Movies

Top One Movie of the Week: Machete, The American, Tillman Story, Going the Distance, and A Girl, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop

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Our critics choose between Machete, The American, The Tillman Story, Going the Distance, and A Girl, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop.

Pat Tillman - The Tillman Story

Machete

SCOTT: It was amusing for two minutes, but can the fun last when stretched out to nearly two hours? That's the question we ask about every SNL skit-turned-movie and it also applies to the latest from one-man studio Robert Rodriguez. Machete, of course, was one of the fake trailers in Rodriguez's night-at-the-drive-in collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse — the one with the memorable tagline "They just fucked with the wrong Mexican!" (As it turns out, it's only the first of those faux-coming attractions to reach theaters in feature-length form, as Hobo With a Shotgun and Eli Roth's Thanksgiving are also in the works.) Danny Trejo, the baddest badass left off The Expendables' casting Evite, stars as a former federale who embarks on an ultra-violent revenge spree after being set up by his former employers. Sure, it sounds like fun, but that's the problem with Rodriguez's movies: they almost always sound like much more fun than they actually turn out to be, because the guy has no quality control — he just churns out new movies like he's being paid by the frame. On the other hand, any cast that encompasses both Robert De Niro and Lindsay Lohan has potential, even if it's only train-wreck potential. So what do you think? Are you prepared to register your displeasure with Arizona's immigration law by ponying up for some Mexican mayhem?

ANDREW: Actually, that's the best reason I can think of to pony up for Machete, considering I already saw it the first time around when it was called El Mariachi and the second time around when it was called Desperado. I'm not sure extra gore and LiLo will be enough to lure me back for a third helping of Rodriguez's full-tilt-boogie style of Tex-Mex carnage. On the other hand, I'm always happy to see Danny "Tortuga" Trejo getting work (and maybe even a love scene with co-star Jessica Alba, if he's lucky). Plus I'm a big fan of action movies featuring actual stunt work instead of cruddy CGI. So I can't rule this one out completely yet.

The American

ANDREW: Oh, wait, yes I can… because if I wind up seeing any hard-boiled action flick about a troubled killer this week, it's going to be this "one-last-job" drama starring George Clooney (in dark, brooding mode) as a world-weary assassin contemplating retirement. In the years since he first transcended his TV and Return of the Killer Tomatoes past by establishing himself as a big-time movie star (in Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk 'Til Dawn, as it happens), the Cloon has seldom steered me wrong (give or take the occasional Batsuit nipples). So I'm definitely inclined to line up for the star's latest (especially given the late-summer drought of the past few weeks), even if director Anton Corbjin's resume features way more Depeche Mode videos than tightly plotted suspense thrillers.

SCOTT: I dunno, that video for "Policy of Truth" was pretty suspenseful. But it's true that Corbjin is an unknown quantity when it comes to action filmmaking. I'll take that as a plus, however, because as you mentioned, Robert Rodriguez's action moves are all too familiar at this point. At the very least, this appears to be a stylish Euro-thriller in the Bourne mode, albeit a bit less jittery — which is fine by me.

The Tillman Story

SCOTT: On the other hand, maybe you'd like to use this weekend to get all angried up again over the foreign-policy disasters of the Bush years. Pat Tillman was, of course, the NFL star who turned down a three-year extension with the Arizona Cardinals following 9/11 to enlist in the Army and fight in Afghanistan, where he was killed in 2004. Although Tillman's family was informed that he'd died heroically in combat, it was eventually revealed that he'd been killed by friendly fire. Director Amir Bar-Lev (My Kid Could Paint That) documents the Tillman family's efforts to expose the military cover-up, a true-life saga that will no doubt raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels. It's an important story, obviously, but I'm not sure I'm up for another blast of outrage so soon after Glenn Beck has restored our country's honor.

ANDREW: Yeah, I'm rooting for Bar-Lev and I hope the documentary reaches a wide audience, but considering how angry I got just reading The New York Times' review of the film, I think attending an actual screening would send me into coronary distress. After all, I distinctly remember conservatives pimping Tillman as the poster boy for macho, unquestioning Bush-era "patriotism," when in reality (to quote the aformentioned review), he was an "avowed atheist, [who] studied the writings of Noam Chomsky and opposed the war in Iraq after serving a tour of duty there. Yet when the government and the NFL secretly arranged for him to return to football without having to fulfill his commitment, he refused the deal, believing it was his duty to serve the three years for which he had signed up." Ah, jeez… considering the true nature of Tillman's heroism and his family's efforts to set the record straight, I think I may have to grit my teeth and see this movie after all.

Going the Distance

ANDREW: On the other hand, my Top One Movie vote for The Tillman Story is by no means a slam against the Cloon or my beloved make-believe girlfriend, Drew Barrymore. For one thing, her latest romantic comedy (about the perils of long-distance love) was directed by Nanette Burstein, who's earned my goodwill in the past with non-fiction charmers like American Teen and The Kid Stays In The Picture. Plus, rumor has it that Drew's character engages in some hot phone sex at one point, which is something I'd definitely like to see — although I'd probably like it a whole lot more if the guy on the other end of the line weren't Justin Long. Sorry, kid. You seem like a nice enough guy, but I'm still not quite ready to forgive you for all those smarmy Mac commercials.

SCOTT: Yeah, I'm allergic to Long myself. As Jon Stewart hinted during Barrymore's recent Daily Show appearance, I'd be much more interested in this movie if her co-star was the PC, John Hodgman.

A Girl, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop

SCOTT: Honestly, I'm not even sure what this movie is called; IMDb has it listed as A Simple Noodle Story, but the reviews I've seen use the more noir-ish title above. Whatever you want to call it, it's a remake of Blood Simple set in northern China and directed by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers). It's so crazy it just might work, although early word suggests it's over-stylized and undercooked. I'll admit I'm intrigued — or maybe just relieved to finally have a weekend offering several possible contenders after the last few crapfests — but I think I'm going to go with The American this week.

ANDREW: And I'll stick with Tillman… although I may sneak into Noodle afterwards, if only to see whether Zhang pays tribute to the original by somehow finding a Chinese actor as hairy as Dan Hedaya.

Andrew's Top One Movie of the Week: The Tillman Story

Scott's Top One Movie of the Week: The American