'The Heist' falls flat, 'The Way' tells life-affrming tale
Published Friday, November 4, 2011 9:07AM EDT
Richard's Review: 2 1/2 stars
Eddie Murphy's journey from edgy comedian to beloved family entertainer has been a rough trip. Kiddie comedies and daddy roles sidelined him for much of the last twenty years, and for every highpoint, like the Donkey character in "Shrek," there is a "Norbit." For every "Dreamgirls," there's a "Haunted Mansion" or "Imagine That." It's been tough to be an Eddie Murphy fan, watching his trademark acerbic comedy dulled by fat suits. Anyway, his transformation was never entirely convincing because Murphy always had too much edge to be Bill Cosby or even Steve Martin.
"Tower Heist," his new film with Ben Stiller and an all-star ensemble cast, sees him turning to the style that made him famous in movies like "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop." The question is, will audiences still care?
Directed by "Rush Hour's" Brett Ratner, the movie has a ripped-from-the-headlines story. Allan Alda is Arthur Shaw, a Bernie Madoff character whose Ponzi scheme defrauded his clients out of millions of dollars. Among those burned by his scam were the employees of his luxury high rise. Having lost their pension plan the building's manager, Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller) concocts a plan to break into Shaw's apartment and steal his personal $20 million stash. When his posse of employees -- Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe -- proves to be less than criminally adept Kovacs brings in an old friend and ex-con, Slide (Murphy), to run the operation.
It's nice to see Eddie Murphy in a movie that allows him to drop his beloved family entertainer guise and bring back some of the bravado that we loved in movies like "48 Hours." It's just too bad the movie feels like it was made thirty years ago. Despite its Bernie Madoff storyline it feels old fashioned.
For the most part it's rescued by the chemistry of the cast who bring some much needed fun to this preposterous story.
Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe are the standouts. Pena has great comic timing and a perpetual dazed look on his face and Sidibe shows that she can do something other than the ennui of "Precious."
Also interesting is watching Ben Stiller as the straight man to Murphy's wisecracks. The movie definitely picks up when Murphy is on screen. I loved hearing Murphyisms like, "I will blow your face clean off your face!"
Despite the cast, however, I just couldn't shake the feeling that the actual robbery, despite a few twists here and there, was completely unbelievable. I don't mind suspending part of my disbelief. But the sheer lunacy of the crime took me out of the movie.
Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars
"The Way" is a way better movie than you would imagine from a director who was once a Brat Packer and whose most famous character admitted to taping "Larry Lester's buns together" in "The Breakfast Club." It's also a family affair with Emilio Estevez directing his father Martin Sheen in the lead role.
Sheen plays Tom, a complacent optometrist whose adult son (Estevez) is killed in a freak accident while walking the El Camino de Santiago from France to Spain. After collecting his son's ashes in France, Tom decides to continue his son's journey and walk the 800-plus kilometre pilgrimage. What begins as a physical trek turns into a spiritual journey as he spreads his son's ashes and forms a small family of fellow travellers (Yorick van Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger and James Nesbitt) before reaching his goal of seeing the burial site of the remains of the apostle Saint James at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
"The Way" is a road movie. Not the Bob and Bing kind of thing where people burst into song and Dorothy Lamour does the samba, but a movie that really is about the journey and the lessons learned along the way.
Estevez has made a thoughtful film with beautiful scenery, complex characters and just a few too many walking montages. The characters walk and walk, which is fine because mostly they are going somewhere both physically and mentally. But fewer steps might have made for a tighter film.
Estevez allows the story to breath, but sometimes, like the hikers themselves, the story breathes a little too heavily. There aren't many lighthearted moments here and Sheen brings dignity and gravitas to his role, but several moments meant to tug at the heart strings fall flat.
"The Way" is a heartfelt and interesting film that occasionally over reaches. Still, it succeeds in telling a life affirming story.
Richard's Review: 1/2 stars
It's not often you find two Oscar winners headlining an almost direct-to-video movie (it played at the Toronto International Film Festival and a week in limited release). But "Trespass" features Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman in a movie so forgettable it's possible the studio simply forgot to schedule a run in theatres.
The movie takes place almost entirely inside the multimillion-dollar home of Kyle and Sarah Miller (Cage and Kidman). He's a hotshot real estate agent with a secret; she's a bored "Stepford" wife. The suburban ennui of their lives is shattered by a home invasion. When Kyle tries to negotiate with the baddies the situation escalates until the lives of everyone are at stake.
As a tribute to the thrillers of the 1980s "Trespass" is on the right track, except for the complete lack of thrills. Told without an ounce of urgency, the story begs for some twists and turns but they don't come. The movie unfolds in such predictable ways -- not even Nicolas Cage's usual histrionics can breathe life into this zombified script.
First of all, Cage is badly miscast. The ideal part for him would have been the lead villain, but it's not the movie star role. His face would have been hidden for much of the movie and he's far from the hero of the piece, but at least he's halfway interesting.
Cage's take on Kyle is by the book. He simply goes through the motions.
As for Nicole... it's time to bring back the fake nose and once again do movies that are worthy of her talent.
Having said all this, I doubt "Trespass" will hurt the careers of anyone involved here. In a couple of months no one will remember this movie ever existed.