyline of each motion picture. It just enhances one’s viewing pleasure if one is more familiar with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America’s (Chris Evans) personal motivations.

After a successful raid on Baron Stucker’s castle, the Avengers party in Manhattan. The science bros. (Iron Man & Hulk) skip out of the festivities to experiment with Loki’s scepter and create an artificial intelligence that names itself Ultron (James Spader). Ultron assumes command of Iron Man’s technology and decides the best course to achieve peace in our time is to exterminate the human race.

With echoes of classic mad scientists like Dr. Frankenstein (Iron Man) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Hulk), Avengers: Age of Ultron strives to be a darker version of the original Avengers movie from three years ago. That is why this new film is not as much fun as the previous incarnation. In terms of antagonists, Ultron lacks the charisma of Loki and this film misses the clear moment when good defeats evil.

In the following weeks, the big budgeted Tommorowland and Mad Max: Fury Road are on deck to knock Avengers: Age of Ultron off the box office throne. However, don’t ignore smaller marketed movies like Felix and Meira, Iris and D Train.

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FLICKS: Summer blockbuster season begins; don’t overlook independent films

Posted on 30 April 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


With three superhero sequels and three years of multiple mixed media hype, Avengers: The Age of Ultron is destined to be coronated as the 2015 Summer Blockbuster Champion. The Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science is already reporting sold out shows this weekend. Those with access to Wikipedia can learn all the plot and character spoilers before even seeing the latest Marvel Comics epic.

For those unable to get a ticket for this film, there are plenty of opportunities to see thought provoking cinema. 24 Days is a serious French language movie that is timely. A young man is kidnapped and held for ransom because the criminals think he is from a rich family because they are Jewish. This film looks at the stereotypical perceptions that prolong the rescue and recovery of a victim. The film won the Jerusalem Film Festival Lia Award for discussing anti-Semitism in France and warning about when dangerous threats go unchecked.

Presented by Pedro Almodovar, Wild Tales is a Spanish comedy anthology about revenge. Writer/director Damián Szifrón takes six commonplace situations (wedding planning, car traffic), inflicts some conflict and creates a comedy of apocalyptic proportions. It will be exclusively screening at Cinema Paradiso in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend (www.fliff.com for details).

In two weeks, on May 8, the documentary Iris opens. The film focuses on Palm Beach resident Iris Apfel and her contributions to the world of fashion merchandising. She is a pure socialite who travels twice a year to Europe and has artwork on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Also opening the same weekend is Felix and Meira, a multicultural movie that premiered at the recent Toronto Film Festival. Felix and Meira are two individuals who live in the same neighborhood, but never met due to their religious upbringing.

On May 15, Tangerines opens. Nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best foreign motion pictures, Tangerines is in both Estonian and Russian languages. This film features two opposing soldiers who are wounded, but end up being nursed in the same home.

As high school graduation rolls around in June, reserve a ticket for The D Train. Starring Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn and James Marsden. This comedy is about a high school reunion committee that is tasked with finding the most popular guy from high school. I wonder if he is a Marvel superhero.

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