FLICKS: PBIFF, openings of Joe & German Doctor

Posted on 17 April 2014 by L.Moore

Pages 09-16By Dave Montalbano


For veterans working on their second decade covering the 19th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF), there was a positive vibe this year. While not quite the glory days when Louise Fletcher, Robert Davi and Malcolm McDowell visited, there was a sense that those glory days are on the horizon. It also helped that they showcased some fine films.

Life Inside and Out took the Best Feature Film award. It is a domestic drama written by Maggie Bird. Bird also co-stars with her son Finneas O’Connor, who play the fictional mother and sullen son. Both Bird and O’Connor were in attendance for the closing ceremony at the Cinemark last Thursday night.

The best documentary went to Faberge: A Life of its Own. Created during the times of the Russian Tsars, these “Easter Eggs” tell a fascinating story involving international intrigue. The film also documents the commercial opportunities that these golden eggs created.

Lion Ark took the Best Documentary Audience Award, a film that screened at last year’s Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. This film, about saving lions from circuses in Bolivia, features a triumphant conclusion after much danger and politics.

On the box office horizon, Nicholas Cage is making a critical return with Joe. Unlike the action hero roles that have paid his bills for the past two decades, Cage returns to a complex role that he used to be known for. Joe is an ex-convict with a bad attitude, who is given a chance for salvation when he meets a bullied boy in the south.

In two weeks, The German Doctor opens at area art house movie theaters. Winner of nine Sur Awards (Argentine’s Oscar), this film is about a doctor who befriends a family in Argentina. Unknown to the family, this doctor is actually a dangerous criminal who is being pursued by Israeli agents.

It has been 10 years since The Passion of Christ broke box office records for best foreign language film (a box office record that still stands). Since then, director Mel Gibson’s career has floundered but the film did tap a marketplace that had been ignored by Hollywood executives,– ticket-buying Christians. This week’s box office results will prove to be an interesting commentary for Easter Sunday.

Happy Easter!

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FLICKS: PBIFF & Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age

Posted on 10 April 2014 by L.Moore

Pages 09-16By Dave Montalbano


The announcement that Mickey Rooney passed away last Sunday showcases the cultural impact of the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) to our local community. Rooney was honored at the 2008 PBIFF and his career represents the golden age of Hollywood. From the Andy Hardy and My Friend Flicka movies to the original Night at the Museum and The Muppets, Rooney’s name is known by young and old.

This year, Rick McKay’s Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age, was shown and he was honored with a Visionary Award. Eleven years ago, McKay screened his work-in-progress, Broadway: The Golden Age, at the fest. With Fay Wray as his trusty consort, McKay earned his first festival award then. That film is on regular rotation on PBS fundraising drives.

Broadway: The Golden Age is a great documentary that should be shown in all performing arts schools, for the people who were interviewed are now considered legends of the Great White Way, including Marlon Brando, Ethel Merman and Kim Hunter. With his nonfussy camera work creating an intimate experience between subject and interviewer, McKay conducted some great interviews with Bea Arthur, Carol Burnett and Gwen Verdon. This film reminded us about forgotten heroes like John Raitt, who was the original voice in the first Rogers & Hammerstein musicals. Raitt is best known today as Bonnie Raitt’s daddy.

Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age covers the next generation of Broadway. It is the late seventies and mid eighties, a dark time on the Great White Way. Theaters are closing and buildings are going into disrepair. In these days of economic malaise, performers either bond or find new careers in film or television.

Meet Bob Fosse. With an Oscar for his direction of Cabaret and an Emmy for the television special Liza with a Z, Fosse went on to garner the Tony Award for Pippin, which made Ben Vereen a star and featured Irene Ryan’s (Beverly Hillbillies’ granny) last performance. Pippin was not a success, but Fosse decided to think out of the box and directed his own television commercial featuring 30 seconds of the show. At the end of the commercial, the announcer said, “If you want to see the rest of the … show, come to the Mayfair Theater on Broadway.” The rest is legend.

Robert Morse (who was also honored at PBIFF with a Lifetime Achievement Award Monday night), Robert Redford, Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera share some great backstage stories about productions that succeed and opening nights that bombed. The cast of Ain’t Misbehavin’ share stories about racism and hailing a taxi that become comedic in their absurdity. Of course, the only way to end Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age is with a grand finalé. The story about the longevity of A Chorus Line certainly qualifies as a graceful exit.

PBIFF is also about the future. Tonight, the closing night of the fest, Jason Priestly (known for Beverly Hills 90210) makes his directorial debut at the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton with Cas & Dylan, showing at 7 p.m. (www.pbifilmfest.org).

Last but not least, kudos to Jeremy Emerman, Deerfield Beach High School graduate and son of Randi Emerman PBIFF president and CEO. That teenager who I used to work the red carpet with a decade ago, has become the camera man for some of the biggest blockbusters of recent history, including The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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FLICKS: Captain America: The Winter Soldier & PBIFF

Posted on 03 April 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


After three Iron Men, two Thors and one Avenger, Captain America gets his first stand alone sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is the best sequel from “Phase I” of the Marvel movie series. Next year, at this time, we will be bombarded with Avengers: The Age of Ultron media hype to kick off “Phase II” of the Marvel Movie series. Is all this exposition necessary to know before viewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Not one bit.

The brilliance of these Marvel superhero movies is that each film works as a stand-alone feature, each story is complete within itself. This film is a political thriller along the lines of 1970s paranoid thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, The Conversation and The Parallax View, Unlike those 1970s classics that feature losers portrayed by the likes of Robert Redford, Gene Hackman and Warren Beatty, respectfully, this film presents a hero with values personified by the likes of John Wayne.

Captain America, alias Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is adapting to the 21st Century after saving the world (Avengers) and waking up from a 70 year hibernation (Captain America: The First Avenger). Joining forces with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), Rogers rescue some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents from pirates. During the rescue operation, Captain America uncovers secrets kept hidden by Black Widow and their boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

When Captain America confronts Nick Fury, Fury confronts one of his bosses – Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a member of the S.H.I.E.L.D Security Council. Through the chain of communication, security becomes breached and explosive chaos ensues. As Steve Rogers attempts figure out who is an ally and who is an enemy, the Winter Soldier is called upon to eliminate Captain America.

This is a good movie. The story unfolds in a logical way and the character development seems real. The friendship that develops between Captain America and the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) is respectful and genuine. The action scenes have visual clarity that improve with each conflict. Yet, it is the humble character of Captain America that gives this big budget motion picture its soul.

For popcorn eating Saturday matinee fun, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the film to go see. This new Marvel film is first best movie of 2014.

For those who prefer more grounded cinema, the 19th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF) opens this weekend with special screenings at the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton. Robert Morse, Rick McKay and Jason Priestly will be among those flying into town. Check out this website for events and times: www.pbifilmfest.org.

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FLICKS: PBIFF (April 3-10) & Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Posted on 27 March 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


It is time to start planning The 19th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF), which opens in two weeks. This year, there will be an emphasis in South Palm Beach County with the opening, centerpiece and closing movies screened in the Cinemark Palace 20 in Boca Raton.

Belle opens the fest, an English drama about royal racism. Belle (Gugu Mbatha- Raw) is the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised with privilege by her uncle, Lord Mansfield, Belle finds certain doors closed to her because of the color of her skin. The cast includes two Harry Potter veterans (Emma Watson, Tom Felton) and Tom Wilkinson.

A decade ago, Rick McKay debuted Broadway the Golden Age, which features Broadway legends like Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Gwen Verdon. This year, he returns with Broadway Beyond the Golden Age, which emphasizes the second generation of Broadway productions featuring controversial musicals like Hair and Oh Calcutta! The star of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Robert Morse, is scheduled to attend and receive an award on Monday, April 7 at Cinemark Palace 20. There will be a party at Bogart’s Bar & Grille on the second floor.

Twenty years ago, Jason Priestly was a target for the paparazzi for his work on the television show Beverly Hills 90210. He has quietly slipped behind the camera and has directed Cas & Dylan, a road movie which stars Richard Dreyfus, Tatiana Maslany and Jayne Eastwood, which will be PBIFF’s final film. Priesly will be in attendance.

The festival also places an emphasis upon independent features. Fat, Dumb and Happy is a comedy/drama filmed in Orlando. The Other One is a domestic drama about a child’s responsibility to an aging parent. A visual effects intern for The Walking Dead, Vicki Lau, debuts The Painter, a short subject about an artist with a magical paintbrush. Lion Ark is a documentary about activists saving lions from a brutal existence at Bolivian circuses. Given that April is Autism Awareness Month, PBIFF will be presenting A Teen’s Guide to Understanding and Communicating with People with Autism, with director/ writer and High School Freshman Alexandra Jackman scheduled to attend the Lake Worth screening. For late breaking news, visit the website www.pbifilmfest.org.

Last, but not least Mr. Peabody & Sherman has quietly earned 83 million dollars in a fortnight. With sophisticated scatological humor, grievous puns and a dose of Twisted history and drama, this film is an animated feature with much heart. Parents taking their upper-aged elementary school children will enjoy a good time at a Saturday matinee price.

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FLICKS: MODS movies & more

Posted on 20 March 2014 by L.Moore

Pages 09-16By Dave Montalbano


In writing this column for 15 years, I’ve enjoyed a consistent partnership with the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS). My first IMAX movie was Encounter in the Third Dimension, starring Mistress of the Dark Elvira and Stuart Pankin. In this 45- minute 3D extravaganza, we learned about psychology, optic effects and illusion.

When The Polar Express screened 10 years ago, MODS experimented with mainstream Hollywood movies. Harry Potter, The Dark Knight and the PIXAR/ Disney movies were special events for the South Florida community. All these films did a fine job matching entertainment with education.

2014 features an emphasis on documentaries. Released last fall, Rocky Mountain Express is an open air historical epic about steam engines in Western Canada. This film also looks at the dangerous disparity between the railroad laborers and railroad management. Rocky Mountain Express may be one of the darkest movies ever set in the daytime.

Journey to the South Pacific is the latest sea-faring documentary to open and is narrated by double Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. Blanchett describes a teenage boy’s visit to the Coral Triangle and the pristine environment of Indonesia’s coral reefs. Whereas Rocky Mountain Express is a landlocked historical documentary, Journey to the South Pacific is visual poetry and is the closest experience that one will have to scuba diving.

Flight of the Butterflies 3D has been on the big screen for over a year. This award-winning film is the perfect scientific documentary to view during the Lenten Season. Two stories are told. One story uncovers the mystery of the Monarch Butterfly, whose circular exodus begins in Mexico and detours in Canada. The second features Professor Fred Urquhart, who devoted 40 years to the flight of the Monarch Butterfly and how he incorporated “Citizen Scientists” to help increase knowledge about this life-affirming animal.

Goosebumps! The Science of Fear is an interactive exhibit that includes The Fear Challenge Course that lets the visitor learn about their own specific phobia. Presented with four fears (animals, electric shock, loud noises, falling), one learns their own vulnerability. Fear Lab reviews the interrelationship between fear and one’s health. This exhibit presents coping strategies for overcoming deeply imbedded phobias.

When the economy collapsed five years ago, museums and libraries were placed on the extinction list. The creative minds behind the MODS have made this institution as durable as the Monarch Butterfly, through reinvention and providing a good time for the patrons.

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FLICKS: 300: Rise of an Empire

Posted on 13 March 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


When I posted the review of 300 on my blog seven years ago, the views were outstanding. The first responses that I received were complimentary, especially from an individual claiming to be in the military. Eventually, the responses turned sour, nasty and insulting. The Iranian government banned 300 due to the depiction of the Persian Army. Seven years later, this entry still receives a regular dosage of spam.

While not as good as its predecessor, 300: Rise of An Empire has opened with a strong box office, revealing that ticket buyers enjoy watching history taught by comic books. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, this new 300 is more of a companion piece than a direct sequel to the old 300.

The film opens a generation before the events of the first movie. King Darius is killed by an arrow shot by Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) in battle. The late King Darius was the father of Xeres (Rodrigo Santoro), a deluded individual who proclaims himself a god. While the delusional King seeks the spotlight, behind the scenes Artemisia (Eva Green) pulls the strings of Persian politics. Undefeated as the Admiral of the Seas, Artemisia seeks to avenge the glory of King Darius.

As a ragtag selection of city states, Greece is a bickering democracy awaiting to be conquered. Themistocles, an Athenian, is fully aware of these political problems and desperately seeks cooperation with the Spartans, especially Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey). Gorgo is the widow of the king, whose army of 300 Spartans were slaughtered by the Xeres and his Persian Army of thousands. Themistocles is fully aware that Artemisia has topower to crush the bickering Greek Isle.

Like the first 300, the computer graphics create vivid action scenes involving navy battles. Unlike the first 300, this new movie seems sloppy in direction. Utilizing the 3-D technology, 300 Rise of an Empire features too many scenes of splattered blood floating in the air.

Despite some disappointing visuals, this film is a fun movie to learn about Greek and Persian history. While Stapleton is a likeable leading man, it is the women who rule this empire. While reprising her role from the first movie, Headey gives a stoic performance with simmering rage. As the angry Artemisia, Green is given many memorable moments with a sword.

As the title role in Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill

For Green cements her image as today’s femme fatale.

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FLICKS: Blue Jasmine & MIFF31 begins

Posted on 06 March 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


While best known for her Oscar-winning leading role in Gone With The Wind, Vivien Leigh earned her second Oscar as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.

A reliable British actress on both stage and screen, Leigh’s award-winning performances created an indelible image of a young and aged Southern belle.

Last Sunday night, Australian actress Cate Blanchett earned her second Oscar for playing a DuBois-inspired character in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. While Jasmine (Blanchett) is no Southern belle, she does suffer from similar delusions with that of Blanche Dubois.

The film opens with Jasmine flying into a San Francisco airport to spend time with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). During the long flight, Jasmine annoys the people around her with constant chattering. We learn that the selfabsorbed Jasmine was once married to a Bernie Madoff-like character, Hal (Alec Baldwin), a successful money manager. Being a trophy wife, Jasmine lives a charmed life in the Hamptons, while ignoring Hal’s indiscretions.

Blue Jasmine shares DNA with A Streetcar named Desire. In a way, the travails of Blue Jasmine seem to be the back story of DuBois. After enjoying the debutante’s life for so long, both women’s fall from grace is tragic to watch.

While his family scandals from 21 years ago are still vivid, there is no denying that Woody Allen is a very literate filmmaker. When inspired by the literary masters. Woody Allen’s humor is at its sharpest … with films like Hannah and her Sisters influenced by Chekhov’s 3 Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment …

The Woody Allen ensemble of New York actors (Alec Baldwin, Bobby Carnvale) are appropriately cast. Best Supporting actress nominee Sally Hawkins provides the most transitional performance as Jasmine’s sister. Yet, Blue Jasmine is Cate Blanchett’s movie from beginning to end. Jasmine is an unlikeable character, but Blanchett creates a unique sympathy for the fallen woman.

Oscar season is now officially concluded, but a new season has begun. The Miami International Film Festival opens this weekend with 100 films from 40 countries. Of note, the 2013 Oscar winner for best documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, premiered at the Miami International Film Festival last year.

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FLICKS: August Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club & MIFF

Posted on 27 February 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


August Osage County is your typical Hollywood contender for an academy award. It features serious award-winning actors like Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper. The story is based on a Pulitzer Award-winning play and it has the Weinstein Brothers marketing machine behind it. The film is finely directed by John Wells with an emphasis on symbolic cinematography, contrasting the beautiful landscapes of Oklahoma with the spider’s lair of the Weston Family.

We are introduced to Pa Weston (Sam Shepard), who has hired a caregiver. Pa disappears and Ma (Streep) summons her family. With children portrayed by Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson, one can expect shouting matches around the subjects of drug abuse, suicide and incest. In between this dysfunctional family feud, this film features moments of comedy and laughter.

The problem is that it does not feel like a slice of life. For all of its technical beauty, it’s an ugly film to watch. Streep and Roberts reveal their inner barnacles and give excellent, but disturbing, performances.

Disturbing best describes the ensemble cast in Dallas Buyers Club. Directed by Jean- Marc Vallee, this film features extreme close-ups of the AIDS epidemic from the perspective of both patient and caregiver. Yet given its gloomy premise, it has many redemptive moments.

Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a roughhousing rodeo cowboy. After an orgy, Ron contracts the HIV virus and is given 30 days to live. During this month, he runs afoul the medical community and dislikes being associated with the homosexual community. When he survives past his original death sentence, he challenges the medical community when he learns about AZT – a drug that can postpone full blown AIDS. McConaughey gives the performance of his career and is likely to take home an Oscar Sunday night.

Dallas Buyers Club and August Osage County are performance- driven movies with the best actors of the age.

For 31 days, Turner Classic Movies has been presenting Oscar-nominated and winning films from the previous 85 years. Given the distance of time, one can see that performances can become outdated. Though Oscar-nominated, Sir Laurence Olivier gave an unintentionally comic performance as Othello complete in blackface minstrel. How I wish I caught James Earl Jones’ performance in Othello at Parker Playhouse 30 years ago. Christopher Plummer, who portrayed Iago in that stage production, will be honored at the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF), which begins March 7. Mike Myers, Shirley MacLaine, John Turturro and Andy Garcia are expected to attend.

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FLICKS: 12 Years a Slave, In Secret & UltraCon

Posted on 20 February 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


With Black History month wrapping up and the Academy Awards looming, 12 Years a Slave is the film to see. With 9 Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe winner for Best Picture in Drama, this film is a wellcrafted motion picture that stands side by side with previous Best Picture Oscar winners like Gandhi, Schindler’s List and All Quiet on the Western Front. Like the previous mentioned winners, 12 Years a Slave will not invite repeat viewings — one viewing is enough to make this film memorable.

The title speaks for itself. It is based on the autobiography written and published by Solomon Northup before the Civil War. Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a black musician from New England who is kidnapped and sold into slavery on a Southern Plantation. In his 12 years as a slave, Northup is sold by conniving rat (Paul Giamatti), brutalized by an entitled rich kid (Paul Dano) and performs brutal acts under the orders of an alcoholic overseer (Michael Fassbender). Yet Northup is given moments of beautiful grace from a fellow slave (Lupita Nyong’o), while learning Christian values from Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and practical carpentry from Bass (Brad Pitt).

Director Steve McQueen (no relation to the actor who died 34 years ago) has created a human motion picture with brilliant artistic and technical detail. McQueen takes his time to let the story unfold. He fills scenes with shot composition inspired by Old World Master Painter Francisco Goya, scenes that are brutal and beautiful at the same time. The Hans Zimmer musical score is not intrusive, yet will lead people to an appreciation for acoustic music, especially bluegrass, blues and gospel.

Win or lose the Oscar race, 12 Years a Slave is one of the best pictures of 2013.

Based on a stage play by Neal Bell, In Secret opens tomorrow in Ft. Lauderdale and Boca Raton. The cast is an intriguing matchup between young and experienced talent. Elizabeth Olsen portrays Therese, a sexually-repressed young woman under the thumb of her husband (Tom Felton, Harry Potter’s nemesis “Draco Malfoy”) and domineering aunt (Jessica Lange, on break from American Horror Story). Set in Paris, circa 1860, Therese is besotted by Laurent (Oscar Isaac), a friend of her husband. With this kind of setup, you can guess what happens in In Secret.

On a lighter note, the UltraCon of South Florida commences this weekend at the Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton Suites at Cypress Creek. The brainchild of local comic book entrepreneur Irving Santiago, this con has invited actors from The Walking Dead, Star Trek as well as UFC Fighter Mike “the Wolverine” Rio. The demented clown duo from Orlando, Giggles & Thug, also plan to terrorize Cypress Creek this weekend.

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FLICKS: When Comedy Went to School & Lone Survivor

Posted on 13 February 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano


The Jewish Holocaust was the primary theme of two recently-released motion pictures, Aftermath and The Last of the Unjust. When Comedy Went to School takes a look at the lighter side of Jewish Culture, proving the old adage that “living well is the best revenge.”

This documentary features some of the most influential comedians of the 20th Century: Sid Caesar, Jerry Lewis, Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld. Using concert footage of these comedians in their youth, the audience will receive an education in how to develop a comedy, from the set-up to the punch line.

Buried under the multi-million- dollar Oscar marketing of The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks, Lone Survivor has quietly broken the $100 million threshold at the box office. Based on the New York Times nonfiction best seller, Lone Survivor made my Top 10 list for presenting an epic, yet human, movie within a twohour time frame.

In the summer of 2005, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and his Navy SEALs team accept the assignment to eliminate al Qaeda leader Ahmad Shah in the mountains of Afghanistan. During the mission, the special forces team runs into mountain herders, who may, or may not be, sympathetic to the al Qaeda leadership. Caught in the crosshairs of choosing survival or following the rules of engagement set in motion by Washington politicians, the team makes a choice that ultimately leads to tragedy. (One of the SEALs who died, James Suh, was a Deerfield High graduate.)

Watching what happens to the team is a teeth-grinding experience. Yet, in the midst of the brutality, you will see moments of grace from our brave military volunteers, as well of Afghan Muslim leaders whose code of honor is mightier than the iron command of al Qaeda.

With the exception of a few technical awards, it is too bad that Lone Survivor is being ignored by the Academy Awards this year. It is truly one of the best motion pictures released in 2013.

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