Did Hollywood have anything to do with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement? The whole thing seems a little bit convenient. Last month saw the behind-the-meltdown docudrama Margin Call and the sci-fi metaphor In Time. Now we have Tower Heist a comedy that pits the blue collar staff of the Trump Tower against a thieving Bernie Madoff-esque tenant. The movie's an Ocean's 11 for the 99% with a sense of timeliness that makes the simple plotting and wisecracking that much more effective.
Ben Stiller stars as Josh Kovacs overseer of all the goings-on at the Tower. He wakes up before dawn and heads home after sunset spending his day catering to the occupants of the ritzy apartment complex and managing his eclectic crew—including former Burger King cook Enrique (Michael Peña) Jamaican maid Odessa (Gabourey Sidibe) and his slacker brother-in-law Charlie (Casey Affleck). The crew's greatest concern is multi-billionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) the penthouse resident Tower board member and thanks to attention paid trusted friend of Josh.
Trusted...until the FBI busts Shaw for stealing millions including the Tower employees' pensions.
Like all good tower heists Josh's titular harebrained scheme is prompted by a drunken night out with lead investigator Claire (Téa Leoni) who tips the irked manager off to Shaw's hidden stash: a possible eight-figure sum hidden somewhere in his apartment. In pursuing the American dream of revenge Josh recruits his slighted co-workers along with distraught former-millionaire Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Josh's childhood friend-turned-thief Slide (Eddie Murphy). Together the motley crew concocts a plan to retrieve what's rightfully theirs—all while sinking Shaw in the process.
Tower Heist isn't as slick or intricate as the Ocean movies but its straightforward take on the crime genre is strengthened by Stiller Murphy and the rest of the cast's ability to inject ridiculous humor into sympathetic characters. When Josh realizes his decade spent commanding the operations of the Tower were for naught he wigs out marching up to the top floor to beat the crap out of Shaw's priceless convertible (it was owned by Steve McQueen in case you were wondering why anyone would keep an antique car on the top floor of a building). Not entirely realistic but relatable which sums up every over-the-top satisfying scenario these characters find themselves throughout the film.
Most importantly Tower Heist delivers on the funny. Playing the straight man is an art and Stiller's one of the masters (although you'd never know it from his Night at the Museum shtick or wackier roles like Zoolander) riffing off his co-stars while giving them ample time to be complete weirdos. The movie is being touted as a comeback for Murphy but he wisely steps into a supporting role delivering on his character's manic charm while never trying to steal the spotlight. The one who really steals the show is Broderick whose clueless neurotic Fitzhugh can't help relapsing mid-heist into memories of luxurious trips to Greece.
Credit goes to director Brett Ratner who cranked out three Rush Hour movies and an X-Men threequel while never really nailing down what it takes to make a group dynamic work. Here he pulls it off finding the right beats to make Tower Heist funny and thrilling. There are moments during the actual heist scene set during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade that cause quite a stir—a rarity in today's run-of-the-mill thrill rides.
Tower Heist is the definition of a cinematic softball avoiding risky choices and utilizing each actor to their previously known (and successful) traits without feeling lazy. As the holidays roll in and families look for something they all can enjoy Tower Heist delivers a little something for everyone. Except maybe Bernie Madoff.
Morning Glory like its director Roger Michell’s most notable film Notting Hill doesn’t reinvent the wheel but takes it for a pleasant spin around town. He trades the grey skies of London for the skyscrapers of Manhattan with a fun if formulaic romantic comedy that boasts an impressive but underused cast including Harrison Ford Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum.
Of course the real star of the show is Becky Fuller the behind-the-scenes boss of fictional network IBS’ (what a name) fledgling morning show Daybreak played by America’s newest sweetheart Rachel McAdams. She gives Becky spunk sexiness and a strong resolve to succeed in a business that isn’t kind to new recruits. Her task is simple to grasp but hard to execute: revive the show and boost its ratings. Had she been working with Matt Lauer or Diane Sawyer the job would’ve been easy but the film would’ve missed out on the possibilities for screwball workplace comedy.
The heartiest laughs are provided by supporting characters like Ty Burell’s Paul McVee who is more entertaining to watch in his ten minutes of screen time than the majority of the core cast throughout the film’s 102 minute run. Not every character is meant for comic relief though like Ford’s growling curmudgeon Mike Pomeroy a hard-nosed award-winning journalist and relic of the past in a world more interested in “fluff” over facts. Pomeroy is strong-armed by Becky into Daybreak co-hosting duties because of a clause in his contract and he does everything he can to make her life a living hell. His reluctance to cooperate is eventually undermined as a result of a “mutual understanding” between the two but it feels unauthentic as he betrays his own ideals for a barely developed friendship.
Even more phony is the virtually useless love angle between Becky and Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) a fellow producer at IBS who advises her not to hire Pomeroy based on his own negative experience with the seasoned commentator. You could remove the character from the film completely without affecting the end result. Unfortunately the same can be said for Keaton’s co-host Colleen Peck whose arc mirrors Ford’s but who arrives at the finish line first. It’s a shame really because both are fine actors who could have done a lot more with characters with a bit more depth.
Its message about the sad state of American media aside depth isn’t what Morning Glory is about. This is a cheery comedy with a few chuckles and plenty of charm. Sure it’s silly but it’s definitely not stupid and doesn’t get overly sentimental. The script courtesy of The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna is sharp enough to entertain if you don’t think too hard about it. It may not be the most memorable movie you’ll see this winter but it’ll surely bring a smile to your face.
Britney makes marriage official, drops manager
Pop princess Britney Spears formalized her union with dancer Kevin Federline on Thursday, filing for a marriage license, Reuters reports. As Spears, 22, and Federline, 26, exchanged vows in a secret wedding ceremony in Los Angeles last month, rival tabloid magazines reported the marriage may have been fake. Spears acknowledged then that the couple had yet to file a marriage license--as California law requires within 90 days of the ceremony--but insisted their wedding was real. "All the proper paperwork was dealt with [Thursday], filed, done. It's all legal," Spears' publicist, Leslie Sloane, told Reuters. At the same time she finalized her nuptials, Spears also split with her longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, who announced Thursday that he and the singer had "mutually agreed not to renew their nine-year management relationship." Rudolph is credited with discovering the Louisiana native when she was just 13 years old, helping guide her early career and building her into one of the most successful recording stars in recent years. In a statement, Rudolph said, "Britney and I simply realized what we have done all we can do together."
Stewart reports to jail
Homemaking guru Martha Stewart arrived at a minimum-security prison in Alderson, West Virginia, known as "Camp Cupcake" in the wee hours of the morning Friday to begin her five-month sentence, Reuters reports. Stewart told her fans through her Web site, "By the time you read this, I will have reported to…begin serving my five-month sentence." The former chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, who vows to make a comeback, was found guilty in March of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice--all stemming from her suspicious sale of stock in biotech firm ImClone Systems Inc. on Dec. 27, 2001.
Etheridge diagnosed with cancer
Rocker Melissa Etheridge has been diagnosed with breast cancer and has canceled upcoming tour dates to undergo treatment, The Associated Press reports. Etheridge, 43, will undergo surgery and her doctor expects a "speedy and complete recovery," publicist Marcel Pariseau said in a statement, after detecting the cancer early. "I am fortunate to be under a wonderful doctor's care and thankful that this was caught early," Etheridge said in the statement. "I am looking forward to a quick and full recovery."
Kidman causes a stir at Paris fashion show
Chaos erupted on the Paris catwalk on Friday as Nicole Kidman arrived to launch her promotional campaign for Chanel's legendary No 5 perfume, AP reports. Kidman was there to shoot a two-minute film, directed by her good friend Baz Luhrmann, in which she plays an actress who flees photographers at a movie premiere and ends up romancing a handsome stranger, played by Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro. Designer Karl Lagerfeld created a red-carpeted runway for Friday's show to mimic the campaign, and life promptly imitated art as photographers swarmed in to get a shot of Kidman. "I thought he made it really fun and vibrant," Kidman said backstage after the show. Chanel is hoping the advertising blitz will help it win the battle for the all-important Christmas perfume market.
Thornton gets star on Walk of Fame
Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thornton got his very own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame Thursday, AP reports, as well as a special message from ex-wife Angelina Jolie in a full-page Variety ad: "Billy, I love your brilliant mind…Congratulations! With love and respect always, Angie." Joked Thornton to AP Television News: "You know, it's funny….I've only met Angie Dickinson once." But the 49-year-old actor was modest about the honor. "You can try to be humble about this kind of thing and say, 'Oh well, it's fine or whatever,'" Thornton told the crowd. "But the fact of the matter is it's a huge honor and I appreciate it so much."
Incubus singer detained at NY airport
Brandon Boyd, the lead singer of the rock band Incubus, was arrested Wednesday at LaGuardia Airport after carrying a switchblade in his bag, AP reports. Boyd, who was on his way to a concert gig in North Carolina, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon but was able to continue his travels in time for the concert, a spokeswoman for the band's label, Epic Records, told AP. Boyd admitted he accidentally left the knife in his bag and called the incident "my bad," spokeswoman Lois Najarian said. "I totally forgot it was at the bottom of my bag, and when the security person pulled it out, I thought, 'Oh, no,'" Boyd said in a statement Thursday.