March 10th, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

End of Lent 2004 - "Hellboy" & "Scooby Doo 2:Monster's Unleashed

Easter Sunday concludes the Lenten Season. It will be a Lent to remember for cinema historians as "The Passion of the Christ" grossed over 330 million dollars in box office revenue. Despite preconceived notions before Mel Gibson's movie was released, Hollywood executives have found an untapped market for new box office revenue, religious Americans. Given their motivation for box office gold, Hollywood money changers will focus on the people they have long ignored. Expect more films to be released during the season of Lent with a religious theme. In the meantime, this Lenten season will conclude with "Hellboy" and "Scooby Doo 2 Monster's Unleashed.""

"Hellboy" opens on October 9, 1944 in Scotland. As his Reich crumbles, Hitler’s interest in parapsychology deepens. Hitler's agents recruit Gigori Rasputin to unlock a portal to hell. Thanks to a fast thinking Professor (John Hurt) and the American military, Rasputin's plans go awry and Hitler is foiled again. However, some red skinned horned demon baby has crossed the hellish portal to reality land. The kindly professor raises the Hellboy (Ron Perlman) as his own son.

The film flash forwards to the modern day and the professor has created the Bureau of Paranormal Research in Newark, New Jersey. The Bureau of Paranormal Research warehouses mythological artifacts like the Holy Grail. Besides Hellboy, the bureau is also haven to Abe, a hypersensitive aqua fish man (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) who profiles crimes against the good people of earth. Hellboy also has a relationship with Liz (Selma Blair), a patient in a psychiatric institution. Jeffrey Tambor portrays a public relations representative for the paranormal talk shows.

Despite the over kill of action scenes filmed in the frenzied dark and another tired plot involving the end of the world, "Hellboy" works as Saturday matinee entertainment. In the late 1980's television show "Beauty and the Best'" Perlman revealed the sensitive poetic nature of the underground beast. As Hellboy, Perlman relies on deadpan humor and ejects funny one-liners as his character battles hounds from hell. In particular, Perlman and Tambor work well together with moments of understated humor.

"Scooby Doo 2:Monsters Unleashed" continues the further misadventures of Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Geller), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby Doo the dog. While attending a celebration in their honor, some villain unleashes the monsters from crimes that Mystery Inc. had solved in the past. Feeling humiliated, the three heroes decide to solve their latest mystery while Shaggy and Scooby decide to eat food and stumble into scary situations.

This dog of a sequel is not a bad movie. Screenwriter James Gunn has written just enough double ententres to hold the attention of the adult ticket buyers, while children will get their fix of slapstick. There is a sweet nature to this movie that concludes with a dance number and 2003 American Idol Champion Rueben singing "Shining Star." There is also an odorous moment when Scooby Doo defeats a flame-throwing ghost with a gaseous bodily function.

On "The Tonight Show" Friday night, Jay Leno cracked a joke about a movie marquee featuring "The Passion of the Christ" and "Hellboy" and how it would make an interesting double feature. Actually both movies have more in common than what their titles would suggest. Both leading men must assert their humanity over demonic situations and persevere for the good of mankind. For ticket buyers looking for pure escapist entertainment, then *Scooby Doo 2 : Monsters Unleashed" could feed that need.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Darkness during Lent: "Dawn of the Dead" and "Secret Window"

It is with a sense of sad irony that "The Passion of the Christ" the box office champion for three weeks, lost it's number one position to the horror remake, "Dawn of the Dead." The audiences for both movies are as diverse as could be. After witnessing **The Passion of the Christ,** I saw tears and hugs. After departing "Dawn of the Dead," a guy offered to sell me substances for a personal party. Theatre managers please take note, drug pushing scum like that do not belong in our local movie theatres.

"Dawn of the Dead" opens with one of the best precredit sequences since James Bond skied off a mountain in "The Spy Who Loved Me." Ana (Sara Polley) is a nurse who returns home from an average day at work. She fufills wher wifely duties and wakes up the next morning. Having missed an emergency news bullentin on the nightly news, the world is in chaos and Ana is atttacked by her lover who has turned into a flesh eating zombie. She narrowrly escapes and eventually finds refuge in a shopping mall with other survivors suffering from character quirks. Despite their sanctuary, the zombies sniff out their next meal and lay seige on the shopping mall.

"Dawn of the Dead" delivers what is expected from this revision of the George Romero film of the same title from 1979. This new version is presented at a breakneck pace with well timed moments of humor. One running gag features the survivors running for their lives, while elevator muzak from the late music plays in the background. Actors involved in the first version, Ken Foree, Tom Savini and Scott H. Reiniger have effective cameo appearences. The director of photography Matthew F. Leonetti creates some phenomenial shots on a realitively small, but efficient budget.

Yet there is a darkness to this motion picture that is smothering. The film tackles themes of grief, survival and sacrifice. A women in her late stages of pregnancy is bitten by a zombie. The suvivors debate the merits and morality of letting the woman survive or aborting the fetus. This may be the only movie I have ever witnessed in which a baby is killed that illicits applause from an audience.

"Secret Window" is a novela from Stephen King's book, "Four Past Midnight." The storyline treads author's literary terroritory from the past, "The Shining," "Misery," and "The Dark Half." A writer suffers from writer's block and begins to go crazy at some remote location. This time the writer is Maurice (Johnny Depp) and he resides in a remote cabin in New England. After catching his wife (Maria Bello) cheating on him, Maurice has secluded himself in an effort create an ending to his novel. After hours of whiling away on the typewriter, Maurice meets Shooter (John Turturro), a character who says Maurice stole his work.

"Secret Window" is a slight movie in the tradition of censored Errie and Creepy comic books from the late 1950's and early 1960's. There are echoes from Stephen King's "Children of the Corn" and Oscar winner Timothy Hutton portrays Bello's extra marrital love interest. Hutton played the title roles in Stephen King's "The Dark Half." It is the performances by Johhny Depp, Maria Bello and John Turturro that raises this film from obscurity. "Secret Window" will be repeated viewing in three years on Sunday afternoon television.

"Dawn of the Dead" and "Secret Window" are two movies that respresents two spectrums of horror movies. One is Freudian driven character study and the other film is a fast paced narrative about the end of the world. Both films are similar in their prevailing pessimism that evil triumphs over good.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

February 25 Ash Wednesday - "The Passion of the Christ" opens

Based on the New Testament Gospels written by the disciples Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, "The Passion of the Christ" details the final 12 hours in the life of Jesus. The film opens in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus the Rabbi anticipates the worst. This thirty-three year old carpenter knows that he must fulfill his destiny. He has come into the world to undertake the human burden of sin. If Jesus can retain the courage of his convictions, the devil will have no domain over man. Despite an early temptation from Satan, Jesus accepts his fate, is betrayed by his disciples, convicted by the Pharisees and becomes the victim of a kangaroo court of a Roman despot. This innocent religious teacher is tortured and sentenced to a horrible death.

"The Passion of the Christ" is everything you would expect from such a motion picture. The stations of the cross are respectfully recreated, but this may be the most humanistic presentation of Jesus Christ. The dialog is in both Aramaic and Latin, but with subtitles in English. The actors ensemble successfully communicate universal truth beyond the language barrier.

Mel Gibson has directed both a horrifying and beautiful film. Earning a best director Oscar for "Braveheart," Gibson once again reveals his artistic genius with a mixture of contemporary behavior within classic depth perception cinematography. While "The Passion of the Christ" may not be Oscar worthy next year, this film is Gibson's best work.

Mainstream media are missing the point "The Passion of the Christ." Instead of focusing on the themes of love, forgiveness and redemption, mainstream critics are playing the blame game on who crucified this savior born in Bethlehem. It is the Pharisees who facilitate the condemnation of Jesus. Saying that the Pharisees behavior represents Jewish thought is like saying David Koressh from WACO represents mainstream Christian doctrine. While the Pharisees are sinister, it is the Romans who are brutal. Several soldiers take delight in ripping the flesh of Jesus with a cat o' ninetails.. The sadistic glee is as universal of a school yard bully getting away with his crime from his P.E. instructor.

Unfortunately prejudice has fueled cultural division before "The Passion of Christ" premiered on the silver screen. If responsibility for the murder of Jesus must be assigned, it is a conspiracy of elements that implicates everybody. It should be noted that Mel Gibson only appearance is that of his hand holding the first nail that impaled Jesus to the cross.

No one is innocent, but through Jesus' love, forgiveness can be obtained. Suffering is a part of life. It is the maturity of life experience that one comes to understand the mystery of faith. At least if you are a Christian, you have someone you can pray with, that will allow you to share your burdens.

As a film columnist, it is a cop-out to say that a ticket buyer's individual appreciation for this movie depends on an individual's taste. I know I my reaction would different had I seen this film at age seventeen or age thirty-three. For this 41 year old man, "The Passion of the Christ" inspired reflective contemplation. Yet, as a film columnist, I must add that "The Passion of the Christ" is a magnificent flick.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

New IMAX Presentation : "Mystery of the Nile"

It is amazing how man still finds new ways of breaking
world records. Last week Steve Fossett made the first
ever solo flight around the world. The summer of 2004
will be remembered for Burt Rutan's successful exploration
of outer space. "Mystery of the Nile" explores a 6000 year
challenge that has only been conquered, or at least recorded, in
the twenty first century.

Under the leadership of Pasquale Scaturro, the
expedition begins at the source of the Nile in
Ethiopia. With an international team consisting of an
American Cinematographer (Gordon Brown, world renowned
kayak adventurer), an Egyptian hydrologist and a
Spanish archaeologist, Scaturro leads his team on
3,260 miles to the Mediterranean Sea. The trek is an
arduous one, but not without some interesting
diversions.

The first detour occurs in the Ethiopian Highlands,
the actual source of the Nile. Recent theory suggests
that this rural country is the home of the lost Ark of
the Covenant. While "Mystery of the Nile" does not
provide exclusive shots of the ark, one does witness a
Christian ceremony that is quite beautiful in it’s
simplicity and color contrasts.

Unlike most scientific documentaries, there is a
spiritual feeling to the "Mystery of the Nile."
This documentary goes beyond the prejudice and bias we
see with every day media. Despite the danger of
Middle East tensions and tribal rivalries, Scaturro,
Brown and his team encounter, kind and generous
individuals. The audience witnesses positive behavior
from the people of the Muslin and Christian faiths.
Yet when Gordon takes his kayak off the beaten path,
mysterious gunshots are heard from some unseen thugs.

What would an IMAX movie be without spectacular
cinematography? The canyons of the Nile look grand
when projected on the 60 foot x 80-foot IMAX screen.
Carnivorous crocodiles look as frightening as Steve
Spurrier on speed when projected on a six-storey
screen. This 40-minute film does not disappoint with
least 5 shots of visual splendor.

Since "Mystery of the Nile" is housed in the Fort
Lauderdale Museum of Discovery, there are exhibits
that explore themes of geometry, geography and
zoology. These three exhibitions are "Pyramid
Mysteries." "Animals of Egypt" and "Alligator vs.
Crocodile." Patrons can meet one of the museums
alligators at this exhibit.

While "Mysterious of the Nile" will be shown on a
regular basis until the end of May, the special events
are held on a limited basis on weekends. For show
times, visitors should call (954) 463 IMAX or visit
the web site at http://www.mods.org.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

POP Culture Festival in Fort Lauderdale

If you are on Springbreak in South Florida's rainy 40 degree weather,
you may want to check out an indoor event, Petey Mongrelli's "POP Culture Festival." Given his success with creating "Screamfest," the largest South Florida horror convention, Mongrelli may have another blockbuster on his hands.

If you have fond memories of movies like "Escape from Witch Mountain" or the television show "The Dukes of Hazard," then you may want to meet their
leading ladies, Kim Richards and Catherine Bach, respectfully.

For more information, click the following website address;
http://www.spookyempire.com/pop_culture_convention/index.html