Film Friday: ‘Paul’ and ‘Limitless’

by W. Andrew Powell

A scene from the movie Paul

A scene from the movie Paul

Opening this weekend in theatres: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in the sci-fi comedy, Paul; Bradley Cooper unleashes the power of his mind in Limitless; and Matthew McConaughey plays cat and mouse against his own client in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
Director: Greg Mottola

As far as I’m concerned there are only two types of people in the world: those who love Simon Pegg, and those who don’t. If you’re part of the former category, I can’t think of a better film for you this weekend than the nerdy comedy, Paul.

Ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead all those years ago I’ve been a fan of Pegg, which makes the arrival of Paul, his first major North American film, all the more exciting.

Greg Mottola, who helmed Superbad and Adventureland, directs this zany comedy about two sci-fi geeks, Graeme and Clive–played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost–on a road trip through America’s heartland of obsessive UFO fanaticism. As it turns out, the two friends meet an actual alien on their trip, voiced by Seth Rogen, who has been stuck at a top-secret military base for the last 60 years.

Hitching a ride with the two Earthlings, and a woman the group mistakenly kidnaps, Graeme and Clive come up with a crazy scheme to get their new alien friend back to his mother ship and on his way home.

Written by Pegg and Frost, who have never written a film together before, Paul is a madcap comedy with a heartfelt side that features loads of nerdy references.

The only problem with Paul might be that, for all the great talent assembled here, it lacks the strong direction of Pegg’s work with director Edgar Wright. Mottola’s previous films were good, but the pieces just don’t fit together as well in Paul.

Alistair Harkness of the Scotsman called the film, “A lazy piece of geeksploitation cinema designed to buttress the Pegg/Frost brand Stateside with Comic Con-courting clichés and groan-inducing movie references.”

Chris Hewitt was more positive however, as were most critics, writing in Empire Magazine, “Broader and more accessible than either Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz, Paul is pure Pegg and Frost – clever, cheeky and very, very funny.”

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Tomas Arana, T.V. Carpio
Director: Neil Burger

Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie in this dramatic thriller by The Illusionist director Neil Burger about an author with the heavy burden of perpetual writer’s block. Eddie’s life changes abruptly when a friend offers him a peculiar drug known as NZT which is supposed to unlock the full potential of your brain.

Altered beyond belief by the drug, NZT allows Eddie to remember everything from his life, decode complex problems, and learn new things impossibly fast, which help him crack the complexities of Wall Street alarmingly fast, earning piles of cash in the process. His gains are so impressive that he gets the attention of the business mogul Carl Van Loon, played by Robert De Niro, who asks Eddie to broker a massive corporate merger.

Gaining more and more attention may not be good for Eddie though as some people start hunting after him for his stash of magic drugs, which he’s using up very quickly. At the same time he is also being investigated by police, and trying to take care of all his troubles before all his problem-solving drugs are gone.

Featuring something of an anti-drug message, which some critics have called preachy, Limitless is an intriguing drama that has earned above-average reviews from many critics.

“Limitless just wants to give you a good time, and it does,” wrote Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly, “yet the film leaves you wondering: Now that our world has been saturated with antidepressants, is this where big pharma strikes next?”

Although Nick Schager of the Village Voice wrote, “Without a complex thought about narcissism, merit, or addiction, Limitless is content to be an empty, one-note, satire-free fairy tale of avarice and corporate-political ambition.”

The Lincoln Lawyer
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas
Director: Brad Furman

Finally this week there’s Matthew McConaughey’s latest film The Lincoln Lawyer, where he plays criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller, a man who makes a living by getting seemingly crooked people off the hook.

Mickey’s life changes when he takes on a case that will make or break his career, defending Beverly Hills player Louis Roulet, played by Ryan Phillippe, who has been charged with rape and attempted murder.

What seems like a simple case at first, since Louis seems to be innocent, turns out to be a dangerous case for Rickey as he uncovers a previous murder that is suspiciously similar. As Rickey uncovers evidence he gets implicated in a dangerous game against his own client as someone fights to keep the evidence hidden.

Based on Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name, this is a refreshing change for McConaughey, who has been doing a lot of romantic comedies for a few years, but very few serious roles.

With the best reviews from critics this weekend, The Lincoln Lawyer looks like a solid diversion, as long as you can accept that it’s essentially like a lot of other court thrillers.

“A moderately entertaining crime drama from people who know their way around a bloody knife or suspicious evidence,” wrote Kirk Honeycutt for the Hollywood Reporter.

While Mark Holcomb of the Village Voice wrote that it was “[a]s devoid of spontaneity as a D.A.’s defense strategy.” He goes on to add, “this adaptation of fiction machine Michael Connelly’s 2005 legal thriller is both convoluted and completely predictable.”

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