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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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The American

George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten | R |


Imagine George Clooney. Now take away his wit and his charm-dull those classic Hollywood looks for good measure. And that hint of mystery that keeps us enthralled? Twist it into sheer inscrutability. Now you’ve met Jack. Clooney’s Jack is also a ruthlessly efficient killer, a gunsmith and, for some reason, a butterfly enthusiast. After a nasty encounter with Swedish assassins, Jack seeks refuge in Italy, where he befriends a knowing priest (Paolo Bonacelli), makes a gun for a wily client (Reuten) and falls for a local prostitute (Placido) of the heart-of-gold variety. But Jack can’t shake the killers aiming for him-and a good thing too, otherwise nothing would ever happen in The American. While stylish, the film bores, robs Clooney of his appeal and never truly reveals his character, making the issue of whether he’ll live or love fairly moot. By the end all we’ve really learned is that we don’t know Jack.

The Tillman Story | R |



“It’s a horrible thing to lie,” says Mary Tillman, mother of Pat, the former NFL safety who died an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004. One could almost ask: Which lie does she mean? The one the Tillmans say they were told about how Pat died, hiding the truth that he fell to friendly fire? Or the fictions spun about Pat’s life in the wake of his death, perhaps used to sell the war? The Tillman Story is the family’s powerful attempt to right many wrongs, not only revealing the awful truth behind Pat’s death but sharing more about his life and his views on the war itself. Their loss is profoundly sad, but it’s their continuing inability to find justice that will enrage you.

Going the Distance

Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Christina Applegate |R|


Distance is about uniting two very different factions-no, not Barrymore and Long, who go together like peas and carrots. This is about pairing fans of Barrymore’s girl-power romantic comedies with folks who dug The Hangover. Predictably, the results are a tad awkward. (But hey, when a real-life on-and-off-again couple shoot a rom-com, they pretty much sign up for awkward.)

Barrymore plays Erin, a struggling journalist who falls for Long’s record-label flunkie, Garrett. She lives in San Francisco, he in New York. Despite the miles and terrible advice from sidekicks like the amiably odd Charlie Day, their love grows (and yes, it does feel like spying on the actors’ real courtship). So far, so cute. But then Erin gets carried drunk out of a bar, screaming something vulgar at a man, and it’s clear that this film is desperate not to be dismissed as too “girlie.” Cue the carpet f-bombing, toilet humor, and generally doing anything and everything to avoid looking like a chick flick-never mind that it’s a pretty decent one. Oh well. Whatever it takes to get dudes in the seats, I guess.