FLICKS: Arrival

Posted on 01 December 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

When I cover the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the first movie I try to see is the film with the best word of mouth. When I hosted the documentary, Conversations with Alan Ladd Jr., director Stanley Isaac expressed his admiration for Arrival, saying, “It’s always about the story.” The toughest critic I know is my big brother, who looked forward to seeing Arrival. The film lived up to his high expectation and we have been talking about this film throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

Arrival is a classic science fiction about a problem on planet Earth. It uses the scientific method that used to be taught in middle-school science acknowledge the problem, study the problem, create a hypothesis and then proceed to apply a solution. Unlike Star Trek or Star Wars fantasy, Arrival is grounded by physical science fiction along the lines of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Contact. Fans of authors H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five will appreciate the Easter eggs related to the theory of time. Brush up on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity also.

We are introduced to Professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and her daughter. Within five minutes of screen time, we learn that the daughter dies of a rare form of Cancer and the mother grieves. Dr. Banks, a linguist expert, is then summoned by the military with the arrival of aliens from outer space. While the threat appears to be benign, the world reaction grows increasingly tense.

With the help of theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Dr. Banks overcomes the language barrier and communicates with heptapods – seven limbed star creatures that look like giant squids. As the aliens and humans become more intimate with each other, Dr. Banks subconscious becomes affected in which her dreams, nightmares and reality intersect.

Arrival is a thinking person’s motion picture. To director Denis Villeneuve’s credit, he clearly expresses Arrival’s simple narrative, despite multiple character details filled with dreamlike imagery. This film demands rapt attention and it is a film best seen in the afternoon to grasp all the film’s nuances.

It is Amy Adams’ performance that acts as a conduit between academic theory and human emotion. Her grief is real, as is her initial fear of the seven limbed heptapods, who they nickname Abbott & Costello. Her growth is real and one appreciates Louise Banks’ good days when she smiles later in the picture.

In the next couple of weeks, there will be plenty of science fiction movies that will be used to sell toys, including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Star Wars Rogue One) Arrival is a special film that will appeal to one’s head as well as their heart.

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FLICKS: Moana, Inner Workings & FLIFF wraps

Posted on 23 November 2016 by LeslieM

flicks112416By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Moana kicks off the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. Based on a Polynesian myth, Moana is an entertaining movie that the whole family can see together without any embarrassing moments for grandparents and grandchildren.

The legend of Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) is revealed early in the movie. Maui was tasked with bringing the heart of Te Fiti gem to Mother Earth. When Maui bumbles the job, the balance of nature is upset for one thousand years.

The ocean summons young Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) to rescue Maui and return the gem. Through a series of adventures and battles with coconut pirates and giant fire monsters, Moana finds Maui and learns important life lessons.

While the musical numbers lack the strength of Frozen and other Disney Classics, Moana features a good story with a satisfying climax. The verdant visuals make Moana a good flick for holiday viewing.

Inner Workings is a delightful six-minute short subject that screens before Moana. The film introduces a protagonist who goes to work in a mundane job. When he listens to his heart, the hero changes himself and changes his world.

The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival wrapped Sunday night and The Boy By the Sea remains the best seven minutes of festival celluloid. The India-Australia flick Lion won the best of the fest and features Nicole Kidman and David Wenham as an Australian couple who help a lost Indian boy.

Also in the fest was Stanley Isaac’s It’s about the Story – Conversations with Alan Ladd Jr., a 40-minute documentary about contemporary motion picture history. The son of a movie star, Ladd Jr. worked behind the scenes of Hollywood and green lit movies like Young Frankenstein and Star Wars. Ladd’s box office track record is amazing and, hopefully, in the next couple of weeks we will see some motion pictures that will rival Alan Ladd Jr.’s resume.

[These were just a few of the films available for viewing. Did you miss the fest? There is always next year. Plus, their headquarters at Savor Cinema in Ft. Lauderdale has movies scheduled all year long. Find out more information at www.fliff.com.]

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FLICKS: FLIFF – respecting the past & honoring the future

Posted on 17 November 2016 by LeslieM

flicks111716By “Cinema Dave”

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Thus far, the best seven minutes of sustained entertainment from the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) has been viewing The Boy By The Sea, a short subject from Latvia, directed by Vasily Chuprina. The premise is simple: an old, lighthouse keeper watches a boy skimming stones in the water. The sad boy tells his story and forms a new friendship with the old man. With minimal dialog (in Danish with English subtitles), The Boy By The Sea sustains its narrative, introduces interesting characters and provides visual symbolism that promotes heartfelt discussion. What Doctor Strange does with a $165 million production budget in two hours, The Boy By The Sea does in seven minutes. Kudos to Vasily Chuprina!

FLIFF wraps up this weekend, with the grand finale being held at Bailey Hall in Davie Sunday night. After an afternoon screening of Ed Wood, Best Supporting Oscar Winner Martin Landau will attend the screening of The Red Maple Leaf, a Canadian film directed by Frank D’Angelo, who also wrote the screenplay. Co-Sponsored by Steve Savor, Dr. Lucy Marrero, Janet Leavy Schwartz and Irwin Levenstein, Martin Landau will accept his Lifetime Achievement Award. On this night, the festival awards for best picture, best documentary, best short subject and other categories will be announced.

At 31 years, FLIFF has become the champion film festival of our community and has done so by respecting history, but with an eye on new trends and talent. This was never so evident than last Friday afternoon, Veteran’s Day, in which Palm Beach resident Arlene Dahl received her Lifetime Achievement Award and Ft. Lauderdale’s own Bailee Madison screened Anabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket, the 17-year-old actress’ first producer credit.

A veteran of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Arlene Dahl shared how her leading men were too serious (John Payne) and villainous character actors (Ted de Corsia) had a wonderful sense of humor. From her Norwegian mother, Dahl learned the value of hard work and to live a simple life. While being interviewed by Brooklyn college film professor Foster Hirsch, Dahl shared her first meeting with Clark Gable at a prestigious MGM gala. Intimidated at first by meeting this popular box office star, the two shared a wonderful evening discussing fly fishing. To see Dahl’s full interview, visit my YouTube Channel, www.YouTube.com/CinemaDave.

After flying in from Toronto, where she is shooting The Good Witch for the Hallmark Channel, Bailee Madison accepted her Young Filmmaker’s Award at the Savor Cinema. While generously sharing the spotlight with her Annabelle Hooper cast and crew, Bailee acknowledged each individual who wanted to meet her, pose with her or get an autograph. Since her last appearance at FLIFF four years ago, Bailee acknowledged receiving more attention and flash photography, given her body of work on the big screen, cable and broadcast television. She acknowledges how good it is to return home to South Florida.

The box office juggernaut for the Harry Potter prequel kicks off this weekend with J.K.Rowling’s, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is likely to have a trailer for Kong: Skull Island. The next week, the holiday Disney animated movie Moana opens featuring the voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which is likely to have a trailer for Beauty and the Beast, which stars an adult Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies.

Given the recent election cycle, we have survived some “beastly” days. However let us take the time to enjoy the “beauty” of the upcoming holidays. As I learned from The Boy By The Sea, beauty is where you find it.

If you are looking for a few treasures for the holidays, then check out the FLIFF Silent Auction at www.32auctions.com/FLIFF2016.

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FLICKS: Doctor Strange & FLIFF

Posted on 10 November 2016 by LeslieM

ficks111016By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Photos by Rachel Galvin

With very little surprise, Doctor Strange dominated the weekend with $84 million in box-office gross. It is typical Marvel comic-book entertainment as we are introduced to neurosurgeon Stephen Strange, M.D. After losing his hands to paralysis in a car accident, Doctor Strange goes to Nepal for alternative medicine.

While healing, Strange learns about the invisible universe that was introduced briefly in last year’s Marvel epic, Ant-Man. With metaphysical carny tricks added to his medicine bag, he battles a villain (Mads Mikkelsen). While there is no rush to go see this Saturday matinee flick, visiting the astral plane with Doctor Strange provides alternative entertainment.

The second week of Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) also provides alternative cinema to please both young and old this Friday, Nov. 11 at Savor Cinema (503 SE 6 St., Ft. Lauderdale)

2 p.m.: Brooklyn College film professor Foster Hirsch will conduct an interview with Arlene Dahl, a veteran Warner Brothers actress who performed in both crime noir and musicals.

4:30 p.m.: Bailee Madison returns to Fort Lauderdale to screen Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket, Bailee’s first producer credit. Stick around for a pizza party afterward.

Tomorrow Ever After makes its east coast premier Friday, Nov. 18 at the Cinema Paradiso Hollywood (2008 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood) and on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the Savor Cinema. A time traveler from the 26th century (Ela Thier, who also wrote and directed) arrives in Manhattan during the historical period known as “The Great Despair,” which happens to be the year 2015.

FLIFF is putting an emphasis upon foreign movies this year. Movies from the U.K., Caribbean, Chili and Israel will be the focus this weekend at Savor and Hollywood Cinemas. For ticket prices and times, contact 954-525 FILM or visit www.fliff.com.

Unrelated to FLIFF, Silverspot Cinemas in Coconut Creek has invited this film columnist to host a series of “Spaghetti Westerns” starring Clint Eastwood. On Monday. Nov. 14, enjoy a spaghetti dinner complete with wine at 6 p.m. followed by the film A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone with a classic musical score by Ennio Morricone at 7 p.m.

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FLICKS: Inferno & FLIFF

Posted on 03 November 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

With much disappointment from both the publishing and motion picture worlds, Dan Brown’s Inferno made less than 20 percent of the film’s production budget. Inferno features the same formula we’ve already seen in The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. The new film offers a new wrinkle in which our hero, Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), suffers from memory loss. With great location shots in Florence and Venice, Inferno is not a bad movie, just a tired one.

High energy will be needed for the next three weeks as the 31st Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) kicks off this Friday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. Dreamland is the feature film and it is truly a family affair. Directed by Robert Coppola Schwartzman, Dreamland features his mom Talia Shire and Beverly D’Angelo, who are expected to be in attendance for a Q & A and the opening night party. Most of the 43 feature films, 62 shorts and 20 plus student films with be screened at Savor Cinemas Ft. Lauderdale and Cinema Paradiso in Hollywood. Savor Ft. Lauderdale will host an Italian Film and Party Sunday night at 6 p.m. and there will be the usual cruise on Sunday.

Seeking to be fair and balanced, Festival Director & CEO Gregory von Hausch will be screening Michael Moore’s Trumpland and Dinesh D’Souza’s Hillary’s America on Monday afternoon.

Later that evening, Chief Zabu will make its east coast premier. Produced over 25 years ago, this offbeat comedy features character actor Allen Garfield and Zack Norman (who also directed) as real estate developers who seek to build on a small Polynesian island.

On election night, the Savor Cinemas will feature a “Nail Biter Buffet” and live election coverage. Regardless of political affiliation, this should be a fun night for both winners and losers.

Veteran’s Day weekend will keep FLIFF’s tradition of interesting programming. Besides appearances from Arlene Dahl and Bailee Madison, there will be a free screening of Fury, a World War II drama about tank combat.

For ticket prices, times and all locations, contact 954-525-FILM or visit www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: The Handmaiden, Spooky Empire & Fright Asylum

Posted on 27 October 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Next Valentine’s Day, the 50 Shades of Grey sequel opens, a popular film and DVD that no one in public admits to enjoying. After seeing the trailer for The Handmaiden, which opens tomorrow in select theaters, I thought I was going to see the Asian version of 50 Shades of Grey. Instead, I was surprised to watch a gothic romance along the lines of Wuthering Heights and Dangerous Liaisons.

With English subtitles, this Korean film is divided into 3 parts. The handmaiden dominates part one. Sook-Hee is the handmaiden who goes to work for Lady Hideko, who owns a large mansion with a big library. Working with the scoundrel, Count Fujiwawa, the Handmaiden seeks to rob Lady Hideko.

Part 2 presents another side of the relationship between Lady Hideko and Count Fujiwawa. We learn about some of the kinky secrets from the library, which both disgusts and inspires the protagonists and antagonists. Part 3 wraps up the plot threads with either a beautiful climax or a kinky climax, depending on one’s point of view.

The Handmaiden is likely to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language motion picture. The cinematography and texture is full of detail, which enhance the story. There are many ugly moments in The Handmaiden, but there are many beautiful, aquarian scenes. It is a full artistic experience.

Being Halloween weekend, Dan Brown’s Inferno opens tomorrow, including a limited release at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery IMAX Theater. Set in Florence, Italy and featuring clues gleaned from Dante’s Inferno, director Ron Howard has admitted that he directed scenes in the mode of a horror movie.

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew, Spooky Empire was forced to close their annual October horror convention in Orlando on Oct. 8. In order to recoup their losses, founders Petey and Gina Mongelli have rescheduled the convention to Dec. 2nd weekend and are recruiting celebrities to return. Thus far, original headliners “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kane Hodder and Nature Boy Ric Flair have committed to return.

For the latest updates of Halloween events this weekend, check out www.FrightAsylum.com. While mostly a horror movie review show, creator Woody Meckes does like to “trip the light fantastic” with special episodes. This week’s Fright Asylum celebrates monsters, mayhem and comedy, full of tricks and treats. Happy Halloween!

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FLICKS: Once in a Lifetime & The Girl on the Train

Posted on 19 October 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

It has been 21 years since I produced A Tribute to the Men and Women of the World War II Generation with 133 6th graders at Loggers’ Run Community Middle School. The presentation featured big band numbers, a chorus inspired by the Andrew Sisters and testimonials that induced a few tears from some very hardened middle-aged teachers and 12-year-olds. I’m proud of this program and the fact that some of my former students have remained in touch with me via Facebook. A French film with English subtitles, Once in a Lifetime took me back to my experiences from two decades ago.

Based on a true story and filmed at the actual high school where the movie was originally filmed, Once in a Lifetime introduces us to Anne Gueguen (Ariane Ascaride), a history teacher. Talking to her diverse student body, Ms. Gueguen informs her jaded students that she is entering them into a contest. The subject is the Holocaust and students balk about learning “ancient history.”

Co-written by Ahmed Dramé (who portrays one of the students), the French high school looks and sounds like an American classroom. There is multiple rivalry between the diverse cultures that create tension. Gueguen allows her students their moments to speak, but she carefully crafts their arguments into understanding. Once the boundaries of mutual respect are established, Gueguen brings in a guest speaker, Léon Zyguel, a Holocaust survivor.

In an age when educational socialization is emphasizing pressing the buttons on the latest technology (that may be obsolete in five years), Once in a Lifetime is a reminder of the importance of classroom debate and discussion. This is a riveting motion picture for nearly two hours.

Last week, I mentioned Haley Bennett’s earthy performance in The Magnificent Seven. Proving to be a chameleon, the actress portrays an opposite role as Megan in The Girl on the Train, based on the best-selling novel by Paula Hawkins.

Emily Blunt portrays Rachel as the girl in The Girl on the Train. She is an alcoholic who suffers from blackouts. As she commutes to the city via railroad, she spies a suburban couple living Rachel’s ideal life. With a pang of jealousy, Rachel finds relief in drinking vodka from her water bottle.

The Girl on the Train is an interesting thriller until it reaches its climax, which stumbles into unintentional humor. However, this film will be remembered for Blunt’s vulnerable performance, which has received some Oscar buzz.

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FLICKS: The Magnificent Seven

Posted on 12 October 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

When The Hateful Eight was released last year, one hoped for a revival for the wide open spaces of the Western genre. Instead, we were given a claustrophobic drama with eight people screaming tedious Quentin Tarantino dialogue at each other.

Whereas the story of The Hateful Eight was weak, the story of The Magnificent Seven is as strong as ever. The current version of The Magnificent Seven is the second interpretation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the Japanese movie that inspired the American Western starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach and Steve McQueen.

The 1960 American version features a classic musical score composed by Elmer Bernstein. The late James Horner and Simon Franglen composed current version of The Magnificent Seven theme song, which features a few notes from Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns. These aural elements enhance the viewing experience on the big screen.

All three movies share a similar narrative, but all three movies provide a fresh perspective of seven gunfighters who unite for a common principle. This current version of The Magnificent Seven opens with a town hall meeting inside a church. Robber Baron Bart Boque (Peter Sarsgaard) tells the community to get off of his land. The community rebels and Bogue’s henchmen kill the townfolk, making Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) a widow.

Seeking justice, Mrs. Cullen rides into a neighboring town and catches the eye of Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a certified bounty hunter. Hearing Mrs. Cullen’s story and being offered a modest stipend, Chisolm starts recruiting fellow gunfighters to defend the town.

Gambler and amateur magician Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) is the first recruit. Chilsom reunites with an old friend, Goodnight (Ethan Hawke) who brings along a new partner, Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a knife-wielding prodigy. While on the trail, Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia Rulfo) and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) join the merry band and become The Magnificent Seven.

Full of great one-liners and cowboy proverbs, The Magnificent Seven deserves a better fate at the box office. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun) knows how to direct action movies with human empathy. This film touches everybody’s nobler side.

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FLIFF & Silver Skies

Posted on 05 October 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The 31st Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) unveiled its poster at Oceans 234 in Deerfield last Wednesday night, Sept. 28. At the poster dedication, President and CEO Gregory Von Hausch announced the premier of over 100 films in 17 days in November.

Besides turning sweet 16, actress Bailee Madison returns to FLIFF with Annabelle Hooper & The Ghosts of Nantucket, Bailee’s debut film as a producer. While most of the films will be screened at the Savor Cinema in Fort Lauderdale (formerly Cinema Paradiso, at 503 SE 6 St., Ft. Lauderdale), Dreamland will open the festival at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood) on Friday, Nov. 4. Directed by Robert Schwartzman, Dreamland features performances by his brother Jason Schwartzman and his mother Talia Shire (known from performances like Rocky and The Godfather), who will be in attendance that evening.

Having earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Martin Landau will accept the FLIFF Lifetime Achievement Award. Along with co-stars Armand Assante and Michael Pare, Landau is expected to attend the screening of The Red Maple Leaf, the official closing night FLIFF film. In addition, Foster Hirsch returns to interview stage and screen legend, Arlene Dahl. These are just a few of the events and films planned for the film festival. Find out more and get tickets at www.fliff.com.

While the stalwart George Hamilton is not expected to attend this year’s festival, his film from last year’s FLiFF opens tomorrow, Silver Skies. This film is an ensemble comedy about seasoned citizens who are facing the foreclosure of their rental community.

Hamilton portrays Phil, an Alzheimer patient who thinks he is Dean Martin sometimes. Phil’s roommate, Nick (Jack McGee) sells programs at the racetrack. Each morning, they share breakfast with Eve (Barbara Bain) and Mickey (Jack Betts) who often gossip about the reclusive Harriet (Mariette Hartley), especially when a young, well dressed, black man visits her apartment three times a week.

While the foreclosure is the serious narrative, Silver Skies features comedic behavior from the main protagonists. There are also neighborhood romances featuring the [hussy] next door, Ethel (Valerie Perrine) and a recent widower, Frank (Alex Rocco), which is actually quite touching.

Not all of Silver Skies works. There is a scene involving sexual assault that is too graphic for the tone of this movie. However, the scene does set up a Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky joke that redeems it.

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FLICKS: Come What May & 31

Posted on 29 September 2016 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Come What May opens tomorrow in local cinema. This serious film presented in multiple languages about 1940 European refugees seems very timely given current affairs regarding immigration. It is not a political film. It is the story about individuals coping with a homeland that has gone mad.

As the Nazis overrun France, a local mayor leads his citizens into the country. The villagers take with them a German child whose father (August Diehl) opposed the Nazi regime and has been jailed for lying about his nationality. The father escapes jail to search for his son, accompanied by a Scottish soldier (Matthew Rhys), who is trying to get back to England.

Lacking the budget of a major studio, Come What May still provides some riveting action sequences. One sequence features a Nazi airplane shooting at a young boy in a moving automobile. As the machine gun misses its target, you can see collateral damage — a home destroyed, an automobile and a bruising example of the fog of war. The final result, however, is that Come What May is a life-affirming movie.

It is 31 days before Halloween and that happens to be the name of Rob Zombie’s new crowd-funded, horror epic. 31 refers to a vicious game involving killer clowns who hold hostages captive in a warehouse. The object for the victim is to simply survive. Set on Halloween in 1976, the hostages are a troupe of carnival employees who are ill-equipped to play the game.

Horror movies work best with a simple plot and 31 liberally borrows from the Richard Connell’s short, story classic The Most Dangerous Game and Stephen King’s The Running Man. The conflict is visceral, with several theatrical touches that suggest pseudo-intellectual depth.

As the masters of ceremonies, Malcolm McDowell, Judy Geeson and Jane Carr watch the game and wager on the sidelines. The voice of Malcolm McDowell is by far the most horrific aspect of 31. Reminiscent of the classic radio programs like Inner Sanctum, Suspense and The Twilight Zone, McDowell’s vocal intonation provides a pure “theater-of-the-mind” experience.

Unfortunately, the visualization does not live up to McDowell’s vocal artistry. Due to murky cinematography and fast-paced editing, the showdown between the killer clowns with funny names (Sex-Head, Doom-Head, Sick-Head) and the hostages become the dullest part of 31.

Don’t lose hope, Halloween movie fans, there is much positive Oscar buzz for A Monster Calls featuring Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones, and directed by J.A. Boyana, known for films like The Orphanage and The Impossible.

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