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Good Lawyer, Bad Alien 

Reviews:

THE LINCOLN LAWYER. I have been an avid fan of Michael Connelly since reading his first book The Black Echo, published in 1992. This put me two books ahead of Bill Clinton who apparently discovered Connelly when The Concrete Blonde was published in 1994, back when Clinton still had good taste.

Connelly has a way of elevating genre fiction. Although he later branched out with stand-alones and other series, Connelly's first books were police procedurals featuring disgruntled but honest LAPD Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch, who has a stint as a P.I. before returning to the department. Bosch is an incredibly complex character, both in his very troubled private life and in his somewhat convoluted relationship with the LAPD brass, and the novels are as much about his personal struggles as they are about solving crimes.

With 2005's The Lincoln Lawyer, Connelly shifted gears with a new series featuring Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles defense attorney whose office is his Lincoln and who specializes in defending druggies and motorcycle gang members. Once again, though, Haller is much more complex than one might expect from the genre.

With a few notable exceptions, such as Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, both by Dennis Lehane, recent film adaptations of superior mystery novels have not been notable. So, it was with some trepidation that I went to see The Lincoln Lawyer, all the more so because Matthew McConaughey was cast as Haller, and he has been an actor who seems to be competing with Nicolas Cage in bringing the least effort to his roles.

My worries were misplaced. This is as fine a film adaptation of a novel as you could wish for, remaining totally faithful to both the story and spirit of the book while adeptly translating prose into images. In particular, McConaughey nicely captures the complexities of Haller's character while also nailing the exterior look. He is supported by an excellent cast in every regard. Particular standouts are the inimitable Marisa Tomei as prosecutor and Haller's ex Maggie McPherson and Ryan Phillippe as the wealthy sociopath Louis Roulet, but in truth everyone seems just right.

Director Brad Furman (The Take) nicely creates tension without sacrificing character, helped tremendously by screenwriter John Romano's excellent adaptation. This is superior Hollywood entertainment. Connelly should be ecstatic. 119m. Rated R for some violence, sexual content and language. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

~ Charlie Myers

PAUL. Paul opens in geek-paradise at that Mecca of nerdom, the Comic-Con convention. Clive (Nick Frost) and Graeme (Simon Pegg) have come all the way from England to fondle Warcraft swords and gawk at the expo's Ewoks and scantily-clad alien women. Further asserting their nerd street cred, the British BFFs rent a Winnebago and set out to tour America's UFO sites, including an alien-themed diner where they meet up with nerd Kryptonite: two stereotypical rednecks in camouflage looking to pick a fight.

But the weirdest visitation on their fanboy frolic through the West is an actual E.T., a sassy, trash-talking, green alien who's a cross between a foul-mouthed version of the Geico lizard and another road movie hitchhiker, Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen, who summarily upstages his non-CGI co-stars) is being trailed by some nefarious government types à la Spielberg's E.T. who want him as a specimen on their autopsy table. Their commander is an unseen, castrating woman (a sci-fi insider with a voice instantly familiar to geek fans) who barks orders at the G-men in her employ: two nerdy bumblers Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio) and squared-away terminator Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who is determined to blast a hole through Paul.

On their increasingly raucous road trip, peppered with nerd-insider references to Close Encounters, Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens, Clive and Graeme stop in at the Pearly Gates RV park whose owner is a gun-toting Christian zealot (John Carroll Lynch) with a lovely but sheltered daughter, Ruth (Kristen Wiig). The writers use the opportunity to argue the merits of science over religion in converting Ruth from close-minded Jesus freak into foul-mouthed, sexually curious girlfriend material. The depiction of Bible-thumpers is yet another case of the unimaginative, crude stereotyping that make Paul's comedy feel mean-spirited and devoid of the good will, imagination and buddy comedy sweetness that infused Pegg and Frost's other collaborations, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.

Paul is unfortunately geared toward the lowest common denominator. Coasting on an endless battery of schoolyard jokes, it never manages to channel the wicked irreverence of adolescence. Pegg and Frost seem to believe that if you say the "F" word enough, comedy will ensue. With its endless battery of bathroom, boob, drug and gay jokes, Paul makes Mad magazine look like The Paris Review. Instead of finding something tender and nerd-cool in Clive and Graeme's friendship, Paul offers an endless stream of jokes about how they must be gay for spending so much time together. By the time the sappy resolution rolls around, Paul feels like a guest who's overstayed his welcome. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

~ Felicia Feaster

Previews:

CEDAR RAPIDS. Indie comedy directed by Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) with Ed Helms (The Daily Show, The Hangover) as clean-cut small town insurance agent Tim Lippe, whose life takes a side-step when he's sent to a convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and meets the wild and crazy Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), among others. 86m. Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use. Opening at the Broadway.

SUCKER PUNCH. Action fantasy from director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) stars Emily Browning as Babydoll, a girl who leads the other inmates of a mental ward in an escape into a dream world where they vanquish serpants and samurais with help from the Wise Man (Scott Glenn). 120m. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID 2: RODRICK RULES. Sequel to the pre-teen comedy finds wimpy 7th grader Greg (Zachary Gordon) still learning how to deal with big bro Rodrick (Devon Bostick) while figuring out the girl thing with cute Holly (Peyton R. List). Based on the young adult novel by Jeff Kinney. 96 m. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and mischief. Opening at the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.

The Redwood Coast Jazz Festival runs all weekend, which is not something you typically associate with movies, however, in what has become a festival tradition, The Pastime Silent Movie Orchestra is among the bands. They accompany the classic Buster Keaton comedy THE CAMERAMAN , a tale about a would-be newsreel cameraman (Keaton) who, in a effort to impress a girl (Marceline Day), gets involved in a Chinatown gang war and survives with help from an organ-grinder's monkey. The film shows twice at the Arkley Center: at 4 p.m. Saturday and at noon Sunday.

You've seen the lovingly shot surf flicks with dudes slipping into tubes and riding big, sexy waves -- Jen Savage calls it "surf porn." Rush Sturges' movie, FRONTIER, is the same sort of thing -- only with kayaks. Sturges, a hotshot kayaker originally from Forks of Salmon, takes his crew of kayaking stars around the world from the Pacific NW to Mexico, Canada, Iceland, Norway and China, seeking big rivers and gnarly white water -- these guys literally kayak over waterfalls in a sport they call freeboating. The 8 p.m. screening Thursday night at Humboldt Brews is followed by a live band, The Forest (the movie is all ages, the music is not).

The Westhaven Center for the Arts Fourth Friday Flicks falls this week. This month's offering is John Huston's classic TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948) based on the novel by the mysterious B. Traven and starring Humphrey Bogart. The lights go down at 7 p.m.

The Dude abides on Saturday at the Arcata Theatre Lounge as they screen the Coen brothers' cult classic, THE BIG LEBOWSKI with Jeff Bridges as Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski, a thinking man's slacker navigating a labyrinthine mystery while throwing strikes and gutterballs and sipping White Russians (made with fresh cream, please). Ratty robes are appropriate attire here.

ATL's Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night next Wednesday has a pair of flicks with a Martian invasion via deadly virus theme: THE ALPHA INCIDENT has Mars explorers bringing back a lethal organism then shipping it by train as they try to figure out what it is. Bad idea. ALIEN CONTAMINATION is essentially a low-budget Italian knock-off of Alien, with astronauts returning to Earth with deadly cargo: Martian eggs that grow inside you and burst forth dramatically. Sound familiar?

~ Bob Doran

Continuing:
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. An ambitious politician falls for a ballet dancer but mysterious forces scheme to keep the two apart. Rated PG-13. At the Broadway.

BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES. The aliens would have invaded here, but the weather in SoCal is too nice to pass up. Rated PG-13. 116m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek. 

BEASTLY. Never piss off the goth girl. She might be a witch. Rated PG-13. 95m. At the Broadway.

HALL PASS. Bored with marriage, two guys are given passes by their wives to do whatever they want for a week. Rated R. 108m. At the Broadway.

I AM NUMBER FOUR. Three seemingly normal high schoolers with secret powers have already died. See title. Rated PG-13. 110m. At Garberville.

THE KING’S SPEECH. Based on the true story of the Queen of England’s dad and his remarkable friendship with a maverick Australian speech therapist. Rated R. 119m. At the Broadway.

LIMITLESS. If you take revolutionary pharmaceuticals to combat your writer's block, beware the consquences. Rated PG-13. 106m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

MARS NEEDS MOMS. Martians embrace the "nurture" above "nature" theory. Rated PG. 88m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

RANGO. What chameleon doesn’t dream of becoming a swashbuckling hero? Rated PG. 107m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.

RED RIDING HOOD. If you loved Twilight... Rated PG-13. 109m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

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Charlie Myers

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