31 July 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: The Distinguished Gentleman

So, a little later than I'd like, here's another review of the Films of Jonathan Lynn, The Distinguished Gentlemen, released in 1992 by Hollywood Pictures. Written by Marty Kaplan and Jonathan Reynolds.

The scenario follows con man Thomas Jefferson Johnson (Eddie Murphy), as he gets himself elected into congress to take advantage of lobbyist donations. He crosses paths with corrupt congressman Dick Dodge (Lane Smith) who displays the dark side of covering one's interests, and, at least as far as the VHS box promises, "hilarity ensues".

I can't admit to being an Eddie Murphy fan or expert, but "Distinguished Gentleman" does give Murphy a great to showcase his range of characters from the peak of his career. As Thomas Johnson the con man, Murphy poses as everything from cranky old Jews to a hyper-competent policeman to a pitch perfect "white announcer voice". Though many of these characters and types have been showcased in other movies (and most likely, the "cop" scene was written in to try to borrow some of Beverly Hills Cop's success), it's nice to see a professional doing what he does best.

I don't particularly like "Distinguished Gentleman" too much, mainly due to the script. After about an hour of watching Thomas romp through Congress, the littlest cancer patient wanders into his office, giving him noble motivation for defeating corrupt Congressman Dodge. What the hell? I know the movie was basically made by Disney, but even this stunt is stupid, saccarine and nonsensical. If Thomas is supposed to have a change of heart, shouldn't it be due to a character or element already well -established and organic to the scenario? Why does this darn bald kid and her magic cancer-causing lines come out of nowhere? It's shoddy writing pandering more to lifetime movie-of-the-week sensibilities than to principles of either drama or narrative logic.

My favorite thing about this movie is Lane Smith

Yeah, he looks older in this movie, but this is too creepy to pass up

He's just so damn intimidating. Unlike the well-meaning DA from "Vinny" Smith's character in "Gentlemen" is a mean-hearted Hollywood bad guy through and through. Though thinly drawn, Congressman Dodge is effective as he's written as basically being a better con man than Thomas (kind of like in Pirates of the Caribbean, Barbossa is a better at pirating ship than Captain Sparrow) .

All in all, I'd say this is one of Jonathan Lynn's weaker movies so far. For a guy who built his career on political satire, American Government seems like a logical subject matter. And like "Nuns on the Run" and "My Cousin Vinny" the film's not afraid to show it's research. But the thing's too damn sugary to really be an effective satire, and too damn thin on characterization to draw merit on other fronts. I might watch it again if I didn't have to pay money to do it.

28 July 2011

So comic con San Diego came and went with thunderous noise and many blistered feet. But like always, It was a blast. A mighty blast, complete with....



Rick Baker

Kevin Altieri, staring into your very soul.


The Hernandez Brothers, creators of Love and Rockets.

The Nicole Brothers, Ethan (art) and Malachai (story), creators of Axe Cop.

Extra Bonus: the panel was moderated by Kevin Murphy.

Extra-Extra Bonus: Malachai Nicole showed Baby Man how to do the Baby Man Dance!

Extra-Extra- Extra Bonus: somebody asked to take my picture, complimenting me on my "Hunter S. Thomson" Costume.

... The Hell?

04 July 2011

The Films of Jonathan Lynn: My Cousin Vinny

Compulsory Fan-art: Fred Gwynne as Judge Haller.

My Cousin Vinny – Released 1992 by Twentieth Century Fox Written by Dale Launer. Two touring New Yorkers are accused of murder while passing through Alabama. They’re only hope lies with Vinny Gambini, possibly the world’s worst lawyer.

Launer’s script starts out with a strong inciting incident: College kids Stan and Bill are arrested and booked for murder. The stakes start high and get higher. Every dramatic device is clear and strongly stated: Vinny’s dramatic need, the obstacles to that end , rising stakes and an ending climax that reincorporates both plot and character. My Cousin Vinny could very well be re-titled “Hollywood Screenwriting 101”. Whether that's a jibe or compliment (hint: it's a compliment) depends on one's tastes as a moviegoer, I suppose.

However, the subplot where Vinny’s harassed by a local itching to start a fight slows things down. In the movie, Vinny’s finance’, Lisa (Marisa Tomei) takes Vinny to a bar to settle a pool debt. A local good ‘ol boy refuses to pay up, and Vinny negotiates the terms of ass-kicking and payment. The scene shows Vinny being competent, so as not to lose all credibility with the audience. And it would be great if the scene ended there. But the pool shark is made into a running gag and periodically pops up to annoy Vinny (and the audience). The movie has pretty deliberate pacing as is, with repetitive legal proceedings determining the structure, and the pool shark sub plot distracts and just slows things down even more.

Overall, “My Cousin Vinny” is an excellent film due to its fantastic casting! Everybody from Joe Pesci as Vinny to Austin Pendleton as the one-scene-wonder Public Defender deliver top-notch performances, but I really have to stop and just spew some admiration for Fred Gwynne as Judge Haller. Gwynne’s damn intimidating, which is a little weird coming from a guy best known as Herman Munster. Gwynne’s choices, from his deliberate, high-status movement to the way he rests his head on his hand, make him seem every inch the terrifying first grade school teacher, if that school teacher had the power to throw you in jail and sentence you to death.

“My Cousin Vinny” is probably Jonathan Lynn’s first qualified US success. Produced in the US (As opposed to "Nuns" produced in Great Britian by none other than George Harrison), "Vinny" made back it’s budget in the first theatrical run (Approximately $53,000,000 gross over a $11,000,000 budget), and nabbing a supporting Actress Award for Marisa Tomei.

By the way, did you notice that this is, like, the third light comedy this guy's made that opens with a violent death? What's with that?