The Root Roundup: Movies

The Root's Teresa Wiltz and Nsenga Burton take a look at what's hot and what's not at a multiplex near you.

Spring has always felt like a sort of no-woman’s-land when it comes to movies: It’s a post-Oscar-season, pre-Memorial Day-blockbuster CGI-fest. Which means that right now, what’s playing are all the flicks that studio suits think either won’t cut it in the highbrow-award category of all those winter releases or won’t crush at the box office in the dog days of summer. Slim pickings.

And yet, there are still some little nuggets of gold to be found amid the dreck. Here’s a look at what’s catching our eye this month.

The Lincoln Lawyer

We had, shall we say, low expectations for this courtroom drama starring Matthew McConaughey. After all, he’s been pretty much dialing it in ever since Fool’s Gold (please, let us forget The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), playing that same sort of Southern good ol’ boy in substandard “romcom” fare. Enough, already.

But with The Lincoln Lawyer, McConaughey brings the same sort of energy and verve that he did with A Time to Kill, another courtroom drama from back in the day. This time, instead of playing a young, idealistic lawyer, he’s playing Mike Haller, a middle-aged, boozing defense lawyer who abandoned his idealism a long time ago in favor of the quick buck and easy case. (The “Lincoln” in the title comes from Haller’s propensity for doing all his business from the backseat of his Lincoln as he’s ferried around Los Angeles by his street-savvy chauffeur, Earl, played to laconic perfection by Laurence Mason.)

Until, that is, he’s handed (thanks to bail bondsman John Leguizamo, hamming it up as always) a case with lots of dollar signs attached to it: A rich playboy (Ryan Philippe) with mommy issues is charged with attempted murder. Did he do it?

The plot’s pretty implausible, twisting and turning until everything’s been turned inside out and upside down. But with a snappy dialogue and a cast that also includes Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex and William H. Macy as Haller’s investigator, we were having too much fun to care.

What we like: It’s a hoot; pure escapism. What we don’t like: You’ve forgotten about it as soon as you’ve left the theater. Go here for the trailer.

Bilal’s Stand

Amid a culture that is hostile toward Muslims, independent filmmaker Sultan Sharrief brings us his coming-of-age story that shows a more nuanced image of Islam. The film is based on Sharrief’s own struggle growing up in a Muslim household with real and imagined responsibilities while trying to be true to himself and his desire for a better life through a college education.

Bilal, a Muslim high school senior in Detroit, works long hours to keep up both his grades and his family’s taxi stand. “The Stand” has been the family’s social and financial hub for 60 years, and now Bilal must carry the torch, especially after the death of his father and uncle.