New Movies: ‘Paul,' ‘Limitless'

Herewith, a brief round-up of this weekend's opening flicks, and the conventional wisdom surrounding them. In descending order of awesomeness.

Of Gods and Men
The Story: A group of French monks live peacefully in the mountains of Algeria until an Islamic Fundamentalist sect brutally wipes out a nearby group of foreign aid workers. In an area increasingly prone to violence against other religious groups, the monks have to decide whether to flee their monastery or stay and face the potential consequences.
The Skinny: The film arrives here with significant critical acclaim, having won last year's grand prize at Cannes. Sadly, the story is very much based on a true event, the abduction of a group of monks by Algerian fundamentalists in 1996, which raises the pitch of the drama even further. The Inky's Steven Rea finds the film "…extraordinarily moving and troubling."
Full Review: Of Gods and Men
Now Playing: Ritz Five
Complete the Experience: Trappist monks might very well do an amazing amount of good in the world, but near the top of the list for beer lovers are the amazing ales they brew. Try a sampling at the appropriately named Monk's.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

The Lincoln Lawyer
The Story: A ramshackle lawyer takes on a high-profile case defending a slick, wealthy real estate mogul, but after investigating his client's past, he begins to question his own involvement in the case.
The Skinny: Welcome back to the courtroom, Matthew McConaughey, who scored one of his biggest early hits as a lawyer in 1996's A Time to Kill. This film has generated pretty solid buzz as a sort of updated Primal Fear for the next generation. However, not everyone sees it that way. It strikes Nathan Rabin at the as the " kind of fare folks mindlessly consume on planes and forget about before touching down."
Full Review: The Lincoln Lawyer
Now Playing: The Pearl
Complete the Experience: Finding lawyers in this town isn't terribly difficult, but if you would like to find some in their native habitat (the links, in other words) stroll past the Bala Golf Club on the next warm day and watch the divots fly.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

The Story: A couple of geeky Brits come to the States to go on an epic UFO road trip of the Southwest, but they aren't prepared to find an actual alien, on the run from the government, who enlists their help in getting him back home.
The Skinny: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are already geek icons, of course, and their new film -- chock full of Star Wars references and fanboy-friendly in-jokes -- will do nothing to dim the enthusiasm of their core audience. As the voice of the alien, Seth Rogen, more or less acts like a typical Seth Rogen character: affable, half-baked and more than a little profane. Scott Ross at Popcornbiz calls it "easily the funniest Hollywood movie of the new year, and will likely still be in the conversation six months from now."
Full Review: Paul
Now Playing: The Pearl
Complete the Experience: No recent UFO sightings in Philly, unfortunately, but they do have plenty of geekalicious comic book stores. Check out the action at Brave New Worlds or Atomic City.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

The Story: A down-and-out loser is given a pill that allows him to utilize 100% of his brain, which enables him to create an entirely new plan for his life, some of which involves playing the markets.
The Skinny: This is a total star vehicle for lead Bradley Cooper and he passes with flying colors. Likable, charming and able to shift seamlessly between humorous loser and dramatic straight man, Cooper shows off an impressive range in this slightly hyper, action-drama, most of which was shot in this very city. Not everyone's quite as much of a fan, though. Scott Ross at Popcornbiz writes that even though the film "jumps out of the gate … on a fun, fast-moving ride," it ultimately grinds to a "torturous pace."
Full Review: Limitless
Now Playing: The Rave
Complete the Experience: For a bit of dorky fun, you can recreate the scene shot in midtown village's Sampan.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%

The Story: A sexually voracious college freshman discovers a massive evil conspiracy in the small SoCal college town he lives in.
The Skinny: Director Gregg Araki has been making these sorts of things for some time, now (he directed The Doom Generation back in 1995), but with his over-the-top campy gore, sex and strident satirical style, he's still very much an acquired taste. The City Paper's Sam Adams says the film is nothing more than "…a masturbatory doodle, a sloppy, shoddy regurgitation of Araki’s pet trope…" which strikes us as harsh but probably fair.
Full Review: Kaboom
Now Playing: Ritz at the Bourse
Complete the Experience: The sexual awakening of more than a few college students has been decided at Smokey Joe's, one of Penn's best-established watering holes.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%

The Story: A young boy is found lost on a New York subway by a twentysomething would-be writer, who, quite to his surprise, agrees to take the boy home with him for a few days, throwing his group of like-minded friends into a tumult.
The Skinny: Josh Radnor ("How I Met Your Mother") wrote and directed this Sundance-approved comedy (it won the 2010 Audience Award), which maybe tries to show Gen Y a little bit about how to grow up before its too late. Howsomeever, the Inky's Carrie Rickey finds the proceedings woefully unsubstantiated: "…the plausibility quotient is so low that though you like some of the characters, you don't believe in them."
Full Review: Happythankyoumoreplease
Now Playing: Ritz at the Bourse
Complete the Experience: Yeah, yeah, New York and all of that. If you want a perfect Manhattan, come down to Philly, where you can enjoy Jim Burke's 'James-hattan' at the eponymous James.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%

Screen Grabs: The films you should drop everything to see, and the ones you should avoid like the plague.

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