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New releases opening this week: Bad Grandpa, The Counselor, and more

Never mind the middlebrow

Movie

Counselor ***

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"I've seen it all, counselor," intones worldly-wise dealmaker Brad Pitt. "It's all shit." This is very close to the point of <em>The Counselor</em>. Pretty shit, pricey shit, exciting shit, lovable shit, even enduring shit - but still shit. The counterargument, to the extent that one is offered, is so brief and blunt that it barely registers. Novelist Cormac McCarthy (<em>No Country for Old Men</em>) takes his first shot at screenwriting, hanging meditations on his preoccupations - sex, death, violence, and maybe God - on the story hook of a bad-boy lawyer who tries to take the easy way out of his financial troubles by facilitating a drug deal. Whereupon he discovers that he's more boy than bad, and that there is not, in fact, any such thing as the easy way out. People tend to speak in pronouncements - "You don't know someone until you know what he wants" - and the story sometimes feels like its serving the dialogue. But it's pretty fine dialogue. (How do you make an audience listen to a poetic monologue on grief and death? Deliver said monologue to a desperate protagonist who wants so very badly to hear something else, the something he hopes will come after the monologue.) Cameron Diaz gets the role of a lifetime as a well-preserved specimen bent on self-preservation. With Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz. Directed by Ridley Scott.

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Poor Scott. Forced to damn Bad Grandpa with faint praise. Only three stars, alas. For any other franchise save Marty Movies Inc., that would be high praise. Here, there is the unmistakable pungency of disappointment.

I am similarly limited with regard to The Counselor. My gut wants to give it four stars, but I have to confess that some of the monologues verged on speechifying me right out of the story. Doesn't matter how good they were. They felt, how do you say, literary. Understandable? Sure. Laudable? Less sure. Still: so much to love, and many scenes that will stay with me. A smart film about foolish people, with plenty of gnawable meat on its bones.

Less impressive: the Beat murder story Kill Your Darlings and the Middle Eastern Huck Finn Zaytoun. More people might care about the former if people still read books, and more people might care about the latter if it had kept up the energy of its first act.

Unseen so far, but on the list: All is Lost.

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Movie

Counselor ***

thumbnail

"I've seen it all, counselor," intones worldly-wise dealmaker Brad Pitt. "It's all shit." This is very close to the point of <em>The Counselor</em>. Pretty shit, pricey shit, exciting shit, lovable shit, even enduring shit - but still shit. The counterargument, to the extent that one is offered, is so brief and blunt that it barely registers. Novelist Cormac McCarthy (<em>No Country for Old Men</em>) takes his first shot at screenwriting, hanging meditations on his preoccupations - sex, death, violence, and maybe God - on the story hook of a bad-boy lawyer who tries to take the easy way out of his financial troubles by facilitating a drug deal. Whereupon he discovers that he's more boy than bad, and that there is not, in fact, any such thing as the easy way out. People tend to speak in pronouncements - "You don't know someone until you know what he wants" - and the story sometimes feels like its serving the dialogue. But it's pretty fine dialogue. (How do you make an audience listen to a poetic monologue on grief and death? Deliver said monologue to a desperate protagonist who wants so very badly to hear something else, the something he hopes will come after the monologue.) Cameron Diaz gets the role of a lifetime as a well-preserved specimen bent on self-preservation. With Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz. Directed by Ridley Scott.

Find showtimes

Poor Scott. Forced to damn Bad Grandpa with faint praise. Only three stars, alas. For any other franchise save Marty Movies Inc., that would be high praise. Here, there is the unmistakable pungency of disappointment.

I am similarly limited with regard to The Counselor. My gut wants to give it four stars, but I have to confess that some of the monologues verged on speechifying me right out of the story. Doesn't matter how good they were. They felt, how do you say, literary. Understandable? Sure. Laudable? Less sure. Still: so much to love, and many scenes that will stay with me. A smart film about foolish people, with plenty of gnawable meat on its bones.

Less impressive: the Beat murder story Kill Your Darlings and the Middle Eastern Huck Finn Zaytoun. More people might care about the former if people still read books, and more people might care about the latter if it had kept up the energy of its first act.

Unseen so far, but on the list: All is Lost.

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