Friday, November 4, 2011

A Heist, a Downer and French Sex

“Tower Heist” Another Caper Movie With Big Stars

By Skip Sheffield

Everyone likes a good caper movie. That’s why Hollywood keeps making them.
The latest is “Tower Heist.” The only original twist is the unique form of the fortune the heisters seek. I won’t give it away.
“Tower Heist” is light, entertaining fare with a decent cast. Ben Stiller is Josh Kovacs, the harried manager of a Donald Trump-type Manhattan high-rise.
Alan Alda is Arthur Shaw, the Bernie Madoff-like tenant who owns the building and lives in the penthouse suite.
Alda seems to relish this kind of capitalist-pig role, and he makes Shaw really reprehensible and ripe for a fall. Shaw has bilked investors for millions, maybe billions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme. The losers include his employees, who stand to have their pension fund wiped out.
That fund figures out to about $20 million, which is the sum Kovacs calculates Shaw has stashed in his penthouse safe.
So Kovacs enlists fellow employees and losers to cook up a scheme to break into Shaw’s penthouse and steal the stash. The guys include Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Michael Pena, and since none has criminal experience, Kovacs enlists recently-released convict Slide (Eddie Murphy) to pull off the caper.
The presence of Eddie Murphy doing his wiseguy thing guarantees some chuckles. Gabourey Sidibe, the young woman who was so moving in “Precious,” shows she has comic chops too in her small role of Ponzi loser Odessa.
Like most caper movies the premise is wildly improbable, but under the direction of Miami Beach native Bret Ratner, at least it’s fun.

"Gainsbourg" a Musical, Sexy French Romp

Love a sexy French film? “Gainsbourg” is your ticket.
“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life” is the ironic title of a film by comic book artist Joann Sfar, inspired by the real life of French-Jewish artist, pianist, songwriter, singer and lover, Serge Gainsbourg.
Born Lucien Ginsburg to Russian-Jewish parents, Serge (Eric Elmosino) as he later re-named himself, was precocious musically and sexually. Lucien had an enormous hooked beak of a nose, which we see parodied in a cartoon puppet figure which represents his alter ego. We see Lucien rejected by girl because he is “too ugly,” but that never stopped the confident Serge-to-be.
Once Serge Gainsbourg became a musical star, women were only too happy to jump into his bed. In one notable scene we see him happily fornicating on the bed of rival artist Salvatore Dali.
“Gainsbourg’ is studded with celebrities of the 1960s era; most noticeably Brigitte Bardot (Laetitia Casta) who then was at the peak of her movie stardom. Other beauties he wooed and won were Juliette Greco (Anna Mouglalis) and Jane Birkin (Lucy Gordon).
Serge Gainsbourg never made much of an impact in the USA. The only song of his I remember is the torrid “Je T’Aime,” with its breathy feminine spoken lyric, which was banned in many parts. Judging from this film, Serge (he died in 1991 at age 63) was quite a guy. Eric Elmosino has already won Best Actor awards in France and New York’s Tribeca Film Festival). Serge Gainsbourg is vivid proof you never know what a woman is attracted to. His legacy lives on in his daughter, singer-actress Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Too Happy? "Son of No One" Will Bring You Down

“Son of No One” is a gloomy little film that reminds one how bad in was in New York City just a decade ago.
Channing Tatum stars as Jonathan “Milk” White, a rookie cop assigned to New York’s notoriously rough and violent 118th Precinct. It’s 2002 and Milk lives with his lovely young wife Kerry (Katie Holmes) on Staten Island.
When mysterious hand-written notes begin arriving at the office of much-raking newspaper reporter Loren Bridges (Juliette Binoche), evidence of a cover-up of two murders that occurred in 1986 begins to emerge. That’s all you need to know to realize this is probably not going to lead to a happy ending.
Writer-director Dito Montiel has Katie Holmes and Juliette Binoche playing against type as tough, angry, foul-mouthed women. Also playing against type is Tracy Morgan as a docile grown up but broken childhood friend of Milk.
Playing the types for which they are so well-known are Al Pacino, chief of the 118th in 1986 and Ray Liotta as his 2002 counterpart.
If nothing else, “Son of No One” is gritty and seems real. That’s what makes it such a downer.