August 30, 2011

Our Idiot Brother-AMC Empire

Erica: The second showing we caught at the Empire was Our Idiot Brother. The audience was our usual rude, disruptive, loud crowd. They commented on every preview (cheering some, booing others) and the person next to me was texting on his iPhone every time he found something in the movie funny. It was opening night for the movie so I don't know why I was expecting any other kind of behavior on a Friday night.

Mike: Actually, I thought the crowd behaved themselves for the most part. It was actually a small group of loud, obnoxious assholes sitting in the back who were making all the noise and spoiling things. Plus a handful of texters, including the guy sitting next to you, who looked like a German henchman from an 80s movie.

I really enjoyed this film. I am a huge fan of Adam Scott so that was a big plus going into the movie. I mean this as the highest form of a compliment but Paul Rudd plays idiot really well. He can pull off stoner brother perfectly. This movie tells the tale of a brother just released from prison looking for a place to stay after his girlfriend breaks up with him. After living with his mother, he decides it may be better to live with each of his three sisters, all while trying to get his dog, Willie Nelson, back from his ex. First up is Emily Mortimer's character. She is a very timid housewife with a husband (Steve Coogan) who is a producer who is hardly ever home to look after their two kids. When he is around, he is very strict with the kids, making his son choose dance over karate. Rudd's character bonds very well with their son. After he gets kicked out, he lives with Elizabeth Banks' character. She is single and has a successful job at Vanity Fair (landing her first big story with a famous designer). After he messes up her life, he goes to his final sister, played by Zooey Deschanel who has multiple roommates, including her girlfriend, played by Rashida Jones. It is an all-star cast and non-stop laughs. While crude at times, it is funny and heartwarming all at the same time.

I dug it, too. It's a fun, light dramedy that's very easy to enjoy and get lost in for 90 minutes. At times, Rudd's character is a little too stupid and it loses its plausibility, but if you can look past that you'll have a good time.

August 29, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens AMC Empire

Erica: With the Hurricane due to hit NYC, we did a double feature on Friday night (a rarity, but in this case a necessity). After work we headed to the AMC Empire and caught a 7:15 showing of Cowboys & Aliens. The crowd was fine because there wasn't much of a crowd being that this movie has been out for a couple of weeks already.

I didn't LOVE this movie but I didn't HATE it either. Thematically, it was a mess. It was all over the place. A lot of things were left unexplained. With that said, it was an interesting movie and a pretty good western with sci-fi action mixed in. I think Craig and Ford were good in their respective roles and found Olivia Wilde annoying. I totally want one of those bracelet things that Craig wears in the movie too. 

Mike: I'm not sure why, but I really, really liked Cowboys & Aliens. I can acknowledge all of its faults and it has some pretty big problems, particularly with the script, and the aliens were pretty stupid, too. But I loved the hell out of it. To me it was just so much fun and so cool. And Daniel Craig and particularly Harrison Ford were really cool. Maybe it's because of my weakness for modern westerns. I enjoyed the so much more than I was expecting and had a really good time at the movies. I can't really defend the film and I can see why others weren't crazy about it. But to me it felt like someone made a movie just for me and in my eyes the movie was awesome.

August 28, 2011

30 Minutes or Less - AMC Clifton Commons 16

Mike: On Sunday, we were in New Jersey and caught another flick at the Clifton Commons AMC. Always a stress-free experience, which can't be said of the NYC theaters. The movie: 30 Minutes Or Less. We were planning on seeing it at 1:30 but were running late, so our Plan B was to see Fright Night at 1:55. We were still eating lunch at 1:35 and didn't get to the theater until 1:40, but we figured, with all the trailers, we might be just in time to still catch 30 Minutes Or Less. And we were right. We walked in probably about 12 minutes late only to still find the trailers going (and there were still a few more to come). So we made it with time to spare. I should note that we normally don't do this. We're pretty anal about getting the right seats (railings preferred) and always get to the theater early, but considering the situation - 2nd week of release for a bottom-half-of-the-top-10 film - we knew there would be plenty of good seats left and it wouldn't be a problem. And it wasn't.

30 Minutes Or Less is one of those movies that just exists. It's not good, but not terrible, either. Some parts are funny, but often the mark is missed. But it's a perfectly okay way to pass 85 minutes. Like a movie you pick to watch on an airplane. It serves a purpose, entertains you for a bit, and that's it. Totally unremarkable, and with zero expectations to meet, that's okay. You watch it, and life goes on without it having any impact on you whatsoever. It served its purpose, and nothing more and nothing less.

Erica: I was disappointed in this movie, I thought it would be funnier than it was. Jesse Eisenberg was not believable as a bank robbing pizza delivery boy. He should definitely have Oscar Nominee wiped away from his name for this movie. Danny McBride plays the same EXACT role in everything he does and it gets old fast. This movie is what it is and that is not great. Aziz Ansari is a funny comedian and his potential was not used to full capacity in this film. At least nobody texted during it.

I say wait until it comes onto DVD to catch this one. 

August 19, 2011

Beginners AMC Loews Village 7

 Erica: We saw this movie at the AMC Loews Village 7. This is a pretty nice movie theater. It has a lot of floors and is a bit confusing if you don't know where you are going. For only having 7 screens, it has a lot of floors. I arrived at the theater a few minutes before Mike did so I figured I would buy my ticket (being that this has been out for a while, I used a silver pass and got to see it for $6). This movie is Rated R (I think it is a soft R due to no nudity or violence of any kind). R ratings means nobody under 17 admitted without parent or guardian and of course, me being in my late 20s, got asked for ID. I thought they were joking but showed my ID anyway. I was too baffled to say no.

Mike: Along with Midnight in Paris, Beginners is a terrific Summer sleeper that's providing an alternative to the big budget Hollywood fare that plenty of people simply don't care for. It's nice to see something this charming and thoughtful in July or August.

 I agree. This movie is a breath of fresh air in a Summer filled with action movies. This indie gem is very well written, didn't contain anything blowing up and had 'regular' people telling the true story of director Mike Mills' life. It is a father-son story, it is a sweet film that is perfectly cast. Plus the dog is really cute. I highly recommend this movie to people who need a break from their Summer blockbusters and want a genuine, touching story.

August 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Mike: The Harry Potter film series is an enjoyable series of films. I don't really know what else to say beyond that. I wasn't crazy about the first few, but they started getting better with the third one. But I'm glad they're over and done with. While I enjoyed all eight of them, it always felt like a chore to go see and get through. Deathly Hallows 2 succeeds in tying up the loose ends and giving the viewers a sense of accomplishment for sitting through 20 odd hours. I really liked the parade of great British actors that marched through the run of the series and we see most of them drop in again in this entry to mark the collective goodbye, like a sitcom series finale where previous cast members pop back up to give a warm and definitive sense of closure.

August 17, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes AMC Loews 34th Street 14


Mike: As a massive Planet of the Apes fan, I made a rare exception and caught the 12:01 a.m. screening of Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Thursday night/Friday morning. I just couldn't wait.
In my mind, the best place to catch a 12:01 Thursday night screening in Manhattan is the AMC Empire. This is where the biggest fans tend to congregate, and you see the film with a lively, appreciative audience. Unfortunately, the bike parking in Times Square is lacking. There are a handful places to lock up within a few blocks' radius, but you always have to look for them, and leaving my bike there just makes me nervous. It's too busy and I want to minimize the odds of coming back to a vandalized bike at 2:30 a.m.
So my first choice was Kips Bay. There are bike racks right in front of the theater, it's well-lit, and very quiet. And Kips Bay is one of the safest neighborhoods in Manhattan. You'll spot a few vagrants here, but I guess they tend to behave themselves. But I was meeting up with a friend who was on the other end and for whom Kips Bay was not convenient, so I ended up going to the AMC Loews 34th Street 14, which also has easy, convenient bike parking right outside.
We've written about the audiences at this theater before. Whereas Apes fans were likely to be at the Empire, the 34th Street 14 attracted people who were there just to watch shit explode. I think the theater was packed less because people were excited about seeing this specific movie, but more because there was a new action movie opening with a convenient midnight starting time.
Before the movie started, I got the feeling that I was on the planet of the apes. There were people jumping from the tops of seats to railings to the floor and back. People were noisy, yelling, cackling and rowdy, and attracted to colorful bright little lights (smart phones in human) from which they just couldn't divert their eyes for more than a minute.
Thankfully, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has an interesting story with engaging characters (the simian ones, at least), so much so that shortly after the movie started the audience hushed and quieted down like toddlers in the bosom of a caring mother. They were rivited, on the edge of their seats, and shut the hell up. It's the power of great filmmaking.
Rise is Rupert Wyatt's second film. I saw his first outing The Escapist about two years ago. It was one of those simultaneous theatrical and VOD releases, but it sounded interesting enough to me to shell out 12 bucks and see it on the big screen. While I absolutely hated the ending, the rest of the film was so damn great that The Escapist made it to #2 on my 2009 top 10 list. Combine that with the fact that I'm a humongous Planet of the Apes fan (especially Beneath), and it should be clear that I was really looking forward to the film. Rise of the Planet of the Apes lived up to my expectations. It's such a fun film, with a fascinating performance from Andy Serkis. And unlike most other franchise films of late, the film is well-contained and doesn't overdo it with sequel-setup. I hope Rupert Wyatt will take full advantage of his much-deserved, Nolan-like welcome to Hollywood.

August 04, 2011

Cars 2 (AMC Clifton Commons 16)

Erica: This past weekend, we were in New Jersey so we went to the theater we frequent when there, the AMC Clifton Commons 16. I honestly think this is a great theater as far as crowds go. We have mentioned this previously, but the people are just very well behaved here (even the children). Which is good considering this is a children's movie with a running time of 1 hour 53 minutes. Really Pixar?

I LOVE Pixar films but was not all too thrilled with the original Cars. It was, to me, not a great movie to appeal to adults as well as children as most Pixar films. But let's not dwell in the past... let's roll on to Cars 2. This was far superior to its predecessor. Maybe it was because it didn't focus 100% on the first film's star, Lightning McQueen, or maybe because they spent very little time in Radiator Springs. They traveled the world, although it did appear a bit NASCAR-y at times, the plot is a vast improvement and the story had a charming message for children (don't judge a book by its cover... or don't judge a car by its dents). OK enough with the corny car puns... moving on... we see our car friends Lightning and his best tow truck friend, Tow Mater traveling the world while Lightning goes on the World Grand Prix against his Italian car rival Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro) when Mater is mistaken as an International Spy, the adventure begins.

Mike: And from there it paces along quickly. It's the most action-packed film for Pixar yet. I liked Cars 2 way more than I anticipated, especially considering how much I too hated the first film. Don't get me wrong - the Cars films are still way down the Pixar totem pole, but damn, I thought this was a lot of fun. Lots of fun action and silly gags. Mater - whose human form I can't stand - was funny and he did well as the main character. Relegating Owen Wilson's Lightning McQueen to a supporting player turned out very well. It's a bit long, but I had fun.

Cars 2 also doesn't bother pandering to its NASCAR target audience as the first one did. Pixar probably figured they'd have those in the bag and tried to win over more of an international audience. Whether it has paid off financially, I don't know, but it certainly helped make this a better film.

Project Nim (Brooklyn Heights Cinema)

Erica: Saturday July 23rd, we went to the Brooklyn Heights Cinema and caught Project Nim. Brooklyn Heights Cinema has a more mature crowd. They don't have a wide variety of movies - only 2 screens and generally no 'kid-friendly' movies. Already some pluses. Another plus: mostly older people who don't know how to operate smartphones.

I found Nim to be a sweet, charming documentary with haunting imagery. We start the story from Nim's birth and see him living with a family, being raised like a human child, even wearing clothes, playing with the human children and hugging the family cat.

When we first meet Nim, he is a sweet, adorable chimpanzee you just can't help but fall in love with. As he gets older, his true primate-animal instinct comes through and he turns meaner. The ultimate goal is to teach Nim sign language, which they are successful with but growing up around humans does not teach him how to interact with other primates outside of a human world.

Truth is: chimps are the closest descendant to humans, except for the fact that they can rip your face off at the drop of a hat if you anger them.

Mike: It's a heartbreaking story, told very well thanks through amazing home movie and research film clips. Some of the talking heads in the doc - people who took care of Nim - even have character arcs, either getting their just desserts or redeeming themselves. I thought it was remarkable.

One minor thing I could have done without is a gimmick that the filmmakers resort to a number of times in the film. Whenever someone disappears from Nim's life - which is a variety of reasons - and they're out of the picture, the camera pans away from the interviewee, literally bringing them out of the picture. Not very subtle.

But aside from that, Project Nim is a terrific documentary - an emotional story that you won't forget.

August 03, 2011

Captain America (UA Court Street Stadium 12)

Erica: On Friday July 22nd, there were two rarities for us: Seeing a movie on opening night & going to a Regal. The outing this time? Captain America: The First Avenger. The Regal in question: the UA Court Street Stadium 12. We used a Fandango deal we had gotten from Groupon (2 tickets for $9). So $4.50 for a movie is very good in a city of $13 admission. Again, the theater was filled with people uninterested in the movie and more interested in their social networking. It was crowded and annoying on an opening night. So again we have people shelling out all this money to read their Twitter feed in the dark.

With the slew of superhero fare that has been shoved down our throats this Summer, I was wondering what would set Captain America apart from the rest. The answer: not much. It had the all too familiar origin story, the underdog weak, little guy getting rejected from the army time and time again for being too little. Chris Evans is a good 'All-American Boy Next Door' with his blond hair, blue eyed schoolboy charm and his 6 pack abs, but he doesn't take the superhero believability to the screen. I prefer the few minutes I saw of the cheezy 70s version to this updated film.

Mike, who appeared to enjoy this film better than me, will now take over from here.

Mike: Yeah, I enjoyed it a bit more than you did, but superhero and origin story fatigue are really starting to set in with me. Captain America is a cool character and it's pretty nifty to see a period superhero flick. But these films are really starting to turn into the Taco Bell of movie genres. Same ingredients, put together and packaged differently just slightly each time. I'm someone who gets really excited when learning more about The Avengers and all these upcoming superhero flicks, and while I'm not disappointed per se with these films, I do leave with a feeling of 'Wow, all this anticipation for that?' 

That said, it's a nice Summer film, worth admission for sure.
Court Street on a Friday night? Not a good idea. We live a few blocks away from this theater, but since there aren't any worthwhile matinee discounts (a la AMC) and we have yet to invest in a batch of discount passes, we've only been here a handful of times. But never on a Friday night. And that's something we won't be doing again. First of all, parts of the theater were powered down, presumably to avoid a power outage. This included the theater numbers, giving no indication of where to go. No guidance, either. We walked into the wrong room first. Nobody bothered printing out papers with the theater number and maybe the movie title and screening times and hanging those by the doors... Nope. While this isn't the Escheriest theater in New York (I think that honor belongs to the AMC Village 7), its stacked layout make it a pretty confusing place to make your way through.

But that was the least of our problems. Our showing had one of the worst moviegoing crowds we've ever been part of. Talking jokesters behind us, who felt the need to add witty comments throughout. Lots of guys in wifebeaters. To my left, a terrible parent with a toddler on his lap. He was probably tasked with taking care of his daughter for the evening and selfishly took her along to a movie he wanted to see. The girl didn't want to be there, but thankfully she slept most of the time. "Look! A spaceship," the dude said to her at the beginning, as if the kid might have an ounce of interest in the film. He was texting throughout, too. Sadly, I'm such a pussy that I didn't say anything and kept my pussy mouth shut in frustration for the entire running time. He wasn't the only texter - they were all over the theater, constantly, like fireflies on a warm Summer night.

Oh yeah, we saw it in 2D, as it was shot.