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::: Coming Soon :::

~Downstairs at the Savoy~

Whiplash

Coming Soon

Rated R; 106 minutes

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Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly (excerpted)

Miles Teller stars as Andrew Neiman - a gifted jazz drummer attending New York's hyper-competitive (fictional) Shaffer Conservatory of Music. Andrew is a cocky prodigy who's driven not only to be great but to be one of the Greats. As the film opens, we hear the slow build of a snare drum. The tempo builds faster and faster until it reaches a fever pitch, which is exactly what writer-director Damien Chazelle's film is about to do too. Because standing in the doorway is Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a hard-ass maestro who looms over the school. Ropy, muscular, dressed all in black, Fletcher closes his eyes and listens - really listens. He's trying to divine whether Andrew has the chops to join his elite student band... or if he just wants to chew the kid up and spit him out. Maybe both.

Simmons, an actor better known for playing hangdog good guys such as the dad in Juno, has rarely been allowed to sink his teeth into a character like this. He's brutal and manipulative, and you can't take your eyes off him. Deep down he seems to believe that his tough-love approach can pull something beautiful out of misunderstood students like Andrew. And Teller, with his baby face and air of easily wounded vulnerability, makes Andrew someone you pull for.

As Fletcher puts Andrew through the wringer, pushing him to practice until his callused fingers bleed, you feel in your gut the simultaneous thrill and terror of the drive to be exceptional, whatever the cost. You don't have to be a jazz fan for Whiplash to zap you with its thrumming live-wire beat. If you can appreciate the sight of two totally dialed-in performers simmering until they boil over, that's enough. And that's pretty much the definition of jazz.

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~Downstairs at the Savoy~

Finding Fela!

Coming Soon

Not Rated; 120 minutes

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Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times (excerpted)

The small gesture was not Fela Kuti’s style. With his band the Africa 70, this Afrobeat pioneer rolled out monster-size grooves, chugging along with soulful beats, keyboards and horns. His lyrics, partly in pidgin, called out the Nigerian military dictatorship; at home he declared his Lagos house to be an independent territory. As for marriage, he embraced polygamy, in the cultlike double digits.

With the perilously stuffed documentary Finding Fela!, the director, Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, The Armstrong Lie), tries to reckon with this audacious child of the Nigerian elite who courted execution with his brickbats, and megalomania with his extravagance. And Mr. Gibney gives his rise-and-fall treatment an extra critical filter through a “making of” look at the recent Broadway musical Fela!

Accordingly, we learn through interviews and lively clips about Fela’s musical and political evolution in the 1960s and ’70s, but we also hear from the Fela! director, Bill T. Jones, about portraying the man, who died in 1997. Mr. Jones is both razor-sharp and candid about his mixed feelings, and he’s part of a robust core of commentators, including biographer Michael Veal, former New York Times correspondent John Darnton and former Black Panther Sandra Izsadore, a formative influence on Fela.

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~Upstairs at the Savoy~

Birdman

Coming Soon

Rated R; 119 minutes

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Todd McCathy, The Hollywood Reporter (excerpted)

Intense emotional currents and the jagged feelings of volatile actors are turned loose to raucous dramatic and darkly comedic effect in one of the most sustained examples of visually fluid tour de force cinema anyone's ever seen. All in the service of a story that examines the changing nature of celebrity and the popular regard for fame over creative achievement.

An exemplary cast (including Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone) are led by Michael Keaton in the highly self-referential title role of a former superhero-film star in desperate need of a legitimizing comeback. All fully meet the considerable demands placed upon them by director Alejandro G. Inarritu.

Dating back to his international breakthrough with Amores Perros 14 years ago, Inarritu's films (21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful) have always coursed with energy and challenges embraced. Here, he and his indispensable cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have gone the extra mile to make a film that, like a far more complicated and sophisticated version of what Alfred Hitchcock did in Rope in 1948, tries to create the illusion of having been filmed all in one take.

The film's exhilarating originality, black comedy and tone that is at once empathetic and acidic will surely strike a strong chord with audiences looking for something fresh that will take them somewhere they haven't been before. Birdman flies very, very high.

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~Upstairs at the Savoy~

The Theory of Everything

Coming Soon

Rated PG-13; 123 minutes

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Lou Lumenick, The New York Post (excerpted)

Stephen Hawking is the most famous physicist since Albert Einstein — and arguably the best-known celebrity disabled by a progressive neurological disease since Lou Gehrig. The Theory of Everything is a tremendously moving and inspirational look at this genius — based on a memoir by his first wife, Jane (a superb Felicity Jones), who met and fell in love with Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) when he was a fully able and very promising student at Cambridge University in 1963.

But a serious fall leads to a diagnosis of motor neuron disease, which is closely related to Gehrig’s ALS, and a doctor’s grim prediction that Hawking, then 21, would be dead within two years as his condition rapidly deteriorated. Of course, it’s well known that Hawking is still around at 72, having published his best-selling masterwork, A Brief History of Time, detailing his groundbreaking theories.

And despite being confined to a wheelchair and using a computer with a voice synthesizer to communicate, he’s a huge international celebrity who’s appeared in everything from documentaries to TV’s The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory. James Marsh, who directed the Oscar-winning doc Man on Wire, sensitively reveals the less familiar story of how Stephen and Jane Hawking married and had three children, their love tested by the terrible progression of his disability, which ravages his body but not his brilliant mind.

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