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Upper East Side Theater

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Insightful Perspectives on Upper East Side Movies
Updated: 23 min 56 sec ago

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

Life Itself

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 20:23
 A new documentary from "Hoop Dreams" director, Steve James that examines the life and unfortunately, the death of film critic, Roger Ebert. The film is based on Mr. Ebert's book of the same title and it follows him from his early days at college writing for the school paper until his untimely death from cancer.    It is an unflinching portrait of Mr. Ebert, the man and the critic and whether or not you agreed with his reviews, you still had to admire him for (along with fellow critic Gene Siskel) for making film criticism accessible to mainstream America. It was Mr. Ebert and Mr. Siskel who brought the world "Two Thumbs Up" when they would agree on a review. Many would argue that Mr. Siskel was the better critic and probably deserves a documentary of his own someday but it's Mr. Ebert who reminds us that he has won a Pulitzer Prize and is a critic of the people.    The film balances flashbacks, film clips and interviews evenly to represent Mr. Ebert's contribution to film and more importantly to his family and the world. We see scenes from some of his favorite films and great clips from the TV show Mr. Ebert shared with Mr. Siskel for so many years. We learn that he married at age 50 to an African American woman named Chaz and that they had a wonderful marriage for 19 years. Many of scenes with Mrs. Ebert  after her husband's cancer diagnosis and subsequent deterioration are so raw and honest that they are hard to watch. However, it is Mr. Ebert love of life and fighting determination right to the end that you will remember and admire.
Categories: Blogs

Obvious Child

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 19:56
   Comedian and actor Jenny Slate steps into the spotlight starring in this new comedy and she shines brightly. Her character, Donna Stern works in a bookstore during the day and does stand-up comedy at night. When her boyfriend dumps her,  Donna's life begins to take unexpected turns.    Sometimes laugh out loud funny and sometimes heartbreaking, the film is always honest, and it is Ms. Slate that drives the raw comedy and emotions of the film.  Director Gillian Robespierre also wrote the screenplay and directing from her own material really helps keep the story grounded and brings out the natural performances from her cast.     The film co-stars Gabby Hoffman as Donna's best friend, and Polly Draper and Richard Kind as her parents. But the film completely belongs to Ms. Slate who balances vulnerability and strength in an uncompromising performance. 
Categories: Blogs

Snowpiercer

Sat, 07/05/2014 - 01:22
         Forget the latest installment of that noisy, repetitive Hollywood robot movie and treat yourself to an incredibly original science fiction film that you will label an instant classic. Famed Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) makes his English language debut with this exciting, funny and smart sci-fi adventure.          In the near future mankind attempts to stop global warming but instead sends the earth into a deep freeze that wipes out the majority of the planet. Survivors circle the globe on a high speed train called "Snowpiercer" where the poor are forced to live in squalor at the tail end and the rich live in the luxurious front end. Seeking better living conditions and equality for all, a plot is hatched by a rebellious lower class to break through the train and take over the engine. Sounds like a simple enough plot but this is no ordinary train and Mr. Joon-ho is no ordinary director.         As the rebels move deeper through the train, the film gets weirder and weirder with each train car, a one of a kind set piece. The visuals are amazing and the action scenes are made even more exciting by the claustrophobic nature of the train. Mr. Joon-ho balances scenes of extreme violence with scenes of beauty and humor throughout the film.          Chris Evans (fresh from playing Captain America) plays Curtis, the reluctant anti-hero of the rebellion. Jamie Bell plays his sidekick, Edgar. John Hurt is Gillam, the wise old mentor and Korean superstar Song Kang-ho is Namgoong Minsu, a mysterious character needed by the rebels and Ko A-sung is his daughter Yona. Octavia Spencer and Allison Pill are also aboard in very original roles. There is also a surprise cameo by a very recognizable dramatic American actor that I won't spoil and completing the great casting is the remarkable, unrecognizable Tida Swinton as Minister Mason, who provides much of the film's humor.            Without the big bucks of Hollywood to promote this film, you won't find it playing multiple times a day in multiplexes but search for it while it's still on the big screen and you will be rewarded with the summer's most original and fun film so far.
Categories: Blogs