In Conversation with Wayne Byrne, Author of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out

Title: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Released: September 2017
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780231185356

The Cinema of Tom DiCillo

As the author of this insightful and entertaining book, he delves in deep and comes up with the goods. Through his conversations with Tom we see the thought processes and strategies on each of his films, his hopes and frustrations, and everything in between. One thing about Tom, he doesn’t hold back. We also hear from many of Tom’s collaborators, and he has worked with some of the best in this business.

In short, this wonderful book details the ultimate triumphant journey of one of independent cinema’s smartest, funniest and fiercest warriors. ~ Steve Buscemi


As a long-time fan of the award-winning, independent, New York filmmaker and recording artist, I was very excited to be among the first readers of Wayne Byrne’s well-written, fascinating, detailed analysis of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo.  Irish author Wayne Byrne’s book is comprised of a series of essays about each of DiCillo’s eight films – Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight, The Real Blonde, Double Whammy, Delirious, When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, and Down in Shadowland – embellished with insider insight from some of the films’ stars.

Wayne, congratulations on your auspicious debut as a writer! I read somewhere that you never intended to be a writer, so how was it that you became one?

Thank you, Christine.  It’s such a great feeling whenever I hear those words.  It reminds me that the book is a real thing.  I’m getting used to the thrill of walking into a book store and seeing it on the shelf.

What I meant by that reference to never intending to be a writer was that I never consciously set out to become one, in the sense that I never said, “I would love to be a  writer when I grow up,” nor ever pursued it academically.  It just wasn’t on my radar when wondering what to do with myself.  I always thought writers were Ivy League academic types, an exclusive club that I would never be privy to, and my not being academically inclined meant it was just never a consideration.

I wrote this book out of necessity.  I wanted to own a book on Tom DiCillo and for that to happen I had to write it myself.  That is the essence of the “accidental writer” quote you are referring to.

Even though writing is now my life, there’s an element of accident, or perhaps fate, to my professional breakthroughs.  At some stage many years ago, I started writing my own movie reviews for nothing other than the fun of cataloging what I was watching.  At the suggestion of my friend I submitted this massive portfolio of amateur scribbling to the editor of a newspaper just for the sake of doing something with them.  I didn’t think anything would come of it, and looking back on those writings now, I’m surprised something did.  The editor replied to set up a meeting with me.  So, I went in and he pretty much hired me then and there as their film critic and columnist.  I couldn’t believe it!  I did that for two years, before the Arts pages were cut from the paper to allow for more advertising inches.  But it was the springboard for my professional writing career.

I’m currently a music journalist, again not something I intentionally set out to do.  I was asked by the editor of a highly-regarded magazine here in Ireland called Hot Press if I would be interested in joining them as a regular contributor.  This was after I had sold to them what I thought was a one-off freelance piece that I wrote about a musician friend of mine.  I’ve been an avid reader of that magazine for twenty years so it’s very exciting to now be part of it.  What an honor to be asked to join them.

I’m familiar with Hot Press as I’ve been to Ireland three times and read it while I was there. It’s an excellent magazine! I think that being a music journalist is possibly one of the coolest jobs in the world. Do you still have fun with it or is it simply work?

Oh I absolutely have fun. Of course there are occasions where you don’t necessarily like a band that you are reviewing, either live or their album, or you’re not familiar with an artist that you have to interview, but you have to be fair and diligent and go do your homework and have some context going in.  Often I end up very surprised that I like an album that I would normally have reservations about.  If I’m unfamiliar with a band who I’m reviewing I will often go and listen to their back catalogue.  But yes, I am fully aware of how cool a job it is.  Getting paid to go to a Morrissey concert or listen to the new Weezer album?  Hell yes!  But it is an important magazine and I treat it as such, with absolute professionalism.

Can you speak to your process as a writer? Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music when you’re writing?

My process has certainly changed over time, having become busier and juggling various writing jobs. When I began writing The Cinema of Tom DiCillo, I wasn’t under any contract, I had no publishing deal, and so I had no deadline.  While there was a certain level of uncertainty there in not knowing if all of this work was ever going to be published or not, it also gave me complete freedom of time and effort.  It allowed me to write the book I truly wanted to write.  It meant I could wait for people to become free to interview them.  If a very busy actor said they could talk to me in two months that was fine, I would wait, rather than having to move on without them.  Only when I was ready and happy with my book, and had satisfactorily covered everything I wanted to, did I say, “it’s finished!”  It took me nearly five years, from developing the idea, research, interviews, writing, editing, getting a publishing deal, proofreading the final text, arranging the illustrative materials, coordinating all the Interview Release Forms, and then seeing it published.

It sounds like a long time, but it is time-consuming, especially in wanting it to be of an extremely high quality and a definitive study of Tom’s work, and I was also learning to become a writer as I wrote.  I have no formal training and I’ve never taken a class on writing or literature; I learned as I was doing it.  I don’t know if that would work for everyone, but it worked for me.  And after it was finished, I submitted the manuscript to some publishing houses and there weren’t too many people I sent it to before I got the reply that I wanted.  I knew I wanted to sign with Columbia because they own Wallflower Press, an imprint that has released some of the absolute best books on films and directors.  It was the company I had always wished would release a book on Tom DiCillo. And now they have, but I wrote it, which is still surreal to me.

I tend to write exclusively, at home. If I don’t have my easy chair by the fireplace, then I don’t write. I don’t listen to music while working on the books, but when I’m writing about a specific film I will have it playing in the background, so I can jump in at any time to analyze a particular scene for any number of reasons: thematically, aesthetically, technically.

But when writing for the magazine I do listen to music, because I have to if I’m discussing a particular album or song, and so I will inevitably end up hearing something, some small musical flourish or nuance in a song that I didn’t hear upon first listen but I can now work it into the article or review.

One thing that you and I have in common is that we have both met Tom DiCillo and have had the pleasure of getting to know him. How did you initially meet Tom and how long did you know him before you decided to write a book about his films?

My first contact with Tom was just as a fan, contributing conversation to his blog posts. Soon enough I had cause to contact him in a professional capacity to request an interview for the release of When You’re Strange, as I was writing about it in my coverage of various film festivals.  The idea for the book came about a year into being acquainted with Tom personally, having written him several times and covered his work for various publications.  It was during this period that I mentioned to Tom that I had wanted to buy a book on his work for many years but all I could find were some career overviews in film encyclopedias and reference books; no books wholly devoted to him.  So, at some stage I put forward the idea that I wanted to write the first book on his career.

As Tom is my favorite director, I knew I was in this rare position of being able to talk to him and pick his brain.  Before I began the actual work I experienced some moments of insecurity, not knowing a single thing about how to write a book, and I started questioning how you go about doing that – do you have to go to college to be a writer? How do you become a published author?  I really didn’t know how the whole system of professional writing worked.  But when Tom gave me his blessing and support it encouraged me to just go for it, to write it and worry about becoming published later.

How difficult was it to gain access to the actors that you interviewed for the book?

Not difficult at all, thankfully, for 99% of them.  In almost all cases Tom introduced me personally to the actor and we talked and arranged everything between us.  Brad Pitt was a different story.  There was a team of “people” I had to maneuver through. I would get some positive responses such as “Brad is considering it but is very busy at the moment and will get back to you.”  This went on for a period of time and at this stage I was close to finishing the book.  I felt it was just about ready, so spending more time waiting on responses from people was starting to drag the whole endeavor out.  I asked once more, stating that I needed to know if Brad was in or out because I had to finish the book and they came back and said Brad had, after carefully considering it, decided he could not contribute at that time.  While it wasn’t the answer I would have liked, especially after the kernels of hope I had received, I appreciated that it was at least a firm answer.

Who would you say provided you with the most detailed insight into Tom’s process as a filmmaker, aside from Tom?

It’s hard to name any one person.  Everyone brought their own great insights into Tom, but Catherine Keener, Steve Buscemi, and Chris Noth gave me perhaps the most detailed account of what Tom is like as a person and as a filmmaker, because they have either worked with him a lot or have known him for a long time.  In the case of Chris Noth, he and Tom’s friendship goes back to their acting class and cater-waiting days in the early-eighties.  Chris gave me so much insight.  We spoke at length about their very long friendship, reminiscing about the old days of trying to make it in movies in New York in the 1980s, and their time working together on Law & Order.  Likewise, Steve Buscemi has known Tom since around that time as well and so there’s a great history there between them.

What was the most surprising thing that you learned about him?

It was fascinating to discover the intimate details of his life before the films and the fame: his background, his family life, his influences, his world view, and the relationships created early on with other artists.  It was those more personal moments that were revelatory, and very interesting and rewarding to me as a writer.  No detail was too minor or superfluous.  It all added up to help me create what I hope is a definitive work of this great artist.

I believe your book is the definitive work about Tom DiCillo.

I really appreciate that, Christine. I’m happy to have written something that would be considered Wayne Byrnedefinitive, but I also always look forward to any other film commentators or scholars writing about Tom, I would always be interested to hear of other people’s opinions on the films, maybe spotting something I didn’t see or analyzing something from a different perspective.  The great thing about any arts criticism is that it’s completely subjective.  Every person brings their own personal history and sensibilities to their experience of a work that makes it exclusively their own. What I see in Tom’s work could be completely different to what another writer sees, and I would always be interested to hear what other people see in his work.

I find it difficult to pick a favorite of Tom’s films, can you?

It depends on what day of the week it is.  I find it hard to pick one favorite, but I do know the ones I connect most immediately with for different reasons.  Johnny Suede will always be the most important film for me, so it is probably my personal favorite, as it was the film that opened my eyes to cinema.  It’s because of that film that we’re having this interview.  While Living In Oblivion is perhaps the definitive DiCillo film, being so perfect in every way, and being released at the time it was, it’s such a crucial piece of American Independent Cinema.  But, objectively speaking, I do think that Delirious is a frontrunner as his best work.

That said, I have programmed Tom’s films at many events (festivals, clubs, etc.) and the film that most people tell me is their favorite is Box of Moonlight.  Something about that film really clicks with audiences.  What Al Fountain (John Turturro) experiences in that film is probably something many people experience in their lives at some point, and Tom pulls it off with such cinematic skill, a deft surrealist aesthetic, and with great humor and pathos, those elements which are so distinctly DiCillo.

I agree with you about Delirious.

It’s a masterpiece. It has such a vital energy, such a range of emotion, and a stunning command of style. Tom was really firing on all cylinders on that one; the performances speak for themselves, and it has some of the best scenes of Tom’s entire catalogue.  For me it is easily the best American film of the last decade. Certainly it’s my favorite film to come out since Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

For me, one of the things I enjoyed the most about your book was that you elaborated on the themes that run throughout Tom’s films. Can you reiterate those themes for my readers?

Yes, of course.  It is one of the main objectives of the book, to acknowledge and analyze the crucial and relevant themes that run throughout Tom’s films.  I have always been very unsatisfied with critical commentary of Tom’s work, because very few, if any, acknowledge the themes at the heart of the films.  Rather, they look to the immediate context of satire, trying to pick up on sly digs here and there at these venerated institutions, painting Tom as purely an iconoclast.  And that’s fine, but there is so much more to Tom’s films than that.  I think a lot of critics overlook the pathos of Tom’s work.

Look at the thread of familial discord that runs through from Johnny Suede right up to Down in Shadowland.  Even When You’re Strange, a film about The Doors, shares many of the same themes as other DiCillo films, such as the illusion of fame, the fragility of ego, identity crises, the severed connection of family and the toll that takes on someone.  It’s amazing that all of these ideas remain present in a documentary ostensibly about one of the biggest rock bands of the last fifty years. Because of Tom’s ability to weave these deeply personal themes throughout, the film becomes less an objective biography of a band, but, for those familiar with DiCillo and his work, a very intimate portrait of two artists: Jim Morrison and Tom DiCillo.

You’re so right!  That’s something I’ve never been able to put into words, but you’ve nailed it. When You’re Strange is how I first connected with Tom so it will always have a special place in my heart as a result, but I also happen to be a big Doors fan.

I was very familiar with The Doors but never a “fan”.  But, testament to the power of Tom’s film, I am now a fan.  I now deeply admire their mysterious style of music and their prodigious musicianship.  I love the whole social and political historical context that was going on around them, which makes them a fascinating band to write about. The chapter on When You’re Strange is one of my favorite chapters in the book.  I interviewed drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger for it, which is a pretty cool thing, to have those guys in there.

I love that you mention how wonderfully eclectic the soundtrack to Box of Moonlight (Wall of Voodoo, Peter Murphy, Nick Cave) is as it was a highlight for me.  One of the things that so attracted me to Tom’s personal music project, The Black and Blue Orkestre, was how his musical influences resonated throughout their first album. Tom’s taste in music really endeared me to him. Do you feel the same way?

Tom’s involvement in music is very important to me and to our friendship.  We have spent a lot of time working on music together.  I played guitar and piano on the Black and Blue Orkestre track In Your Dreams.  I’m very proud of it.  It was very exciting working with Tom on vocals and the actor Kevin Corrigan on bass – my job was made easier working with such skilled performers.  I love Tom’s voice and the sonic universe that he creates.  It just makes you want to grab the guitar and start recording, it’s so inspiring.

Tom’s use of music in his films is also wonderful, it is so crucial to the tone and atmosphere that he creates.  And the fact that he uses some of my favorite bands – such as those you just mentioned – just sweetens the deal.

I had no idea that you played guitar and piano on In Your Dreams!  That’s fantastic! I can’t wait for Tom to release the new songs that he’s recording with The Black and Blue Orkestre. Have you collaborated with him on any of them?

Thank you, I appreciate that. Yes, that song is pretty amazing.  I love how Tom mixed that song, it sounds terrific.  I have worked on a number of tunes, but I’m not sure what songs will end up on the next release, as this is Tom’s project and I just came in and did some guitar.  I like that session player aspect of working with the bones of a track, fleshing out the sound and my work is done.  Tom then does his production and engineering work on it and I just look forward to hearing the finished version just like any other fan.

Who are some of your favorite recording artists?

Music is a big part of me.  I love everything from 1930s dance bands, to 60s surf music, to 80s pop, to hardcore punk.  I’m inspired by every kind of music.  If you are over at my house for dinner or a beer, you could hear anything from The Circle Jerks to Slim Whitman to John Denver to Madonna.  I’ve started collecting vinyl, so I’m going back to albums I really love and relishing the great sound of records, so I’ve recently been listening to the first two albums from Bruce Hornsby and The Range (The Way It Is and Scenes from the Southside), Heartbeat City by The Cars, Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne, Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil, Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell.

I know I probably sound like some nostalgic dinosaur pining for my lost youth, when there is a whole world of new music out there, but I hear enough of the new stuff in my job writing for Hot Press (legendary Irish music magazine), so when I’m home and relaxing I tend to listen to the albums that continue to thrill and comfort.  I’m tragically unhip when it comes to music – I just like what I like.

My favorite albums would include:

Tango in the Night by Fleetwood Mac
Midnight to Midnight by The Psychedelic Furs
Déjà vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Book of Love by Book of Love
Heaven on Earth by Belinda Carlisle
Candy Apple Grey by Husker Du
Heaven or Las Vegas by The Cocteau Twins
In My Tribe by 10,000 Maniacs
Famous Monsters by The Misfits
Straight to Goodbye by Pale Divine

Wow, that’s an eclectic collection of favorite albums, but I love it!  If it’s any consolation, I’m probably just as tragically unhip when it comes to music because I still love listening to 70s and 80s music the most but maybe that’s the same for everyone who came of age in a certain time period.  The music of our youth remains special to us forever.  Are you familiar with The Tragically Hip who are from my hometown of Kingston, Ontario? I couldn’t resist slipping that in here…

Yes absolutely, I am a great admirer of The Tragically Hip.  Road Apples is a great album, and I absolutely love Small Town Bringdown EP – which has, for me, some of their best songs – Small Town Bringdown, Last American Exit, I’m a Werewolf Baby…just sublime! The production is fantastic, very much of that late-80s era. Just sublime!  You must have been able to see them live during those times, which would have been great.

What has writing this book taught you about filmmaking and The Arts in general?

That I know almost nothing about filmmaking.  I am truly in awe of filmmakers. They’re part of my intense interest in the subject of cinema.  Yes, I detailed a lot of the production methods and behind the scenes activity of Tom’s films, but filmmaking is still a mystery to me, and I hope it always is a mystery.  I want whatever magic is conjured in creating the art to remain elusive.  I want to retain some of that awe that was instilled in me upon seeing Masters of the Universe in the movie theatre when I was four.

I do sometimes ask the question of myself, “Who am I to write about or teach film?”  I have never been on a film set.  I have never acted or directed.  All I can offer are my opinions and thoughts on the films, back it up with some words from those who were there and have actually made the films, and then try and edit it into some kind of legible or readable context.  That, really, is my job.  I’m just spreading the word about movies and artists I love.  I consider myself less a writer and more a proactive fan.

Of the Arts in general, writing this book has made me appreciate the dedication of every other writer who takes the time to write about a subject that fascinates them, no matter what discipline they work in, because their passion fuels the passion of others.  I hope my book fills the gap on the shelf that Tom DiCillo fans have been waiting to fill, and I hope it inspires others in the way that other film commentators have inspired me.

Who or what will your next book be about?

This has taken a lot of people by surprise, because it’s a completely different cinematic universe to that which I cover in The Cinema of Tom DiCillo, but my next book will be on Burt Reynolds.

Some people think that because you love art films and write about independent cinema that you wouldn’t have any time for the kind of stuff that Burt Reynolds is known for, but I always ask, “well, what do you know of Burt?” and the answer is inevitably Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, and The Cannonball Run.  They aren’t aware of or haven’t seen the eighty other films he has made, some of which are simply fantastic works of cinema. Reynolds has worked with some of the greatest directors, and to name just a few of the brilliant films he has starred in with these filmmakers: Hustle (by Robert Aldrich), Starting Over (by Alan J. Pakula), Breaking In (by Bill Forsyth), At Long Last Love (Peter Bogdanovich), Navajo Joe (by Sergio Corbucci), Semi-Tough (by Michael Ritchie), White Lightning (by Joseph Sargeant).

My writing process on this one is completely different to that of The Cinema of Tom DiCillo.  On that book I spent five years writing about eight films.  On the Burt Reynolds book, I have one year to write about eighty films and several entire TV shows, the major ones that Burt starred in, which means Riverboat, Gunsmoke, Hawk, Dan August, B.L. Stryker, and Evening Shade.  And I couldn’t be happier, but it means I am extremely busy. There’s a lot of people to interview, a lot of films to analyze and write about, and I still have my bill-paying day and night jobs (librarian and journalist) to keep me busy.  So when I’m not in work I’m still at work.

Will it be published by Columbia University Press?

No, this book isn’t the kind of thing that Columbia would go for.  Columbia is really focused on publishing works on contemporary, influential directors who are presently relevant throughout the entire spectrum of World Cinema, and whose work has immediate academic currency, all of which applies to Tom DiCillo.  Burt Reynolds, however, doesn’t necessarily fall into those categories because he hasn’t directed a film in nearly two decades, is mainly celebrated for his acting work rather than his directing, and some people might not see the “academic” value of my writing about Cop and a Half or Smokey and the Bandit II.

My Burt Reynolds book needed a publisher who understands and shares my perspective on Burt Reynolds; that he is one of the truly great American film stars and an enduring icon of US cinema. There is something absolutely compelling about him every moment he is on the screen, and he’s one of the few actors left who you can genuinely call a living legend.  As a book of film history and film criticism it will benefit from Reynolds’ prolific and expansive work which spans many important movements through American film history, going from the Golden Age studio system of the late 50s, through the New Hollywood of the 60s and 70s, to the blockbuster world of the 80s, and indie cinema of the 90s and up to today. For this book I’ve already been talking to some great directors, cinematographers, and actors – some truly fascinating people.

I signed with a distinguished publisher who have an amazing catalogue of film books to their name and who immediately understood what I wanted to do and shared my enthusiasm for the man.  They also saw the gap in the market for a book on Burt Reynolds’ actual films because while there have been books on him in the past, they were more concerned with his personal life.  I have no interest in his personal life, but I absolutely love his films.  He’s probably my favorite movie star, alongside John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Doris Day, Steve Buscemi, and Dennis Hopper.

I’ve definitely enjoyed some of Burt Reynolds’ work that I’ve seen but I’m sure that after I read your new book, I’ll want to revisit his work.  I’ll look forward to that!

Thanks Christine! Yeah, I hope it encourages people to check out his work which has gone under the radar or is simply forgotten.  It’s also a celebration of and tribute to this great figure of cinema and his vast body of work, as well as an opportunity to appreciate the art of the films.  Burt has recurrently worked with some of the finest cinematographers, such as William A. Fraker, Nick McLean Sr., Vilmos Zsigmond, to name just a few.  You don’t read much technical and aesthetic analysis of many of Burt’s films, and so that’s partly what I’m doing.

I think I could talk to you for days, Wayne, but I should probably end our conversation here. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me and for sharing your passions with my readers.

It was my pleasure, Christine.  I hope people enjoy the book and go out and watch Tom DiCillo films. That’s really what it’s all about.

The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne

The Cinema of Tom DiCilloBook Review
Title: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out
Author:  Wayne Byrne
Publisher: Wallflower Press
Released: September 2017
Pages: 208
ISBN-13: 978-0231185356
Book Reviewer: Christine Bode
Stars:  4.5

I admit that I can’t review The Cinema of Tom DiCillo: Include Me Out by Wayne Byrne without bias, but I can say that my bias is formed by a deep appreciation of Tom DiCillo’s films and Tom DiCillo, the man. I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the book from Columbia University Press’ Wallflower division and am pleased to give you my honest opinion about it.

I believe that the first of DiCillo’s films that I ever saw was Living in Oblivion, when I rented it on DVD soon after it was released – likely in 1996. As a life-long film fan, Living in Oblivion, a humourous, heartfelt film about the making of an independent film, was an absolute treasure to discover and has since become DiCillo’s seminal masterpiece. It wasn’t long after that when I also rented and enjoyed watching Johnny Suede, the now cult film with a cool surf music score that helped to launch Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener’s careers. Because I’ve always enjoyed Keener’s work and because she was in four of DiCillo’s films, I kept watching them and had seen at least four of them before I got to know a lot more about the filmmaker.

Then, in a strange, albeit serendipitous twist of fate, I became friends with Tom DiCillo when I discovered his blog as he was writing about the process of releasing and trying to find a distributor for When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors (which won a Grammy in 2011), over seven years ago. The Doors are on my Top 5 Favourite Bands of All Time list and as such they formed the basis for our original conversation. However, we have continued to stay in touch ever since, because Tom is a very accessible, generous man with a kind heart and genuine appreciation for his fans. Not only am I a fan of his body of work, but I admire and respect him as an artist and a human being.  I’m equally enamored with Tom’s music project, The Black and Blue Orkestre, because I love his singing voice and the combination of Spaghetti Western, Surf and Cinematic Gothic Rockabilly grooves that form the music.

But back to the book. This volume by Irish author and Film Studies lecturer / education consultant Wayne Byrne is an extremely well-written, intelligent, enthralling addition to the Directors’ Cuts series published by Wallflower Press and a must-read for any cineaste or film student. It took Byrne five years to complete, but during that time he interviewed not only Tom DiCillo, at length, but also many of the actors in his films, including Steve Buscemi who wrote the foreword.

“In short, this wonderful book details the ultimate triumphant journey of one of independent cinema’s smartest, funniest, and fiercest warriors.” ~ Steve Buscemi

Byrne’s book is an interesting in-depth look at all of DiCillo’s eight independent films (seven of which premiered at Sundance) the agony and the ecstasy of birthing them, as well as an honest, insider’s view into the independent film industry and the machinations of the Hollywood system.

In his book, Byrne analyzes the themes of identity, family, and masculinity in DiCillo’s work and supports it with “in-depth coverage of the generic and aesthetic aspects of DiCillo’s distinctive and influential film style.” Through detailed chapters on each of his feature films, readers receive “…a candid look behind-the-scenes of both the American independent film industry – from the No Wave movement of the 1980s, through the Indie boom of the 1990s, to the contemporary milieu – and the Hollywood studio system.”

Byrne studied the writing, production, and release of each of DiCillo’s films and followed them with an extensive and intriguing Q&A with him, as well as exclusive interviews with many actors and collaborators including Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, John Turturro, Chris Noth, Maxwell Caulfield, Matthew Modine, Gina Gershon, Kevin Corrigan, Alison Lohman and John Densmore and Robby Krieger of The Doors.

Johnny Suede (1991)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
Box of Moonlight (1996)
The Real Blonde (1997)
Double Whammy (2001)
Delirious (2006)
When You’re Strange (2009)
Down in Shadowland (2014)

I own all DiCillo’s films and have watched them all again with new eyes after reading Byrne’s book, getting something new from each of them even though I’ve seen six of them previously, at least a couple of times. Perhaps that is what allows DiCillo’s work to endure throughout the years. It is clever, often subversive and upon first viewing you may think, “Well, what was that all about? That was a bit bizarre…”, but upon further viewing, you really get a feel for the director’s unique style and voice, use of colour, choice of music (often created by composer Jim Farmer) as well as the themes that inspire him. It is DiCillo’s way of viewing and expressing humanity in his work with his distinct sense of humour and pathos that makes these films stand out in the crowd of slick, violent, comic-book infested, often soulless, unoriginal movies from Hollywood that we’re seeing today. Give me the work of Jim Jarmusch, Richard Linklater, The Coen Brothers, Michael Winterbottom, Tim Burton and Tom DiCillo any day. If you agree, read this book.

Toronto Singer-Songwriter Melanie Peterson Releases ‘Anywhere From Here’ at The Piston, March 16th

Melanie PetersonToronto singer-songwriter – referred to by BBC Radio as “Mary Poppins with
a broken heart” – launches her second full-length album ‘Anywhere From Here’
at The Piston in Toronto on March 16, and releases new video for the first
single “Fallback Plan”

“Melanie Peterson is destined for great things. With aching vibrato that
reminds one of early Joni Mitchell she weaves the stories of her life into
her music with effortless ease.” ~ Beaches Living.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 22, 2016

[Toronto, ON] – Toronto singer, songwriter and actress Melanie Peterson releases her second full-length album ‘Anywhere From Here’ at The Piston in Toronto (also available on iTunes March 16). Special guest opener is Toronto’s Bri-Anne Swan.

Peterson also launches her first single and video (track three) from the new CD titled “Fallback Plan”. The video was directed by Nathaniel Fox-Pappas at Khemical Kiss Productions, Toronto.

With Peterson’s guitar driven, optimistic love songs and lilting voice, ‘Anywhere From Here’ continues to embrace her folk-pop influences. It was recorded in Toronto at Slaughterhouse 754, and, as with two of Peterson’s prior records (2013’s first full-length album ‘Unbreakable’ and 2014’s six-song cover EP ‘Read It On The Radio’), it was produced and engineered by Mitch Girio (Morgan Doctor, Dave Borins, Emma-Lee, David Newland and Kirsten Jones).

WHO:  Melanie Peterson and band members (all of whom performed on the new
album); Mitch Girio (guitar/backing vocals), Peter Collins (bass/backing vocals) and Peter Lambert (drums/violin/backing vocals).

WHERE:  The Piston, 937 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON, M6H 1L5.

WHEN:  Wednesday, March 16, 2016; doors 8:00 p.m., opener 8:30 p.m., headliner 9:00 p.m.

HOW MUCH:  $10.00 at the door.

ARTIST QUOTE:  Melanie Peterson states, “Anywhere From Here isn’t just about music, Melanie Peterson Anywhere From Hereit’s about knowing you can get anywhere from where you are, no matter where that is. I’m so excited for the CD release party! I feel like I’ve been waiting for centuries for this show. I’m so glad we’re at this point and people can celebrate with the band and I, as we play all the songs live and in the order they appear on the album.”

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/924327417664323

ARTIST INFO: http://melaniepeterson.ca

Peterson earned her spot within Toronto’s independent music scene when she was invited to host and perform her original songs in the monthly female singer-songwriter night called Girls Girls Girls at the renowned Cameron House (September 2010 to December 2012), and in March 2012 when she initially showcased at Canadian Music Week. She was invited back to perform two showcases at CMW 2013 and in that same year she launched her first full-length album ‘Unbreakable’ in Toronto. Melanie followed that up with a
triumphant NXNE showcase in June and a successful Southern Ontario tour.

MEDIA QUOTES:

“Melanie Peterson’s final performance at Sauce on the Danforth in Toronto for 2015 went out ‘like a Lion’. It was a free gig but it certainly came under the heading of ‘Bang for your Buck’. This is an artist who knows how to entertain an audience, playing three 45 minute sets to a packed house of admiring fans.” ~ Frank Mcfadden, Snapd Beach/Danforth

“A melodically enchanting songwriter and musically adept guitarist, she has the crowd eating out of her hand. I’d call her music smooth pop as it is as inviting as it is sweet.” ~ Gary 17, Toronto Moon Magazine

“I’ve been a fan of Melanie Peterson’s songwriting since first hearing her just over three years ago and subsequently listening to her wonderful After The Fall cd. My favourite tune from that album is “Unbreakable”, which I regard as her signature tune and first ‘hit’.” ~ Gary 17, Toronto Moon Magazine, April, 2013

“If you are looking for super live music, check out Melanie Peterson, a terrific singer and songwriter. She sounds just as good live as she does on her album.  She has a beautiful voice and her songwriting is tops too.” ~ Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun, May 2011

“…we have very much enjoyed playing a variety of tracks from ‘Unbreakable’, Melanie’s first full length CD release and my Saturday morning listeners have been quick to let us know they enjoy what Melanie does!” ~ Monica Winfield, host, BBC Radio Leicester, 2013

“Unbreakable is a definite feel good album, and Melanie’s soft but not overly tender vocals lays out each song within the distinct genre form as the songs on Unbreakable range from Jazz, Pop, Folk and even a bit of Pop/Rock.” ~ Matt Hartwick, Kingston Music Reviews, 2013

“I can hear the Joni Mitchell influence in her voice, but there is a significant difference between the two—Joni’s voice is cool, introverted and detached, whereas Melanie’s is warmth personified. She has the ability to imbue her vocals with palpable emotion without going over the top.” ~ Altrockchick.com

ABOUT:

Blessed with a voice reminiscent of an early Joni Mitchell, and an ability to imbue her vocals with palpable and authentic emotion, Saskatoon born, Toronto based singer-songwriter and actress Melanie Peterson – standing on the edge of her second full-length release ‘Anywhere From Here’ – has nimbly become one of the brightest lights on the Toronto music scene. Previously, she has released a five song EP called ‘After the Fall’ (2010), her first full-length album ‘Unbreakable’ (2013) and a six-song cover EP titled ‘Read It On The Radio’ (2014).

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For media information, CDs, photos and interviews please contact:

Laurie Lockhart
GET THE MESSAGE Publicity
Email: mailto:publicity@getthemessagepr.ca
Facebook.com/GETTHEMESSAGEpublicity / Twitter.com/getthemessagepr
http://www.getthemessagepr.ca

For more artist information please visit:

melaniepeterson.ca
Facebook.com/misswatermeloni
Twitter.com/MissWatermeloni
YouTube.com/user/mellysings

The Inspirational Power of Film Festival Celebrities & their Movies: CMCS Public Seminar Series IV

CMCS Celebrate Your PathThe Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) proudly brings the fourth part of its public seminar series. The event offers a special opportunity to connect through an exclusive talk about celebrity activists and their films to be screened at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The talk will be taking place at the industRealarts room (688 Richmond Street West) from 7 to 9 pm on Wednesday, September 3. The evening opens with a reception honouring public attendees and seminar participants Emmanuel Lopez and Dr. Samita Nandy.

As news sources cite Piers Handling, CEO and Director of TIFF, “Cinema’s collective and transformative experience lives at the heart of our Festival.” The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies sponsored event will offer critical and inspirational views on TIFF films and celebrities to show how the festival can positively change public and the world around them. For example, actress Sandra Bullock and her film Gravity had its North American premiere at TIFF 2013. Her character demonstrated outstanding resilience in the face of adversity while in real life Bullock has overcome life challenges and helps change the world through her numerous charities and disaster relief funds. The event will offer a special opportunity to learn more about celebrities creating social change and have attended TIFF such as Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon and Geoffrey Rush. The talk will enable TIFF attendees to discover how their films can inspire and increase resilience such as Titanic, Pleasantville and The King’s Speech. After the presentation attendees will be motivated to unleash their inner star and recognize the lasting power of the 2014 TIFF experience.

Speaker Bios:

Emmanuel Lopez is Motivatorman

Emmanuel Lopez is Motivatorman, an award-winning Illustrator and Motivational Speaker on resilience. He has written over 750 film tips on his “Movies that Motivate” blog and was featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Emmanuel teaches empowering tools, methods and movies he discovered for maintaining a positive mindset during unexpected life changes, burnout and depression. He created artwork for the official Roots T-Shirt for Toronto’s Film Festival of 1991 along with artwork used as the International Film Critic’s Award given to director Gus Van Sant. Emmanuel has provided motivational talks for: TD Canada Trust, Royal Ontario Museum and The Art Institute of Boston. His first book “Movies for Motivation: How to Stay Strong in Your Life & Career” is available on Amazon Kindle. See more: www.motivatorman.com
Samita NandyDr. Samita Nandy is an author, fame critic and certified broadcast journalist with a PhD on fame from Australia’s Curtin University. Her research and writing focus on celebrity culture that has been published in Oxford and New York.  Her international media relations and work led her to be featured with Global Television’s Anwar Knight and Allison Annesley on Daytime talk show and prime-time show First Local on Rogers Television, CBC News, CTV’s Breaking News CP 24, OMNI TV, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Journalism Foundation, Eternity Watch magazine, and ANOKHI Media among many more. Nandy has taught postgraduate and honors degree courses in media at University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and Curtin University. See more: www.samitanandy.com

The Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies (CMCS) is an international organization that helps coordinating academic research and media commentaries on celebrity culture. CMCS carries a pedagogical philosophy that inspires integration of research and media skills training in academic and public discourses of fame.  The Centre believes in intellectual, aesthetic, and ethical values of bridging gaps in higher education and media.  With this view, CMCS helps coordinating research, publications, creative productions, and media commentaries to restore artistic and ethical acts for social change. For more information, please visit www.cmc-centre.com.

For title sponsorship, media interviews and high resolution photographs, contact Dr. Samita Nandy at info@cmc-centre.com or call 416.985.8887.

Date: 7 – 9 pm September 3, 2014
Location: industREALarts room (688 Richmond Street West), Toronto
Admission: PWYC

 

Scully Love Promo’s Best of 2012 Lists

best5listsWell, it’s that time again.

Bloggers love to make ‘Best of Lists’ at the end of each year and I don’t usually do it, but I thought, well why the heck not?  I didn’t read as many books, watch as many movies, attend as many concerts or write as many reviews this year as I have in the past, but that’s because I worked for myself full time in 2012 and when you’re self-employed, there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  However, when I do want to unwind, I turn to the things I love the most for entertainment: music, books and film.

So here are my top 5 favourite CDs, concerts, books, movies and television series that I experienced in 2012 (although they might not have been released in 2012):

Top 5 Favourite CDs of 2012Ninth

  1. Ninth by Peter Murphy (2011)
  2. Red Revelations by Jace Everett (2009)
  3. Blunderbuss by Jack White (2012)
  4. A New Season For Love by Cormac O Caoimh (2012)
  5. Sing by Maria Doyle Kennedy (2012)

Top 5 Favourite Concerts of 2012IMG_5231

  1. Bob Geldof at The Empire Theatre, Belleville, ON, Oct. 16, 2012
  2. Andy White at The Rankin Gallery, Inverary, ON, Sept. 14, 2012
  3. The Tea Party at The Grand Theatre, Kingston, ON, Aug. 30, 2012
  4. Ruthie Foster at The Limestone City Blues Festival, Kingston, ON, Aug. 25, 2012
  5. Shari Ulrich at The Rankin Gallery, Inverary, ON, Jun. 4, 2012

Top 5 Favourite Books of 2012The Good Daughter

  1. The Good Daughter by Jane Porter (5 stars)
  2. My Cross To Bear by Gregg Allman (5 stars)
  3. In The Mood For Peace: The Story of the Izzy Doll by Phyllis Wheaton (4.5 stars)
  4. Whistling In The Dark by Lesley Kagen (4 stars)
  5. Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason (4 stars)

Top 5 Favourite Movies of 2012Seven Psychopaths

  1. Seven Psychopaths
  2. The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Skyfall
  4. Life of Pi
  5. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Top 5 Favourite TV Series of 2012Breaking Bad

  1. Breaking Bad (Seasons 1-4)
  2. True Blood (Season 4)
  3. Californication (Season 4)
  4. Treme (Season 2)
  5. The Game of Thrones (Season 1)

I’d love to hear what your favourites were so please leave me a comment and let me know because I’m always interested in recommendations.

We made it through another end of the world (YAHOO!) so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very blessed, healthy, prosperous HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Introducing Scottish Artist: John Gallagher Graphix

The best thing about social media and in particular Facebook, is the ability we all have now to make friends online with people that we might never have had the opportunity to meet in person.  I can honestly say that I have at least a couple dozen Facebook friends whom I’ve never met in person who have made a significant difference in my life for having befriended me.  They share with me their life’s passions, dreams, goals, friendship, love, compassion and understanding.  They listen when I need to talk and make me feel that I’m not alone when I might otherwise have been feeling lonely.  Their thoughtfulness, light and loving spirits have illuminated me through many moments of darkness.

One such magnificent human being, and an extremely talented one at that, is Scottish artist, John Gallagher.  John and I were introduced on Facebook by a mutual friend and bonded over our shared love for and appreciation of Irish singer-songwriter Jack Lukeman over two years ago.  He’s a year younger than me and is quiet, easygoing, interested in film and art, books and creative media as well as music.  John (nickname “Magpie”) often shares the fantastic videos he creates for Jack L with me because he knows how I adore his voice.  You can watch them and witness John’s talent for yourself at Magpie’s Haven on YouTube.

The first thing you notice about John is how artistic he is and I (among others, I’m sure) have encouraged him to market his art and make it available to the public.  And he has! His brand new website John Gallagher Graphix showcases his considerable gallery of fantastic digital graphic portraits of musicians, actors and popular and cult television & movie icons.  He’s the kind of guy who enjoys Star Trek and Dr. Who, but I don’t hold that against him (*smile*) because he’s created some brilliant prints that I will be gifting myself with this holiday season, including this iconic rendition of another of my favourite male vocalists of all time, Peter Murphy.

Using a variety of techniques John can produce some extremely striking and often emotive images.  He’s created digital and pen art and is probably the No. 1 source for The Rory Gallagher Art Collection on the Internet!

I asked him how he does it and this is what he said:

“I create all my images working from several different photographs most of the time; sometimes video stills for a more unique and challenging image.  I use my knowledge gained from creating videos over the past few years to then restructure the photograph and give it a ‘pop art’ effect which also gives me a clearer image of the subject to work from.

I am then ready to begin creating the piece and I work directly from the image facing me on the computer screen, which is first drawn out in pencil, as well as all the areas I wish to tone and shade.

I use pen and ink mostly and these days, my artwork is mainly created by using alcohol markers which I discovered some time back.  I found them ideal to my needs.  With these markers, I am able to give more depth and substance to my work and whilst my own preference is for black and white or tones of grey and blues, I have created many colour pieces over this past year where colour suits the theme of the picture.

I enjoy my work immensely and relish the challenge the combination of different styles I have learned over the years brings!

Thanks for taking an interest in my work!”

I urge you to take some time to peruse the galleries on John Gallagher’s website and to let him know what you think.  For art enquiries, he can be reached at jgsales@gmail.com or you can contact him directly at at johnpg65@hotmail.co.uk

I guarantee you that it will be hard for to choose just one favourite image (I love this one of Joe Strummer too)!

http://www.johngallaghergraphix.co.uk

Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan Shine In Romantic Comedy Fantasy Ruby Sparks

DVD REVIEW
Title: Ruby Sparks
Studio/Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Principle Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, Elliot Gould, Antonio Banderas
Length: 104 minutes
Released: October 30, 2012
Stars: 3.5

Ruby Sparks is “the true and impossible story of my very great love.”  So says novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), who wrote a bestselling novel which had everyone declaring him a genius when he was in his late teens, but has never been able to duplicate his success.  Calvin lives alone in a big, colourless, lofty man cave spending his days agonizing over not being able to write, working out with his brother Harry (Chris Messina of The Newsroom,  Julie & Julia), walking his unruly dog Scotty, and visiting his shrink.  The neurotic and somewhat dweeb-like Calvin is suffering from long term writer’s block, so his therapist Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould) suggests that he write about someone who could love him completely.

Calvin starts dreaming about a pretty and quirky redhead named Ruby (Zoe Kazan) that he meets in a park.  She’s everything that he’s ever imagined he wants in a girlfriend.  He starts writing about her out of a need to spend time with her and quickly becomes concerned that he’s falling in love with a figment of his imagination.

Suddenly women’s clothes and personal effects start to mysteriously appear in Calvin’s apartment, much to the consternation of his brother Harry and his wife Susan (Toni Trucks).  Before Calvin can process what’s happening, Ruby appears in the flesh, believing that they’ve been in a relationship for a couple of months and that they’re in the honeymoon stage.  He thinks he’s going crazy.

Calvin brings Ruby out into the real world to prove that he’s not dreaming and finds out that other people can see her too.  Delirious with joy, he leaps into his role as Ruby’s boyfriend with the glee of a high school boy experiencing his first love.  Calvin and Harry discover that Calvin can write anything he wants to about Ruby (for instance, he makes her speak French) and it will become manifested, literally.  However, when Ruby starts to express her need for space in their relationship, a disturbed Calvin decides to write her exactly how he wants her to be.  This backfires on him as he realizes that he has to be very careful and specific about his choice of words.  If he doesn’t write about her, she’s not within his control but if he does write about her, she’s not herself.  Calvin has no idea how to be in a relationship with a woman which he discovers first hand as he makes mistake after mistake with Ruby.

Paul Dano (Looper, There Will Be Blood) is a brilliant young actor and the reason I wanted to watch Ruby Sparks, and he doesn’t disappoint.  He’s an expert at using his face to express a character’s emotions and was completely believable as the confused Calvin.  I was, however, disappointed that Steve Coogan (The Trip, 24 Hour Party People) wasn’t given more to do as pretentious author Langdon Tharp and basically phoned in a stereotypical Coogan performance.  Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas (sporting a grey beard that makes him look older than usual & stealing every scene he was in) appear briefly as Calvin’s hippy-dippy, new age mother Gertrude and her jovial furniture-building partner, Mort, in a fun scene in a beautiful home in Big Sur, highlighted with ravishing gardens and a gorgeous swimming pool.  True Blood’s Deborah Ann Woll has one scene as Calvin’s ex-girlfriend Lila and she also left me wishing she had more. However, the movie belongs to Zoe Kazan (It’s Complicated, Revolutionary Road), granddaughter of director/actor Elia Kazan, who not only wrote the screenplay for Ruby Sparks but also lives with Paul Dano.  Zoe is captivating and delightful as Ruby and you can’t take your eyes off her.

A couple being directed by a couple (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine) makes for an interesting experiment and the result is a sweet, whimsical but relatable tale that asks the questions “How do I not seek to control the person I’m with?” and “How do you accept a person for who they are, completely?”  This story defines what it’s like to be in a relationship and to be the partner that doesn’t hold all the cards.

There was no reason that this movie needed to be rated R.  Its language is quite tame and there was only one scene in which characters were smoking a joint.  You see worse behaviour than that on Family Guy.  The extras on the DVD included 3 vignettes about various aspects of the film and were worth watching.  Although the directors didn’t embarrass themselves, they didn’t take any risks either and the only thing that stood out for me aside from Dano & Kazan’s performances was the enchanting French music in the soundtrack.

“Falling in love is an act of magic.  And so is writing.”  It’s too bad that the screenplay for this bittersweet love story with the moral “be careful what you wish for” is not magical, but merely a slightly above average romantic comedy fantasy that will make you smile and agree with how complex relationships are without thinking about it again after the credits roll.

Rock of Ages Turns 80’s Glam Metal Into Bubblegum Music

MOVIE REVIEW

Title: Rock of Ages
Genre: Dramatic Musical
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenplay: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb
Principle Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Ackerman, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Tom Cruise
Length: 123 minutes
Released: June 15, 2012
Stars: 2.0

I was 23 years old in 1987 so I do realize that I am not exactly the target demographic audience for Rock of Ages, but after having seen the trailer I thought that, hey, this could be fun!  I’m a huge music fan and I love rock music…how bad can it be?  Well the answer to that is REALLY BLEEPING BAD!!  It was a terrible disappointment!

Rock of Ages, directed by Hairspray’s Adam Shankman, is a “dramatic” musical set in 1987 Los Angeles, but I doubt anyone who’d actually been there at that time would recognize it as such.  Supposedly at the height of the “hair-metal craze”, the film celebrates some of the lamest rock songs ever (I do, however, actually like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”) and regurgitates them into bubblegum pop versions.  There is not one death metal song on the soundtrack.  Most of the singing actors sound like they just took a big hit of helium before opening their mouths, particularly Julianne Hough, who plays Sherrie Christian, a Tulsa, Oklahoma girl who boards a bus to Hollywood to pursue her dreams as a singer but ends up working as a waitress and then a stripper.

There is not a real rock voice among the cast, but I must admit that Tom Cruise, who did his best to channel his inner Axl Rose as rock legend douchebag Stacee Jaxx, did a decent job and gave the finest performance in the movie, followed by newcomer Diego Boneta in his first film role as Drew Boley, an LA bar boy working at The Bourbon Room – a sleazy LA nightclub in danger of foreclosure due to its inept manager Dennis & his sidekick Lonny – while dreaming of making it as a rock star.  Tom and Diego might be the only actors in this debacle who didn’t totally embarrass themselves (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in bad wigs as gay lovers?  Come on!!) with their stupid, over the top performances.  Okay, Mary J. Blige was pretty good too.  However, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the LA Mayor’s puritan, anti-rock’n’roll wife, Patricia Whitmore, positively made me cringe, and Paul Giamatti’s turn as Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager just made me shake my head.  Why Paul, why?!

This tale of two young lovers whose romance faces the obligatory challenge before the final denouement, tried hard to be sexy, but it wasn’t.  And if it was supposed to be funny, (Stacee Jaxx’s baboon, Hey Man, being the main shtick) I think the writers totally missed their marks.  Even Russell Brand, who I have often thought hilarious in his stand-up, and one of the main reasons I wanted to see the movie, was absolutely torturous!

A film adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages the movie, fails to leave you feeling euphoric about the music or pursuing your dreams.  I was just annoyed by the split scene montages of characters singing two different songs at the same time as was the case in several instances including Julianne Hough singing “More Than Words” and Diego Boneta crooning “Heaven” or Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rock music terminators shouting “We’re Not Going To Take It” while Russell Brand and his “metal” advocates belt out “We Built This City On Rock’n’Roll.”  Uggh…it’s not just me either.  The Calgary Herald wrote, “Rock of Ages sugarcoats debauchery of 1980’s heavy metal” and The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell warned: “For those about to rock, prepare to shudder instead.”  I even agree with The Daily Mail’s verdict: “Tacky and not terribly original.”

Written for an audience of 12-year-olds, Rock of Ages was sickeningly ridiculous and painful to sit through, so if you’re over 25, don’t bother going!  I want my money back.

The Lincoln Lawyer Will Keep You Guessing Until The End!

DVD REVIEW
Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Director: Brad Furman
Principle Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Frances Fisher
Length: 118 minutes
Released: 2011
Stars: 4.0

Adapted from the crime thriller by best-selling author Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer is a stylized, gritty and intelligent film from relatively new director Brad Furman (The Take) with an R-rated screenplay by John Romano.  It explores the corrupt justice system in Los Angeles from the perspective of a criminal defence attorney named Mick Haller, played by Matthew McConaughey, in what is his best performance since 2001’s Frailty.  I love McConaughey and am really pleased to see him step up his game and give those tedious and predictable rom-coms he’s been making a rest!

Haller is a wheeler dealer and bottom feeder who “feels the most resonance and the most humane” dealing with the dregs of society.  In his world, “There’s no client as scary as an innocent man.”  He works mainly in the non-glamorous parts of Los Angeles, from his 1987 Lincoln Town Car, in which he is chauffeured between client meetings, prisons and courthouses by his trusted employee, Earl.  Earl (Laurence Mason) is über cool and has one of the best lines with the zinger, “You’re nobody ‘til somebody shoots you.”

Haller abides by his own set of rules, buying favours from bailiffs, prostitutes and bike gangs (Country music star Trace Adkins plays imposing biker leader Eddie Vogel) to secure what he needs to get the job done.  As the story unfolds we discover that Haller’s former client Jesus Martinez (Michael Peña) is in San Quentin for a murder he insists he didn’t commit and Haller’s doubt about his guilt is significant.  His GQ-immaculate image slowly starts to deteriorate as he realizes that the pressures of his job cause him to drink more and a haggard look of grief appears on his handsome face.

Available in both English and French on DVD, The Lincoln Lawyer sports an A-1 cast of accomplished actors including, most notably, a better than usual performance by Ryan Phillippe as the ultra creepy, 32 year old wealthy realtor, Louis Roulet, whom after being accused of raping a prostitute seeks out Mick Haller to defend him.  We learn later in the story that he had a good reason for choosing Haller and there are more twists and turns in this plot than a New York pretzel.  Frances Fisher is equally sinister as Roulet’s mother, Mary Windsor, and a long-haired William H. Macy portrays Mick’s investigator, Frank Levin.  Although Macy’s part is relatively small, it’s integral to the story arc as is John Leguizamo’s as bail bondsman Val Valenzuela.

Marisa Tomei plays Maggie McPherson, Haller’s ex and the mother of his daughter Hayley.  She’s a prosecutor who obviously found it hard to be married to a public defender, but the lines defining her relationship with Mick are blurry, and the two still love each other even if they couldn’t live together.  One of their key scenes was deleted and I really think that it should have been left in.

Rounding out the cast is Josh Lucas as attorney Ted Minton who represents Reggie Campo, the prostitute that Roulet is accused of raping.

Cliff Martinez orchestrates the music for the score and he’s done a superb job of finding some very appropriate and above average rap and bluesy hip hop for the soundtrack.  I’m not a fan of those musical genres but in this film, they are perfect.

Special features on the DVD are above average and include some interesting documentaries: Michael Connelly: At Home On The Road, Making The Case: The Lincoln Lawyer, One On One with Matthew McConaughey and Michael Connelly (during which they interview each other), as well as Deleted Scenes and the original trailer.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a great, satisfying film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, even if the ending is a bit soft.  One of the minor characters in the film asks, “I don’t get you Haller.  Whose side are you on anyway?”  You will wonder about that yourself until the very end!