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The Lawyer (1970)
Have you reached a verdict?
"The Lawyer" is an entertaining, if unspectacular courtroom drama featuring the sterling acting talents of Barry Newman ("The Limey", "Bowfinger") and Diana Muldaur ("L.A. Law", "Star Trek: The Next Generation") amongst others. In short, it is about a New York lawyer who ups-sticks to the country, and a murder case he handles in his new environment. As I said, it's nothing special, but surprisingly involving nonetheless. Essentially it plays like a high quality TV movie, so it's no surprise that a spin-off TV series, "Petrocelli", followed. It's worth watching if you have a spare couple of hours, and fans of the show will be interested to see the formative incarnation of Petrocelli. Assured helming, incidentally, comes from Sidney J. Furie - director of one of the best Cold War Spy films ever, "The Ipcress File". "The Lawyer" will make no-one's All Time Top Ten list, I can assure you, but there are many many worse films out there. In a word: Interesting.
Absorbing legal drama, years before L.A Law came along...
Spun-off from the movie "The Lawyer" (qv), "Petrocelli" is a great, one hour courtroom drama starring Barry Newman as the displaced New York Lawyer in the desert, Tony Petrocelli. In the late 1990s there was something of a revival in its popularity in the UK, when the BBC began screening it daily in their early afternoon (2pm) slot. It was certainly more entertaining than the show it replaced, "Quincy MD", although perhaps it did not scale the heights reached by the champion of that particular timeslot, "Columbo". "Petrocelli" became the all time favourite tv show of my University friend and housemate Neil, who would often miss lectures to catch the daily afternoon dose of legal drama. I wouldn't go that far, but I'd still say it's great entertainment. When compared to some of the lame legal dramas out there today ("The Practice", anyone?) the writing here is positively superb.
The Dish (2000)
An opportunity to use the word "nice" in a positive way.
As with all "true story" movies, I have no idea how much of this is actually true - particularly in relation to the crises just before the actual moonwalk. But frankly, I don't care, because "The Dish" as a movie is a splendid experience.
Being heavily promoted as "from the makers of 'The Castle' " may get a few extra punters in the door - particularly here in Australia where the exploits of the Working Dog team are rightly well known and loved; but those expecting "The Castle 2" will be in for a surprise.
But a pleasant one. This film is much more ambitious, much larger in scope. As is to be expected, the writing here is very sharp - a likeable group of characters are defined very well very quickly, the simple plot flows smoothly, and there is a constant stream of funny (and some downright hilarious) moments. Much of the humour is distinctly Aussie, and much of it arises from the culture clash between the locals and the visiting Americans. Yet despite this, the film does not stoop to the level of "Ocker cliché" which plagues several other Australian films. There is a core of simple humanity here which makes it very engaging. It is for this reason also that I think the film will play very well in other countries.
The cast is also very impressive, from the habitually sound Sam Neill, who projects an immense dignity, and Patrick Warburton as the pressured NASA official sent to oversee the operation, right down to the Mayor's son, reeling off technical details of the spacecraft to his bemused dad. It is a credit to the cast, and to Rob Sitch as a director that I was rarely aware that I was watching a film, I was simply drawn into the experience.
Those, like me, who wanted to be an Astronaut when they were little, and maintained an interest in the space program, will enjoy seeing the famous footage again in a new light. Those looking for a comedy will find many laughs herein. Those curious to understand the nature of being Australian will find some clues. And those just looking for a film to make them feel good could do much much worse. In short, "The Dish" is one of those rare movies which will appeal to pretty much everyone. I can't really think of any serious criticisms, and left the cinema feeling... well, "nice". I have no doubt it will play well in Australia, but I also hope it does well overseas too, in the US and elsewhere. I'd recommend it to everyone I know, and everyone else.
When this one comes out on DVD I'll be getting a copy, and it'll be going straight to the pool room!