Tag Archive | "Cinema Dave"

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The Warrior Queen of Jhansi opens as FLIFF closes this weekend

Posted on 14 November 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Based on a true story, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi opens this weekend and deals with the 1857 Indian Rebellion against the British Empire.  If you remember the historical epics that starred Errol Flynn, Charlton Heston and David Niven, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi presents an alternative perspective from the losing side of history.  Like the Alamo, the seeds of victory were planted in this rebellion that was led by a warrior woman, Rhani of Jhansi (Devika Bhise).

Clocking in under two hours, this film is an entertaining piece of history. The film provides costume drama with conflict between the Rhani and Queen Victoria (Jodhi May), but also presents the outdoor beauty of India. The battle scenes are epic, but lack the bloody intensity of current events provided on the big screen and the small screen these days.

It is with a sense of melancholia that The 34th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival closes this Sunday evening with From the Vine starring Joe Pantoliano.  Pantoliano stars as a damaged individual who returns to rural Italy in an attempt to resurrect a wine vineyard. 

Written and directed by Daniel Cohen, A Stone in the Water will play this weekend. Bonnie Bedelia portrays a grief-stricken mother who projects her worst fears upon a pregnant survivor of a car crash. Sunday evening will wrap up the festival with Working Man, which features Talia Shire’s return to the festival.

Prolific actress, Diane Baker has graced the festival with her warmth and humanity. A voting member of the Academy Awards who serves with the Actor’s Branch, Baker  credits acting to opening her world to adventures in Greece and Israel.  She has witnessed firsthand a government dictatorship, while acknowledging the common wishes and desires of worldwide humanity.  She credits much of her education to her mentor, Melvyn Douglas, a MGM contract player who won two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor in Hud and Being There, respectively.     

Douglas helped Baker deal with Joan Crawford, an actress who could be very demanding. Baker and Crawford made three films together: The Best of Everything, Della and Strait-Jacket. Perhaps because Crawford portrayed Baker’s mother in two of the three films, the fine line between fantasy and reality seemed to be crossed. This weekend, I will be presenting the videos of Diane Baker’s interview with Professor Foster Hirsch on my blog — www.cinemadave.livejournal.com, which will detail how Baker dealt with her conflict with Joan Crawford.

As much as I love partying and reconnecting with friends and colleagues, it is these special moments with people like Diane Baker that elevates a film festival like FLIFF.  As much as the industry has changed, it is great to listen to a professional of her caliber who believes in good stories, human values and the importance of laughter.

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Oct. 11 was El Camino day!

Posted on 16 October 2019 by LeslieM

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

As late as Monday morning, Oct. 7, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie was supposed to open exclusively in Miami. Perhaps some studio executive read this column a few weeks ago because last Friday night, the film also opened locally, as close as the IPIC Boca Raton theater in Mizner Park. The first screening was packed and the ticket buyers were intimately aware of every nuance of this Breaking Bad history, while embracing some of the characters from Better Call Saul, a spin off.  This is noteworthy because El Camino also debuted on Netflix the same day — Friday, Oct. 11.

Like Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell, Vince Gilligan’s El Camino is redefining the business model for a motion picture release. Neither film rivals the box office revenue of a Joker or The Addams Family, but both 3 from Hell and El Camino are relatively low budget productions, so the return of investment can be substantially larger, whereas a successful big budgeted studio production with many movie stars may never see a profit for many years after release.  Kudos to the independent streaks of Rob Zombie and Vince Gilligan for lighting the way for the creative part of the motion picture industry.

Despite being part of the Breaking Bad universe, El Camino is a standalone movie. One does not need to see the previous 62 episodes of the television series, but one will likely want to watch them now. The El Camino Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) character is the gestalt of television version of Breaking Bad. Jessie, the boy, has become a man and is the whole of the sum of his 62 parts.    

El Camino opens  moments after the grand “Felina” of Breaking Bad. Jessie has escaped his captivity and is on the run from the police and sadistic criminal scumbags. After reuniting with his old buddies Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt Jones), Jessie seeks the services of Ed (the late Robert Forster), a man who runs his own private industry witness protection program.  

Given writer/director Vince Gilligan’s love of words, El Camino is a double entendre. While there is a Chevrolet car in the movie and the locations are set in New Mexico, El Camino is a Spanish word for “a path, a road or a journey.”

How Jessie goes from “Point A” to “Point B” is an entertaining story, yet this is a meditative story about potential redemption.  Throughout the film, various Breaking Bad characters appear in flashbacks. Each provide kernels of wisdom for Jessie’s journey to enlightenment.  

Sadly, the Oct. 11 release also marks the passing of Robert Forster. An actor with 50 years of motion picture experience, Forster provides a fine swan song performance as “Ed the Disappearer.” Suffering from Brain Cancer at the time of filming, Forster’s performance rings sincere and true. 

There are some great violent visuals to El Camino, but the quiet moments with Aaron Paul and Robert Forster will be the cinematic moments to savor. 

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“Sympathy for the devil” begins with Joker

Posted on 10 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

Joker is probably the most ambiguous movie to open with such strong box office revenue. It helps to have a comic book character with almost 80 years of villainy. Mix that with almost 50 years of movies featuring urban alienation, and it is little wonder why Joker became a box office monster last weekend.  

“Sympathy for the devil” begins with an unreliable narrator. Understanding this concept will enhance your viewing pleasure of this film if being seated next to a madman on a roller coaster ride is your idea of pleasure.

The film opens with Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) putting on his clown make-up and preparing for his temp job as a sign carrier for a failed business.  After being mugged on the street by a bunch of callow boys, Arthur loses his job because his sign is destroyed.

Defeated, Arthur returns to his one room apartment that he shares with his delusional mother.  The two find pleasure in watching Murray Franklin’s (Robert DeNiro) celebrity night time television show. Beyond that, many things happen and Arthur is right in the middle of these wild situations. Sometimes, Arthur is the agent of chaos; sometimes, he is the victim of chaos. Regardless of the circumstance, Arthur laughs at jokes that only he understands.  

Through the cloak of ambiguity, this film manages to raise social messages.  From a subway shooting that echoes Bernard Goetz’s 1984 headlines, Arthur inspires a mass protest to “Kill the Rich” by people wearing clown make-up, which echoes the 2014 Ferguson Missouri riots. 

Batman’s Father, Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is a self-made billionaire, who commits to the political ambition to become Mayor of Gotham City, which echoes Donald F. Trump’s Presidency.

Much like Renee Zellweger’s performance in Judy, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker is likely to be Oscar-nominated. The actor runs the gamut of human emotions.  One feels sorry for Arthur, but the seduction of evil is real and an unsuspecting individual could easily become the Joker’s prey.

Though clowns have been part of the entertainment industry since the Roman Circus, recently clowns have been front and center during recent Halloweens. Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding and Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s It books and movies have been trick or treat favorites and horror movie convention winners.  Like Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker fits right into this Rogues Gallery Circus.

For those who want to don greasepaint beyond Halloween, the Kazoo and Drum Corps for the “Day of the Dead” is seeking volunteers for the parade in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, Nov. 2.  (Visit the website at www.dayofthedeadflorida.com.)

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Renee Zellweger resurrects Judy

Posted on 03 October 2019 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

On June 22, 1969, Mom, Dad and I were out on our Johnson & Johnson wooden boat on Cold Spring Harbor.  My parents swam ashore and I stayed on the boat with a transistor radio. Between songs (likely Big Band), the news man announced that “Judy Garland died.” I got so excited that I pulled the boat ashore, much to my Dad’s dismay — since the tide was going out.

Being six years old, I had seen The Wizard of Oz at least twice, including once by myself on the color TV set. (The Wicked Witch of the West so scared me that I could not watch the film alone in the den the first time). Beyond portraying Dorothy Gale, Mom introduced me to Judy Garland the star of variety shows that featured singing, dancing and comedy.

Starring Renee Zellweger in the title role, the new movie Judy features the entertainer’s swan song. Living off her fame, but performing at low budget night clubs with her children Lorna and Joe, Judy finishes a show, only to learn she does not have a bed to sleep in.  After arguing with her fourth ex-husband Sid Luft (Rufus Sewell) about custody of the children, Judy gets a job offer to perform in London’s “Talk of the Town.”

The money is good, but years of prescribed substance abuse have taken their toll on this vulnerable 46-year-old mother of three.  Having earned a reputation as being unreliable, Judy Garland’s swan song performance is an emotional roller coaster ride featuring insomnia, heartbreak and the divine grace of performance.

Renee Zellweger owns Judy. Besides performing her own singing, there are moments when the ghost of Judy Garland has returned to the big screen. Likely to be Oscar nominated, Zellweger’s performance is consistent. Her final close-up is a rare audience connection that bookends the beginning of the movie.

Based on the play End of the Rainbow, this new film explains the dark side of show business. The opening shot features young Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) being told by Louie B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) that she is a plain, next-door girl that is separated by her beautiful singing voice.  This scene echoes the Book of Genesis chapter in which Eve is seduced by the serpent.

Tears were shed, but the laughs are truthful, Judy is an entertaining tragedy with many life lessons. Parents who know that their children want to “run away to the circus,” should take them to see Judy as a family movie some afternoon. The discussion afterward will be genuine.

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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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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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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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