This weekend, a trio of releases come to bargain theaters that are just what bargain theaters were made for: Solid movies that aren't exactly worth $9, but easily worth $1.50. ---
DisneyNature's third-annual Earth Day nature documentary offering, African Cats, marks an improvement over the two earlier, more scattershot efforts. Focused storytelling on a mother cheetah and a pride of lions gives it something more than the oooh-aaah cinematography of your typical nature doc.
The adaptation of Sarah Gruen's bestseller Water for Elephants has one major flaw to overcome: A central pairing for its Depression-era romance, in Robert Pattinson's down-on-his-luck veterinarian and Reese Witherspoon's circus star, that just doesn't connect. Fortunately, the period atmosphere and Christoph Waltz's performance as the sadistic ringmaster help make up for their blandness.
Finally, there's the slick legal thriller machinations of The Lincoln Lawyer, with Matthew McConaughey as a cynical defense lawyer who doesn't know how to deal with a client who might actually be innocent. Great supporting performances and a gritty visual style help make up for the predictably one-dimensional McConaughey, providing the cinematic equivalent of good airplane reading.