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My Favorite Courtroom Movies

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My Favorite Courtroom Movies

Being an attorney, I have an attraction to movies that revolve around lawyers or courtrooms. It is often entertaining to watch how the realities of litigation and law are blurred,butchered and disregarded altogether in the name of entertainment or dramatic license.

Here is the list of my personal favorite courtroom movies. It is not meant to be a definitive list of all-time great courtroom movies. For a movie to be on my list  it has to be something I have seen within the last 5 years.   If the movie predates that and I have not seen it in the last five years, then it was not entertaining enough for me to see it again.  There are also movies that revolve around lawyers but I do not view as courtroom movies such as Twelve Angry MenThe Firm, The Client The Pelican Brief and Michael Clayton.   If I say a movie is technically good from a courtroom perspective I am judging the overall portrayal to the layman and not passing judgment on every little evidentiary/trial fau paux.

Movies like Liar Liar, My Cousin Vinny and Legally Blonde are hilarious. I did not include comedies. The reason is that no matter how funny the movie may be, there is really no character or individuality. They all basically revolving around making courtroom dialogue humorous

To Kill A Mockingbird:   On every top ten list there is.  It is an especially interesting movie in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling re-affirming the bar of capital punishment rape cases.  Atticus Finch, a depression era, small town Alabama lawyer agrees to defend a young black man who is accused of raping a white woman.  His friends and others in the community try to get Atticus to pull out of the trial, but he decides to go ahead.  If you have seen this movie, you should also watch Ghosts Of Mississippi. There are some interesting parallels and comparisons to be made.

Fracture:  It took me a while to see Fracture. When I finally saw it I found it fascinating.  The great performance of Anthony Hopkins aside, the movie had me more engrossed in the legal issues presented than the plot drama.  Would double jeopardy prevent a person from being tried for murder after being found not-guilty for the attempted murder of the same person?  Would the various confessions given by Anthony Hopkin’s character been excluded?  Fracture is an amalgamation of about ten different Law And Order episodes. This is one of the few movies where the legal issues in themselves kept my attention.  If interested here is a great summary of how these legal issues might play out in real life.

The Verdict: This is my favorite courtroom movie of all time. I can watch it over and over. Paul Newman in my opinion gives his greatest acting performance. What lawyer out there cannot identify with getting that one big case that will cure what ails the human condition?  A case that that not only redeems society but redeems the down and out alcoholic attorney played by Newman.   He battles a crappy case, biased judge, reluctant witnesses and a crooked law firm defending the Catholic Church. Not great technically from a courtroom perspective but you get so sucked into Paul Newman’s character that you completely disregard any tactics that would be questionable in real life. David vs. Goliath courtroom movies are a dime a dozen and only work if they bring you into the story so you become David. Watch this movie and you will be David for two hours.

The Rainmaker. Based on the book of the same title by John Grisham.   Same David and Goliath script but with a much more technically correct courtroom feel. This is one of the few Grisham books that translates well to the big screen. This time the young inexperienced attorney representing the poor family unable to speak for themselves up against the big bad insurance company. How do you not get sucked into Matt Damon’s character? The young attorney with no money trying his first case again up again the big time corrupt defense firm. Are there any courtroom movies out there that put defense firms in a positive light? The only people in this country who do not want to put a whop ass on a big bad insurance company are the people who work for the insurance company. One of the better courtroom movies from a technical perspective, great storyline. By the time the movie is over you want to go hire a lawyer to sue an insurance company, any insurance company….

A Few Good Men. You have to get past the fact that the whole movie hinges on the star witness, a Marine Corps General played by Jack Nicholson suddenly collapsing like a used air bag under cross examination,handing the defense its’ case. The odds of this happening in real life?   Play the Powerball Lottery this week.   You have a better shot.  Jack had to give it up under cross to make the movie work and boy does his performance make it work!  It’s a great movie.  One of those movies worth watching just to watch every scene with Jack Nicholson.  A serviceable performance by Tom Cruise as the under-dog unappreciated and initially apathetic military defense attorney.  Watch it for Jack though.

A Civil Action: Based on the book “A Civil Action”.  It is a true story. The underdog attorney, real life attorney Jan Schlichtmann up against the big bad corporate giants who are spilling toxic substances into the drinking water of Woburn, Massachusetts causing cancer clusters in the children.  I don’t want to give away the entire story but you have an attorney coming to understand himself at the cost of everything he once was, morally, financially, emotionally. I warn you that this is a SLOW movie. It is very deliberate as is the very long book. It needs to be to work. It works in that it is deliberate but never boring. You will come away from this movie with a better understanding of the frustrations that many attorneys face in trying to do the right thing and getting so sucked into to trying to do the right thing that you lose sight of what the right thing really is.  John Travolta gives a great performance as Jan Schlichtmann He brings you right into his character to such a degree that you hang on each work and move quickly through any slow parts of the movie. Interesting paradox here. Robert Duvall is portrayed as an honest defense attorney for the corporate giant when in reality the defense firm involved destroyed and hid evidence.

Amistad: This movie is not for everyone. It is slow. It is hard to follow. It involves a mutiny on a slave ship traveling towards the coast of the United States. The story revolves around the trial of the slaves who led the revolt. I can sum up my review this way: Did watch the HBO mini-series John Adams? Then watch this movie. Why? John Quincy Adams, the son of Second President John Adams Jr. was the lawyer who defended the slaves who had revolted and killed their captors.  Good performances by Matthew McConaughey and Anthony Hopkins as John Quincy Adams. This slave controversy in this case became a prelude to The Civil War.

Philadelphia. This is the first big star motion picture that I am aware of that addresses AIDS discrimination.  Great performance by Tom Hanks as a big city Philadelphia lawyer with AIDS. His law firm discovers his condition and cans him.   Denzel Washington is great as the stereotypical ambulance chaser who finds a conscience and a cause. I don’t think this is a very good movie from a technical standpoint.  Both lawyers make too many speeches The court testimony about Hank’s characters sexual orientation and sexual habits would never come into evidence as not being relevant. They put it in the movie for dramatic purposes and it works for that purpose It can however give the laymen the impression that if you make such a claim your sex life will be put out there for all to see and that’s just not true.

Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street (The 1947 Original) The existence of Santa Clause on trial? How could this not be on my list?

Ghosts of Mississippi:  A movie about the 1994 trial of  Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of the 60s civil rights leader Medgar Evers.  De La Beckwith had been tried twice with each trial(with all white juries) ending in a mistrial.  He is tried for the third and final time 30 years later.  He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. De La Beckwith died in prison in 2001. He was 80 years old. The trial made national news as one of the longest delays between arrest and final trial in United States history. It is also widely regarded as historically symbolic of the transition of Mississippi to more progressive views on racial equality.  This is an unappreciated movie with an under-appreciated performance by Alec Baldwin as the district attorney determined to get justice but facing huge evidentiary obstacles and  initial resistance by Medger’s widow, Myrlie Evers, played by Whoopie Goldberg. Evers later went on to become the national head of the NAACP.

Judgment at Nuremberg: The first film to address the trial of the Nazi’s accused of war crimes after World War II otherwise known as The Nuremberg Trials. I am frankly surprised this has not been re-done with a current day all star cast. I think it would do well.

Primal Fear This movie has absolutely absurd courtroom dialogue but the story line and performances by Edward Norton and Richard Gere are so good that you really don’t care.

Music Box This is one of the few movies dealing with the issues of aging former Nazis and Nazi sympathizers who committed war crimes living in the United States.  Jessica Lange and Armin Mueller-Stah give great performances. The movie is based on the true story of John Demjanjuk.   While the premise of a daughter representing her father on trial with such high stakes is a stretch, it works well here.  Jessica’s emotional opening statement is also unrealistic and inadmissible. The movie is incredibly moving on all levels. You are torn between her father as a loving grandfather and a brutal murderer guilty of terrible war crimes. In an interesting twist of life imitating art, the father of Joe Eszterhas who wrote the screenplay, was accused of writing anti-Semitic propaganda before and during World War II. Like the character in Music Box, his father denied being the person who wrote these materials. Mr. Ezterhas denies knowing anything about his father’s past at the time he wrote the screenplay. There is a great article about this that can be read here.

Class Action This movie is based on the Ford Pinto Rear End End Explosion cases. Gene Hackman is great as the both idealistic and cynical plaintiff’s attorney going after the huge car maker. Once again a defense firm is portrayed as as unethical. They hide then destroy key evidence in the case. The conduct of the character played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, while portrayed as noble in the movie would have probably resulted in her disbarment in real life. She knows a partner in her firm has destroyed evidence. She tells the other side(who happens to be her father) about it. She also gives them a corroborating witness not previously known about.  Noble maybe but career ending absolutely.

Presumed Innocent This is one of the great courtroom movies of the last 20 years both in style and drama. Great performances by both Harrison Ford and Brian Dennehy. A show stealing supporting performance is turned in by the late  Raul Julia. The movie also does fairly well on a courtroom technical basis. One dramatic license taken is the hammer which needed to be taken. The statement that the police wouldn’t look for it because if they don’t find it , that would be brought up in court is just silly. They don’t look for something because they might not find it?   Search warrants are executed to find evidence, not to leave it.

And Justice For All. Al Pacino’s great courtroom flick. (I refuse to put The Devil’s Advocate on there) The movie is technically ludicrous and it is supposed to be!  That is the whole point. The point is that the legal system is ludicrous and often forces attorneys to choice between morality and victory. While the drama is exaggerated the message is right on. The below video says it all.

Inherit The Wind: As strange as it would seem today, at one time it was illegal in many states to teach the theory of  evolution in the class room. Today with the separation of church and state we have come 180 degrees.  It can be argued that there is a similar controversy present day regarding the  teaching of  Intelligent Design in public schools.  Inherit The Wind is a dramatization of the real life Scopes Money Trial. Great performance if not over the top by Spencer Tracy.

That’s my list. Are there other good courtroom movies?  Of course. These were the ones that I can watch over and over. Some other courtroom movies I found entertaining but didn’t make my watch over and over list are,

Rules of Engagement

Hart’s War.

Red Corner.

Please feel free to comment and make your case for your favorite courtroom movies and why they are great.

Posted in Law and OrderComments (3)

I Want Jessica Alba To Make Me Sweat

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I Want Jessica Alba To Make Me Sweat

I am always looking for new ways to stay in shape. I recently came across an article in the New York Times touting the new hot thing in personal training workouts. The new rage appears to be customized video and mp3 workouts you can download to your IPOD. The article was from 2006 but I frankly had not heard of this. My Ipod contains my own mix of songs soundly reflecting the fact that I am inescapably stuck in the 80′s.

Having moved into my 40′s with the inevitable slip into the “dark side” in the ability to stay in shape, I was just the gullible , desperate fool at the end of his rope these services were designed for. I am willing to try anything and everything to recapture that lost flat stomach that will never been seen again except in photos stored ironically on my Ipod. These Ipod workouts were designed for the guy that looks at his vacuum cleaner and sees “at home liposuction”. I guess that’s me because I clicked on one of the websites.

This company was offering for 29.95 a month audio and video personal training workouts from a world class “celebrity trainer” that you download to your video IPod or your mp3 player with sound only. Each workout is custom designed just for you. I can just imagine this celebrity trainer going through the questionnaire from Sally in Wichita Falls and recording his grunts and yells into a video or sound byte. ONE MORE REP SALLY! DO IT SALLY! YOU ARE ALMOST THERE! She may forget whether she is in the gym or the bedroom.

If you have video capability you can watch Mr. celebrity trainer make sneering, disapproving faces at you to further motivate you while you listen in your headphones while thinking you could have got that for free at home from your wife or husband without the 29.95 a month.

Research show that there are quite a few of these Ipod trainer companies sprouting up. This is such a goofy idea that these guys will probably make millions. They have invented the”Bowflex of the Ipod”. You will spend about month of listening to some guy you have never met and never will meet grunt and groan and encourage you as you clumsily hold your IPod screen up in front of you while you work out. You will spend a month listening to the same motivational spiel over and over. Your workout will then be archived to your computer as your Bowflex is to your garage never to be heard from again except at your next garage sale. You will also forget to cancel the membership for another 6 months so that’s another 180 bucks they get from you for mass creating a 40 minute workout that I would guess only changes variably for every person and is done by a computer program.

These guys are hoping you will focus on the knee-jerk response that 29.95 a month is better than paying 100 bucks or more a session for a personal trainer. They forget that the very reason personal trainers work is that they change it up, get in your face, come with a different personality every day sweat on you, piss you off , tell you who they are sleeping with, tell you how many girls in the gym they have dated. They tell you who everyone else in the gym is sleeping with. In addition to trainers, they are pimps, hairdressers and bartenders all rolled in to one and if they happen to get you in better shape that is an added bonus. Why would we want to replace them with a video celebrity that isn’t going to give you the Hollywood TMZ type gossip?

People get personal trainers to get in shape or stay in shape. People keep personal trainers because of everything else I just talked about. What classifies someone as a “celebrity trainer.”? Is there a certification for that? Do you pay more for for the video if they train people on the “A list” versus the “D List”? One man’s celebrity is another’s wannabe or has-been.

If they wants me to go for the celebrity trainer hook, they had better get Arnold Schwarzenegger involved. They would do better with “Celebrity Tanning”. When you step out of the booth, depending on your sexual preference, you have Jessica Alba or George Clooney on a video screen telling you how great you look. I would be more motivated in the gym by an iPod video of Jessica Alba saying “one more set and I’m yours tonight”. This would be more motivating than grunts of some generic fitness geek I never heard of.

It takes me back to my early days in Dallas when I had a roomie I was trying to help get in shape. I put him on the “fat pig” diet. Every morning before I left for work I would put a note on the refrigerator telling him he was a fat disgusting slob, and to get that pizza slice out of his mouth. It worked great! He lost 15 lbs in about a month. Then one night he stabbed me in my sleep. Maybe I should go for that celebrity trainer certification.

©2008 Brian Cuban

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Jose Canseco and Latrell Sprewell: Seperated at Birth

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Jose Canseco and Latrell Sprewell: Seperated at Birth

Who would have known that Jose Canseco and Latrell Sprewell would have so much in common. Both overrated volatile sports figures who spent it a lot faster than they made it. Both facing financial ruin due to their “financial fiscal” theories on making and saving money. Jose Canseco being the latest to offer his take on the “pressures” of being a millionaire.

Jose Canseco’s home just recently went into foreclosure Canseco recently told the syndicated TV showInside Edition” that he walked away from his $2.5 million, 7,300-square foot home in suburban Encino because it didn’t make sense to continue making payments.

This in itself is not shocking. With the downturn in the housing market, many are finding upper end homes worth far less than the mortgage. They find it cheaper to walk away than throw bad money after bad. Not necessarily a bad financial move.

What was amusing and what brought back memories of Latrell Sprewell was the following quote from Canseco:

“You know my life, this financial thing, is a very complicated issue. Obviously, when you make all that money, people think, `OK, let’s assume it is $35 million.’ People have to understand that $35 million, you’re paying the government 41 percent. That leaves you with about $17 or $18 million, not even. Then you’re taking care of your whole family.”

Ok, let as all have a financial pity party for Jose Canseco who was unable to take care of himself and his family on 18 million. Parties, cocaine, strippers and his steroids bill certainly put a dent in that sum…..

Who can also forget NBA has been Latrell Sprewell’s ramblings about how tough it is to support a family back in 2004 when he was demanding a trade if he did not receive a contract extension from the New York Knicks.

On Halloween 2004, Sprewell, who was in the final season of a $62-million, five-year deal he signed with the Knicks, said he was insulted by Minnesota’ s offer of a contract extension that was reportedly worth between $27 million and $30 million for three seasons. “I’ve got my family to feed,”

That quote become a national moniker for the public perception of athletes as greedy out of touch individuals.

Apparently Sprewell still cant feed his family because his yacht was recently repossessed and his multi million dollar mansion is about to be foreclosed on.

Maybe Canseco and Sprewell should get together to discuss getting their families fed. Canseco can give Sprewell tips on bulking up for his next career as a professional wrestler where he will practice his patented “choke hold’ and Sprewell can give Canseco tips on yacht upkeep for his next career cleaning them…..

Hey, they have to feed their families right?


Posted in humor, politics, sportsComments (3)

Roger Clemens Admits Secret Miley Crush!

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Roger Clemens Admits Secret Miley Crush!

Fresh off of accusations that he carried on a ten year affair with country singer Mindy McCready starting when he was 28 and she was 15, Roger Clemens today has also admitted that has had a secret crush on child star Miley Cryus since she turned 15 years old.

When confronted with his statements ,Roger admitted that while the age difference between he and Miley is greater than it was for he and Mindy. He stated… “age is just a number” and Mindy was very “mature” for a 15 year old so he did not expect Miley to be any different….

Roger stated that after being highly aroused by Miley’s latest provocative photo spread in Vanity Fair and seeing her recent “show all” bodysuit he felt “compelled” to come out of the closet with his secret crush…..

Roger stated that if Miley felt the same way, he would provide her with all the “moral and financial support” he provided Mindy and he saw no reason that Miley could not have the same happy life as Mindy McCready.

When it was pointed out to Roger that Mcready had been to jail, addicted to drugs and had been in an abusive relationship in the years since they met, Roger stated that Miley had a good head on her shoulders and was certainly “all grown up” for a 15 year old…. What was good enough for MIndy was certainly good eough for Miley…

Roger closed by stating that his long term goal for Miley was for her to have a guest spot in Mindy’s upcoming reality show entitled “Guys Do It With Younger Girls All The Time”

Calls to Miley Cyrus reps went unreturned……

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