The Maiden Heist (The Lonely Maiden)


The Maiden Heist

It's Hell to grow old - you get a lot more of your pictures going straight to DVD!

(2009) Caper Comedy (Yari Film Group) Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy, Marcia Gay Harden, Breckin Meyer, Bhavesh R. Patel, Stephen Stapinski, Philip Dorn Hebert, Anthony M. Cascio, Bart A. Piscitello Jr., Joseph McKenna, Todd Weeks. Directed by Peter Hewitt

 

Art is a very personal thing. There’s no telling what will inspire us, capture our imagination, create an obsession. That isn’t limited to the wealthy and educated – anyone can find themselves captivated by a work of art.

That’s what happened to Roger Barlow (Walken). He’s a security guard for the Boston Art Museum and one of the paintings under his charge, The Lonely Maiden has gotten under his skin. The forlorn look of the maiden standing on the beach has him scouring the internet for information on the artwork and its artist to the point he knows more about it than the docents do.

He’s not alone in this regard. Fellow security guards Charles Peterson (Freeman) and George McLendon (Macy) have a similar problem, albeit with different works of art. In George’s case, he has a statue that’s a particular favorite; it inspires him to get naked and imitate the statue’s pose – alongside the statue itself. To each their own.

Charles has a thing about a picture of a woman with cats on a different floor of the museum. All of the men are friendly with one another until they get yet another thing in common – their pieces of art have been sold by the Curator (Weeks) to a Danish Art Museum. Suddenly, it appears their obsessions will be taken from them. All three agree that this can’t stand.

They decide that their obsessions must be stolen and replaced by fakes. Not being particularly adept artists themselves, they enlist a starving artist (Meyer) to recreate the artwork to the standards of the men. This isn’t easy as the men are very particular and they need to be – the artwork has to be good enough to fool the experts.

They have a pretty foolproof plan but there are a few snags – one of them being Roger’s wife Rose (Harden) who dreams of Florida and is amassing the funds for a vacation there. In order to pay the starving artist to do the work they need (and get other supplies needed for the switchola) Roger has to raid his wife’s vacation fund without her knowing. The fact of the matter is that these are far from being professionals – will they be able to pull this off?

I think with a cast like this one, a lot of people might be surprised they’ve never heard of this film. It was due to be released back in May 2009 but the bankruptcy of the distributor left it dangling in the wind. The movie was eventually picked up by Sony and sent straight to DVD – do not pass Go, do not collect, well anything.

And quite frankly there’s a reason Sony didn’t put this into theaters. Despite the cast full of Oscar winners and nominees, the movie is pretty scattered. The plot goes careening all over the map like an out of control radio controlled plane before crashing in a neighbor’s yard. The caper aspects kind of don’t make sense a lot of time and stretch credibility.

At least with a cast of actors this distinguished you know you’re not going to get amateurish performances. Walken and Freeman acquit themselves well, although Macy looks decidedly uncomfortable as a guy who is something of a pervert – and not in a good way. Harden winds up being shrill and unlikable for the most part, until the very last reel. She was certainly misused here.

I generally like caper movies but they have to be smart and they have to be clever (which sounds like the same thing but it isn’t). This one is neither and despite the stellar cast misfires most of the time. There are a few moments here and there that work (particularly near the end) but too much of the movie relies on stupid people doing stupid things – which is just lazy writing.

WHY RENT THIS: The actors give it a good college try and there are some poignant moments.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Kind of a mess with the caper aspect being the worst offender. Too many clichés spoil the plot.

FAMILY VALUES: There are a few curse words scattered throughout, some brief nudity and a bit of fantasy violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The art museum scenes were primarily filmed at the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s a blooper reel…and not much else.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Zookeeper

Assassination of a High School President


Assassination of a High School President

Reece Daniel Thompson has an unusual medical condition in which he is unable to see pretty girls, which amuses Mischa Barton no end.

(2008) Faux Noir (Yari Film Group) Mischa Barton, Reece Daniel Thompson, Bruce Willis, Michael Rapaport, Kathryn Morris, Melonie Dias, Josh Pais, Luke Grimes, Patrick Taylor, Zoe Kravitz, Aaron Himmelstein, Joe Perrino, Tanya Fischer. Directed by Brett Simon

Teenagers are kind of stuck with a raw deal. They have little life experience but the pressure is on them to be cool, conform – and yet stand out. Of late, there have been a few movies here and there that have attempted to make teenaged film noir – movies like Brick and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys come immediately to mind – complete with world-weary tough guy narration, albeit hipped up to sound somewhat semi-authentic although usually by the time the film is released the jargon is hopelessly out-dated.

This falls in that school, although with considerably less polish. In this film, Bobby Funke (Thompson) – whose last name is pronounced “funk” but is consistently pronounced as “funky” throughout the movie – is an ambitious sophomore at the prestigious Catholic school St. Donovan. He is looking to nab himself a spot in Northwestern University’s summer journalism program, despite the small issue that he has been unable to finish a story to date.

His editor Clara (Dias) has him do a piece on the student body president Paul Moore (Taylor). Moore’s a basketball star and like many of the students at St. Donovan’s finds enjoyment in bullying Bobby. When Principal Kirkpatrick (Willis) discovers that SAT tests have been stolen from the school safe, he rounds up a bunch of the usual suspects, including Paul.

Paul is essentially ready to give up but at the urging of Francesca Facchini (Barton), one of the most beautiful and popular girls in school, he begins to dig into the case of the stolen SATs. All of the evidence points to Paul being the culprit. Bobby finally completes an article which prompts Principal Kirkpatrick to open Paul’s locker where the missing tests are found.

Clara submits Bobby’s article to Northwestern which wins him the coveted scholarship to the summer internship. Bobby goes from zero to hero, but his nature is to take nothing at face value and as he begins to dig deeper, he discovers a deeper, more sinister conspiracy going on.

This is one of those movies that takes itself far more seriously than it deserves to. While Thompson gives it a game effort, much of the dialogue and characterization makes him look and sound like an arrogant prick, not exactly an ideal way to get the audience to identify with him. Barton, taking on the role of the femme fatale, has the look down pat but not the sensuality quite yet. Don’t get me wrong – she’s a beautiful, sexy woman – but there is a difference between being beautiful and sexy and being a femme fatale; it’s beautiful and sexy on steroids.

Willis is fun to watch here; not only is he the school principal, he’s a one-legged ex-Marine who bleeds red, white and blue and no doubt has an American eagle tattooed on his tush. There are roles that call for excessive scenery chewing and Willis chows down with gusto. Make no mistake; Willis can go over-the-top with the best of them and so his casting here could only be called inspired.

Too bad the filmmakers didn’t take Bruno’s lead. Movies that turn out to be hip are generally efforts that don’t try to be, and you can tell this one is trying real hard. I don’t have an issue with teens doing noir – I just have a problem with teen noir done badly. There are some moments here that are enough to redeem this somewhat (generally the ones with Willis in them) but by and large this is one that you haven’t heard of for a reason.

WHY RENT THIS: Willis has a good time with the movie. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Regards itself as being much cooler than it actually is. Hard to get behind characters who are arrogant and spoiled. 

FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of nudity, a good deal of sexual content, a whole lot of bad language and a fair amount of drug and alcohol use, the lot of it done by teens.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was to have received a wide release on February 27, 2009 but the distribution company’s bankruptcy prevented it. It was released direct-to-DVD on October 6, 2009.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $69,564 on an unreported production budget; there is absolutely no way this movie made any sort of profit.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat