FLICKS: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Posted on 01 June 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

With less than expected box office revenue and mixed reviews from mainstream movie critics, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales still took the box office crown for Memorial Day Weekend. Yet, according to a popular critical website, RottenTomatoes.com, the paying public likes this fifth Pirate movie more than critics getting a free screening.

Dead Men Tell No Tales features a young Henry Turner locating his father, Will Turner, (Orlando Bloom) who is the current cursed Captain of the Flying Dutchman, the ship that ferries souls to Fiddler’s Green. The son claims that if he can locate the Trident of Poseidon, he can free his father from his curse. The barnacle-faced Will Turner rejects such an offer, especially if it means involving Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

A decade passes and a grown Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is still searching for the Trident of Poseidon. His ship is raided by the ghostly Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a ghost with a score to settle with Captain Jack. A pirate on hard times yet again, Sparrow has become a landlubber with a dry-docked crew. Henry and Jack eventually meet in prison, where they encounter Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario-Davis), an astronomer who is accused of witchcraft.

The plot unfurls like a lapping wave as Jack, Carina and Henry confront Captain Salazar. Eventually, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) enters the scene in search of his own treasure. Along the way, sea battles, sword battles and zombie sharks add spice to this film.

If this is the final Pirates of the Caribbean film, this Disney franchise closes on a high note. While not slowing down story momentum, this fifth installment answers lingering questions from the previous four movies. While the climax bogs down with too much reliance on computerized special effects, there is enough creative visualization in the earlier scenes to hold one’s interest in the movie.

It is the colorful character interactions that drive this motion picture. The bickering between Jack and Barbossa is as refreshing as the new kids, Carina and Henry.

Captain Salazar is the best antagonist since Davy Jones, who makes an effective cameo that might drive a sixth movie, if there is one.

With Baywatch bombing at the box office, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has proven to be the most sea-worthy movie on the big screen. For those interested in more realistic drama, keep your eyes peeled for Megan Levy, a true story of an American Marine in Iraq who develops a special relationship with a combat dog.

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FLICKS: Alien: Covenant & PBS Memorial Day Concert

Posted on 25 May 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Prometheus opened five years ago to good box office, but mixed reviews. One of the complaints about the film was that it was teased as an Alien film, but Ridley Scott chose to make a more cerebral science fiction motion picture. Released last weekend, Alien: Covenant is a direct sequel and is at least one or two prequels away from the original 1979 Alien motion picture that starred Sigourney Weaver.

Ironically, Alien: Covenant opens before the events of Prometheus. We see the android David (Michael Fassbender) discussing the meaning of life with his creator, Peter Weyland, (Guy Pearce). The film fast forwards a decade past the events of Prometheus, in which the space ship “Covenant” is journeying to a distant planet for human colonization. Midway through the odyssey, the spaceship is diverted by a distress signal from an unknown planet.

Among the Covenant crewmates is Daniels (Katherine Waterston), a widow with leadership potential and Walter (Fassbender again), a new model android who is new and improved from the old David model. Upon landing on the uncharted tropical planet, two crew members inhale bad spores and begin breeding aliens.

Whereas Prometheus is science-fiction based, Alien: Covenant follows the narrative of doomed horror. When things go from bad to worse, one can count on familiar clichés to kick in. In a 1930s murder mystery, you could count on an electrical storm wiping out a bridge or preventing telephones from working. With modern CGI special effects, the storm prevents spaceships from landing on the planet for a rescue mission.

One special effect worth noting is a simple dialogue scene between David and Walter. Given that the two characters are being played by one actor, Michael Fassbender, this entertaining scene features an interesting discussion about creativity and following programmed orders. Making this scene appear simple, Fassbender deserves award consideration for his hard work. 

Despite usurping Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 from the weekend box office champion perch, don’t expect Alien Covenant to have much legs beyond the July 4th holiday weekend. For the most part, it is an interesting movie. It just feels like déjà vu.

With Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch opening this weekend, it will be an entertaining weekend at the box office. However, take the time to watch the PBS Memorial Day Concert Sunday evening. The local television news will refer to this weekend as “urban beach weekend,” but most of our neighbors still remember this weekend as Memorial Day weekend. Make sure you thank a veteran this weekend.

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FLICKS: Opening: Chuck, The Wedding Plan & Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent

Posted on 18 May 2017 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As predicted, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 dominated the big screen box office. As much as the film is a visual treat on the big screen, it is the 1970s soundtrack that has enhanced the big screen experience. For those that want to continue strolling down Amnesia Lane, Chuck opens tomorrow and features songs frequently played on AM Pop radio.

Liev Schreiber plays Chuck Wepner, a heavyweight fighter who fought Muhammad Ali and lasted 15 rounds. The fight inspired an unknown writer/actor Sylvester Stallone, who wrote his screenplay Rocky in three days.  While he promoted himself as “the real Rocky,” Chuck Wepner’s private life was not as noble as Rocky Balboa’s fictional life.

An old school brawler like Tony Galento, and Jake La Motta, a New Jersey journeyman whose nickname was “the Bayonne Bleeder,” Galento is also a husband with a wandering eye, despite loving his daughter. As his fame grows, so does the temptations of sex, drugs and disco music.

The story of an athlete succumbing to temptation is common. What makes Chuck special is the nostalgia. Growing up, Chuck’s favorite movie was Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, which starred Anthony Quinn as a fighter who was “…almost the heavyweight champion of the world.” Throughout Chuck, scenes from Requiem are used to accent the similarity between Wepner and Anthony Quinn’s character, Mountain Rivera. There is also a subtle nod to On the Waterfront in which Chuck meets with his brother, John (Michael Rappaport), which echoes the famous scene between Marlon Brando and Rod Stieger. The fine line between fantasy and reality is examined throughout this film.

This theme is never more apparent when Wepner has an audition for Rocky II, which is a disaster. Fortunately, he gets a dose of realty when he takes solace with a bartender named Linda (Naomi Watts), who has both street smarts and can quote Requiem for a Heavyweight verbatim.  Chuck is a worthy diversion.

An Israeli film with English subtitles, The Wedding Plan opens tomorrow.  With only a month’s notice, a groom calls off their marriage plans. Feeling like an old maid at age 32, the bride saves the date and goes on a series of blind dates so she can have a groom on the wedding date. A romantic comedy on one hand, this nearly two-hour movie examines the concept of faith and religious values.  

Last but not least, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent opens tomorrow. Co-produced by CNN, this documentary is about the celebrity chef who created/promoted California cuisine. From his privileged childhood to his Ivy League education, Tower forms alliances with California chefs. It is worth seeing for the visuals alone.

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FLICKS: A Quiet Passion & One Week and a Day

Posted on 11 May 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Even with the releases of King Arthur Legend of the Sword, starring Charlie Hunam, and Snatched, featuring Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer, expect Marvel’s Guardian of the Galaxy Vol.2 to dominate the box office this weekend. In the following weeks, Alien Covenant and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales will seek the box office bonanza, but there are still quieter movies opening this weekend.

A Quiet Passion is a two-hour biography about poet Emily Dickinson and her pastoral New England influences. This was a passion project of actress Cynthia Nixon (who plays Dickinson) with Terence Davies’ confident direction. A Quiet Passion is a worthy afternoon watching an episode of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater.

The film opens with young Emily being defiant in a girl’s boarding school. She graduates and returns home to live with her family. Her financially secure father, Edward (Robert Carradine), is a stern character, but supports Emily’s point of view. As America becomes divided by the Civil War, Emily writes poetry about battlefield bloodshed without ever leaving her Massachusetts mansion.

A Quiet Passion enters theatrical art house territory during these sequences. Matthew Brady’s famous photograph about the Gettysburg Battle is seen, with Emily Dickinson’s words providing color commentary. Later in the movie, a prone Dickinson lays in her sick bed near death. The cinematography from realism to Brady’s inspired sepia tone, makes the case that Emily Dickinson belongs to the ages.

An Israeli film with English subtitles, One Week and a Day opens this weekend. Despite being a foreign movie, the film feels like a contemporary American drama. It explores the aftermath of grief and the path of letting go through forgiveness.

With the loss of their son, Eyal and his wife Vicky attempt to continue their life as before. Something does not feel right to Eyal, so he returns to the classroom too soon, causing bureaucratic discomfort. In their new environment, both Eyal and Vicky learn the value of living life in the moment, by playing with kitty cats and performing pantomime with air guitars and medical aid. The film invites conversation. Fortunately for our community, director Asaph Polonsky will be at theaters May 13 & 14 for Q&As. Check theaters and Q&A times at http://bit.ly/AsaphInFlorida. One Week and A Day does not feature space battles and dancing Groots, but this weekend’s screening will be an enriching experience.

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FLICKS: In Search of Israel Cuisine & Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Posted on 04 May 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

With The Dinner opening this weekend, this weekend’s movies feature an emphasis upon family and food also with two new releases, In Search of Israeli Cuisine and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.

In Search of Israeli Cuisine is a documentary that explores the Israeli culture through food. While the emphasis features geographic and anthropological lessons, this documentary is entertainingly told. James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov serves as the film’s guide. Besides being a chef, Solomonov was born in Israel, but was raised in Pittsburgh. Despite being embarrassed in his youth by his grandmother’s ways, Solomonov develops an appreciation for his Israeli Heritage.

Given that the State of Israel is only seven decades old, Israeli cuisine is not as respected when compared to Italian or French food. Through interviews, it is disclosed that Israel is still a nation of immigrants and people who, like Solomonov’s grandmother, were European Holocaust survivors who brought their culture to a young state. With the tradition of Shabbat in place, this weekly family ritual sustains the Israel culture though turmoil and war. In Search of Israeli Cusine presents a comfortable and appetizing human story.

For all of its psychedelic weirdness, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 feels familiar. The film opens with an epic battle with a giant space slug that likes to eat batteries. The Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) easily defeat the monster, but run afoul the people who hired them.

After a perilous escape through an astro field, Peter Quill meets Ego (Kurt Russell), a man who claims to be Peter’s father. The Guardians separate when Peter, Drax and Gamora visit Ego’s planet. While making repairs on their damaged spaceship, Rocket Racoon and Groot come under the influence of Yondu (Michael Rooker), a blue headed alien who abducted Peter Quill from Planet Earth.

Much like the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol.2 features a marvelous soundtrack that is pure nostalgia for people who lived in the 1970s. The film opens with the ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) classic “Mr. Blue Sky” and features a dancing Baby Groot. The sequence is so much fun; why not join in the fun this weekend?

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FLICKS: The Dinner opens & Gifted should stay open

Posted on 27 April 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The Dinner opens tomorrow in our neighborhood. Starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Steve Coogan, this is a motion picture with an international pedigree. Based on the novel of the same name by Dutch author Herman Koch, The Dinner has been filmed in Dutch and Italian studios. This American adaptation features references to Obamacare and mental illness.

An annoyed Paul Lohman (Coogan) and his dutiful wife Claire (Linney) await his sister-in-law Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his brother Stan (Gere), an elected politician who plans to become governor. The plan is to eat at a really ritzy five star restaurant and eat a five course meal. Cell phones keep interrupting the dining experience as Paul and Stan’s sibling rivalry festers.

As the film opens, one expects to see another Coogan comedy about food. When Gere arrives, one expects another domestic drama like Arbitrage or Unfaithful. There is a mystery that is exposed midway through the movie, but the reddish cinematography, mixed with unremarkable dialogue, distracts from a realistic dramatic experience. As the film ends, one feels as if the producers ran out of money to create a satisfying conclusion. The Dinner is simply a bizarre flick.

Released three weeks ago, Gifted is an underrated family movie that is performing poorly at the box office. Captain America’s Chris Evans portrays Frank Adler, an unmarried uncle raising his intellectually gifted niece, Mary (McKenna Grace). Set in a small town in Pinellas County (but filmed in Georgia…grrrrrr), Frank enrolls Mary into public school.

On the first day of school, Mary outwits her teacher, Miss Bonnie Stevenson (Jenny Slate), who brings the girl to the principal’s office. After some testing, it is revealed that Mary is a mathematical genius akin to the minds of Einstein, Newton and Pythagoras. While school administrators would like to send Mary to the school for gifted youngsters, Frank has his reasons why he wants his niece to go to public school.

While the conflicts are realistic, Gifted is a sweet and charming movie. Both Evans and Grace have a real chemistry. Their scenes together are both heartbreaking and humorous. Having Oscar winner Octavia Spencer around adds some emotional gravitas. For two hours, I felt pure movie escapism.

The Dinner is a movie about rich people with problems. In contrast, presents everyday people who try to solve problems.

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FLICKS: The Lost City of Z

Posted on 19 April 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The recent release of Kong: Skull Island reactivated my love of all stories related to jungle adventure. With Adventurers in Charity IV [in Disney World] not set until the end of September, the only local avenue left for this Adventurer will be a pilgrimage to Mai Kai restaurant this summer and watching Indiana Jones movies. Released nearly 20 years ago, local author Rob MacGregor wrote four Indiana Jones novels about the intrepid archeologist. The third book, Indiana Jones and the Seven Veils was set in South America and was inspired by British Explorer, Percy Fawcett, who is the focus of a new movie that opens on the big screen tomorrow, The Lost City of Z.

At the turn of the 20th Century, Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), having served in the British Military, is recruited by the Royal Geographical Society for his skills in cartography. With his sidekick Henry Costin (Robert Pattinson) and a team of explorers, the expedition travels through the Amazon River to find the source. Along the way, the expedition encounters piranhas, hostile natives and opera. When they find the source of the river, Fawcett finds archeological artifacts of a lost civilization.

Upon their return to London to report to the Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett and his explorers are met with skepticism. After a contentious assembly, the society finances a return expedition with explorers who served under Sir Ernest Shackleton’s antarctic expedition. When the frost of the British Reserve melts under the jungle heat, madness ensues.

The Lost City of Z is one story from the turn of the century age of exploration, in which lost worlds were being found, documented and mapped. The timeline covers the two decades in the early 20th Century and one sees how technology is advanced by the influence of a world war. Told in approximately two hours, this epic story about the adventures of this explorer does not feel rushed.

This film is also a family drama and Fawcett’s domestic life is handled with equal importance. During her husband’s adventures, Nina Fawcett (Sienna Miller) stayed in London and raised three children. It is obvious that this husband and wife love each other, despite their squabbles between his time-consuming adventures. These domestic scenes retain the same emotional resonance as rugged scenes of World War I and the jungle culture.

As Fawcett, Hunnam cements his acting credentials as a box office leading man, especially given his recent work on Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak. Best known from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and as a leading man in the Twilight vampire movies, Pattinson provides a dignified, quiet performance as Fawcett’s sidekick. While retaining a stiff upper lip and retaining a heart of gold, Miller symbolizes the domestic expectations of a woman of the British Empire.

The casting of actors from other action/adventure genres, such as Ian McDiarmid (Star Wars), Angus Macfadyen (Braveheart) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) already gives The Lost City of Z a critical footnote in cinema. However, the film stands on its own as a quiet adventure film, minus expensive computer-enhanced special effects.

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FLICKS: Religion in the Movies and The Case for Christ

Posted on 13 April 2017 by LeslieM

By Cinema Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

This Sunday evening at 7 p.m. the ABC Broadcast Network will televise The Ten Commandments, a rare movie tradition that has aired most Passover/Easter Sundays since 1973. The exception was 1999 in which television executives decreed that if people wanted to watch this movie, they could pick it up on VHS. Apparently, the telephone switchboard lit up, upset that a family tradition was torn asunder.

Released on the big screen in 1956, The Ten Commandments marked Director Cecil B. DeMille’s last motion picture and was the box office champion for the year. While the dialogue and acting styles has dated through the years, there is much visual splendor to hold one’s interest. Based on the first five books of the Old Testament, The Ten Commandments does have a pretty good story to tell, which might explain the film’s enduring holiday appeal.

It has been 13 years since Mel Gibson released The Passion of the Christ, which still holds multiple box office records. Despite the controversy, this film revealed a faith-based audience willing to purchase movie tickets. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Rocky Balboa included the faith-based audience in their marketing mix and were rewarded by good box office.

In recent years, the Christian consumer has supported contemporary faith-based movies like Miracles from Heaven, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real. Of the three films mentioned, Heaven is for Real holds up best as a family drama with international intrigue that bookends this fine motion picture written and directed by Randall Wallace, who earned a best screenplay Oscar for Braveheart, which was directed by Mel Gibson.

Based on a true story, The Case for Christ is this year’s faith-based motion picture. Set in Chicago circa 1980, atheist journalist Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) has dinner with his pregnant wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen) and their daughter, Alison. When Alison chokes on a giant gumball, the Strobels panic, but a kindly nurse, Alfie Davis (L. Scott Caldwell) performs a routine Heimlich Maneuver and saves the girl.

When Alfie praises Jesus, Leslie is impressed, but Lee is annoyed. While raising Alison and birthing another child, Leslie comes to accept the tenets of Christian faith. While performing earning a living as a crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Lee wants to write an article revealing Christianity as a con job worthy of P.T. Barnum.

Compared to the recent contemporary Christian movies of recent years, The Case for Christ is much more of a dry and somber movie. The film does explore the shifting values of the Baby Boomer Generation with that of traditional faith. When The Case for Christ concludes, one is left with many open-ended questions to draw one’s own personal conclusions.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter weekend!

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FLICKS: Ghost in the Shell

Posted on 05 April 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Last Sunday afternoon, I caught Pollock, Ed Harris’s award-winning film about tortured artist Jackson Pollock, a motion picture that I reviewed for The Observer 16 years ago. Although I may never be a patron of abstract art, I was absorbed in Jackson Pollock’s craft with paint and canvas. It still holds up as a fine motion picture with an interesting story, intriguing characters and artistic details that supports a strong artist vision.

The strong visuals of Ghost in the Shell have been part of the Japanese/Anime culture for nearly 30 years. Besides being a graphic novel, there was an animated motion picture titled The Ghost in the Shell that was released in 1995 and spawned a total of four films. Ten years ago, Steven Spielberg acquired the rights to produce a live-action version. Last weekend, Ghost in the Shell opened to a lackluster box office that may cost some Paramount Studio executives their jobs.

First off, it is not a bad movie. The film opens with Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) being assembled on a laboratory table. Mira’s body is a victim of a terrorist attack, but her brain is left intact and inserted into an android shell.

Much like Blade Runner, this Ghost in the Shell features a series of investigations and action sequences as Mira seeks to uncover bad guys. The pursuit involves multiple betrayals with Mira questioning her own identification as a cyborg.

The major flaw with the film is the lack of original story. Besides the previous mentioned Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell lifts plot ideas from Avatar, Virtuosity and Innerspace. It feels more like an outline than letting a fresh story unfold.

The film does shine with visual effects. Director Rupert Sanders lets his camera linger on giant hologram figures in the big city. The figures are eclectic and their brief appearances are more interesting than some of the cardboard characters that are used to move the plot forward. While Johansson does shine, we’ve seen her in enough movies of this ilk: Lucy, Her and the Marvel movies.

So Ghost in the Shell is no Pollock or The Last Word, or Kong: Skull Island, for that matter. I wish that The Zookeeper’s Wife or The Case for Christ opened a week sooner.

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FLICKS: Frantz opens, Savor Cinema/ Cinema Paradiso news & PBIFF opens this weekend

Posted on 30 March 2017 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As Kong: Skull Island and Beauty & the Beast blow up box office records for March, there are still quiet, artistic movies that are being released on the big screen this weekend. From acclaimed French Director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, Potiche) comes Frantz, a film with a touch of Daphne du Maurier’s literary classic Rebecca.

Set in Germany during the post World War I era, Anna (Paula Beer) grieves over the loss of her fiance, Frantz. After a visit to the graveside, Anna witnesses Adrien (Pierre Ninney), a French war veteran, put flowers on the marker.

Despite the cultural divide from the Armistice of World War I, Anna and Adrien communicate with each other. Each individual talks about their experiences knowing Frantz, an artistic soul who died in the muddy trenches. At times this relationship evolution is beautiful, but the horrors of war reveal dark secrets of human nature.

Frantz is presented in grim black and white cinematography that also echoes Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s version of Rebecca. Yet Ozon takes advantage of modern technology to include color cinematography for moments of beauty and grace. Given that Frantz is a study of grief, this film becomes life-affirming despite the tragedies on faces in life.

Cinema Paradiso Hollywood and Savor Cinema are among the two cinemas that will be screening Frantz. Homes to the annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, these movie theaters will feature unique programming for the spring season. On Saturday May 6, Savor Cinema will be hosting the running of the 143rd Kentucky Derby, which includes a live band, food prizes and a ladies bonnet contest.

For those pursuing cinema pursuits closer to home, the Palm Beach International Film Festival continues through April 2. Cinemark Theaters in Boca Raton will be one of the host sites. Dr. Oz will be in town, with his daughter Arabella Oz, to promote her new movie. [Michael Lohan will also make an appearance showing the movie The Business of Recovery]. The Tilted Kilt will feature after screening parties next to Cinemark Theater. For screen times, it is best to visit the website www.pbifilmfest.org.

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