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Reviews for November 4th, 2011


Directed by Mohydeen Quandour

      In the dawn of the 20th Century, Nart (Azamat Bekov), a young man, and other Circassians, emigrates via train from Istanbul to an area in Jordan near the Bedouins. The Circassians settle there because it’s near a water source, but the Bedouins want them to settle elsewhere far away from them. Nart soon sets his eye on Hind (Sahar Bishara), a Bedouin woman, and the two of them fall in love. Her family (and culture) forbids her to marry anyone outside of their own culture—she’s forced to marry her cousin instead. Hind and Nart do everything in their ability to hide their forbidden love so that it wouldn’t lead to a violent clash between the Bedouins and Circassians. Will they be able to successfully hide their forbidden love? If not, will the Bedouin sheik, Abu Aziz (Mohamad Al Abadi) and Circassian elder, Temur (Mohadeen Komakhov), somehow find a way to resolve the conflict peacefully?

      Just when you think you know how the plot will progress, the screenplay by writer/director Mohydeen Quandour presents some surprises along the way that are quite moving and even somewhat thought-provoking. Those particular surprises won’t be spoiled here, but do keep in mind that the surprises themselves are believable within the context of the film even though they might seem slightly contrived at first. Quandour has woven a very easy-to-follow romantic drama that brings to mind many classics at times, such as Romeo & Juliet. It’s quite fascinating to learn about the different cultural traditions of the Bedouins and Circassians which, in some ways, can be related to the culture clashes going on in the Middle East today which makes the film’s theme regarding the transcendence of true love to be all the more timeless. You’ll feel awe as you notice the costume design, set designs and the cinematography which all help to enrich the period piece while adding authenticity. Even at a running time of nearly 2 hours, Cherkess still manages to be a sweeping and captivating film that offers both style and substance.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Quad Cinema.
Released by Sindika Productions.

The Son of No One

Directed by Dito Montiel

      Jonathan White (Channing Tatum), an NYPD officer, lives with his wife, Kerry (Katie Holmes), and young daughter (Ursula Parker) in a quiet suburban home. He’s forced to confront harsh memories from his troubled childhood growing up in the Queens projects when Loren Bridges (Juliette Binoche), a reporter for The Queens Gazette, receives and publishes anonymous letters alleging that the police had covered up the murders of two crack addicts in 1986. He even receives a life-threatening text from the mysterious person behind the letters. Al Pacino plays Charles Stanford, the NYPD detective in charge of investigating the murders back in 1986. Ray Liotta shows up as Officer White’s boss, and Tracy Morgan plays the adult version of his White’s childhood friend, Vincent. Exactly how and why Officer White was involved with the 1986 murders won’t be spoiled here, but it’s worth mentioning that as the plot progresses, he finds himself in increasing danger.

      Writer/director Dito Montiel has woven a complex, unpredictable and exhilarating crime thriller that’s just as suspenseful and captivating as The Departed. Channing Tatum gives a decent performance as the tough yet innately fragile Officer White. Montiel wisely reveals small bits of information from the officer’s past through flashbacks rather than revealing everything all at once, so it’s exciting to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together as the tension gradually builds. As the truth behind the murders remains covered-up, there’s a lot at stake for Office White, including his own life and the life of his wife and child, so you’ll find yourself rooting for him at the edge of your seat. There are a few twists and turns to be found throughout the film, especially during the intense, slightly convoluted third act. If you manage to precisely figure out the ending before those final scenes transpire, there is a top job waiting for you at the NYPD.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens at the Village East Cinema.
Released by Anchor Bay Films.

Tower Heist

Directed by Brett Ratner

      Multi-millionaire Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) lives in the penthouse The Tower, a condominium overlooking Central Park. After the building manager, Josh Kovacs (Ben Stiller), learns that Arthur has swindled him and the rest of The Tower’s staff Bernie Madoff-style via their pension funds, he teams up with Charlie (Casey Affleck), the concierge, elevator operator Enrique DevReaux (Michael Peña), Odessa (Gabourney Sidibe), a maid, evicted resident Mr. Fitzhugh (Matthew Broderick) and Slide (Eddie Murphy), a thug. They plan a heist of $20 million that Josh expects to find in Arthur’s hidden safe. Téa Leoni plays Claire, an FBI agent, who romances Josh, and Judd Hirsch briefly shows up as Josh’s boss, Mr. Simon.

      Everyone once in a while comes an ensemble comedy that’s very funny, clever and crowd-pleasing. Tower Heist is just that kind of comedy mainly because of its well-written screenplay and its talented comedic actors, each of whom get his or her own chance to shine. Just like in a true ensemble film, no one onscreen leads the film per se. Even those in small rolls have memorable moments. The real surprise here, though, is just how many witty and hysterically funny one-liners screenwriters Ted Griffin and Jeff Nathanson manage throw at the audience through the fast-paced film. This is the kind of comedy that would benefit from repeat viewings to catch all of those lines. Griffin had written the screenplays of Matchstick Men and Ocean Eleven, while Nathanson had written Speed 2: Cruise Control, Rush Hour 2 & 3, and Catch Me If You Can, so perhaps it makes sense that Tower Heist is consistently entertaining, delightfully hilarious outrageous while never insulting the audience’s intelligence like most American comedies do nowadays with excessive toilet humor.

      A truly classic comedy should not only be funny, but also somewhat grounded in reality and stand the test of time. It’s unclear if Tower Heist will achieve the latter, but it certainly hits a reality bone because its greedy, corrupt, selfish villain uses a Ponzi scheme to get rich. You may think you’ve seen a heist movie like this before given the seemingly derivative premise, but it does have its fair share of unpredictable surprises up its sleeve. Just because a movie doesn’t use completely fresh ideas doesn’t make it any less funny (or classic). Take Bringing Up Baby as an example. At the time, critics panned it for being so derivative and unsurprising, and most audiences were getting tired of screwball comedies, so it flopped at the box office. No one was treating it fairly back in 1938, yet, despite that, years later, it finally became recognized as a comedy classic to this very day. Hopefully, Tower Heist will become the instant comedy classic that it deserves to be, and it won’t take critics and audiences so many years to truly appreciate its genuine wit, hilarity and charm.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.

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