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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

my week at the movies: ‘Michael Clayton,’ ‘The Kingdom’, ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,’ ‘American Gangster,’ ‘In the Shadow of the Moon,’ ‘Across the Universe,’ ‘Good Luck Chuck’

I initially misread the poster for Michael Clayton [opens limited October 5; expands wide October 12] — I thought it said “The truth can’t be trusted.” Which could be a tagline for a fascinating movie, too. I don’t know much about the flick except that it’s George Clooney playing a corporate lawyer, a “fixer,” who somehow is forced to face how sleazy his job is. It’s the directorial debut from screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who adapted all the Jason Bourne movies. It also stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson, which makes me want to like it even more.

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden gets completely ignored, I’m guessing, in The Kingdom [opens wide September 28], a thriller about a group of FBI agents who travel to Saudi Arabia to find a serial killer. Does the FBI even have jurisdiction in Saudi Arabia? I guess we get to kick ass wherever the hell we want these days… Whatever. This one stars Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner, both of whom I like. But it’s the first produced screenplay of writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, so we have no idea yet what he can do, and actor turned director Peter Berg is behind the camera; his record is mixed. So while I’m hopeful for this one, it’s a cautious hope.

Best title of the year so far: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [opens limited September 21]. I’ve been hearing great things about this one from fellow critics who’ve already seen it, and I’ve come to be a big fan of Brad Pitt lately: he’s become a very intriguing actor in recent years. I want to really like this one: New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s only previous film is the harrowing Chopper.

Woo-hoo! More Russell Crowe! Crowe costars with Denzel Washington in American Gangster [opens wide November 2], a modern crime drama/soap opera thingie — Washington is the 1970s Harlem drug lord smuggling smack into the U.S. in the coffins of dead Vietnam vets; Crowe is the cop trying to catch him. Can the pairing of these two actors be anything other than incendiary?

There are so many movies packed into this crowded season that this is going to be happening a lot: I’ve missed screenings of movies I really need to see. So this week, I’ll head to the multiplex to catch the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon [now playing in limited release; expands September 21 and again September 28], about the Apollo program. The film features not only new interviews with surviving astronauts but also footage they shot on the Moon that we’ve never seen before. I can’t wait to see that.

I’ll stay in space for Across the Universe [now playing in limited release; expands September 21], the movie that strings together a bunch of Beatles songs. I still haven’t seen the Irish musical Once, either, so depending on what kind of time I end up having this week, that could make a good double feature.

I’m gonna miss the screening of Good Luck Chuck, too, and it looks precisely like the kind of movie that I’ll be able to get a rant of a review out of, one that will garner 300 comments. So if I’m not totally wrung out from movies by the end of the week, I’ll think about seeing that one after it opens on Friday.

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  • Josh G

    Why would you get a rant from a review of Good Luck Chuck? You seem to think that you get people angry when you dislike sex comedies, or at least the brand of sex comedies out now. That’s not true though. You get comments when you contradict yourself or you make outrageous remarks.

  • MaryAnn

    Please point out where I’ve contradicted myself.

  • MaryAnn

    Ah, I think, Josh, that you’ve misunderstood me. I was saying that I expected to be able to rant myself about *Chuck* — I was not saying that I expect people to rant about me (though that’s entirely possible given the reactions I’ve gotten to my reviews of *Knocked Up* and *Superbad*).

    But I’d still like to hear about where I’ve contradicted myself. And also, why it’s bad for me to say things that are “outrageous.”

  • Josh G

    Knocked Up and Superbad are nothing like Chuck. They are intelligent comedies with heart, Chuck is a mean spirited and nasty sex farce. The audience seemed to love Chuck though, which I found disturbing.

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