"The Counselor" is a strange beast of a crime drama, the first produced screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy, and the characters and their florid dialogue will have a familiar ring to McCarthy's readers. The story follows an unnamed lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets involved in a drug deal with a Mexican cartel, and must face the consequences when the shipment goes missing. The cast — which includes Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt — enjoys biting into McCarthy's words, and director Ridley Scott wraps it all in luxe trappings. But the story is slow and talky, so viewers looking for excitement must seek it elsewhere.
The other big studio movie this weekend is "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," in which Johnny Knoxville puts on old-age make-up to perpetrate more prankish humor to make innocent bystanders wince. There's a semblance of a plot here, but it's a clothesline on which the gags are strung, and the humor peters out well before the final credits.
An interesting locally-shot movie arrives at the Megaplex 15 at Valley Fair: "Skinwalker Ranch," a "found footage" horror thriller about supernatural nastiness at a remote farmhouse. It's pretty riveting, and it's fun to see how much director Devin McGinn and crew get out of their miniscule budget.
The Middle Eastern drama "The Patience Stone" is essentially a one-woman play put to film, about a devout Muslim woman (played by the Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahadi) trapped in her house in a wartorn village, tending to her comatose husband. She begins talking to her unresponsive husband, unburdening herself of her deepest secrets. Farahadi's soul-baring performance gives the movie its fire.
Lastly, there's the surreal horror drama "Escape From Tomorrow," which shocked audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival for the way filmmaker Randy Moore shot it on site at Walt Disney World without getting caught by Disney. Alas, the fact that Moore got away with it is more interesting than the movie, a disjointed tale about a dad (Roy Abramsohn) who starts hallucinating while vacationing at the Magic Kingdom.