Need a couple fresh movies for your Netflix list? These two films I watched this weekend come highly recommended:
First on the list is the 2006 Vin Diesel-starring Find Me Guilty (also known as that film where Vin had hair and got fat), a true story about the criminal trial of "mobster" Jackie DiNorscio who decides to represent himself as his own lawyer. This is actually the second time I've seen the film, but the first time I truly appreciated Diesel's performance. Initially, people balked at seeing this film because of his appearance as the true life figure, finding it difficult to see the actor in such a serious role. The problem is that it's not actually a serious role, as DiNorscio is presented as a man who does his best to "speak from the heart" and add humor to the proceedings in order to help win the jury over.
Directed by the late, great Sidney Lumet (his final film), Find Me Guilty is not a comedy per sey, but takes light the trial and the drama that easily could have been mined had it been written or directed by anyone less. It's difficult to say the film is "original" in its court room process, but the film is highly watchable and enjoyable, (especially considering the real-life antics of the star defendant) and Vin Diesel gives a stand-out performance at a time when he was considered nothing more than an action-hero meat head.
The second film is last year's The World's End, the third film from the team of writer-director Edgar Wright and stars (and co-writers) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. If you've seen Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, then this film is a must-see. I'm actually quite upset that I didn't make the decision to see it in the theater, because the film is one of the quickest, wittiest films I've experienced in quite some time. Many of the criticisms from some of the critics were that the film was hard to understand with the fast-talking and thick accents, but I found this not to be the case. In fact, that criticism was on the first things I took in with me on my viewing of the movie, and I immediately thought that the critics who said that were a bunch of pricks (or "cunts", if you're British).
The World's End is exactly the kind of humor I expected after having just recently watched the other two films in Wright's proposed "Apocalypse Trilogy", but what stands out the most is just how similar (in a good way) all three films are if watched back-to-back-to-back. In this one, a bunch of high school friends are begrudgingly wrangled up over twenty years later by the leader of their pack (Simon Pegg) to perform a legendary pub crawl involving one night and twelve bars - an adventure they weren't able to complete decades before.
The film begins as a waaay-past coming-of-age story with one man having retained his youthful, reckless ways, and doing his best to get his now grown up and well-established buddies to agree to finally complete the mission they failed at before. All this, while halfway into the movie finding out that their old stomping grounds are now inhabited by blue-blooded killer robots. You read that right.
Seriously, this movie reminded me a bit (story structure-wise) of how From Dusk till Dawn played out, as though two completely different films are intertwined yet somehow manage to tell a complete story. In The World's End, the beauty of the writing comes from just how little all the shit that's happening in the town affects the determination of Pegg's character, and how the logic of the other men, given the situation at hand, won't stop him from completing the one thing he feels his life has meaning for.
Like Shaun of the Dead before it, this film finds a way to be completely and utterly funny with visual gags galore, while also having that one moment of drama that brings home what easily could have been a forgettable, stupid comedy. Seriously - watch all three of the trio's films back-to-back-to-back, and try telling me that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost aren't one of the greatest duos in contemporary film history.
Both Find Me Guilty and The World's End are funny in their own right, but both require you to allow your imagination to run free. With Find Me Guilty, you have to get over the initial impression that Vin Diesel is given a role in which he is required to "act". And you know what? He's surprisingly good.
With The World's End, go into the film at least knowing something about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and you'll pretty much understand what you are getting yourself into. Lots of blue-blooded...blanks.