FLICKS: Black Mass

Posted on 30 September 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Every generation of ticket buyers learns about the underbelly of society through the movies. In the 1930s, Al Capone was represented by movies like The Public Enemy, Little Caesar and Scarface. The Genovese Family was a direct influence on The Godfather movies.

In recent times, the Boston thug and FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger has been represented by award winning motion pictures set in Boston, most notably Mystic River and The Departed. Each of these motion pictures presents its protagonist as an anti-hero who defies society’s conventions and is defeated by his own character flaws.

As portrayed by Johnny Depp, Black Mass details the 40-year rise and fall of Whitey Bulger. Already a sociopath thug in the Southie section of Boston, Bulger fathers a son with girlfriend Lindsey Cyr (Dakota Johnson). When this son retaliates against a bully in the schoolyard and gets suspended from school, Bulger advises him to avenge himself “when no one is looking.”

Despite his criminal activities, Bulger is deeply connected with the legitimate world through his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), a member of the state legislature, and FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). The legend of Whitey Bulger grows as he becomes the criminal lord of Boston. Bulger’s criminal empire expands to Ireland and Miami.

Johnny Depp is getting his best notices in years. Like a grey-haired cobra, Depp performs with steely restraint. A comforting friend one moment, Depp’s Bulger can easily knife an acquaintance in the back a moment later. While Depp is the master of ceremonies, Black Mass is a full ensemble piece featuring good performances from Joel Edgerton, Dakota Johnson and Benedict Cumberbatch.

While it does not match the artistic heights of The Godfather movies, Black Mass does provide an interesting chapter in Hollywood made gangster movies. Scott Cooper’s Black Mass is a fine companion piece to Ridley Scott’s American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe headlining a fine ensemble cast. These movies walk a fine line between fantasy and reality.

When I attended the Friday afternoon screening of Black Mass, the packed auditorium was full of men wearing T-shirts representing Al Pacino’s Scarface, Giancarlo Espositio’s faux fast food chicken shack from Breaking Bad and older men wearing black. This bizarre experience was like going to the opening day of a Marvel comic movie, except that Black Mass does not celebrate heroes.

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FLICKS: The Second Mother, The New Girlfriend & Stonewall

Posted on 24 September 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Opening tomorrow, The Second Mother kicks off Hispanic Heritage month. With dialogue in Portuguese and English subtitles, this film is a two-hour drama with humorous moments about family life and the social caste system in Brazil.

Val (Regina Case) is the devoted housekeeper to a doctor and his high class wife. She dotes upon their son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), who feels a special attachment to his “Second Mommy.” Early in the film, Val is babysitting Fabinho at the pool when the telephone rings. When Val answers the phone and talks to her estranged daughter Jessica (Camila Mardila), Fabinho becomes confused.

As the years past, Val becomes as much of the fixture of the doctor’s house as the living room sofa. When Jessica arrives in town to take a series of entrance exams, the doctor impulsively offers to let Jessica stay in the guest room. Complications arise as Jessica observes Val’s intimate relationship with Fabinho.

The Second Mother is a fresh motion picture about the rites of passage for a mother transferring from middle age, a wealthy family adjusting to empty nest syndrome and two young people confronting responsibility in the world. It’s contemporary and is likely to be remade as an American sitcom.

From France comes The New Girlfriend, a film that is being promoted as an Alfred Hitchcock-style thriller. The film is much more related to Hitchcock’s later, more personal work, like Marnie, Spellbound and Rebecca, three films that rely more on psychological revelations than cliffhanging action sequences.

Stonewall is a slice of contemporary American history much like Straight Outta Compton and Black Mass. Directed by Roland Emmereich (Independence Day), Stonewall details the birth of the Gay Liberation movement from the riots in New York City.

Despite the televised distractions caused by football, baseball and the Republican debates, the motion picture box office is enjoying its best September in over a decade. Expect 2015 to close out as a memorable movie-going year.

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FLICKS: 90 Minutes in Heaven & faith based films

Posted on 17 September 2015 by L.Moore

flicks091715By Dave Montalbano


With the start of couch potato season (that is, the opening of college and professional football, U.S. Open Tennis, and baseball pennant runs), the motion picture industry has become more strategic about releasing films in September. Nineteen years ago Paramount Pictures found box office gold by releasing The First Wives Club as a counter to non-stop programs of televised sports.

Last week, War Room ended Straight Outta Compton’s August box office domination. Produced for a mere $3 million, War Room has grossed over $39 million, creating a comfortable profit margin. War Room is a faith-based movie about the power of prayer healing a family’s domestic woes.

With little fanfare beyond some cheesy television commercials, 90 Minutes from Heaven opened last weekend. This film is a quiet, thought provoking piece of Christian cinema.

In 1989, Pastor Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) gets into a car accident and is pronounced dead for 90 minutes. Despite the dire situation, another preacher demands he be allowed to pray with the corpse. When he sings What a friend I have in Jesus, Pastor Don Piper is revived.

Enter Don’s wife Eva (Kate Bosworth). Besides being the pastor’s wife, she is also a school teacher with three children. With the support of the family, the community and the medical staff, Eva holds down the house as her husband makes a painful recovery.

90 Minutes in Heaven is a simple drama. Deliberately slow-paced at times, the film accurately presents how medical recovery can be a depressing experience. Eva Piper, Kate Bosworth, absorbs the brunt of the pain and only reveals her vulnerable character when she is alone, away from her children and friends. Considering the bad rap he has endured for his role as “Young Darth Vader” in the Star Wars prequels, Hayden Christensen enjoys career redemption with this film.

Before the screenings of War Room and 90 Minutes in Heaven began, there was a series of interesting trailers about other upcoming faith-based motion pictures, including Captive starring David Oyelowo (Selma) and Kate Mara, and Woodlawn, starring Sean Astin and Jon Voight, as the legendary Alabama Crimson Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Woodlawn should spark local interest because it features the story of Young Tony Nathan, former Miami Dolphin utility player under Don Shula.

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FLICKS: Best of Enemies

Posted on 10 September 2015 by L.Moore

flicks091015By Dave Montalbano


There is a saying that national politics begin after Labor Day. While we are still a year away from when the national media begins to dissect the potential presidency of Joe Biden or Donald Trump, etc. this is a great time to review American history and ask the question “How did we get here?”

Best of Enemies is an 87-minute documentary about an experiment that third place ABC New Broadcast attempted, circa 1968. It was the time when President Johnson’s administration went up in flames and he announced that he would not seek a second term. Robert F. Kennedy was supposed to be a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination, but he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan earlier in the year. As home television transitioned from black-andwhite to color, the nuclear family unit witnessed the United States losing the Vietnam War on CBS News with Walter Cronkite and NBC News with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

Both NBC and CBS provided gavel-to-gavel coverage with multiple camera angles at the Republican Convention in Miami and the Democratic Convention in Chicago during the summer of 1968.

Lacking the financial resources of NBC and CBS, the ABC National News bureau decided to use fewer cameras, cover the major speeches and provide political commentary from political experts representing Democratic and Republican perspectives. Given their public sophistication and that both men were writers, Gore Vidal was chosen to represent political left and William F. Buckley was chosen to represent the political right for a series of 10 debates at both conventions.

As we learn from this documentary, both Buckley and Vidal had a deep-seated hatred for each other that was masked by their media training, poise and education. Through the series of debates, we see two master debaters spar with each other with minor tweaks and taunts. When in the sunshine of the Miami convention, the first five debates seem as jovial as a checkers match on Collins Avenue.

Yet, as the location transfers to the notorious convention in Chicago, the oppressive atmosphere outside the convention hall permeates the political discourse between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. Directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville wisely let Buckley and Vidal speak for themselves. The 10 debates grow in intensity and by the final debate, the sophisticated faÇades melt into raw anger.

Given the manufactured controversy of today’s news cycle with broadcast news, cable news, websites and personal blogs, Best of Enemies is an important historical documentary that explains the rise of modern journalism. With fewer resources and celebrity news readers, and working in a broken down studio, ABC News set into motion the way the news media today covers political conventions each leap year.

Best of Enemies features some intriguing behind the scenes outtakes. It is an entertaining documentary with much humor. Yet, it is the intellectual showdown between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley that you will remember long after viewing it.

For more information on the film, including theaters where it is playing, visit www.magpictures.com/bestofenemies.

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FLICKS: Walt Before Mickey & Straight Outta Compton

Posted on 03 September 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


Opening tomorrow, Walt Before Mickey is about the pursuit of happiness. It is not necessarily about avoiding hardship, poverty and betrayal, but it is about the life of the American Business legend, Walt Disney (Thomas Ian Nicholas). One can guess the (spoiler alert) happy ending when Walt Before Mickey concludes.

During his childhood, being raised on a Missouri farm, young Walt would compulsively draw characters on barn doors and walls. As a young adult, Walt and his friends Ub Iwerks (Armando Gutierrez) and Rudy Ising (David Henrie) form their own animation studio and produce Laugh- O-Grams for the Newman cinema chain. However, the high cost of producing the animation forces Walt Disney’s first business into bankruptcy. His future business dealings get even worse.

It is refreshing to see a modern day movie that celebrates entrepreneurship and moral values. Disney’s perseverance is directly proportional to both his creativity and his loyalty to friends and family. With nary a cuss word, Walt Before Mickey is a fine family movie to go see this Labor Day weekend.

It was made in South Florida by Floridans. For screening locations, visit www.waltbeforemickey.com

Despite cultural differences, Straight Outta Compton shares similar business values about loyalty and entrepreneurial success. We watch three young men Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr. – who is actually the son of the real Ice Cube) and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) crawl out of a Los Angeles ghetto and form the pioneer rap group – NWA.

While enjoying the fruits of their success, the three young men are manipulated by the suspicious business dealings of Jerry Heller, portrayed by Paul Giamatti – who has added depth to similar roles that he played in Rock of Ages and Love & Mercy.

For peers my age who enjoyed the music of Bruce Springsteen, and Huey Lewis and the News, Straight Outta Compton provides a history lesson about the rise of rap music.

The film presents Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E as the next generation’s Rat Pack. Like Frank Sinatra’s connections to the mafia, Straight Outta Compton reveals these artists’ connections to some pretty vicious thugs with pit bulls.

The film has earned $130 million during the month of August, the only box office success of the month. Modestly produced with a great attention to detail, one sees the financial model for films like Straight Outta Compton setting a trend on the big screen in the future.

During the next couple of months, we can look forward to some fascinating motion pictures from Guillermo Del Toro, Johnny Depp, James Bond 007 and Disney’s first Star Wars feature at Christmas time. In the meantime, have a safe Labor Day.

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Posted on 27 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After retiring from the NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneer Superbowl Champion Simeon Rice attended a New York film school to prepare to become a filmmaker.

After directing his first short subject, When I was King, Simeon poured his energies into writing Unsullied, a gritty thriller that follows Reagan Farrow (Murray Gray), a track star, who is kidnapped by a pair of sociopaths after her car breaks down on a deserted road.

Being a student of Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and Quentin Tarantino, Rice’s latest film feels like a cross between The Most Dangerous Game, Apocalypto and Deliverance.

Seeing Deliverance, I was on edge. Time is standing on its own high sense of tension and anxiety. With film, once you see an image, you cannot un-see it!” said Rice.

Deliverance shares the same rural landscape as Unsullied.

Rice and his crew spent more time scouting rural locations near Tampa Bay than the actual production of the film, which was shot in 23 days last autumn. Simeon has high praise for his production crew and he acknowledges the contributions of his leading actors.

Murray Gray is a deep thinker and is wise beyond her years.

Rusty Joiner, who plays Noah Evans, is the consummate Southern gentleman, often holding the door for a lady. On screen, he entered another dimension and created Satan personified, the kind of church boy you do not trust,” he explained.

Given that he chose to film Unsullied in Florida and had a good experience with the community, perhaps he can become an advocate for the Florida film industry; he defiantly has a streak of independence about him.

But Rice did not come from Florida originally. He grew up in the South Side of Chicago in the worst part of town.

Of his youth, he said, “Being a kid on the street with gang violence, you have to think. You become a straight shooter. It prepared me to make quick decisions on the set.”

Rice has already completed another script titled Full Tilt, a tense drama about backroom poker.

Although he has delved now into film, he still thinks about his previous career.

When asked if he misses football, he said, “Yes! Maybe not a preseason game, but I miss the game itself. It is something that is hotwired in me.”

The film will be shown at selected locations on August 28. To find out more about the film and where film is shown, visit http://unsulliedthefilm.com.

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FLICKS: Marshland

Posted on 20 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


In Spanish Language with English subtitles, Marshland (La isla mínima) opens tomorrow in area theaters. It is a gritty crime procedural that is simplistically presented with static cinematography. This simplicity is deceptive.

The setting is a marshland near Villafranco, Spain, circa 1980. Though Generalissimo Francisco Franco had been dead for five years, the ghost of his dictatorship remains. There seems to be a seasonal crime wave during harvest season. During an annual festival, two teenage girls disappear.

Two detectives are called in to investigate. While both detectives have different political views about law enforcement, both individuals also have unrelated skeletons in their closet. However, when the two girls are found brutally and shamefully murdered, the two detectives put aside their differences to catch the killer.

Is this the work of a singular serial killer or a systematic ritual from organized crime? These two plot threads unravel into a logical climax. Like any good mystery, multiple clues and red herrings are placed within the storyline. The two detectives propel the narrative, but part of the fun of this film is the quirky characters that detour the investigation.

The world of Marshland feels like the south of the border version of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Writer/Director Alberto Rodriquez makes this his personal film noir, filled with gothic detail. One can see the nightmarish visualization of Spanish Master Francisco Goya in Marshland’s visualization.

This film is definitely a vacation from the dog days of the August box office releases. This simple film will create haunted memories.

Javier Gutiérrez, one of the actors who played one of the detectives, is expected to visit the Movies at Lake Worth and Cinema Paradiso this weekend.

For more details, contact Cinema Paradiso at 954-525- FILM (3456) and the Movies at Lake Worth 561-968-4545.

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FLICKS: Shaun the Sheep & Cinema Paradiso offerings

Posted on 13 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


We have truly reached the dog days of August with the Motion Picture Box Office as Hollywood releases overhyped financial bombs like the Fantastic Four. This August echoes last August when The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For were released to pathetic box office returns.

Shaun the Sheep Movie opened poorly in the United States last weekend, but has achieved respectable gross overseas. This film is another stop-motion animation with British charm and humor. Unlike their other films Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit or Chicken Run, this film features no dialogue. The only words that are heard are from the thematic original songs heard on the soundtrack.

The film opens in the 1970s (You can tell by the farmer’s disco clothing and his cassette tapes) in which the farmer takes pictures of his prize sheep. The years fast forward and we see that the farmer has aged, but his clothing has not changed. He, his sheep dog and sheep live a structured and routine life.

Though a series of unfortunate events, the farmer is knocked out in his trailer. The farm animals party too hard, the trailer becomes unhitched, careens down the hill and lands in the big city. The animals follow their master and it is chaos.

To enjoy this film, you have to enter the state of mind that you use to watch a baseball game or golf tournament. This film is a visual feast of sophisticated humor, but has a warm heart and a gentle spirit. I just don’t know why Shaun the Sheep was singled out because this movie is really an ensemble piece.

Cinema Paradiso features the opening of two new movies this weekend: People Places Things and 10,000 Saints.

10,000 Saints features an actor’s ensemble best known for their contributions to independent cinema: Asa Butterfield, Ethan Hawke and Hailee Steinfeld.

People Places Things is a light comedy set in New York City. It is the story of a graphic novelist and college professor who must balance his job between the demands of work and being the single father of two 5-year-old twins.

For more information, visit www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: Mr. Holmes

Posted on 06 August 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


It was late one July night that I stayed up with my cousin Ronny and my brother Carm to watch Sherlock Homes and the Secret Weapon, starring Basil Rathbone. While Rathbone will always be the ultimate Holmes for me, the modern day search for authenticity has created some fine performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now the Master Thespian Sir Ian McKellan portrays the Master Detective in Mr. Holmes.

Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind written by Mitch Cullin, Mr. Holmes examines the mystery of regret and usefulness. Living in a cottage near the White Cliffs of Dover, Holmes has left London and has basically lived in seclusion for 30 years. A man of eclectic interests, Holmes devotes most of his time to tending bees.

While running an errand for Mr. Holmes, young Roger (Milo Parker) uncovers an incomplete manuscript about Sherlock Holmes’ last case. Angered at first, Holmes completes the manuscript, but not before confronting an emotional secret from his past.

Running under two hours, Mr. Holmes packs a lot of plot. Yet, under Bill Condon’s direction, Mr. Holmes unfolds at a leisurely pace. This pacing allows the actors to breathe life into their characters. While not as heralded as Sir Ian McKellan’s showy performance, Laura Linney reveals much about Mrs. Munro with only an askance glance, a revealing voice, and a voice that is always trying to prevent itself from screaming.

Mr. Holmes is likely to generate Oscar buzz for Sir Ian McKellan. It is a culmination of so many roles the actor has played in the past 18 years.

Every emotion is on display, yet the actor never loses control of the character’s genius.

While the big studios are mass marketing the latest Mission Impossible and Fantastic Four, South Florida is about to screen some independent films locally that have created some overseas buzz. Opening August 20 at Cinema Paradiso is Marshland (La isla minima), a thriller set in a secluded area in the South of Spain.

On Saturday August 15, Cinema Paradiso will also be screening Thomas R. Dicken’s Aliens: Zone-X. The director Thomas R. Dickens, who worked as an animator, modeler and technical director on the Scooby Doo movies, will attend the screening.

Info: www.fliff.com

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Posted on 30 July 2015 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

Thus far, two studios have dominated the box office, Disney and Universal. 2015 will be remembered for Universal’s blockbusters Jurassic World, Furious 7 and 50 Shades of Grey, while Disney featured family favorites like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out and Cinderella. Currently Disney’s Ant-Man is keeping box office momentum surging during this record-breaking summer.

Being part of the Marvel Comics Universe, Ant-Man is both a stand-alone movie and another chapter of The Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America universe. For entertainment purposes, this film stands alone with multiple “Easter eggs” found in the fabric of the film.

Meet Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a gifted scientist who works in association with Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and S.H.I.E.L.D., circa 1989. Professor Pym discovers a scientific breakthrough, but he does not want to share it with S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization that he is losing faith in. Pym goes into exile and contemplates his family’s future.

Enter Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a divorced father who spent time in jail for stealing money from a thieving corporation to give it back to those who lost it. Lang has a hard time landing a rent-paying job and has a harder time providing child support for his adorable daughter. Despite his prison record, Professor Pym spots a nobler quality in Lang and recruits him.

From the movie poster alone, one can deduce that Pym’s scientific breakthrough is to create a suit that shrinks a normal-sized man to the size of the ant, while obtaining extra strength and faster speed. Like Mickey from the Rocky series, Pym trains Lang to be the best Ant-Man he can be.

Not since Captain America: The First Avenger has Marvel provided us with an origin story. It is a timely move that reboots the franchise for people entering Phase 2 of the Marvel Universe and reduces the complication of knowing the relationships between many costumed characters.

In fact, the scale is so reduced that the big showdown occurs in a children’s bedroom, with sly nods to a child’s evening spent reading comic books and playing with non-electronic games.

Ant-Man delivers good old-fashioned popcorn-eating Saturday Matinee fun and may be the last hurrah for the blockbuster summer of 2015.

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