The Peanut Butter Falcon soars

Posted on 15 August 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The Peanut Butter Falcon opens tomorrow. This independent sleeper film is an acknowledgement of the American dream. This film contains so many subtle echoes of American cinema and literature, expect media buzz about this filmaround awards season.  

Without a family, Zak (Zack Gottsagen) has Down’s Syndrome and lives in an assisted living facility with his aged roommate Carl (Bruce Dern), a retired engineer. Zak’s caseworker is Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a sympathetic soul who is trapped within the rigid rules of the assisted living facility. Inspired by Zak, Carl and Eleanor find escapism by watching VHS copies of Southern Wrestling featuring The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). 

Across a river, Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) continues his long-standing feud with Crabber Duncan (John Hawkes). A passive aggressive game of tit for tat literally explodes with a dock fire. As Tyler flees for his life, he learns he has a stowaway, Zak, on his little dinghy.

Filmed on the outer banks of Georgia, the narrative for this filmechoes Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sufficeth to say, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a meandering and leisurely told tale, but one that engages the ticket buyer up until the final image before the credits roll. Despite outrageous situations, itnever loses a human connection.

Not since Chris Burke’s work as “Corky” on the ABC Television Series Life Goes On, has an actor with Down’s Syndrome taken on such a responsible role. With a natural truth, Zack Gottsagen acquits himself as the title character. Despite a wide generational gap of acting schools (from the Actor’s Studio to the World Wide Wrestling League), the ensemble cast provides generous support towards their leading man.

Despite being tabloid fodder, both Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Shia LeBeouf provide transformative performances that may have affected their personal lives in a positive way. Shedding her Fifty Shades of Grey notoriety, Dakota Johnson gives a winning performance. Even the notorious Bruce Dern provides charm as a rebel who is confined to a chair in an assisted living facility.

Every couple of years, there is a motion picture sleeper that awakens the Dog Days of August box office. A roller coaster ride of laughs and tears, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sharp contrast to the motion pictures on the big screen these days, go see this one for some Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun!

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Brian Banks, a must see for the start of preseason football

Posted on 08 August 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

For multiple reasons, football is not as important as it used to be to me. In the past two years, the drama has been on the sidelines and off the field of play. When the Miami Dolphins play tonight, I will be more interested in how the commentators, Nat Moore and Bob Griese, both Dolphin legends, are doing.  The Dolphins opponent will be the Atlanta Falcons.

The film Brian Banks opens this weekend, and the Atlanta NFL franchise plays a part in this narrative. The dream of playing football is a big part of the film, but this movie is based on a true story about a 16-year-old male that is victimized by rumor, gossip and hearsay.

The film opens on a playground as Brian Banks (Aldis Hodge) watches from a gated fence. He is enjoying the game of pee wee football, but is annoyed when he has to answer a call from his parole officer. 

Under a new California law, Brian is forced to limit his travel outside of Los Angeles. This law derails his chances to play football with a small time college, which opens up old wounds. He was a high prospect recruit for USC, but this was prevented when Brian was accused of sexual assault in a high school hallway. When a plea bargain deal failed, Brian spent his formative years in prison.

With only the support of his mother (Sherri Shepherd), Brian perseveres and obtains the aid of a civil rights lawyer, Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear). Yet, Brian’s case is mired in bureaucracy and legalese. A break in the case occurs when Brian’s accuser makes an overture to be his Facebook friend.

Brian Banks is a fascinating modern story, with echoes of great drama from Jean Paul Sartre, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche. In the darkest abyss of solitary confinement, Brian finds his true character when he remembers the inspirational words of his mentor (Morgan Freeman, in an unaccredited cameo). 

Since his recent passing, HBO has been playing the documentary The Many Lives of Nick Buoniconti, which recounts the man’s career as football player, a lawyer and as an advocate to cure paralysis. Like Brian Banks, Nick Buoniconti used football as a means to an end, but it did not define their lives. Brian Banks is a cautionary film about having a dream denied, but through character development, life does not have to be a nightmare.

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FLICKS: Reflections, Peanut Butter Falcon & Ukulele event

Posted on 01 August 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Cinema Dave with music teacher Chai Latte. After teaching four lessons of ukulele, Chai Latte will conduct The Space Jam Ukulele Concert with her “graduate” students Thursday, Aug. 1 at 6 p.m.

It was a decade ago this month that I committed to publish my first book, The Adventures of Cinema Dave in the Florida Motion Picture World, which featured 652 pages of interviews, pictures and movie reviews from the Observer. Despite going through an economic recession in 2009, I was optimistic about the film industry.

Deerfield Beach was centrally located between multiple film festivals, the Delray Beach Film Festival, the Palm Beach Film Festival, the Miami International Film Festival, the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival and multiple conventions and comic book film festivals.  Now, of those fests, only the Miami International Film Festival and the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival have survived. [But other festivals have popped up].

Thanks to the adaptation of small screen telephones [and the ability to stream movies on the Internet], consumer interest did change. With the exception of a film like a Star Wars and a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, seeing a movie as a communal experience has waned.  

If you do go to the movies this month, keep a keen eye out for The Peanut Butter Falcon, an independent film that features fine performances from Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, wrestler Mick Foley, John Hawkes and newcomer Zack Gottsagen. This entertaining movie, which features a roller coaster ride of emotions, is pure American cinema.

If you are looking to do something fun and free tonight, “The Space Jam Ukulele Concert” will be conducted at the Deerfield Beach Percy White Library starting at 6 p.m. This concert is the culmination of four weeks of ukulele lessons that library patrons have taken with music teacher Chai Latte. Honky-tonk pianist Kris Nicholson will tickle the ivories for this special evening. [He was part of the library’s “Blues School” event Feb. 2]. Join the fun this summer evening.

 

Cinema Dave with Kris Nicholson, the Honky Tonk piano player. After his contribution to Blues School last Feb. 2 at Deerfield Beach Percy White Library, Kris Nicholson guest stars in this evening’s (Aug. 1) free Space Jam Ukulele Concert.

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FLICKS: The Beach Bum

Posted on 25 July 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Filmed in South Florida, The Beach Bum celebrates the dregs of society. Matthew McConaughey portrays Moondog, a successful poet with a trophy wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher). Moondog spends his days drunk and stoned on the streets of Key West. Living on the golden canals of Miami, Minnie is having an open affair with Lingerie (Snoop Dogg). Given their Woodstock culture, there is no conflict between the three individuals that a snort of cocaine can’t fix.

Moondog and Minnie hold a family reunion when their daughter Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen) gets married to a guy that neither parent likes. A dramatic event occurs and Moondog’s life is forever changed. But, then again, under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana, does Moondog even notice?

Released during the recent spring break, The Beach Bum garnered terrible local reviews. Now that this film is available on DVD, the critics have been kinder, much like the history of Caddyshack 39 years ago. Like Caddyshack and The Big Lebowsky, The Beach Bum has all the markings of a cult following.

The cinematography sells the South Florida scenery.  The boats on the river with the sun setting on the horizon, is a strong reminder how beautiful our neighborhoods are. The soundtrack features Classic Rock with snippets of Edgar Winter, Bertie Higgins, and, of course, Jimmy Buffet, who has a cameo in the movie. Yet, The Beach Bum is more spectacle than a realistic look at people who we would not like having next door to us.

[My column last week about the Golden Anniversary of Apollo 11 provided me much feedback on social media, local reaction and personal messages on e-mail. As a writer, it is thrilling to receive such a positive response, though no one noticed a mistake in my column — Ron Howard did not direct Apollo 11; he directed Apollo 13, an exciting film about not landing on the moon!]

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FLICKS: A Golden Anniversary of Apollo 11

Posted on 18 July 2019 by LeslieM

This Saturday, July 20 marks the 50 Year Anniversary of when man first walked on the moon. For those who watched it that Sunday night on black and white television sets, it is a memory to cherish. For the post moon landing generations raised on Star Trek, Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the question is “So what is the big deal?”

The question raises the fine line between fantasy and reality. The current generation suckled by chronic video games, do not appreciate that a rocket ship with breadboard computers had the computer memory capacity of less than 5 percent of a current home computer. Circa 1992, I will never forget watching people wait in line for five hours in a walk-through Star Trek television exhibit, while ignoring Charles Lindbergh’s airplane, The Spirit of Saint Louis and the Columbia, the Command Module from Apollo 11, the mission that first put man on the moon.

Since October 23, 2007, the Broward County Main Library in Ft. Lauderdale is the steward of a moon rock sliver, which was donated by Susan Eisele Black, the wife of the late Apollo 7 astronaut Donn F. Eisele. The Eisele family and astronaut Walter Cunningham were in attendance. Besides the moon rock sliver, the sixth floor of the Main Library features a 20 minute film about the Apollo 7 mission, along with relics from NASA with bookmarks about astronomy.

This Saturday, June 20 at 11 a.m., the Deerfield Beach Percy White will host a screening of a free movie. It deals with that subject. Due to license agreements, we can not disclose the title of the movie. Suffice it to say, the movie deals with the first man to walk on the moon. At 1:30 p.m., the Pompano Beach Library will be hosting a Watch Party with an edible craft. All ages with care givers are invited to attend.

Besides directing the Oscar nominated Apollo 11, Ron Howard also produced the underrated documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. Featuring color footage forgotten in NASA vaults, this colorful documentary is thrilling to watch. Featuring most of the astronauts who flew in the moon missions, the narration is both funny and inspirational.

Produced by Tom Hanks, From the Earth to the Moon is a 13 part miniseries that earned HBO multiple Emmy awards. While most of the episodes focus on space travel, this fantastic miniseries also broached topics like geology, changing media ethics and the impact of the astronauts’ wives. These three video productions are available through the Broward County Library.

Believers of conspiracy theories and #FakeNews often deny that man walked on the moon, although high powered telescopes have located the six American flags planted on the lunar surface. For all of the criticism about our nation, the United States of America is the only country that successfully put 12 men on the moon and returned them safely to earth.  It is a big deal.

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The Reports on Sarah and Saleem opens while Spider-Man: Far from Home dominates the box office

Posted on 11 July 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Inspired by true events, The Reports on Sarah and Saleem opens this weekend. It is a simple story about infidelity, and a love triangle that leads to a love rectangle. Tension builds when the affair sets off a potential civil war of international dimensions, for one lover is from Israel and the other lover is a Palestinian. 

With very little surprise, Spider-Man: Far from Home dominated the 4th of July holiday weekend. This epic Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie ties up the loose ends of Avengers: Endgame, which is on the verge of supplanting Avatar as the worldwide box office champion of all time. This is the final Marvel Cinematic Universe movie of Phase 3 of a 24 film cycle and provides a fine denouement. The success of these MCU movies is that each film has its own unique story.

After the world changing events of Avengers: Endgame, high school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) tries to return to a normal life and court the girl of his dreams, MJ (Zendaya). Being science nerds, the couple is excited to leave Queens and attend a science trip in Venice, Italy. Feeling a need to unwind, Parker attempts to take a vacation from his alter-ego, Spider-Man.

Like being a police officer, there is no rest for the weary, and Peter must put on his superhero suit to battle an Elemental monster from the Grand Canal of Venice. While performing his heroics to protect his classmates, Parker encounters Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), who easily defeats the Water Monster. When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) enters the scene, an alliance between Mysterio and Spider-Man is suggested.

Spider-Man: Far from Home is a timely motion picture. One of the themes is that of #FakeNews and one has to wait to see the end of the credits is to see all of how this theme plays out.

Grief has always been a strong theme in the life of Peter Parker. The loss of his mentor from Avengers: Endgame is prominent. However, there is an acknowledgement of the dearly departed Uncle Ben, the individual most influential in the creation of Spider-Man. 

This is the last MCU movie until Phase 4 begins in 2020.Spider-Man: Far from Home will only be on the Museum of Discovery IMAX (in Ft. Lauderdale) screen for another week, before The Lion King takes over. See the new Spider-Man on this six-story screen. The most breathtaking scenes are not the special effects, but the wide angle shots of the Venice canals in Italy.

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Toni Morrison documentary opens this week

Posted on 05 July 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

As I write this week’s edition of Flicks, Mom & I have been traveling through Florida, Georgia and Alabama for a family reunion. Once north of Orlando, I was pleased to discover that a sense of “Southern Hospitality” has not been lost among the people there.

There were plenty of stories to be told. It seemed that each waiter/waitress at the restaurants had a story to tell about their community or family. At our family reunion, we kept the memory alive of our dearly departed. My brother’s research through Ancestry.com revealed family connections to the Revolutionary War and Abraham Lincoln. As the United States of America celebrates 243 years of freedom, we are reminded that this nation truly represents Unity through Diversity.

What was noteworthy was the lack of movie theaters during my recent odyssey. I’ve always read the marquees to see what was playing on the local big screen. There was no sign of Avengers: Endgame or Toy Story 4 or Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

It seems appropriate that the documentaryToni Morrison:The Pieces I Amopens this 4th of July weekend. Born in Ohio in 1931, Toni Morrison is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is the author of The Bluest Eye, The Song of Solomon and Beloved, the latter of which caught the interest of Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah produced and starred in a movie version of Beloved which co-starred Danny Glover and Thandie Newton. A ghost story of sorts, Beloved focuses on a former slave who is haunted by a poltergeist who may be her dearly deceased daughter. Despite heavy marketing hype, Beloved bombed at the box office 21 years ago.  

As a documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, overlooks this financial failure, but Oprah does share some anecdotes about meeting and working with the author. As a writer, there is much to learn from this documentary. For instance, while staring out at a pier by a lake, Morrison had a vision of a young woman crawling out of the dock. Morrison questioned the vision and wanted to know what happened next. This image was the birth of Beloved.

Party hearty this 4th of July weekend!

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FLICKS: Toy Story 4 is fun, Annabelle Comes Home, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Beatles’s Yesterday open this weekend

Posted on 27 June 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave
http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

While waiting for Toy Story 4 to begin, this columnist sat through a series of previews — all films starring computer animation. It has been 24 years since the original Toy Story — what was unique, is now common place. Beyond the special effects and paying big time celebrities a load of money, computerized animation films have now entered the law of diminishing returns.  It is storytelling and respect for the written word, that will redeem the motion picture industry, both live action and computer animation.

Toy Story 4 suffers being the first film since Toy Story 3, the emotional and satisfying cap to the original Toy Story trilogy. Toy Story 4 continues the adventures of Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the ensemble of toys, under new management from a new owner, this time a little girl who is beginning kindergarten.

The little girl is filled with fear, so Woody sneaks in her backpack to assist her first day of school. Through the magic of improvisation, the little girl creates a new friend — Forky, a deformed looking spoon with pipe cleaner arms and mismatched eyes. Being a bit like the Frankenstein monster, Woody is forced to tutor Forky about the importance of being the little girl’s favorite toy.

Toy Story 4 provides entertainment for children of all ages, both young and old.  There are not emotional devastating moments like in Toy Story 3, but Toy Story 4 has a lighter touch with profound theories about personal attachment, maturity and growth.  There are also some Indiana Jones thrills featuring Woody, Buzz and a new character. Toy Story 4 does provide Saturday matinee popcorn eating fun, despite a sinister ventriloquist puppet that stalks Woody, Buzz and Little Bo Peep.

An evil doll returns to the big screen this weekend, when Annabelle Comes Home.  As part of “The Conjuring” series of movies, Annabelle is a demon doll who has made appearances in four movies. Annabelle appears to do nothing but to sit and stare, but this horcrux of evil inspires humans to commit murder of innocence.  

Ironically, the evil Annabelle Comes Home when the heroic Spider-Man: Far from Home opens the same weekend. Fortunately, this Marvel Comics superhero will be first appearing at the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science IMAX Screen on a limited engagement. This Spider-Man installment looks at the Marvel Comic Universe after the events of the recent Avengers: Endgame, which is still appearing on the big screen this weekend.

Last, but not least, Yesterday opens this weekend. This film is about the world as if the British rock band never existed.

On Sunday, July 7, The School of Rock Pompano will perform at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood at 2 p.m. to prove the existence of the Beatles. This Band is set to perform five Beatles songs. Yours truly is scheduled to sing “Back in the USSR” and celebrate drummer Ringo Starr’s 79th birthday.

Cinema Dave with his School of Rock Pompano bandmates; L-R, Mario, Anthony Valrino (Musical Director) Earl, Mike, Stan, Chi Chi, Kenzie, Faye & Larry.

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FLICKS: The Spy Behind Home Plate

Posted on 20 June 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave
http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

With the monsoon rain we have experienced as of late, it would be easy to miss the summer solstice this week, the longest day of the year (Friday, June 21). School is out, the Stanley Cup and basketball championships have been decided, and all that remains is baseball and the movies.
The Spy Behind Home Plate is a documentary that opens this weekend. It is the story of Mo Berg, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who went to Princeton University in New Jersey, but who really wanted to be a baseball player. While his Jewish parents were distressed that playing games was more of a priority than getting a real job, Mo’s love of baseball provided a fringe benefit for the United States of America entering World War II.
Graduating Magna Cum Laude, Berg played catcher in the 1930s. He had a talent for grasping foreign languages, which became the key to understanding foreign cultures when Major League Baseball went on international tours.
Berg toured Japan. As the Nation of Japan was becoming imperial, he secreted a camera and took pictures of city geography. These photos were eventually used by the war department and were utilized during General Doolittle’s bombing campaign that lasted 30 seconds over Tokyo.
Like Woody Allen’s Zelig and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, The Spy Behind Home Plate shows Berg meeting many celebrities. He toured with the Great Bambino — Babe Ruth, and dated the legendary baseball player’s daughter. When World War II concluded, Berg took tea with Professor Albert Einstein in Princeton.
There is a great dichotomy between the public persona of Mo Berg and with the man who worked under Colonel Donovan, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request. The film reveals photos of Berg’s radio game show appearances on Information Please! while developing espionage profiles with Ian Fleming, the author of the original 13 James Bond novels.
With The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, documentarian (and New York Mets fan), Alvina Kempner has scored the hat trick with The Spy Behind Home Plate. This is a good movie to celebrate this year’s summer solstice.

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FLICKS: Pavarotti doesn’t open, enjoy some laughs with Stan & Ollie on DVD

Posted on 13 June 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Hyped by social media marketing, I was looking forward to seeing Ron Howard’s documentary Pavarotti. Unfortunately, this documentary seemed to open in only major cities that have newspaper critics that write syndicated movie reviews. The reviews for Pavarotti were mediocre but, nonetheless, I hope to see this movie on the big screen, since Ron Howard knows how to direct [films about music]. Three years ago Ron Howard released The Beatles: Eight Days a Week, a documentary about The Beatles tour from 1962-1966.

The beauty of movies is that there are millions of unwatched films, even for a “movie maven” like Cinema Dave. Last May, Deerfield Beach Percy White experimented with a Wednesday afternoon series titled “Comedy Club.” Presented in glorious black & white film stock, these films featured W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. The laughs were sincere and this library is likely to resurrect this program in the autumn.

Announced for production two years ago, Stan & Ollie was quietly released during awards season. As Oliver Hardy, John C. Reilly received high praise and an award for his portrayal of the chubby half of this legendary comedy team. Besides playing Stan Laurel, Steve Coogan reunited with Philomena screenwriter Jeff Pope.

Stan & Ollie is a loving portrayal of the comedy team’s swansong. It is more of a memory piece than an accurate portrayal of history.  Based on the biographies written by John McCabe and William K. Everson, the conflict between Stan and Ollie was dramatized for artistic license.   

The fictional conflict is based on Stan’s feelings of betrayal for Ollie doing freelance work. The opposite was true…Stan encouraged Ollie to accept employment with Harry Langdon in Zenobia and John Wayne in The Fighting Kentuckian. While assigned together as work mates, the two men developed an enduring friendship that continued for the rest of their lives. 

Beyond Coogan and Reilly’s sincere performance, Stan & Ollie duplicates the team’s onstage magic. The fine line between fantasy and reality is crossed frequently, when a serious moment of human drama is transformed into a comedy gag that is executed by Laurel & Hardy. Case in point: Stan & Ollie get into a serious argument with their wives at a cocktail party with financial benefactors. The fight ends with a slapstick retaliation from Stan. The financial benefactors laugh, not knowing the serious implications of the conflict.

For those celebrating Father’s Day with their dear ol’ dads, take advantage of having some laughs with the old man. There are plenty of modern comedies that promote grossness and obscenity, but comedians like Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy have provided family entertainment for over a century on the silver screen. Check out Stan & Ollie or any classic comedy for a successful Father’s Day weekend.

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