Tue Feb 9, 2016

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Hail Caesar

Upper East Side Theater - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 00:27
       The latest from the Coen Brothers  falls somewhere in the middle of their cannon of work. Call it Coen Brothers lite. It's a comedy with it's own strange energy that revisits "Capitol Pictures", the imaginary Hollywood studio first introduced in "Barton Fink".       The Coen's mix genres of classic Hollywood wrapping them around a central mystery of a kidnapped movie star, played by George Clooney.  Along side Mr. Clooney, Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a "fixer" for the studio that has to contend with Mr. Clooney's kidnapping,  a pregnant starlet played by Scarlett Johansson, a director (Ralph Fiennes) unhappy with his new leading man, and a singing cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) that would be much happier sticking to westerns. Besides dramas, westerns, and swimming spectacles, the Coen's throw in Channing Tatum as a song and dance man in a nautical musical.        The whole thing is a fun romp and Mr. Brolin is just terrific as Eddie Mannix. He carries the bulk of the film on his broad shoulders juggling his various studio problems along with a pair of identical sister gossip columnists, both played by Tilda Swinton. Of course, being a Coen brothers film, the characters are all extraordinarily unique, right down to the cameo by Frances McDormand as a chain smoking film editor. And you won't quickly forget the talents of Mr. Ehrereich, who is also outstanding.        There is always a certain degree of intellect in a Coen Brothers film and Mr. Clooney's kidnappers are far from what you might expect and will clearly surprise you. So too, is a discussion on the depiction of Jesus Christ  in the studio's religious epic, "Hail Caesar".  That round table discussion is just one highlight in a film filled with great scenes. The Channing Tatum musical sequence has to be seen to be believed.          Great dialog and attention to detail are always found in a Coen Brother film. Here however, the sum is not as good as it's parts. The Coen's rehash ideas from their own catalog and I particularly found the writing weak at the beginning and at the end, but there is enough in the middle to satisfy any fan of these original filmmakers. 
Categories: Blogs

Advocacy Update: Zoning Proposals Voted On to City Council

Friends of the Upper East Side - Fri, 02/05/2016 - 15:55

It has been nearly a year since the first public documents about the Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) Text Amendment were released, and nearly a year that New Yorkers have expressed serious concerns about the proposal’s negative effects on neighborhoods citywide.

The City’s goals to increase production of affordable and high quality housing are necessary to sustain a livable city in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that ZQA will produce a net gain of affordable housing, either by itself or in combination with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH).

The proposal threatens to dismantle mechanisms enacted to preserve community character across the entire city through increased height and density. These changes will put a further strain on streets and sidewalks, public transit, schools, and parks as a result. As written, ZQA fails to consider each neighborhood’s unique context, which must be analyzed to determine how new buildings can best be knitted into our varied communities to achieve the City’s goals.

Despite broad disapproval by an overwhelming number of community boards, elected officials, and borough boards, and a thirteen-hour public hearing held in December, the City Planning Commission approved both proposals with minimal changes. In addition to the many affordable housing and community groups opposing the plans, preservation groups including FRIENDS issued a joint statement against the City Planning Commission decision, vowing to continue to mobilize at the City Council.

Next, the proposals will be heard by the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on February 9th (MIH) and 10th (ZQA), where modifications may be made. Council Member Donovan Richards, who chairs the Subcommittee, has said that ZQA “will not pass muster in the City Council without changes.”


Categories: Blogs, News

Need food and drinks for the Big Game?

We've got you covered for The Super Bowl!We're offering all of the staples (and then some), complete with expanded beer list!You can download or view our Super Bowl 2016 Menu here.Please place all orders by Thursday February 4th for Superbowl Sunday.
Categories: Blogs


Upper East Side Theater - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 20:50
      The latest film from director/writer Charlie Kaufman (co-directed by Duke Johnson) is a stop motion animation amazement.  Mr. Kaufman's films are always a surprise and never follow a traditional route. This new film is no different.        At it's core, it is the story of Michael Stone, a motivational speaker, who arrives in Cincinnati to give a  presentation the next day. But over the course of  24 hours, we explore loneliness, sense of self, how we connect with others, individuality and love all through Michael's experience.       David Thewlis is the voice of Michael, Jennifer Jason Leigh provides the voice of Lisa, and Tom Noonan provides all the other voices.  The vocal work is excellent as each actor gives voice in a very deliberate way.       The animation is remarkable and the attention to detail is stunning. Even you are not engaged by the plot, there is so much to enjoy in the visuals and so many little touches. Make no mistake though, this is adult animation. There is full frontal male nudity and sex as well as adult language.        The film has been given a well deserved nomination for an Oscar this year but I don't think it's a film for everyone. I believe it's very polarizing and you will either love it or hate it. I found it fascinating and enjoyed every moment. 
Categories: Blogs

The Finest Hours

Upper East Side Theater - Sun, 01/31/2016 - 13:20
        Disney presents the true story of the most daring rescue in Coast Guard history. When a pair of oil tankers split in two during a blizzard off the coast of Massachusetts in 1952, the Coast Guard send ships to rescue the men of the first tanker, not realizing there is a second tanker in trouble. When the second tanker is discovered, it is up to a small boat of four men to attempt the rescue.          That's the premise and the scenes at sea are exhilarating, the special effects, cinematography, and acting all combine to put you in the action. The central part of the film is when it's at it's best. Switching the action from the men trapped on the sinking ship to the men in the rescue boat fighting monster waves and horrible conditions, you can't imagine how a rescue can be attempted. It's the sappy set up and ending however, that is what's really waterlogged.           Chris Pine stars as Bernie Webber, the skipper of the rescue boat and the film starts with a building romance between Bernie and Miriam, played by Holliday Grainger. The script emphasizes the relationship to help create additional tension once Miriam is safely back on shore worried about her man at sea. Mr. Pine is a fine stoic leader. Having already played Captain Kirk in multiple Star Trek films, he is at home behind the wheel leading his men on their perilous mission. It's his scenes with Ms. Grainger that are awkward and dull. Ms. Grainger plays the the worried girlfriend admirably taking many of her scenes over the top.           Ben Foster costars as Bernie's second in command but his fine talents are wasted in an empty role. Kyle Gallner and John Magaro are the other two members of Bernie's crew, who spend most of their time tossed about by the storm whipped sea. Eric Bana is also wasted as the Coast Guard commander with no scenes of real depth. On board the sinking ship, Casey Affleck plays  Ray Sybert, the chief engineer of the tanker, who rallies the crew to stave off the the storm waters that will soon drown them all. Mr. Affleck is painfully dull and maybe that what the role called for but he is out of his dramatic element in this part.             The film never steers of course. The rescue itself, while exciting, is straight forward storytelling. I applaud Disney for making the film as it honors the real men involved in this little known story but the script is too sanitized to truly recreate the heightened emotions and actions of everyone involved in this daring rescue.
Categories: Blogs

13 Hours

Upper East Side Theater - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 00:27
           Based on the true story of an attack of Americans in Benghazi in 2012, this is a harrowing modern day Alamo (as one character accurately describes it). Six privately contracted security men (all ex- armed forces) are hired to protect a covert CIA operation in Benghazi. When terrorists attack the temporary headquarters of American Ambassador Chris Stevens and then turn their sights on the CIA compound, it is up to the band of ex-military brothers in arms to protect the civilians.            Directed by the action king himself, Michael Bay, the film build slowly giving just enough background of the main characters so that when the attack happens, we are fully invested in the lives of these men. The attack, which comes in waves, makes up much of the second half of the film and Mr. Bay is not frugal with chaotic firefights or numbing explosions. Those unfamiliar with the outcome will succumb to the suspense of wondering who lives and dies.             The film stars James Dale Badge as Tyrone "Rone" Woods and John Krasinski as Jack Silva, the two most recognizable members of the cast. Mr. Badge starred on the short lived AMC TV show, "Rubicon" and Mr. Krasinski is best know as Jim on the TV show, "The Office". Both pull off an incredible transformation into lean, mean, men of war.  The film also stars Pablo Schreiber as Chris "Tonto" Peronto (the script gives him the best one-liners), Dominic Fumusa as John "Tig" Tiegen, Toby Stephens as Glen "Bub" Doherty and David Denman as Dave "Boon" Benton . Each actor admirably honors the actual man they portray.               The bureaucratic errors that left them to fend for themselves are still under investigation in Washington today. Politics aside, the film is a testament to the bravery and devotion these men had to protect the civilians against an overwhelming enemy they couldn't even clearly define. It is a story that will leave you both angry and proud to be an American.
Categories: Blogs

Son of Saul

Upper East Side Theater - Sun, 01/17/2016 - 00:25
            A harrowing, visceral vision of the Holocaust from Hungarian writer/director Lazlo Nemes. There have been many films about the Holocaust over the years  that have left an emotional mark on the viewer but never quite like this.             Saul  Auslander is a SonderKommando, a Jewish prisoner of war in a unnamed concentration camp forced to work for the Nazis. He leads other prisoners to the gas chambers, hauls out their dead bodies, shovels their ashes and other brutal chores, just to stay alive.               The film opens with Saul out of focus walking into the frame.  Making the creative and brilliant choice to put the camera inches away from Saul for the entire film, we are no longer watching but instead, we are immersed in the film itself. There is little dialog, no soundtrack and with this first person point of view, we experience the horrors around Saul for ourselves. This is not an easy film to watch but that's the point.              The story takes place roughly over 24 hours. The plot is simple. Saul finds a dead boy that he perceives to be his son, and he tries to find a rabbi to give the boy a proper burial. Geza Rohrig plays Saul in a powerful performance where his every thought and emotion is conveyed by the sadness in his eyes.               Recently nominated for Best Foreign film, "Son of Saul" may be too much to bear for some but brace yourself, it's worth it. It is an experience that will haunt you for a long time. Mr. Nemes has found a new and ingenious way to make sure we never forget. 
Categories: Blogs