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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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Cars 2

Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Michael Caine | G |


It’s mildly ironic that it took a sequel about cars to prove that (nearly) flawless hitmaker Pixar is human. Wilson returns as hotshot hot rod Lightning McQueen, but Cars 2 belongs to Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), McQueen’s dim-witted tow-truck pal caught in a baffling spy caper. Secret agents Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) draft Mater to bust a ring of gas guzzlers who, for some reason, like blowing up Grand Prix racers burning alternative fuel. The racing action is fun, but kids won’t care about the environmental politics buried in the plot, which slow things down considerably. The real issue though is the tow truck in the room. Mater is sweet, but he’s a gear grinder in anything more than small doses.

Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel R |



Diaz boldly flaunts her R-rated comedy chops-along with her famous legs-as a lazy, gold-digging teacher convinced a boob job will land her the rich man of her dreams (Timberlake). To finance the surgery, she does whatever it takes. Diaz is profanely funny, but the movie often drags. (We get it-she’s mean and smokes pot!) Timberlake, as a naive substitute teacher, comes across as an awkward oddball, while the heart of the movie is Segel, a sarcastic underdog with impeccable timing. But two TV stars score some of the biggest laughs: Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet as Diaz’s roommate and The Office’s Phyllis Smith as her wistful coworker. Both earn A pluses.

A Better Life

Demian Bichir, Jose Julian PG-13 |



Single father Carlos (Bichir) has an opportunity/problem: He can buy his boss’s landscaping truck and make, yes, a better life for himself and his son Luis (the promising Julian). But the risks are huge for the illegal worker barely eking out a living in Los Angeles, while his son blows off school and flirts with gang life. Whatever you think of illegal immigration, see Bichir’s performance (already garnering awards chatter). The way hope and despair flicker on his face all at once is a wonder.