Archive for the ‘Courtroom’ Category

Man, some series are so overrated.

This was quite the hit on tv a few months ago and is now available on Netflix. Missed it on tv (and subsequently missed out on weekly debates about the show), but was able to binge watch it in two nights.

Maybe if you like court room thrillers or crime series, you can get into this. It’s about a jury who needs to decide whether a woman is guilty of having murdered her little daughter (after losing custody) and of having murdered her best friend many years before (out of obsessive jealousy).

The whodunnit part of the series isn’t worth the watch. The end isn’t that shocking and even though the script won awards (at Cannes!) it’s kind of predictable. It’s the reason why I don’t watch crime show or court room series that much. They seem to always follow the same script rules.

No. The main reason to watch the show is the acting and the character depiction. They may be sad individuals with tons of drama, but at least they are written well. And there may be an overabundance of characters, but it’s bearable, because the acting is good.

Zouzou Ben Chickha is surprisingly good as a member of the jury who struggles with the acceptance of his autism. Piet De Praitere is a revelation. You feel his disappointment in life. Titus de Voogdt is scary as an abusive husband. Tom Vermeir is worth mentioning as well. They may not be the best known Flemish actors, but this should be their ticket to more parts on tv and in movies. More established stars like Maaike Cafmeyer and Josse De Pauw are excellent as the accused and her lawyer. The list goes on….

Disappointing show, saved by the acting. Not the script.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7605396

Thirty years ago a female jogger was left for dead after having been molested in Central Park, New York. During the same night a group of young kids had gathered in the park for some wilding, attacking and mugging random passers-by. The investigating police made a link between the two events and arrested dozens of these kids, interrogating them about the rape. Five kids were left to their own devices at the police station and somehow ended up confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. A mediatized trial followed and even though the kids were minor and there was a lack of evidence, all of them were sentenced to years in prison. Four were minors and got five years detention, starting in a juvenile centre. One was sixteen at the time of the events and went straight to the adult prison system.

Most Europeans, and a whole generation of Northern Americans as well, were unaware of this case until this four part series became one of the main releases on Netflix this year and received critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, by end of the year, so many articles have been written about this production, that it becomes very challenging to watch the series without expectations. Yes, it’s a great series and a must-see. But no, it’s not the best series of the decade. You want this to be a mix between The Wire and The People vs O.J. , but it is not. It’s way too short. It is generating more questions than providing answers. It’s a show that will stick with you days after having watched it. So, that’s good. But it does feel like so much more could have been told.

Episode 1 is tough to watch. The characters are introduced and you immediately find yourself in the same mess they get themselves into. Dozens of kids are arrested, yet there are five of them that are detained longer and coerced into admitting to a crime they didn’t commit. These kids were at the wrong place at the wrong time and didn’t get the support they needed. Easy victims for the interrogating police…. The creators of the series clearly want the viewer to feel empathy for the innocent kids and anger towards the judicial system. It works, but it also annoys. This is where the series is flawed. The kids are sweet and innocent and adorable even. The police, judges and prosecutors are heartless monsters. It’s predictable tv making. This is also where an hour episode just isn’t enough.

Episode 2 is better. However as a court room drama it is not detailed enough. This is very intriguing stuff. We get snippets of the story. We learn that each kid had a different lawyer. We learn that each family of these kids deals differently with the accusations. We learn about the discussions amongst the prosecutors. We get to see some witnesses. All very briefly. This may have been the way the accused kids saw the trial (and it’s their story), but as a viewer you want to learn more. What about the jurors? The judge? This part of the story needs an 8 episode series alone.

The second half of the series is excellent though. In the third episode the show focuses on how the four minors get released from detention and have to struggle all over again. It’s a sad episode, but a very necessary one, because it focuses on how getting out of prison isn’t always a gift and how it’s very hard to rehabilitate in society. Episode 4 focusses entirely on the story of the one kid that was sent to adult prison and it is superb television, mainly because of the tour de force of Jharrel Jerome, who deservedly won an Emmy for his performance.

The acting in this series is top-notch. It makes up for the fragmented storytelling. Whoever did the casting deserves another award. A special shout out to Asante Blackk (playing the kid who is left alone at the police station: the moment you realize this will be a tough watch), Caleel Harris (the kid who is forced to lie by his own dad!), Niecy Nash (the troubled mother of the kid who will suffer the most) and Michael Kenneth Williams (the dad who told his kid to lie and has to suffer the consequences) !

www.imdb.com/title/tt7137906/

This is a good introduction to the case and the series:

Woman In Gold – **

Posted: August 16, 2019 in 2015, Courtroom, Drama, UK, USA, XX

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait Of Adèle Bloch Bauer was hanging at the Belvedere in Vienna for several decades until a family member of the model claimed it back.

It’s an amazing story. Based on true facts. Adèle Bloch Bauer was a model for one of the most important Austrian painters. Her husband commissioned the portrait and it hung in their house for many years. Until the Nazi’s took over control in Vienna and the paintings were confiscated. The portrait was brought to the Belvedere, which is one of the many art museums in Austria’s capital.

Jump ahead to the late nineties when Austria starts to talk about giving back paintings to those families that the nazis stole it from. Unfortunately for the Austrians, there’s a niece of Adèle Block Bauer living in Los Angeles who wants the painting of her aunt back. She gets the help of a young lawyer, also of Jewish-Austrian descent, and an Austrian journalist who wants to come to terms with the country’s nazi past.

It’s an okay movie. The story intrigues and Helen Mirren is quite charming in the main lead. She created a character that entertains throughout the entire story. Also good are the flashbacks to the time of when the painting was made and the time of the nazi takeover. But unfortunately the focus is on the court case and that’s a tad boring.

Not sure what Austrians think about this movie…

www.imdb.com/title/tt2404425

Jessica Chastain is excellent as Molly Bloom, a former freestyle ski champion who started running illegal gambling nights. First in Los Angeles (with tons of celebrities) and later in New York (with several mobsters). Two years after she quit the gambling game, she gets arrested by the FBI, who wants to put her in prison or at least get information about the gamblers that visited her games. Molly refuses to co-operate and wants to plead guilty. No lawyer is interested in backing her, apart from one man who is intrigued by this powerful woman.

Apart from the lawyer, played impressively by Idris Elba, all of the previous paragraph is based on true facts. Which is amazing. This woman did exist. She did run those games and did encounters lots of celebrities and several mobsters.

It’s an entertaining movie. Captivating as well. The dialogues are brilliantly written. They are tough to follow as they contain so much gambling/court/FBI vocabulary, but they are uttered with such an ease by the aforementioned stars that it feels like this is really how they talk on a daily basis. Remembering those lines and saying them out loud in a convincing way deserves all possible credit.

It’s a fast paced drama. Until the last 20 minutes or so when the story drags on a bit. There’s a lot of dialogue throughout. There’s no time to just enjoy the images. But the editing of the movie is well done and it’s visually interesting as well. Worth the watch!

www.imdb.com/title/tt4209788

 

Marshall – **

Posted: March 10, 2018 in 2017, Civil Rights, Courtroom, Drama, USA, XX

Chadwick Boseman may now well be the hottest guy in Hollywood after the stellar success of Black Panther, but his previous movies didn’t really do well at the box office. Nor has he really been in a lot of movies. Regarding his age. Which is sad, because he’s a fine actor. This time around he’s playing yet another icon of black America: Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice. No biopic this time, but one moment in his life: The State of Connecticut vs Joseph Spell.

In fact, that should have been the title of the movie, because that’s what it is all about. It’s an interesting case where a white socialite claims to have been raped by her black driver, but he claims to be innocent. In comes this Marshall, a prominent and notorious black lawyer, who is sent by the NAACP to make sure colored people get a fair trial. He isn’t really allowed to plead, so they find a Jewish lawyer who has no experience with criminal cases and just represents insurance companies, but who should be willing do to whatever Marshall tells him to do.

It’s an okay movie. It’s a court room drama. It doesn’t really tell much about this Thurgood Marshall. But Chadwick’s performance makes you believe he was an intriguing man. Sterling Brown is great as well as the alleged rapist. But it’s Josh Gad who is doing the best acting as the Jewish lawyer. However, it’s just a court drama. Set in a historic time. Stressing the injustices that were put onto black people and jewish people (it’s set during WW II). It’s the kind of movie you watch, like and then forget.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5301662

The Night Of 24 October 2014: a business student isn’t getting a ride from his best friend to get to a party in Manhattan and decides to ‘loan’ the cab of his father. He doesn’t know how to switch off the ‘available sign’ and a girl gets in the car, expecting to get a ride. It’s a pretty girl and although he’s eager to go to the party, he decides to spend the evening with the girl. The unusual date ends up in her apartment with drugs and sex. But when he wakes up a few hours later, he finds her dead in her bed, stabbed 22 times. In panic, he decides to run, taking away evidence of drugs and the blood covered knife….

The pilot of this 8 episode series is an absolute masterpiece of story and character introduction. It’s so fascinating, you cannot but binge watch the rest. The pilot shows you exactly what the prosecutors will use against the suspect. Every single step is shown. In details. The only part that is a mystery is the time between the start of the sex and waking up finding the girl dead. The suspect can’t remember any details of that time frame and the viewers won’t know what happened either.

The other episodes are fascinating as well. The student gets arrested, goes to prison, needs to adapt to life behind bars while awaiting his trial. The prosecutors and detectives think they have a solid case, but still have doubts. The defendant’s lawyers try to do their own research and also have their doubts. The family of the student experiences the backlash to what their son’s actions… And it’s all filmed in a very detailed way, showing parts of an investigation that hardly ever get shown.

There are too many subplots and moments that don’t really help the main story line. Some are added for pure fun. The debate at the coroners for instance. Some are just annoying. The lawyer’s continuing search for remedies against his eczema outbursts for instance. Some don’t feel realistic. The drug smuggling scenes in prison.

But in general, this script is very strong and there are plenty more scenes that make you feel you’re living the nightmare yourself. Whether you empathize with the student, his parents, the detective, the prosecutor, the lawyers or the inmates… There’s a lot of empathy for these characters here and that alone is a great feat. Well written and well acted. Feature length movies can’t beat tv series when it comes to that.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2401256/

 

Philadelphia – **(*)

Posted: January 27, 2018 in 1993, Courtroom, Drama, LGBT themed, USA, XX1/2

Philadelphia was groundbreaking back in 1993. Tom Hanks playing a homosexual with Aids! Of course he won an Oscar. But the real star of the movie was/is Denzel Washington, who never got the credit he deserved for his role as the initially homophobic counsellor who decides to represent Hank’s character against the company that first sabotaged and then fired him once word got out about his disease.

It’s interesting how a movie feels exactly the same 25 years after you’ve last seen it! Tom Hanks is okay. But Denzel is phenomenal! The direction is good, but simple. Those close-ups though, they still work, attracting the viewer to the characters. The opera scene is way too long and you don’t really get to learn much about AIDS or the patients who suffer from it.  It’s a court room drama and the victim happens to have AIDS. That’s it really. The ‘gay’ aspect is just trivial.

It’s a good movie. Worth watching in 2018. Apart from the IBM computers looking very outdated, it feels like it could have been made last year. Which is great. For the viewers. Which is not so great. For those who still get discriminated for being gay or being hiv positive.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107818/

 

 

Rudy Donatello is an ugly drag queen (sorry Alan Cumming, but you could have made a better effort) whose neighbour is a drug addict and the mother of a child with the Syndrome of Down (an adorable Isaac Leyva). When the neighbour doesn’t return home one night and the kid is left alone, Rudy takes care of him until Family Services is alerted. Luckily for Rudy, he just met a lawyer who’s very keen on raising the kid as well. This story takes place in 1979 however, and gay couples adopting a child is unheard of. So off to the court!

Any Day Now is an lgbt legal drama that aims to raise awareness and acceptance for the call of adoption rights for gay couples. This is a done deal in certain countries, but still causes a lot of stirs in others. In fact, there was huge upheaval in The Netherlands recently when a Turkish child was placed under the custody of two lesbians. Most Dutch didn’t care, but a lot of Turkish immigrants and Dutch of Turkish descent did.

Of course this movie is biased and shows a perfect gay couple that you couldn’t possibly forbid to raising a child. Their intentions are good and it’s noble and brave for them to choose to take care of a mentally challenged child. No doubt about it. But the movie has a bit of a good vs evil feel and that stinks. This movie most likely won’t change the ideas of those people who oppose the idea of gay adoption. Those who already support it will just feel even more frustrated about the injustice still prevalent all over the world.

This feels like a made for television movie, a bit of tearjerker, but the question is whether tv channels will show it in prime time. It’s definitely worth watching. But lgbt movies lately all have a political agenda and aren’t all that entertaining. Alan Cummings’ Marc Almond-like musical intermezzos do not really help either. But, again, it’s worth watching.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2066176

Het Vonnis – ***

Posted: October 13, 2013 in 2013, Courtroom, Drama, Flanders, XXX

I survived watching the first Flemish courtroom drama! Better even, I liked it! A lot.

I liked it because of the way the story allows the viewer to think along. A guy loses his wife and child in a tragical event. When the murderer of his wife gets released from prison because of a breach of legal procedure, he decides to tackle the justice system with a dramatic act of revenge. It’s very easy to support the feeling of revenge, but it’s also very difficult to justify the right to take revenge. This movies manages to leave it up to the audience what they think is right or wrong.

I liked it because of the small details. Especially the use of real journalists and real news anchors and tv presenters. It felt very familiar and even added humor to the drama.

I liked it because of the pace, the editing and the camera work. This movie needs long shots and that can be challenging, but it works well here. Jan Verheyen won a Best Directing award in Montreal for this movie, which is well deserved. But it’s the team he worked with this time that made the real difference.

But I liked it most of all because of the acting. It’s great to see Johan Leysen in a positive role for a change. He’s such an underrated talent. He’s one of the few people who can make standard Dutch sound beautiful and impeccable. So he’s the perfect man to listen to during the pretty long closing plea. Koen De Bouw is great too. He has a very subdued way of dealing with his emotions naturally. In general, all of the characters were performed well. Which is rare.

Yep. Go watch it if you can. If it’s available wherever you live. I saw it in Brussels with French subtitles, that translate ‘Vlaming’ into ‘Belge’. Ridiculous of course. Just like some parts in our Justice System. But at least there are subtitles.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2691722

A lawyer who’s been defending petty criminals for his entire career decides to make a move and work with a colleague who can bring in the big business. But the colleague didn’t recruit him for his skills, but for his ‘looks’. He’s set up to replace a criminal in prison for a large sum of money. Contrary to any logic he accepts the deal!

If it wasn’t for the amazing Roschdy Zem, it would be a complete waste of movie material. Terrible movie. But Roschdy is even awesome here.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179836/