New on Blu-ray and DVD: ‘Lincoln Lawyer,’ ‘Insidious,’ ‘[Rec] 2’

“The Lincoln Lawyer,” written by John Romano (screenplay) and Michael Connelly (novel), directed by Brad Furman, 118 minutes, rated R.

After a barrage of romantic comedies, each one a little worse than the previous, Matthew McConaughey has reintroduced himself to the world in “The Lincoln Lawyer.” As Mick Haller, the smooth-talking, confident lawyer whose office is the back of a Lincoln Town Car, McConaughey gives his best performance in years. It’s a role the actor was born to play.

Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling novel, “The Lincoln Lawyer” follows Mick, a defense attorney hand-picked by a spoiled brat named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). He’s the son of a real estate heavyweight, and is accused of brutally assaulting a young prostitute and attempting to rape her. He maintains that he is innocent of all charges, and is being setup for his money.

Being a legal thriller, you’ve probably already guessed that nothing here is as it seems. Sometimes the twists work, and other times they feel more like a soap opera.

As Mick digs deeper into the case – and into his own past – the pieces of Roulet’s case slowly fall into place for the audience and the attorney. “The Lincoln Lawyer” holds its cards tightly to its chest while juggling a dozen or so supporting characters around McConaughey, who never ceases to stop moving.

The funny thing about “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is that every character plays a critical role in how the story unfolds, and not a single one gets left behind. It’s a testament to the incredible cast (Marissa Tomei, John Leguizamo, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, and the list goes on), and to the maturity of Brad Furman, a young and upcoming director.

He helps bring liveliness to “The Lincoln Lawyer,” injecting the California setting into every aspect of the film, from its sun-worn cinematography to the music that blends old-school soul and rap.

Still, everything in “The Lincoln Lawyer” plays second fiddle to the performance by Matthew McConaughey. Street smart, cocky, always in control but with a vulnerable side that comes through at just the right moments, the actor steals the show. McConaughey does something here that I thought he had left behind long ago.

Grade: B

 

“Insidious,” written by Leigh Whannell, directed by James Wan, 103 minutes, rated PG-13.

From the writer-director duo of Leigh Whannell and James Wan – the guys who brought you “Saw” – “Insidious” is yet another “scary kid” movie, still milking the popularity of the subgenre stemming from “The Omen.”

The film stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne as Renai and Josh, a married couple who move into a new house along with their children. Inexplicably one night, their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) goes into a comalike state, baffling doctors.

Three months later, they bring him home in a hospital bed under strict care, but something about the house isn’t quite right. It becomes even more creepy, with bloody hand prints on Dalton’s sheets and an apparition attacking Renai in her bedroom.

So what is it? Haunted house? Demonic possession? Not quite.

Renai and Josh call on Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey), who brings in a paranormal specialist named Elise Rainier (Lin Shay) and her aides Specs and Tucker (Whannell and Angus Sampson). Specs and Tucker are there strictly for laughs, taking shots at the bogus paranormal hunters on TV. It’s one of the film’s highlights.

“Insidious” doesn’t go for the deep scares – you know, the ones that leave you momentarily paralyzed and unsettled for days. Like most modern horror movies, it knows that jumping the audience is far easier than scaring them. It’s cheap, but it does get you out of your seat four or five times (one scene involving the house’s burglar alarm is particularly well done).

In that regard, “Insidious” succeeds. But For a horror movie in this age, you have to bring a little more to the table. It’s kind of funny, kind of jumpy, but that’s all it is. For that reason, “Insidious” is kind of forgettable.

Grade: C

 

“[Rec] 2,” directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, written by Balaguero, Plaza and Julio Fernandez, 85 minutes, rated R.

There are video games adapted into movies, and then there are movies that should have been video games in the first place. “[Rec] 2” is a prime example of the latter, with the first 45 minutes feeling more like a first-person shooter. Not necessarily a bad thing.

“[Rec] 2,” the sequel to the commercially and critically successful Spanish horror film “[Rec],” picks up where the original left off. A SWAT team, led by Oscar Sanchez Zafra’s Jefe, and a government official (Jonathan Mellor) are sent in to the original movie’s ill-fated apartment complex, which has been quarantined after an outbreak of a rabies-like virus in its tenants.

The team is armed with heavy artillery and cameras — keeping in line with the handheld video gimmick from the original. The mission is to assess and neutralize the situation, but complications arise when the origins of the virus are found to be supernatural.

That “rabies” is actually some form of demonic possession, and that “government official” is in fact a high-ranking priest sent to find a cure. With this information, the new mission becomes finding the cure, containing the demon to the complex and surviving.

Even with all the plot developments and new gadgetry, “[Rec] 2” feels too comfortable in the skin created by the original. “[Rec]” was a high-concept horror movie and “[Rec] 2” just piggybacks off that.

The film’s biggest flaw is its nonexistent setup, as “[Rec] 2” relies solely on the first movie for that purpose. Without an introduction to “[Rec] 2,” the SWAT members feel like faceless, nameless entities dressed in riot gear.

For a horror movie, “[Rec] 2” lacks any real scares, but it maintains the frenetic pace of its predecessor. It’s sure to elevate your heart rate. And with the wise addition of minicams attached to each SWAT member’s helmet, the filmmakers are able explore the complex further, and give the viewer more intense close-ups of the possessed.

For most of “[Rec] 2,” you find yourself waiting for creatures to jump out at you, and hoping that the characters are fast enough on the trigger to protect themselves. That’s the very definition of a first-person shooter, only without the interactive element. It’s hard not to make the comparison to the “House of the Dead” or “Resident Evil” video game series.

“[Rec] 2” is a lazy sequel. But if you let your guard down and accept it for the adrenaline rush that it is, it’s not bad.

Grade: B-

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