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Movie pairings. Group Two.

1. Paul Blart, Mall Cop (2009) and Fearless (2006)
Paired because of themes of masculinity, redemption, fatherhood . . . and that I’m a huge fan of Jet Li and Kevin James.

Kevin James and Jet Li may not be likely actor pairings, but the themes in these two movies are similar. James is mall cop Paul Blart who dreams of heroism and recovering his manhood after a disastrous relationship whose only highlight was a daughter. Jet Li is a fighting master with a daughter (watch for an exuberant sequence of swinging and laughing by Li and the daughter). Li’s arrogance gets him into trouble and gets the daughter killed. Both men are humbled, broken, and seek redemption and balance. Paul Blart is comedy, Fearless is drama, yet both bring the audience into men’s worlds of emotion and struggle.

2. Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) and Vertigo (1958)
Paired because if the same stars and similar themes. Both involve romantic manipulation of and by old college friends and things not being what they seem. The movies were also released in the same year.

Bell, Book and Candle features Kim Novak as a witch who steals Jimmy Stewart from a disastrous engagement with her old college nemesis. Vertigo features Novak as a manipulated mistress who lures the unwitting Stewart into helping his old college friend cover up the murder of the friend’s wife. In Bell, Stewart is a clueless book publisher; in Vertigo, he’s a tormented retired detective. Check out a very young Jack Lemmon in Bell as Novak’s warlock brother.

3. Michael Clayton (2007) and The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Paired because of men in similar professions (law) trying to do the right thing in big cities.

Clayton is perhaps the best lawyer movie I have ever seen: crisp script, razor-sharp editing, breath-holding tension, fleshed-out lives (with actual brothers, sisters, addictions) and an arc from seeming insanity landing at ethical sanity. Tom Wilkinson is astonishing as the imploding senior partner. Absolutely perfect.

The Lincoln is vastly less perfect and a looser movie, perhaps befitting the L.A. setting. (The “Lincoln” is the car McConaughey is often in). McConaughey never gains our sympathy–though he’s divorced, drinking, carelessly rich, and miserably charming. Marisa Tomei is a waste as McConaughey’s ex-wife, continuing to flirt, blindingly smile, and have sex with her reckless ex. Incomprehensible. A touch of anger and angst would have helped. Another sign of this movie’s laziness and cheapness is that Tomei and McConaughey’s child is conveniently unconscious in every scene.


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