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Insightful Perspectives on Upper East Side Movies
Updated: 22 min 23 sec ago

Birdman

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 18:25
         A complex film that at its core is a simple story of a washed up Hollywood actor looking for redemption, "Birdman" questions life imitating art, imitating life.  When Riggan Thompson walked away from the superhero film "Birdman 4", his career seemed over. Now he has a chance to create "real art" by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway drama based on a Raymond Carver story. However, things are never a s simple as they seem.         Michael Keaton stars as Riggan and he is absolutely astounding. He is joined by a wonderful cast as well. Naomi Watts as his leading lady, Andrea Riseborough as his lover and co-star, Edward Norton as his temperamental co-star, Zack Galifiankas as his manager and Emma Stone as his daughter. Mr. Galifiankas plays it straight as the manager and its refreshing to see him this way. Ms. Stone, usually highly overrated, has found the perfect role as the disconnected daughter trying to find the connection with her father. However, as good as the whole cast is, the film completely belongs to Mr. Keaton. He is in almost every scene and is brutally raw and honest. He puts everything he has on screen and is completely fearless.            There is a mystical element to the film that you either accept or not and the throbbing percussion heavy score may not be for everyone but either way, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu has crafted a truly original film that stands out in a crowded Hollywood field.  The film takes place mostly in and around the St. James Theater in New York but never feels confined in anyway. The camerawork is flawless. The film appears to be shot in one long continuous take with no editing.               You can't help thinking about the parallel between Mr. Keaton walking away from a Batman sequel, dropping off the Hollywood radar for sometime and then finding the role of a lifetime that will surely garner him an Oscar nomination. 
Categories: Blogs

Whiplash

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 17:33
    Truly exhilarating and easily one of the best films of the year, "Whiplash" takes familiar territory and  gives it a new and exciting twist.  We've all seen the war or sports movie where the insanely tough coach or drill Sargent turns the underachiever into a winner.  Set in the world of music, "Whiplash" is a war of wills between a percussion professor "from hell" versus a talented young drummer.     Andy, played by Miles Teller is a freshman at a Julliard type music academy learning to master the drums. Fletcher, play by J.K. Simmons is his perfectionist tormentor of a professor. One, an obsessive drummer striving to be the best at all costs, and the other pushing him past his limits with verbal and even physical abuse. Make no mistake, this is a literally bloody war played out in a rehearsal space and eventually on stage.       Miles Teller must have practiced non-stop to become the drummer he plays in the film. He is astounding and his acting is as every bit as good as his music. J.K. Simmons is channeling his "Shillinger" character from the HBO series, "OZ", every bit as scary but without the tattoos. One minute he is telling his band to "have fun out there" and the next second, he is abusing them without mercy. Paul Reiser co-stars as Andy's father who can't understand his son's obsession but loves him just the same. Their scenes together are tender and genuine.         Writer and director Damian Chazelle knows exactly when to pull his punches and when to let things fly. He creates a tension between Andy and Fletcher that becomes unbearable. During the musical sequences, his camera whirls around the musicians with a variety of closeups on their faces and their instruments creating a vortex that takes the music to another level.         "Whiplash" will leave you breathless.
Categories: Blogs

The Judge

Sun, 10/12/2014 - 18:29
        We've seen this story countless times . A dysfunctional family drama focusing on parent/sibling conflict only to be resolved at the end through some mutual crisis. There is some saving grace however in this predictable new film watching the sparks fly between it's two stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall.        Mr. Downey Jr. plays Hank Palmer, a high powered attorney who returns to his Indiana home for his mother's funeral. Mr. Duvall is his father, Judge Palmer and of course the two hate each other and haven't spoken in years. Both actors can play these roles in their sleep and really don't bring anything new to an already worn down theme. It is fun to watch them verbally sparring but that too gets old in a film that runs well over two hours.        Vera Farmiga co-stars as the "girl he left behind" and the rest of the cast includes Vincent D'Onofrio and Jeremy Strong as the other Palmer sons (both with their own issues), Billy Bob Thorton as a prosecutor, Dax Shepard as an inept lawyer and Emma Tremblay as Mr. Downey Jr's daughter.         It's no spoiler when I tell you Hank finds himself defending his father when he is accused of murder (it's the central plot of the film). Subplots include a quick tornado scare, a question of paternity, guilt over a family tragedy, and a secret illness. Screenwriter Bill Dubuque piles on the drama in an attempt to hide the fact we've seen this all before.          The outcome is inevitable and my verdict is disappointing but don't take my word for it, judge for yourself.
Categories: Blogs

The Equalizer

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 08:01
             "The Equalizer" was a TV show in the late '80's about a retired secret agent, Robert McCall, who helped people in trouble. McCall was played by a older British actor who used his gun sparingly and relied on a small group of associates to help him vanquish the bad guys. The film is very loosely based on the T.V. show.              Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall and we first meet him working in Home Mart (Home Depot wisely choose to not to be involved). We know nothing of his past and he seems to live a quiet life. Having trouble sleeping, he spends his late nights at a diner reading and eventually befriends a young prostitute that comes into the dinner every night. When the girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, is beaten by her Russian pimp, Mr. Washington goes after those responsible for putting her in the hospital.                This is a plot we have seen many times before. "Retired" agent living a quiet life is drawn back into his old ways for a variety of reasons. Mr. Washington plays McCall with very little emotion and when the killing starts, he turns into a terminator type killing machine. He easily over-matches his adversaries and even when the Russian mob send a very capable opponent, played by Marton Czonkas, their climatic fight is disappointing as it's staged giving Mr. Washington all the advantage.               The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who made "Training Day" with Mr. Washington. That was a terrific first film. Here, he gets lazy, depicting much of the violence off screen and using techniques we have seen before used to better effect. The scenes that are violent, are very violent, done to appease the obvious audience for an action film but they are far and few between. The movie is really fairly boring between the bloodshed.                 The end sets up what looks like the start of a franchise character. I can only hope the eventual sequels are more exciting and interesting.
Categories: Blogs

Gone Girl

Sun, 10/05/2014 - 23:20
          Meticulously directed by David Fincher and adapted for the screen by author Gillian Flynn, this is a very faithful version of the best-selling novel and will surely satisfy fans of the book. Having read the book and hated the ending, I found the film's end much more tolerable. It's still not to my liking but it does have a certain logic that works better on screen.           The film, for those few who never read the book, examines the marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne and starts out when Amy vanishes on their fifth anniversary. We learn through Nick's behavior, flashbacks and Amy's voice-overs, how they met and how their love for each other is repeatedly tested. There are multiple twists and turns (the same ones that made the book so much fun) and the film unfolds as "Scenes From A Marriage" as if it was written and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.           The casting could not be any better. Ben Affleck and Roseamund Pike make the perfect Nick and Amy. Both of them possess a cool detachment that works brilliantly in their favor. Their co-stars,  Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens are both terrific and Tyler Perry is surprisingly good as Nick's lawyer. Even Neal Patrick Harris in a small but pivotal role is very well cast.           David Fincher's  style is perfect for this story. His direction enhances the same icy atmosphere created by his stars. The overall mood is hard, cold, and slick as ice. While the setting is completely different, you can almost imagine these characters inhabiting the world of Mr. Fincher's version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".  The story line is meticulously straight which make the plot twists that much more jarring.             "Gone Girl" is a nasty piece of business that actually makes a great date night movie. It's a story that can be debated long after it ends.
Categories: Blogs