Tag Archives: courtroom

My Cousin Vinny – Review

1 Jan

There have been many notable films throughout history that succeed in bringing courtroom drama and legal proceedings to the most dramatic levels possible. Some examples are To Kill a Mockingbird12 Angry Men, and A Few Good Men. Then there’s My Cousin Vinny, a movie about justice the American way practically without any drama but overloaded with laughs. With Dale Launer (who scripted movies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Ruthless People) as the screenwriter, Jonathan Lynn (director of Clue) in the director’s chair, and a superb cast, My Cousin Vinny can easily be put as one of my ten favorite comedies.

MPW-52623

While passing through a small town in Alabama on their way to college, Billy Gambini (Ralph Macchio) and his friend Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) are wrongly charged with first degree murder. Luckily for these two young friends, Billy has a lawyer in the family that is willing to represent them for nothing. Enter Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci) and his fiancée Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei), two New Yorkers who stick out like a sore thumb in this Alabama town. Unfortunately for Billy, it took Vinny six attempts over six years to pass the bar exam, he only has worked on small suits, and he’s never actually been part of a trial. What Vinny lacks in experience, however, he more than makes up for it in wit and wordplay, which may actual make him the ideal lawyer to defend the two innocent defendants.

In my last review, I talked about the film Bernie and how dark comedies are my favorite kind of comedies. That still holds true, but My Cousin Vinny is the perfect example of a more lighthearted comedy that succeeds because of it’s excellent writing. The characters are well thought out and given very strong, yet over the top personalities that make them all memorable and unique. The dialogue they are given is all snappy and delivered by the actors very quickly, so if you aren’t paying attention, you may miss something hilarious. That’s comedy I can really appreciate. There are plenty of moments where the laughs are obvious, but there are other jokes you may catch after the second or third time watching it.

My-Cousin-Vinny-Filmed-Georgia

My only complaint I have with this movie is that the entire story is kind of shoddily written. I understand that the whole point of My Cousin Vinny are the over the top characters, but it would have been nice to see some mystery or suspense in trying to solve who the real murderer is. For all I know, that might have never worked, but I just felt like the case was pretty thin. While the case itself isn’t too exciting, the way the courtroom proceedings actually happen is interesting. Jonathan Lynn actually studied law, which makes him the ideal directing choice to inject some reality in all of the silliness of the court scenes.

Front and center of pretty much the entirety of the movie is Joe Pesci as Vinny, who may be one of the most memorable main characters in a comedy. The way Pesci delivers his lines is so rapid fire and with such confidence, you can’t help but to love this character. With an actor like Pesci at center stage, it’s important that the right person was chosen to be his sidekick/fiancée. This career starting performance was given by Marissa Tomei, who may actually be the best part of this movie. It’s one of those performances where I truly believed I was watching Mona Lisa Vito on screen and not Tomei playing the character. In fact, it was such a great screen performance that she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Now that’s how you kickstart a career.

My Cousin Vinny has become one of the most recognized and appreciated comedies of the last 20 to 30 years. Now, I’m not saying it’s the absolute greatest but it is one that has writing and acting that go way above what has come to be expected from comedies. It takes a relatively simple idea and runs with it, determined to make the best of every goofy stereotype and hilarious scenario that could possibly be thrown at it. It’s one of my favorite comedies and should be seen by anyone who loves a good laugh.

Advertisements

The Lincoln Lawyer – Review

22 Jul

In my travels here and there, especially on my adventures with public transportation, I’ve seen many a person reading books by the author Michael Connelly.  A prolific writer, Connelly has created many different characters that are part of long running collections and also has worked on writing for film and television. One of his most famous books was made into a movie just a few years ago, The Lincoln Lawyer, but when it came out I didn’t hear a whole lot about it. I thought it was about time to check it out and it’s fair to say that I got exactly what I was expecting from it.

lincoln_lawyer_xlg

Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a criminal defense lawyer who keeps his office in the back of his Lincoln Town Car that is driven all over Los Angeles. Haller’s willing to help anyone who’s willing to pay because all this job really means to him is a steady, and hefty paycheck, even though this way of thinking causes some minor conflict with his ex-wife and prosecutor, Maggie (Marisa Tomei). He soon stumbles onto a case that is sure to pay well when the son of a real estate tycoon, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), is charged with sexual assault and battery. At first, the case appears to be an open and shut deal, but when Haller’s own private detective Frank Levin (William H. Macy) uncovers some information about a previous case that may involve Roulet, Haller finds his career, his beliefs, and his life in supreme danger.

I had some thoughts about this movie as I was going into it about what it was going to be like and what my reaction to it would be. It’s kind of crazy how on point I was about it, because while my assumptions either come close or are completely wrong, they rarely are this accurate. Going into The Lincoln Lawyer, I was simply expecting a good escape from everything for a few hours, and that’s exactly what I got. There’s nothing really excellent, nor does it ever go above and beyond what is expected. This is just a good movie through and through, especially since there’s nothing too big I really need to complain about.

81mGaKQzqKL._SL1500_

Let’s get the not so good stuff out of the way first. The movie as a whole feels like it should definitely be part of a series, almost as if this is the pilot episode to what is going to be an excellent show. There’s a lot of really cool characters introduced and the story is very intriguing, but by the end I felt like I needed to see more in order for the movie to finally feel over. Part of this is probably because this technically is part of a book series that probably later goes on to build the characters more, but part of this definitely has to do with a hasty ending that ends before it even gets started. I swear, the amount of content that is packed into the last fifteen minutes of this movie is unbelievable. It kind of suffers from Return of the King syndrome, that being there are a whole bunch of parts I thought the movie was over, and then it would just cut over to another scene filled with information.

That’s the bad. Not really that much compared to everything else. The story of The Lincoln Lawyer, as I stated already, is really intriguing and the way it played out over a course of two hours was close to perfect. There was a lot of time for McConaughey to play a swaggering lawyer that appears invincible, and there was even more time for that image to peel away to show a distraught, morally torn human being. That being said, McConaughey and the rest of the cast do very well. Phillippe even gives a surprisingly good performance and I’m a little surprised I don’t see him in more movies. Everyone else does a good job, without acting better than is to be expected, but I just wish Bryan Cranston had more screen time!

The bottom line is that The Lincoln Lawyer is a solid movie that won’t disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, though, it probably won’t impress you either. What we have here is pure popcorn escapism that just so happened to land on the good side of the film making spectrum. Everything, besides a rushed ending, fits very well together in this movie, but you have to make sure you suspend your disbelief the moment the movie starts. If you’re in the mood to just turn off and enjoy a few leisurely hours, this might just do the trick.

12 Angry Men – Review

2 Feb

When you’re watching a movie, it’s pretty fair to expect a lot of different things to happen in the course of the running time, and for the events to play out in a number of different places. Well what if I were to tell you that one of the most widely praised films ever made, 12 Angry Men, takes place in one room and you never even know the names of the characters. Sounds like it would be hard to really get sucked into a movie like that, but if it weren’t possible, would this be said to be one of the objectively greatest films ever to be made?

12-angry-men-1190-poster-large

 

On the hottest day of the year, 12 New York City jurors are left with the task of deciding the fate of an 18 year old boy who allegedly stabbed his father to death. At first, the case seems pretty open and close and most of the jury, who want to get out of there as soon as possible, seem convinced that he is guilty. All but Juror #8 (Henry Fonda). While he doesn’t know for sure if the boy is guilty or innocent, he doesn’t believe that there shouldn’t be a discussion and that some of the evidence isn’t as concrete as everyone believes. As the afternoon progresses, and the discussions get more personal and heated, it becomes clear that this boy’s life is in the hands of flawed human beings who may let their prejudices take precedence over their judgement.

The relationship between the actor and the screenplay are very tight and important to strengthen. The actors really depend on the screenplay to be well made and structured in order to give a believable performance, and vice versa for the screenplay. In my opinion, never has this relationship been more important to a movie’s success. Like I said before, save for a few brief scenes, this movie takes place all in one room with the main driving force of the story being the dialogue. There is no flashback to the murder or any other action to speak of. What really makes this work is the writing by Reginald Rose and the acting. Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, and Lee J. Cobb give especially good performances in roles that may seem a bit ahead of their time.

4692158_l5

 

Seeing that there are 12 men in the room, and since they are the only important characters in the film, it is important that nothing is shirked when it comes to sculpting their characters. Luckily, each and every one is molded perfectly and uniquely. Even though we just meet these people in the beginning of the movie where they’ve already lived their lives up until this point, I got the sense that I knew exactly who each man was. Again, there’s no flashbacks or elaborate stories explaining who they are. We learn about them gradually as the film goes on through small side conversations and their opinions on the case, especially concerning the boy’s innocence.

12 Angry Men is a thematic powerhouse, and is one that I could really discuss for hours on end. Everything from the flaws in the judicial system, social class, and prejudice are explored over the course of the movie. What’s also smart is that there isn’t a definite answer the questions and themes that this movie is bringing up. It wants the viewer to watch and analyze it for themselves, and then their opinions can be made. It doesn’t waste time spoon feeding you.

12 Angry Men truly is a remarkable movie. One thing I didn’t mention before is how the movie starts out in wide angle shots with plenty of room, and as it goes on, the shots get closer and more claustrophobic. Even the little details like that are important to the movie. The characters, acting, and writing are the true successes to this film and it has some pretty heavy questions that will make you think about yourself and your own beliefs. This film is a classic, and even if old movies aren’t your style, you should watch and be thrilled by 12 Angry Men.