~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Infinitely Polar Bear
Starts Friday, July 31
6:00 & 8:15 each evening
1:00 & 3:30 matinees Sat & Sun
Rated R; 90 minutes
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (excerpted)
Infinitely Polar Bear is a hilarious and heartbreaking tale of a family on the ropes. Set in Boston in the late 1970s, the film casts Mark Ruffalo (one of the best actors on the planet ) as Cam Stuart, a manic depressive — "polar bear" is how Cam refers to being bipolar — whose antics and chronic unemployment have alienated his blueblood relatives. It's no picnic for those closest to Cam — wife Maggie (Zoë Saldana) and their mixed-race daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide).
A crisis approaches when Maggie decides to pursue an MBA at Columbia. She wants the best education for her kids and can't get financial help from Cam's rich relations, whose contributions barely reach the subsistence level. She'll have to be in New York for 18 months, coming home on weekends only, leaving Cam in charge of the girls. Having trouble buying this? Talk to Maya Forbes, making a fine feature debut as a writer and director by telling her own story. Wolodarsky, Forbes' daughter, is playing her mother as a child and doing it superbly.
The movie is a small miracle, lifted by Ruffalo and these two remarkable young actresses. Refusing to soften the edges when Cam is off his meds, Ruffalo is a powerhouse. He and Forbes craft an indelibly intimate portrait of what makes a family when the roles of parent and child are reversed.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Starts August 7
Not Rated; 95 minutes
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter (excerpted)
Woody Allen is in fine vintage form in Irrational Man, a slinky, jazz-infused existential teaser in which various themes from some of the veteran filmmaker's most memorable work dovetail into a darkly humorous quasi-thriller explored with a deft lightness of touch.
Flavorfully set amid the historic architecture and hermetic atmosphere of a small New England college town, the film places Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in the quintessential Allen character dynamic of a Pygmalion mentor relationship that turns sour. It ranks among the director's more pleasurable entertainments of recent years.
The cold-blooded central plot turn invites immediate comparison to Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point. But Irrational Man has elements that recall any number of Allen films, giving it a gentle scent of nostalgia while at the same time remaining vigorous, intellectually engaging and even youthful. That latter aspect is amplified by the appealing vitality of Stone; wasted in the strained misfire Magic in the Moonlight but here takes her place among the smart, captivating young women who have provided nectar for Allen and his screen surrogates throughout his career.
~Downstairs at the Savoy~
Rated PG-13;109 minutes
Richard Mowe, Eye for Film (excerpted)
It may not surprise many but Ken Loach’s 12th entry in the Cannes Film Festival is imbued with all the qualities we have come to expect from the director who has ploughed a particular socially aware furrow. He possesses an almost unique voice in British cinema that has never wavered, offering humane values, working class ethics and impassioned pleas against injustice wherever it lurks.
Set in 1930s Ireland, what he has devised here can undoubtedly be viewed as companion piece to his 2006 Palme d’Or winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Collaborating yet again with regular sympathizer and collaborator Paul Laverty, he tells the true story of agitator James Gralton, who was self-educated, a people’s hero, and the scourge of the Roman Catholic Church, wealthy landowners and the ruling elite.
One of his main crimes was to build and run a local hall, which served the community for dances, boxing classes, singing lessons, poetry readings and debates. Why was he considered so subversive and dangerous? He encouraged people to follow his example and think for themselves.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
The End of the Tour
Rated PG; 112 minutes
Kate Erbland, Film School Rejects (excerpted)
Director James Ponsoldt’s deeply felt The End of the Tour opens with a death – an expected one, at least to anyone familiar with the life of lauded author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), the man at the center of the story – as author David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) pounds away at a laptop, hard at work on something and oblivious to the thing that has just happened that will change all of the other things. Based on Lipsky’s memoir, Although Of Course You End Up Being Yourself and beautifully translated to the screen, The End of the Tour opens with Wallace’s death, announced to Lipsky in the most impersonal ways imaginable: with a phone call, and then a Google search.
Twelve years earlier, Lipsky went out on the road with Wallace for a Rolling Stone article. At the time, Lipsky was a writer with two books and a promising gig at the magazine under his belt. Despite his own modest accomplishments, Lipsky couldn’t help but feel inferior to the newly launched star power of David Foster Wallace, whose Infinite Jest riveted the literary world just as Lipsky’s latest all but whimpered through it. Lipsky’s admiration and fear of Wallace were not unique to him or to other writers of his generation, but his reaction was – instead of running from Wallace, he embraced him, pitching a long-form profile of the writer to Rolling Stone and ultimately going out on the road with Wallace for the final five days of his latest book tour.
Wallace, notoriously reticent for attention, approved the interview, and Ponsoldt’s unexpectedly moving and richly rewarding film follows the duo as they make their way around the final leg of the tour, as Lipsky attempts to turn what is essentially one long-running conversation into some kind of journalistic endeavor. Segel, in an unabashed star turn and major pronouncement of his dramatic talents, effectively translates Wallace’s written personality to the big screen, first through sardonic wit, eventually through sharply drawn pain and biting honesty. Segel isn’t doing some kind of basic and aping impersonation here (though he nails Wallace’s cadences and speech patterns in ways that are almost eerie), he simply embodies the role. It’s not mimicry, it’s impression, and the impression is a lasting one.
~Downstairs at the Savoy~
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Rated R; 122 minutes
Rafer Guzman, Newsday (excerpted)
The psychological study dramatized in Kyle Patrick Alvarez's film The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who split 24 Stanford University students into guards and prisoners, then put them in a makeshift prison in a school basement. Within a few hours the subjects had essentially become their roles; within a few days the basement had become a petri dish teeming with cruelty, despair, abuse and sexualized humiliation. To this day, the experiment remains a byword for many things: questionable ethics, the frightening pliability of reality and, most of all, the ugliness of human nature.
Written by Tim Talbott from Zimbardo's book The Lucifer Effect -- and made with Zimbardo's cooperation -- The Stanford Prison Experiment is a riveting re-enactment played out by an electrifying young cast. Chief among them are Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) as Prisoner 8612, a self-appointed troublemaker, and Michael Angarano (The Knick) as a guard who begins imitating Strother Martin's character in the chain-gang drama Cool Hand Luke -- complete with the Southern twang
Alvarez does a masterful job of juggling more than two dozen characters and turning a mundane backdrop -- mostly white walls and wood paneling -- into a claustrophobic hell. Like Zimbardo's study, The Stanford Prison Experiment is a vivid illustration of a truth we'd rather not face.