In ‘The Jungle Book,’ Disney Builds a Better Reboot

Here’s about as convincing an argument as I can imagine for the existence of the modern Hollywood blockbuster. Disney and Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book reinvigorates an oft-told tale with star power, technology, and calculated charm. It’s been billed as a live-action remake (it’s too good to be called a “reboot”) of the 1967 Walt Disney animated classic based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 stories. Of course, Disney has already given us a live-action version in 1994, with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, an Indiana Jones-ified take that bore little resemblance to either the animated film or the original tales. And perhaps the best Jungle Book out there might still be Alexander and Zoltan Korda’s magical and odd 1942 film starring the young Indian actor Sabu; that one was even less faithful to Kipling. Over the years, there’s been a Russian adaptation, an anime series, a Chuck Jones cartoon, plus a brace of sequels and sorta-sequels. Oh, and apparently Warner Bros. is at this very moment working on its own iteration, due in 2018.

In other words, there’s no real need for another Jungle Book, which makes this new one’s job even harder. The story itself isn’t too dramatically different from the familiar Disney animated film. Our hero Mowgli (Neel Sethi, delightfully vivacious and chatty) is a young boy who’s been raised by a family of wolves ever since the black panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) found him abandoned in the woods. Living as a wolf isn’t easy: Mowgli grows up slowly, can’t resist the temptation to use tools, and has to will into instinct the things that wolves just know, like never to stray from the pack. Togetherness is the wolves’ mantra: They gather to recite the Law of the Jungle (“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”) in the evening, and Bagheera’s voiceover tells us, “If he was going to survive, he was going to need a people — a people to protect him.” That’s not people, but a people. Superheroes be damned, this is a communitarian blockbuster.

That communal impulse is threatened when loner tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) arrives and demands that Mowgli be turned over to him, or else. The tiger’s vendetta is personal: “Does my face not remind you of what a grown man can do?” he sneers, displaying his scarred mug. To protect the wolves, Bagheera agrees to take Mowgli back to a distant human village. Along the way, Mowgli runs into Kaa the python (Scarlett Johansson), Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), and King Louie (Christopher Walken), a gigantopithecus lording over a small army of monkeys.

In keeping with the spirit of Kipling, the structure is largely episodic. That choice could result in tedium onscreen, but it works here, giving us ample opportunity to luxuriate in the cast’s star personas. Murray’s bear is a riff on his usual scheming layabout; Johansson’s snake vamps it up as she slithers and hypnotizes; and Walken gets to be a goofily intimidating Mob boss. (Louie was a character invented for the 1967 Disney version and was memorably voiced in that film by Louis Prima.) We even get some songs: Walken reprises a revised version of the classic “I Wanna Be Like You” and Murray of “The Bare Necessities.”

But the true wonder of The Jungle Book lies in what might be called its very blockbuster-ness — the way it fully immerses us in this world, utilizing state-of-the-art effects (the talking, emoting animals look amazing and real) and juggling levity, menace, and sweep. As a director, Favreau has over the years proven himself adept at staying close to the action while still finding brief moments of pictorial grace; that’s one reason why his Iron Man set the tone for the Marvel movie-verse.

He does something similar here. As Mowgli runs through dense fields and forests, the camera often stays so close to the boy’s point of view that we don’t always see what’s pursuing him — a classic tactic Favreau and others probably learned from its most brilliant practitioner, Steven Spielberg. But the film has a stirring, storybook grandeur as well, particularly in its rhapsodic portraits of animal togetherness, which in turn helps sell all that dialogue about unity and the power of the pack.

These franchise movies usually have to be all things to all viewers: fun for the kids, gritty for the grown-ups, snarky for the teens. Very often, that results in an inchoate sprawl of competing tones and set pieces. But The Jungle Book is fast and light. It manages to be just scary enough to make us feel the danger of solitude in the middle of a massive jungle, but never indulgent or gratuitous. At one pivotal point, Shere Khan kills a major character by biting into and then quickly casting the body off a cliff. It happens swiftly, suddenly, and without any melodrama: You can imagine that the filmmakers and the studio don’t want to upset younger viewers too much by focusing too much on death. And yet the offhand cruelty of this character’s speedy dispatch has a real sting, too. If only all blockbusters could be this exciting, engrossing, and beautiful.

The Jungle Book
Directed by Jon Favreau
Walt Disney Pictures
Opens April 15

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A strange thing happens when you travel just over an hour’s train ride north of the city. Namely, shit gets eerie. Buildings shrink into the trees, mountains, and even farmlands that make up the beautifully atmospheric Hudson Valley. Still a series of quiet and suburban hamlets, the area is not all that different from the place Washington Irving so often wrote about. Even if you can’t make the trip, celebrate the master of early American storytelling with a nod to his most famous tale. The Headless Horseman Variety Show will give a nod (or not) to pop-culture depictions of Sleepy Hollow’s phantom — from the creepy Christopher Walken–played Hessian who stalked Johnny Depp through a Burtonian wonderland to the AK-47–toting demon at the center of Fox’s hit show. Elizabeth L. Bradley, editor of a new Penguin Classics edition of Irving’s stories, will lecture on “Kanye West’s Sleepy Hollow” between phrenological demonstrations by Colin Dickey (head required). Enjoy Irving’s favorite treat — beer and doughnuts — with complementary Ichabod Ale by Holland Brewery. We’re told that the horseman himself will even make an appearance.

Thu., Oct. 16, 8 p.m., 2014


Al Pacino Deserves Better Than Stand-Up Guys

Based on what Al Pacino suffers in Stand Up Guys and the identical humiliations visited upon Robert De Niro in Little Fockers, it seems that Hollywood will not be satisfied until it has speared a hypodermic into the pill-engorged erection of every remaining leading man of the 1970s. In Pacino’s case, he’s an old-timer gangster named Val just released from lockup. His pal Doc (Christopher Walken) takes him to a brothel. Val gulps down a mouthful of Bob Dole pills, and, yes, the star of Dog Day Afternoon winds up in a hospital bed, the sheets rigged up with some pitch-a-tent prosthetic hard-on. And, yes, a doctor must prick said hard-on with a needle on loan from the Saw movies. There is a plot to all this. The crime lord who rules this any-city has charged Walken’s Doc with offing Pacino’s Val immediately upon Val’s release. But the movie is really about the slow-demolition process of old men aging in the public eye. Pacino’s face has puddled, now all jowl and whisker, and his voice has taken on a wet rasping undertone somewhere between cat purr and the coring of cabbages. He yaps and yaps but with little of the old power. Walken, meanwhile, has stiffened into himself, becoming more funny without losing what’s imposing in him. Here he even manages to seem a bit wise as he carries on his lifelong exploration of English-language syllables, each of which he pauses over, briefly considers, and seems to find is not a clean fit for the next. Of all the ’70s-made men who have been made, by age, into comic figures, only Walken seems in control of what makes him funny.


Golden Boys? Stand Up Guys Is a Blow to Al Pacino’s Legacy

Please, for his own good, somebody clap Dustin Hoffman into a chastity belt. Based on what Al Pacino suffers in Stand Up Guys, and the identical humiliations visited up Robert De Niro in Little Fockers, it seems that Hollywood will not be satisfied until it has speared a hypodermic into the pill-engorged erection of every last remaining leading man of the 1970s.

In Pacino’s case, the setup is that he’s an old-timer gangster named Val just released from almost three decades in lockup. His pal Doc (Christopher Walken) duly takes him to one of those movie brothels where all the sex workers look like Victoria’s Secret models. But Pacino’s Val can’t perform—he announces this for all to hear, as he’s a movie character and not a person. So the boys rob a pharmacy, Val gulps down a mouthful of Bob Dole pills, and any audience member who has seen a comedy in recent years can predict the next 20 miserable minutes. Why Val doesn’t see disaster coming is a mystery. He has bragged that in prison, he could watch Starz, so he has certainly endured some Meet the Parents sequels.

It plays out like you would fear. Yes, Val, potency restored, returns to fuck his whore (he finishes four times, he shouts to anyone within earshot). Yes, the actor who played Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon winds up in a hospital bed, the sheets rigged up with some pitch-a-tent prosthetic hard-on. And, yes, a doctor must prick said hard-on with a needle on loan from the Saw movies, in this case not to inject medicine but actually to draw blood. And, yes, all of this is exactly as funny as it would be in real life: Imagine watching someone you’ve known for years and have come to respect getting stabbed in the dick by a doctor.

Because he’s a movie character, Val rallies from this ordeal and is immediately game for a full night’s worth of adventures, including a couple of fights, some grand theft auto, three visits to the same diner, and two more cases of breaking and entering. Around 4 a.m. Val and Doc somehow gain access to a backhoe (are there rental places open?). And there’s a return visit to the brothel, where Alan Arkin—playing a near-death associate sprung from an old-folks’ home—takes on two working girls at once. Without medical enhancement, he somehow leaves both bewitched and literally begging for more. It’s shameless, the same “ladies love dead meat” joke played on Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein.

There is a plot to all this. The crime lord who rules this any-city has charged Walken’s Doc with offing Pacino’s Val immediately upon Val’s release (murdering his dignity isn’t enough). But the movie is really about the slow demolition process of old men aging in the public eye. Pacino and Walken hobble gingerly about, director Fisher Stevens affording them no vanity. Pacino’s face has puddled, now all jowl and whiskers, and his voice has taken on a wet rasping undertone somewhere between a cat purring and the coring of cabbages. He yaps and yaps, but only on occasion does he gather any of the old power, most notably in a scene in which he has to beg a posse of club hotties to even consider a dance with him.

Like De Niro these days, Pacino seems to have been drained of whatever the world originally loved about him—perhaps those jokey crotch needles lanced something vital. Walken, meanwhile, has stiffened into himself, becoming more funny without losing what’s imposing in him. Here, as in Seven Psychopaths, he even manages to seem a bit wise as he carries on his lifelong exploration of English-language syllables, each of which he pauses over, briefly considers, and seems to find is not a clean fit for the next. Of all the ’70s-made men who have been made, by age, into comic figures, only Walken seems in control of what makes him funny.

The film is appealingly grubby and scored to great soul singles from the days of its leads’ primes. It’s also surprisingly violent for a movie steeped in Cocoon-style “old folks like sex” jokes and surprisingly sentimental for one in which a rape victim—in a gag stolen from Scrooged, of all things—jokes about loving The Nutcracker before taking a bat to the balls of her assailants. (Walken and Pacino also keep tossing out the “I’m here to kick ass or chew bubble gum” line from John Carpenter’s They Live. Since when does Al Pacino look for tips on coolness from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper?)

Looming over all of this is supposed to be the question of whether Doc will kill Val, especially as their night wears on and their adventures become more worth bonding over—and unbelievable. But by the end, the feeling the movie inspires isn’t suspense but relief: Thank God that the producers behind Grumpy Old Men and The Sunshine Boys didn’t yet have Viagra to joke about.


A Late Quartet

Woody Allen has been known to suggest that, in directing a good movie, much of the battle lies in casting. Were that entirely true, the Philip Seymour Hoffman–, Catherine Keener–, and Christopher Walken–starring A Late Quartet would be phenomenal. As it is, the film about a New York City string quartet whose future is thrown into question after the cellist (Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the two married members’ relationship (Keener and Hoffman) begins to unravel is a mixed bag. Always stately, occasionally stuffy, co-writer/director Yaron Zilberman’s chamber drama expresses every real-world problem via musical metaphors and is prone to occasional bouts of grandiosity not quite befitting its stripped-down scale. This tonal back-and-forth is in some ways reflective of the group’s music but impedes us from getting a meaningful hold on what these people are feeling and why we should care. Zilberman is often too tasteful to dig into the scandal and melodrama that eventually mires A Late Quartet‘s plot, but an exceptional finale bucks this trend by acting more as a catharsis than a climax, making up for prior shortcomings and fulfilling much of the film’s promise. It’s something of a relief that little is actually resolved in A Late Quartet; Zilberman is at his best when leaving narrative threads hanging rather than trying to tie them together.


Seven Psychopaths Is a Great, Nasty Time at the Movies

Perhaps you’ve lost faith in movies about amusingly digressive criminals. Maybe you believe it’s no longer possible to be pleasurably jolted by inventive swearing, from-no-place head shots, and post-everything structural flourishes. Certainly you have no reason to expect blood-splattered poetry or throat-clearing laughter from yet another movie in which Los Angeles criminals set out to the desert for showdowns and the usual exploding cars. That’s all the more reason to savor Seven Psychopaths, the movie in which Martin McDonagh the scabrous playwright and Martin McDonagh the high-end junk filmmaker at last craft a doozy both can brag about to their mates.

That’s mates in the sense of laddish buddies, as that’s who the movie is about, and much of whom it is for. McDonagh contrives to have his hero, an Irish screenwriter with the “get it?” name Marty (Colin Farrell), soundly dressed down for his inability to write women who aren’t just there to be murdered to spur the plot. That complaint is certainly true of Seven Psychopaths, and his joking about it is an old rogue’s trick: Admitting to rakish behavior before someone else can make a stink about it purchases leniency for future offenses.

So, yes, this is boys’ stuff. A screenwriter and his somewhat-touched actor bud (Sam Rockwell, in stoned–Dana Carvey mode) shake L.A. to find seven stories from seven psychopaths to fill out a screenplay Marty has named—just guess—but hasn’t written. A dog-napping Christopher Walken gets in bad with raging gangster Woody Harrelson and eventually does the one last great thing you can’t believe no other movie has ever thought to have Walken do: drop peyote at Joshua Tree. (Tip for your office’s Walken impersonator: He calls the drugs “howl-loose-sen-ah-gens.”) Tom Waits shows up, first as a sight gag and then as a menacing monologuist, his voice box grinding like the gears of a ’72 Imperial. There are flashbacks to absurd crime sprees, fabulist tales of murderers who might or might not make the in-film screenplay, a serial killer on the loose, and more sawn-open corpses than in a good Fangoria.

And there’s an air of pub-culture bad-boy-ism about it all, as McDonagh, for the first time setting his madmen in America, refuses to heed the local niceties about race or gayness. Walken’s complex bastard even half-apologizes for throwing around “fag” as a catchall insult for men who aren’t movie-style manly, but, like the apologia about the female characters’ tendency to get popped, this feels less like an effort to satirize douchiness than one to suggest that we just roll along with it.

But as boys’ stuff goes, this is the best of it, even in the film’s less-daring first half, which plays as a high-stakes crime film whose central incident—the napping of Harrelson’s dog—is flagrantly meaningless. It’s dark, splattery fun, and then sometimes it’s suddenly just dark and splattery. At its best, McDonagh—whose directing is finally approaching his writing—pushes us into the most perverse of responses. I’ve never before heard an audience applaud a throat-slitting suicide.

Just as that story seems to be reaching its climax, though, McDonagh lunges for something more. Marty, who has often expressed a desire not to write violent piffle about killers, sees where everything is going, both with his fictional script and with the real movie he’s caught up in. He vows to come up with a new ending that suits his burgeoning pacifism. From there, he and two of the movie’s other top-shelf male leads flee L.A. and attempt to avoid the ending we all know a movie like Seven Psychopaths must have. In the desert, the film opens up, becoming thoughtful, expansive, and more funny than ever, something like Pirandello or Daffy Duck’s Duck Amuck but without ever smashing fully into addressing-the-author meta-fiction. Then there’s the biggest surprise of all: McDonagh still manages to pull off an ending that should satisfy fans of the first half’s gory comedy, fans of the second’s desert bull session, and fans of those toothy, never-quite-reputable plays that brought McDonagh to our attention in the first place. It even satisfies the impossible screen-writing goals Farrell’s Marty aspires to early in the film: violent, pacifist, and somehow life-affirming.

Remember the shitty crime comedies every Hollywood brat tried to make after Pulp Fiction? It took an Irish playwright to get it right. See it with an audience.


Dark Horse: Genetic-Lotto Losers in the Jersey Suburbs

“People always end up the way they started out. No one ever changes,” one character says in Todd Solondz’s significantly titled 2004 film Palindromes—an observation put to the test in Dark Horse, Solondz’s latest tale of genetic-lotto losers in the New Jersey suburbs. Abe (an excellent Jordan Gelber) is a schlubby, Diet Coke–pounding, action-figure-collecting, tantrum-prone 35-year-old living at home with a mollycoddling mother (Mia Farrow) and a father (Christopher Walken) who unfavorably compares Abe to his physician brother (Justin Bartha, who, like all of Abe’s male nemeses, is curiously effeminate). Piloting his yellow SUV through a wasteland of Multiplex Cinemas and Toys ‘R’ Us’s, spurred on by vapidly optimistic radio pop holding out the promise of reinvention (“Reach out for more/And make it better than it’s been before”), Abe attempts to defy a lonely fate by courting a woebegone, medicated-to-numbness woman, Miranda (Selma Blair), who passively allows herself to be swept along with Abe’s domestic fantasies while responding to him with obliviously cruel comments in a shuddering, hurts-to-breathe tone. Whether Abe’s eventual Pyrrhic victory is a joke or a tragedy is a moot point, like the argument, dating from 1995’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, as to whether Solondz is a caricaturist or humanist. With Solondz’s old-hat funeral deadpan and his efforts to pass off Abe’s adolescent rage as elevated insight, Dark Horse is neither incisively black-comic nor particularly attuned to human behavior—proof that some directors, at least, do end up the way they started out.


Lanford Wilson (1937-2011)

In Lanford Wilson’s 1973 play, The Hot l Baltimore, set in a crumbling SRO that was once an elegant stopover for travelers to a formerly bustling urban center, a young woman on the move is caught robbing a half-senile pensioner’s room. “I got dreams, goddamit,” she shouts defensively. “What’s he got?”

The line is its own critique: Like young women, old men have dreams too. Everyone’s a dreamer, a fact that can bring either tragic or wonderful results, depending on how each dreamer approaches that other unbearable fact, the disappearing present, which turns into the unrecapturable past too quickly for us to plan the future. Lanford Wilson was a poet, whose plays hymn the sagas of embattled dreamers, struggling against each other’s dreams. He himself became part of the past on Thursday, March 24, dying of an emphysema-related condition just two weeks short of his 74th birthday.

The temptation to “type” Wilson’s playwriting dogged him throughout his career, and its results have inevitably cropped up in the outpouring of memorial tributes. But the principal beauty of Wilson’s substantial output is the grace with which it resists such typecasting. He wrote in a conventional realistic mode—which he constantly broke, reshaped, or departed from as the mood struck him. He wrote about the poor, riffraff, losers, the displaced—except for all the plays in which he examined the rich, the comfortably off, the professional classes, academics and artists. He wrote with tender sentiment—except that every sentimental stroke in his scripts is framed by irony and planted in a ground of sturdy fact.

Not coincidentally, he loved Chekhov, another playwright whose crisscrossing ironies tend to be oversimplified into sentimentalism by the world’s misunderstanding. Not irrelevantly, when he and a group of equally committed friends founded what would become Circle Repertory Company, the only acting role he undertook with the troupe was the lead in an American classic that he loved, and that might be viewed as quintessentially un-Chekhovian, e.e. cummings’s him. Something like cummings’s freewheeling sense of theatrical gesture and his surrealist games with verbal displacements merged, in Wilson, with Chekhov’s exactingly notated sense of reality’s mishearings and overlappings.

Wilson himself was like a voyager, traveling among the classes and the social realms of American life as he traveled aesthetically among the variegated styles of art and literature. (In his later years, he became a passionate collector of outsider art.) A state college dropout from a single-parent home in a medium-size town, Lebanon, Missouri, he drifted through Chicago and Southern California before making common cause, in the beginning years of the Off-Off-Broadway movement, with a group of graduates from an elite university, Northwestern. The startling early plays that built his reputation, Home Free (1964), The Madness of Lady Bright (1965), Balm in Gilead (1965), and The Rimers of Eldritch (1966), all display his acuteness of observation in tandem with his formal flexibility—and have all, even more remarkably, held up well in repeated revivals.

In the afterglow of Balm in Gilead’s acclaim and the successful Off-Broadway mounting of Lemon Sky (1970), with a memorable lead performance by the young Christopher Walken, Wilson and his chosen colleagues founded the Circle Theatre Company, which ultimately evolved into the long-lasting institution that everybody in the New York theater knew as Circle Rep. From intermittent productions in a grungy loft over a supermarket on Broadway and 83rd Street, it grew—especially after the triumph and Off-Broadway transfer of The Hot l Baltimore—first into an established subscription theater, expanding its activities with acting and playwriting workshops to the point where its waning and final loss in the fiscal upheavals of the 1990s are still felt with a pang by many artists.

Led by Wilson’s director of choice, Marshall W. Mason, Circle Rep created a distinctive style, which it described as “poetic naturalism,” and which it happily breached whenever a play it loved demanded something else. The company nurtured a host of playwrights besides Wilson; it spawned or furthered the careers of countless actors, many now prominent, as well as designers and composers. Most often, the productions on which Wilson and Mason collaborated were the keystones up to which its seasons arched.

Among these, the trilogy that evokes Wilson’s hometown—Talley & Son (1985, originally titled A Tale Told), Talley’s Folly (1979), and Fifth of July (1978)—became the most widely known: The latter two had long Broadway runs, with Talley’s Folly winning Wilson his only Pulitzer Prize. Others, though, linger as strongly in the memory: The troubling Serenading Louie (1976) gets frequent revivals, while the neglected work that Wilson aficionados, myself included, prize most highly, The Mound Builders (1975), may yet prove to rank among his longest-lasting achievements. Other Wilson works that deserve renewed attention include, besides a cluster of one-acts, his early Broadway mishap, The Gingham Dog (1969), and the late plays Rain Dance (2003) and Sympathetic Magic (1997).

Something should be said, too, about Wilson as an adaptor. His versions of Chekhov, made in close collaboration with a native Russian speaker, are among the most playable and authentic-feeling in English. Two adaptations for other media, made from the works of another writer with whom he felt an intense kinship, Tennessee Williams, also belong on that list of neglected works that should be looked at again: the TV film of The Migrants and his libretto for Lee Hoiby’s opera, Summer and Smoke, which some have considered a distinct improvement over the original play.

Knowing Wilson was a wonderful experience. He could seem loopy, dreamy, and distracted, but he missed nothing: His eyes and ears were sharp as a hawk’s, and his acute memory stored every detail for replay at some unexpected moment in conversation, or in an upcoming script. (Only Wilson would have titled a play Lemon Sky and then noted in its opening stage direction that the sky “is never yellow.”) He loved actors and writing for specific actors. He was one of those playwrights for whom a permanent company is a spiritual necessity, and his hawk eye proved infallible, as I know from many conversations over the years, when it came to spotting talent. His passion for life went into his art; his passion for art, in his later years, went into the life of his garden, in Sag Harbor, where he built a world of plants, domestic and exotic, that was itself a kind of theatrical production. He had dreams—of having a garden, of having a company like Circle Rep to call him—and he realized them. And in his plays he embodied his awareness that everyone else has dreams too.

Ken, the hero of Fifth of July, struggles throughout the play to comprehend a tape made by a speech-impaired, gifted schoolboy with a penchant for science fiction. Finally he deciphers it, as follows: “After they had explored all the suns in the universe, and all the planets of all the suns, they realized that there was no other life in the universe, and that they were alone. And they were very happy, because then they knew it was up to them to become all the things they had imagined they would find.”

I think that in many ways, Lanford Wilson intended that to be his story—the story of a life, the story of a theater, the story of a dream. And I am glad that he put happiness in it.



At the tail end of a recession, who can blame folks for getting a little, um, creative with their means of income? Whether your preferred job is lifting jewels, robbing banks, or jumping cars, the three-week-long Heist Festival at Film Forum will surely have something that will nurture your inner degenerate. From Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 thriller The Killing to Quentin Tarantino’s stylish gore fest Reservoir Dogs, the screenings spotlight notable directors’ forays into the seedier side of things while also featuring genre definers such as The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). Tonight, catch Sean Connery red-handed as he steals from his wealthy ex-girlfriend’s apartment in a new 35mm print of Sidney Lumet’s 1971 film The Anderson Tapes, which also includes the screen debut of a young Christopher Walken. It is double-featured alongside The Brinks Job (1978), based on the real-life “Crime of the Century” when an unlikely gang made off with millions from the security firm’s Boston HQ.

Mondays-Sundays, 3:30 & 7:30 p.m. Starts: Oct. 5. Continues through Oct. 21, 2010



How can one man have us shitting bricks one second, like he so awesomely did as Nick in The Deer Hunter, and then have us laughing in hysterics the next, like when he played ruthless ping-pong master Feng in Balls of Fury? Leave it to Christopher Walken, one of the greatest thespians of our time, to deliver such dramatic range. But what’s better than Walken? How about many, many Walkens in All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken? What started in 2006 as a onetime show in Hollywood by actor-comedian Patrick O’Sullivan has grown into a full-length tribute show, receiving raves from critics in L.A. and San Francisco. Now the show comes to New York for the first time.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Aug. 5. Continues through Aug. 15, 2010