by Jeff Niesel
Thinking about going to see exploitation action flick Machete Kills this weekend? You might want to think again. The film features some great roles for actors such as Danny Trejo, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Mel Gibson. But that can’t compensate for its flimsy plot. You’re probably better off with the Tom Hanks flick Captain Phillips. Here are our reviews of the best films that are playing this weekend.
Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass, a Brit, is a pedigreed action filmmaker (The Bourne Ultimatum) with a gift for re-creating dramatic events of the recent past (United 93). He establishes characters and scenarios quickly, and wastes little time in ratcheting up tension along an ever-steepening grade. There’s pre-programmed drama in maritime capture, granted. But props must be doled out, in equal measure, to Greengrass, the film’s director of photography and its editor, through whose masterful work the drama is realized as a compelling cinematic narrative, and amplified through technical elements — pacing, lighting, sound effects — with no scent of gaudy embellishment. (Sam Allard)
Writer-director Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills features some great characters. First and foremost, there is Machete (Danny Trejo). The former Mexican police officer has an incredible aura about him. In one scene, one of his many enemies tries to hang him, only to find that his thick neck makes it impossible. The film also features a killer who has the chameleon-like ability to change his look. Alternately played by Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas, the chameleon is a ruthless, cold-blooded killer. But it’s all for naught since the plot here is so flimsy. (Niesel)
Casting young actors Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth to star in his adaption of the William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, director Carlos Carlei (The Flight of the Innocent) undoubtedly thought he would reintroduce the story to a new, younger generation of fans. But this version of the classic tragic romance is so boring, it’s more likely to drive away anyone with a short attention span. Things pick up when Paul Giamatti’s character is introduced, but his performance as the priest who unwittingly helps the couple to its tragic end is about all there is to recommend in this movie. (Niesel)
A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Escape from Tomorrow, which is playing at the Cedar Lee Theatre, certainly is a novel concept. Director Randy Moore decided to shoot most of the movie guerilla-style inside of the Walt Disney World Resort; Moore’s decision is highly ironic since the family drama that unfolds contrasts sharply with Disney’s rep as “the happiest place on earth.” Using handheld video cameras, the film’s crew surreptitiously shot the scene without permission from the notoriously litigious Disney. Gutsy move. The press release accompanying the film states that Moore is “subversively attacking our culture’s obsession with mass entertainment.” While that sentiment has resonated with some reviewers (notably the late Roger Ebert, who loved the movie), the film’s message gets distorted once Moore lets his sci-fi impulses run amuck. (Niesel)