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Upper East Side Theater

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Insightful Perspectives on Upper East Side Movies
Updated: 15 min 37 sec ago


Sun, 10/16/2016 - 20:26
     "Denial" is based on the true story of Deborah Lipstadt's legal battle for her historical interpretation against David Irving, who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the accused, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Anthony Julius and Richard Rampton, to prove that the Holocaust really happened.        The film stars Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt, Timothy Spall As David Irving, Andrew Scott as Anthony Julius and Tom Wilkinson as Richard Rampton.  The cast is outstanding. Ms. Weisz is fiery and defiant in her pursuit of her defense as the accused. Mr. Wilkinson is just brilliant as Rampton and should be a best supporting actor consideration. Mr. Spall plays the heavy well with a purposeful scowl. And Mr. Scott is a revelation in one of his best roles to date.       Director Mick Jackson keeps thing taut and to the point. The screenplay by David Hare is smart enough to leave just enough doubt as to the trial's outcome to keep the suspense high.      Scenes filmed at Auschwitz are chilling and strengthen the audience resolve for justice. Besides the obviously strong subject matter, I also found the machinations of the British legal system fascinating. This is a powerful drama well worth your time.
Categories: Blogs

The Birth of a Nation

Mon, 10/10/2016 - 17:06
          Written and directed by as well as starring Nate Parker, this new drama may not be completely historically accurate but it is an emotional powerhouse and an important American film. It is the story of Nat Turner, a slave and preacher who led a rebellion in 1831 that sparked the flames that eventually led to the Civil War and the emancipation proclamation.            Mr. Parker has clearly put his heart and soul into this project but he may have been better served by a different director. His acting is excellent but starring in your own film is always tricky and in this case, Mr. Parker has a hard time turning the camera away from himself, as his subject matter. The film co-stars Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earl Haley, Penelope Ann Miller, and Gabrielle Union. While Mr. Turner is of course, the focus of the film, other characters are sacrificed with little development or after thought. The film would have also benefited from additional editing and a variety of pace. It's a deliberately slow paced film which I interpret as a metaphor for the building anger and rage inside Mr. Turner.             The film positions Nat Turner as a hero and while his intentions to fight injustice (as well as a spiritual calling from God, if you believe Mr. Parker) are righteous, the result caused the deaths of not only the fifty seven or so slaves that joined him in rebellion but over 200 innocent black people killed by mobs and the militia during the rebellion. The violence in the film is horrific, brutal and I'm sure accurate in the way many slaves were treated. There has been controversy over certain scenes that may not have actually happened and others that definitely didn't happen, but Mr. Parker has "based" his film on history, never claiming to be making a historical documentary. His script canonizes Nat Turner and justifies violence against violence.               Taken as a whole, the film unflinchingly focuses on an important period in American history that deserves to be seen, discussed and certainly further researched.
Categories: Blogs

The Girl on The Train

Sat, 10/08/2016 - 20:50
      This train wreck of a movie is billed as a thriller but unintentionally comes across as a bad comedy. There was lots of unexpected laughing from the sold out show I attended.       It is based on the best-selling novel which follows a "Gone Girl" formula but not quite as biting. Much like its central character, Rachel, the film is a mess. The story is silly and beyond belief, filled with amazing coincidences and contradictions. The dialogue is ridiculous and it's about as exciting and suspenseful as watching paint dry.       Rachel is played by Emily Blunt and she is the best thing about the film. As the alcoholic ex-wife of Paul Watson, played by Justin Theroux, we watch most of the film through her blurry eyes. The film also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, and Edgar Ramirez. Laura Prepon also has a small part as Cathy, Rachel's roommate.       This is a story that works much better on the page than the screen and if I were you, I would just skip this train and read the book.
Categories: Blogs

The Magnificent Seven

Mon, 10/03/2016 - 00:36
              More like the Magnificent bore, this unnecessary remake is two hours of setup for a 10 minute one sided shootout. It's an excuse for Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia Ruflo and Martin Semsmeier to play cowboy.              Director Antoine Fuqua throws in almost every western cliche in the book in an attempt to recall the golden days of westerns and while the film looks great, the story lacks the gravitas of the original western (based itself, on the Japanese film, "The Seven Samurai") and any depth of character.  The seven heroes are stereotypes that give us no reason to cheer them on except for the pre-conceived notion that we should because they are, after all, the "Magnificent 7".               Peter Sarsgaard chews the scenery as the villainous Bartholomew Bogue and Haley Bennet is Emma, the widow who hires Mr. Washington and crew to save her town. Ms. Bennet has the final word as the only fully realized character in the film. For two hours plus, our heroes, with almost no backstory, are introduced, give each other steely eyed stares, twirl their revolvers and set up the inevitable gun fight against overwhelming odds. Of course every bullet fired brings down a "bad guy" instantly so the odds are actually in our heroes favor.             Anyone who has seen the original western will recognize one of the greatest movie themes in history (by the late Elmer Bernstein). I kept waiting for that theme to rouse me out of my stupor but Mr. Fuqua commissioned an original score to separate his vision, so even that was a letdown.  Thankfully, he does resurrect it for the closing credits, which only serves to remind you that the film has been done much better before. Twice, in fact so seek those versions out for true movie magic.
Categories: Blogs