At the Movies: Limitless, Paul

Due to $3.50 gasoline and the fact that almost all movie screenings here take place as far away from my home in St. Charles as is humanly possible while still being in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, I am cutting back a bit on my movie reviewing.

At least for the next 6 weeks. Once summer movie season starts I’ll see whatever I want. (I’ve checked the schedule for the next 6 weeks and trust me, I’m doing us all a favor.)

So this week I had to chose between “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Paul.” Since I didn’t particularly care either way, I left it up to the Report’s Facebook friends to choose. By 2 votes, they went with the nerdy alien movie. I point this out just to assure you that, this time at least, doing the nerd thing was not my decision.

But first:


This science-fiction thriller is based on that old myth that people only use 10 percent of their brainpower. A myth no doubt started by someone who spent too much time watching the Bravo channel.

Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, a wannabe writer with a book contract but no book. Looking like a homeless man, he sits in his apartment or wanders the streets, waiting for inspiration to come. His girlfriend Lindy (Abbie Cornish) gets tired of waiting and dumps him.

Later that day, Eddie has a run-in with Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), his ex-brother-in-law. Vernon is in the pharmaceutical business and claims he has the cure for Eddie’s writer’s block. He gives him a special pill — FDA approved but not yet on the market — which will unlock that 90 percent of the brain that lies dormant.

When the drug kicks in, Eddie’s on fire. He goes home and hammers out several pages of his book. The next day he’s back in his usual fog, but he delivers his copy to his editor, who is very impressed. Eddie goes to Vernon’s apartment for a refill, only to find him murdered and the place ransacked.

Eddie calls the police, but conducts his own search while waiting. He finds a large bag of pills and a big wad of cash. Soon, Eddie is popping pills and picking up multiple skills in record time.  When he becomes the financial world’s new whiz kid, he draws the interest of businessman Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro).

You may be thinking — I’ll bet there are bad side effects to this drug. You would be right. Eddie starts having blackouts, people turn up dead, somebody’s following him, and if he stops taking the pill the withdrawal could be fatal.

Based on the Alan Glynn novel “Dark Fields” and directed by Neil Burger, “Limitless” is a pretty effective thriller. A lot of elements are put into play and they mostly come together in a logical way. The film features a lot of slick — and sometimes slightly nauseating — camera work.

Did it work for me? Yeah. Movies like this can often disappoint in the end, but this one worked out rather clever.


Well, this is possibly the nerdiest movie I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen “Fanboys.”

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are a pair of British geeks on holiday in the USA to visit Comic-Con and travel the countryside stopping at various UFO hot spots.

After the convention they hop in their rented RV and drive off into the desert. Somewhere outside of Area 51 in Nevada, they encounter a short, big-eyed, big-headed, grey-skinned alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen).  Paul has just escaped government confinement, where he has been locked up since he crashed his spaceship in the ’40s.

Paul needs a ride if he’s going to hook up with the rescue party en route from his home planet. Of course, the government isn’t going to give up their extraterrestrial prisoner easily, and Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) has been tasked with bringing Paul back.

After getting over the initial shock, the nerds (I use the terms nerd and geek interchangeably — mainly to annoy the nerds and geeks who think there’s a difference) agree to give Paul a lift. Paul turns out to be more of a pot-smoking slacker than potential alien overlord.

Since the story so far lacks the feminine touch and a potential romance angle, the boys wind up kidnapping Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), the fundamentalist Christian daughter of the owner of an RV park. Once Paul opens up her mind to the mysteries of the universe, Ruth becomes a willing accomplice.

“Paul” isn’t as clever as Pegg/Frost’s previous collaborations (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) but it has its moments. Part of the fun of the movie is playing Spot That Pop Culture Reference. I got most of them but not all.

One usually doesn’t comment on the cinematography in a slacker comedy, but there are some nice shots of the desert scenery. Rogen does some fun vocal work making Paul feel real.

On the down side, there’s some pointless attempts at making profanity funny, and be aware — the film will likely offend those with fundamentalist beliefs and no sense of humor about it.

Did it work for me? To borrow from last week’s commentary, this was a film where I had low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. “Paul” is a bit like watching a long episode of “The Big Bang Theory” but without all the science.





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