The Valdosta Daily Times
“The Counselor” (Crime/Drama: 1 hour, 57 minutes)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt
Director: Ridley Scott
Rated: R (Sexuality, profanity, violence, nudity and thematic elements)
Movie Review: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy has penned some good novels from which excellent films have emerged: “No Country for Old Men” (2007), “The Road” (2009), and “All the Pretty Horses” (2000). “The Counselor” is a screenplay from the famed writer. It feels like this film is the Cliff Notes to a novel. Apparently, some of the notes were omitted that would clarify some character actions.
Fassbender is the Counselor. He is an attorney for drug traffickers. He collaborates with Reiner (Bardem) and Westray (Pitt). Their relationships become dangerous ones when the men find they have angered the wrong mafia.
This film’s main redeeming feature is the talented cast. Fassbender (“Prometheus,” 2012) is an excellent actor. He is solid here. Despite this movie’s deficiencies, it thrives because of Fassbender. When it comes to drama, he earns his keep.
Cruz is nicely convincing in her role as Fassbender’s love interest. Diaz is tantalizing in a manner similar to Sharon Stone’s role in “Basic Instinct” (1992). Bardem always makes his characters intriguing, and Pitt gives the film a bit of needed humor. They are just a few of the talented actors of this ensemble.
However, the cast is in a wayward story that never provides actors tangible connections to make lasting impressions. This aspect exists because players lack histories to justify intentions.
Ridley Scott is an excellent director. His team up with McCarthy should equal a splendid movie, but they and a talented cast cannot save this film that lacks ultimate suspense.
A major problem is this story’s execution. The screenplay has gaps, where audiences must piece together what is transpiring. This is difficult when the film starts without defining characters. It also fails to sharpen its plot that feels incomplete.
The moments in between scenes have gaps where story elements appear missing. The film does not define the setting, and the motives of characters and the aim of the plot remain vague.
Grade: C (Cast is intriguing, but the story is in need of counseling.)
“Bad Grandpa” (Comedy: 1 hour, 32 minutes)
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll and Greg Harris
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Rated: R (Thematic elements, sexual innuendo, crude humor, profanity and nudity)
Movie Review: From the creators of “Jackass,” “Bad Grandpa” is a continuation of those antics. It is a so-so mix of “Borat” meets “Bad Santa” with a dead body in an automobile’s trunk. If laughs are what one wants, this adult comedy delivers, although we should not be amused.
The film follows the comical antics of 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Knoxville). He is tasked with getting his 8-year-old grandson Bill (Nicoll) across the United States’ heartland to deliver the boy to his father in Raleigh, N.C. Along the way, the grandfather-grandson duo play tricks on unsuspecting people. They deceive people at multiple events, including a child beauty pageant, a biker rally and a funeral.
Real-life people are unknowingly part of jokes played on them by Knoxville and Nicoll. The pranks on unsuspecting people are keenly humorous. Here, the movie is worth it for the laughs. The shenanigans are similar to that of “Jackass” and they are funny, although most of the funny bits are in the movie’s trailers.
However, the other half is an artificial story, showing a lackluster relationship between Irving and Billy. This part of the story plays like an awful comedic screenplay. It fails and is not convincing.
Director Tremaine, Knoxville and Spike Jonze co-wrote this screenplay. They should have just stuck to the pranks on people. Fake story of grandfather-grandson bonding moments is a waste. These lesser quality narrative scenes accompany better amusing scenes. The mixture is an unsound duality.
Grade: C+ (Only part is bad, but rest is hilarious)