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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FLICKS: The Clouds of Sils Maria

Posted on 23 April 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The Clouds of Sils Maria is a two-hour piece of visual poetry. But people who keep reviewing the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer …for the 47th time … might not appreciate the slow pace, beautiful scenery and levels of emotional subtext. The film invokes memories of the 1970s, when Ingmar Bergman, Louis Malle and Francois Truffant films enjoyed the limelight on the marquee of art house cinemas.

The film opens on a crowded train. Valentine (Kristen Stewart) is the handler for veteran actress Maria Enders (Julliette Binoche), who is enroute to a film festival to accept a lifetime achievement award for her auteur director, Wilhelm Melchoir. Melchoir had directed a play that made Maria a young star … 20 years ago.

A hotshot new generation director wants to direct the same play and cast Maria as older rival. This forces Maria to escape to Sils Maria and contemplate. Taking Valentine with her, Maria escapes to the bucolic beauty of the white mountains. Despite having a constant companion who’s connected with current trends and fads in show business, Maria suffers from bouts of loneliness and a sense of impending mortality.

An Oscar winner for The English Patient, Juliette Binoche is Europe’s answer to Meryl Streep. With subtle nuance, Binoche makes her Maria Enders a full character, consistent with quirky contradictions. She is not afraid to let herself look ugly during emotionally revealing scenes. At age 50, Binoche holds her own in a brief skinny dipping scene with Kristen Stewart.

As she puts her Twilight years behind her, Stewart is garnering her best notices for her supporting work in this film, for which she won the Cesar Award in France, and also in Still Alice. Stewart’s Valentine first reveal presents a tough multitasking front for her boss. Yet, in the mountains of Sils Maria, Valentine’s emotional shield begins to crumble. The interplay between the 25-year-old Stewart and the 50-year-old Binoche resonates with a rare truth found in movies these days.

This film is full of subtle symbolism. Yet, director/ writer Olivier Assayas does not get bogged down with art house intentions, but creates some fine comedic moments between Binoche and Stewart. Some of the best laughout- loud moments involves Chloe Grace Morentz as the flaky female lead who will be portraying the young Juliette Binoche.

The Clouds of Sils Maria cannot compete with the box office juggernauts of 50 Shades of Gray or Furious 7. However, Juliette Binoche’s performance has haunted more than Dakota Johnson and Michelle Rodriquez.

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FLICKS: 5 to 7, Fall to Rise

Posted on 16 April 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The juggernaut known as Furious 7 has netted a quarter of a billion dollars box office gross thus far, with the hype for Avengers: Age of Ultron dominating media outlets. Still, there is some quieter fare opening tomorrow, with stories about dancers and a novelist set in New York City.

Written and directed by Jayce Bartok, Fall to Rise features the story of two ballerinas in the twilight of their careers. Lauren (Katherine Crockett) is a ballet star who was let go due to injury. She is also a new mother who is married to a lawyer (Kohl Sudduth). Lauren’s instinct to return to stage is stronger than her maternal instinct.

Like Rocky Balboa, Lauren reunites with her Mickey Goldmill – Shelia (Daphne Rubin-Vega), a former ballet star who works at a dance studio for little girls. Shelia trains Lauren and gets her into prima ballerina shape. Despite the physical difficulties it takes to achieve center stage, it is Shelia and Lauren’s domestic lives that are far more difficult.

This film takes the viewer to the backstage territory that we visited in Birdman, just a few blocks away, minus the pulsating jungle rhythm. It’s a simpler story to follow, but not without some Greenwich Village avant-garde moments. During her emotional breakdown, Shelia goes to a comedy club and bares her soul to a puppet with Johnny Carson/ Jimmy Fallon mannerisms. This sequence seems out of place with the rest of the movie, but it also is the most interesting scene.

5 to 7 is a 93-minute romantic comedy about a novelist. Brian (Anton Yelchin) meets Arielle (Berenice Marlohe) and they share a cigarette. The two develop chemistry and agree to meet each other every Friday evening from 5 to 7. Complications arise when Brian learns that Arielle is a married woman with two children.

With a light touch, this film is a comedic rite-of-passage tale about the birth of a writer. The film drags during the conclusion when the moral to the story is revealed, but the lag is forgivable. Despite being in summer blockbuster movie franchises (Star Trek, Terminator), Yelchin has proven to be a successful actor on the independent film circuit. Being New York based, the producers managed to recruit Glenn Close & Frank Langella in small but pivotal roles as Yelchin’s parents. These parents provide genuine comedic highlights.

While most Manhattan ballet dancers will prefer Fall to Rise, most audiences will find 5 to 7 an engaging flick for a matinee price.

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FLICKS: Furious 7, X+Y and Walking Man

Posted on 09 April 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Over the Easter weekend, Furious 7 broke box office records for an April release. With a gross of 147 million, this film owes much to the well-promoted tribute to the late Paul Walker, who passed away last fall from a tragic car accident.

The tribute is a fine one, with visions of poetry. People left the movie in tears.

For a full evening price ticket, it is disappointing to write that Furious 7 is not a successful movie overall. The set-up is good. As always, the characters are engaging and new villain Jason Statham gives both Vin Diesel & Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson their lumps. The first big action sequence in the mountains is thrilling; but, as the action progresses, the reliance apon computerized special effects diminishes any sense of danger.

As long as Vin Diesel feels like producing this Fast and Furious series of movies, expect a “Fast 8” in 2017. This 15-year-old series revolves around a core group of individuals that resembles a family dynamic. Every two years, it’s nice to check up on these people.

Last Thursday evening, the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) announced that X+Y won the Best Feature Film Award. This unique motion picture features a young mathematical genius, Nathan (Asa Butterfield), who goes on a field trip to Asia. Considered autistic, Nathan makes new friends and learns that his estrangement from people has more to do with a blocked trauma from his past.

Omo Child: The River and the Bush tied with Walking Man for Best PBIFF documentary. Directed by Josh Salzberg, Walking Man presents a bipolar father and son who go on a cross country walk to bring attention to teenage suicide prevention.

It is a road movie, but, along the way, we meet young people who have attempted suicide. Back home, the mother explains the up and down behavior of the father and son. Whereas the son’s mood swings would occur on a daily basis, the father would have a manic/depressive episode that lasted three years.

The climax is presented as a confession from the mother and father. We learn the importance of maintaining communication with empathetic people. What makes Walking Man a successful documentary is the candor about this painful, but important, subject.

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FLICKS: X+Y, The Record Man, Walking Man, Hidden Assets & The Lost Key

Posted on 02 April 2015 by L.Moore

PBiFF2015Ellar Coltane and Randi Emerman Axler (2)By Dave Montalbano


The April zeitgeist known as the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) wraps up tonight at Boca Raton Cinemark Palace 20 with While We’re Young, starring Amanda Seyfried, Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller, Adam Driver and Charles Grodin.

The final party will be at Yoko-San Restaurant, 99 SE Mizner Blvd, Boca Raton.

When The Observer started covering PBIFF in 2003, young Ellar Coltrane was just beginning work on his 2014 movie Boyhood [which received an Oscar for actress Patricia Arquette]. After a whirlwind of promotion,[including picking up a Shooting Star award at PBIFF], this fine young gentleman will be returning to Texas as he makes plans to attend college in New England.

Directed by FSU alumnus Mark Moorman, The Record Man provides nostalgia for people who grew up in South Florida during the 1970s. With George McCrae receiving the key to the city of West Palm Beach, the sold-out audience responded with religious fervor, including singing along with Steve Alaimo, KC and the Sunshine band.

2006 PBIFF voluntePBiFF2015 Mr and Mrs George McCrae (2)er Mitchell Egber produced The Record Man and organized the music for the gala event Saturday Night at the home of Marty & Joyce Kobak. Besides hob knobbing with guests like Connie Francis and Tom Arnold, the party featured live performances by George McCrae, Jimmy “Bo” Horne, Charlotte McKinnon and the Derek Mack Band.

While celebrities and parties draw attention, the purpose of a good film festival is to feature the work of independent filmmakers. Asa Butterfield stars as mathematical genius with poor social skills in X + Y, a British drama with much dry humor. Although laced with profanity, this is a family film shot in Great Britain and Asia. It is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year for its logical unpredictability.

Josh Salzberg brought his documentary Walking Man to town, a father/son road movie about suicide prevention. With echoes of the Reese Witherspoon movie Wild, Salzberg brings a raw authenticity about healing by a cross country walk through the state of Missouri.

Word-of-mouth has been strong for the Alfred Hitchcock inspired Hidden Assets, directed by local actress Jacqueline Journey.

The Lost Key has inspired discussions about the meaning of intimacy.

It’s sad that we have to wait another year for such an intimate festival … PBIFF.

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FLICKS: Queen and Country, PBiFF begins & Dan Aykroyd

Posted on 26 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Five-time Oscar bridesmaid, but never a bride, director John Boorman, has created indelible images on the big movie screen. He directed Lee Marvin in two savage movies, most notably Point Blank, which featured an all-star ensemble cast. Through the years, his visual acuity created both beautiful and nightmarish imagery in Deliverance, Excalibur and The Emerald Forest.

Released 28 years ago, Hope and Glory was his semi-autobiographic tale about his British childhood during the World War II blitzkrieg. Opening tomorrow is Queen and Country, which continues the adventures of Bill Rohan (Boorman’s alter ego) during the Korean War. While war is background theme to both movies, there is much humor in these films which present a character’s rite of passage. Queen and Country is Boorman’s big screen swan song, so expect an appropriate “goodbye” from a master craftsman.

The 20th Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBiFF) opens tonight with a red carpet screening of Welcome to Me at the Muvico Parisian 20 & IMAX at City Place in West Palm Beach. Saturday Night Live alumus Kristen Wiig (currently queen of independent film production) stars as a narcissist who suffers from a comical nervous breakdown. The cast includes Joan Cusack, Linda Cardellini, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The Lost Key will be part of PBiFF’s “Jewish Experience,” which features an assortment of 35 international films from Germany, Hungary, France, Cuba and Bulgaria. Bulgarian Rhapsody is the country’s recent representative of the Oscar race. Israeli actor Udi Persi from 10% My Child will be spending the week in Palm Beach County.

If history is a good indicator, this year’s PBiFF should be a lot of fun with many surprise guests and memorable experiences. With the grand finale being held at the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton, there is no excuse to miss! For further updates and information, please visit www.pbifilmfest.org.

Promoting his Crystal Head Vodka, Dan Aykroyd blew into town [March 20] as an energetic juggernaut. At ABC Liquors in Sunrise, Aykroyd was a human autograph machine as he signed vodka bottles, Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers memorabilia.

Blues History was made at Stache in Ft. Lauderdale when Aykroyd reunited on stage with South Florida resident and Blues Brother Matt “Guitar” Murphy for a mini reunion concert. The night was emotional and definitely defined the spirit of the Blues.

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FLICKS: 3 Hearts, Cinderella and PbiFF

Posted on 19 March 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After screening at the 32nd Miami International Film Festival, 3 Hearts opens in limited South Florida release tomorrow. Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde) misses his train, but finds comfort with Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). After an intense experience, the two part ways. Marc settles in and develops a deeper relationship with Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) with plans to marry. When meeting his future in-laws, including matriarch (Catherine Deneuve), Marc discovers that Sylvie and Sophie are sisters.

Nominated for numerous awards at the Venice and Lumiere Film Festivals, 3 Hearts is a French Film with English subtitles and features the plot device of a romantic triangle. With the cinematic legacy of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Catherine Deneuve, this film reveals that French storytelling is consistently modern.

It was French scholar Charles Perrault who penned European folk tales and crafted what we now know as the fairy tale Cinderella a.k.a. The Glass Slipper. As recent box office figures have revealed, this tale of love, romance and service has struck a chord with modern audiences.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Thor), the audience retraces the narrative about how Ella (Lily James) became “Cinderella.” We meet her adorable parents (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell, who was in Agent Carter) who teach their daughter that it is important to have the “courage to be kind.”

These life lessons go into effect when Ella’s parents die. A wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her sinister sisters (Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger) have Ella clean the furnace and she gets covered with “Cinders.” Considered “too dirty” to attend the Prince’s ball, Ella meets her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) who gives the heroine a makeover. By now, one should figure out the rest of the plot.

Cinderella deserves its success. Kenneth Branagh makes the sugary romance palatable, the characters are not overblown and the actors ensemble chooses restraint. This film can best be summed up in one scene – Ella’s “walk of shame” — because it is a beautiful moment due to the heroine’s pure motives.

Next week, the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBiFF) celebrates 20 years with appearances from Tom Arnold, Ellar Coltrane and others, and music provided by TK Records, who has a South Florida connection with K.C. and the Sunshine Band. At this international festival, keep an eye out for The Lost Key, a Spanish documentary about a Rabbi who talks about intimacy, lust and love.


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