Movie Revue: Captain Phillips, Machete Kills, Escape from Tomorrow

Movie Revue: Captain Phillips, Machete Kills, Escape from Tomorrow

Movie Revue is a collection of capsule reviews of the week's latest releases in theaters, On Demand, and everywhere in between.

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CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.  This true story about a 2009 cargo ship hijacking by Somali pirates is a crackerjack suspense thriller that keeps you enthralled and on the edge of your seat even if you know how it all plays out.  Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum) was born to direct this movie, and the docudrama-style naturalism and handheld photography that mark so many of his other films is utilized to great effect here.  Tom Hanks, who has seen his star wattage dimmer in recent years thanks to regrettable choices like Larry Crowne and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, comes roaring back with a vengeance as the title character.  He gives a nuanced, fully realized performance throughout, but it's the final 10 minutes of the film where he blows the audience away, giving, for my money, the single best piece of screen acting I've seen all year.  And, perhaps, maybe ever from Hanks, which is saying something.  Newcomer Barkhad Abdi makes a strong impression as Muse, the leader of the pirates, and he definitely holds his own opposite Hanks.  The second half of the film, which largely takes place on board a claustrophobic lifeboat, grows a bit repetitive and loses a bit of the intensity that the first half so expertly built up, but Greengrass still shows a complete command of his craft and the ending really stuck with me.  ****1/2 out of 5 stars.

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MACHETE KILLS.  Ah yes, Machete.  The sequel all of America was clamoring for!  Seriously, I could have told everyone involved here that nobody cared to see more Machete.  It was a one-joke concept that played wonderfully as a 2-minute fake trailer in front of 2007's Grindhouse, but quickly wore out its welcome in 2010's feature adaptation, Machete.  Yet, here we are - over six years removed from Grindhouse, and Robert Rodriguez is still telling the same joke.  Is there a more depressing sight than seeing a filmmaker, so promising at one point in his career, waste his talent away?  Rodriguez came on strong in the early '90s, but ever since Sin City, it seems he's lost all ambition, and is perfectly happy resorting to B-movie junk.  He's like the guy in his late 20s who still goes to high school parties to pick up chicks.  Dude, grow up.  Machete Kills is enjoyable enough for 30 minutes, but it goes on way too long - nearly 2 hours, and it almost becomes an unwitting parody of itself.  Seeing Demian Bachir and Mel Gibson ham it up as the villains is fun to a degree, but I'm tired of fake, purposefully bad B-movies like this and Sharknado.  Give me real schlock like Miami Connection any day.  ** out of 5 stars.

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ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW.  This micro-budgeted, black-and-white indie movie with no-name actors has one huge gimmick up its sleeve that piqued my interest and led me to rent it On Demand over the weekend: it was shot guerilla-style in and around Disney World, without permission.  Hard to believe the movie is actually getting released given Disney's reputation for controlling its intellectual property, but, quality aside for the moment, the fact that it was released at all has to be considered a huge success.  I can't say the same for the movie itself.  The story - about a Dad losing his way in the "dark" undercurrent of theme park frivolity - is disjointed and unsure of itself, failing to build much momentum.  It's weird, but not nearly weird enough.  The performances are strictly amateur hour - I don't see these actors getting a lot of additional work afterwards.  And, while the novelty of seeing people film in Disney World when they're not supposed to proves intriguing at first, without a compelling story, interesting characters, or believable performances, you're left with just that: a novelty item, destined to be a pop cultural trivia question, but not much more.  ** out of 5 stars.

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