New to DVD – “Tower Heist,” “J. Edgar,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene”

Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller in "Tower Heist"

Tower Heist

The real disappointment in “Tower Heist” is that this movie has sold out its audience.  Those who do not know better will think they are seeing a good heist film.  For the cost of some zinging dialogue and a CGI (computer graphics imaging) created set piece, director Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” movies) and his team of no less than five writers, have bought their audience cheap.  No less at fault is the cast, which includes Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick.

To begin with “Tower Heist” has next to no suspense.  The premise is that a group of former, and some current, employees of an exclusive high-rise security tower decide to burgle one of the building’s apartments.  What follows is a “paint by numbers,” shamelessly contrived, logic defying heist, which goes according to the story’s most extreme convenience.

Eddie Murphy, plays, well, Eddie Murphy in the form of a character named Slide.  Slide is the cool, loud, street smart, trash talking, experienced African American criminal who teaches the, largely white, “nebbishy” gang of would be criminals how to be crooks.  While Murphy is certainly perfect for the role, he does not break new ground.  Considering how infrequently this talented actor and comedian appears in films, it is a missed opportunity.

My advice.  Your “Tower Heist” transportation and ticket money will be better spent going to your Netflix account, or library, to see the following well done, heist movies:  “The Anderson Tapes” (1971), “The Taking of Pelham 123” (1974), “The Killing” (1956), and “Who’s Minding the Mint” (1967), for starters.

J. Edgar

Director Clint Eastwood’s “bio-pic” of famed FBI director J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, uses the past to comment on the present while presenting an interesting issue of truth in media.   In Hoover’s day, as now, terrorism was a concern.  While there was no 9/11, there were Bolshevik revolutionaries setting off bombs in America. The film depicts Hoover as an uptight, “spit and polish” martinet who pioneered criminal science at a time when it was not taken seriously.  Hoover felt that the average American feared for his safety and, according to this telling, went too far, trampling on civil liberties in the process. The issue is raised about due process of law verses neutralizing a threat to our country.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.

DiCaprio is quite good, playing Hoover as a young man, and also, under tons of make up, as an older man.  The film cuts back and forth between past and present. Granted the make up, at points, strains credibility, but I am hard pressed to think of a film where the age make up is completely successful.

“J. Edgar” depicts Hoover as a complex individual, who, while committed to doing good, fell victim to the old adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Martha Marcy May Marlene

The new movie “Martha Marcy May Marlene” desperately wants indie street cred.  Everything, from its nearly impossible to remember title, to its rural settings and interminable long takes, makes the film play like a spoof of an independent film.  If only it was.

Martha, the titular character, has escaped from a cult in upstate New York.  Think Manson Family light, led by standard issue tall, skinny leader complete with tiny, devilish beard and bad skin.  Martha moves in with her, well off, sympathetic sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and unsympathetic brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) at their summer home on a lake in Connecticut. Not the greatest house guest, Martha proves herself to be alternately unbalanced and unsympathetic.

“M4” is slowly paced and features unlikable characters, about whom it is difficult to care.  Many of the film’s scenes play out in endless, single shots.  I had the impression that not enough coverage (alternate angles, close-ups, etc.) was shot for many of the scenes. Why else are so many of them long and lifeless?  My guess is that there was nothing else to cut to, to speed up the proceedings.  I can think of no greater proof than the fact that an audience member, at the showing I attended, fell asleep twice and began to snore each time.  The incident elicited knowing laughs from fellow audience members, clearly sympathetic to the man’s plight.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on February 20, 2012, in Feature Articles, Now on DVD and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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