Who: David Broza and friends
What: Nineteenth annual Not Exactly Christmas Eve Concert
Where: 92nd St. Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 212-415-5500
When: Wednesday, December 24, $59-$92, 7:30
Why: Israeli superstar troubadour David Broza performs on Christmas Eve in New York City with guitarists Julio Fernandez and Yonatan Levi, saxophonist Jay Beckenstein, bassist Uri Kleinman, and drummers Yoni Halevi and Yuval Lion in support of his latest album, East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem (S-Curve, January 14, 2014) and the forthcoming documentary about the making of the record
BEAT THE DEVIL (John Huston, 1953)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Saturday, December 20, 4:00, Thursday, December 25, 10:15, and Friday, December 26, 4:45
Festival runs December 19 - January 11
Oscar-winning director John Huston pokes fun at some of his previous films in the sly, dry crime noir parody Beat the Devil. Written by Huston and Truman Capote, who furiously typed out pages every day on set, the 1953 black-and-white film teams Huston with Humphrey Bogart for the sixth and final time, following such successes as The Maltese Falcon, Key Largo, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The African Queen, elements from all of which can be found in this jumbled tale of a gang of crooked men looking to score big in the uranium mines of Kenya. Bogart stars as Billy Dannreuther, a cool customer married to Italian firebomb Maria (Gina Lollobrigida). They are stranded in an Italian port town while waiting for a ship to take them and his associates — Peterson (Robert Morley), O’Hara (Peter Lorre), Ravello (Marco Tulli), and Major Jack Ross (Ivor Barnard) — across the Mediterranean to Africa. Also along for the ride is the prim and proper Harry Chelm (Edward Underdown) and his hotsy-totsy wife, Gwendolen (Jennifer Jones), who quickly falls for the smooth, confident Billy. Throw in a murder, a drunk captain (Saro Urzi), and some neat twists and turns and you have yourself an amusing little exercise, even if it does have its share of plot holes, story jumps, and inconsistencies.
Morley (subbing for the late Sydney Greenstreet), Lorre, and Tulli are like the Three Stooges of film noir, while Bogart riffs on himself as a leading man and Jones has a ball chewing the scenery as a blonde beauty. It’s a confusing film, randomly mixing humor with pathos, but even if it’s the least successful of the Huston-Bogart canon, it’s still more than just an interesting trifle. Beat the Devil is screening December 20, 25, and 26 as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center series Let There Be Light: The Films of John Huston, which runs December 19 to January 11 and consists of forty films directed by the master, from The Maltese Falcon and The Night of the Iguana to Key Largo and Moby Dick, from Prizzi’s Honor and Sinful Davey to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The List of Adrian Messenger, in addition to a handful of other works he either appeared in (Tentacles!) or that demonstrate his lasting influence (There Will Be Blood.)
Who: Composers Laine Fefferman, Jascha Narveson, and N. Cameron Britt and software developer Daniel Iglesia
What: Make Music Winter festival
Where: The High Line, Gansevoort & Washington Sts. to West 30th St.
When: Sunday, December 21, free, 5:00 – 6:30 pm
Why: Free downloadable app turns walk along the High Line into an unusual soundscape; portable speakers encouraged (first one hundred participants can borrow a wearable speaker for free); among the other free Make Music Winter events on December 21 are Tom Peyton’s “Bell by Bell,” the Nick Horner Family’s “Flat Foot Flatbush,” J. C. King’s “Kalimbascope,” Hiroya Miura’s “Lightmotif,” Malcolm J. Merriweather’s “Pilgrimage,” James Holt’s “Prelude,” Daniel Goode’s “Soho Gamelan Walk,” and Nissim Schaul’s “Wheels”
What: 2014 Festival of Light concert with Judith Hill
Where: Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway, 212-930-1940
When: Saturday, December 20, $29.50 - $35, 8:00
Why: Matisyahu plays annual Hanukkah show in New York City in support of his latest album, Akeda (Elm City, June 2014), which includes such tracks as “Reservoir,” “Watch the Walls Melt Down,” “Ayeka (Teach Me to Love),” and “Vow of Silence (Shalom)”
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (Peter Jackson, 2014)
Opens Wednesday, December 17
Peter Jackson’s sixteen-year adventure through J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth comes to its inevitable conclusion with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the third film in the prequel trilogy that began with An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. The story picks up as the enormous fire-breathing flying dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is laying waste to the island of Lake-town as the thirteen Dwarves of Erebor watch from the Lonely Mountain. But soon after the brave Bard (Luke Evans) dispatches the evil beast in spectacular fashion, the Men of the Lake, the Orcs, the Elves, and the Goblins all descend on Erebor seeking either refuge, revenge, or the massive amount of gold that fills the abandoned castle. However, Dwarves king Thorin Oakenshield II (Richard Armitage) has been overcome with dragon-sickness, an unbounded greed that has him protecting every single piece of the vast treasure, refusing to share it with anyone but his thirteen cohorts as he searches for the powerful Arkenstone that Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is hiding. Meanwhile, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) take on Sauron the Necromancer (voiced by Cumberbatch); the Elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the Dwarf Kíli (Aidan Turner) explore their forbidden love; and a stream of frightening creatures join the fray. Also along for this final ride is Legolas (Orlando Bloom), his father, Thranduil (Lee Pace), Thorin’s cousin Dáin (Billy Connolly), the brutal, scimitar-armed Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett) and his brutal son, Bolg (John Tui), and the pompous, greedy Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry).
“This was the last move in a master plan, a plan long in the making,” Gandalf says at one point, and he could be referring to Jackson’s two trilogies, which began with the three Lord of the Rings films in 2001, 2002, and 2003 and has at last come to an end now. But while The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King brought audiences into a magical, dazzling world with well-developed characters and intense tales, The Hobbit winds down with a surprisingly lifeless narrative built around battle scenes that grow tiresome quickly. It is as if Jackson decided that after all the other movies, everyone knows all the characters and their motives, but one of the many things that made the first trilogy so successful was that each of the films worked on their own; The Battle of the Five Armies was made by a huge Tolkien fan who might have forgotten that most people are not as familiar with the details of Middle-earth as he is. Even in Imax 3-D and clocking in at a mere 144 minutes, 17 minutes shorter than any of the other five films, this last entry drags on, making one long for it to end. In many ways it’s reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise, where the first three films worked so well but the three prequels were disappointing. But while there might be more Star Wars films coming, this is it for the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, which is not necessarily a bad thing, so we can all go back to the first trilogy, among the best fantasy-adventure stories ever told — and, of course, the books themselves.
Who: Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Another World), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator, Castle Freak), and Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) in cult classic
What: Chopping Mall (Jim Wynorski, 1986)
Where: Nitehawk Cinema, 136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave., 718-384-3980
When: Friday, December 19, and Saturday, December 20, $11, 12:15 am
Why: Nitehawk Cinema’s December Midnite: Xmas Chopping series concludes with a premonition of the future that became Black Friday
Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) is an adventurous eleven-year-old in search of some fun and excitement in her new creaky home in Oregon. She finds just what she thinks she was looking for when a rodent introduces her to a hidden passageway that leads to an alternate universe, where replicas of her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) are more interested in her and give her whatever she wants. However, this button-eyed Other Mother and Other Father have other plans for her and her real family as well. Written and directed by Henry Selick, Coraline lacks the frantic, nonstop energy of his breakthrough film, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it is still a fun, creepy trip down the Narnia-esque rabbit hole. Combining his trademark stop-motion animation (James and the Giant Peach) with breathtaking stereoscopic 3-D that adds remarkable depth to the images, Selick does a marvelous job bringing to life the popular children’s novel by Newbery Medal-winning author Neil Gaiman (Sandman), who wrote the book for his young daughters. (Full disclosure: In another part of our life, we work for the company that publishes Gaiman’s children’s books, including Coraline.) The supporting cast of characters includes former music-hall divas Miss Spink and Miss Forcible (the Absolutely Fabulous British comedy team of Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French), the wise Cat (Keith David), mouse circus leader Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), and local boy Wybie Lovat (Robert Bailey Jr.), who was created specifically for the movie. Be sure to stick around for one last cool 3-D effect at the end of the credits. Coraline is screening in 3-D on December 20 at 1:00 as part of the Museum of the Moving Image’s “See It Big! Animation” series, which continues through December 28 with such other recent feature-length animated flicks as Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud’s Persepolis, Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika.