Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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At The Movies

Turn to TWC News every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday for the At the Movies report featuring reports on movies, DVD releases, the hottest websites and more!

10/18/2014 05:00 AM Posted By: Neil Rosen
Rochester: Movie Review: 'Birdman'
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”Birdman,” a new film starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone, has been getting a lot of buzz at film festivals. The film begins its regular run in theaters this week. Neil Rosen filed the following review.

Michael Keaton plays Riggin Thompson, an actor on the ropes. He used to be a big movie star, playing the title role in a blockbuster, superhero franchise called “Birdman.” But that was years ago. These days his career has hit the skids and he's desperately looking to stage a comeback.

His vehicle to try and get back on top is a serious Broadway play that he's writing, directing and starring in.

Also appearing in this weighty stage production is Edward Norton, playing an arrogant snobby theatre actor who's been called in as a last minute replacement. Naomi Watts plays Norton's lover both on stage and off. Then there's Emma Stone, as Keaton's daughter. She's a fresh out of rehab, theatrical assistant, who's far too cynical for her young age.

It's a backstage story, about the making of a Broadway play and all the craziness that ensues leading up to opening night. There's many pointed cynical stabs at actors, their egos and their insecurities and there's even a nice shot at the Times theatre critic.

Co-written and directed by Alejandro Inarritu, it has both comedic flourishes and surrealistic touches, as the alter ego of “Birdman” periodically shows up to counsel the star.

At times it's overly ambitious. Some scenes are absolutely riveting, others very clever, others disappointingly obvious. But more often than not, it hits, and it's filled with a lot of sharp pointed dialogue. Some scenes may leave audiences baffled, but I think that's the point as everything here is open for interpretation.

Filmed in the Times Square theatre district, with a shaky, swirling handheld camera, it's a fresh and original piece. The joke of course, is that the similarities between Keaton's real life career as Batman and his on screen character here, as Birdman, are more than coincidental. The entire cast is first rate, but Keaton's performance is one to relish and might just put him back on top.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 3 1/2 apples


10/11/2014 05:00 AM Posted By: Neil Rosen
Rochester: Movie Review: 'The Judge'
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Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall team up with a top-flight cast in a new dysfunctional family courtroom drama. It's called "The Judge."

Downey is Hank Palmer, a big-shot city lawyer who returns home to his small Indiana town after a 20-year absence to attend his mother's funeral.

Immediately upon arrival, it becomes quite clear that Hank and his father, a highly-respected local judge played by Duvall, don't get along at all.

It turns out that a man who was once convicted of murder was given a lenient sentence by the judge, and it was a decision he's long regretted. The question is whether the judge intentionally ran over the man with his car.

Facing murder charges, the stubborn old judge reluctantly has his son defend him. They don't see eye to eye on much, let alone how to defend the case, leaving a lot of room for on-screen conflict and possible long-overdue bonding time.

Over the long course of close to two-and-a-half hours, we'll discover why they hate each other so much, find out if they can finally bury the hatchet, and see whether Downey's character will finally get the love and respect he so desperately craves from his dad. It's a by-the-numbers, predictable script

It's a by-the-numbers, predictable script, filled with several melodramatic scenes, and pulls elements pulled from dozens of other movies.

On the upside, it is beautifully shot, and the acting is a pleasure to watch. Downey, doing a variant of his know-it-all, arrogant Tony Stark "Iron Man" character, has some terrific scenes with Duvall, who plays the crotchety old prideful guy to the hilt. Together, they act up a storm.

The supporting cast, which includes Vera Farmiga as an old love interest, Vincent D'onofrio as Downey's older brother and Billy Bob Thornton as the prosecuting attorney, all elevate a contrived script where the outcome is rarely in doubt.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 2 1/2 apples


10/04/2014 05:00 AM Posted By: Neil Rosen
Rochester: Movie Review: 'Gone Girl'
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Gillian Flynn's best selling novel "Gone Girl" gets the big screen treatment with an A list director and a top flight cast.

Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a former New York writer, now a bar owner in Missouri, whose comes home one day to find his wife, Amy, missing. The house is a mess, with broken objects and blood stains all over the place, making it quite clear that some violent activity took place.

He immediately contacts the police, asking for their help. But Amy's nowhere to be found and Nick's become the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Now, if you' haven't read the book—don't worry. I won't be revealing any spoilers. Suffice it to say, this riveting story, takes lots of surprising twists and turns and the less you know about what happens, the better your movie-going experience will be.

Director David Fincher, who also made Seven, seems tailor-made to bring this story to the screen. He not only gobbles up the material, but improves upon it and along the way utilizes some of his patented grisly touches.

The movie is not only an engrossing thriller, but it's also a scathing social satire that skewers our tabloid-obsessed culture. It also takes well-pointed stabs at media feeding frenzies, has darkly comedic flourishes and brilliantly slices and dices such targets as Nancy Grace.

Ben Affleck is excellent here, but the real revelation is Rosamund Pike. As Amy, she flawlessly exhibits a wide range of emotions and it's an Oscar worthy, star-making turn.

The entire supporting cast are also first rate. Particularly notable is Tyler Perry, who seems to be having a ball playing a Johnny Cochran-esque defense attorney.

Novelist Flynn nicely adapts her book to the screen, remaining predominately faithful to her source material. The movie is shot beautifully, the pacing is letter-perfect and even though I had a problem with the ending, it does leave the door open for a lot of post-conversation.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: Four Apples


09/27/2014 05:00 AM Posted By: Neil Rosen
Rochester: Movie Interview: Terry Gilliam Shares Thoughts on 'The Zero Theorem'
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Neil Rosen chats with acclaimed director and "Monty Python" veteran Terry Gilliam about his new film, "The Zero Theorem," a Sci-Fi film about a computer genius trying to discover the meaning of life.


09/20/2014 05:00 AM Posted By: Neil Rosen
Rochester: Movie Review: 'This Is Where I Leave You'
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Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda and Tina Fey team up with a strong ensemble cast in a new film that's one part comedy, one part drama. It's called "This Is Where I Leave You."

Bateman plays Judd Altman, and he's having a bad day. Not only has he received news of his father's passing, but earlier, he discovered that his wife was cheating on him with his boss.

All of Judd's siblings gather at their mom's fancy Westchester home to sit Shiva, the Jewish custom of mourning together for one week.

This family doesn't really get along and the premise of forcing them to spend a week together is one that director Shawn Levy takes good advantage of.

Everyone here carries lots of emotional baggage. Adam Driver is quite funny as the younger brother, an irresponsible stoner who shows up with a much older girlfriend played by Connie Britton.

Corey Stoll is the serious brother, whose wife is played by the always delightful Kathryn Hahn. This couple is having a hard time conceiving and complicating matters is the fact that Bateman and Hahn used to be an item years earlier.

Tina Fey is the sister who stills holds a torch for her old boyfriend, who's now permanently brain damaged due to a car accident.

Then there's Fonda, who's quite amusing as the family matriarch. She's a woman who's prone to embarrassing her children by frequently giving them explicit details about the sex life she shared with her deceased husband.

But it's Bateman who's really the central character here. He reacquaints himself with another old girlfriend played Rose Byrne and his laid back style works nicely.

Some of the supporting characters aren't fully developed, while several storylines seem a bit contrived.

More often than not, however, screenwriter Jonathan Tropper adapts from his novel well and creates situations that draw you in and often make you laugh.

The stellar cast is first rate, elevating whatever weaknesses there are in the material, and the overall result is an endearing, dysfunctional family that you'll enjoying spending a few hours with.

Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: Three Apples


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