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Upper East Side Theater

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Insightful Perspectives on Upper East Side Movies
Updated: 8 min 55 sec ago

Nightcrawler

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 20:16
     Jake Gyllenhaal stars as this year's creepiest character. A cross between Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) and Rupert  Pupkin (The King of Comedy), he slithers his way through the LA nights as a "photo journalist" looking for the bloodiest accidents and crime scenes he can find to sell to the local TV station. A true "nightcrawler".         His character, Louis Bloom is introduced to us as a petty thief. Through a series of events, he soon finds himself, video camera by his side, racing through the night with his police scanner announcing his next big payoff. Louis is a sociopath and it's what makes him so good at his new found profession. He hires an "intern" played by Riz Ahmed, promising him a good job review with a promotion and a raise. Mr. Ahmed plays dimwitted beautifully and his character is both tragic and comic relief.           Rene Russo (so good to see her on screen again) plays the midnight shift news director who buys Lou's videos (if it bleeds, it leads).  In many ways, they are perfect for each other and the chemistry between the actors is terrific. Bill Paxton also co-stars as a rival nightcrawler.            The story is dark and filled with tension as the stakes are raised with each news worthy story. Lines are crossed when reporting the news blurs into manipulating the news and watching the film is like watching a train wreck. You want to turn away but you can't help yourself. Mr. Gyllenhaal owns the screen and is magnetic, his eyes popping out of his head, focused solely on getting the story at all costs. It's a fantastic performance in a film that made me want to take a shower after it ended...to wash off the dirt and slime.
Categories: Blogs

Interstellar

Sun, 11/09/2014 - 19:42
         It's ironic that "The Theory of Everything" opened on the same day as "interstellar". Only Stephen Hawking could possibly decipher all the quantum physics thrown at us by writer/director Christopher Nolan (and his co-writer, brother). The film is stuffed with grand scientific theories and ideas but to Mr. Nolan's credit, he grounds it in emotional relationships. Unfortunately he also "borrows" quite liberally from the plot of "2010" and a bit from it's prequel, "2001:A Space Odyssey"            The strongest bond is between Cooper and his daughter Murphy played by Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy. Unfortunately, their relationship is so well defined and important to the story that the one between Cooper and his son is almost non-existent. Cooper is a farmer sometime in the future when the earth is dying. Conveniently, he used to be a NASA pilot and given the chance to save the earth, he jumps at the opportunity and leaves his family behind.           Mr. Nolan has grandiose ideas that look wonderful on screen but he is so caught up in his vision that he makes too many sacrifices along the way. Cheesy dialogue runs throughout and a Dylan Thomas poem that has great impact the first time we hear it, is repeated ad nausem.  The emotional impact of the finale is weakened by the "head scratching" science fiction preceding it. Particular choices by the actors are sometimes very questionable. A unbilled "A list" actor shows up during an important part of the film and only serves to create a distraction.           Besides Mr. McConaughey (who is so well cast), the film also stars Ann Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Wes Bentley and Michael Caine. It's a reliable cast doing good work but it's those early scenes between Cooper and Murphy that set the tone and really resonant throughout the film.           The cinematography is spectacular, especially in IMAX and there are thrilling sequences that will have you on the edge of your seat but the film left me regretting failing physics  in college. I probably would have appreciated it much more.
Categories: Blogs

Fury

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 10:26
     Credit writer/director David Ayer for taking five stereotyped characters, blending them together in the tight, claustrophobic space of a WW II tank (christened "Fury") and making us care deeply about them for a little over two hours.      Brad Pitt stars as "Wardaddy", the tough as nails Sergeant keeping his misfit tank crew alive through the waning days of World War Two. His crew consists of Shia LeBeouf (the religious zealot), Michael Pena ( the minority Mexican), Jon Bernthal (the psychopath) and Logan Lerman as the rookie. It doesn't take long before we are caught up in the mud, blood, and carnage they face as they clear the way for the advancing U.S. troops into Germany.      Mr. Ayer doesn't hold back on the horrors of war, giving the viewer the gory reality of sudden death and dismemberment. There are some terrific battle sequences, in particular, a tank battle shot as a heavy metal dance of death. The camera takes us right into the claustrophobic  belly of "Fury". You can smell the body odors, oil, grease and cigarette smoke. And more importantly, the fear. The men of this tank crew are not superheroes. They have been thrown together in a rolling death trap and asked to do the impossible.         The acting is first rate and each actor rises above his stereotype. Besides the one strange interlude midway through the film, they spend the majority of their time in and around the tank. Sitting in the dark theater, you can almost feel yourself right there with them and that happens when script, actors, and director mix perfectly to envelope the viewer in the story and the characters.         My one complaint involves the timeline of a particular sequence but it's a minor one I can forgive when everything else has been almost perfect. "Fury" is not easy entertainment but it does it's job and honors the memory of every tank crew that lived or died defending our freedom.
Categories: Blogs

St. Vincent

Sun, 11/02/2014 - 00:59
         It's an old cliche'd plot, curmudgeon is softened by a precocious youngster but Bill Murray is the perfect choice to breathe new life into this unoriginal story. Years ago, Walter Matthau would have been the star of this film but in the here and now, Bill Murray works his magic.         When Maggie (played by Melissa McCarthy) and her 12 year old son, Oliver (played by Jaeden Lieberher) move next door to the cantankerous Vincent,  his routine life becomes upended. Needing money, Vincent agrees to "babysit" Oliver and as he provides unusual life lessons for the boy, Oliver begins to crack the hard shell Vincent has built around himself.         Ms. McCarthy is the "straight man" for a change and while she is good enough in her role, there is nothing special about it and any fireworks you would expect between her and Mr. Murray are played softy and with subtlety. The young Mr. Lieberher is terrific as Oliver and he has real chemistry with Mr. Murray. The film also co-stars Naomi Watts as  Vincent's "girlfriend", a pregnant Russian stripper/prostitute who is fine in the part but overdoes the accent.         The film is billed as a comedy but it also has some very serious sub-plots that almost overshadow the lighthearted humor. The story moves along as expected and the title pretty much telegraphs the schmaltzy ending but Bill Murray carries the load and keeps things interesting. 
Categories: Blogs

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