Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Tower Heist": Recession-Friendly Film

I wasn't expecting a lot when I saw "Tower Heist," and this is probably why I loved the movie. It was pretty predictable, not at all thought-provoking, but especially in this day and age, sometimes you need those qualities in a movie. It's funny and ends with a good message: one day the rich will pay for cheating the poor. (Or something like that...I was feeling sad that I paid $6 for popcorn and am unemployed...but I think that was the moral of the story.)

Although Brett Ratner's film has been overshadowed by his off-screen antics (see: being fired from producing the Oscars for saying a homophobic slur,) he has created a fun, simple movie with some great physical comedy hijinks. Ratner also brought together a stellar cast. Ben Stiller does less mugging than usual, and often provides some of the movie's more level-headed humor. His group of misfits include Matthew Broderick, Jay Hernandez, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy--a good mix of various comedic styles.

The real standout is Alan Alda as the Bernie Madoff-esque villain who steals from everyone working at the hotel where his penthouse is located. I'm really in love with comedians doing darker pieces right now (like Albert Brooks in "Drive" and Martin Short and Lily Tomlin on FX's "Damages.") You automatically expect these actors to be humorous and lighthearted. So when they turn out to be total sociopaths, the audience gets a nice switch. This effect is a huge advantage for "Tower Heist."

My only main problem with the film was the odd choice of casting Gabourey Sidibe (Academy Award nominee for "Precious") as a Jamaican maid who specializes in breaking into safes. Her accent was super fake and distracting, which also left my mind to trail off wondering why she would even do this movie in the first place.

Overall, this was a nice film where you don't have to think too hard, and you can laugh at the general silliness the actors bring to the table.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Miss Independent Part Deux

People like to say that Kelly Clarkson has come a long way from her "American Idol" days. But the truth is, she's always been an amazing vocalist, but it is just with her last two albums that she's finally figured out the types of songs where she can truly shine. On her album, "Stronger," which premiered last month, Clarkson produces 13 tracks that showcase her ballsy, confident (sometimes vulnerable) emotions backed by an insanely wide range and funny, yet touching lyrics.

The first single, "Mr. Know It All," is a classic take on Clarkson's attitude--along with "You Can't Win" and "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," the songs deal with how the singer faces her many critics. Clarkson could be talking to music reviewers, to bloggers, to doesn't matter because anyone can relate to someone underestimating their strength.

The reason Clarkson is still popular more than a decade after her debut into pop stardom is her girl-next-door persona. Of course she's a supremely talented neighbor, but she gives off a realness often lacking from other girl singers. The new trend is for gorgeous, glamorous girls to sing about knowing what it's like to be put down: a la Katy Perry's "Fireworks" and Selena Gomez's "Who Says." While these songs are inspirational, they're kind of hard to believe coming from pop princesses. On the other hand, although Clarkson is beautiful, she's not over-manufactured. You can actually believe she's dealt with some bullying in her life.

The album is filled with catchy tunes with choruses that stick in your head (in a not-annoying way!) so it's easy to see that Clarkson will be around for a long time to come. And if anyone doubts that, she'll write a song about how wrong they are to judge.