FLICKS: Rudderless

Posted on 16 October 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As advertised, Rudderless looks like a film along the lines of Coal Miner’s Daughter, Walk the Line and Almost Famous. With Billy Crudup’s participation, this film feels like a spiritual sequel to Almost Famous, as if we are meeting Crudup’s character 14 years later.

Crudup portrays Sam, an advertising rep who closes a big deal. He calls his college- aged son in an effort to celebrate his success, but the phone only takes messages. While watching television at a bar, Sam sees that his son’s college has become the location of work-place violence.

A few years later, Sam has become a recluse, living alone on a sailboat and estranged from his wife, Emily (Felicity Huffman), who openly grieves for the loss of their son. Negligent from domestic responsibilities, Sam will have nothing to do with cleaning out their son’s room. One day, Emily brings their son’s stuff to Sam’s garbage bin. Ignoring it at first, Sam finds his son’s guitar and music tracks for songs that he has written.

While attending an open mic contest, Sam meets Quentin (Anton Yelchin). The two form a band and start playing the dead son’s music. Things seem redemptive until the son’s girlfriend (Selena Gomez) shows up, disgusted by Sam’s playlist. Thus Rudderless becomes a film with much more depth than advertised.

Making his directorial debut, character actor William H. Macy directs with a confident ebb and flow. The drama is real, but not over the top. The comedy is laugh out loud funny with echoes from previous movies.

Despite the sunny cinematography, there is a darkness beyond the theme of grief; Sam and Emily’s son was the shooter who killed the university students. Thus, the beautiful music takes on sinister attributes.

Rudderless is a film that makes one look beyond the obvious.

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FLICKS: Gone Girl

Posted on 09 October 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.

Literary Cinema” began 10 years ago in the Broward County Main Library with a screening of Masque of the Red Death starring Jane Asher and Vincent Price.

From the written word to the moving image, “Literary Cinema” lasted for five years and presented 49 movies with an emphasis on stories from Edgar Allen Poe, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Glendon Swarthout.

In the past five years, best-selling titles like Twilight, The Hunger Games and Percy Jackson have met audience expectations with mixed results. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been on the best-seller’s list less than two years and has already become a box office success. Gone Girl opens with an ambiguous Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) roaming around small town, Missouri. It is his 5th wedding anniversary, but Nick seems more interested in playing board games with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). When a nosy neighbor interrupts Nick to tell him that his cat is outside the house, Nick returns home to find that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) is gone.

If you have read the book jacket or have seen the television commercials, you know that Amy’s disappearance causes a media sensation. Yet, there is more to the story than just a routine thriller and there is a reason why reliable character actors such as Missi Pyle, Sela Ward and Tyler Perry have major supporting roles in this film.

Best known for his noir work in films like Se7en, The Game, Zodiac and The Social Network, David Fincher is the perfect director for this flick. His camera work is not showy or flashy, but he draws the audience into this uneven world of Nick and Amy. Pay attention to many visual cues that involve closing doors and the symbolic critique of privacy.

At 2 ½ hours, Gone Girl drags a bit before reaching its conclusion. While I was told that the movie is true to the book, I felt that if I read the book , I would not really need to pay and go see the movie.

Of note, Annabelle almost matched Gone Girl for last weekend’s box office crown. A spin off from last year’s sleeper hit, The Conjuring, Annabelle was produced for less than $10 million and has already turned a profit. It will be fascinating to see how this new horror movie franchise progresses with their Chrisitian/Horror themes.

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FLICKS: The Liberator, MODS & Adventures in Charity 2

Posted on 02 October 2014 by L.Moore

flicks100214By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The Liberator opens this weekend, smack dab in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month. It is the story of Simon Bolivar (Edgar Ramirez), who planted the seed for the growth of Bolivia. Bolivar fought over 100 battles and traveled more distanced to expel the Spanish Empire from South America. Instead of conquest, Bolivar sought to return the land to the people and liberate them.

In two weeks, The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery IMAX Theater (MODS) opens its doors after a summer of refurbishment, remodeling and redecorating. The improvements include a new 60’ x 80’ giant screen, new luxury seats, new sound system and the addition of a digital projector to complement the giant 15/70 film projector.

While the plan is to show more mainstream Hollywood Blockbusters on the big screen, MODS will continue their tradition of scientific documentaries. To open the new theater, the 3D film Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure will be shown. The movie was filmed with microscopic technology to reveal the hidden world beneath flora and the trees.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3 D is about an endangered species of creatures who have shown a propensity for survival. Lemurs were castaway creatures who settled upon the island of Madagascar. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary was playing at MODS even before the refurbishment.

MODS will also feature its first deliberate monster movie with the screening of Dracula Untold, which weaves fantasy and reality. Prince Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) is a historical figure who defended Romania from the Turkish Invasion. Much like my novella Davy Jones & the Heart of Darkness, this film reveals the tragic circumstances that turn a heroic man into a monster, creating a myth that spans generations.

Now that he has completed his Dark Knight-Batman trilogy, perhaps writer/director Christopher Nolan will complete his trilogy of movie titles that begin with the letter “I” – that began with Insomnia and Inception, both thought provoking movies with fantastic ensemble cast. Interstellar continues Nolan’s tradition of strong narrative structure that features Oscarwinning actors Matthew Mc- Conaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine.

MODS closes out the season with Peter Jackson’s last Hobbit movie, The Hobbit : The Battle of the Five Armies. Based on J.R.R. Tolkein’s children’s book, this film promises to be the epic conclusion of The Hobbit trilogy, which lays the groundwork to Peter Jackson’s Award-winning The Lords of the Rings trilogy.

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FLICKS: A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Skeleton Twins & FLIFF

Posted on 26 September 2014 by L.Moore

flicks092514

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.Com

For over 30 years, Liam Neeson has been a consistent character actor in support of actors like Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, and the Batman.

In his recent film releases, such as Taken, The Grey and Non Stop, Neeson has taken on the role as the iconic leading man in American movies. With A Walk Among the Tombstones, Neeson gives a simple performance, but with nuanced moments of vulnerability and nobility.

Former New York cop turned private investigator Matthew Scudder (Neeson) is hired by a shabby character that he meets at an AA meeting.

The shabby character reveals that his brother is a drug kingpin who needs a private investigator. It turns out that the wife of the drug kingpin has been murdered and the crime lord wants revenge.

However, revenge is not easy because the motives seem convoluted. Could the killers be from a rival gang? Could this be a conspiracy grown from the incompetency of the DEA?

Scudder unravels this mystery while confronting a personal demon of his own, alcoholism.

The best part about this film is the relationship between Scudder and TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley), a homeless boy with sickle cell anemia. The relationship grows out of respect for great detective literature from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, with life lessons about the importance of maintaining good pistol maintenance.

The biggest flaw in this film is the climatic ending. As Scudder takes matters into his own hands, we heard a narration expressing the 12 Steps of alcohol recovery. While the intention may have been noble, the juxtaposition between audio and the visual is jarring.

On a lighter note, The Skeleton Twins starring Saturday Night Live alumnus Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig opens this weekend. It is a story about estranged twins who decide to come to grips with maturity.

The 2014 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival has announced their celebrity line-up for the season, featuring veterans Jason Alexander and George Hamilton. The daughters of David Mamet and Robert Carradine, Clara Mamet and Ever Carradine, respectively, will be in attendance to promote their independent projects.

For more information about dates, times and ticket sales, call 954-252- FILM (3456) or visit www.fliff.com.

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FLICKS: Dolphin Tale 2 & My Old Lady

Posted on 18 September 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal. Com

It was with a sense of melancholia that I went to go see Dolphin Tale 2. When the box office results were announced, that sense of melancholia returned. In between bouts of melancholia, I kept thinking about what a life-affirming movie Dolphin Tale 2 is. I had to visit the website www.seewinter.com because I wanted to learn more about the main characters.

It is based on a true story set on the Florida West Coast. In terms of story and character development, this film is an improvement over the original Dolphin Tale. It is far less gimmicky. Writer/ Director Charlie Martin Smith has crafted an entertaining story with truthful emotional transitions from grief to personal triumph for dolphin, bird, sea turtle and humans seeking salvation.

It is business as usual at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Boss Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.) retains the mission statement of “Rescue, Rehab, Release.” With Winter (the amputee dolphin heroine from the first movie) being utilized as a major tourist attraction, Dr. Clay employs his daughter, Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) and Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) as capable research assistants.

Being a social creature, Winter suffers from grief when her “roommate” dies. Marine Biologists agree that Winter needs the social interaction to survive. When college recruiters witness Sawyer’s attention to Winter’s medical needs, they award the Marine Biologist prodigy a full scholarship. As these two dramas play themselves out, one realizes that Dolphin Tale 2 is a universal drama about an individual’s rite of passage. Parents – this is a GOOD family film. It is better than what current box office totals have revealed.

My Old Lady opens tomorrow. With a title like that, one expects a follow-up joke from the old television sitcom Married with Children. Yet with Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith, there is a level of sophistication with nuanced humor.

Mathias Gold (Kline) returns to Paris to settle the estate of his late father. Upon arrival, Mathias learns that Mathilde (Smith) and her daughter Chloe (Thomas Scott) have retained a form of French squatter’s rights on the property. As boundary lines form between the man and the women, Mathias uncovers an inconsistent behavior pattern of his dearly departed Dad.

Based on his play, writer/ director Israel Horovitz does not landlock the camera and keeps the action moving on the big screen. When dramatically appropriate, Horovitz uses static shots to enhance the drama. With pros like Kline, Scott Thomas and Smith, My Old Lady becomes a special motion picture.

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FLICKS: FLIFF, Pulp Fiction & Fright Asylum

Posted on 11 September 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.Com

One of my favorite memories from last year’s Ft. International Film (FLIFF) Festival was the screening of One Chance, which made The Observer’s Top 10 List for one of the best films of 2013.

As the lovable lunk who aspires to sing like Luciano Pavarotti, James Corden proved his chops and revealed potential.

Starting in January 2015, Corden will now replace Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show on CBS. Also FLIFF’s 2013 honoree, Lea Thompson, will be on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Perhaps, this is a reminder that now is the time to gear up for this annual fall event.

FLIFF has been known as the world’s longest film festival, lasting from mid October until Veteran’s Day, but, this year, FLIFF will open its red carpet on November 7 and wrap up the weekend before Thanksgiving. With an opening night, centerpiece and festival finalé, FLIFF promises three weekends of unique cultural activities.

Before November, Cinema Paradiso, (FLIFF Headquarters) will be showcasing some major theme parties. Next week, Sept. 19, Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood will be hosting the 20-Year Anniversary screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Often imitated, but never duplicated, Pulp Fiction created iconic roles for John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, who breaks his deal with the devil.

Cinema Paradiso encourages ticket buyers to come dressed in mobster attire or as a favorite Pulp Fiction character for a costume contest. There will also be door prizes and a display of paintings inspired by the movie. Perhaps even a Chuck Berry dance contest?

Last but not least, Cinema Paradiso will be converted into “Cinema Inferno” when Fright Asylum (www. frightasylum.com) moves in this Halloween night. Chief inmates Woody Meckes & Manny Cologne will be hosting the 40th Anniversary screening of The Last Man on Earth, starring FLIFF Lifetime Award honoree, the late Vincent Price.

This evening will also include a costume contest, with one of the prizes being a copy of my latest book, The Querulous Nights of Athena Minerva. Expect a night of thrills, chills and multiple belly laughs.

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FLICKS: The Discoverers & The Last of Robin Hood

Posted on 04 September 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal. com

With the exception of the juggernaut box office of Guardians of the Galaxy, August 2014 will be remembered as a very disappointing month for The Expendables and Sin City fans. So it is a sense of relief that we begin the new season with more gentle fare with new movies opening this weekend, The Discoverers and The Last of Robin Hood.

Written and directed by Justin Schwarz, The Discoverers is a family drama about loss and redemption with humorous moments spread throughout the film. Griffin Dunne portrays Lewis Burch, a history professor who works for a paper mill university by day and moonlights as a security guard by night. He has written a 500+ page book about the Lewis & Clark expedition and he hopes to present his book at a swanky writer’s conference in Oregon.

Professor Burch uses this opportunity to create a family trip for his son and daughter. The son is a pot smoking womanizer and the daughter, Zoe (Madeleine Martin), is having the worst birthday ever. Along the way, Burch is forced to take a detour to his parent’s house, which leads to more personal trauma.

The family trauma is real, but how the family deals with the drama is unreal. The deluded grandfather (Stuart Margolin) finds solace by recreating the 19th Century world of the American discoverers Lewis & Clark. The Burch family join Grandpa in this world minus cell phones, vegan meals and other modern conveniences. The results are painfully, but tastefully, amusing.

The Last of Robin Hood also deals with history; it is a film about Errol Flynn’s final years as a fading Hollywood icon. It has been said that when Flynn passed away at age 50, he had the organs of an 80-year-old man from his hard living, drinking and womanizing. It seems appropriate that the elder swashbuckler is portrayed by 67-year-old Kevin Kline, who eerily seems possessed by the ghost of Errol Flynn.

While the ghost of former glory is significant, The Last of Robin Hood is about the actor’s last love, Beverly Aaland (Dakota Fanning), and her embittered stage mom Florence (Susan Sarandon). The winter-spring romance appears genuine, but unfortunately a mother’s ambition becomes fodder for the sleazy paparazzi.

This film feels like a time capsule of the same world presented in Oscar-winning movie L.A. Confidential. Like that film, The Last of Robin Hood features authentic performances from Kline, Sarandon and Fanning. If you like movie history that is timely, go see this film.

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FLICKS: “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” & “The Querulous Nights of Athena Minerva”

Posted on 28 August 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal. com

Thirty years ago this Labor Day weekend, I began my film writing studies under Peter Stowell, an English professor with Florida State University. I was taking the class Film Genres: Film Noir and the required reading was The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir, written by Foster Hirsch, who is a regular moderator with the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Beyond talking about cinematic motifs, acting and themes, Foster’s book reviews the literary influences of Film Noir and how many of these stories grew out of the original pulp fiction of the early 20th Century.

Released in 2005, Sin City, considered “Neo Noir,” was a natural extension of the literature of James Cain, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, or the 1940s movies starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale. Created from the graphic novels written by Frank Miller, wunderkind director Robert Rodriquez used green screen techniques and hired an all-star cast to recreate the mean streets of Sin City. A Sin City sequel has been one of the most anticipated movies of the decade.

Alas, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, one thinks about the time Rodriquez wasted with projects like Grindhouse, Machete Kills and the Spy Kids reboot. As fans clamored for the Sin City sequel, we mourned the loss of cast members Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

As the murderous henchman with impeccable manners, Dennis Haysbert does a commendable job as the younger version of Manute. His behemoth battle with Marv (Mickey Rourke) is better than what Frank Miller envisioned in his graphic novel. However, this is only one story of the four and there are stretches of dullness between each action set piece.

The movie opens with Another Saturday Night, which features Marv dealing with his amnesia and dead bodies. The film then introduces two new stories not produced as a graphic novel. In The Long Bad Night, Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a gambler with a death wish. The ghost of Bruce Willis returns in Nancy’s Last Dance, in which Jessica Alba avenges the loss of her protector. Sadly, these new stories are just not as interesting as Frank Miller’s original graphic novels.

Good Film Noir is a triumph of style over content. As Film Noir of the 1940s grew from literary giants, this “Neo Noir” has grown upon weak imitation of 1940s film noir. Sin City A Dame to Kill For does not live up to its potential.

For those seeking some literature before the professional football season begins, authors Darrell House, Rachel Galvin and I will be among the approximately 25 authors attending August Authors & Autographs this Sunday Afternoon at the Butler House. This event will feature the debut of my latest book, The Querulous Nights of Athena Minerva.

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FLICKS: Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted on 20 August 2014 by L.Moore

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal. com

While listening to Pop Radio hit music from 1974, Rocket Raccoon flies a spaceship. That sentence alone determines the litmus test for anyone interested in seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Comics latest movie . While this new film fits right into the Marvel Comics Universe, it provides its own unique story that is very approachable.

The film opens with its darkest moment; young Peter Quill watches his mother die. The grieving boy steps out of hospice and is abducted by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), a space pirate who knows secrets about Peter’s father. The film fl ash forwards approximately three decades and Peter (Chris Pratt) is a space adventurer reminiscent of an Indiana Jones in his prime.

While seeking a special stone, Peter runs afoul Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a green alien with father issues. While stealing the stone from each other, both Gamora and Peter confront Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and his slow sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel, who earns the easiest paycheck for his vocal work in this movie).

As the stone changes hands and paws, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) enters the scene to settle a score with Gamora. Despite deep seated anger, these five individuals form an alliance and call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Unlike the genuine respect Captain America and the Falcon develop in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, these Guardians of the Galaxy seem to enjoy picking on each other. Rocket Raccoon has a perverse sense of humor. The brutal Drax the Destroyer inadvertently makes insulting comments about his peers. It is up to the leadership skills of Peter Quill to utilize conflict resolution with his peers.

Despite the over reliance of dark scenery and an over abundance of CGI, this film is an entertaining motion picture. The soundtrack from the ‘70s has become a hit again for young people. People my age were tapping their toes during the credits and dancing along with Groot.

While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been the box office champ for the last two weeks, Guardians of the Galaxy is poised to take the box office crown for August. It’s a cool movie to catch for a matinee price in an air conditioned movie theater.

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FLICKS: The Expendables 3, The Discoverers, Robin Williams & Danny Murphy

Posted on 14 August 2014 by L.Moore

FLICKS081414By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The Expendables 3 opens tomorrow with a sense it’s the last hurrah for the old action stars.

Four years ago, it was a novelty to see Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the same scene at the same time; but the couple has made four movies together and the novelty has worn thin. The good news is that the film does hold up as an action movie with sly Hollywood humor. Bruce Willis is out; Harrison Ford replaces him with double entendres about Willis’ missing character.

The Expendables team (Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jason Statham) rescue Wesley Snipes from a runaway train and blow up a prison.

After The Expendables are tricked by the master villain (Mel Gibson), Stallone decides it’s time to retire the team and reboot with a young team of mercenaries. Taking a page out of The Dirty Dozen, Stallone uses Kelsey Grammer to recruit the young talent. The mission is a failure and Gibson gloats.

The action scenes are as overwhelming as one expects, but tongue-in-cheek humor keeps the filmed glued in reality. Of the three Expendables, Gibson is the best antagonist to match Stallone. Both are cold professionals whose staring contest is scarier than blowing up a building or flying into a helicopter blade.

For those seeking action entertainment minus loud explosions, check out The Discoverers. In this film, a 21st Century family reunite with a quirky grandfather (Stuart Margolin), who likes to reenact 18th Century history. The family learns to cope with the great outdoors without cell phones and the Internet. As the father, Griffin Dunne is getting his best notice in two decades.

I could not wrap up this column without mentioning the loss of Robin Williams. For 37 years, Williams has been a household name and managed to reinvent himself to the point that no one could take him for granted. My generation knows him as “Mork,” current college graduates know him as the “Genie” and today’s young people know him as “Teddy Roosevelt.” He made us feel good; but nothing is more poignant than the tears of a clown — when no one is around.

We have also lost actor Danny Murphy, who lived in Florida. Paralyzed for over 30 years from a diving accident, Danny rose above his disabilities and lived an adventuresome life. He began his acting career in his early 40s with cameo roles in films like Something about Mary, Shallow Hal and Fever Pitch. Last autumn, Danny premiered CinemaAbility, an award-winning documentary about how Hollywood perceives people with disabilities. He was an inspiration to everybody who ever met him.

[This week, we also lost legendary actress Lauren Bacall, known for films like “To Have and Have Not.”]

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