Monday, April 11, 2011

One Uptight Nurse and Two Shady Lawyers

Last week, I visited my father who has retired to Las Vegas. We saw three general relese films. If anyone has a recommendation for a rep-house theater in Las Vegas, I'd be appreciative. I was surprised to see Barney's Version and Potiche screening at Regal theaters. My guess is there are about 300 screens in Las Vegas and perhaps 40 films screening at any given time. In other words, everything is a multiplex and they all show the same 6 to 10 films.

The three films we saw were:

Little Fockers starring Ben Stiller & Robert De Niro; with Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern & Harvey Keitel; (2010) - Official Website
The Lincoln Lawyer starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe & Marisa Tomei; with William H. Macy, Michaela Conlin, Josh Lucas, Frances Fisher, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bryan Cranston and Michael Paré; (2011) - Official Website
Win Win starring Paul Giamatti & Amy Ryan; with Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale & Burt Young; directed by Thomas McCarthy; (2011) - Official Website


Little Fockers was more my father's choice than mine. It was playing at second run movie theater with a $1.50 admission price. Several years ago, my parents & I saw Meet the Parents. We all enjoyed it but my parents came to be big fans of Ben Stiller who they were unfamiliar with before. They went on to watch There's Something About Mary, The Royal Tenenbaums, Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents and other Stiller films. I like There's Something About Mary and The Royal Tenenbaums. The other films seem derivative of the character Still played in Mary. My favorite Ben Stiller films include Reality Bites, Flirting with Disaster and Keeping the Faith.

Little Fockers wasn't quite as bad as movie reviewers have written. It is getting stale but Stiller, De Niro and Owen Wilson play their roles like its the first time.


When I visited my father in January, I read Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer and discovered a film adaptation was being made. The film came out in March to generally positive reviews.

I have to agree the film was pretty good. The film followed the plot of the novel for the most part. They eliminated a few scenes and characters without much negative impact. At the end, they really turned the novel on its head. In the book, Mickey Haller's character is used as unwitting bait and a cop shoots the killer. In the film, Haller shoots the killer in self-defense.

More importantly, in the novel, the events profoundly effect Haller and he ends the novel in self-contemplation. In the film, Haller seems to be himself within a day of the shooting. I guess ending the film with McConaughey in a depression or in deep self-reflection doesn't set up the sequel or franchise. However, the novel's ending was more powerful and established the groundwork for a less cynical Mickey Haller in future installments.

Regardless, the film and novel are terrific thrillers/courtroom dramas.


I was a little surprised that a small film like Win Win would play Las Vegas. Some of the Regal multiplexes have a "Cinearts" screen(s). I guess that is either marketing to people like me or warning to people not like me that a certain kind of film will be screening. The only films that looked worthwhile were Win Win and Potiche. I chose Win Win because I hadn't seen any negative reviews as I had for Potiche.

In the same way Ben Stiller plays the lovable but clumsy and awkward loser, Paul Giamatti has made a career playing a less lovable, slightly shady loser. He played that role to great acclaim in Sideways. His character in Win Win is more socially well adjusted than Sideways but as a lawyer, Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) engages in unethical behavior with a senior citizen showing signs of dementia. When his grandson shows up, things get complicated. When his drug rehabbed daughter shows up, all hell break loose but not in a slapstick manner. Win Win is a gentle and adult comedy about a decent and good man having financial troubles which induce him to do something against his better judgment. Then he copes as well as he can as the situation spirals out of control.

A dark comedy would have had a different ending so at its heart, Win Win is a heartwarming comedy. For most of the film, Giamatti is engaged in deceptive behavior. That the audience (at least my father & I) empathizes with him is testimonial to Giamatti's skills as an actor.

Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor & Bobby Cannavale turn in nice comedic performances. Melanie Lynskey (Up In the Air) has a juicy role as the drug addicted mother trying to scam her father and unwittingly destroying her son. She does quite well in the role. Alex Shaffer as the grandson doesn't get to do much but act in a laid-back, slacker manner although he is a highly dedicated high school wrestler. That's fine because Shaffer's character is really only there for the adults to react to or project their dreams and fears onto.

Win Win is small gem of a film and I look foward to director Thomas McCarthy's next film.

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