31 March 2011

Source Code


When gearing up to see Source Code, I was very apprehensive. The last Jake Gyllenhaal film was a disaster. I don’t care what anybody says. The last time I saw Vera Farmiga was in Up in the Air, and I enjoyed the film. And the last time I saw Jeffery Wright, well, he was helping my favorite franchise character, James Bond. The preview looked interesting, but I was afraid it would be just like Vantage Point. The director Duncan Jones is coming off of his critically acclaimed first feature film, Moon. I am sad to say that I have not seen it. Unfortunately, the writer Ben Ripley is coming off of two unnecessary and unwanted direct-to-video sequels of Species and a television movie.

Source Code opens with Capt. Colter Stephens/Shawn (Gyllenhaal) waking up disoriented on a commuter train. Across from him sits Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Colter then tries to figure out why Christina keeps calling him Shawn, how he got on the train, and why his reflection in the restroom mirror is not him. Then the train explodes.

Capt. Colter then wakes up in a harness in a small capsule. A screen comes to life and there is Goodwin (Farmiga). She tries to calm him down and get him to focus on his mission by asking him what he saw and remembers from the train. Then, Dr. Rutledge (Wright) has Colter sent back into the Source Code. Colter then embraces his mission; he was a war hero in Afghanistan after all. Each time inside the Source Code, he gets closer to completing his mission: find the bomber. Another attack is eminent and Colter is the key to preventing it.

Every time Colter is sent back, we are right back where the movie started, on a commuter train across the seat from Christina. At this point, I started to worry that this movie was going to go down the same path of Vantage Point. Happily, it did not. Meanwhile, each time back in the capsule, he gets closer to solving how he got there and what the Source Code is. Dr. Rutledge explains that the Source Code allows Colter to relive the last eight minutes of a specific person’s life. The only hook is, you can’t change the past because it has already happened.

Now, I do not want to give away what goes down in the rest of the film. Let’s just put it this way, Source Code is the best movie I have seen this year. I know that isn’t saying a whole lot considering some of the movies I’ve seen lately, but I cannot stress enough that this movie is worth the 93 minutes and $10 ticket price. Source Code succeeds where so many movies have failed. It is entertaining and thought provoking on many levels. It could be this year’s Inception.

After watching Source Code, I cannot wait until Ben Ripley’s next foray into mainstream screenwriting and Duncan Jones’ next directorial film. 4.5/5

25 March 2011

Sucker Punch

More Like a Phantom Punch

The Lincoln Lawyer

I like Michal Connelly’s novels. I have read four, I think. My favorite: Blood Work. The movie did not do the book justice. But, what movie does? Other than Jurassic Park, of course. Maybe The Godfather. Gone with the Wind according to the wife. Anyway, our book club read The Lincoln Lawyer, on my recommendation, with plans to see the film. It was not a hard sell. Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Philippe in the same film was an easy sell to a bunch of women.

As the movie opened, I was pleasantly surprised. There were old school opening credits! There was an entire opening credits sequence. After the shock wore off, we are introduced to Mickey Haller (McConaughey) and his driver Earl. This was where the movie immediately started to veer away from the book. The relationship between Earl and Haller was never really discussed. That’s too bad. We then see Haller in action in the courtroom. After this, there is no doubt that he is suave and able to bend the rules but stay within the law.

Haller then talks with bail bondsman Val (Leguizamo) about a case that Val wants the $1 million bond on. Haller decides to take a look into it. On his way to that courthouse, Eddie Vogel (Trace Adkins), the leader of a pot growing biker gang, pulls him over. Turns out, he is the “boss” of the client from the first court scene. For his first real acting gig, Trace Adkins wasn’t too bad.

After Haller finally makes it to the courthouse, he meets his soon-to-be new client, Louis Roulet (Philippe). He is up for attempted rape and murder and bunch of other associated charges. Haller quotes his price, Roulet and his mother and his family attorney agree to terms and the case starts. Haller enlists the help of his investigator Frank Levin (Macy) to help dig up dirt on everyone involved and follow leads. As the case continues, more evidence points to Roulet having done it. This causes morals to be tested, lines to be crossed, and the law to be blurred.

The story is quite engaging and twisting. I loved the book. I would recommend reading it for sure. The movie, well, it left out a lot of key things; like the relationship between Haller and his “office secretary,” and his driver as I mentioned above. The movie seemed more focused on being witty than being dramatic. It was more concerned with “zingers” than some layers of plot. The movie was good. But the book was a great read. I have not read John Grisham, only seen a couple films. The wife says his older stuff can’t be touched by Connelly. I will have to read some Grisham, I guess.

Along the way, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Bones’ Michaela Conlin make appearances as detectives looking into Haller. This storyline was glossed over. It was more important in the book. Also, Josh Lucas from Sweet Home Alabama makes an appearance as the DA Minton. Minton replaces Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei) after she removes herself. She is Haller’s ex-wife. Finally, Michael Pena has a quick cameo as an old client of Haller’s who is less than excited to see his lawyer again.

I understand that when you adapt a book, things have to be left out. I just don’t understand why not try to keep as much as intact with a few extra lines of dialog? This was a two and a half hour movie cut down to two hours. I blame the MTV world. If it isn’t some epic fantasy story, then it has to be under two hours.

Finally, this was director Brad Furman’s first mainstream movie. It was not writer John Romano’s first script. So, I lay the blame on this movie’s shortcomings on him. I look forward to seeing if they continue the saga of Mickey Haller theatrically. I just read that they have green lit the first two books of Michael Connelly’s main character, Harry Bosch. Turns out, Bosch is the half-brother of Haller. Another storyline left out of the movie, but mentioned in the book. In the end, The Lincoln Lawyer is worth the watch, but definitely the read. Next month, the book club and I will be reading and watching Water for Elephants. Yay?