Tuesday Releases: Captain Phillips & Machete Kills

JANUARY 21ST, 2014

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS // Great film-making is taken for granted. With so many films coming out every week, audiences are dulled by the constant productions presented to them and in that comes an expectancy for every film they come across to entertain and stimulate as much as possible. The fact of the matter is, however, if you were to give one hundred different directors the same film to produce, you’d come up with one hundred different approaches. And a handful of times each year the perfect director is paired with the perfect subject matter to produce the best possible outcome. Paul Greengrass and “Captain Phillips” are that perfect pairing.

Based on the true story of four Somali pirates hijacking a U.S. cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, in 2009, the film follows this isolated incident from the moment the ship leaves the port to the Seal Team being sent out in response to a kidnapping. Tom Hanks steps into the shoes of title character Rich Phillips, as he attempts to protect himself and his crew as their ship is boarded by pirates. Greengrass and his cinematographer follow closely, with a sharp eye for the hints of action while providing the vastness that is the sea. Hanks is incredible as the Captain, remaining authentic through his changing environments. Complimenting his juggernaut performance is Somali actor Barkhad Abdi, as Muse, the leader of the pirates. With a thoughtful dynamic, this is not your run of the mill antagonist performance, but a layered and thought-provoking delivery. Both of these men are sure to be acknowledged for their outstanding performances.

“Captain Phillips” is emotionally taut, developing from situations like the crew attempting to stay hidden from the prowling pirates or the constant dangling of Captain Phillips life while on the life raft. Reminiscent of last year’s “Zero Dark Thirty”, the audience is once again privy to the inner workings of the U.S. military Seal Team operations. Even though the focus remains mostly on the pirates-hostage situation, having the U.S. Navy respond and seeing their tactics does enforce an almost superhero quality to that particular branch of the military. Although we’re not quite inside the mind of any of the officers or agents, as we were with Jessica Chastain’s character in “Zero Dark Thirty”, we are allowed on board as the decisions are being made, but kept at arm’s length.

Easily the strongest thrilling drama of the year, “Captain Phillips” takes an otherwise stale newspaper headline and breathes a life into it that is perfect for the big screen. With layered performances and a keen eye for the grand scale of things, Greengrass’ drama snowballs from a standard pirate hijacking to an intense escape from the Navy that ends in one of the most jarring and emotionally wrecking sequences, that puts you in the mind of the Captain and forces you to experience this unbelievable set of events. Bringing tears to my eyes as Hanks dominates the final scenes of the film in pure and utter shock, there’s no doubt that “Captain Phillips” will garner some Oscar buzz, matching the strong dynamic set by “Zero Dark Thirty” and delivering on an even more emotional level that last year’s Seal Team endeavor.

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BLUE JASMINE // Dark, quippy, and cathartic, “Blue Jasmine” is a Woody Allen film, through and through. When all but oblivious Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is forced to give up her lavish lifestyle with her mover and shaker husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) and move in with her lower middle class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), she teeters on the edge of her sanity while descending into alcoholism. “Blue Jasmine” is impressively intricate, written in the form of flashbacks, which are tied to the present by the plot point that Jasmine is reliving these moments when triggered, while essentially standing on the street talking to herself. There is a deep, dark humor in the dialogue and editing choices, with very funny reaction shots and the raving and ranting that we’re accustomed to in a Woody Allen script, along with a strong allusion to “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Cate Blanchett is the star of the film, and I mean that in all of its glory, as she truly makes this role her own. She exudes a beauty and radiance in her flashback scenes, while she delivers the perfect sullen, bag lady renditions in her present scenes, and utterly impresses with every turn of phrase, begging the question whether she’ll get an Oscar nod for this performance. The cast is filled with strong performances as Sally Hawkins and Peter Sargaard impressive with their memorable supporting roles, while Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay prove, above anyone else, that they belong in the world of Woody Allen, offering some of the most subtle, humorous performances of the entire bunch. Instantly becoming one of my favorite Woody Allen ventures, its reminds of his previous successes, especially that of “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. With humor and heart all its own, “Blue Jasmine” will be hard to top.

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IN A WORLD… // Lake Bell’s passion cannot be denied. With her original and quirky glimpse into the world of voice over narration, she not only launches into a comical adventure but also a piece on women’s rights in the film industry and breaking the norm. In such a charming way, Bell capitalizes off the quirk that works for actresses like Zooey Deschanel and channels it into this frumpy, childish character who relies on everyone else to help her through her goals. Immediately her father (Fred Melamed) kicks her out of his house, as she then leans on her sister (Michaela Watkins), who is making her Independent film rounds this year, having starred in “Afternoon Delight” earlier this summer, with memorable turns in both. What Bell’s screenplay lacks in a solid through line. We understand her desire to be a voice over talent, and the desire of the men to keep her out, but there’s no real action taken by anyone, and they fall rather lazily into their roles. There’s a standard love interest arc with Demetri Martin that is refreshing in its blatant and to the point connection and a humor in Martin’s plight to get her to notice him. However unique the story is, none of the characters ever feel completely real and the actors never quite make the full connection with their performances to deliver anything substantial, providing a decent showing, but not a conscious or meaningful one. “In A World” fills a void in local, independent film making and brings some interesting topics up for discussion but ultimately, Bell’s first endeavor feels like a first-time at bat pitch and doesn’t fully connect.

New Releases
Bad Milo
Best Man Down
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
Charlie Countryman
In a World…
Instructions Not Included 2-denied2
Machete Kills
The Starving Games 2-denied2
Sunlight Jr.

TV Box Set
  • Bewitched: Season One
  • Borgen: Season Three
  • Bounty Hunters: Season One
  • Bullet In The Face: The Complete Series
  • Crossing Lines: Season One
  • Dilbert: The Complete Series
  • Good Times: Season Two
  • Highway To Heaven: Season Three
  • Just Shoot Me: Season Two
  • NYPD Blue: Season Five
  • The Returned (Les Revenants): Season One
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • After Death
  • Baffled (1973)
  • Black Water Vampire
  • Blues for Willadean
  • The Conspiracy
  • Critical Nexus
  • Dead Weight
  • Dolmen
  • The Five Heartbeats
  • Freezer (2013)   
  • Garibaldi’s Lovers
  • Gingerdead Man Vs. Evil Bong
  • The Hidden Hand
  • House Rules For Bad Girls
  • I Used To Love Her
  • Insomniac (2013)
  • Iron Girl (2012)
  • Island (2011)
  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Criterion
  • Life’s An Itch
  • Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
  • Old Goats   2-denied2
  • Paris Countdown
  • Phantom Of The Grindhouse
  • Pretty Dead
  • Prey (2011)
  • Psychophony: An Experiment In Evil
  • R-Evolution: Special Edition
  • Richard the Lionheart
  • Sake Bomb
  • Scarlet & The Black
  • A Serial Killer’s Revenge
  • Splash Area: Night of the Freaks
  • Thanatomorphose
  • UFC 166
  • Vikingdom   2-denied2
  • Zombie Pirates
  • Zoo: The Movie

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