Category Archives: Movies

“The Most Successful Bankrobber Ever”

Jack Foley.

The first time I met Jack Foley was in Elmore Leonard’s novel Out Of Sight. Elmore Leonard was a literary genius and his approach to storytelling and dialogue are two of my biggest influences when I write. You’ve probably been aware of his work (notably Get Shorty, 3:10 To Yuma, and the television series Justified to name a few). When I read Out of Sight, I immediately liked Foley as a character. But when the movie came out, something incredible happened. The movie version released in 1998 and was directed by Stephen Soderbergh. It remains one of my favorite movies and, in my opinion, the best of Leonard’s novels turned into film (in a tie with Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown – which I’ll discuss next month!).

Foley’s career bank robber with a good heart escapes from the Glades Federal Penitentiary in Florida and promptly runs into U.S Marshall Karen Sisco. In the commotion of the escape, they end up in the trunk of a Cadillac as Foley and his accomplice, Buddy, run. By the time we see this, we’re already in love with Foley. He is smart, good looking, charming as hell, and always has a plan. In the trunk of the car, lit by the reverse side of the taillights, Foley and Sisco have a conversation that feels as natural as one that you and I could have. In the midst of the dangerous situation, sirens and flashing lights close by, we’re pulled into their discussion as naturally as possible. By the time they got out of the car, and the rest of the tale unfolds, we’re clearly following both of them and wanting them to get together at the end of the movie.

In the movie, George Clooney plays Jack Foley and Jennifer Lopez plays Karen Sisco. With Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Michael Keaton, and Albert Brooks as some of the stellar cast, the movie is very true to Leonard’s novel.

So what’s the big deal? Why is Jack Foley a memorable character?

Flash forward a few years and Elmore Leonard’s sequel to Out of Sight was released. Road Dogs follows Jack Foley after his release from prison as he tries to build a new life for himself but keeps running afoul of shady characters out for money and blood. From the book Out of Sight, which is one of my favorite Leonard titles, I liked Foley’s character. However, seeing him played by Clooney so perfectly, as I read Road Dogs, I could not stop seeing and hearing Clooney in the role. That’s where Foley transcended being a likable sympathetic character into something different. Clooney’s effortless performance as Foley indelibly attaches his “aura” to the character. The likable, memorable character has become something else entirely through the visual medium.

There are a few movies that suck me in when I find them one television. All of them have something in common. A sympathetic, regular guy protagonist with a good heart trying to get by. All of those movies have been perfectly cast so that the main characters are indelibly etched into our minds. Seriously – could anyone other than Tim Robbins have played Andy in Shawshank Redemption? Clooney’s performance as Jack Foley did exactly the same thing. When written stories become films, so many times the elements the make the books vibrant and alive are lost. Sometimes, we cannot see a character in our minds as clearly as the movies define them.

But when a likable, memorable character is played by the right actor or actress – wow. And you all know exactly what I’m talking about. But is it the actor or the character that is memorable? I vote character. No matter the actor’s talent, commitment to the role, or appearance, the character is developed on paper and is the vision of the writer/screenwriter that the actor is to bring to life. When it’s done perfectly in a book, it resonates with us. When we see that on camera, it’s more than memorable. It’s legendary.

Lex Talk About Lex, Baby

A guest post by Matt Becket.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of JusticeLex Luthor goes up against quite a lot more than just virtual demigods in Batman v Superman. He goes up against us. We, in fact, are his greatest challenge.

I imagine that DC’s goal in presenting an archvillain is to create a feeling of disgust, hatred, or sympathy for the character. Without it, they are unsuccessful. Lex needs to hook us. We need to want to be hooked.

I love movies. I even enjoy bad films if only because my butt is planted in the seat of a movie theater. It’s all magic to me. With a PG-13 superhero movie I become a ten year old boy. My youthful eyes don’t go to judge – but if they get side-tracked, they age into the critical eyes of a college freshman (some of the world’s harshest judges). When this happens the popcorn isn’t as savory and the soda loses its bubbles. It’s still magic, but flat magic propelled by other factors my eyes latch onto such as special effects or cinematography.

I personally appreciate the Warner Brothers’ attempt in making a new Lex, but something did not work. People have blamed casting. Casting is usually the first thing to be blamed. The second thing to be blamed is direction. These two are contributors, but I think the writing and pacing in this movie hurt the new incarnations of these characters the most.

Good characters usually have clear motives with stakes involved. Reintroduced characters shouldn’t rely too much on a savvy audience already familiar with the brand. Lex Luthor wasn’t given a good platform this round. I wanted to know how this particular Lex got to this point. I do admit you can fit the pieces together, kinda, but his motive didn’t hit home and wobbled. Was there a movie between this one and the last that I missed?

Let’s break Lex down. What do we know about Lex Luthor? He’s rich. He’s smarter than Superman. His inventiveness is up there with Batman. He’s power-mad, but he’s able to hold himself together. These are fantastic qualities in a Super-villain (it’s what gives him that “super” bit.) What can mess this up? I think the answer is overincarnation. Yes, I made up this word just now. I think I made it up. No idea, I’ll Google it later.

Where were we? Right! Overincarnation. We have the comics, the old black and white TV serial, more comics, video games, Smallville, Lois and Clark, bald Kevin Spacey, bald Gene Hackman, the Super Friends cartoon. That’s a stable of Lex Luthor! Having been exposed to this, we have Lex Luthor expectations and have all formed some sort of Lex Luthor in our head. Can Hollywood find that least common denominator Lex Luthor that our moms, brothers, and Grandpa will appreciate? Sadly, I feel that this time they did not.

The world knows who Lex Luthor is. He’s been fighting Superman since 1940. He’s very recognizable.

It would have been really cool if he had made an appearance in Batman v Superman. We kept waiting, but he never showed.

 

About the Author:
111814LargeSquareCrop (1)Matthew started lying as soon as he could talk. Thrilled with the reaction he received, he started making the lies bigger. Some of the lies he had kicked around for years became commodiously appropriate for the written word. Matthew has fun lying in the Middle Grade genre, but lately has been taking on the Adult Dark Humor Crime Thriller genre. He is currently working on his novel – The Sommelier.

When not lying, he is usually traveling, or hanging out with his wife and three cats in Celebration, Florida while looking up words like “commodious” on thesaurus.com .

Where do I find this guy?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matthewdavidbecketauthor/?ref=hl
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