Sid Haig & the evolution of cinema

Posted on 26 September 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Before there was “Spooky Empire” in Orlando, there was Petey Mongelli’s inaugural monster conventions in Broward County until Hurricane Wilma hit in 2005. With roadshow buzz about Rob Zombie’s directorial debut House of 1000 Corpses and buzz about the sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, Sid Haig was one of his featured guests. When I met him at his booth back then, we talked about Spider Baby and his film debut with Lon Chaney Jr.

Haig talked about Chaney’s professionalism and generosity on the set of this low budget, but happy production.  Haig seemed pleased when I mentioned he was carrying the torch from Lon Chaney Jr.’s generation for today’s filmmakers.

Since Sid passed away last Saturday morning, the outpouring of grief from fans and the motion picture industry has become overwhelming on social media. He was not a regular on Entertainment Tonight type news programs, but Sid Haig’s legacy is secure to anyone who ever met him or enjoys a master thespian performing his craft.

Last week, this columnist wrote about the marketing strategy for 3 from Hell, which involved limited time on the big screen — three nighttime weekday screenings. On the fourth day, the home viewing release date – Oct. 14 – was launched. 

Without the marketing might (and theme parks) of  Disney and Universal Studios, independent filmmakers are getting creative in seeking distribution and widening the profit margin. Case in Point — El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie — This film was secretly produced in New Mexico, while the fifth season of the television show Better Call Saul was being produced in the same territory. Utilizing much of the cast and crew of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul universe, it was a surprise to learn that El Camino will be available on Netflix on Oct. 11.  However, there will be limited screening in major cities like Miami. (I am hoping for something more local).    

Speaking of local, The Deerfield Beach Percy White Library will be hosting “Local Creative Talent Film Producers” on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.  The producers and creative force behind Dead Ant will be in attendance and will host a panel. Starring Sean Astin, Jake Busey and Tom Arnold, Dead Ant is a monster movie/ musical comedy about a one hit wonder heavy metal band that gets stranded in the Joshua Tree Desert. Think This is Spinal Tap meets Tremors.

For almost two years, this columnist has written about the “evolution” of the motion picture industry. With the recent releases of 3 from Hell and El Camino, we are witnessing the business paradigm shift in the motion picture world. With local festivals like the upcoming Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival, cinema consumers have the opportunity of better choices.

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Universal Horror with 3 from Hell & Us, while neighbors help Bahamas

Posted on 18 September 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

It was a hot Sunday August night years ago at the Pompano Muvico when Cinema Dave watched Rob Zombie’s creation, The Devil’s Rejects [which was released in 2005]. With visceral violence and terrible torture scenes, Cinema Dave wondered what type of people would pay to see such a film. He questioned the psychological make-up of the people sitting next to him and cheering the exploits of Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and patriarch Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig).  Now, Cinema Dave owns a DVD copy of it.

A follow up to his first movie, House of a 1000 Corpses [2003], The Devil’s Rejects is now considered Rob Zombie’s best movie.  Barely a blip in the 2005 box office, the filmwas rated highly by national critics like Roger Ebert. A cult phenomenon through the horror convention circuit and through the camaraderie of the actors, Zombie put paper to pencil and created 3 from Hell, a direct sequel featuring Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie and Sid Haig in a brief appearance as the patriarch.

Unless you were in a movie theater for the last three weeknights, you missed the big screen edition offilm as the film is now being processed for a DVD/Halloween release next month. Riding the vibe of this independent cult film trilogy, Universal Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando is devoting a haunted ride exhibit to the Firefly Family from the film.

Halloween Horror Nights is also dedicating a haunted house to Us, Jordan Peele’s next film after his Oscar winning screenplay, Get Out.  Starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Us is a horror movie that is too long for its own good.  There are plenty of thrills and laughs, but the horrific explanation is complicated and takes too long to explain. (US is currently available on DVD).

Beyond the fantasy of terror movies, there is the realistic horror of Hurricane Dorian upon the Bahamas recently. Unlike the selfish behavior of people seen in a horror movie, our South Florida neighbors have stepped up to help our Caribbean neighbors with donations.

Beginning 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival’s (FLIFF) Savor Cinema (503 SE 6 St., in Ft. Lauderdale) in partnership with the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science, will screen Eye of the Dolphin and Beneath the Blue, two films filmed in the Bahamas that were previously honored by the festival. Throughout the double feature, there will be a Bahamian party in the courtyard.  While ticket prices vary, all proceeds will go to Bahamian charity relief efforts. For more information, find FLIFF on Facebook.

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Edie & Official Secrets opens, Friday the 13th film plays

Posted on 12 September 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

While in exile from Hurricane Dorian, I watched The White Tower on the TCM Channel, a forgotten film starring Glenn Ford, Alida Valli, Claude Rains, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and a very young Lloyd Bridges that was released in 1950.  Filmed on the RKO Pathe Studio lot with some exterior shots on a mountain, the film is a fascinating character study about man vs. nature.

The concept of old woman vs. nature is the theme of Edie, being released tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 13, in our community. A seemingly simple British film with a running time of 102 minutes, Edie has much character and philosophical depth that echoes 20th Century literature like Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. (Available in libraries, this bookpresents the philosophical disciple of a monastic life, with one’s inner longing for an adventuresome life).

Having been a caretaker to her infirm husband for 30 years, Edie suffers from empty nest syndrome when her spouse passes away.  Her children make arrangements for her to live in a retirement hotel, but Edie resists when she remembers her childhood dreams of climbing Mount Suilven in the Scottish Highlands.

Like any good Homeric adventure, there are villains and detours along the way. When she hires a personal guide, Edie learns to overcome her own shortcomings. Proving that it is never too late to learn, Edie is a beautiful epic.

Given the 18 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks this week, it seems appropriate that Official Secrets also opens this week. This somber procedural details Katharine Gun’s (Keira Knightley) ordeal when she released classified information to the public. Under Orwellian legalese, Gun is prosecuted for treason. 

Being a British film, Official Secrets is highly critical of both British and American governments during these early years of terrorist fears.  With the exception of Gun’s plight (though well-played by Knightley’s understated performance), there is an odd emotional detachment to the events. Yet, Official Secrets is an important film that smartly debates censorship and the public’s right to know information.

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th. Expect a visit from Jason Voorhees, the boogie man who stalks teenagers that indulge in sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll music. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan will be screening this Friday night at Savor Cinema in Ft. Lauderdale. Considered a lesser Jason Voorhees effort, this Friday the 13th flick is being presented by Popcorn Frights with their exploitative ethos worthy of a William Castle presentation. Beginning at 8 p.m. with a mere $10 admission, Popcorn Frights will provide a Pop Up Video Doom Room, a live interactive performance and Here Comes the Night, a Friday the 13th fan film. 

Save the Date for the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival. It is scheduled for Nov. 1-17 at Savor Cinema at 503 SE 6 St. in Ft. Lauderdale. For more information, visit www.fliff.com.

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FLIFF to begin Nov. 1 Respecting tradition and keeping an eye on the future

Posted on 05 September 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Cinema Dave is thrilled to learn about the return of Talia Shire, from the Rocky and Godfather trilogy. Shire will premier her new film, Working Man, a film about a man who continues to find work after his factor closes down.

Starting All Saints Day – Nov. 1, and continuing through the Sunday before Thanksgiving weekend – Nov. 24, the 34th Annual Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) will make this November one to remember. This year promises to spotlight the best of our local community and bring back some class act honorees from legendary motion pictures, while retaining a watchful eye on potential trends in the film industry.

FLIFF will kick things off at The Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science AutoNation IMAX with the documentary Cuba.  Besides viewing the sun, surf and shores of Cuba on the six-storey screen, this opening night gala will feature Latin music from Tito Puente Jr.  Cinema Dave plans to bend a knee and bust a move that night.

Created by Marc Ferman and Igor Shteyrenberg, “Popcorn Frights” will handle the opening night at Savor Cinema in Ft. Lauderdale with a screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge featuring an appearance from leading man, Mark Patton. For many years considered the runt of the Freddy Krueger series, this nightmare series has developed a cult following for the gay community.  Along with dual directors Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen, Patton will screen his documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street. Popcorn Frights will also host Sam Raimi’s film Drag Me to Hell, featuring Justin Long. Justin Long will be in attendance and will screen his bittersweet comedy, Safe Spaces.

No stranger to the monster movie industry, William Grefe will be honored this season for his contributions to the Florida Motion Picture World. During the 1970s, Grefe’s films could be seen on the Deerfield Beach Wometco Ultravision screen with such titles as Mako: The Jaws of Death, The Godmothers (film debut of Danny Aiello) and Impulse, starring James Bond villain Harold “Odd Job” Sakata and the leisure-suited William Shatner.

As a bit of historical irony, John Wayne’s last movie —The Shootist — screened on the year that Rocky won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976. Alongside Rocky Balboa, Indiana Jones has become the motion picture hero this columnist has most identified with. While Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone won’t be in attendance, the actresses who portrayed their girlfriends will take part in the FLIFF festivities — Karen Allen and Talia Shire. Both of them will be screening new projects.

For the closing weekend, From the Vine features Marco (Cinema Paradiso) Leonardi and Joe Pantoliano in a comedy set in the Italian wine country. Like William Grefe, Karen Allen and Talia Shire, Joe Pantoliano has been honored in the past and is returning to our annual FLIFF party.

As film fads fade away, FLIFF survives and thrives through the chemistry of respecting tradition with an eye on the infinite future. Yet FLIFF has never lost sight of the humanity of the ticket buyer. In my two decades of covering FLIFF, this festival is at its best when it provides a vacation from the ordinary film. For more info, visit www.fliff.com.

Igor and Marc established the first Popcorn Frights Film Festival with honoree Linnea Quigley. With a loyal audience, Igor and Marc will be actively involved with FLIFF this year.
Pictured with Chairman Jim Norton and FLIFF Executive Director Gregory Von Hausch, Karen Allen was honored in 2017. Allen presented her directorial debut of Carson McCullers’ short story, A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud.

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The Summer of 2019 ends – a new cinema season begins

Posted on 29 August 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

The 2019 box office blockbuster season closes this Labor Day weekend. Unless you were a Disney or Universal Studio with a multi-million dollar box office franchise, this summer appears to close with a wimper. As I officially complete my second decade of writing “Flicks,” the world of movie theater geography has changed drastically; yet, much of this was predicted in my undergraduate classroom at Florida State University College of Communication 37 years ago.

In 1982, box office champions were either created by George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or both, as the following films testify: Star Wars, Episode 5:  The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Smaller movie star performance movies were being supplanted by special effects driven story lines.  As television expanded from broadcast television to multiple cable channels, there was no need to pay to see a movie star on the big screen any more. However, a big budgeted special effects extravaganza still had to be seen on the big screen.

Given the record breaking box office of Avengers: Endgame, that formula holds true. It also helps that Avengers: Endgame was a story-driven motion picture with character growth and development.   

When Captain America finally gets the upper hand on the bully Thanos, the collected audience across the world cheered this hopeful moment. As divided as this world is, the symbolism of Captain America being worthy to weld Thor’s Hammer was a moment of world unification — for good guys still like to defeat the evil of bullies. This was an historical scene that will be as remembered like John Wayne’s entrance in Stagecoach 80 years ago.

Whether the wide open spaces of a western or a computer-generated special effects extravaganza of the newest space opera, the big screen will always endure. Although, headline news for the motion picture industry is now transmitted onto a cell phone or the Internet.

From the major studios, Disney announced a new trailer for the last Star Wars movie featuring the Skywalker family. Along with a new television series about intergalactic bounty hunters entitled The Mandalorian, there is a  new series featuring Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi, a role first essayed by Sir Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars, circa 1977. 

Locally, details for the 34th Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival will be put into action. Next week this column will feature important dates for screenings, volunteer opportunities and parties.  Until then, have a safe and happy Labor Day!

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Tel Aviv on Fire opens

Posted on 22 August 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Despite what Representative Rashida Tlaib says, things must be getting better between Palestine and Israel … at least in the movies. The winner of the Venice, Haifa and Seattle Film Festivals, Tel Aviv on Fire opens tomorrow in area theatres. It is a satire about relations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but with good intentions.

Tel Aviv on Fire is a popular soap opera that is about the “Six-Day War,” circa 1967.  With gritty vacuum tube television technology, we are introduced to the fictional Tala, who is a Palestinian spy with plans for terrorism upon Israel. The actress who portrays Tala has charisma and attracts both Palestinian and Israeli fans.

As the producers decide how to wrap up their soap opera, an executive producer hires his bumbling nephew Salem, who has no experience writing screenplays. He does have an ear for dialogue, and Salem becomes a valuable assistant to the soap opera, which makes Salem a local celebrity at the border crossing between Israel and Palestine.

With great celebrity, comes great responsibility. While crossing the border, Salem runs afoul the Israeli checkpoint officer. Fortunately for Salem, the officer’s family is fans of Tel Aviv on Fire. Unfortunately for Salem, the family wants to influence their own story lines into the soap opera.  

A foreign language film with both English language and English subtitles, Tel Aviv on Fire is a gentle motion picture.  Both sides of the border will find some laughs and the conclusion does satisfy.

This weekend, The Peanut Butter Falcon expands its theatrical distribution in South Florida. The national box office has been slow for this movie, but it is one of the highest rated movies of the year on Rotten Tomatoes.Com in which both critics and public reaction match by a mere one percent difference.

As dire as recent big screen entertainment has been, both The Peanut Butter Falcon and Tel Aviv on Fire are two life-affirming movies with genuine laughs and warmth.  

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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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