Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Machete</em> Vs. <em>The American</em>

<em>Machete</em>, an ex-Federale looking to avenge wrongs against him, was first introduced as a fake trailer during, <em>Grindhouse</em>, where the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino paired their movies in a double bill, and then Rodriguez decided to make it an actual feature length film. Besides Rodriguez's cousin Danny Trejo in the lead role, there are many notable stars—Robert DeNiro as a Texas State Senator, Michelle Rodriguez as a taco truck owner, Don Johnson as a vigilante, Lindsay Lohan as a drugged out sexpot. The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips <a href=",0,1104877.column">thinks it sucks</a>, "At 105 minutes, <em>Machete</em> is at least half an hour too long for its own good... Don't get me wrong: Robert Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Maniquis (a longtime Rodriguez colleague) waste no time with sober discussion of U.S. immigration policy, or a serious investigation into the matter of Jessica Alba and why she never seems to get any better as an actress... The beheadings and behandings and eye-gougings and stiletto-heel-in-the-craniums are diverting for a while."

<p>Everyone's favorite <em>Facts of Life</em> actor-turned-<em>star</em> George Clooney is drawing mixed reviews playing a weary hit man in <em>The American</em>, directed by fashion photographer Anton Corbijn. Joe Morgenstern of the <a href="">Wall Street Journal</a> oohs, "With its retro pacing, its pretentious lapses and its narrow emotional range, this elegantly crafted existential thriller risks alienating its audience; at times it feels like a test for attention deficit disorder. Yet Mr. Clooney's performance as Jack—a last name would have made him less existential—keeps you attentive, and the drama's seriousness finally earns your respect." <br/><br/> But the Christian Science Monitor's Peter Rainer <a href="">points out</a>, "Jack falls for Clara [a prostitute with a heart of gold] and wants to close out his career as a hit man and live an honest life with her. I’d be more sympathetic about his remorse if it weren’t prompted by a luscious babe – if it were prompted by, say, all the people killed in his line of fire. But these days you take your redemption where you find it."</p>

Photograph by <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Tracy Collins on flickr</a>

<p>For some reason, Zhang Yimou, the Chinese director of <em>Raise the Red Lantern</em> and <em>To Live</em>, decided to remake the Coen Brothers' <em>Blood Simple</em>, taking the story from contemporary Texas to period feudal China in <em>A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop</em>. The NY Times' A.O. Scott <a href="">thinks it's diverting</a>, Taking the though it begins with some exaggerated, almost clownish business and includes a handful of clean and mordant sight gags, <em>A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop</em> has a gravity that is surprising, given that it is basically the pastiche of a pastiche." </p>

<p>It's Bad News Bears in the world of high school girls' basketball: <em>The Winning Season</em> stars Sam Rockwell as a former basketball coach-turned-busboy who is recruited by high school principal Rob Corddry to turn around a crew of teen girls. <a href="">Slant's Nick Schager scathingly says</a>, "Considering its status as merely a puddle of regurgitated elements, <em>The Winning Season</em> is, to be as coarse as its protagonist, the cinematic equivalent of vomit... Wholly failing to be both ribald and stirring, it's a dramedy that succeeds only in feeling like slow death."</p>

<p>The South African film <em>White Wedding</em> takes the usual moments of wedding comedies—wacky obstacles, bumbling best men—and gives it a distinct spin. It gets <a href="">credit from NPR's Bob Mondello</a>: "White Wedding is about connections, and it has the good sense to pull them together in a film that's sweet, inclusive and sunny, a charmer filled with people who seem every bit as surprised as we are when they manage to look past surface differences, and find reasons to bond."</p>

<em>My Dog Tulip</em>, based on J.R. Ackerley's memoir of his beloved dog, is an animated feature by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger with Christopher Plummer giving voice to Ackerley. The NY Press's Armond White <a href="">thinks it's beautiful</a>, " The Fierlinger’s are not afraid to bring back the hand-fashioned artistry of animated drawing and its original-frame photographic process. (Paul boasts 116, 640 frames in the film’s press kit.) The effect is automatically nostalgic, but its purpose is personal. Pixar has scrubbed animation clean of its former human element—resulting in the antiseptic cultural nightmare of Toy Story 3. My Dog Tulip restores human feeling to animation, a post-Pixar miracle."Ackerley’s misadventures with his obstinate yet loving German Shepherd sounds precious yet it is not twee—there is grit in its charm. It becomes a story of matching opposite personalities and the sympathy that two souls exchange."

<p>The indie—and we're talking really indie, as it was shot without permits in NYC and self-distributed—<em>Prince of Broadway</em> gets praise <a href="">from the Village Voice's Michael Atkinson</a> for its story of a street hustler who is saddled with a kid he's told is his: The "film seethes with naturalistic cred."</p>

<p>What would <em>The Bucket List</em> have been like if Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman played hamsters? <em>Etienne!</em>, which will be premiering at <a href="">reRun in Dumbo</a>, makes us wonder, because it's about a dedicated hamster owner who decides to show his dear pet, who is diagnosed with cancer, the world (or as much as he can) before he euthanizes it. Slant's Rob Humanick <a href="">decides</a>, "Initially annoying, ultimately endearing, Etienne! hits enough of the right notes to overcome its half-baked brand of indie sentimentality... What first appears to be a schematic plot soon shifts into something refreshingly off-kilter, while a handful of exquisite editing choices (a tender goodbye overlaps with newfound friendships developing earlier in the day; Etienne adorably jumps on his hind legs, etc.) elevate the whole with unspoken ease."</p>

<p>Norway takes on the World War II resistance epic with <em>Max Manus</em>, about a saboteur who bombed German ships stationed in Oslo. The Toronto Star's <a href="">Jason Anderson says</a>, "Though the brazen acts of Manus and his associates provoke reprisals by the Nazis on Norway’s citizenry, the filmmakers are not very interested in the same matters of moral calculus that gave heft and complexity to <em>Black Book</em> and <em>Army of Shadows</em>. [Directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Roenning] seem more comfortable with the action sequences, which do boast a sufficient degree of tension and flair. And while their movie is not a straight-up whitewash of Manus’s story — it touches on his battle with alcoholism and his feelings of guilt over surviving so much longer than his ill-fated friends — it still feels blander than it ought to."</p>

<em>Our Beloved Month of August</em> is from Portugese director Miguel Gomes, who apparently had the idea of making a film about adults who attend the country's music festivals. Simon Abrams <a href="">in the NY Press writes</a> that as Gomes attempted to get financing, "Still, determined to see the film through, Gomes got a crew and a number of cameras and set out to film everything he could of the locations, ideas, errant local personalities and ephemeral interactions that occurred during his time shooting in the country. It’s a meta-narrative, a concert film, a sociological documentary and a shambling mess." <br/><br/>But the Village Voice's J. Hoberman <a href="">writes</a> that it "relaxes into a meditation on the mysteries of place, personality, and process. One is happy to while away the time observing the minutiae of Arganil's summer festival and equally pleased to become involved in an unfolding family melodrama that involves tales of alien abduction and instances of incest, building up to a wittily produced forest fire. Gomes even manages to involve us in the film's formal issues when a movie's worth of clever sound-matching comes to a head in the comic epilogue."

<p>Maybe we didn't need a movie musical about 9/11. Nick Schager <a href="">eviscerates <em>Clear Blue Tuesday</em></a> in the Village Voice: "Pretentious profiles in post-9/11 grief and confusion, Clear Blue Tuesday manages the not-inconsiderable feat of insulting both the memory of the World Trade Center attacks and the musical genre. Elizabeth Lucas's indie charts (symbolism alert!) 11 fictional New Yorkers on seven September Tuesdays over seven years as they grapple with the romantic, professional, and psychological fallout of the Towers' destruction—with some musical numbers thrown in.Largely refusing to mention or address the attack directly, Lucas strips the downtown tragedy of any larger cultural/political meaning in an attempt to cast it as merely a looming specter that spawned amorphous Manhattanite unhappiness."</p>

<p>With the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation just behind us, Harry Shearer talks to residents about live in New Orleans in his documentary, <em>The Big Uneasy</em></p>

<br/>Jules: Well, if you like burgers give 'em a try sometime. I can't usually get 'em myself because my girlfriend's a vegitarian which pretty much makes me a vegitarian. But I do love the taste of a good burger. Mm-mm-mm. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with cheese in France? <br/>Brett: No. <br/>Jules: Tell 'em, Vincent. <br/>Vincent: A Royale with cheese. <br/>Jules: A Royale with cheese! You know why they call it that? <br/>Brett: Because of the metric system? <br/>Jules: Check out the big brain on Brett! You're a smart motherfucker. That's right. The metric system.

<p>"I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it."</p>