Florida Film Loops: Summer classic movie series at Tampa Theatre, Polk Theatre, and Florida Theatre; outdoor movie screenings in South Florida; Florida drive-ins

Classic, or, at least, older films still draw crowds to historic movie theaters. Summer classic movie series are playing three 1920s-vintage movie palaces in the Sunshine State:

  • The lineup of Sunday-afternoon gems at Tampa Theatre continues with the original “The Manchurian Candidate” (Aug. 12), “Blazing Saddles” (Aug. 19), “The Wizard of Oz” (Aug. 26) and “Casablanca” (Sept. 2). (Tampa Bay Times).
  • Lakeland’s Polk Theatre continues its Saturday-morning summer family classics series with “All Dogs Go to Heaven” (Aug. 11), “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (Aug. 18) and “Beauty and the Beast” (Aug. 25).
  • Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre is showing “Mrs. Doubtfire” (Aug. 12), the original “Planet of the Apes” (Aug. 19), and “The Big Lebowski (Aug. 26). (Florida Times Union)


Meanwhile, outdoor summer movie screenings continue in South Florida, with “Coco” Aug. 10 in Pompano Beach, and “Dazed and Confused” Aug. 16 in Dania Beach. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)


The Lake Worth Drive-In, a twin-screen facility’s that’s the last drive-in movie theater in Palm Beach County, opened in 1968. It’s one of the seven outdoor movie theaters still open in Florida.

The others: Swap Shop Drive-In, Fort Lauderdale; Joy-Lan Drive-In, Dade City; Silver Moon Drive-In, Lakeland; Ocala Drive-In; Ruskin Family Drive-In; Fun Lan Drive-In, Tampa. (Palm Beach Post)

“Eighth Grade”: Mean people suck, lost girl breaks our hearts (FILM REVIEW)

EIGHTH GRADE: Stars Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton; written and directed by Bo Burnham; 93 minutes; R. Critic’s rating: A-.

As singer Edie Brickell once asked, not terribly long ago, “What I am is what I am. Are you what you are or what?” Silly wordplay in a too-catchy pop tune, maybe. But certainly the type of question that a young teen, experiencing what once was called an identity crisis, might ask her reflection when looking into the mirror, obsessing over perceived imperfections and social-media traumas: “What you see is what you get. But who am I, really?”

Personal identity, as might be recalled about those days of acne wars, puppy love, and self confidence that waxed and waned with the bell schedule, could be entirely wrapped up in what others saw in you. Or what you imagined they saw in you.

So for the sake of emotional self-defense, you locked yourself into your bedroom and used a journal – paper? on a laptop? on an audio device? — to create the façade of a more confident you. And it all vanished, of course, the moment you walked into the birthday party of the nominally best looking and most popular kid in school.

So it goes in “Eighth Grade” with Kayla, the middle-schooler brought to life via Elsie Fisher‘s remarkably lived-in performance. All imperfect skin, blue fingernail polish, introversion, moods that are sometimes silly and sometimes pouty, and unpolished social skills, she’s forever wrapped in a digital cocoon. Her earbuds are plugged into an iPhone blaring teenypop, and she’s forever scrolling through Instagram and firing up snapchat.

Kayla’s always making YouTube-bound videos of confessional-style inspirational talks, spiked with plenty of “likes” and shot in not always flattering close-ups, that belie her own insecurities. “The topic of today’s video is being yourself,” she says during the movie’s opening sequence, staring straight into the lens as the camera gradually pulls back to reveal her butterfly-decorated shirt, dark sweater, and makeshift bedroom TV studio. Later, she titles another clip “How To Be Confident.”

At home, Kayla suffers through life with loving single dad Mark (Josh Hamilton) who, you know, just doesn’t understand, asks too many annoying questions, and further bugs his daughter by encouraging her to “put yourself out there.” It’s a message that she later co-opts for one of her video chats.

In one of the film’s most affecting sequences, set in the backyard of the family’s modest home, Mark quietly offers his own glowing assessment of Kayla’s personality and talents. It’s just the right antidote, at the right time, to her frequently misguided if overwhelming feelings of worthlessness. And, as directed and written by remarkably assured 27-year-old filmmaker Bo Burnham, these scenes are not overly saccharine or drenched in sentimentality.

At school, Kayla suffers the indignities of sitting through a your-body-is-changing video featuring an instructor who says things like “it’s gonna be lit.” She’s also stuck taking on cymbal-crashing duties in the meagerly talented school band, navigating mean girls in the hallways, and melting in the presence of Aiden (Luke Prael), a handsome, trim boy with smoky eyes and, as it turns out, a dullard’s personality.

Outside of school, there are bright spots, including the attentions of a nerdy but attentive nice kid (Jake Ryan) and a friendly high-school girl (Emily Robinson). And, in a harrowing if sensitively shot sequence, there’s an older guy who attempts to take advantage of Kayla, and, when rejected, tacks on some gaslighting for extra measure.

Burnham, who sparked his own career as an actor and filmmaker via a series of comic YouTube videos, takes an approach to his young characters that’s neither dumbed down nor overhyped. It’s a bit reminiscent of the young heroines of last year’s “Lady Bird” or 1995’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse.”

Unlike the blemish-free kids in Nickelodeon and Disney fare, and most network sitcoms and family dramas, these teens come with imperfections and believable challenges, and conflicts that are never resolved. That  authentic vibe is heightened by an indie production style that’s clean, direct and unshowy, and the antithesis of high-gloss Hollywood.

No, “Eighth Grade” is not remotely a documentary. But Burnham’s coming-of-age comic drama sometimes points in that direction, particularly via the videos within the movie — scout around, and you’ll see some that look and feel exactly like those in “Eighth Grade.”

It all strikes closer to middle school reality, or ordinary, middle-class, middle-America anything, than practically any other recent film or TV production. It’s a fresh and funny surprise gift, driven by Fisher’s revelatory performance. We won’t soon forget Kayla, her typical teen trials and tribulations, her evolving sense of self, or her supportive dad.

Opens Friday, Aug. 3 at Tampa Theatre, Cobb Grove 16 & Cinebistro Wesley Chapel, Goodrich Riverview 14 GDX Gibsonton, and GTC Beacon Theatres 12 Brooksville.

Gasparilla Film Fest: Shorter, But Jam Packed

The Gasparilla International Film Festival returns this month for a fourth annual edition that’s six days shorter than its previous incarnations, but still jammed with impressive screen fare — 60 features, documentaries and shorts.

Crime drama Charlie Valentine, with Raymond J. Barry (Little Children) as the titular gangster and a cast also including Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Tom Berenger, Steven Bauer, and Keith David, is one of the features slated to be showcased at the festival, which runs March 18-21 and is relocating from Channelside Cinemas to Cinebistro in Hyde Park.

Several major screenings will additionally be held at Muvico Centro Ybor and at historic Tampa Theatre, which is home, again, to the opening night soiree, this year featuring happythankyoumoreplease, directed by Josh Radnor (television’s “How I Met Your Mother”). The comic drama (photo, below) won this year’s Audience Award at Sundance.

Barry will attend the fest, to receive its career achievement award. That award in 2009 was won by Armand Assante, who will participate in an actors’ workshop at the 2010 fest. Also expected to be on hand are celebrity TV doofus Jerry Springer (March 19), who stars in Christina Grozik’s political satire And the Winner Is…; and Arielle Kebbel (The Uninvited), recipient of the fest’s rising star award.

A panel on the future of Florida filmmaking is one of several educational panels slated for the fest; others focus on fright-film makeup (March 19), and film’s fate in a digital world (March 20).

Appropriately enough, Sunshine State-related films are on tap, including Joe O’Brien’s Endure, a Tom Arnold-Judd Nelson thriller produced in Lakeland; St. Petersburg filmmaker Kelly L. King‘s romcom/drama Prime of Your Life, Jacksonville writer-director Warren SkeelsThespians, filmed in Tampa; Mike Walter’s Breaking News, Breaking Down, featuring commentary from WTVT’s Kelly Ring; and Caged Dreams, a short from Tampa filmmakers Paul and Pete Guzzo (Ghosts of Ybor: Charlie Wall).

Fans of NBC’s “The Office” might be interested in checking out You, the directorial debut of Melora Hardin AKA the show’s Jan; Hardin and her husband, Gildart Jackson, co-star in the romantic drama.

For more details or to buy tickets online, go to the official festival site.

St. Petersburg Times film critic Steve Persall’s blog post on the fest is here.

Tampa Movie Weekend – 3.06.09

All the hype this weekend is focused on the bloody arrival of dysfunctional-superhero saga Watchmen, as grim, brutal and overlong a movie as likely to play the multiplexes this year (read my review).

Better news: The third annual Gasparilla International Film Festival continues through Saturday. The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival continues through March 15.

And still playing Tampa Bay area screens are gorgeous looking animated movie Coraline and quite a few 2008 films that landed Oscar wins and nominations, or should have notched Academy Awards attention.

All of the latter group — including Slumdog Millionaire, Defiance, Gran Torino, The Wrestler, The Reader, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Waltz With Bashir, Frost/Nixon, Rachel Getting Married and The Dark Knight — are far more satisfying than Watchmen.

fanboys-vader-poster-fullsizeAlso opening 3/6:

Fanboys, the tale of five Star Wars fanatics who break into George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in 1998 to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (released in 1999). The road-trip  comedy includes a brawl between Star Wars fans and Trekkies. Seth Rogen makes a cameo, as do Princess Leia, er, Carrie Fisher and fellow Star Wars cast member Billy Dee Williams; William Shatner (Captain Kirk, of Star Trek); and Kevin Smith.  “The most appealing aspect of the movie is that the guys and gal at the center of it don’t just love the Star Wars saga for its own sake,” Michael Sragow writes in the Baltimore Sun. “They love the way they feel about each other when they’re escaping into its universe and sharing all the wonder and the trivia.


  • Tampa TheatreTwo Lovers , the well-reviewed new drama starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw; cast also includes Isabella Rossellini and Elias Koteas (through March 11)
  • Beach Theatre (St. Petersburg Beach) – Slumdog Millionaire
  • Burns Court (Sarasota) – Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, Waltz with Bashir, Two Lovers

Gasparilla International Film Festival: Armand Assante


Armand Assante (American Gangster, The Mambo Kings, The Lords of Flatbush) will make an appearance at this year’s Gasparilla International Film Festival.

assante4UPDATE: Assante will be on hand for the screening of the Romanian-made California Dreamin,  Sunday, March 1 at 2:50 p.m. at Channelside Cinemas.

The film, directed by the late Cristian Nemescu, stars Assante as a U.S. Marine captain assigned to escort a train carrying NATO equipment bound for Yugoslavia during the war in Kosovo.

california_dreaminWrote J. Hoberman, in the Village Voice: “An unfinished film set in an unsettled corner of the world, Romanian director Cristian Nemescu’s California Dreamin’ ponders history’s cruelties even as, in a wholly unexpected way, it embodies them. Six weeks into editing this darkly farcical meditation on geopolitical haplessness, the talented 27-year-old filmmaker died in an automobile accident; nine months later, his first feature would win the Prix Un Certain Regard at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.”

Assante will be honored with the festival’s Career Achievement Award for Excellence in Film, to be presented at in his honor at the Dolce Vita Lounge. That reception will be held March 1 at 5 p.m., following the California Dreamin’ screening.

The actor also appears in another GIFF film, The Steam Experiment, starring Val Kilmer.

Screen veteran Terry Moore, to be honored on opening night, at Tampa Theatre, is also among the movie-world notables slated to attend the ihird annual fest, which runs Feb. 26 through March 7 at various Tampa venues.

Tampa Film Notes, 2.11.09: Watching the Oscars, in Style

Oscars fans looking for a big to-do for the big night, Sunday, Feb. 22, and unable to get to the real thing, have a couple of appealing options in the Tampa Bay area.

Watch the proceedings on the big screen, at Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St., or at the Beach Theatre, 315 Corey Ave. in St. Petersburg Beach.oscar

Oscar Night America, celebrating 10 years at Tampa Theatre, means a reception, red-carpet festivities, limo rides around the block, screaming fans and paparazzi.

And it’s all a fundraiser, with proceeds going to the art deco theater’s myriad film and educational programs.

The event kicks off at 6 p.m., and tickets range from $20 for students to $130 for the whole shebang (including VIP reception and admission).

For more information, go to the Tampa Theatre web site or call (813) 274-8981.

The Beach Theatre is offering a low-dough alternative – as in, free admission. The event starts at 8 p.m., naturally, when the ABC telecast gets underway.

For more info, visit the Beach Theatre web site or call (727) 360-6697.

Gasparilla Intl Film Festival: Members Wanted

The third annual edition of the Gasparilla International Film Festival unreels Feb. 26 through March 7 at the Tampa Theatre, Channelside Cinemas and other Tampa Bay area venues.gasparilla093

The festival greatly depends on the funding it receives through memberships in the non-profit organization.

Interested in joining?

Supporter: $50 buys …

  • 2 tickets to any regular Festival film screenings
  • 1 VIP ticket to Opening Night at Tampa Theatre
  • Notification of Special Screenings during the year
  • Tickets to ‘Members Only’ Parties during the year
  • Discounts on Gasparilla Film Festival screenings during the year
  • Special recognition on the Gasparilla Film Festival website

Associate: $100 buys …

  • 4 tickets to any regular Festival film screenings
  • 2 VIP tickets to Opening Night at Tampa Theatre
  • Notification of Special Screenings during the year
  • Tickets to ‘Members Only’ Parties during the year
  • Discounts on Gasparilla Film Festival screenings during the year
  • Special recognition in Program Guide

Ambassador: $250 buys …

  • 1 unlimited “No Ticket Required” admission pass to all regular Festival film screenings
  • 2 VIP tickets to Opening Night at Tampa Theatre
  • 2 tickets to Closing Night Party
  • 6 individual screening passes to any film during festival
  • Notification of Special Screenings during the year
  • Tickets to ‘Members Only’ Parties during the year
  • Discounts on Gasparilla Film Festival screenings during the year
  • Special recognition in Program Guide

Benefactor: $500 buys …

  • 2 unlimited “no ticket required” admission passes to all regular Festival film screenings
  • 4 VIP tickets to Opening Night at Tampa Theatre
  • 4 tickets to Closing Night Party
  • 12 individual passes to any film during festival
  • VIP tickets to exclusive VIP Screenings during the year, in addition to notification of other special screenings
  • Tickets to ‘Members Only’ Parties during the year
  • Discounts on Gasparilla Film Festival screenings during the year
  • Special premiere recognition in Program Guide

Patron: $1,000 buys …

  • 4 unlimited “no ticket required” admission passes to all regular Festival film screenings
  • 8 VIP tickets to Opening Night at Tampa Theatre
  • 8 tickets to Closing Night Party
  • 30 passes to individual screenings during the festival
  • VIP tickets to exclusive VIP Screenings during the year, in addition to notification of other special screenings
  • Tickets to ‘Members Only’ Parties during the year
  • Discounts on Gasparilla Film Festival screenings during the year
  • Special premiere recognition in Program Guide and at Closing Night Party

To renew/register: Pay via credit/debit (AmEx, Discover, MasterCard, Visa via PayPal) online at http://www.gasparillafilmfestival.com or send check to: 701 S Howard Ave STE 106-432 Tampa, FL 33606