Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

I have read almost all of John Grisham's novels and seen almost all of the film adaptations that have followed. If you have too, you might be tricked into thinking that you have seen The Lincoln Lawyer before.

And yet it is not even adapted from a Grisham novel. The original text, which I haven't read but have made a mental note to do, is by Michael Connelly. Apparently a lot of it doesn't make the cut here, but that doesn't stop this from being an engaging, entertaining legal thriller.

It stars Matthew McConaughey, seen here on top 'A Time To Kill' form, but this time as smart-arsed legal whizz-kid Michael Haller. Michael gets bad people off, if you'll pardon that kind of expressionism, meaning that he gets people out of jail terms that they really should have to serve. In that sense he's a sort of anti-hero, but trust me by the end you'll be rooting for him in the courtroom.

The film is so titled because Haller works mostly from the back seat of his Lincoln. That's a car for the uninitiated (like me before I knew of this film) and in all honesty, not enough is made of it's use for legal chicanery to justify naming the entire shebang after it. The best use of the vehicle comes when Haller is negotiating with a group of very hairy bikers. It's all set up to project an image of devil-may-care, maverick law practise. You're not supposed to like Haller, yet.

Not that is until he starts the defense of Louis Roulet (like the wheel, he announces wrongly), played by Ryan Phillipe. He's a rich kid accused of the brutal assault and rape of an expensive prostitute. Why does a rich kid need to be using prostitutes? Those with money tend not to need it, don't they? Anyhow, it doesn't take long before we realise that Roulet is guilty, and we start demanding that our man Haller do something about it. At this point I began wondering about Haller. He can't tell anyone that Roulet has confessed to the crime, and a much worse one to boot, because of lawyer-client confidentiality. Yet rather than walk away and let Roulet find himself another defender he carries on, performing brilliantly considering the amount of alcohol he has consumed.

All of which leads to a mildly surprising and slightly less than mildly satisfactory ending. This film is not a classic but there is much to enjoy in McConaughey's return to form, from the all-too-short involvement of William H Macy as the investigator who sniffs out the details of Roulet's involvement in the grisly crime, to the woefully under-used but permanently smiling Marisa Tomei as Haller's ex-wife and mother of his young daughter.

They're still friends. Well, you'd want to stay in Marisa Tomei's good books.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Do you ever think that some things were just meant to be, and some not?

Well, mostly not. Yet if you're a believer in destiny then you'll at least be intrigued by the basic premise of The Adjustment Bureau. It stars Matt Damon as New York Senate candidate David Norris who, after flunking badly in the election, happens upon a chance meeting with Elise (Emily Blunt). She's in the gents toilets for reasons best known to herself, and he's talking to himself in preparation for his acceptance speech. Acceptance of defeat, that is. They're a right pair.

Within minutes they kiss. Of course they do. This kind of shit happens to me every day. Regardless, their meeting and the subsequent kiss spells trouble for both, if only they would know it. Enter The Adjustment Bureau. They wear fedora hats, and they do what it says on the tin. They make adjustments to people's lives and events so that things don't deviate too far from 'the plan'. It's all been worked out by 'the chairman'. Are you confused yet?

What you really need to remember here (as if you could forget it) is that The Adjustment Bureau will do almost anything to stop David and Elise from seeing each other again. It's just not part of 'the plan', despite the fact that they think they were meant to be together and seem to care about little else. So determined is David, in particular, that after another chance meeting on a bus he rides the same bus at the same time every day for three years in the hope of finding her, this following another irritating intervention from The Adjustment Bureau. And their hats. Remember the hats, they are important later in the film.

The great problem with all of this is that you probably won't believe that it's so important to the Bureau for David and Elise to be kept apart. They certainly don't. Not that is until the introduction of Thomspon, played by Terence Stamp, at which point it all becomes clear. Clear but still less than convincing. Surely they have caused more trouble than they have fixed with their continued efforts to keep the happy couple apart?

The ending reminded me of one of my novels. Stop laughing now as I tell you that I wrote two (arguably unfinished) novels a number of years ago, but what came between me and becoming the next Nick Hornby (who?) was the fact that I would set up a premise and several subsequent scenes without having any clue as to how it was going to end. It's just possible that that is what has happnened here, although this being an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel you might choose to buy into it. After all, Dick was a proper writer, not some journalism graduate with an hour for his lunch break.

Yet to my mind the ending is rushed and unlikely, though it is difficult to criticise a film with a premise as unlikely as this for having an unlikely ending. This is sci-fi. One could question any number of events before the ending (not least of which is how a man manages to pull Emily Blunt within a minute. A minute spent talking to himself. Even if he is Matt Damon). Still, it remains an interesting concept, and could have been a great film had it been blessed with a plot with a little more substance. It should get you thinking about free will and the choices you make, but it probably won't influence them.

I'm off to finish those novels.........

Friday, 4 March 2011


Emma and I are going to Las Vegas this summer. It's going to be a bit of a road trip, actually. We've hired a car and we're going to travel out to California, spend a few nights in Los Angeles and a few more in San Diego before heading back to Vegas for the second week.

I mention this not to gloat (although......), but because it is similar to the journey taken by the main protagonists in Paul, the latest comedy vehicle of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Graham Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) start in San Diego at the Comic-Con convention (Emma says we'll be starting at the zoo) and several mishaps later end up journeying quite blindly across America in the company of an alien. That's Paul.

Along the way they pick up the fanatically religious Ruth, prompting much creationism versus evolution debate between her and Paul. God botherers may want to look away at the point when Paul appears to prove that all of Darwen's theories are correct and that humanity evolved over millions of years and was not created by a supreme being with an afternoon to kill. Personally, I didn't need much convincing on that score.

As a matter of fact it is the most believable notion in the whole film. But that's alright because this is a film about an alien. Look elsewhere if you're seeking gritty realism. Not that it lacks any attempt at philosophy. One of Paul's 'things' is to impart his wisdom on the otherwise hapless Willy and Gollings aswell as Ruth. He also smokes dope, dances and revives a dead bird before stuffing it into his mouth and swallowing it whole. Paul is not just any old alien. He's a multi-talented alien.

All of which gives you an idea of the kind of comedy you're dealing with. You are either going to like it or you're not. It has been criticised for allegedly paying homage to too many other sci-fi films and while it is true that some dialogue is lifted entirely from elsewhere, it is done with good intentions and will work quite well for sci-fi fans who are prepared to let go and not take the genre too seriously. Assuming such people exist. Paul is good fun but nothing much more. It will not be remembered 100 years from now and may not even bear comparison to earlier Pegg/Frost efforts like Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz.

The ending is predictable and features a wholly unnecessary cameo from Sigourney Weaver. Why they didn't break the bank for Carrie Fisher I'll never know. Anyway, it does at least offer a final chance to shine for possibly the film's strongest character and best performer, Jason Bateman as government agent Zoyle. What? Didn't I mention that Paul had been working for the government but, fearing that he had outgrown his use to them, had decided to flee back to his home planet with Zoyle in hot pursuit?

Must have had my mind on that road trip...............