Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing in NYC

Wish I Was Here (recommended): Zach Braff’s second directorial effort is no “Garden State,” but it does have plenty to say about parenthood, Judaism, and other things. The cast is fun and the film is flighty but enjoyable. Now playing at AMC Lincoln Square, AMC Kips Bay, and Regal Union Square. Read my review from Sundance.


New to DVD

The Face of Love (mixed bag): This love story casts Ed Harris as a dead ringer for Annette Bening’s late husband who becomes a romantic interest for the grieving widow. It’s a perfectly average romance that unfortunately isn’t enhanced by its usually great actors.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

The Master (recommended): Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film received Oscar nominations for its major cast members, but also deserves credit for painting an intoxicating and gripping portrait of a man detached from society seeking a way to reconnect and drawn in by the allure of a cult. It’s a visually stunning film featuring all-around great performances.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Wild

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Wild – Opening December 5, 2014


This buzzed-about trailer popped up on IMDB, and I figured it was definitely worth a watch. It’s most notable for many as director Jean-Marc Vallée’s follow-up to “Dallas Buyers Club,” but for me that’s less enticing since I found that film to be highly overrated. That said, it wasn’t so bad, and Vallée did manage to draw out two compelling Oscar-winning performances from actors whose work isn’t always superb. What’s most worthwhile about this, however, is Reese Witherspoon’s comeback. I’ve liked Witherspoon ever since “Legally Blonde,” where she fully embraced the comic potential of her character without selling her short. I think she very much deserved her Oscar for “Walk the Line” though many disagree, and I think she should have earned more recognition for her supporting turn in “Mud.” Now, she has the opportunity to fully own a film. While these kinds of movies can be isolating, there are plenty of success stories like “Into the Wild” and “127 Hours” where a truly magnetic lead performance commands an above-average solo journey. As long as it’s more gripping and engaging than “The Way,” which starred Martin Sheen as a man walking a long trail in memory of his late son, I think this should work well. It certainly seems like there’s plenty of meat in the backstory of Witherspoon’s Cheryl Strayed, and the supporting cast is populated by the likes of Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern, Michiel Huisman, and Brian Holt, an eclectic list sure to enhance a competent and stirring introspective drama.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing in NYC

Land Ho! (highly recommended): My favorite film from Sundance is truly a must-see. It’s an unassuming and wholly likeable comedy with terrific performances from the inimitable Earl Lynn Nelson and the dependable Paul Eenhorn. Now playing at Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika. Read my review from Sundance.


New to DVD

Le Week-End (recommended): Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star in this entertaining film about a couple celebrating their thirtieth anniversary with a weekend trip to Paris. Both performers are great, and the story around them is solidly interesting if occasionally uncomfortable.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Alan Partridge (mixed bag): Steve Coogan is the main reason to see this bizarre story of an eccentric radio host who ends up as a go between the police and a fired radio host who takes the station hostage. The tone is inconsistent, but the film has its moments.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing in NYC

Life Itself (highly recommended): This documentary seemed worthwhile enough to me to rank as the fifth film of my second-ever quintuple feature, and fortunately, it delivered. This retrospective of Roger Ebert’s life and his enthusiasm for movies is a resounding and entertaining endorsement of the whole concept of cinema. Now playing at Landmark Sunshine and Film Society Lincoln Center. Read my review from Sundance.

New to DVD

Nothing of note this week!


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

The Believer (recommended): This carefully crafted and unsettling film is a powerful look at intense self-hatred as manifested by a neo-Nazi Jew. Ryan Gosling discovers a masterful and disturbing lead performance in this hard-hitting and worthwhile film.

City of God (highly recommended): This film, which my brother might still name as his all-time favorite movie, was a surprise Oscar nominee in a few major categories back in 2003. This is a visually incredible and emotionally involving example of Brazilian filmmaking from director Fernando Meirelles.

The Manchurian Candidate (recommended): This is a solid thriller that I remember wishing had been better, even though it was still a decent of the 1962 Oscar-nominated film about a brainwashed soldier. Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, and a hammy Meryl Streep contribute appropriately serious performances.

Perfect Sense (recommended): This romance takes place in the near future, when a chef and a scientist fall in love while humanity is losing their senses, starting with smell, one at a time. It’s a bleak but engaging film with strong performances and a great score, very well-conceived in terms of its execution.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – Opening September 26, 2014 and beyond


This is a film that looks as intriguing for its content as it does its format. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy starring as a couple during the ups and downs of their romance is appealing enough on its own. But the way in which this film is being released is about as intriguing. There are three separate versions: Them, Him, and Her, each representing different points of view of the relationship. What that ends up meaning for the film and its angles isn’t entirely clear, but the concept is definitely alluring. Chastain catapulted to stardom with six breakout roles in 2011 – I saw five and was extremely impressed with two of them and appropriately pleased with the others – and is now a two-time Oscar nominee with enormous talent just waiting to be tapped. McAvoy, on the other hand, first wowed me in 2006 and 2007 with “The Last King of Scotland” and “Starter for 10,” and despite few awards, has had similar success. Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarin Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Archie Panjabi, and Jess Weixler are all in the supporting cast, which is definitely a plus. I definitely want to see these films, and to see how all these players factor in to each version. I’m hoping that the distributors arrange a day of screenings where all three can be shown back to back, because this is a treasure I’m not sure will ever have the opportunity to be digested in the proper manner by most audiences.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing in NYC

Whitey: The United States of America vs. James J. Bulger (recommended): This documentary about Whitey Bulger, the notorious mobster who faced trial last year for his many crimes after spending almost two decades in hiding, is full of facts and strong arguments, and proves interesting even if it doesn’t truly unmask the man himself. Now playing at the IFC Center. Read my review from yesterday.

Siddarth (recommended): This drama, which I screened as part of the South Asian International Film Festival back in December, is a stirring and emotional story about a man who goes to great lengths and personal sacrifices to track down his missing son in India. Now playing at Lincoln Plaza. Read my capsule review.


New to DVD

Enemy (recommended): Jake Gyllenhaal does impressive double duty as a man who sees someone who looks just like him in a movie and becomes obsessed with finding him. The film has a great suspenseful feel throughout, and it’s a captivating story that’s easy to get into and hard to shake.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Hava Nagila: The Movie (mixed bag): This light documentary about the classic Jewish song might have been endearing if it had bothered to take its subject matter seriously. Instead, it only occasionally gets interesting because it considers its topic to be a big joke.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Movie with Abe: Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger

Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger
Directed by Joe Berlinger
Released June 27, 2014

Whitey Bulger is a name that most people know, even if some don't know exactly why they know him. The Boston mobster was well-known in and out of his city, never charged with any crime up until his disappearance in the early 1990s following news of an impending arrest. Being second on America’s Most Wanted list after only Osama Bin Laden is quite a feat, and it’s that reputation of one Whitey Bulger that sustains this examination of his life, his crimes, and how some differ on whether he is the one most accountable for his criminal behavior.

As evidenced by its title, this film approaches its subject matter by dealing primarily with the highly publicized court case that found Bulger on trial for a number of assorted crimes including extortion and murder. It recounts the events discussed during the trial by looking at the players in great detail, and interviewing family members of those whose lives were taken directly or indirectly by Bulger. While he is certainly guilty of something, the film doesn’t directly assign blame or target Bulger, but it does stack considerable testimony against him.

Where this documentary takes a more interesting and hard-hitting turn is in its indictment of local and federal law enforcement authorities for their role in allowing Bulger to operate. Whether or not Bulger was an informant is up for debate, and it’s a question the film is not able to answer. Its importance is paramount, since sanctioning the activities they would have known Bulger was involved in is morally questionable in itself. The film’s extended title is telling, implicating the U.S. government and those charged with carrying out justice alongside one of its most notorious offenders.

What the film doesn’t do, and its creators can hardly be blamed, is get the chance to see and hear from Bulger himself. The picture of Bulger is painted by those who knew him or knew of him, and as a result it’s hard to really tell who the man was and is. Whitey Bulger is a legend whose full identity has not yet been revealed, and this otherwise insightful documentary doesn’t offer many clues as to his true nature. As a chronological catalogue of Bulger’s operations and the many red flags throughout his life, this film succeeds, even if it doesn’t have the opportunity to truly and accurately analyze its protagonist.

B

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: The Drop

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

The Drop – Opening September 12, 2014


This film has a lot of things going for it, and there are a few positive places to start. The source material for this film comes from Dennis Lehane, whose novels have been adapted into “Mystic River,” “Gone Baby Gone,” and “Shutter Island.” His short story “Animal Rescue” is the basis for this movie, which is set in New York. Tom Hardy, who impressed in a big way with a solo performance in “Locke,” is the understated star headed down a bad path but trying to stay straight, with James Gandolfini as his mentor. It’s bittersweet to see Gandolfini again since he passed away last year. He was a strong actor famous for one role, and I liked him a lot in some of his other efforts, like “The Mexican” and “Enough Said,” so seeing him here as the senior mentor figure should be satisfying and a fitting tribute to his too-short career. Also in the cast is Noomi Rapace, who has made an interesting and relatively successful translation to English-language American cinema after breaking out in the original Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The storyline indicated by this trailer isn’t terribly fresh or innovative, but sometimes films just work, and Lehane’s track record suggests this could be another strong cinematic adaptation, with an equally competent cast. Director Michael R. Roskam’s first film, “Bullhead,” was nominated for Best Foreign Film as Belgium’s submission to the Oscars a few years ago, so maybe this could end up being another Oscar contender.