FLICKS: Ace and Jonathan Lipnicki visit Savor Cinema & True Grit returns to the big screen

Posted on 22 February 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

With very little surprise, Black Panther blew up the motion picture box office and is likely to be a juggernaut until the May releases of Avengers: Infinity Wars and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Not since Titanic 20 years ago have people purchased tickets for multiple screenings. Some people have seen Black Panther on the big screen each day since the film has been released.

Much like last year’s Wonder Woman, the timing was right for Black Panther. While both films contain likeable heroes, Black Panther offers more depth of characterization, especially for the villain, Killmonger, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. The character of Killmonger does bad things, but like any successful fictional villain or monster, there are reasons behind his reprehensible actions. In fiction, there is sympathy for the devil. Yet in reality, we learned that the devil has no sympathy for our neighbors in Parkland.

The tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will stay with us for the rest of our lives; there is no denying that. On social media across the world, we are seeing political finger pointing with predictable political bias from the opposing sides. Unfortunately, what we do not hear or see on social or broadcast media are people working towards solutions. 

Yet, last Sunday, I saw something that made me feel better about the future.

While checking out some acoustic guitars at Guitar Center at Coconut Creek, I observed two young men strumming a guitar and a bass. Both had innate talent, playing music from the Beatles to Guns & Roses. While neither teenager spoke to each other, their guitars communicated with each other. The set ended, the bass player complimented the guitar player, who admitted that he was a student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and that one of his friends had died in the shooting. The two young men talked some more. Given that the two had not met before, I encouraged each other to exchange their names. As I told them, “This is how Paul (McCartney) met John (Lennon).” After a real trauma, it was heartening to watch this new generation reach out to each other, not by electronic resources, but through old fashioned conversation and their mutual interest.

While we shall remain vigilant, escapism is needed now. This Friday evening, Savor Cinema will be screening Ace — a short drama about first love, social norms and sexual identity. It stars 27-year-old Jonathan Lipnicki, whose best known role is that as “the Kid” in Jerry McGuire, starring Tom Cruise and Kelly Preston. 

Lipnicki, along with writer/director Jordan Gear, producers Ashley Kate Adams and Jim Kierstead are scheduled to appear. For reservations, call 954-525-FILM. www.FLIFF.com.

This Sunday, Feb. 25 and Wednesday, Feb. 28, Silverspot Cinema in Coconut Creek will be screening John Wayne’s Oscar winning performance in True Grit. If you have only seen this classic on television, take the time to see True Grit on the big screen. Besides big and broad performances from the Duke, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall, the big screen does justice to the Colorado scenery and great outdoors.

In contrast to the True Grit remake starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfield, the original True Grit is a redemptive film that is far more optimistic. Given today’s headline news, we need more optimism in our neighborhood.

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FLIFF: 1945 and Black Panther opens, MIFF announces iconic guests

Posted on 15 February 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Two new films open this weekend, one full of sound and fury from the Walt Disney marketing machine, the other quietly garnering awards on the film festival circuit. There will be no contest as to who the box office champion will be this weekend. Through contrasting filmmaking, there is no mistaking the variety of good films opening this weekend.

1945 opens when a train drops off an Orthodox Jew and his full grown son at a Hungarian village in August in 1945. The United States has dropped the atomic bomb in Japan and battles of World War II have subsided. It is the wedding day for the town clerk, but his focus seems distracted by the two visitors. Could these two men be heirs to the Jews who were deported during the Holocaust?

In the Hungarian language with English subtitles and clocking in at 90 minutes, 1945 is the most unique epic on the big screen. Shot in black & white film stock, 1945 echoes many great American Westerns, most notably 3:10 to Yuma and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It is a story about the Holocaust, but with an emphasis upon living with the consequences of surviving this horrible time.

Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel Comic Universe, the penultimate film before Avengers: Infinity War opens this May 4. While this information provides subtext and an appreciation for the vast tapestry of these Marvel movies, Black Panther is a stand-alone movie whose lead character was introduced two years ago in Captain America: Civil War.

With the demise of his father and king, Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the heir to the throne of Wakanda, a legendary country in the hidden jungles of Africa. Isolated for thousands of years, Wakanda is considered a third-world country. In fact, it is a country with hidden technical and medical superiority. Through ritual and tradition, Prince T’Challa is proclaimed King and is given the additional title of “Black Panther” — protector of the kingdom.

As the Black Panther, King T’Challa’s first job is to bring Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to justice. Besides being implicated with the death of Black Panther’s father, Klaue has been selling Wakanda weapons to terrorist organizations throughout the world. One customer — Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) — has had a grudge with the Wakanda leadership since the Rodney King riots of 1992. This conflict leads to a satisfying climax that works as a big comic book epic, while focusing on a human story about two men who qualify as the modern day version of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper.

1945 and Black Panther create contrasting forms of escapism this weekend.

After the Olympics, South Florida’s longest standing film festival, The Miami International Film Festival, kicks off its 35th year. Writer/Director Jason Reitman will be presenting Tully, starring Charlize Theron, and Isabelle Huppert will be receiving the Precious Gem – Icon Award for her body of work. For a list of films and times, visit www.miamifilmfestival.com.

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FLICKS: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

Posted on 07 February 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

www.cinemadave.livejournal.com

As much as I was boycotting the NFL last season, the professional football league did much to redeem themselves with Superbowl LII. Perhaps it was pandering to veterans, but having Medal of Honor winners (lead by Cpl. Hershel “Woody” Williams) open the game with the ceremonial coin flip was a step in the right direction. Despite battling the flu, Pink sang a beautiful National Anthem in under two minutes, while Leslie Odom Jr. lead an inspiring chorus of “America the Beautiful.” The actual game was a thriller for people who normally do not enjoy the sport. Beyond the respect given the Christian faith in victory, Miami Dolphins fans enjoyed the fact that Don Shula’s former third-string quarterback Doug Pederson, coached the Philadelphia Eagles’ first Superbowl title.

Football withdrawal weekend is real and, fortunately there are a variety of opportunities for entertainment in South Florida residents with numerous art fairs and festivals. For those more interested in science and nature activities for family fun, the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery & Science (at 401 SW 2 St.) features a Sunday afternoon visit from literary icon, Curious George, the monkey who encourages reading.

In addition, besides screening mainstream movies like Marvel’s Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, the IMAX theater there hosts a fine series of documentaries. With an emphasis upon knowledge, visualization and entertainment, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3-D is no exception. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film opens with both a paleontology and historical hypothesis. The meteors that killed dinosaurs on the African section of Pangaea scared the lemurs, who hid in the trees on a land form that separated from the major continent. As island dwellers, the lemurs rebuilt their habitat and lived their life in relative obscurity.

Despite adapting through millions of years of evolution, the lemurs of Madagascar are on the endangered species list in the 21st Century. The growth of tourism and housing development harms these indigenous creatures. Fortunately for the lemurs, they have an advocate for their cause, Professor Patricia C. Wright .

For more information, visit https://mods.org/films/island-lemurs-3d.

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FLICKS: The Shape of Water is on a high tide

Posted on 31 January 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

www.cinemadave.livejournal.com

As a Monster Maven, it has taken me a few weeks to wrap my head around The Shape of Water, which has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards and earned multiple awards from the Golden Globes, the American Film Institute and the African-American Film Critics Association. The Shape of Water is easily the most unique movie to receive such prestigious praise.

We are introduced to the daily clockwork routine of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives with a closeted gay illustrator named Giles (Richard Jenkins) and resides in Baltimore, circa 1962. She is a Custodian Engineer for a secret government laboratory and is best friends with Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). Under the guidance of Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a huge water tank arrives, which cages an amphibian man (Doug Jones) from South America.

Because Strickland antagonizes the man and is mean to him, the mute woman develops a relationship with him. She cooks him hard boiled eggs and they communicate with each other through sign language. When Strickland’s supervisor orders the dissection of her new friend, Elisa recruits Giles and Zelda to hatch a rescue plan.

If you have seen Splash and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, you can easily figure out the rest of the narrative of The Shape of Water. Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro knows this and he takes many of these cliches and adds his own spin to audience expectations. Being a fellow Monster Maven, del Toro acknowledges the debt from the original King Kong, The Bride of Frankenstein and the Creature From the Black Lagoon trilogy, the latter being the most obvious homage.

With the financial success of Marvel Comics and Legendary Pictures, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla, Universal Productions has sought to reboot their Universal Monsters franchise. A part of a proposed series of movies, The Mummy was released and crashed at the box office. While Universal spent millions of dollars on celebrity salaries (Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp), less money was spent on script writing.

One wonders how good the Universal Monster franchise would have been if Guillermo del Toro had taken over.

Given his filmography with films like The Devil’s Backbone, the two Hellboy movies and Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro understands that character motivation trumps a scriptwriting formula that pieces together scenes emphasizing computer-generated special effects. For all of its fantastic elements, an award-winning musical score and beautiful cinematography, The Shape of Water succeeds as a movie about humanity.

Given my high expectations, The Shape of Water was a disappointment. Yet, as I was given time to reflect about the visual imagery combined with Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones’ empathetic performances, I can say that the film is a movie that stays with you. Given his love of Lon Chaney movies from the silent era, I cannot wait to see what del Toro does next on the big screen!

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FLICKS: 12 Strong & Humor Me

Posted on 25 January 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Jurassic World is the last movie that I saw on the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science IMAX six-story tall screen, in which the Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared to be life sized. I regret not seeing the last three Star Wars movies and Kong:Skull Island at this venue, but I did enjoy 12 Strong there.

Based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book Horse Soldiers, 12 Strong tells a war story that was declassified nine years ago. It is about the first engagement between the United States and the terrorists who brought down the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and caused the airline crash in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.

A few weeks after the attacks on our homeland, 12 Green Berets were inserted into Afghanistan to work in cooperation with a tribal warlord — Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), who has spent 30 years of his life battling the Soviet Union and terrorists protected by the Taliban.

This film contains a simple narrative that takes the ticket buyer from tragic defeat to an unbelievable victory. While the technology of the United States military is never in doubt, it is the human relationship between Abdul Rashid Dostum and Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) that really sets into motion America’s victory over terrorism supported by the Taliban.

Of course, it is the IMAX visuals that makes 12 Strong stand out with the aerial photography of bombs falling from a B29 and the wide valley shots of the 12 horsemen raiding an enemy encampment. Director Nicolai Fuglsig’s visualization is as worthy as that of Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and John Ford.

For those looking for more humorous fare, Humor Me opens this weekend. Written and directed by Sam Hoffman, this comedy features a struggling playwright named Nate (Jemaine Clement) who loses both his job and his wife on the same day. Going broke, Nate moves in with this father Bob (Elliot Gould), who lives in a retirement village and likes to make crude jokes about male anatomy.

Clocking in at 90 minutes, Humor Me is the perfect running time to develop the absurd laughs that it earns. Good comedy builds on a logic that leads to a strong punch line. With a talented cast (including Annie Potts and Bebe Neuwirth) and creative use of black & white cinematography, Humor Me is the funniest movie thus far this year.

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FLICKS: President Taft & First Lady to visit Deerfield’s library

Posted on 18 January 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

This Saturday, Jan. 20 at 2 p.m., President William H. Taft (with First Lady “Nellie”) will host the annual State of the Union at the Deerfield Beach Percy White multi-purpose room. A transitional figure in American politics, the Taft Administration oversaw the transition from an agriculture economy to the growth of the Industrial Age. A one term president, Taft later served as the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Having performed as the Nixons in 2015, the Reagans in 2016 and John & Abigail Adams last year, William and Sue Wills return is a welcome event. Since Hurricane Irma, the library switchboard has received phone calls asking, “Are the president people coming?” Fortunately, this annual State of the Union is traditionally booked on or near Jan. 20, which happens to be Presidential Inauguration Day.

Starting in 1991, the Wills began researching, writing and performing a series of presentations they called “Presidents and Their First Ladies, dramatically speaking.” William does the research (using mostly existing books and magazine articles and some original research), writes the first draft of the scripts, then Sue edits the same. Sue either “finds” or creates all of their period costuming. Among Sue’s comedic costume highlight was Nancy Reagan’s rendition of “Second Hand Clothes,” a reworking of the classic “Second Hand Rose” made famous by Franny Brice and Barbra Streisand.

For 15 years, the Wills have performed along the Atlantic coast and Midwest, being away from home nine months of the year. For the last six years, the Wills have limited their traveling to Florida and special events — presidential museums and large organizations all over the USA.

As both the Eisenhowers and the Trumans, William and Sue will perform at the Boynton Beach Civic Center on Feb. 7 in support of their nonprofit foundation, the Presidents Project to support Wounded Warriors. (For tickets, please visit www.presidentsproject.org).

William and Sue Wills first met in 1970 and have performed in almost 9000 shows together since. Their three children — Jennifer Hope, Daniel Parker and Rebecca Anne — were raised on-stage and backstage.

Jennifer Hope has performed on Broadway as a leading lady for Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast.

A Master’s degree graduate from Indiana University, she also teaches vocal performance.

A mother of five, Rebecca Anne served as the business manager for “Presidents and their First Ladies,” and is also a nurse. A Veteran of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Daniel Parker returned to his hometown in Ocean City, Maryland and works as an EMT dispatcher, while pursuing certification to become a paramedic.

As both history and theater, “Presidents and their First Ladies, Dramatically Speaking” is truly a labor of love. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis with a seating of 150 seat capacity. Thanks to the Friends of the Percy White Public Library, this unique performance is free to the public. Percy White Library is located at 837 E. Hillsboro Blvd.

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FLICKS: Olympic memories with I,Tonya

Posted on 11 January 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

www.cinemadave.livejournal.com

In less than three weeks, the Winter Olympics begin in South Korea and does anyone care?

For many years, the Olympics were topics around the water cooler, but it seems as if the last time people talked about the Winter Olympics was 24 years ago. People forget that Oksana Baiul took the Gold Medal for Figure Skating, because Silver Medalist Nancy Kerrigan was half of the big story leading up to the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Tonya Harding was considered the villain of the story which has now become a movie called I,Tonya.

We are introduced to LaVona Fay (Allison Janney), a monstrous mother who sees potential as a skater for her 3-year-old daughter Tonya. Considered to be “from the wrong side of the tracks” in the Pacific Northwest, young Tonya is taught to shoot rabbits by her father figure. Given LaVona Fay’s abusive behavior, the father figure leaves home. Minus a second income, LaVona uses physical and psychological abuse upon Tonya.

Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) enters a skating rink and is immediately infatuated with the teenaged Tonya. The two begin a whirlwind teen romance, infuriating her mother. When LaVona Fay expresses displeasure, Tonya and Jeff move in together and eventually marry. Jeff’s friend Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) becomes Tonya’s bodyguard when Tonya’s skating becomes nationally recognized. It is not a fanatical fan base that Tonya needs protection from. She needs protection from her soon to be ex-husband Jeff Gillhooly.

Told from multiple perspectives, I,Tonya presents Tonya Harding’s side of the story. Margot Robbie (who also stars as the title character) has produced a dark comedy of people who have stupid thoughts, which leads to stupid talk creating stupid actions. Many people remember Nancy Kerrigan getting clubbed in the knee before the 1994 Olympics. Many people forget about the rogue’s gallery of fools that led to the assault. I,Tonya is a humorous reminder.

The soundtrack features many songs from Tonya’s childhood in the 1970s. It would have been timelier if we heard more tunes from 1994. However, this is a minor quibble for a movie that is filled with many details within the frame.

As the Kerrigan – Harding showdown resides into history, a news story featuring the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman is seen in the background. One sensationalized story is quickly replaced by another.

The ensemble of actors really sinks their teeth into their roles. From beginning to end, Margot Robbie owns this movie with both a hair trigger temper and sincere charm. Allison Janney portrays a darker version of the role she plays on her CBS Broadcast sitcom Mom. With her Moe Howard, from the three Stooges, haircut, Janney’s LaVona Fay’s abuse is mean and dark, yet the actress taps into a strange humanity toward the character. When she is not around, the audience misses their LaVona Fay.

Based on the performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, I,Tonya is making news on the current awards circuit [Janney won Best Supporting Actress at Golden Globes]. As we prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympics, expect to hear more about I,Tonya.

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FLICKS: The Top Ten List& reflections

Posted on 04 January 2018 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

In the waning hours of 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi nudged out Beauty and the Beast to become the box office champion for the year. This marks the third year in a row that a Star Wars movie has become the reigning monarch of the box office. While overall box office revenue was down for the motion picture industry, Disney showed a consistent return on investment with their Marvel Comics Universe and animated fare like Coco. Now with the acquisition of 20th Century Productions, only Warner Brothers will provide competition against Disney Studios for the Box Office Crown.

In this year’s Top Ten List, one will see many films from Disney, Warner Brothers Studios and 20th Century Fox. There were also some good stories from some independently-produced motion pictures. These films provide a good story, intriguing characters and technical achievements that enhance, but do not detract from the entertainment value of the product. So in no particular order, except in reverse alphabetical order, is my top ten list of films:

Wind River

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

Megan Leavey

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Lost in Paris

Logan

Kong: Skull Island

Dunkirk

Coco

Honorable Mentions:

War for the Planet of the Apes

Split

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

The Shape of Water

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Logan Lucky

Lady Bird

The Last Word

It

Gifted

Baby Driver

Annabelle: Creation

While Summer Blockbuster season was a disappointment both critically and at the box office, the colder months featured consistent box office revenue and more critical love. According to the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, there was a great disparity of opinion between paid criticism (the Tomatometer) and the audience score. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was loved by mainstream critics, but rated low on the audience score. Overall, I’ve enjoyed more films in 2017 than I have in recent years, though I find my favorites lean towards a strong audience score with strong box office performance.

Given the sexual harassment scandals involving so many Hollywood icons, one would expect a more subdued awards season. Yet, given the tenure of the late night talk shows featuring Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert, expect more President Trump bashing nonetheless.

Good movies should be the focus of these ceremonies.

Each award ceremony on television will feature a montage of people who have passed away in 2017. I hope I see a glimpse of my late friend Kenny Miller, who passed away last May 8. With the exception of a Florida-made independent film, Kenny Miller has not made a full length motion picture on the big screen since 1976. However, he worked steady in Florida nightclubs and earned a semi-regular role on Burt Reynolds’ detective series BL Stryker, which was filmed in West Palm Beach. A consummate professional and a heck of a nice guy, Kenny was one of the first interviews that I conducted for the Observer. Kenny worked in Hollywood classics featuring Hollywood legends like Orson Wells, James Dean, Anthony Quinn and Janet Leigh. He had many great stories to tell. He is missed.

The 2017 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) was a consistently good community event from its opening to the closing evening three weeks later. The variety of stories were intriguing and special guests — Burt Reynolds, Blanche Baker and Karen Allen — provided a fine balance of movie stardom combined with artistic integrity. Both the Miami International Film Festival in March and FLIFF have a combined 67 years of local history.

As for the future, expect to see many television commercials during the Superbowl 18 (If you are not boycotting it) and Winter Olympics 2018 featuring films produced by Disney and Warner Brothers, the only studios that can afford the multi-million dollar tab for a 30 second spot. If these flicks are interesting — Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — then this swashbuckling journalist & information scientist will be there. A writer is only as good as the story he tells.

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FLICKS: 2017 in Review & evolution 2018

Posted on 28 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Much like Aeneas fleeing the fall of Troy 5000 years ago, this film columnist is feeling a kindred spirit with this fictional character from the Aeneid written by Virgil, the Roman playwright. During the holiday season 18 years ago, the theaters would be packed with consumers viewing movies like The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense and Toy Story 2. In the past, people had to plan weeks or months in advance to purchase a ticket for a blockbuster. Even with the current box office champion, there is no need to plan that far in advance.

There were some good movies that looked great on the movie screen this year with big epic visuals. Among the standouts were Kong: Skull Island and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to name a few. There were also strong stories like Moonlight and The Last Word that did not need to be seen on the big screen. These films were just as good on your television set at home. Thus, my major dilemma, being the longest standing film columnist in Broward County, has Flicks outlived its usefulness?

This swashbuckling journalist & information scientist still enjoys the challenge of coming up with seven paragraphs about the motion picture industry each week. Yet, with dropping box office revenue, there is no denying the shrinking interest in seeing a movie on the big screen. Entertainment spending is being spent on many alternative consumer items, like cell phones that can download movies for free with a library card.

Ninety years ago, Al Jolson brought sound to the big screen with the debut of The Jazz Singer. The doom knell for movies was sounded 60 years ago when Americans purchased black & white television sets for home entertainment and mass communication. The movie industry responded with Technicolor epics like The Searchers, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ and Rio Bravo. The motion picture industry survived because it consistently evolves.

Prurient scandals have been part of Hollywood history since its inception, from Charlie Chaplin’s peccadillos to Harvey Weinstein’s full-blown harassment scandals. As a journalist, one can not pursue news and information about the movie industry without being sidetracked by these scandals. This writer prefers to read stories about the business side of the industry or interviews with actors who talk about their craft and character development.

These types of stories and interviews are getting harder to find in this information age filled with #FakeNews.

Next week, Flicks will present our annual Top 10 List with Honorable Mentions. As long as I keep writing this column, Flicks will always have a movie component to it. Yet, there is so much more to the world of arts, entertainment, theater and culture than just sitting in a dark room watching projected celluloid images on a big screen.

Starting with Jan. 11, 2018, Flicks will be undergoing its first step of its evolution. it is my hope that my dear readers since 1999 will grow along with me. Until then, have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve weekend.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Posted on 21 December 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

cinemadave.livejournal.com

When I began writing “Flicks” 18 summers ago, Star Wars: Episode I -The Phantom Menace was the most hyped movie of 1999. Unlike previous Star Wars movies which opened on Memorial Day weekend and stayed on the big screen past Labor Day weekend, Star Wars: Episode I lost momentum after the 4th of July weekend. For the next six years, two more Star Wars movies were released to a good box office, but with critical disdain. Creator George Lucas claimed the Star Wars story was over, but Disney purchased the franchise and we have seen three movies that last three holiday seasons. Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi, is the most recent endeavor.

The Last Jedi picks up where Star Wars: Episode VII -The Force Awakens left off. The good guys — the Resistance — are under assault from the bad guys — the First Order. Hot shot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) defies General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders and ignites a space battle with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The battle is decisive for the Resistance, but with a great loss for the heroes.

Meanwhile on an abandoned planet, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found legendary hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is old, disillusioned and cantankerous. As Rey tries to persuade this war hero to help fight the bad guys, Luke feels grief over his nephew’s conversion to the dark side and the rise of the First Order. Luke’s nephew is Kylo Ren, who is the son of Princess Leia.

In terms of understanding the narrative information leading up to The Last Jedi, the pedigree between mother, son and nephew is all one needs to know to enjoy last weekend’s box office champion. Director Rian Johnson does a fine job revealing a fresh story with archetypal conflict. The lessons of war are presented with reverence, filled with clear and concise visuals. The computerized special effects enhance, but do not distract, from the fast-paced narrative drive.

Given that the director was only 3 years old when the original Star Wars (known as Episode IV: A New Hope) was released, The Last Jedi emphasizes the theme of passing the generational torch. The robots from the first six movies — R2-D2 and C-3PO — are given less screen time compared to the new prodigy, BB-8. Harrison Ford’s character is gone and we know that the late Carrie Fisher’s character will not return, so Episode IX will revolve around the conflict between those kids, Rey and Kylo Ren.

Yet, being the longest Star Wars movie on record, The Last Jedi does not cheat on entertainment. There are moments of pure Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun that transport the ticket buyer to the thrilling days of yesterday when Flash Gordon battled Ming the Merciless. Of all the performers, Mark Hamill does a fine job balancing the serious nature of Luke Skywalker’s dilemma, with a humorous wink to the Star Wars core fanatics.

With the recent passing of my publisher David Eller, my old boss Rick Shaw and colleague Skip Sheffield, 2017 marks the end of an era. Given my generation’s 40-year history with this film franchise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi taps into the collective grief of our days. Yet, in its darkest moments, The Last Jedi draws from the need to be optimistic and celebrate our loved ones in this world and the next. Without meaning to, The Last Jedi says “Merry Christmas!”

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