FLICKS: Hercules & Master Sang

Posted on 30 July 2014 by L.Moore

flicks073114By Dave Montalbano


Born in Seoul, South Korea in 1966, Sang Koo Kang immigrated to the United States and has lived the American Dream. His family settled in Miami and Sang drew attention for kicking field goals in High School. While Hurricane Coach Jimmy Johnson took notice of this young talent, Sang impressed the legendary Bobby Bowden and became the Florida State Seminole field goal kicker for four years. With his interest in martial arts, Sang Koo Kang earned the designation “Master Sang.”

Upon graduation in 1990, Master Sang opened a small martial arts studio in Miami Beach on Collins Avenue. Sang’s Academy has grown to several schools in Miami- Dade area and expansion into Coconut Creek. As for success, Sang says, “1. Make sure you have the right attitude, you are special and different from others. 2. Everything must be consistent, you have to find something and be the best at it.”

Director Brett Ratner cast Master Sang in Rush Hour 2 and 3 and, more recently, Sang was flown to Budapest, Hungary to contribute his expertise for Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson. Sang is philosophical about his involvement with the motion picture.

Brett Ratner is a genius, so smart with a good eye. Ratner gets his family involved and works with good action people. Going to Budapest and working with Brett Ratner helps set a good example for my children that they can do it.”

With $30 million in the box office treasure chest, Hercules is proving to be formidable summer blockbuster. Marketed as another “sword & sandals special effects extravaganza,” this film contains a good story with strong character development and clear action-packed visuals.

Based on the graphic novel The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, this Hercules debunks the “son of Zeus legend” with a story about a mortal mercenary and his team of myth-makers. The King of Thrace (John Hurt) recruits Team Hercules to train his country of farmers to become soldiers. After accomplishing this task, Thrace gains an empire.

Despite his box office success, Ratner is an under-rated filmmaker. Hercules tells an old story with a modern twist and is perfect for a matinee.

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15 Years of FLICKS; congrats, “Cinema” Dave

Posted on 30 July 2014 by JimLusk

Dave 2

“Cinema” Dave Montalbano Photo by Barbara McCormick

The Observer’s Flicks columnist celebrates 15 years

Congratulations to “Cinema” Dave Montalbano for successfully completing 15 years of coverage with his Flicks column. Steadfastly relaying information on current films playing at a theater near you, Montalbano, a 1981 Deerfield High School graduate and Florida State University alum, incorporates film history into every piece. His knowledge of the classics is evident and his love for cinema keeps him writing year after year. When not writing and watching movies, this former teacher and WAXY radio promotions coordinator spends time at local film festivals and Spooky Empire events, and dining with his mother, who just celebrated a 90th birthday not long ago. His “mortgage-paying job,” as he terms it, is with Broward County libraries. In addition, he is just finishing up his third novel. This one, still untitled, is themed Christian Horror, whereas his last, “Davy Jones & the Heart of Darkness” was set on the high seas. His first book, “The Adventures of Cinema Dave and the Florida Motion Picture World” includes many of his columns from The Observer as well as other historical tidbits and essays. What’s next in the world of Cinema Dave? Visit his blog to find out: http://cinemadave.livejournal.com.

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FLICKS: A Wolf at the Door, A Coffee in Berlin, A Most Wanted Man, Boyhood

Posted on 24 July 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


For the past 10 years, San Diego Comic-Con has become as much of a summer staple as the summer movie blockbuster season. While local businesses like CJ’s Comics, Tate’s Comics and Docking Bay plan local events, Hollywood studios will promote their agendas with Marvel Comics/Disney expected to announce their movie titles until 2019, featuring some of the final screen appearances of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man in their current incarnation.

Lacking the multimillion dollar promotional budget of comic books and cartoons, there are a series of independent films opening locally that could stand scrutiny. One such movie, Boyhood, is generating Oscar buzz for director Richard Linklater.

Filmed once every nine years, Linklater created three films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight) about the maturation of a couple played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Hawke returns in Boyhood, which has been filming for 11 years starting in 2002. The purpose of this project was to document the rites of passage of the film’s leading man, Ellar Coltrane as Mason Jr. (Hawke portrays Mason Sr.)

Given the current international crisis in Ukraine, A Most Wanted Man is a timely spy thriller about a half-Chechen, half-Russian fugitive who takes refuge in an Islamic community in Hamburg, Germany. This film is based on Jean Le Carre’s best-selling book of the same name.

This film also features Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s final performance in a leading role. This ensemble piece also features Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe. What the film lacks in big budgeted explosions, this thriller will make up with suspenseful character motivation.

A Coffee in Berlin seems to combine two elements of A Most Wanted Man and Boyhood. The winner of six German Academy Awards, A Coffee in Berlin is about the rite of passage for a college dropout slacker.

While the countdown to Halloween does not start until August, A Wolf at the Door opens this weekend and features a parent’s worst nightmare, child abduction. This Miami International Film Festival winner opens this weekend at Cinema Paradiso (www.fliff.com).

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FLICKS: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes & Gabrielle

Posted on 16 July 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


With the loss of the Star Wars franchise, 20th Century Fox has devoted much to their remaining science fiction franchises, X-Men and the rebooted Planet of the Apes series. Beyond the special effects and visual cinematography, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes succeeds for two reasons: a good story and strong character motivation.

The film takes place 10 years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar (Andy Serkis, an actor wearing a motion capture suit) has consolidated his ape regime to a park near San Francisco, while becoming a father of two. Unleashed during the closing credits of Rise, the simian flu has devastated the human population, who now live in disconnected city-states.

While on a scouting mission, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his family run afoul of Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s scarred right hand simian, who holds a grudge against all humans. While Caesar seeks a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Koba’s paranoia antagonizes the situation.

With a small amount of dialogue for an action movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is based on an intelligent screenplay. The motivations are clear and concise; both humans and apes struggle for the same goals, protecting one’s family. One relates to the struggles of both Malcolm and Caesar.

Given his work as Gollum, King Kong and Caesar, Andy Serkis’ performance should be considered for an Academy Award. Despite the special digital effects, Serkis manages to invest some heart into Caesar, while revealing character maturity from the last movie. I can’t wait to see how Caesar evolves in the next Planet of the Apes movie.

This film is a visual treat. Director Matt Reeves makes use of light and shadows to support the symbolism of the relationship between man and ape. Koba is definitely the best villain of the summer. The street battle between the militia and apes on horseback is worth the price of admission.

For those seeking a quieter movie experience, the awardwinning Gabrielle opens this weekend at The Living Room Theater. Gabrielle (played by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who has Williams syndrome in real life) suffers from a disability, but finds a connection singing in a choir at a recreational center. As the choir goes on a field trip, Gabrielle finds independence and a potential boyfriend.

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FLICKS: Transformers Ultracon & Life Itself

Posted on 09 July 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


In the past seven years, when I have reviewed the four Transformers movies, I have always begun each film with a sense of dread; the films are made for people 40 years younger than me, the action scenes are best suited for people with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and the plots will be inane. After acknowledging this prejudice, I ended up enjoying the Transformers franchise each time. Transformers: Age of Extinction is no exception.

The new flick opens with the mass extinction of a species, the dinosaur. The film flash forwards billions of years and evidence of a unique dinosaur is found in the Arctic circle. DNA is taken from dinosaur bones and is used for nefarious means by a government agent Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer, in a chilling performance) and corporate entrepreneur Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci, in a goofy performance).

Meet entrepreneur Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), a widowed father of high school senior Tessa (Nicola Peltz) who lives on a farm facing foreclosure in Texas. Cade converts trash into working Rube Goldberg machines. After tinkering with a beaten up old truck, Cade learns that the truck is really a Transformer. In fact, the beaten down truck is the alpha male Transformer Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).

Since the last movie (Revenge of the Fallen), many heroic Transformers have become outlaws. Despite defeating the evil Decepticons, the heroic Autobots are treated with extreme prejudice for turning Chicago into a battlefield. Harold Attinger takes advantage of this situation by making a deal with the devil.

Transformers: Age of Extinction has many likeable moments and Easter Eggs for cinema academics. The Optimus Prime truck is found in an abandoned movie theater, which features posters of John Wayne classics. The Science Fiction elements acknowledge Michael Crichton, Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft. This film deserves its success for providing detail beyond the surface of battling giant robots on the big screen.

For those who want to continue the alternative universe experience, Irving Santiago will present UltraCon of South Florida next weekend (July 19-20) at the Broward Convention Center. Fans of Transformers, Star Wars and comic books will want to attend this fan-friendly convention.

For those of more high-brow tastes, Life Itself, the documentary about the late film critic Roger Ebert, plays this weekend at Cinema Paradiso. The most respected of modern film critics, Ebert and I butted heads with each other on his blog regarding politics. With executive producers Steve Zallian and Martin Scorsese, Life Itself acknowledges this Chicago critic’s contribution to the history of cinema and his battle with throat cancer. Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary? You be the critic. For information , visit www.fliff.com

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FLICKS: Jersey Boys

Posted on 03 July 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Twenty-five summers ago, 105.9 WAXY FM sponsored a blockbuster concert at the Sunrise Musical Theater, starring The Four Tops and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. The show was magnificent and the people were dancing in the aisles. Minus The Four Tops, the same concert experience can be shared at your local movie theater with the screening of Jersey Boys this 4th of July weekend.

Based on a Tony Award winning show, Jersey Boys opens in Belleville, New Jersey in 1951. Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) breaks the 4th wall and talks directly to the audience about the birth of the band that would eventually become known as The Four Seasons. Tommy tells us about young Francesco Stephen Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young), who would grow up to become the legendary Frankie Valli.

Growing up in the streets of Jersey, Frankie, Tommy and two other Jersey Boys sing “Doo Wop” songs on the street corner, which is used as a distraction for their petty criminal activities. While Tommy and the other Jersey boys rotate in and out of the penitentiary, Frankie continues his career as a singer with a unique falsetto voice.

Enter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the lyricist who penned “The Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Polka Dot Bikini.” Gaudio joins the band and forms a tight friendship with Frankie. As Bob and Frankie become more successful, the egos of the other Two Seasons destroy the group.

With Director Clint Eastwood’s unfussy direction, this is the best musical on the big screen since Mama Mia. While his directorial representation rests on violent movies, Eastwood has always been a jazz and musical enthusiast. With Jersey Boys, Eastwood is able to direct a project that satisfies his own desires and that pays benefits for ticket buyers.

Having originated the role in the Broadway play, John Lloyd Young is able to capture the charisma of Frankie Valli in a subdued medium. With three pivitol scenes, Christopher Walken steals scenes as Gyp DeCarlo, a gangster with a soft spot for Frankie Valli’s singing.

A talented dancer in his own right, Walken performs in the final “curtain call” as the closing credits roll. Closing the show on an upnote, Jersey Boys is a nice air-conditioned distraction this 4th of July weekend.

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FLICKS: How to Train Your Dragon2, Le Chef & Living Easy with Eyes Closed

Posted on 26 June 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


It was during the ending of the first movie that I realized that How to Train Your Dragon was going for something deeper. With the onslaught of animated motion pictures, one felt a sense of diminishing returns, although the visuals, humor and musical score made the original Dragon film a cut above most offerings at the time. Would How to Train Your Dragon 2 survive high expectations?

It is the first moments of both brilliant and supple animation that one knows they are going on an epic journey. The first view is that of Nordic water. As the scope expands, one sees the depth of details on the island village of Berk. Our hero,

Hiccup (voiced again by Jay Baruchel), and his best friend, Toothless the dragon, are surveying uncharted isles. The two run afoul dragon poachers, who want to enslave dragons to take over Hiccup’s hometown. Hiccup warns his father and tribal chief, Stoick (Gerard Butler) and sidekick Gobber (Craig Ferguson) about the threat. When the name of “Drago” (Djimon Hounsou) is mentioned, Stoick prepares for the worst, (as Stoick said earlier, “Men who kill without reason are men you cannot reason with”).

Dragon 2 takes on a darker tone with a touch of Scottish melancholia. Parents be warned, there is a traumatic scene that is as stunning as Lassie getting shot in the paw. Somehow the film ends in triumph that does not seem forced.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a full epic presented in 98 minutes, with a score worthy of an Oscar nomination. Guillermo Del Toro and Drew Suzen are acknowledged in the credits for their contributions, most likely for so many visual Easter eggs. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has earned it’s box office and critical success.

A French comedy with English subtitles, Le Chef opens tomorrow. It stars Jean Reno and Michael Youn as bickering chefs who unite to challenge the status quo of snooty food critics and corporate downsizing. Based on a true story, this light comedy provides much mouth-watering close-ups of French cuisine.

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (Vivir es Facil con los Ojos Cerrados) is inspired by John Lennon’s visit to Spain, circa 1966. Spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, a classroom teacher uses Lennon’s lyrics to teach English to his students. Planning a road trip to meet the myopic Beatle, the teacher takes two passengers on his quest, a runaway and a pregnant teenager.

There are plenty of dramatic choices this weekend at the movies.

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FLICKS: Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow & Ida

Posted on 19 June 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


When Pan’s Labyrinth was released seven years ago, fairy tales were allowed to explore the dark side of metaphor if the film was successful. Some of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales presented gruesome descriptions of a wicked step-sister who sliced off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s slipper.

Maleficent is Walt Disney’s attempt to interpret the dark side of Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent tells the story of a flying fairy. When she confronts the heart of darkness, she is betrayed by “true love’s first kiss.” Proving that hell hath no fury like a fairy scorned, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) plots revenge upon her lost love, King Stephan (Sharlto Copley), who marries a Queen and has a daughter. When Princess Aurora is born, Maleficent places a curse upon the child.

From this point forward, the film creates a dead pan comedy showcase for Angelina Jolie. With excellent cinematography and artistic design, Jolie takes the underwritten material and creates a memorable character. Maleficent is not a great movie, but it’s a fun summer movie at a matinee price.

In the past nine years, it seems as if Tom Cruise, science fiction and summer are synonymous with the release of War of the Worlds, Oblivion and now Edge of Tomorrow. While Edge of Tomorrow has proven to be a box office disappointment, it will likely be remembered fondly as a DVD/Blu-ray release.

Tom Cruise plays a propaganda officer who is drafted to the front lines to combat an alien evil. He is killed in the field of battle. He comes back to life to fight again … and again … and again.

Things go slightly differently each time and the film takes on a similar tone to a Warner Bros. Road Runner cartoon, with Tom Cruise as Wile E. Coyote. Then Edge of Tomorrow tries to get serious again for a climactic moment, but one wonders if the climax is merely an illusion created from a well-intentioned dream.

For those seeking more grounded entertainment, Ida opens tomorrow. This Polish fi lm with English subtitles features a novice nun who learns that her family was a victim of Nazi war crimes. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida is a search for truth and identity.

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FLICKS: The Fault in Our Stars & Words and Pictures

Posted on 12 June 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The modestly budgeted The Fault in Our Stars provided a wide return of investment compared to the much hyped, big budgeted Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow. Given the manic energy and huge production costs of Summer blockbusters like Godzilla, X-Me: Days of Future Past and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Hollywood is examining “little” dramas like The Fault in Our Stars.

Words and Pictures opens tomorrow and this film qualifies as a “little” drama. The pace is deliberate, but not slow. The story features two strong protagonists who suffer from illness, but features some gorgeous cinematography. As a writer, I could not but feel that the “Words” people were given short shhrift compared to the “Picture” people. After all, the “Words” leader is personified by Professor Jack Marcus (Clive Owen – who looks like he is revisiting “Ernie” from his award-winning movie Hemingway & Gellhorn), while “Pictures” is represented by Professor Dina Delsanto (the lovely Juliette Binoche).

Professor Marcus is a scoundrel, but a charming one. Professor Delsanto is the Ice Queen with a warm heart. The two bicker and defend what is more important, “Words” or “Pictures?” A philosophical war is declared, with the outcome being decided by the student body of an Ivy League prep school.

The head games between Binoche and Owen are a delight to watch and listen to too. Being adults, the two strike each other like a fire poker, but know when to cool off in a moment of serious crisis. One sees both professors’ professionalism rise to the occasion when two students are involved with harassment charges.

Near the end, Words and Pictures suffers from a scene of over-the-top melodrama. However, the conclusion works and that is all that matters.

The best thing about this film is watching two artists overcome their own handicaps. While Clive Owen presents an easy vice – vodka and lime – Juliette Binoche’s character suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Words and Pictures is a worthy alternative to over produced and over hyped Summer Blockbuster

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FLICKS: Once upon a time in the Spooky Empire

Posted on 05 June 2014 by L.Moore

Cinema Dave and Heather Langenkamp (On left): Cinema Dave meets Heather Langenkamp

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.live journal.com

Like last year’s The Lone Ranger, Maleficent was skewered by urban elitist film critics upon release. Much like the recent release of Mom’s Night Out, there is a disparity between public perception and mainstream critics. With $69 million box office revenue, Maleficent proves that everything old is new again.

At a recent Spooky Empire convention [May-Hem, held May 30-June, 1 in Orlando], Grumpy himself — actor Lee Arenberg from the television show Once Upon a Time- addressed this disparity.

You do not know how much power the fans hold. Critics had judged The Lone Ranger even before it was released. Studios are putting more emphasis on computer metadata as generated by the fans.

While Walt Disney studios is best known for their animated fairy tales, the studios recent adaptations have taken on a darker tone. Last summer, the Magic Kingdom was forced to close their gates on “Villain’s Day” due to overcrowding. With this emphasis upon villainy, one has to ask “Do heroes matter?”

Best known for playing Freddy Krueger’s arch nemesis “Nancy” in The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, actress Heather Langenkamp addresses this question in her documentary, I am Nancy. Featuring writer/director Wes Craven and Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, Langenkamp asks the question, “Why Freddymania and not Nancymania?”

I am Nancy is a poignant documentary that is fan-based. The fans who Heather interviews come from all walks of life, i.e. doctors, lawyers, children, paraplegics, hearing impaired, victims of domestic violence. While most people agree that Freddy Krueger is “cool,” most people are really “Nancy.”

Instead of being a victim (for whatever reasons), Nancy chooses not to empower evil.

Langenkamp knows her success; she’s happily married with kids, owns her own business and aCinema Dave meets Godzilla-IF ROOMcts occasionally. She definitely understands that fine line between fantasy and reality.

Fairy tales, villains and monsters like Maleficent have been with us since the dawn of time. Through history, one sees how each generation interprets these stories. These interpretations often reflect a culture in decline or on the rise. As Langenkamp says at the end of her documentary, “Be Nancy.”

(On left): Cinema Dave meets Godzilla.

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