The Counselor

20th Century Fox

Rated R for profanity, sexuality, graphic violence and grisly images

“Can’t Miss” Crime Thriller Manages To Miss The Mark

It’s easy to see why this crime thriller got greenlit by Hollywood. First of all, it was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy, whose relatively-riveting No Country For Old Men won four Academy Awards, including “Best Picture.”

Secondly, Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott (for Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma & Louise) was brought aboard, as well as an A-list cast topped by Academy Award winners Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, nominees Brad Pitt and Rosie Perez, and versatile character actors Michael Fassbender and Goran Visnjic.

Furthermore, since the story is set in Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, it made sense to sign several leading Latino thespians in Cameron Diaz, Edgar Ramirez, John Leguizamo and Ruben Blades. Nevertheless, The Counselor turned out to be one of those curious head scratchers that somehow adds up to way less than the sum of its parts.

The film is crippled primarily by a pair of fatal flaws, namely, a glacial pace and a talky script laced with awkward dialogue. For, while it waits for something, anything of consequence to transpire, the audience is force-fed lots of inexplicably stilted lines like, “You are a man of impeccable taste” and “I intend to love you ‘til the day I die.”

Worse, these corny quips are generally delivered with so little conviction that you never know whether you’re supposed to laugh or take them seriously. The actors’ inscrutably-flat affect invariably comes off as tongue-in-cheek impersonations of characters right out of a typical Damon Runyon yarn.

The picture’s farfetched plot revolves around a nameless lawyer, referred to only as “The Counselor” (Fassbender), a guy whose greed is getting the better of him. At the point of departure, we find the avaricious attorney head over heels in love with Laura (Cruz), an exotic beauty he plans to propose to with an expensive diamond ring he can’t really afford.

For reasons that never quite make sense, this man of few words soon seeks to supplement his income by getting mixed up in a dangerous Mexican drug trade known for its ever-escalating body count. He’s offered a start in the business by Reiner (Bardem), a flamboyant dealer with a flashier girlfriend (Diaz).

Ignoring repeated warnings from a low-key middleman (Pitt) that entering the narcotics underworld is akin to stepping in quicksand, the Counselor decides that the extra cash is worth a one-time risk. The game plan is to deliver a sewage truck with over 20,000 ounces of coke across the border and north to Chicago in return for a big payday.

But the pivotal question remains: Will he be able to avoid becoming a statistic in a bloody turf war where ruthless gangs don’t give a second thought about beheading a rival? A highly-stylized borefest featuring blasé individuals overindulging in gratuitous violence and a coarse brand of casual sensuality.

 

Fair (1.5 stars)

Running time: 111 minutes

Sweet Dreams

International Film Circuit/Liro Films

Unrated

Rwandan Reconciliation Documentary Chronicles Feats Of Remarkable Female Drumming Troupe

The 1994 civil war left the beleaguered African nation of Rwanda a bloody mess, both literally and figuratively. Not only had the warring tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis, hacked each other to death with machetes to the tune of about a million bodies scattered across the countryside, but to this day many of the survivors of the ethnic cleansing remain totally traumatized by the slaughter they’d witnessed.

Consequently, much of the populace still walks around in a daze sporting blank, 1,000-yard stares some refer to as battle fatigue or shell shock, which shrinks refer to clinically as post-traumatic stress disorder. For, it is understandable that it might be hard to get over a conflict which pitted neighbor against neighbor, and even relative against relative.

One survivor, theater director Kiki Katese, determined to do something to alleviate the suffering, asked, “How do you rebuild a human being?” So, she founded Ingoma Nshya (meaning “new drum, new kingdom”), an all-female drumming troupe comprised of both Tutsis and Hutus, with admission being conditioned on checking ones tribal allegiance at the door. Besides affording the 60-strong membership an opportunity to pound rhythmically on congas, the gathering simultaneously served as a support group offering healing and reconciliation.

In 2010, Kiki came up with another innovative idea, namely, opening Rwanda’s first ice cream parlor. This time, she enlisted the support of Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen, proprietors of a place located half a world away inBrooklyncalled Blue Marble Ice Cream.

The game New Yorkers answered the call, traveling to Rwanda to help Kiki realize that dream. Together they created Sweet Dreams, a shop owned and operated cooperatively by a number of the women from Ingoma Nshya.

All of the above is affectionately recounted in Sweet Dreams, an uplifting documentary co-directed by Lisa and Rob Fruchtman. Kiki and her companions cut a sharp contrast to the bulk of their fellow countrymen peppering the desolate background, lost souls who seem broken in spirit between mourning murdered kin and facing bleak prospects for a better tomorrow.

A female empowerment flick featuring a blend of ice cream and drumming as a viable path to rehabilitation and reconciliation.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

In English and Kinyarwanda with subtitles

Running time: 84 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening November 1, 2013

 

About Time (R for profanity and sexuality) Romantic comedy about a 21-year-old bachelor (Domhnall Gleeson) with the ability to time travel who puts his special power to use to land the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams). Cast includes Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson and Lindsay Duncan.

 

Ender’s Game (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Adaptation of Orson Scott Ford’s sci-fi novel of the same name about a shy but brilliant boy (Asa Butterfield) who is enlisted to by the military to lead the defense of the planet during an impending alien invasion. With Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Viola Davis.

 

Free Birds (PG for action, rude humor and scenes of peril) Animated family comedy about a couple of squabbling turkeys (Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson) who put aside their differences to travel back in time in order to get turkey taken off the Thanksgiving menu. Voice cast includes Amy Poehler, Keith David and George Takei.

 

Last Vegas (PG-13 for profanity and sexuality) Buddy comedy about four BFFs who venture to Vegas to throw a bachelor party for the last single guy (Michael Douglas) in their aging rat pack. Co-starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, 50 Cent, Mary Steenburgen and Michael Ealy.

 

Big Sur (R for nudity, sexuality and profanity) Beat Generation biopic about Jack Kerouac’s (Jean Marc-Barr) descent into drugs and self-doubt at a retreat in Northern California following the success of his best-selling novel, On The Road. With Kate Bosworth, Radha Mitchell and Anthony Edwards.

 

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Unrated) Romance drama about an atheist (Johan Heldenbergh) and a believer (Veerle Baetens) who fall in love at first sight despite their differences, only to have their marriage later tested when their six-year-old daughter (Nell Cattrysse) develops an incurable disease. Supporting cast includes Nils De Caster, Geert Van Rampelberg and Robbie Cleiren. (In Flemish and English with subtitles)

 

Dallas Buyers Club (R for nudity, drug use, graphic sexuality and pervasive profanity) AIDS saga recounting Texas electrician Ron Woodroof’s (Matthew McConaughey) real-life struggle to survive with the help of experimental medications after being diagnosed with HIV and given just 30 day to live. With Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner,Griffin Dunne and Steve Zahn.

 

Diana (PG-13 for sensuality, smoking and brief profanity) Naomi Watts plays the title role in this biopic about the Princess of Wales’ clandestine love affair towards the end of her life with a Pakistani heart surgeon (Naveen Andrews). Featuring Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James and Charles Edwards.

 

Doonby (PG-13 for violence, sexuality and mature themes) Serendipitous fantasy about a mysterious drifter (John Schneider) who gets off a Greyhound bus in a tinyTexas town where he proceeds to touch the lives of everyone he meets. With Ernie Hudson, Joe Estevez and Jennifer O’Neill.

 

Mr. Nobody (R for nudity, sexuality, violent images and brief profanity) Flashback fantasy, set in 2092, revolving around the reflections of a 118-year-old man (Jared Leto) who had been forced at nine to pick which of his divorcing parents (Rhys Ifans and Natasha Little) would get custody of him. Support cast includes Toby Regbo,JunoTemple, Sarah Polley and Diane Kruger.

 

Skinwalker Ranch (R for profanity and violence) Fact-based horror flick revisiting the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of a cattle rancher’s (Jon Gries) 10-year-old son (Nash Lucas). With Taylor Bateman, Steve Berg and Michael Black.

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