Film Review: The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

The interesting thing about The Lincoln Lawyer is that it never gives us an inspirational courtroom speech about truth or fairness.  In fact, the protagonist, a heavy-drinking defense attorney, never expects anyone to sympathize with his search for justice, probably because he gave up on such a thing happening a long time ago.  The man’s past is never fully explained to us, but it may be correct to guess that he used to be a bright, young law student passionate about finding the truth.  Over the years, he has learned the tricks of the trade, and though he is honest and trustworthy, he knows what he can get away with to get the job done.  The events that take place in this book-based courtroom drama are not ones that are pivotal moments in Mick Haller’s life, but ones that are mysterious and intriguing, and they certainly add up to terrific results.

The screenplay, written by John Romano, shows Haller working for a few different clients, but it mainly focuses on a case in which he represents a rich, young man who can beat the system and escape the horrific charges against him.  This causes the attorney to wonder whether to get his client out of the case or secretly set him up to get caught.  Actor Matthew McConaughey takes on the job of bringing us the character of Haller and he is the one who makes the movie enjoyable.  His likability draws us into the film to begin with and his performance keeps us interested.  The film contains an excellent supporting cast with William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, and Josh Lucas.

While McConaughey helps us enjoy The Lincoln Lawyer, there are other things that make the movie great.  The editing provides added excitement, the soundtrack perfectly expresses the mood, and the script keeps us on the edge of our seat.  It is a whodunit, a thriller, a character study, and a drama all at once.  Out of the few courtroom dramas to come out this year, this one is the most consistently entertaining.

Rating: 4.5/5

Bond 23 Movie Posters

The world’s longest running movie franchise releases its newest adventure next year returning Daniel Craig as James Bond as well as starring Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem.  The film has not officially been titled Risico or The Property of a Lady; these names have only been rumored.  Here is some poster art thrown together by Bond fans:

Looking Ahead: Five 2011 Films I Cannot Wait to See

There are obviously many films that I would like to see by the end of the year, but there are only a few that stand out as something that could be great.  Here are five of them:

1.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Mark Strong all star in this intriguing espionage thriller in which veteran George Smiley (Oldman) is brought out of retirement to find a Soviet spy hidden within MI6’s group of agents.  This is planned to come out on November 18 (the week of my birthday) and I anticipate it to be well-acted and considerably suspenseful.  It will be interesting to see how Colin Firth’s performance matches up to his previous Oscar-winning one.  I expect Oldman to steal the show.

 

 

2.  Warrior

A second movie starring Tom Hardy.  It isn’t a boxing movie, if you looked close at the poster.  Instead, we get to see Hardy do some mixed martial arts as Tom Conlon, an ex-Marine set to fight his own brother in the final round of the MMA tournament.  The fighting looks intense and the added emotions behind the fight promise to elevate Warrior above our average sports flick.  I will be ready when this is released on September 9.

 

 

 

3. Hugo

November 23, a week after the release of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Martin Scorsese’s newest film will be open for the general public.  What looks promising is that Scorsese has never done anything like this before, and this is the first film that he’s made in nine years that doen’t star Leonardo DiCaprio.  I really don’t know exactly what to expect, but if it is as enchanting as the imaginative children’s book which it is based on, then we should be in for a treat.

 

 

4. The Adventures of Tintin

It wasn’t too long ago that I was reading those wonderful illustrated adventures of Tintin.  These books were funny, intelligent, and high-spirited.  I am excited to see a hint of film noir in the trailer, along with some fascinating settings.  I doubt that Tintin will come close to winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but I would love for the French author, Herge, to get some sort of recognition.  Released on December 23.

 

 

 

5. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I do love some good, mindless action thrills and the Mission: Impossible movies are one of the best franchises at bringing us just that.  While they typically show some significant flaws in some areas, I can always depend on them if I ever want to jump off a skyscraper or be suspended in a touch-sensitive, high-security CIA vault.  I can’t wait to see what director Brad Bird has in store for us this December.

 

 

 

Trailers:

 

 

 

 

Film Review: The Parking Lot Movie (2010)

 

I am not a violent man, but I did once swing a lead pipe at someone.”

So says Tyler Magill, a former parking lot attendant, who is interviewed in Meghan Eckman’s Parking Lot Movie.  Magill’s explanation for this action is that his victim refused to pay the 40 cent parking fee.  But this isn’t just Magill’s way of handling these situations, it embodies the attitudes of all his other fellow attendants.  Some of which are college students, some are mid-thirties and have been doing it for at least ten years.  But they all agree that the job is plenty of fun.

They acknowledge the poor reputation of their title, they say they are being paid to do almost nothing, and they exalt the activity as one of the most worth-while things they will ever do.  But with their enthusiasm and bitter disgust for the lot’s winy customers, comes a dry sense of humor that encompasses the whole film.  The way the parking lot is defined by the attendants’ funny rituals and sarcastic words reminds me of one of my favorite television shows, The Office.

But while The Office gets its hilarity from constant exaggeration, The Parking Lot, being a documentary, consists of cruel sincerity.  Throughout the film, we are shown the duties, habits, pastimes, and philosophies of the employees.  By the end, you will feel like you have actually met them, which is something hardly any Hollywood movies have achieved.

Its only significant flaw lies in the very beginning, and that is that it fails to intrigue the audience enough to watch the picture all the way through.  But none-the-less, there aren’t many slow bits once it picks up.  After all, it is only an hour and fifteen minutes and ends up being a funny, entertaining film that is well worth the time.

Rating: 4/5

Film Review: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Most all superhero movies aim at leaving the audience with anticipation of a sequel or some sort of reappearance of that hero. This is especially true for those made by Marvel Studios. One of next summer’s biggest motion picture events will be Marvel’s The Avengers, and it is what films such as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America have been created to lead up to. The idea is that all the supers will join together to form one invincible team. Each of the above mentioned movies have concluded with plans for this one final major event. Yet Captain America is the first of all of these to seem to be just as concerned with carrying out the plot of this individual film as joining it with the other pictures.

Yes, it ends in obvious efforts to bring the Captain into the big picture, but with its closing line will come many interesting conversations among fellow viewers. It is a line that reveals the heart and inner desires of its hero beyond what Marvel has ever shown us before. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, Marvel has made the best superhero flicks around and this is one of their best. The problem that many may run into while viewing it however, is that it can be strikingly absurd at times. But you can solve that problem before you even enter the theater. Just simply go into the movie acknowledging that, while Chris Evan’s head doesn’t appear right on that scrawny, little body, it is fiction, and the point of the skinniness is to display the character’s humble beginnings. Just let The First Avenger do its thing, and you can have plenty of fun.

Like the best of Marvel’s efforts, Captain America is not all action. Though you will experience some great gunfights and exciting chases, there is humor to be found in the words of most every character in the film. Those of Tommy Lee Jones’ Colonel Chester Phillips prove to be very memorable. And then there are several qualities resembling Raiders of the Lost Ark, most obviously the Captain’s leather jacket and the evils of a Nazi villain. Strong performances are given by Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in The Matrix) as Red Skull and Hayley Atwell (Bess Foster in The Duchess) as the avenger’s love interest.

And now to answer the question you’ve all been dying to ask: Was Chris Evans a good choice for the title role? The answer will vary from viewer to viewer. Those dedicated to the image of the original Captain from the comic books might not be totally satisfied. Yet if you are among the crowd who has never read or seen anything involving Captain America until now (me), the image of this iconic character displayed here shouldn’t bother you one bit.

Rating: 4/5

Film Review: Cars 2 (2011)

Six times out of the last eight years, Pixar has won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and each year, it was well-deserved.  One of those two films that failed to bring home the prize was 2006’s CarsCars was my pick to win that year, and I still believe that it should have been awarded a statuette.  So in this year filled with numerous sequels, Cars 2 was one of the few that I established to be of any importance.

After viewing Lasseter’s latest effort, I wonder why he has suddenly changed the way he makes movies.  Just last year, his colleague, Lee Unkrich, showed the world how to create a brilliant follow-up to a beloved film in Toy Story 3.  Unkrich’s strategy was not a hard one: add a few new characters, keep all the old ones, and stir up all the love we have for the franchise by putting our favorite toys in danger.  The result was very touching and his new characters turned out to be very entertaining.

But what Lasseter has done with Cars 2 is expand everything but the emotions of his characters.  He juggles two stories at once, one a routine grand prix adventure featuring Lightning McQueen and the other an action-packed spy mission focusing solely on Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater.  Never has a Pixar film felt so complicated.  On the bright side, Cars 2 is so fast-paced that most children will never be bored.  However, for those with longer attention spans, the whole thing seems a bit rushed.  The action is fun, the animation is good, yet I have come to expect more from the Pixar crew than what I was given here.

Note: Pixar will not win their usual award this year.  Instead, I expect Rango or Kung Fu Panda 2 to steal the show.

Rating: 3.5/5

What’s your prediction for the Best Animated Feature winner?

Film Review: 127 Hours (2010)

 

James Franco stars in one of 2010’s best movies as Aron Ralston, a free-spirited adventurer who treks into the canyons of Utah.  But on the way, he falls into a rocky crevice in which a heavy boulder pins down his arm.  In this expedition, he has come alone and foolishly, he did not tell anyone where he was headed.

After days of struggling, he is on the brink of death; and he will do anything to stay alive.  There is one notorious scene in which Aron is forced to do the unthinkable, and this has been the cause for many to avoid the movie altogether.  But there is much more to 127 Hours than meets the eye.

Ralston brought along his video camera for the ride.  While documenting his five days of captivity, he begins to reflect on what he should have done differently.  He regrets choosing not to return his mom’s calls.  He recalls his love for his girlfriend.  He cannot believe how his entire life has been doomed to end this way from the very beginning.

Franco, nominated for an Oscar,  is superbly convincing and emotionally engaging, and he is well-directed by Danny Boyle.  The film is also filled with a wonderful soundtrack that can both inspire and energize.  The cinematography and editing could indeed be the best part, it emphasizes bright color and occasionally shows three pictures at once.  127 Hours is one of my top five movies to come out of 2010 because it is well-executed, inspirational, and entertaining.

Rating: 4.5/5

Did you enjoy this as much I did?  Please comment and let me know…

Film Review: The Conspirator (2011)

Robert Redford’s newest picture plays like the JFK of the Civil War.  The Conspirator focuses on the defense attorney of a woman accused of assisting in the assassination of President Lincoln.  This woman, perfectly portrayed by Robin Wright, is innocent, but the court is determined to judge against her.

As interesting as the story is, I was sad to find how slow the film began.  It begins with an assassination scene following the deeds of John Wilkes Booth, which already has been done the same way in numerous other films.  Then we meet Mary Suratt, an innocent woman prosecuted so that America may be able to accuse someone of the death of their leader.

What ensues is a gripping, delicious courtroom drama dedicated to documenting a hideous obstruction of justice.  Unlike JFK, The Conspirator does not reveal new information while we find the truth, but instead, we are shown the truth and how it was deliberately shunned.  Such injustice can be frustrating to watch, but Redford handles it with striking maturity.

At times, the film can be very draining; it appears to be a losing battle.  But amazingly, The Conspirator keeps us hooked.  It is difficult to predict, but easy to follow, just how a good, old-fashioned courtroom drama is supposed to be.

I originally had no intentions of seeing this movie.  Not to say that it did not appeal to me, but that I had never heard of it.  I admired Redford’s directorial effort, Quiz Show, and after first hearing of a local showing of his new film, I was, in fact, intrigued.  I am glad I went, because what I found was one of the most worthwhile films of the year so far.

Rating: 4.5/5

Film Review: Hereafter (2010)

One of the most striking things about Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter is that it seems defiant to fit into a specific genre.  With its opening tsunami sequence could come expectations of a disaster flick.  Then we see the sparkling romance of a French couple.  Over and over, we are introduced to new characters and worlds that differ greatly.

Hereafter borders the genres of drama, thriller, sci-fi, and romance, yet it never settles into one of them.  It is not a disaster film.  Even though the first hour seems sluggish, the second half is very rewarding.  There is a great deal of romantic chemistry between Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, though their relationship never reaches any visible conclusion.

All the performers are very good, especially Damon, playing a reluctant psychic trying to find his purpose in life.  Against what one might expect, he is not fully given the spotlight.  Eastwood gives equal screen time to French actress, Cecile De France, here acting as a French T.V. journalist.

In the end, writer Peter Morgan leaves the audience with a bitter longing.  I won’t ruin the conclusion, it is a sweeping and enchanting finale, but it remains one that does not answer all the questions.  A two hour and ten minute movie should be resolved a little more.  But this also adds to Hereafter‘s uniqueness.  It remains realistic by the way people come and go and opportunities appear and dissolve.  The addition of psychics makes such a movie even more unpredictable.

Rating: 4/5