George Clooney, Bruce Altman, Thekla Reuten, Paola Bonacelli, Violante Placido, Filippo Timi (Directed by Anton Corbijn; Written by Rowan Joffe; Focus Features)
In the real world George Clooney is a solid, compassionate mensch, the kind of guy you know will be there when you really need him. Yet, on screen, he is arguably at his best when playing a tough, even ugly, American, a self-absorbed operator determined to chisel and strategize his way to the top of the money heap. In other words, the type of tunnel-visioned careerist he portrayed so memorably in “Michael Clayton” and “Up in the Air,” two gems in which the antihero learns, at long last, to tell wrong from right and to do something heroic about it.
Now, in “The American,” based on novelist Martin Booth’s provocative psychological thriller “A Very Private Gentleman,” Clooney plays his most dangerous villain to date. He’s an American who loves luxuriating in a drowsy little town in southern Italy, where he’s called Signor Farfalla (Italian for butterfly)--because of his conspicuous obsession with the fragile, fluttery winged one. What only Mr. Butterfly’s “clients” know, however, is that he is also an assassin. Not that he actually pulls triggers or ignites fuses himself, but he’s a godsend in the thorny process of supplying the right weapons of destruction to those who can pay the proper price.
Does Farfalla attempt to justify his lethal endeavors, particularly when it comes to the obliteration of evil politicos? Here, from the pages of “A Very Private Gentleman,” is a substantial clue: “My job is the gift-wrapping of death. I am the salesman of death, death's booking clerk, death's bellhop. I am the guide on the path toward darkness...All men want to make their mark, know upon their deathbed the world has changed because of them, as a result of their actions or philosophies...everyone carries a gun in his heart. For want of a rationale, or courage, we are all assassins."
It’s beginning to sound as if we might as well sit back, enjoy the show, and simply let George—or, rather, Signor Farfalla--do it! –Guy Flatley Click here for A.O. Scott's review in The New York Times. Now Playing
GOING THE DISTANCE
Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Charlie Day, Jim Gaffigan, Kelli Garner, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis (Directed by Nanette Burstein; Written by Geoff LaTulippe; Warner Bros.)
They’ve got looks, youth, brains, ambition and lots of sex appeal. It’s no wonder they can’t get enough of each other. Literally, they can't. That’s because each has landed a job in a different city. One is now tied to San Francisco; the other is stuck in New York. So how can they hope to find the time, not to mention the city, to keep their red-hot affair sizzling? And, by the way, exactly who are they?
They are Erin and Garrett, the crazy-in-love characters played by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, who, as you probably learned from Extra or Access Hollywood, are a former crazy-in-love couple in real life. And unless screenwriter Geoff LaTulippe has dreamed up a downbeat ending for his feel-good romantic comedy, Erin and Garrett will surely arrive at a blissful solution to their reel-life problem.
So where does that leave Drew and Justin? Who knows? Perhaps this glam duo should give long-distance love a shot. --Guy Flatley Now Playing
JACK GOES BOATING
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Mark Vincent, Kevin Cannon, Ricky Garcia, Shawna Bermender, Richard Petrocelli (Directed By Philip Seymour Hoffman; Written By Bob Glaudini; Overture Films)
One of the most critically acclaimed Off Broadway plays of the 2007 season was Bob Glaudini’s romantic comedy about a chubby, dreadlocked, pot-smoking New York limo driver named Jack who is set up by Clyde, his best buddy, with a motor-mouthed embalmer’s assistant. Especially promising is the fact that playwright-turned-screenwriter Glaudini has lined up Philip Seymour Hoffman, the Off-Broadway Jack, not only to star in the film but to direct as well.
Also making the transition from stage to screen are John Ortiz as the match-making Clyde and Daphne Rubin-Vega as his highly-sexed sweetheart. Playing Connie, the gabbiest toiler at Dr. Bob’s Funeral Home in Brooklyn, is Amy Ryan, best known to movie audiences for her major emoting in the minor role of the mother of a missing child in 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” --Guy Flatley Now Playing
Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper (Directed by Ben Affleck; Written by Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard; Warner Bros. Pictures)
Having made a striking directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone,” the harrowing 2007 thriller starring his kid brother Casey, Ben Affleck recently decided he was ready for his own close-up. So he took on the weighty challenge of directing, co-writing and starring in “The Town,” an adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s tension-packed crime novel “Prince of Thieves.“ In the film, Affleck plays Doug MacRay, a tough dude who, like his best buddies in Charleston, a blue-collar section of Boston, grooves on robbing banks and armored cars, routinely terrorizing innocent bystanders in the process.
Yet MacRay is not all thug. More and more, his daydreams revolve around life in the slow lane of 9-to-5 employment and connubial cuddling with Claire (Rebecca Hall), a potentially dangerous witness to one of his uglier assaults. Sometimes people decide to make their daydreams come true, but that is not likely to be the real deal for MacRay, whose sense of loyalty to old friends is strong and seemingly unwavering. Besides, if he decides to go legit, he has reason to believe his trigger-happy colleagues in crime--especially "Hurt Locker's" Jeremy Renner as an itchy-fingered gun lover--will brand him a traitor and show him no mercy.
So will it be a case of “Stick to Your Own Kind”? Or “Gone MacRay Gone”? --Guy Flatley Now Playing
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER
Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Anna Friel, Ewen Bremner, Carla Bruni, Pauline Collins, Christian McKay, Neil Jackson, Jim Piddock (Written and directed by Woody Allen; Sony Classics)
Woody’s latest flick, in which he does not appear, has its very own Facebook page. Here’s what it has to say about “Dark Stranger’s” story line. "A little romance, some sex, some treachery, and apart from that, a few laughs. The lives of a group of people, whose passions, ambitions and anxieties force them all into assorted troubles that run the gamut from ludicrous to dangerous.” Any questions? Click here for Guy Flatley's review of "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." Now Playing
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Charlie Sheen, Banessa Ferlito, Donald Trump (Directed by Oliver Stone; Written by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff)
The fact that greedy Gordon Gekko—played here again by Michael Douglas--is finally out from behind bars doesn’t mean he’s a reformed man. Nor do his new pals, played by Shia LaBeouf and Josh Brolin, walk a straight and narrow line in their rabid quest for big bucks. Ditto for Gekko’s former colleague Bud Fox, acted once more by Charlie Sheen. Any similarity between the scheming depicted here and the recent real-life theft and deceit practiced on Wall Street is strictly intentional on the part of director Oliver Stone, the man responsible for the 1989 original. Click here for Todd McCarthy's review of the sequel. --Guy Flatley Now Playing