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Double Movie Review: 'Limitless' and 'The Lincoln Lawyer'

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“Limitless”
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth, Andrew Howard
Rated: PG-13

Remember the novel “Flowers for Algernon” and the film that was based on it, “Charly”?  It was about a mentally challenged man who, through an experimental therapy, became a genius.

“Limitless” is sort of a new millennium update of that story, without so much of a sad ending.

Bradley Cooper plays writer Eddie Morra, who, at the opening of the film, is literally on the brink of suicide. The story is told in flashbacks for most of the film, and we find the cause for his utter despair.

Eddie had a terrible case of writers' block.

I don't pretend to be a writer - journalist, maybe. But I have suffered from this affliction at times. Mental upsets can and do manifest themselves in physical ways. While it's not like jackhammering concrete, writing can be hard work.

Eddie Morra's life is like that. He's got a lucrative book deal, and when we see him sit down to begin to write his novel, nothing comes. Many writers have superstitions to clear the block: Get fresh paper, sharpen pencils, do push-ups, whatever. Nothing works for Eddie.

That is, until he meets up with his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who gives Eddie a new drug that Vernon says is soon to be legal and swears it will cure all ills and do much more.

As scientists have told us, human beings use only about 10 percent of our brain power. That theory is widely contested, but for this film, let's assume it is true.

The drug is called NTZ, and as it turns out, it isn't quite legal. There's too much money to be made by the underworld.

After his first taste, Eddie is hooked. His mind opens up. He finishes his novel as fast as he can type. He can beat the odds in Vegas and the stock market. He quickly becomes fabulously wealthy. He even wins back his ex-girlfriend.

But he's addicted. NTZ isn't the easiest stuff in the world to obtain, and withdrawal is quite unpleasant.

The story is a contrived one, but “Limitless” is not without its good moments. Jo Willems' cinematography and Naomi Geraghty's editing make for some pleasurable eye candy.

“The Lincoln Lawyer”
Directed by: Brad Furman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, Frances Fisher, John Leguizamo
Rated: R

I don't read many popular or best selling novels. I've never read a John Grisham or Dean Koontz book and only read “The Shining” after seeing the film based on Stephen King's novel. I realize I'm missing out on a lot. Even the best films can't cover every detail, subplot and nuance of a great novel. In doing research for this review I gathered that Michael Connelly's 400-page mystery/thriller, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is a great novel. Maybe I'll even read it some day.

But for now, the movie will suffice. Matthew McConaughey plays the title character, Mick Haller. He's a hotshot, flamboyant lawyer who absolutely loves his job. He takes it seriously and realizes that if someone hires him for the defense, he has to give it his all to prove that his client is innocent, regardless of the facts. He seems to have no problem with this routine until he's hired to defend a spoiled brat, silver-spooned rich kid - played by Ryan Phillippe - accused of the brutal beating and rape of a young woman.

This is not the first time the young man has been to court. His previous trial was for a similar - but more deadly – crime, and he was acquitted in the case.

McConaughey is at his best here, and Marisa Tomei, as his ex-wife and the prosecuting attorney, proves yet again that she is so much more than a pretty face. Character actor William H. Macy does a great turn as Mick's private investigator.

There are many twists and turns; screenwriter John Romano, despite having to condense his source material, does a great job of keeping the script interesting and edgy.

“The Lincoln Lawyer” brings to mind films based on the novels of writers such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald.

That's pretty good company.[[In-content Ad]]

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