Tower Heist


Tower Heist

Ben Stiller brings up the Nutty Professor movies even though it's in Eddie Murphy's contract that nobody mentions them.

(2011) Caper Comedy (Universal) Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Tea Leoni, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter Van Wagner. Directed by Brett Ratner

It goes without saying that the new villains in the movies, reflecting our perilous economic times, are financiers. Most of us hold them responsible to a large degree for the woes we find ourselves in. Wall street is the new mad scientist.

Josh Kovacs (Stiller) works as the building manager for one of the most exclusive residences in Manhattan and thus one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world. It is the home of the hoi polloi, the high and mighty – the movers and shakers of New York. He heads a staff that is renowned for their attentiveness and attention to detail.

Among the residents in the building one of the most famous is Arthur Shaw (Alda), a man who has managed the portfolios of nations. He is one of the world’s most respected financial minds, someone who understands the markets better than anyone alive. When doorman Lester (Henderson) opens the door for him, there’s just a little bit more deferential treatment for Mr. Shaw who is as down to earth as they come – playing online chess with Josh, who went to the same public school in Astoria that Shaw did.

A sharp-eyed Josh notices, while in security chief Manuel’s (Hernandez) office what appears to be a kidnap attempt on Mr. Shaw. He makes a heroic effort to rescue him only to be clotheslined by an attractive woman, who turns out to be FBI agent Claire Denham (Leoni). It also turns out that the kidnapping is actually Shaw trying to escape arrest. It turns out that Shaw has swindled all of his clients out of the money they gave him to invest and that money is all gone. It turns out that Josh had given the employees of the Tower’s pension fund over to Shaw to manage and that money is all gone too.

This is devastating for some. Charlie (Affleck) the concierge is about to have a baby. Miss Iovenko (Arianda) is studying to pass the bar. Enrique (Pena) just started working there. But it is most devastating for Lester, who was about ready to retire and also had given his life savings – about $70K – to Mr. Shaw to invest and was left with nothing, meaning retirement wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Disconsolate, he attempts to walk out in front of a train and is saved by off-duty police officers.

Josh doesn’t want to believe that his friend Mr. Shaw is a crook, but when he visits him to tell the house-arrested Shaw what has befallen Lester, it becomes clear that Shaw’s friendly man-of-the-people front was a facade. It also becomes just as clear that the money that the employees of the Tower have all been counting on is gone forever. However, Agent Denham lets slip that guys like Shaw always have a cash safety net available for emergencies and that they haven’t found Shaw’s yet. Maybe Josh can steal back what was stolen from he and his associates.

However, Josh isn’t a thief, as Charlie correctly points out. However, Josh knows someone who is – streetwise Slide (Murphy), a career criminal who lives down the street from Josh. Add the recently evicted Mr. Fitzhugh (Broderick) and Jamaican maid (and daughter of a safecracker) Odessa (Sidibe) and you’ve got yourself a gang. However can these amateurs make their way past the most sophisticated security system in New York and the ever-watchful eye of the FBI to get themselves a little payback?

It will probably not surprise anyone who sees this movie to know that it shares a writer with the Oceans 11 series. It has that element of camaraderie among thieves, the same kind of snappy dialogue. It does have some star power but after Stiller and Murphy it falls off somewhat, although there are some pretty good performances here.

The main one is Murphy, who after decades of doing forgettable family comedies finally goes back to the kind of role that made him a star, one that channels Axel Foley, Billy Ray Valentine and Reggie Hammond. This is not quite up to those standards, but it is his best role in years. He nails it as well, giving it that fast-talking con-artist veneer as well as that kind of bad boy ladies man that Murphy perfected 20 years ago and that comedians like Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Chris Tucker have all been channeling since then.

Alda, who was playing Hawkeye Pierce in “MASH” at about the same time plays maybe the nastiest villain of his career. Shaw is an arrogant, smug bastard who while obviously modeled on Bernie Madoff has a little bit of Leona Helmsley thrown in for good measure. It’s a delicious role and should go down as one of the most memorable movie villains of 2011.

Stiller is a bit of a cipher. He is likable enough but I think that the part would have been better with someone for whom larcenous behavior might have been more easily acceptable. Stiller seems better suited for characters who need less charisma.

Ratner excels in making mindless entertainment pieces and he does so here. There’s nothing much to think about and veteran moviegoers are for sure going to be able to figure out important plot twists (such as where Shaw’s money is actually hidden) well before the reveals. However, the cast is enormously appealing (the sight of Broderick reaching out of an open window to pull in their loot but afraid to move is one of the better moments in the movie) and the plot easy enough to follow. Don’t try to think too much about some of the plot holes and you’ll find this a pleasant enough movie, not a game changer by any means but a solidly entertaining diversion. Some critics will make it seem like that’s a failure but for my money that’s a big win for the audience.

REASONS TO GO: Fine entertainment. Eddie Murphy returns to form and Alda is a fine villain.

REASONS TO STAY: A little too predictable in the plot points. Nothing really new here.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a bit of foul language and a smidge of sexual content.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Trump Tower in Manhattan was used as the stand-in for the Tower in the film.

HOME OR THEATER: The New York City vistas and the parade segment should be seen on the big screen.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Due Date

Advertisements

Four-Warned: November 2011


Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. IMMORTALS (1.4)
2. HUGO (1.9)
3. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2.0)
4. TOWER HEIST (2.1)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE ARTIST (1.4)
2. THE DESCENDENTS (1.7)
TIE. A DANGEROUS METHOD (1.7)
4. INTO THE ABYSS (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

NOVEMBER 2, 2011

FIVE STAR DAY (Breaking Glass) Genre: Drama. A man who believes in astrology suffers the worst day ever on a day that was supposed to be his best; he determines to test his newfound disdain for astrology by interviewing three strangers all born on the same day and same place as he. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An interesting idea but not sure Cam Gigandet is the guy to play this part.
THE OTHER F WORD (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. Former punk rockers from the 70s, 80s and 90s cope with fatherhood and try to fit in the needs of parenting with their punk rock values. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 4). RATING: 1.9 A really riveting look at how our needs change as we age – and the struggle to maintain our values as they do.

NOVEMBER 4, 2011

A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR 3D CHRISTMAS (New Line) Genre: Comedy. The two buddies, estranged over a six year separation, reunite to save Christmas. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.0 Not a big fan of the Harold and Kumar movies but I have to admit this one looks rather interesting – and any movie with NPH in it is all right by me.
KILLING BONO (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Comedy. Two Irish brothers are part of the second best band in Dublin in the 80s, forced to watch as the best band – U2 – rises to world prominence while they languish in obscurity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer looked pretty fun; the music sounded pretty good too.
THE LAST RITES OF JOE MAY (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. An aging hustler is forced by circumstances into a reluctant friendship with a single mother and in a most unlikely fashion finds the redemption he was long seeking. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Dennis Farina has always been an actor I’ve appreciated.
THE SON OF NO ONE (Anchor Bay) Genre: Thriller. A young cop is assigned to the working class neighborhood he grew up in which leads to the unearthing of a secret that threatens to destroy his career and family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 An extremely strong cast but the trailer left me a little cold.
TOWER HEIST (Universal) Genre: Caper Comedy. The staff of an exclusive New York City apartment tower plot to steal their money back from the Bernie Madoff-like financier who stole it. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 An all-star cast led by Ben Stiller and the return of Eddie Murphy to the kind of role that made him a star.
YOUNG GOETHE IN LOVE (Music Box) Genre: Period Romance. The man who would become one of Germany’s most revered authors falls in love with a woman promised to another. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 This was another one I didn’t get to see at the Florida Film Festival this year – now I wish I had.

NOVEMBER 9, 2011

J. EDGAR (Warner Brothers) Genre: Biodrama. The story of one of the 20th century’s most polarizing figures, a man who would symbolize law enforcement and it’s abuses for many – J. Edgar Hoover. Release Strategy: Limited (expands Wide on November 11). RATING: 2.2 They had me at “Directed by Clint Eastwood”.

NOVEMBER 11, 2011

11-11-11 (Rocket Releasing) Genre: Horror. An American author whose family has been taken from him tragically returns home to a dying father and a growing realization that he is being given a dire warning regarding the date November 11, 2011. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Hopefully that dire warning has nothing to do with the box office for this first release from Elton John’s new distribution company.
THE CONQUEST (Music Box) Genre: Biographical Drama. The incredible rise to power of French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the price he paid for that power. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Like any good story, the trailer looked both amusing and tragic.
ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN (Variance) Genre: Action. A captain in Rio de Janeiro’s elite anti-gang unit is promoted to a government position and finds that the evil that pervades the favelas truly resides in the halls of power. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 18). RATING: 2.5 One of the most acclaimed international action films of the year.
THE GREENING OF WHITNEY BROWN (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Family Adventure. A preteen from the big city is forced to move to the country when her family encounters economic hard times and doesn’t like it one bit. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Looks predictable and decidedly un-entertaining.
IMMORTALS (Relativity) Genre: Fantasy. A CGI-heavy telling of the Greek hero Theseus who battled an evil King and saved the Gods in the process. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks good but director Tarsem Singh has a history of making movies that are spectacular images for their own sake.
INTO THE ABYSS (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A look at a convicted murderer sentenced to die in eight days, the family of his victims and those performing the execution. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Werner Herzog has quickly become one of the best documentarians in the world.
JACK AND JILL (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A successful commercial director’s twin sister comes to visit for Thanksgiving and proceeds to turn his life upside down. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 When Adam Sandler’s good, he’s wicked good; when Adam Sadler’s bad…
LONDON BOULEVARD (IFC) Genre: Crime Drama. An ex-con tries to protect a movie star and her troubled sister from a vicious mob boss. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The directing debut from the writer of The Departed.
MELANCHOLIA (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. As a large object hurtles through space to obliterate the Earth, the inhabitants of our planet prepare for the end in their own ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a fascinating subject but Lars von Trier has never been one of my favorite directors so I’m kinda wait-and-see about this one.

NOVEMBER 16, 2011

THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. An indifferent father is forced to re-examine his attitudes towards parenting when his wife is gravely injured. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This looks like another great role for George Clooney.
TOMBOY (Rocket Releasing) Genre: Drama. A young girl is mistaken for a young boy and decides not to correct the error. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 Looks like a pretty insightful study on gender identification.

NOVEMBER 18, 2011

ANOTHER HAPPY DAY (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A high-strung woman brings her three troubled children to the wedding of her estranged son and initiates conflict throughout her family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Ellen Barkin is a tremendous actress – it’s wonderful to see her getting more roles.
GARBO: THE SPY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. The story of a Spanish double agent who was decorated by both the Nazis and the Allies in World War II. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Sounds like it should be a terrific documentary but trailer left me curiously uninterested.
HAPPY FEET TWO (Warner Brothers) Genre: Animated Feature. Erik, the son of Mumble the dancing penguin, has no interest in dancing. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 3.6 The trailer made this look way too much like “So You Think You Can Dance”.
THE HEIR APPARENT: LARGO WINCH (Music Box) Genre: Action Adventure. The heir to a billionaire’s fortune takes over his father’s multinational corporation with unexpected results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Has almost a video game feel to it.
IN HEAVEN, UNDERGROUND (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. A look at the Weissensee Jewish Cemetery near Berlin, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and one of the few institutions to remain in Jewish hands during the Nazi regime. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 More a look at what the Cemetery means to the modern Jewish community.
THE LIE (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. A young father who is trying to get a day off from work tells a whopping lie which will have far-reaching consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I’m not sure whether this was meant to have comedic elements or not but the trailer sure made it look that way.
RID OF ME (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A young girl tries to make her marriage perfect in an unorthodox kind of way. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 For whatever reason the studio has taken the trailer down so I’m not sure that bodes well for the movie.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The wedding of Bella and Edward signals a new danger for Bella. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The beginning of the end of the franchise that has polarized audiences for three years.
TYRANNOSAUR (Strand) Genre: Drama. A man with rage issues befriends a young woman with a devastating secret of her own. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The trailer looked awfully mesmerizing.

NOVEMBER 23, 2011

A DANGEROUS METHOD (Sony Classics) Genre: Historical Drama. The story of Freud and Jung, and the troubled young girl who came between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 A solid cast and director David Cronenberg make this one to look out for.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) Genre: Animated Feature. The clumsy younger son of Santa must save the day when Santa’s high-tech operation goes awry. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.0 The latest from the evil geniuses at Aardman Animation.
THE ARTIST (Weinstein) Genre: Romance. The fortunes of a silent film star whose career is on the wane with the advent of talkies and an up-and-coming young starlet are entwined. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A compelling trailer which indicates that this black and white movie was filmed without sound.
HUGO (Paramount) Genre: Family Fantasy. A young boy lives in the walls of a Paris train station means to solve the mystery of his father’s loss, a grouchy toy shop owner and a heart-shaped lock that has no key. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Believe it or not, this is the latest from Martin Scorsese. Yes, you read that right.
THE MUPPETS (Disney) Genre: Family. The Muppets biggest fan tries to get the gang back together again in order to save their theater which is about to be razed by a greedy oilman. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Call me Oscar the Grouch but I just never got into these furry little characters.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. A young assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl escorts Marilyn Monroe around Britain. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.1 An impressive cast with Michele Williams capturing the look and essence of Monroe down to her toes.
RAMPART (Millennium) Genre: Crime Drama. A brutal L.A. cop finds his life unraveling when he is dismissed from the force. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding January 27). RATING: 2.5 Looks like a new kind of role for Woody Harrelson.

NOVEMBER 24, 2011

THE LEGEND OF PALE MALE (Balcony Releasing) Genre: Documentary. When a wild Redtail Hawk (who haven’t lived in New York City for over a century) is evicted from its perch in a posh 5th avenue co-op, the resulting protest becomes a New York media sensation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A fascinating look at something that a lot of folks outside of the Big Apple aren’t fully aware of.

NOVEMBER 30, 2011

KHODORKOVSKY (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A man once the wealthiest man in Russia becomes a political prisoner because he dared stand up to the corrupt regime. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 This is an acutely Russian tale.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Tower Heist, J. Edgar, Immortals, Jack and Jill, Happy Feet Two, A Dangerous Method, Arthur Christmas, Hugo, The Muppets

New Releases for the Week of November 4, 2011


November 4, 2011

TOWER HEIST

(Universal) Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Judd Hirsch, Michael Pena. Directed by Brett Ratner

When the staff that work in an exclusive Manhattan apartment tower discover that their pensions have been stolen by a Wall Street billionaire who lives in the penthouse, they’re at first stunned. Some of them have nothing but their pensions to rely on and it appears that the old fraud is going to get away with it. However, the staff have a couple of aces in the hole; intricate knowledge of the tower and a school chum of the concierge who happens to be a professional thief. Even with a full house of FBI agents and security, these amateurs might have the best hand after all.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, promos and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for language and sexual content)

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

(New Line) John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Tom Lennon. The two stoner buddies have been apart for six years following their last adventure and have moved off into other circles, other friends. However a mysterious package that arrives at Kumar’s house begins a series of misadventures including the search for the perfect Christmas tree, the return of Neil Patrick Harris from the dead and the shooting of Santa Claus.  It’s quite possible that this movie will be much funnier while on drugs. Then again, most movies are. Besides, any movie with NPH in it is all right by me.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence)

Take Shelter

(Sony Classics) Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker. A quiet family man in the Midwest begins to have terrifying dreams. Terrified of what the dreams may signify, he begins to work obsessively on a storm shelter in his backyard. His odd behavior begins to put a strain on his marriage and puzzles his friends and family who begin to question his sanity, but if he’s right the consequences may be far more dire than a trip to the mental institution.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for some language)