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FLIFF Opening Night Gala: THE GRAND

Friday, October 19--------Although it began screenings this week at its year-round theater Cinema Paradiso, the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival officially kicks off this evening with the screening of THE GRAND, a laughter roundelay set around the world of competitive poker. The film, directed by Zak Penn , includes an all-star cast including Woody Harrelson,  Dennis Farina, Richard Kind, Michael McKean, Ray Romano, Cheryl Hines and Jason Alexander. Two of the film's stars, Dennis Farina and Richard Kind, will be on hand for the gala festivities. The Festival screens the film at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center, its new gala showcase theater, located west of Fort Lauderdale on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.

Working in the mockumentary style perfected by Christopher Guest in films like BEST IN SHOW and A MIGHTY WIND, THE GRAND is set around its own version of the World Series of Poker, We get introduced to a madcap group of professioal players, many of whom will be battling it out at the final table for a cool ten million. Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson) is the comeback king, a former poker champ whose grandfather (Barry Corbin) is a casino legend. After inheriting his classic Vegas hotel, Jack spiraled out of control into and lost it to a real estate developer (Michael McKean) looking to demolish it and build a more modern casino. There’s the brother-sister team of Lainie and Larry Schwartzman (Cheryl Hines & David Cross) who learned competition from their father (Gabe Kaplan). Andy Andrews (Richard Kind) is the online player who wins a spot in the tournament despite having apparently no poker skill. Harold Melvin (Chris Parnell) is the anti-social nerd who has calculated all the odds of every hand and every deal.  New school meets old school when rival friends, Deuce Fairbanks (Dennis Farina) and “The German” (famed director Werner Herzog) bust into town. As if this wasn't enough, the cast also includes such comic veterans as Ray Romano, Jason Alexander, Hank Azaria and Estelle Harris (Mrs. Costanza on SEINFELD).

This priceless cast hits all the right comic notes, but the film is not afraid of becoming sentimental and in making us feel for the characters. Even the villains played by Farina and Herzog are shown embracing their old rival. What’s really fun about THE GRAND is how it builds up to the final poker match, with the audience either cheering on or booing the assorted characters. This is one of the better ensemble mock-ups of the past few years, carving its own unique niche in the competitive world of poker playing, which, believe it or not, ranks just below baseball and football in television audience numbers. America's fascination with this game of chance is hysterically put over in this funny and fine film. It's a great way to officially launch the movie marathon of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.

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