On hand again to help John and me consider the merits of Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch is Bob Chipman, a.k.a. MovieBob and The Game Overthinker, and contributor to Escapist Magazine. We go to town on Sucker Punch in a 70-minute episode in which we agree, disagree, laugh, cry, chide, and fall in love all over again.
For our picks of the week, we discuss the films of Andy Sidaris, as featured in Mill Creek Entertainment’s new 12-movie DVD set Girls, Guns and G-Strings. And then Warner Bros.’ newly announced Blu-ray edition of Brian DiPalma’s Scarface takes center stage.
Spoiler Alert: In the discussion of Sucker Punch, big-time spoiler material abounds between 30:30 and 32:30.
Editors Note: In the discussion of Scarface, the Debbie Harry song we can’t recall is “Push Push.” (We are human, and proud.)
We recorded this episode at Panera Bread, next to the Regal Fenway 13 Theater in Boston. So, as always, the conversation is spurred by coffee, muffins and sandwiches – which helps. And that’s why there’s the clickity-clacking of plates and silverware you’re hearing at times in the background. Our apologies for that.
John Black and I interview Tom McCarthy, writer and director of Win Win. We discuss McCarthy’s inspiration for Win Win, Harold Becker’s 1985 film Vision Quest (Believe it or not, Win Win and Vision Quest are directly related); as well as the representative meanings of Win Win‘s characters, played by Paul Giamatti, Bobby Cannavale, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer and the irreplaceable Burt Young, co-star of the Rocky films.
The intro and outro was recorded at Panera Bread next to the Regal Fenway 13 theater in Boston.
Questionable trust is part of the Matthew McConaughey entertainment package. Also, I suppose, a fair amount of arrogance. He surely loves himself, in that overly friendly, even smarmy way that seems immediately disarming. In The Lincoln Lawyer, that man is the life of this film, any of his films. And strange as it may sound, this is McConaughey’s best film in years. And this he accomplished shirted, with nary a hint of abs.
Before seeing The Lincoln Lawyer, ask yourself, how much McConaughey can you stand? One must if undertaking the film’s 119 minutes, because McConaughey is in nearly every frame. (Ask the same question regarding Bradley Cooper in Limitless.) As Mick Haller, he’s an L.A. defense attorney whose unkempt office, at least for two scenes, is the back seat of a chauffeured Lincoln town car – simply a mobile metaphor for Haller’s morality, yet more concretely scenic than a law office set with a giant photo of L.A. beyond the windows.
The Lincoln Lawyer opens with an extensive “walking and talking” tracking shot, often used to heap information on us by establishing location, exposition, and the general pecking order of characters in under a minute. It’s like the main character is saying, “I’m an important person. Things to do. Places to go. And although you are my colleague, I haven’t the time to stop and talk with you in this place where I work. So let’s walk briskly.” Pushy cinematic velocity. What The Lincoln Lawyer lacks in structural neatness, it makes up with energy and verbal repartee, buoyed by McConaughey’s innate “good guy” quality. This world revolves around Haller, and “walking and talking” shots are like crack for a character’s ego. Despite this, I find I usually, though regretfully, end up liking the McConaughey’s self-important characters.
After the initial perception of McConaughey’s ego dissipates, The Lincoln Lawyer develops less on a thematic level (McConaughey as the morally grey inside man minutely balancing travesties of justice for a fistfull of dollars), and more on a narrative one (a lawyer trapped in a legal Catch-22). Winding as the legal roads may be, Haller’s modus operandi is clearly stated: Paraphrasing Haller paraphrasing his deceased, defense attorney father: “I’m not so concerned about my client’s guilt, but if the system messes with my client, that’s where I come in.” So Haller works like justice system spyware. A minuscule lawyerly anti-virus.
Ryan Phillipe is neatly despicable as Louis Roulet, the entitled, preppy, Beverly-Hills-Golf-Club deuchebag who hires Haller. A client who remorselessly admits his guilt. And who, most insidiously, breaks Player Rule #1: Don’t play a player. For this upon him vengeance will certainly be enacted, and with prejudice. Good/bad, right/wrong, may not so much matter to Haller so long as the agreed-upon green crosses his palm. But screw around with Haller’s ego and put an innocent man behind bars, and um, you will pay. But the thing about Phillipe as an actor is, it’s as if he’s in the movie and he’s not. His career may be moving along a Kevin Bacon trajectory: connected to everyone, and yet lacking overall distinction as a lead. His screen life is the supporting player/character actor’s manifesto: be everywhere and nowhere in the eyes of the moviegoer.
The Lincoln Lawyer has a terrific supporting cast, William H. Macy in a Marlowe-ish, aged and laidback ex-surfer dude mode; John Lequizmo as a smarmy ex-con with loose lips; a reserved Josh Lucas as a “not in the know” prosecutor; Bryan Cranston as a bullying detective with a grudge against Haller; Michael Peña, all shaky and nervous and tearing-up scared as Roulet’s patsy; Marisa Tomei as Haller’s amicable ex-wife, an attorney and fellow plier of the legal trade who knows its unspoken code and trivialities; Frances Fisher as Roulet’s mother – the woman has predatory eyes. Snakelike. Who wouldn’t feel uneasy caught in her leer? I swear, if eyes could stab. And then there’s Shea Whigham, whose performance as an amusingly moronic witness for the prosecution – on screen for perhaps five minutes – is a character worthy of his own film.
It’s too early in director Brad Furman’s career to really decipher a particular personal style. However, it can be said he’s inclined to tell L.A. stories with California soul. His first feature, 2005’s The Take starred John Lequizamo as a L.A. armored car driver recuperating from an injurious robbery. And with The Lincoln Lawyer he’s fashioned a film with a West-Coast soul/hip-hop soundtrack that plays like a great mix tape. I loved it. I’ll probably have The Lincoln Lawyer CD on repeat for the next few days. (You must hear the “California Soul Lincoln Lawyer Remix,” despite there being something so very wrong with that title.)
Romantic comedies are not McConaughey’s way. His artificiality works as a lawyer, not a romantic love interest or slacker. His characters in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Failure to Launch are not him, because, much as McConaughey may otherwise assess his acting abilities, he’s still an idealized version of a person we can’t relate to. We can’t relate to McConaughey in The Lincoln Lawyer, and that’s why he succeeds. He’s born to play an untouchable, shifty defense attorney. Note to Mr. McConaughey: if you play an everyone’s-your-buddy ne’er-do-well, you’re inversely out of your league. But if you play the fast-talking, slickly dressed, attorney anti-hero… it’s gold. Not fool’s gold. Just gold. Your agent must know this. So stay up there, snazzy and all. And remember, it’s not always about the abs.
In this episode, John Black and I discuss four new releases: The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey; Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro; Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska; and Paul, a road trip geek-fest showcasing the comedic talents of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seth Rogan.
John, Bob Chipman (a.k.a Movie Bob and The Game Overthinker) and I recently spoke with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost about the making of their new film Paul, which opens nationwide on Friday.
Among the subjects traversed is: perfecting the American accent, filming the Pre-Paul-Test movie, casting Seth Rogan, the religious themes in Paul, and the next Star Trek film – at least an attempt was made to extricate information about that.
Click on the links below and enjoy enjoy the show!
On March 2nd and 3rd, in tribute to Peter Yates, the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge will screen 35mm prints of two of his films: the quintessential Steve McQueen film Bullitt from 1968, and the rarely seen 1967 British film Robbery, starring Stanley Baker. Click on the film’s title for more information and to buy tickets.
This week, John and I discuss the Dark Castle flick Unknown, starring Liam Neeson, the Miguel Arteta comedy Cedar Rapids, and the DJ Caruso-directed, Michael Bay production I Am Number Four.
Plus our picks of the week. I say Tony Scott’s runaway train flick Unstoppable is an excellent Blu-ray choice, John implores you to put the anime Summer Wars in your player, and we both re-live the love of Mel Brook’s 1977 Alfred Hitchcock homage High Anxiety.
We recorded live at Panera Bread, next to the Regal Fenway 13 Theater in Boston.
As always, click on the links below and enjoy the show!