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How to NOT market a movie: ‘Tower Heist’

30 May

When “Tower Heist” was in theaters last year, I baffled the beau by desperately wanting to see it. Hell, I baffled myself by wanting to see it. I generally can’t stand Ben Stiller, and the movie looked like a goofy, screwball comedy — more “Dumb and Dumber” (gag) than “Oceans 11.”

It turns out? The marketing did that poor movie zero justice. It was actually shockingly similar to “Oceans 11.” “Tower Heist” is a crime caper. It’s a movie about stealing things. And I LOVE movies about stealing things. I revel in the big reveal (“How are they gonna do that?”) and dig the idea of turning morality on its head and rooting for the guys committing the felony.

Stiller plays Josh Kovacs, a manager at a fancy-pants hotel who is good at his job. He knows all the rich people’s schedules and secrets, he’s firm with employees but turns a blind eye when one neglects her job a bit as she studies for the bar. He does not play the doofus we know and loath from those stupid “Meet the Parents” nightmares. He’s likable.

Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña (best character in the flick), Casey Affleck and Eddie Murphy in “Tower Heist”

When Tower power player Arthur Shaw, played by Alan Alda, is accused of some big time Wall-Street-style financial scheming , all the employees who invested their retirement funds with Shaw end up loosing all their money. So Kovacs gets a few of his Tower buddies together — along with known thief and childhood bully Slide (Eddie Murphy) — to get their money back.

Now, I rented this on a whim. I knew the beau had zero interest in it, so when I offered to pick up a movie when I ran to the grocery store last night, he wasn’t with me, so I got it on the sly. (Actually, he didn’t find out what we were watching until the menu screen came up. All I gave him was, “Don’t worry. It’s not a romantic comedy.”)

By the end of the movie? “That was great,” he said. That’s high praise from the pickiest movie goer of all time.

Because in addition to the characters playing it straight, the writing was sharp. There are a lot of characters, and we know just enough about them to care about them. When one character tries to step in front of a subway train after learning all his money was lost at the hands of Shaw, there is no overwrought soundtrack. We feel badly for the character, but we are not rolling our eyes because the screenwriter beats us over the head with “THIS POOR MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!”

Despite being interested in the movie, I still expected it to suck. And there is no movie going experience better than being surprised at how much you enjoy something.

What’s the last movie that surprised you with how much you liked  it? Did you ever give “Tower Heist” a chance?


In favor of solo movies

9 May

I love going to movies by myself. I love stretching my legs and rudely propping them up on the seatback next to me (only if no one’s in it, I’m not that rude!), and I love treating myself to popcorn and a Coke, and I love laughing obnoxiously or inconspicuously wiping away a tear with no one else around but moi.

I’ve been dying to see “American Reunion” since I saw the first preview at the end of 2011. Alas, the only friend I have who wanted to see it, too, lives on the other side of the country. So today, after work, I took myself on a date.

I made a pit stop at Michael’s for some jewelry supplies of the boring-but-necessary variety (two sizes of jump rings, clasps, yawn), and then at Barnes and Noble for a very adorable gift from my mom (more on that later). Dined at Chipotle while I read my new book, and then I trotted myself over to the movie theater for one ticket to a movie in possibly my favorite movie series ever.

Jim’s Dad, the morning after. Eeeee, he’s so cute!

I got there a little early — I might have sat alone in the theater for 25 minutes before it started. So I read some more of my book, getting more and more giddy, thinking I might be the. Only. Person. in the entire theater.

But then … two men walk in. (But they sat like three rows behind me, said hello, commented on the lack of seating, and proceeded to be the quietest movie companions ever. I loved them so.) So I wasn’t the only person in there, but I was close.

I had such a huge crush on Kevin in the original flick.

And yes, “American Reunion” was the worst of the four major “American Pie” movies. And yes, I still loved it. That crew of guys, to me, is high school. They were class of ’99, I was class of ’01. Their fashions, their music, their experiences were mine. (Well, I mean, if I wasn’t the nerd editor of the high school newspaper, in all the AP and honors classes I could take. So I guess their experiences weren’t quite mine. Blarg, you know what I mean.)

And it must be noted: Eugene Levy? He’d play my father in my father’s life story. The resemblance is eerie.

Any who. Going to moves alone: Awesome. Do it.

A road trip home

9 Apr

I spent a long weekend at my folks’ with the beau for Easter. (Why does it always seem like the long weekends seem the shortest? Wildly unfair.) This weekend seemed tailor made for participating in this week’s Northwest Mommy Listicle. In her words:

This Monday, seeing how all of us would have driven somewhere to spend Easter weekend with friends and family, I thought we do a list about ten things ROAD.

Done and done, Stasha!

Want to link up? Just click on the button!

Top 10 Things That Happened This Weekend

1) I somehow talked the beau into driving both TO my parents’ AND FROM. I think he felt pity on my gimpy neck (I woke up on Thursday with a crick that made it painful to check my blindspot). Not sure why he offered Sunday evening, but I appreciated it!

2) The gas prices didn’t behave as they normally do. There’s a little town that’s just about halfway between me and my folks’, and I always gas up there because it’s by far the cheapest gas in a 75-mile radius from home. Not this time, bastard Easter making bastard gas station owners raise the bastard prices.

3) Birthday cannoli! I barely touched the birthday cake Mom made, which made me feel terrible, but come on. You put cannoli in front of me, I’m not gonna wanna eat anything else. (It has the highest ratio of ease to taste of any dessert I know: You want one part powdered sugar to three parts ricotta cheese. Add a teaspoon of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon, and beat until smooth. Insert amazing goop in cannoli shell right before you eat it so the shell doesn’t get soggy.  Garnish with chopped pistachios or mini chocolate chips. C’est tout!)

4) Mom had told me Joey had started to eat Real Food, but I hadn’t really witnessed it until now. Dad, the beau and I took him to White Castle on Friday, and I watched him pick up a burger, dust off the onions (onto his lap) and pickle and eat half of it. My jaw dropped, closing sometime around Saturday afternoon. I also watched him pick the Italian sausage from the homemade pizza we had for dinner Friday night and eat it. You have to understand, this kid hasn’t eaten anything but hot dogs, banana milkshakes and crunchy things (crackers, cereal) since he was 3. He’s now 22.

5) “Revenge of the Titans” in 3-D. Good times.

6) Birthday equaled some really amazing goodies, including this little black Rock & Republic dress. I can’t believe my mother bought me something so sexy, but I must admit: I look forward to having an appropriate opportunity to wear it.

7) I got to talk to Nani. Like, my Nani. Alzheimer’s is a bitch, and it can give a person about five different personalities. One of those is the actual personality, which in Nani’s case, comes out less and less. I got to talk to her for a few minutes Sunday afternoon. She told me she thinks about me all the time, and that when you get to a certain age, your memories are all you have. And she said she doesn’t know how Papa still goes to work every day (he’s 90 and owns a cheese factory) and that he takes care of her. As she said this, he slid her pills across to her. And then they held hands and made “I adore you” eyes at each other.

8) I dyed Easter eggs with Joey. It’s one of the very few things I can get him to do with me, and I’m not sure which of us looks forward to it more every year.

9) I got to hear a whole butt-ton of references to the beau joining the family (no, we are not engaged). Nani “whispered” to Papa, asking if I had a ring. (Mom and I heard it from across the room and about lost our shit laughing.) One uncle told the beau how he declared Jeff my father’s son-in-law to-be the first time he met him a year and a half ago. I think my aunt tried to talk honeymoon plans with the beau. And another aunt saw a portrait Jeff was working on and announced, “I didn’t know we had someone so talented in the family!” Again, let me reiterate: NOT engaged. I love my big fat Italian/Assyrian family.

10) Game of Thrones. OK, we watched it after we got back home, but it was the best way ever to end a happy and hectic weekend.

‘Jumanji’ by generations

29 Mar

Yesterday, the beau and I were getting a little before-dinner frozen yogurt (life’s too short to NOT eat dessert first sometimes) at my new favorite DIY yogurt shop. (I get cake batter with a touch of either red velvet or cheesecake and top it with pulverized graham crackers, Oreos and cookie dough.) (It’s really good.)

So anyhoo, we’re eating, and the TV in the corner turned to ABC Family starts to show, oh yes, “Jumanji.” It’s one of those movies I will watch every time it’s on, and I mentioned to the beau, “You know, it’s rare that a childhood favorite holds up through the years.”

I can’t think of how many books I’ve tried rereading or movies I’ve tried rewatching as an adult that leave me thinking, “I can’t believe I watched this crap.” But not “Jumanji.” I love Robin Williams, I love the magic of the story, I love the cheeky little monkeys on a motorcycle passing Officer David Allen Grier.

Feral Robin Williams as Alan Parish

When I said “childhood favorite,” I saw the beau’s face change.

Because, “Jumanji” came out when I was 12. And he was 22.

Last night, I had a phone chat with one of my closest friends. I’ve mentioned her on here before, she’s the gal I used to babysit for. She’s a freshman in college, and we caught up on a bunch of stuff after not catching one another on the phone for a while.

And I mentioned that I’d watched “Jumanji” and how it used to be one of my favorite movies. Her response: “That movie scared the crap out of me!”

Because when it came out, she was 2.

Oh happy day

27 Mar

Despite — or maybe due to — the fact that I’ve been insanely, mind-bogglingly busy at work over the past two or so weeks, I’ve found myself in even a better mood than normal lately. I have a number of suspicions why that is, and frankly I’m not ready to share them yet (give me time!), but the general good mood has me wanting to share the smiles.

So if you’re having a bummer day, or maybe you just need a little pick-me-up, I’ve compiled five things that should make your day a little brighter:

One: This dress. The color combo and cuteness factor just makes me grin.

Two: The Hunger Games is out. Now, I’ve never read the book and know nothing about the story aside from the basics: Utopian world, children competing (to the death?) for … funsies? And yet, for some reason, I’m beyond excited to see the movie.

Three: WINTER IS HERE!!!! (You get a million gold stars if you understood the reference before I explain … now.) About six months ago, I marked in my planner when season two of “Game of Thrones” would start … And that date? Is SUNDAY. “Winter is coming” was kind of a mantra for the show throughout its first season. No more waaaaaaiting!

Four: Sticking with the big and small screen happies: This.

These movies became popular when I was in high school, and for me, they represent the start of my favorite genre of movie: the raunchy comedy with a heart of gold.

Now, allow me to highlight the introductory conversation to what I’m anticipating as the greatest hookup ever:

Jim’s dad: Who’re you?

Stilfer’s mom: Stifler’s mom

Jim’s dad: Oh! … I’m Jim’s dad.

Five: I just bought a necklace I’ve wanted for ages.

Naturally, you’re thinking, “Why should it make me happy that you bought a necklace?” Well, my friend, it’s because today’s the last day to use coupon code “spring” in the beautiful little shop from whence Bamboo Italy was born, tru.che. I found out about the sale from tru.che’s Facebook page. Be a fan.

Your turn: What’s making you smile today?

I wanna have my wicked way with you

26 Mar

I swear, I get new favorite songs all the time.

I heard this one on the Anna Farris movie, “What’s Your Number?” I love Farris, and this movie definitely had me rolling on more than one occasion.

The one thing I must pull out? Ben Taylor’s “Wicked Way.” Oh man, this is great. (The video is pretty dang great, too. It reminds me of the end of MJ’s “Black or White” [start it at 5:27].)

Fredo, you broke my heart

5 Mar

Finally, finally, I have seen “The Godfather 2.” It’s taken me so long to watch the whole thing, the mafia was threatening to revoke my 50 percent Italianness.


Maybe you’ve noticed that AMC has been playing The Godfather movies on pretty much a continual loop for the last week or two to celebrate the movies’ 40th anniversary. Having no interest in having a four-hour flick turned into a seven-hour flick with maximum commercial interruption, I opted to rent the the movie.

Now first, I must say that it wasn’t for lack of trying that I managed to hit 28 without seeing “The Godfather 2.” I have tried. Twice. But each time, I started it at 1.30 in the morning. I don’t think I made it 45 minutes in either attempt. So we put it in Saturday at 11.30 p.m., and I made it a good hour or hour and a half in before I said, “Sweetie, can we save this until tomorrow?”

Now I’ve finally seen it in its entirety, and my No. 1 response? How the hell come no one ever talks about how amazing John Cezale is as Fredo? His face … his eyes … his line delivery … it’s impeccable. Fredo broke Micheal’s heart??? Fredo broke my heart. (OK, fine, he didn’t help plot my assassination, whatever.)

"I don't want anything to happen to him while my mother's alive."

So I did a little Googling to learn some more about this actor I’ve never seen in anything else. Clearly, I haven’t seen Cezale in anything because I suck, not because of any fault of Cezale’s as an actor. He has been in five movies — the two Godfathers, “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Deer Hunter,” and “The Conversation” — and every single one was nominated for a best picture Oscar, though he was never nominated (oversight much?). He died fantastically young, at 42 of bone cancer. The last thing he did was “The Deer Hunter,” with his lover, Meryl Streep.

Apparently, a documentary on Cezale came out two years ago, “I Knew It Was You” (from the above clip). I must get my hands on this. I don’t do Netflix because I never want to see the movie I chose by the time it arrives, but maybe I need to sign up for a $5 month or two so I can watch this thing.

What must-see movies are glaringly missing from your list? And/or: What’s your favorite thing about “The Godfather 2”?