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Paul, Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Dogtooth, When We Leave, I Saw the Devil

The voice. The slacker attitude. It’s Seth Rogen, of course, playing that computer-generated alien named Paul.

A lawyer, a writer and a space alien are the top newcomers this week, along with two revenge epics, a story of honor killing and a bizarre satire about not teaching your children well.

The films are …

 

Paul    3 1/2 stars

Limitless   3

The Lincoln Lawyer   3

I Saw the Devil    3 

When We Leave   3

Dogtooth   2 ½

The Butcher, the Chef & the Swordsman  --

Detective K    --

PAUL: It’s not as wild and crazy as their previous hits (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) but this new one from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is almost as funny. This time, the two Brits are goofing around in the movie staple about the space alien trapped on earth. You know, films like E.T., Close Encounters or the obscure Mac and Me, all of which they reference, along with some 15 others. Fans of pop sci fi will have a grand time recognizing all the allusions.

Simon and Nick play comic book fans who come to a convention in San Diego and then set out to tour  UFO sites in Nevada and Wyoming. Somewhere around the storied Area 51 they meet a runaway alien, voiced in his usual wisecracking glory by Seth Rogen. He’s a party animal, pot smoker and know-it-all. In a flashback you hear him advising Steven Spielberg on a movie matter. The boys agree to help him get to a safe rescue site, Devil’s Tower, wouldn’t you know. As they drive the desert, three government agents, two SUV-driving tough guys and one irate, bible-thumping father get on their tail, that last one because they’ve turned his daughter (Kristen Wiig) away from religion and onto cursing and other forbidden joys. A lot of the gags in here are about profanity, especially Wiig’s awkward, inexperienced utterances. Adolescent jokes for sure, but they’re mixed with a healthy dose of modern British humor to lightly but affectionately skewer the fan boys and their films. (International Village and several suburban theatres)  3 1/2 out of 5

LIMITLESS: Oh, wouldn’t it be great if there were a pill for everything? To make you smarter, for instance, or more productive. Bradley Cooper plays on that fantasy as a procrastinating writer who’s given a taste of a new drug by an ex-brother-in-law, who used to deal illegal drugs and now works for a pharmaceutical company. The pill allows him to use all of his brain for once, not just the 20% or so most of us use. He writes his book, learns other languages and masters the stock market. His girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) had already dumped him but now, cleaned up, dressed for success and talking a smart line, others notice him.

Robert De Niro is one. He plays a Wall Street financier who sounds him out in a neatly-acted lunch meeting and then hires him to facilitate a corporate merger. A police detective and an East European gangster are two others but they have far-less  With them a feeling of unease enters the story and grows into full paranoia. Our wunderkind learns about side effects and the need to keep taking the drug forever. And how hard it is to safeguard his stash. And how even he, so supremely smart, can make mistakes. This sharp, lively film starts strong, lags a bit in the middle and gets almost as bloody as a horror movie when it revives itself for a strong climax. (International Village and suburban theatres)  3 out of 5 

THE LINCOLN LAWYER: We haven’t had a John Grisham story in the movies for a while, so this film based on the work of another crime writer, Michael Connelly, will have to do. It has the same easy-to-take dip into the intricacies of practicing law but then makes us work hard to keep up with a byzantine plot and an over-the-top ending.

Matthew McConaughey plays a Los Angeles lawyer who’s so cocky that the license plate on his car reads NTGLTY. The back seat is his second office and his cel phone is his lifeline. He’s an excellent liar, we learn, as we watch him in action in court, with judges and clients alike. Then he gets a major case. A society matron’s son (Ryan Phillippe) is charged with rape and attempted murder. He seems credible when he pleads innocence and the evidence turned up by a private investigator (William H. Macy) backs him up. Or does it? The film keeps us guessing long enough to enjoy McConaughey sparring with Marisa Tomei (as both a prosecutor and his ex-wife), Josh Lucas (as the prosecutor in the courtroom) and Frances Fisher (as Phillippe’s haughty mother). Until the story takes one or two turns too many and also lets our lawyer hero by-pass some ethical lessons,  this is a nicely involving version of an old legal dilemma: how far to defend an untrustworthy client. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

More in New Movies

Michael Moore's hope in the Trump era; The Wife’s marriage seems happy and Life Itself can bring tears

There’s also a muddled children’s film about a house haunted by a clock and a teen film about girls who fight back

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders
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