Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘movie’ Category

LED Lightsaber Battle

In event, geek, movie, nyc, recommended, science on May 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

At 9 pm on a recent, innocuous Saturday night, Chrystie Park was overtaken by several hundred warriors. Some donned Halloween-style costumes and makeup; some sported long black cloaks and heavy goth gear; but most wore street clothes. One important difference set these young people apart from the masses: their gleeful faces were lit with the ethereal glow of their lightsabers, illuminating the park with electric blues, reds and purples. This, my friends, was the one and only LED Lightsaber Battle of New York City.

The battle was organized by the interactive art group Newmindspace, but on-the-ground organization was nigh on impossible, turning the park into a joyously raucous free-for-all. Individual fighters (usually strangers) engaged one another in combat, fighting, dying and bonding afterward in the space of minutes. New York Jedi, the city’s preeminent Jedi group, conducted skill demonstrations for onlookers (like this guy, but with self-control). The park’s heightened energy level surged and ebbed as onlookers drew to the sounds and sights of the epic, amicable fray.

Just as dance-offs beget break dancing circles, this mêlée begat a dueling circle. Several fighters distinguished themselves as they strutted and struggled in expert hand-to-hand combat: one young man who spun two lightsabers above his head and around his body with practiced skill; another in a Utilikilt who won the approval of the crowd immediately with his Braveheart-esque genre-crossing appeal. One confrontation devolved in hilarity as each opponent lost a leg, then an arm, and so on (and kept fighting!) till one was laid out dead on the ground. The clashes continued apace until a hoard of Jedi charged the dueling circle, roaring with lightsabers held aloft, moshing a hundred strong at the evening’s height.

Whether you are a dedicated Star Wars die-hard with your hand-made PVC lightsaber mounted on your bedroom wall, or a newbie who likes the idea of releasing your inner Jedi for an evening, I highly recommend rallying your friends to join next year’s Lightsaber Battle. Whether you plan to be a participant or a spectator, may the Force be with all of you.

Advertisements

Date Night: Down The Rabbit Hole

In breakfast, movie, museum, music, nyc, romance, song, tour, treasure trove, upcoming on March 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

This plan for your weekend is courtesy of BLoGT.

In honor of the long-awaited release of Tim Burton’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, in theaters March 5, BLoGT presents a special themed Date Night, designed to help you OD on Lewis Carroll’s enduring drug trip. Do a little pre-planning and -purchasing, wear your walking shoes, and remember to update your iPod before you go!

Head uptown early to snag a seat for breakfast at…

Alice’s Tea Cup, 102 West 73rd Street, at Columbus Avenue

Praised by Yelp and Glitter Sleuth alike, this themed restaurant has three locations on the Upper East and West Sides. The whimsical decor, dotted with quotes from the original novel, and the menu, overflowing with pots of tea, trays of scones and tiers of delicate sandwiches, are all designed around Carroll’s whimsical world. A favorite for little girls’ birthdays and yoga-fit mommies’ brunches alike, this is no place for hetero men.

Arrive at the restaurant early, or be prepared for a wait of an hour or more; once ten o’clock rolls around, tables are at a premium.

After you’ve munched yourself into an Alice-themed stupor, head northeast through Central Park to find…

The Unbirthday Party sculpture, at 74th Street and Central Park East, north of Conservatory Water

Meet your favorite oversized characters! You’ll have to jostle for place with the dozens of children who constantly clamor all over this beloved sculpture, commissioned by George Delacorte in 1959 in honor of his wife, Margarita. It’s worth the wait, though, so stick around and takes pictures of your date sitting on a giant bronze mushroom. Better yet, steal a quiet spot on the back of a mushroom and read from the original text to one another. While you’re back there, play Spot-The-Tiny-Bronze-Insect; the sculpture’s details are lovely.

For some time away from the crowds, walk southeast through the Park’s eastern side while rocking out to…

  • White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
  • Alice (Underground), Avril Lavigne
  • Eat Me, Drink Me, Marilyn Manson
  • Alice, Stevie Nicks
  • Sunshine, Aerosmith
  • Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, Bob Dylan
  • Alice In Wonderland, Wynter Gordon
  • Heads Will Roll, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Alice, Alice,Victim Effect
  • Down the Rabbit Hole, Adam Lambert

Many thanks to Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site and Spinner for much of this playlist. Check their sites out for more song ideas, and for Wonderland-inspired music videos!

Continue south long enough, and you can spend your afternoon perusing…

Tim Burton at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues

Don’t be one of the only New Yorkers who hasn’t yet seen this exhibit! Funded by Johnny Depp and Burton’s wife, Helena Bonham-Carter, the must-see retrospective of director Tim Burton’s work traces back to his earliest beginnings, including scribblings and drawings on cocktail napkins. Immerse yourself in his weird world.

Remember to purchase timed tickets online before you go; again, in the afternoons, the museum and especially the exhibit become packed.

Finally satiated? Wend your way home by way of…

“Alice: The Way Out” in the 50th Street 1 train subway station

The Central Park Unbirthday Party isn’t Alice’s only artistic appearance in the Big Apple. Keep your eyes peeled on the subway platform for a series of awesome and oft-overlooked mosaics featuring Alice and her friends in Wonderland, installed by Liliana Porter in 1994. There’s loads of cool art in the subway system; see what else you can spy on your ride home.

And cap off your day with the piece de resistance…

A screening of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland at a theater near you! Wear a campy outfit and join the screaming fangirls, or just stand back and take it all in.

As with everything else on this date, buy your tickets online ASAP and arrive at the theater EARLY. Enjoy!

The Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

In movie, nyc, performance, recommended, sneak preview on December 19, 2009 at 6:48 pm
 

On October 9 and 10, 2009, Radio City Music Hall screened The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with live orchestral and vocal accompaniment. Live accompaniment allowed the audience to experience Peter Jackson’s work in a whole new way. The soundtrack felt brand new, the film pristine, the resultant experience a marriage of the immediacy of theater and the technical capabilities of cinema.

The event was a huge technical undertaking. The 21st Century Orchestra, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the Collegiate Chorale and soloist Kaitlyn Lusk had to coordinate their playing and singing precisely with the film projected behind them. The live music resonated in the cavernous hall of Radio City, rendering the film’s huge battle scenes more visceral and terrifying. Similarly, the film’s quiet moments were made all the more poignant for the clear voice of the two boy soloists, and the strong performance of Ms. Lusk, who wore an orange dress and sang in a clear, pure soprano.

The intensity of Howard Shore’s magnificent score almost overpowered the movie dialogue. As a remedy, the film was shown with subtitles, at times distracting but generally harmless. In fact, like reading song lyrics for the first time, the subtitles actually allowed the viewer to recognize bits of dialogue never heard properly before.

The audience, almost all fans who know the film, was enthusiastic to a fault, cheering and clapping, and even preempting many of the jokes. Applause erupted at the arrival of each beloved character and each pivotal moment in the film, infusing the evening with an intensity not to be found in any commonplace movie theater.

Elijah Wood and Howard Shore made surprise on-stage appearances on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, to the great joy of the crowd. Even better, though, was the image that appeared on the screen at the end of the performance:

I already have my tickets.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers will be performed at Radio City Music Hall on October 8 & 9, 2010. Tickets are on sale now at http://www.theradiocitylotrconcert.com.

Recommended.

Avatar

In movie, nyc on December 18, 2009 at 3:32 pm
Avatar, directed by James Cameron, tells of a sci-fi/fantasy future, when humans have traveled to other worlds, and scientists have developed “avatars,” alternate bodies which can be controlled mentally by humans from the safety of a pod in a lab. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a Marine corporal who is paralyzed from the waist down,  is sent into space to take over the avatar of his twin brother, who was killed in combat. In space, Jake becomes caught between a menacing colonel (Stephen Lang) and a straightforward scientist (Sigourney Weaver), who both want his avatar to befriend the native people, but for very different purposes. At stake is the aptly-named metal unobtainium, a massively expensive metal, largely deposited beneath the village of the native people, the Na’Vi. As Jake befriends the Na’Vi and learns their ways, the lines between his real life and the life of his avatar begin to blur, along with his loyalties to his military employers.

First and foremost, Avatar is visually stunning. To make the film, Cameron partnered with the WETA Workshop to deftly create two worlds, that of the humans aboard their various space craft and military bases, and that of their destination planet.  The military spacecraft are chock full of futuristic gadgets that do not seem beyond the logical reach of Apple’s innovation: plexiglass computer monitors and clipboards, glowing real-time brain scans, even the in vitro avatars, which float peacefully in their amniotic containers and flinch involuntarily like embryos.

The second world, the planet of the Na’Vi, is called Pandora, a name with connotations of forbidden discovery and danger. When coupled with the planet’s breathtaking graphics and fantastical characters, however, the planet’s name doesn’t seem trite or ironic at all. It is a tropical spectacle, overflowing with day-glo foliage, weird six-limbed hybrid beasts, and sentient dandelion puffs, like the Amazon Basin as imagined by Terry Gilliam on LSD. Real-D technology pulls the viewer into the film to partake in Pandora’s lush landscapes and epic battles of the Titans, whether between a neon triceratops and a glistening giant panther, or between military drone battalions and an enormous tree. Camera work, too, grabs the audience and pulls them in, plummeting on the backs of giant birds or ascending to steep mountains in the sky.

The Na’Vi themselves are scrupulously digitized, with individualized faces and facial expressions. Their long blue bodies are muscular and criss-crossed with glowing dots, their dress and comportment tribal. The integration of the Na’Vi into the real world, and of humans into Pandora’s CGI world, is seamless. In some instances, the avatars enhance, instead of inhibit, the performances of the actors playing them; Sigourney Weaver is believable as an avatar but stiff as a human, as if Weaver has spent a bit too much time playing tough women in space.

Where Avatar‘s art direction triumphs, the storyboard is left wanting. The movie’s plot is not so jumbled that it is incomprehensible, but many story lines are introduced and then neither explained nor followed to their completion. What is the military’s motivation for destroying the natives? What of the precious unobtainium? How much do the Na’Vi know of the humans and their relationship with their avatars? Most importantly, if humans are able to descend to Pandora, why create avatars at all?

These questions pop up after you’ve left the theater, but certainly not during the movie experience. James Cameron’s work is moving to the max, allowing the audience little time to worry about silly things like plot continuity. Cameron does raise pointed emotional and intellectual themes throughout the course of the three-hour film, and leaves them for the audience to ponder: the new freedom of a man who has regained his legs artificially, the wonder and sense of ownership that accompanies the discovery of a new world, even the dangers of becoming too wrapped up in a game or an alternate reality. The fifteen-year-old boys sure to flock to see Avatar might want to think about the last proposition.

Avatar opens nationwide Friday, December 18.

New York, I Love You

In movie, nyc on November 12, 2009 at 10:44 pm

New York, I Love You is the third film in the series of city-praising movies-within-a-movie, following Paris, Je T’aime (2006) and Tokyo! (2008). Created by eleven directors, New York, I Love You features eleven vignettes brought to life by a star-studded cast, including Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Bradley Cooper, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Ethan Hawke, Robin Wright Penn, John Hurt, Andy Garcia, James Caan, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Cloris Leachman, Eli Wallach, and even a cameo by Blake Lively.

Unlike Paris, Je T’aime, which featured twenty five-minute scenes of Paris’s neighborhoods, most of the character of New York, I Love You interweave into one another’s stories. Often, the dialogue is stilted and unnatural, and the vignettes tend to lack a sense of plot or movement. Many of the story arcs feature O. Henry-like moments and surprise realizations at their ends, hammering home the point that things are not always as they seem in New York City.

More than anything, New York, I Love You loves boho yuppies. It shows a preponderance of twenty- or thirty-something heterosexual Anglo-Saxon couples, smoking cigarettes and flirting outside trendy bars in Soho or the West Village, all the while commenting on how their chance encounters are so meaningful and so New York. The film trips over itself spouting these platitudes: New York is the center of the universe! everyone in New York came from somewhere else! it’s so exciting and sexy to meet complete strangers! The focus is stifling.

New York, I Love You misses so many delicious opportunities to depict the city that never sleeps. The film stars no blacks or homosexuals, and almost entirely ignores Hispanics, Asians, children, teens and seniors. There are no stories of homeless people, runaway teens, bartenders, actors, businessmen, trophy wives, teachers, professors, garbage collectors, cab drivers, policemen, subway conductors, mobsters or even tourists. The film is too safe: gangs, drugs, theft, rape, poverty and disease are all omitted. Only one argument in a cab is shown, and it’s completely innocuous. Furthermore, for as much as the film praises New York, the city is the setting, not the star. The film ventures out of Manhattan only once! What of the other four boroughs that make up New York City? Even within Manhattan, what of Little Italy, the Financial District, Chelsea, Midtown, Harlem or Inwood? They are ignored completely.

The film succeeds when it doesn’t try to depict the entire city in one vignette, but instead focuses on specifically portraying little bits and pieces of New York that we’ve all seen, and that are essential to its multifaceted face. The ethnic “manny” (male nanny) and his tiny blonde-haired, blue-eyed charge romping through Central Park; the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood; the quarreling old married couple who take forever to cross the street and who swear at hoodlums on skateboards: these are characters who create the city every day (and whom New York, I Love You portrays very well.) They are the real New York.

Ultimately, New York, I Love You is caught up in the idea of New York City, not in the reality of the city itself. A bolder film, one that truly examined New York without omitting its faults, annoyances and dangers, would also have room to truly show New York’s joys, inspirations and millions of love stories. New York City is about so much more than sex with pretty strangers, and filmmakers would be wise to realize it.

New York, I Love You opened in limited release on October 16, 2009.

Upcoming Event: The Wizard of Oz!

In event, movie, sneak preview on August 19, 2009 at 4:51 pm
Thanks to slashfilm for the heads-up on this event!


Attention, movie lovers of all ages!

On Wednesday, September 23rd, NCM Fathom, Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies will screen a never-before-seen, remastered version of The Wizard of Oz in more than 440 theaters nationwide! The event will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the film’s release in August of 1939. The film will be shown with a documentary, “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” which chronicles the making of the classic film.

This is a great opportunity to show the film to children on the big screen, and to relive the experience with your parents and grandparents.

To find a theater near you and to purchase tickets, click here.

New Yorkers have surprisingly few options of theaters. Your best bet is the AMC Bay Plaza 13, at 2210 Bartow Avenue in the Bronx (718-320-1659.)

Syracuse dwellers are luckier: you can catch this great event just a hop, skip and jump away, at the Carousel Mall Stadium 17 (315-466-5680.)

I’ll see you over the rainbow!

Julie & Julia

In movie on August 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

The real star of Nora Ephron’s new film, Julie & Julia, is the food. Rich chocolate icing is slathered over cake in great spoonfuls; pastry crust topping a de-boned duck is toasted to a perfect crinkly golden brown. Even a meal of bruschetta, made early in the film before any real cooking lessons begin, looks scrumptious. Great pains were taken to perfect the appearance and performance of the food in Julie & Julia, and the work pays off.

I wish that Julie & Julia had been a biopic of Julia Child. Meryl Streep, who portrays Julia, is fascinating as always. She completely immerses herself in the role, stretching her vowels into operatic strains and shaking her hands in loose fists as the great Julia once did. The plot discusses little-known tidbits of Julia’s life, making her a real person to us, not just a byline on a cookbook. A film devoted solely to Julia’s life would be engaging, illuminating and enjoyable.

The addition of Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, does little for the plot. Julie’s story lacks action, simply because it can only take place in her kitchen and at her computer. Julie’s narrative of her blog, spoken as a voiceover à la Sex and the City, fails to engage. As amusing as some bits of Julie’s story may be, they are perfunctory and expected: Julie burns a meal; Julie has a meltdown; Julie and her husband fight; Julie gets famous.

Adams’ valient attempts at creating a compelling character take up valuable time that could be spent with Julia’s life story, Streep’s unsurpassed talent, and more beautiful meals. As a result, we see less than half of Julia’s groundbreaking life as a cook. It leaves us wanting more, and not in a good way.

Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron, opened nationwide August 7.

Julie & Julia: The Pregame

In movie, sneak preview on July 31, 2009 at 9:05 am

I love food. A lot. I also love Meryl Streep. A lot a lot. I might love Meryl Streep more than I love food.

Therefore! I am very excited for Julie & Julia, due out August 7th.

I haven’t been lucky enough to catch a sneak preview of Julie & Julia, but my friend and fellow blogger Lucie did. Here’s her review.

Stand by for my review…

500 Days of Summer

In movie, romance on July 2, 2009 at 8:14 pm

The narrator of 500 Days of Summer warns early in the film, “You should know up front: this is not a love story.” This is not entirely true.

500 Days of Summer is a love story of sorts: a one-sided love story, passionate, desperate, blind. It is about that first, painful love that teaches you how to love all the others that come after it. It portrays a current trend: not the hook-up culture that so absorbs the media, nor the strictly codified dating culture of our parents’ generation. Instead, Tom, the boy, and Summer, the girl, share a relationship without labels; they are a couple in every way but in name. When they’re alone together, their life is idyllic. When they’re apart, it causes problems.

500 Days of Summer, which debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, teeters on the line between indie pop film and a bubble-gum summer chick flick. Not quite mainstream and not quite hipster, the two main characters exist in a slightly antique world, where skinny ties and granny-chic are the norm and all buildings have picturesque winding staircases. The film is endearing and truthful, with believable characters, easy dialogue and some very clever humor. Tom is quirky and naïve, and we fall for him. Summer, conversely, is distant and often cold. She rationalizes her actions with the catch-all phrase, “Because I wanted to,” and Tom trot along behind her. You can almost see his tail wagging happily at the prospect of being near her. Girls who treat boys this way, and boys who let girls treat them this way, will feel a sting at the film’s barefaced appraisal of today’s relationships and their dangers.

The film flip-flops within a 500-day period, tracking Tom’s relationship with Summer in a back-and-forth fashion. The technique fits the film’s style nicely, leads to some fun transitions between good and bad times, and saves the story from being utterly predictable. It is, however, a bit muddled and unexplained at times. The film also dabbles in cinematographic devices usually saved for more artsy films: transforming the screen into animation, interjecting black-and-white documentary-style footage of the characters throughout the film for plot exposition, split-screen scenes. More of a consistent commitment to these indie film tricks would have solidified the film’s style, and would not have cost the film studio too much lost mainstream interest.

Though the cinematography may waffle in style, the film’s soundtrack is firmly planted in the indie rock scene. The stage is set in the opening credits with Regina Spektor’s “Us,” and proceeds to run the gamut of music by sensitive-girls-with-pianos. Both “Quelqu’un M’a Dit,” Carla Bruni’s touching hit, and The Smiths’ anthem “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” are perfectly placed to mirror the onscreen action in their lyrics.

Unfortunately, for all this great set-up, 500 Days of Summer does not satisfy. The story, although nice, lacks purpose or drive, and feels scattered. We are given a glimpse of Tom and Summer’s relationship, but we aren’t shown why we should love it. There are no moments of true epiphany for either character, though the filmmakers try to create some out of banalities. The story’s ending is forced and cutesy, and doesn’t leave room for honest truths that the characters might have been able to gain with a different close.

Ultimately, like the season of summer, 500 Days of Summer is enjoyable, full of passion and resplendent in youth. But, in the end, neither can last or fulfill all our wishes, and we are glad to see them go.

500 Days of Summer is directed by Marc Webb and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It will be released in select theaters on July 17.

Truth, Justice & The American Way Goes Viral!

In movie, outdoor movie on July 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm

My article “Truth, Justice & The American Way” is featured in Crystal City’s News/Press section!

Check it out here (listed under June 11.)

Many thanks to Adrienne Williams for making this happen!