There is nothing earth-shattering about “Tower Heist,” but it still works on its own level.
Taking a large and talented cast and adding a simple story that plays to the current financial crisis, the film delivers a solid, crowd-pleasing action comedy.
The large cast includes Ben Stiller as Josh, the manager of a Trump Tower-like high-rise with some of New York’s wealthiest residents.
This includes Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda), a Bernie Madoff-type investor who is under investigation by the FBI for fraud.
Josh learns that the fraud includes Arthur swindling most of the staff out of their retirement funds and decides to get revenge. Enlisting the help of several employees (Casey Affleck, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe), a former resident of the building (Matthew Broderick) and a neighborhood thief (Eddie Murphy), Josh hatches a plan to break into Arthur’s apartment and steal back the money Arthur stole from the employees.
“Tower Heist” has a pretty familiar feel to it, but it works thanks in large part to the cast. All play their respective roles well and seem to be having fun. Alda is really good, while Broderick, Stiller and Affleck are solid as well.
But the film belongs to Murphy, who delivers his best live-action comedy performance since “Bowfinger.” Murphy channels his Axel Foley from “Beverly Hills Cop” and Reggie Hammonds from “48 Hours” here, stealing every scene he is in as the fast-talking petty thief Slide.
When Murphy is on screen, “Tower Heist” really sizzles. But even when Murphy isn’t around (which is most of the movie), “Tower Heist” is still good enough to satisfy moviegoers looking for a mildly entertaining comic diversion.
This week’s dandy is the dream-like indie drama “Bellflower” (A), a challenging piece of work written, directed and starring Evan Glodell that has been called a cross between a John Hughes film and “Mad Max.”
That simple description doesn’t serve it justice. This is a special piece of work that engages, shocks and fascinates. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2011.
“Bellflower” starts out simple enough. Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are best friends who build flame throwers and a muscle car in preparation for a possible apocalypse. One night Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) at a bar, and it is love at first sight. The pair embark on one of the most original first dates ever, a road trip from California to Texas for dinner at a greasy roadside dinner, which sets the stage for a blossoming romance.
In the opening days of their relationship, Milly tells Woodrow, “You don’t want me to be your girlfriend, because I will hurt you.” As “Bellflower” progresses, her comment becomes prophetic, with the relationship deteriorating into a dark - and possibly violent - direction.
This is refreshing and original - leaving you off balance with its unorthodox approach. With its grainy sepia tones, there is a sense of reality being blurred that becomes important in the film’s second half. The result is a narrative structure that is at times confusing and somewhat unclear, but it demands your attention because you have no idea where it is going.
“Bellflower” starts out as a sweet and tender love story, where you really start to develop an interest for the characters and their relationship. It then dissolves into something much more tragic and dark, a shift that is sure to turn off some viewers.
That shift in tone, and narrative, will definitely leave some cold and confused by what transpires and unsure how it all fits together.
I still have my doubts about the conclusion, which I found perplexing yet satisfying. After reflection, I realized that dark pit in my stomach I felt during the second half wasn’t because I didn’t like the abrupt shift from sweet romance to a tragic and brutally violent series of moments that challenge the audience. It was because I cared so much about what happened to these people, that it hurt me to watch them hurt. It takes a pretty powerful piece of work to make you care that much, but “Bellflower” succeeds.
“Bellflower” is rated R for disturbing violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use, and will be available Tuesday on DVD.