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Movie Review: Tower Heist

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Mike Finkelstein lost a lot of money in the stock market.  It turns out that Alan Alda, who seems to be the nicest guy in the world in M.A.S.H, is kind of an SOB.  With that, Mike decided he’d steal from Alda.  He still likes M.A.S.H though.  Here is his review of “Tower Heist”.

PLOT: When the staff of a New York high-rise is swindled out of their life savings by the building’s richest tenant (Alan Alda) and his Ponzi scheme, the building’s manager (Ben Stiller) decides to take him for everything he’s got: a rumored hidden nest egg of $20 Million in cash.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  In a day and age where the economy is in shambles, the stock market is all but crashed, and the middle class is the dying victim of rich banks, traders, and Bernie Madoffs, what better way to escape from it all than with an action-comedy film that takes it all back?  TOWER HEIST, despite being in development since 2005, was released at the perfect time.  It is amazingly relevant to the country’s situation today, and it gives us a chance to feel like for once, we’re back in the driver’s seat.  Oh yeah…and it’s pretty damn funny, too.

TOWER HEIST follows the hard working employees of New York’s The Tower.  Led by dedicated building manager Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), it is their job to cater to every need of their rich tenants.  But when the building’s richest resident, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is arrested for a Ponzi scheme that included the pensions of all the employees, Kovacs takes it upon himself to go after Shaw’s rumored safety net—$20 Million in cash.  He enlists the help of the building’s best misfits, including his by-the-rules brother-in-law (Casey Affleck), a destroyed former stock player and resident (Matthew Broderick), the new dumb as nails elevator operator (Michael Pena) and a smart-aleck, sexed up Jamaican maid (Gabourey Sidibe), as well as the only possible ‘thief’ he could think of: a random loudmouth neighbor and old pre-school classmate named Slide (Eddie Murphy).

With this cast, it’s obvious that there is a lot of fun to be had.  The pace doesn’t stop, and the story keeps building to the point where you’re not sure where they’re going next.  While both Murphy and Stiller are top billed, Stiller is no doubt the leading man, and (ironically enough for anyone who has seen his other movies) the straight man of the group.  Yes, he sports a really horrible Brooklyn accent, but the way that he cares for all his staff shines through and makes him someone you want to root for.

As for the rest of the band of wannabe thieves, the laughs are pretty well spread out.  Everyone gets their moment to shine, most specifically Murphy and Broderick.  After almost a decade of us wanted to gouge our eyes out from PLUTO NASH to MEET DAVE, Murphy is back in form, giving us a taste of what he used to be with curse after curse and welcomed long, tightly cut rants that’ll make Robin Williams jealous.  (If only he could follow this up with something just as rewarding, instead of A THOUSAND WORDS.)  Broderick’s subtle sarcasm plays wonderfully, and made for many quick laughs (if you were smart enough to catch them).

The person who really steals the scenes, though, is Alan Alda as the ruthless and downright disgusting Arthur Shaw.  Alda is known for M.A.S.H. and being a ridiculously nice guy, but here, he is so slimy and sinister, you just want to scratch him every time he hits the screen.  He doesn’t exude over-the-top anger and fierceness, but rather cuts through our crew with his comments, knowing that they are nothing in comparison to him.  Absolutely revolting.

With all the good of TOWER HEIST, there are some major plot holes that weighs it down.  The entire set up for the climax, having to do with the changing of a court date, comes out of nowhere and with no explanation as to how it was possible.  Also, moving something from point A to point B during that climax, all on the fly and not planned, was just too damn ridiculous.  After seeing the group attempting to do things according to plan, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth to see it all fall apart due to bad storytelling.  Luckily for us, the quick movements and closing moments sweep that taste away and replace it with something pretty satisfying.

TOWER HEIST is not a perfect movie by any means, but it works.  Yes, it has its flaws, but as both a comedy and a heist film, it delivers an entertaining and satisfying story, and that’s more than what I can say for many other movies out there today.  If you’re looking to kill two hours and enjoy a few laughs with some old friends (welcome back Eddie!) I’d definitely recommend it.

And if you disagree, then hopefully, you’ve learned enough from those two hours to steal something worth the price of your movie tickets…

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) EDDIE MURPHY’S BACK!: After having to suffer through even the previews of movies like MEET DAVE, IMAGINE THAT, and NORBIT, it’s awesome to see Murphy back in form.  The guy was raunchy, cursing, and the best part of the film by far.  I really hope that after A THOUSAND WORDS gets released, he finally moves on from that crap for good.

2) MATTHEW BRODERICK: I haven’t been a fan of Broderick for a while, but here, he plays depressing and sarcastic beautifully, making for some really subtle, hearty laughs.

3) DESTROYING A CAR IS FUN: Yeah…I just had a lot of fun watching this scene.  Who doesn’t want to take a golf club to a car once in a while?

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) BEN STILLER’S BROOKLYN ACCENT: Maybe it’s because I grew up in Queens, but hearing a Brooklyn accent from a kid who grew up in Astoria by Steinway Blvd (it’s a Street…) just made me cringe.

2) DRUNKEN FBI AGENT: Too easy/cliché, no?

3) THE TOWER: I get that it was probably the perfect location and structure,  but imagine using the Empire State Building and calling it The State Building.  Strange to see Trump digitally replaced with The.

4) NO ONE SEES THAT?!: Can’t even explain this, but all I’m saying is if someone is always able to spot someone trying to jump from a ledge 30 stories up, there is no way that this went unnoticed.

5) PLOT HOLES?: When you have major details that need an explanation, you don’t just let it pass like nothing happened.  Hopefully, this’ll be resolved in the deleted scenes.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Because filming actually took place during the summer, fake snow was used when Slide teaches the guys how to pick locks on the rooftop.

2) The film was first being developed as an “African American OCEAN’S ELEVEN, with Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock considered to star.  When Ben Stiller was signed on as the lead, the role was rewritten and tailored for him.

 

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REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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