About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: The Lincoln Lawyer


Matthew McConaughey plays the title L.A. lawyer, a cynical slickster who goes for a high fee and drives around in a chauffeur (Laurence Mason) driven car. A bail bondsman (John Leguizamo- ‘nuff said) directs him to the case of rich kid Ryan Phillippe, accused of assault and rape of a prostitute. Phillippe says he’s innocent and that the hooker set him up. Whilst McConaughey juggles this case with other clients (junkie hooker Katherine Moenning among them), his investigator pal William H. Macy does some digging into the case. Marisa Tomei (warm as ever) plays McConaughey’s friendly ex, mother of their young daughter, and a prosecutor whose boss (the DA, played by a perfectly chosen Josh Lucas) is the one who will be going up against McConaughey in Phillippe’s trial. Frances Fisher plays Phillippe’s protective mother, Bob Gunton is an associate of Phillippe’s family, Michael ParĂ© (where has he been the last ten years?) and Bryan Cranston play a-hole detectives who don’t like McConaughey helping to free the scumbags they’re trying to put away, Michael Pena is an imprisoned former client of McConaughey’s whom he goes to visit from time to time, and Trace Adkins has an oddball cameo as a biker.

 

Directed by Brad Furman (“The Take”) and scripted by John Romano (a former crime writer/reporter), this 2011 adaptation of the John Grisham-esque novel by Michael Connelly (“Blood Work”) makes one think about the old saying about the journey and the destination. I really enjoyed the journey here, it’s an entertaining yarn with a top cast. The destination, however, was predictable from quite early on (not as predictable as “Blood Work”, however), and ultimately not as satisfying as it could have been. Does that make the overall film unsatisfying? Well, that’s not the easiest question to answer because it wasn’t just the transparency that bothered me. When you look at that cast I just felt like by the end of the film not enough of those talented names had been used properly. And yet, thinking back over the film, the denouement is the only part of the film that I found any issue with. The film could’ve been better, but at the end of the day, it’s an enjoyable watch, warts and all.

 

Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated and charismatic actors out there, and has for a change found himself a worthwhile project and a good role for his talents. He’s certainly persuasive and compulsively watchable. An impressive Ryan Phillippe, meanwhile, is perfectly cast, as are Frances Fisher (possibly typecast, though), Bob Gunton, Shea Whigham, Josh Lucas (AKA McConaughey’s brother from another mother...and father) and John Leguizamo in smaller parts. The always immensely appealing Marisa Tomei and William H. Macy (the latter essentially playing a variation on his role from another courtroom film, “Ghosts of Mississippi”) steal their every scene, but they aren’t in the film enough for my liking.

 

The bluesy soundtrack is really cool, the story as I said is a good yarn, and 98% of the film works perfectly fine, even if it doesn’t really reinvent the wheel (It’s very John Grisham, right down to the casting of lead actor McConaughey). If you’re like me and you enjoy a good legal thriller, you’ll forgive this one’s (minor) sins and enjoy it for what it is.

 

Rating: B-

Review: White Lightning


Burt Reynolds is good ‘ol boy Gator McKlusky, released early from prison to help nail some moonshiners. Gator reluctantly agrees to help the FBI out, but is mostly motivated by revenge, hoping to take down the crooked sheriff (Ned Beatty, with thick glasses) who got his brother killed. Bo Hopkins plays the dopey moonshiner, whilst Matt Clark plays a nervy contact of Gator’s. Jennifer Billingsley is the sultry love interest, with R.G. Armstrong her sour husband.

 

Although I think the sequel, “Gator” is more entertaining (and its title song is awesome!), this 1973 Joseph Sargent (“The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three”, “Jaws: The Revenge”) crime-actioner is enjoyable stuff. That is, if your idea of entertainment is films like “Convoy” and TV shows like “The Dukes of Hazzard”.

 

Burt is Burt, whilst Billingsley, and especially Clark (one of his best roles) and well-cast Hopkins are terrific in support. Beatty is fine, but a bit subdued and underused as the main villain. Nice car stunts for those who are into that sort of thing, though the ending was a bit anti-climactic for me. With a screenplay by William W. Norton (“Big Bad Mama”, “Brannigan”, “Gator”, “The Scalphunters”), it’s a fun B-movie for those who can take it, especially Burt Reynolds fans.

 

Rating: B-

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The Change-Up


Jason Bateman is a workaholic corporate lawyer and father of three who never has enough time for his wife (Leslie Mann) because he’s trying to close a big business deal for his boss (Gregory Itzin). Best mate Ryan Reynolds is a fledgling actor who smokes dope all day, and shags as many women as possible. And yet he wonders why his father (Alan Arkin) is always disappointed in him. One night after a heavy drinking session, the duo are peeing into a fountain (as you do), and they wish aloud that they had each other’s lives. The next morning, they wake up in just that situation, with Bateman trapped in Reynolds’ body, and Reynolds in Bateman’s body. And because the statue has (somewhat conveniently) been moved by the local council, they’re stuck that way until they can find out where it has been moved to. So now the irresponsible commitment-phobic Reynolds must contend with three kids and a nagging wife (whom he wouldn’t mind shagging), and Bateman fronts up to Reynolds’ acting gig only to find that it’s a ‘lorno’ (light porno). But hey, at least Bateman can take a break from his hectic life and maybe even score with hot co-worker Wilde, since he’s in another man’s body. Can he really go through with it, though? Craig Bierko plays the heavily-accented, intimidating ‘lorno’ director.

 

Dear reader, I’m not proud of myself, but I was mostly entertained by this 2011 comedy from director David Dobkin (the amusing “Wedding Crashers”) and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. It’s got one of those embarrassingly silly ‘body swap’ plots, but like “Big”, “All of Me”, and “Vice Versa”, this is one of the rare ones worth seeing. For starters, it’s funny, which for me is like 75% of what a comedy needs to succeed (If it’s also a good movie, that’s a bonus). The opening fifteen minutes in particular (before the ‘body swap’) are really funny. Even some of the gross-out humour is funny, particularly a disgusting (but funny) bit involving baby poo, and a child who surely must have a giant headache (Apparently it’s CGI, and you’d think it would have to be, but I must say I didn’t notice the deception except in the pooping scene). There’s a particularly funny exchange between the two men where Bateman (in Reynolds’ body) tells Reynolds (in Bateman’s body) that he can’t have sex with his wife or anyone else. ‘What the hell is that?’ asks Reynolds. ‘Marriage’ is the response from Bateman. And anyone who doesn’t chuckle at the “Untouchables” reference (albeit a deliberate misquote) has no sense of humour whatsoever (I won’t spoil the gag). I also have to give the writers credit, because as much as the reason behind the ‘body swap’ (let alone the idea of a ‘body swap’ in the first place) is stupid and lazily done, some genuine thought has gone into it so that it makes a lot of sense that the two characters end up where they end up at the end of the film. **** SPOILER WARNING **** That Bateman in Reynolds’ body will learn to not be such a stuffed shirt and Reynolds will learn responsibility whilst pretending to be Bateman, is obvious from the outset. However, I really liked that since Wilde had a crush on the more mature Bateman, Reynolds goes through a character transformation of sorts whilst in Bateman’s body that, at the end of the day, will no doubt help him in his relationship with Wilde. It was well thought out. Not only that, but since he’s maturing whilst in Bateman’s body, and Bateman is hanging out with Wilde whilst in Reynolds’ body, the transition of Reynolds back into his own body would be more seamless so Wilde likely won’t notice because Reynolds in Bateman’s body still struggles to hide his own persona and vice versa, so obviously once they switch back, it won’t seem so jarring (Still with me?). Of course, we’re talking about a ‘body swap’ film, so logic isn’t a pre-requisite. **** END SPOILER ****

 

On the downside, I found the character played by Leslie ‘Mrs. Apatow’ Mann a complete moron. Actually, that’s an insult to morons. Whilst it is almost plausible that Wilde won’t notice something amiss with Reynolds in Bateman’s body (he’s her boss, hardly familiar outside of that context), I simply refused to believe, even in the context of a dopey ‘body swap’ comedy, that Leslie Mann didn’t catch on at all. Reynolds and Bateman even try to explain it to her early on, and the contrivance used to get around that simply weren’t believable. But at the moment of the ‘dinner song’ scene, the jig should’ve most certainly been up. Bateman (inhabited by Reynolds) clearly doesn’t know the song, swears in front of the kids, and acts in a manner that not even a moron would be fooled by. Mann takes it as Bateman simply being a dick, but that just isn’t plausible, as written. She didn’t believe their confession? Fine, but the confession is still on the table, and after a while, it surely becomes obvious that at least something is going on. Yes, I know this is in a film where two guys swap bodies whilst peeing into a statue fountain, but movies need to make some sense within their own context at least. So it bugged me.

 

I also have a problem, believe it or not, with the nudity in the film. It’s mostly CGI, and whilst I love this idea in principle (Jessica Alba doesn’t want to nude up in a film? Fuck it, add some CGI titties! It’s genius and I wholeheartedly and chauvinistically endorse it), it is poorly executed here. The boobs are way too large and at no point do they look like they can move. I didn’t pick up on the CGI baby, but these phony mammaries stuck out like a sore thumb (And speaking of thumbs...no, if you’ve seen the film, it’s probably best not to go there). I also found some of the toilet humour unfunny, especially one completely unnecessary toilet scene with Mann. I get what they were doing there, and call me sexist, but there are some things I just don’t want to see a woman do, even if it’s for a comedic purpose.

 

But look, funny is funny, and I laughed at this a lot more than I was expecting (You might hate it. Comedy is subjective, especially when Ryan Reynolds is involved). And it’s a lot funnier than “The Hangover”, a previous effort from writers Lucas and Moore, not to mention funnier than a lot of the crap Adam Sandler comes out with. It’s funny that Roger Ebert criticises this film for featuring unlikeable characters and not being as good as “The Hangover”, because I think this is much funnier, and the two lead characters are a lot more likeable and interesting than any of the drug-taking, boozing creeps in “The Hangover” (And thankfully Reynolds isn’t imitating Jim Carrey anymore). The two leads are excellent and perfectly cast, and although underused, Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde are solid too.

 

These sorts of films rarely work, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that this one at least made me laugh, especially when so many other comedies these days are terribly unfunny (“The Hangover”, “Your Highness”, “Due Date”, “Just Go With It”, “Easy A”, “Couples Retreat”, “Bad Teacher”, “Dinner for Schmucks”, etc). Points off, though, for setting up a gag involving an embarrassing tattoo and never paying it off. What the hell?

 

Rating: B-