Tower Heist

Mom Under Cover sends in this review

Tower Heist:  A

After hearing a so-so review of this film on PRI’s The Takeaway, I went expecting to have a chuckle or two.  I was pleasantly surprised–and am still sore from laughing.  Alan Alda (The Aviator) plays Shaw (think Bernie Madoff),  who occupies the penthouse of a fancy-smancy NY high rise. As the movie unfolds, we learn that Shaw bilked his investors, and lost the retirement funds of all the employees of the building.   Building Manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller, Night at the Museum) hatches a plan to steal $20M he thinks is hidden in Shaw’s penthouse.  The band of merry men includes Kovacs’ brother-in-law played beautifully by Casey Affleck (Interstellar), Matthew Broderick (Election), Michael Peña (Fury) and petty thief, Slide (Eddie Murphy, The Haunted Mansion).  The old, pre-nutty professor Eddie Murphy with his signature laugh is the perfect foil for Stiller–who pretty much seems like himself–but it works well here. Except for Slide, none of the would-be thieves have stolen so much as a glance.  Hilarity ensues.  Téa Leoni (Jurassic Park III) appears as an FBI agent and love interest for Stiller.  Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) rounds out the cast as a sassy Caribbean maid with an integral role in the heist.  Affleck and Broderick masterfully underplay their roles with perfect deadpan delivery.  Directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour), Tower Heist is a very satisfying combination of comedy and action.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A new review from The Movie Snob

Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (A-).  I made it down to the discount cinema today to see this late-summer release, and I’m glad I did.  It’s a very, very good action movie.  I understand that star James Franco (Spider-Man) kind of dissed the movie as a fluff piece, but he did a fine job as a bio-scientist obsessed with finding a cure for Alzheimer’s for his poor, suffering dad (John Lithgow, 2010).  Because he’s in a bit of a time-crunch, he kind of rushes the chimpanzee drug-trials, and as a result finds himself raising a super-intelligent chimp named Caesar (motion-capture work by Andy Serkis, King Kong).  Given the title of the movie, I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that things eventually go very badly.  But even though you know how it’s going to go, director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) keeps things fresh and lively.  Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) co-stars but doesn’t have much to do except look radiant and opine that just maybe this whole experiment wasn’t such a great idea.  Check it out.

Like Crazy

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Like Crazy (A-).  In the real world, I am a stone-hearted and unsentimental bachelor on the fast track to a curmudgeonly geezerhood.  But when it comes to the movies, I like a good love story as much as anyone and perhaps more than most.  This is a very good love story.  Jacob (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) and Anna (Felicity Jones, Brideshead Revisited) meet in college and fall madly in love.  Complications arise, of course, or there wouldn’t be a movie; the important questions are whether the complications are believable and whether the characters make you care about them.  Personally, I had no trouble going along where the movie went, and I thought the two leads had good chemistry and were quite likeable.  Okay, maybe Jacob was just a shade too passive or reserved to fully root for, but Felicity Jones does such a terrific job as sweet, vulnerable Anna as to more than make up for it.  I liked having two relative unknowns play the leads (when Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: First Class, suddenly pops up, it unbalances the movie a little bit).  And at 90 minutes, the movie moves along and doesn’t wear out its welcome.  If you like romance, don’t let this one get away.

Emma (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

Emma, by Jane Austen.  Time to scratch an item off the bucket list — I have now read all six of Jane Austen’s novels.  Lots of folks know Emma, of course, from the Gwyneth Paltrow movie version from some years back, or from the enjoyable updating of the story in Clueless, or both.  And as best I can tell, the Paltrow film was very true to the book.  Emma Woodhouse is a well-born and wealthy 20-year-old girl who is the acknowledged queen bee of the social life in a sleepy little village outside of London.  Attractive, quick-witted, and basically good-natured, she gets herself into trouble by dabbling in matchmaking and generally thinking herself much more perceptive and knowledgeable about human nature than she really is.  Of course, Austen being Austen, you must expect that things will eventually come right in the end.  I enjoyed the novel quite a bit; if it has a flaw, I would say only that it may be a little too long (over 400 pages in the edition I read).  How does it stack up against Austen’s other novels?  It’s middle of the pack, I would say.  Pride & Prejudice is undoubtedly my favorite, and I think I probably prefer Persuasion and Mansfield Park just slightly over Emma.  But I probably liked Emma better than Sense & Sensibility, and certainly better than Northanger Abbey.  But they are all good, and if you like to read at all, you owe it to yourself to give Austen an honest try.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Mom Under Cover sends us this movie review.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

C—Avoid this film unless you are prepared to be haunted by disturbing images of sexual abuse and deviance.  Martha, (Elizabeth Olsen) escapes from a cult and goes to stay with her only family . . . her sister Lucy (Sara Paulsen) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy).  All three, and cult leader played by John Hawkes, deliver solid performances.  The cinematography is also well done.  However, the viewer is forced to experience the anxiety and tension of Martha’s  attempt to re-enter normal society (She never explains to her sister where she has been).  Martha (and the viewer) shift between flashback and present day—not always knowing which is which, creating an eerie sense of the fractured personality Martha has become.  There is no resolution—the film takes place over a few weeks.  Disturbing and depressing.

Metropolis (1984 cut)

A new review from The Movie Snob

Metropolis  (B+).  The Inwood Theater ran Metropolis as its midnight movie this weekend.  Ordinarily, that’s way past my bedtime, but I was curious to see this old (1927) silent science-fiction movie, so I made the effort.  The movie has had a long and troubled history, which you can read about on wikipedia; suffice to say, Fritz Lang’s original cut was about 2 and a half hours long, but it was cut way down for American audiences, and then big chunks of the film went entirely missing for decades.  In 1984, an Italian record producer named Giorgio Moroder released a new version of the film with a new soundtrack featuring the likes of Pat Benatar and Adam Ant.  That’s the version I saw.  The movie is a tale of a dystopian future in which a ruling class of managers lives in the above-ground Metropolis, while a huge class of workers lives deep underground and toils on the enormous (and dangerous) machines that keep the city going.  The plot is melodramatic.  Somehow, a beautiful worker named Maria leads a group of worker children above ground, where she and they are seen by a manager named Freder.  Captivated by Maria, Freder learns about the workers’ terrible existence and then aspires to help them.  Unfortunately, Freder’s father is the ruler of the Metropolis, and equally unfortunately there’s a mad scientist named Rotwang who kidnaps Maria and creates a robot that looks exactly like her.  The plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the visuals are really amazing.  In one scene, Freder has a vision in which the machine underworld turns into a giant demonic face into whose maw the workers helplessly march.  There’s also a freaky cathedral in the Metropolis of cyclopean proportions and containing some freaky statuary of a sickle-bearing Death and figurative representations of the Seven Deadly Sins.  The 80s soundtrack was kind of cool; it certainly didn’t detract from the experience.

Footloose (2011)

New review from The Movie Snob

Footloose (B).  I think there’s been a lot of talk about whether this remake was really necessary.  After seeing it, I don’t particularly think so, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Although it’s been many years since I last saw the original, I think this new version is pretty darned faithful to it.  As you’ll recall, a small rural town is suffering under the lash of oppression–teenagers have a strict curfew, and dancing is positively illegal!  This state of affairs is completely unacceptable to new-in-town Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald, Clerks II), a high-school senior with a lot of angst and an acute knowledge of his constitutional right to boogie.  So Ren squares off against the preacher who spearheaded the ordinances (Hollywood’s go-to curmudgeon Dennis Quaid, Soul Surfer) while simultaneously courting the preacher’s gorgeous and slightly unhinged daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough, TV’s Dancing with the Stars).  (Can Ms. Hough act, you may ask?  Beats me.  I was blinded by her brilliant blue eyes every time she appeared on screen.)  Corny and overly earnest, it still somehow manages to work.  I would say the PG-13 rating is deserved; there is some pretty frank dialogue about sex, and Ms. Hough is not embarrassed to show off her Dancing-with-the-Stars-worthy physique.