MARCH 2011



















Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly, Terence Stamp (Written and directed by George Nolfi; Universal)

For young, charismatic, squeaky-clean David Norris, played by Matt Damon, it was a strictly Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah time. Plenty of sunshine was coming his way every day. Not only did this charmed native of Brooklyn enjoy the lead in the New York race for Senate, but he had also glided into a relationship with a sizzling soulmate, a lovely and loving dancer named Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt).

That was then, but David’s now-time is definitely a downer. Who could have predicted that a secret from the wunderkind’s dark past would explode in the form of a disgusting photograph, dynamiting all White House daydreams, or that his twirling sweetie would inadvertently tango him into a trap that might well result in a double assassination?

George Nolfi, who wrote the screenplays for “Ocean’s Twelve” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” makes his directorial bow with his own adaptation of “Adjustment Team,” an uncompromisingly sour sci-fi thriller by Philip K. Dick. But don’t bet on villainy triumphing over love in the last reel, despite the efforts of a slimy trio, played by Anthony Mackie, John Slattery and Terence Stamp, who insist that by hooking up with Elise, David has managed to jeopardize their precious, maniacal scheme to alter life as we know it on this planet. David and Elise may simply have to honeymoon in some other time and (outer) space. –Guy Flatley Now Playing





















The voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Ned Beatty, Timothy Olyphant (Directed by Gore Verbinski; Written by John Logan; Animation by Industrial Light and Magic; Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies)

Welcome to the newly fashionable Old (True-Gritty) West. This is where you can view the wacky entry of a crazed but lovable lizard into a tattered town named Dirt. (Yes, we did say lizard and we did say Dirt.) As any experienced moviegoer can tell the second this grungy, animated creature delivers his first line of dialogue, he is being played by the inimitably goofy Johnny Depp. And, assuming you were knocked silly by this super-prankster’s over-the-top emoting in director Gore Verbinski’s trio of “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks, you are apt to enjoy watching him stumble here into the job of sheriff and boldly rise to the challenge of cleaning up all that Dirt.

Why is that? Because Verbinski is also the auteur  behind this sagebrush cartoon. But sometimes, even in Hollywood, enough is truly enough, so it may be worth noting that the fourth installment of the astonishingly lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise—“On Stranger Tides,” opening on May 20 and teaming Depp with Penelope Cruz—has been directed not by Verbinski but by Rob Marshall, who last served up the tepid, under-stuffed musical turkey known as “Nine.”

As for Gore Verbinski’s cinematic future, he might want to consider revisiting his past by doing a sequel to his underrated “The Mexican,”  a blood-drenched comic thriller starring James Gandolfini as a robust, gay, exceedingly skilled hit man who hooks up with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts as a fumbling wannabe crook and his despairing girlfriend. It’s just a thought.

On the other hand, given the fact that “Rango” opened with a huge box-office bang, Verbinski’s “Rango 2” may be just around the multiplex corner. Now Playing
















Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carriere, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Glachetti, Adrian Moore, Angelo Barbagallo (Written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami; IFC Films)

He’s a cool, intensely self-satisfied Brit who’s been praised—perhaps over-praised--as an expert on cultural matters. She’s a vivacious, flakily opinionated French-born antique dealer whose shop is located in the picture-perfect Tuscan village where the trendy commentator has come to give a lecture based on his latest book, one which pushes the notion that certain copies of original paintings and sculpture deserve applause for the power and inspiration they provide. They are, in fact, true works of art.

But wait a second. The antique dealer has read this man’s book, and she is definitely not buying his facile revisionist theory. She even creates a weird disturbance in the middle of his slicker-than-slick lecture, mainly by shuffling about in the auditorium and making puzzling gestures—even passing notes and signaling to people she knows, one of whom is her endearingly rebellious adolescent son. Naturally, mother and son are out of the door and about their business before the lecturer has made his final claim for copycat art.

That does not mean the visiting celebrity, played with an amusing blend of macho vanity and vulnerability by English operatic baritone William Shimell, has seen the last of his spirited challenger, a complex role wisely entrusted to the endlessly intriguing Juliette Binoche. Within a matter of hours, the two are brought together in a somewhat mysterious fashion and are soon ardent traveling companions, apparently on the road to a fine romance, despite a series of artistic and emotional quibbles that shift, without warning, from amusing to borderline tragic.

And, as fans of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami have been persuaded on numerous cinematic occasions, appearances are seldom what they seem. When a stranger they encounter on their journey assumes she is meeting a long-married couple, they play along with her misperception, and before long, frame by illuminating frame, we too become convinced that the currents of this poignant, mysterious, haunting tale run far deeper than we had anticipated.

In truth, we must supply our own answers to Kiarostami’s teasing riddle. Were the guarded author and mercurial art enthusiast once man and wife? If so, which conflicts among the fleeting clues offered here finally shattered their marriage? We wonder too if the scampish son of the single mother ever figured out the true identity of his father. Most of all, we wonder if we should smile or shed a tear in response to the enigmatic jolt with which this certified miracle worker concludes his comic drama. I was torn between the two extremes, which is just one of the reasons I am eager to see this provocative film again. Guy Flatley (Moviecrazed review) --Now Playing