By Sandra Kraisirideja
Three movies opening this weekend should satisfy audiences with their diversity and entertainment value.
“Paul” is a scifi-action-comedy written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who also star. The British actors are known for zany , over-the-top comedies like “Hot Fuzz” that are delightfully fun to watch. For anyone who has even a passing interest in comic books, science fiction and alien abduction “Paul” is funny and very entertaining. And if you look at the film landscape these days it seems studios can’t produce enough films for these genres.
Pegg and Frost are two Brits on holiday in the U.S. visiting Comic-Con for the first time who stumble upon an alien (voiced with hilarious effect by Seth Rogen) during their road trip of significant alien sightings. And in the tradition of “E.T.” the boys must help Paul return to his home planet while being chased by government agents.
Pegg and Frost’s script expertly combines sweetness with crass while gently poking fun at “fan boys.” It feels like Pegg and Frost are writing what they know and if it weren’t for acting they would be just like the geeky characters they are playing. With a strong supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Kristin Wiig, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, “Paul” pays homage to science fiction movies of the past in a way that is endearing.
Also opening this weekend is “Limitless” with Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish. Based on “The Dark Fields” by Alan Glynn, “Limitless” contemplates what happens when a drug gives a person unlimited intellectual ability.
Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a struggling writer, and Cornish is his girlfriend who recently dumped him. De Niro is a powerful business mogul who enlists Morra’s help with a business deal after Morra turns $12,000 into over $2 million by investing in stocks with the help of the wonder drug NZT.
The screenplay by Leslie Dixon effectively ratchets up the tension with realistic conflicts for Morra to overcome. Director Neil Burger employs an unsettling technique that gives the illusion of rushing forward in space that made me feel a little queasy. I found just letting go and not trying to control the effect on my senses was the best way to experience this camera trick when it was used. Fortunately Burger only uses it a few times to illustrate the effects of the drug.
Cornish, who looks a lot like Nicole Kidman, does a nice job playing the concerned girlfriend and De Niro performs his role effortlessly without loosing an ounce of intensity. It’s a small role and there’s not much for him to do but his scenes are still amazing to watch.
Finally this weekend there is the courtroom drama “The Lincoln Lawyer” starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe. It’s always a pleasant surprise when during the opening credits the names of actors appear that weren’t expected. For “The Lincoln Lawyer” that included names like William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, and Michael Pena. This great supporting cast helps “The Lincoln Lawyer” out quite a bit because without them the movie would just be just like any other crime drama on TV.
McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who operates out of the back of an old school Lincoln sedan. I couldn’t help but see shades of Vic Mackey from “The Shield” as Haller plays the system to his advantage. Also, as a defense attorney I got the feeling that he’s somebody that people usually root against because he’s supporting the “bad” guys. Still, it’s hard not to like him. Tomei plays Haller’s ex-wife and Phillippe is his wealthy client who has been accused of murder.
This movie is a drama but it’s not heavy handed and there were moments where the audience laughed during scenes that were not intentionally meant to be funny. Sometimes this is a bad sign because it means an actor is overdoing it or the dialogue is so bad that it’s laughable. With “The Lincoln Lawyer” the laughs just add to the enjoyment of the movie. There are a few twist and turns in the movie but the surprises aren’t really the moments that pay off in the film. What works is the relationships and the interactions between the characters.
Whether you choose “Paul,” “Limitless” or “The Lincoln Lawyer” this weekend, each delivers a satisfying dose of cinematic escape.