The Movie Report
March 2011

#630 - 631
March 11, 2011 - March 25, 2011

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

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#631 March 25, 2011 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Limitless poster Limitless (PG-13) ** 1/2
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Neil Burger's adaptation of Alan Glynn's novel The Dark Fields boasts a killer hook: a slacker writer (Bradley Cooper) starts taking a drug that unlocks the cognitive abilities of the entire human brain--resulting in not only untold power and success but, of course, a myriad of dangers. While Burger gives the film an appropriately frenetic visual flair, stylishly conveying the sense of a world suddenly opening up to infinite possibilities, ultimately the film's success rides on the casting of the lead, who on the page is hardly the most likable sort, so it rests on the actor to make his flaws compelling. However, Cooper is his usual innocuous but personality-free, walking wallpaper self and hence not up to the challenge here, and with his lackluster non-presence the film goes down, especially when able co-stars Abbie Cornish (as the girlfriend) and a paycheck-cashing Robert De Niro (as a rich businessman) don't have much of anything to do.

The Lincoln Lawyer poster The Lincoln Lawyer (R) ** 1/2
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Matthew McConaughey has spent so much screen time recently playing an oft-shirtless himbo in chick flicks that it's easy to forget that he first gained stardom with a serious dramatic part in the John Grisham adaptation A Time to Kill. His role in another book-to-screen, Michael Connelly's best seller, is a most ideal return to real acting form, his now-established slickster screen persona and established skill set a snug fit for the role of a hotshot defense attorney hired by a rich young playboy (Ryan Phillippe) accused of brutally beating a prostitute. The ever-blank Phillippe's casting is the one sore spot in what is otherwise a note-perfect ensemble, including Marisa Tomei as McConaughey's ex-wife; William H. Macy as his investigator; and, in an especially inspired choice by director Brad Furman, longtime McConaughey knockoff Josh Lucas as the prosecutor. But what ultimately does in what is otherwise a pretty smart and mature thriller is what I suspect is inherited from Connelly's original novel: a drawn-out conclusion that takes a couple of twists too many past what is the most natural and satisfying ending, making the whole fall short of the sum of impressive parts.

#630 March 11, 2011 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Rango poster Rango (PG) *** 1/2
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There are films I call "director's free pass projects"--that is, after a filmmaker does a project(s) that achieves a certain degree of success, most especially financially, he or she gets a "free pass" to do a project that may not be the most conventional or, perhaps more importantly, not the easiest sell. The reunion of Pirates of the Caribbean collaborators (on the first three films, that is) Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp for an animated feature produced by Nickelodeon may not look or sound like a "free pass project," but in execution that's what it feels like--and the film is all the better for it. Depp voices the title character, a wannabe actor pet lizard who gets separated from his owners after a traffic accident and gives himself the plum role he's always wanted by reinventing himself as a tough gunslinger in a dusty desert town. From such an odd premise (Verbinski, James Ward Byrkit, and scripter John Logan receive story credit) springs an even odder sense of humor, and odder still a plot that owes a lot to--of all things--Robert Towne's Chinatown script. But the quirky, go-for-broke approach pays off, making for a uniquely entertaining film, animated or otherwise, that delivers the western genre goods along with generous laughs and some impressive animation--and some brazenly warped sensibilities that are sure to win it an ardent number of devotees, if not necessarily the moviegoing masses at large.


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