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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Let me cut right to the chase. I adored this movie. I adored Matthew McConaughey in this movie. He is known as a hot, but probably smelly, beach bum who is given to chewing scenery, but he is utterly perfect in this noir thriller. So perfect that the role seems written for him. I can't imagine another actor who could've been as lovable in the role of Mickey Haller, an eccentric, money-grubbing criminal defense attorney who operates mostly out of the back seat of his chauffeured Lincoln adorned with a vanity plate that reads, "NTGUILTY."

Haller is a slick wheeler-dealer who's making a good living defending lowlife drug dealers, crooks and the occasional murderer. A biker gang has him on retainer and, rather than calling or emailing, they will tailgate him on an L.A. freeway when they need to contact him. They, and presumably all his clients, pay in cash. Mickey has people all over town doing favors for him, and his actions, while legal, don't always seem to be on the up-and-up.

Enter a legitimate client (the outmatched Ryan Phillippe) who's been accused of raping and assaulting a woman he met at a bar. Haller thinks he may have found that rarest of breeds: an innocent client. Phillippe's Louis Roulet is a rich, pampered mama's boy, but there is sufficient evidence to make Haller -- and us -- believe he was set up.

We see hints that the smooth-talking, deal-cutting "Lincoln Lawyer" may have a conscience, as he discusses with his friend/investigator/sidekick (the always wonderful William H. Macy) his fear that he'll one day be responsible for sending an innocent person to jail in order to save the same seemingly guilty person from the death penalty. He's also a surprisingly devoted dad and maintains a flirty relationship with his ex-wife, played by Marisa Tomei.

The movie has star power. Josh Lucas turns up as an assistant DA. John Leguizamo is a bail bondsman happy to send low-life clients Haller's way, and Bryan Cranston plays against type as a hard-boiled detective nearing retirement.

But, the gritty, twisty movie belongs to Matthew. I'm hoping for a sequel. See it!  

                                          The Lincoln Lawyer

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The 5th Quarter

Can The Chronic Critic be objective about a movie that takes place primarily at the great university where she spent some of the best years of her life? Of course not. So, if you want an unbiased review, look elsewhere.

The 5th Quarter is a sports movie in the way that The Blind Side is a sports movie. Which is to say, it's really not. (Are they ever?) The film uses the Cinderella story of the 2006 Demon Deacons's improbable season to tell the true story of a grieving young man who inspires his teammates to gridiron greatness.

Jon Abbate (Ryan Merriman) is a Wake Forest player on a team that's expected to finish last in the ACC. As usual. (This critic can't help but think back to the football games during her college career, where she and her BFFs would hide out in portajons when the cops came around during third quarter to kick tailgaters into the game. "We hate to break up the party, but somebody's gotta go support the team," they'd say. Those were halcyon days.) 

Jon's younger brother, Luke, is critically injured in a car accident -- and the car he and his buds were riding in was driven by a showboating 16-year-old friend -- and is declared brain dead. His family makes the gut-wrenching decision to take him off life support and donate his organs.

Back at Wake, Jon begins skipping class, drinking too much and missing practice. In a misstep in the storytelling, there's one night where he has one too many beers followed by a quick chat with a coach who's been there (his first wife dies) and rapidly followed by a winning season. It's all wrapped up too quickly. (Hey, maybe objectivity is possible, after all.)

Here's some more objectivity: Andie MacDowell's acting is so bad, it's a distraction. MacDowell plays Maryanne Abbate, the grieving mom. She's always been an unforgivably awful actress, but she's generally not called upon to do much other than look gorgeous. Which she does very well. This time, she's called upon to produce real tears, and that proves to be a bridge too far.

Which is too bad, because Aidan Quinn (Steven Abbate) is stellar. But, he can't carry the entire movie. And, he's really the only professional in the bunch. The Girlfriend is so generic and wooden that she could be anybody. I can't even recall her name.

So, there are limitations. But, did they stop this critic from crying during the hospital scenes, the funeral, the aftermath and the uplifting, winning season? Of course not. If you thought Gale Sayers' locker room "I love Brian Piccolo" speech from Brian's Song could turn on the faucet, wait'll you see this.

The movie makes the point that Luke Abbate lives on through the people who received his vital organs. But, he also lives on as the inspiration for Wake Forest's winningest season in their history. Jon Abbate switches his jersey number from 40 to 5 -- Luke's lacrosse number -- and begins to hold up five fingers to his parents in the stands at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Soon enough, his teammates join in. And, then the Deacon fans follow suit. And, then the opposing team and their fans do, too. It's great drama and makes for great cinema.

When a movie has this much heart, you can forgive bad acting and erratic pacing. Bring plenty of Kleenex, and ... see it.
                                                          The 5th Quarter

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Last Lions

It's an unforgiving place. The merciless and powerful rule without pity, and the weak are pounced on and eaten alive -- sometimes for sport and sometimes for the survival of those who outrank them. There is no code here, no justice.

But, enough about the corporate workplace.

This documentary takes place in Africa, an equally unforgiving landscape. And, if you can forgive the filmmakers for anthropomorphizing the family of lions (made up of a fearless, devoted single mother and her three cubs), you'll be enthralled, engaged and have your heart ripped out. Not to give anything away, but  you will despise the water buffalo, alligators and hyenas. "This is supposed to be LION turf," I wanted to yell each time one of those interlopers showed up.

The cinematography and haunting music are as awesome as the family of lions this documentary follows. The only nit, and it's a small one, is Jeremy Irons's at times over-the-top narration. Both his voice -- which sounds like Alistair Cooke introducing Masterpiece Theater -- and the script could be a bit much.

Did Jeremy just say that "Silver Eye" (the wild animals have names in this movie, which only makes them seem more like pets that just haven't been housebroken yet) recalled the scent of her former nemesis and was now back for "revenge"? Do animals recall past grievances and later plot revenge against their foes? I don't know; I'm just an unpaid movie critic. It may not be accepted zoological theory, but it sure does make for a powerful story.

While I feel Randall would have provided superior narration, honey badger style, for The Last Lions, I suppose the Oscar-winning Irons lends some gravitas to what could've been dismissed as just another nature movie. And, it's more than that.

It's an urgent tale about a drastically shrinking lion population. Not surprisingly, we learn that those interloping, marauding buffalo and hyenas are nothing compared to the humans mucking everything up for nature. See it.
                                                  The Last Lions

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hall Pass

The Farrelly brothers' new comedy, if one can call it that, has the flat look of a cheaply made sitcom. The homes of the two main couples (Owen Wilson/Jenna Fischer and Jason Sudeikis/Christina Applegate) are straight out of a Rooms To Go showroom. In fact, the couples' homes are so similar as to be interchangeable. I defy you to distinguish between the two.

Looks like the bros skimped on costumes and make-up, too. Seriously, in some scenes, Fischer and Applegate, who are both lovely, look like they applied their make-up in the dark. And, I don't think that was the look they were going for.

With the exception of the four stars, and the always wonderful Richard Jenkins in a cameo, no one seems to have ever had an acting lesson. Saved by the Bell had a better supporting cast.

The only thing missing here is a laugh track. And, believe you me, it could've used one. I laughed precisely twice during the film. Others in the audience didn't seem to be any more amused than I was. I expect so much more from the people who gave us There's Something About Mary and The Heartbreak Kid.

By now, you've heard the plot. Two married guys are a little bored with their staid lives, and their wives -- at the behest of their friend played by Joy Behar -- suggest a one-week vacation from marriage. The fellas can do whatever they wish and not suffer any consequences. Suffice it to say they're a little rusty at the dating game. They think Applebee's is a pick-up joint.

This sounds a lot funnier in theory than it turns out to be.

The Farrellys are known for their raunchy, potty humor, but this flick comes up short in that arena. There's full frontal male nudity, but even that scene goes on well past the initial shock to become just plain dull. A woman who shoots diarrhea while sneezing might be funny to a 12-year-old boy, but it's really not that funny to anyone past puberty.

The one redeeming quality the movie has is a number of snippets from folk singer Ellis Paul's The Day After Everything Changed CD. If the movie helps increase Ellis's fan base, it will almost have been worth sitting through it. Almost. Skip it.

                                                       Hall Pass

Saturday, March 5, 2011


The best performance in this "thriller" (and I use the term loosely) is by ... Diane Kruger's stunt driver. There are some pretty bitchin' car chases and crashes in this movie. And, that's about the best that can be said for it.

Liam Neeson sleepwalks through it and looks slightly embarrassed to be starring in it. January Jones looks beautiful, which is really about all she's asked to do. Kruger looks great, too, but thumbs down to the person who cast her as a cab driver -- and a Bosnian immigrant, to boot. As if. Someone should've suggested a dialect coach for Kruger and the "German" M.D. who sounds French.

Get ready for the most implausible story line to come down the pike in quite some time. Neeson plays an American botanist who's in Berlin with his wife (Jones) for a -- get this -- glamorous biotech conference. Before the conference begins, his taxi (driven by Kruger's incredible stunt driver) crashes, rendering him comatose for four days. He wakes from the coma and is perfectly fine, save for a Band-Aid on his forehead. He returns to the luxe hotel (where I'm sure all botanists stay when in Berlin), but his wife acts as if she's never seen him before.

To top if off, another man (Aidan Quinn) is pretending to be the good doctor! And, doing a darn good job of it, too. This leads to loads of frustration for Neeson's character and allows him to happen upon a detective who is willing to help him figger out just what up. And, his stumbling on Berlin's best detective (a former member of the Stasi -- natch!) is just one of many coinkydinks that help the nonsensical plot move along at a fevered clip to a crazy ending. Towards the end (when the entire audience -- those who hadn't yet walked out -- was getting fidgety), you'll see how the screenwriter gets hordes of glamazon models to the biotech conference. Because everyone knows that supermodels are always showing up at biotech conventions.

Like I said -- implausible. Skip it.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is something of a miracle.

It's a miracle that a studio bought such a lame script about a hick from small town Iowa who travels to the "big city" of Cedar Rapids for an insurance sales convention. It's a miracle that top talent (Ed Helms, Sigourney Weaver and the actor my friend, Beth, calls "The Poor Man's Will Ferrell" -- John C. Reilly) were willing to have anything to do with it. (Anne Heche is in it, too, but I don't consider her "top talent.") It's a miracle it didn't go straight to video. And, it's a miracle that some critics are praising it as a raunchy movie with heart.

It's not raunchy enough for my tastes, and it's certainly not funny enough to pass for a comedy. It's offensive to insurance salespeople, to Iowans, to Christians and to people with sense. And, not offensive in a funny, "I know better but I can't help but laugh" sort of way, but in a just plain, "I'm offended that the movie studio is wasting my time with this trash" sort of way.

I saw it at a free screening, and I was offended I had wasted the gas to get to the theater. A total dud. Skip it!