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Upper East Side Theater

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Insightful Perspectives on Upper East Side Movies
Updated: 24 min 36 sec ago

Get On Up

Sun, 08/10/2014 - 20:58
    Chadwick Boseman stars as the "Godfather of Soul", James Brown in this new drama. Mr. Boseman is creating quite the career for himself portraying iconic figures in history. He was terrific in "42" as Jackie Robinson and shines here as James Brown, which is clearly not an easy task. He has all the moves down perfectly and embodies the man as well as the legend.     The film co- stars Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, his long time friend and band member, Dan Ackroyd as his manager, Viola Davis as his mother who abandons him early in his life, and Octavia Spencer, who raises him when his father joins the army. The cast is excellent and all the acting in the film never feels false. Jamarion Scott plays Mr. Brown as a boy and he is a natural.     While the acting and all the music are first rate, I can't say the same for the screenplay. The story is disjointed and all over the place, jumping around in time.  The film is broken down into significant periods in Mr. Brown's life but never sticks to a particular time frame. Plot lines are introduced and then left dangling, unresolved. The story would have been better served with a linear plot and maybe an occasional flashback but here the technique is misused and doesn't add anything to the story exception confusion.      We are treated to important moments in Mr. Brown's life as well as in our own history. It's an honest portrait as it also doesn't shy away from Mr. Brown's drug use and abusive nature. He was a genius and a musical icon but as he says in the film, " you pay the cost to be the boss".
Categories: Blogs


Sun, 08/10/2014 - 02:59
      The new film from writer/director Luc Besson is his personal thesis on the potential of the human brain.   Mr. Besson is in the enviable position of having the clout to share his thoughts and ideas with the world through financing of this action drama. What happens when we unlock 100% of our brain's potential?       Known for some pretty outrageous films (The Fifth Element), Mr. Besson also has a proven reputation of getting the most out of his female leads (Natalie Portman in "The Professional", Milla Jovovich in "The Fifth Element") and he proves it here again with the casting of Scarlett Johansson.Ms. Johansson elevates what is a pretty far fetched "b-movie" into an action packed film with theories that you may actually start considering since she plays it so seriously. And of course, having Morgan Freeman co-star as a professor contemplating the same theories also adds a degree of "take this seriously" to the proceedings.         The action sequences are a visual treat (I'd expect no less from Mr. Besson) and while the story tries hard to be convincing, it all becomes rather silly by the end. There are obvious illogical holes in the plot but Mr. Besson sacrifices logic to make his point. My own conspiracy theory or just a strange coincidence but this film may help to explain Ms. Johansson's character in the film "Her".
Categories: Blogs

Guardians of the Galaxy

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 23:50
   The very definition of a summer popcorn movie, Marvel studios has another hit franchise in the making (the sequel has already been announced). If you like sci-fi adventure with tongue firmly in cheek, then"Guardians" is for you. It's the most fun you will have at the movies all summer.       This is a space opera in the the truest sense. No hidden messages, no deep thinking, just good guys vs. bad guys hurling through space with the fate of the universe at stake. If you are a fan of the original comics, you will be happily satisfied, even with minor tweaks to the characters. If you know nothing of the comics, the story is still easy to follow (even if you don't know the difference between a Kree and a Badoon). Credit director James Gunn, who also wrote the screenplay (with Nicole Perlman) to keep things moving at a quick pace, oversee some of the best CGI ever created in the characters of Rocket Raccoon and Groot, and remain faithful to the source material even while injecting original ideas of their own.       The cast is simply terrific. Peter Quill is a star making role for actor Chris Pratt. Zoe Saldana is perfect as the assassin, Gamora as is Wrestler David Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Breathing sarcastic, yet heartfelt life into CGI Rocket Raccoon is Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel does a lot with a little vocalizing Groot. While Mr. Pratt is clearly the lead, all the characters get equal screen time and play off each other beautifully. The film also features Lee Pace as the villain, Ronan the Accuser, Michael Rooker as Yondu, leader of the Ravagers, Djimon Hounsou as the villain, Korath, Benicio del Toro as The Collector, and John C. Reilly and Glenn Close as members of the Nova Force.          If you are a fan of '80's pop music, you will really love the soundtrack too. The music is integral to the story and contributes to the overall fun of the film. And, as with every Marvel film, stay through the credits for two extra scenes, one everyone will enjoy and one only real fans will appreciate.
Categories: Blogs

Begin Again

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 00:39
    Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley star in this charming comedy/drama from the folks that brought us the film, "Once". An unconventional love story filled with terrific music, this is a film that goes down smooth on a summer night (which is what you can say about "Once" as well).     The film co-stars Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, Cee Lo Green, and Yaslin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def). Ms. Keener is Mr. Ruffalo's ex-wife and Ms. Steinfeld plays their teenage daughter. Mr. Bey, together with Mr. Ruffalo own Distressed Records.       Distressed is appropriate for Mr. Ruffalo as when the film starts he is very much down on his luck until he meets Ms. Knightley singing in a bar. She is a struggling songwriter and Mr. Ruffalo becomes inspired by her and decides to produce her first album. I won't spoil Mr. Levine's role but suffice to say, he does get to sing quite a bit (as does Ms. Knightley) and the original songs for the film make an excellent soundtrack.      The editing at the beginning uses flashbacks in a clever way to introduce the characters. Director John Carney (who also wrote the screenplay) then takes the film to the streets of New York in an unusual way and the city itself becomes a character. There are equal parts drama and comedy but everything stays lighthearted and enjoyable.
Categories: Blogs


Mon, 07/28/2014 - 07:57
    Written and directed by Richard Linklater, "Boyhood" is a remarkable achievement in so many ways. The film focuses on Mason, a 6 year old boy living an ordinary life and was shot in sections over a 12 year period. We watch Mason, his actor parents, played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette and everyone else in the film age naturally over the course of 12 years.    The screenplay was written as the film was shot to match each time period so all the dialog and references are authentic to the appropriate year. The editing is flawless and you get the sense you are watching a 12 year documentary rather than a scripted story. The film itself runs almost three hours and captures moments big and small in Mason's life. There is nothing in the story that is sensational or manipulative. Everything is rather ordinary but the screenplay focuses on the little details that make even an ordinary life, extraordinary.     When the film starts Mr. Hawke and Ms. Arquette are divorced and Mason and his sister (Played by Lorelei Linklater, the director's daughter) live with their mother. Mr. Hawke gets the kids every other weekend. Characters come and go and more importantly grow in many ways as the film progresses.       Ellar Coltrane plays Mason and being privy to the intimacy of his life from 6 to 18 is fascinating. Yes, the film is scripted but Mr. Coltrane and the rest of the cast are so natural, you feel like a voyeur in his life and once the film ends, you will find yourself wishing for a sequel. What happens next is left to the imagination but credit Mr. Linklater for stimulating us and looking at life through his lens in a new and captivating way.
Categories: Blogs

A Most Wanted Man

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 20:49
  From the novel by John LeCarre, this is Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last completed film.  As with all of Mr. LeCarre's spy novels, this story is more about intelligence than gunfights and chase scenes. It is a slow, intriguing story with a meticulous performance by Mr. Hoffman.     Mr. Hoffman plays Gunter Bachmann, a German counter-terrorist agent leading a rogue task force in Hamburg. For his final performance, Mr. Hoffman's character is overweight, drinks and smokes too much and has pasty white skin behind a glimmer of intelligent eyes. Physically, he's a wreck but his performance still shows what a great actor he was.   The film co-stars Rachel McAdams as a civil rights lawyer protecting a major character, Willem Dafoe as a banker brokering an important transaction and Robin Wright as a U.S. diplomat with her own agenda. The cast is very good but on film, the story comes off rather dull. We follow the players and we follow the money but the film never rises above a slow burn.    Espionage films without much action depend on twists and turns and a complex puzzle for the audience to solve if you intend on keeping them involved. This plot is not that complicated and almost disappointingly easy to follow. While it does have one or two twists, it's really not enough to satisfy fans of this genre.
Categories: Blogs

Sex Tape

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 00:07
     Cameron Diaz has sunk to a new low starring with Jason Segel in this raunchy but boring comedy. The subject is appropriate for the times. What if you made an amateur sex tape for your own enjoyment but it leaked onto the internet and you tried to retrieve it? The antics of this married couple to get back the video are meant to be funny but the script fails horribly.      Aside from the sex tape itself ( of which we see "R" rated bits and pieces)' there is little action. The film is all exposition and terrible dialogue. There is only one mildly amusing sequence at the home of Ms. Diaz's boss, played by Rob Lowe. It starts out creepy, gets stranger and stranger but the weirder it gets, the funnier it somehow becomes.  Pay close attention to all the paintings. The laughs during this sequence involving Mr. Segel come at the expense of simulated violence to a German Shepard which I only enjoyed because Mr. Segel is on the losing end of the encounter.         The film had promise...a good cast and an interesting premise. It's a shame it falls apart quickly and never really recovers. Even a cameo by a particular comedic actor late in the film can't save it.          Life should have imitated art. Someone should have deleted the film before it showed up in theaters.
Categories: Blogs

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 00:01
       What a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much as far as a sequel to a reboot of a beloved classic but "Dawn" is actually a better film than the first. It's a smart script with lots of emotion. The special effects are absolutely breathtaking and the motion capture work is brilliant.         Andy Serkis breathes 100% life into Caesar, the ape leader. The film goes out of its way to show extreme close ups of Caesar as if showing off just what the technology can do. Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and Gary Oldman are the human stars in the film. They end up in conflict with the apes when they want to restart electrical power at a dam in the ape's territory.           There are some good action sequences throughout and as I mentioned, the film actually packs an emotional punch. This is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen. My biggest criticism is that it runs too long. It could have been better edited. Losing fifteen minutes or so would have kept things tighter and possibly more exciting.          With technology advancing with every film, they can keep sequels coming for years although sooner or later the ape/human conflict has to end with the apes winning. After all, it isn't called Planet of the Apes for nothing.
Categories: Blogs

Wish I Was Here

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 16:51
     Zach Braff follows up "Garden State" with this new film that could be described as a "Garden State" for adults. He tackles lots of themes, some better than others but his script is at its core is filled with stereotyped characters and situations that try too hard to be funny in a depressing drama.      We learn early that a major character is dying, which is important to the story but the impending death casts a pall over the rest of the film. Mr. Braff's character is struggling with family, his job, and his relationship with his father and brother to the point of exhaustion. He has the loving supportive wife, played well by Kate Hudson and the requisite precocious little boy and more mature than her years, teenager daughter played wonderfully by Joey King.  His slacker brother is played by Josh Gadd, a good actor in a typical role and Mandy Patinkin is perfect as Mr. Braff's judgmental father.        Mr. Braff stars, directs and has co-written the script with his brother. It is obviously a personal film for him and it's his direction that stands out. He does an admirable job getting the best out of his cast.  Ms. King, in particular excels here and is the best thing about the film. She has been steadily building up her resume in a slew of films, usually playing someone's daughter and is definitely a young actress on the rise. As with his previous film, Mr. Braff also makes excellent choices for the music in the background.          There are some fresh settings for the story which helps mask the "I've seen this before" feeling but the ambition of the script ultimately disappoints. And, after suffering along with the characters, the audience is treated to a feel good ending that ties everything up neatly so you can leave the theater feeling better. So, at least, thank you for that, Mr. Braff.
Categories: Blogs