Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 9-15: Escape from Romeo and Captain Phillips’ Excited Machete

In Theaters

This is quite a week — at least in terms of quantity. We’re looking at two art/indie titles (one of which blind-sided me) and three mainstream ones. What to make of it all is another question.

Looked at realistically, it might be better to say that there are three art titles. I don’t know how wide this new Romeo & Juliet is going (I know it opens at The Carolina, but have seen it on no other booking lists yet), but it might have been better classed as an art title — except they’ve done something you don’t see with art titles. They aren’t letting anyone see it.

Of the other two — Escape from Tomorrow (opening at The Carolina) and Almodovar’s I’m So Excited (opening at the Fine Arts) — I’ve only seen Escape from Tomorrow. The Almodovar picture was a last minute addition to split with the underperforming (but really good) ShortTerm 12. I think this marks the first time in about ten years that I haven’t seen an Almodovar film before it opened and it causes me no joy.

Escape from Tomorrow, of course, is the notorious film that was shot inside Disney World, Disneyland, and Epcot guerrilla-style without Disney’s permission. It’s the film that people kept saying Disney would never let see light of day, but here it is (unless it gets yanked at the last minute). The film is most definitely not Disney friendly, but I suspect it’s also going to prove to have such limited appeal that Disney just didn’t bother with it. You can check out my review in this week’s paper, but I’ll tell you now, the idea intrigued me a lot more than the actual movie.

So where does that leave us? Well, let’s see…

The big title — at least as far as what’s expected to do Big Box Office — is Paul Greengrass’ fact-based Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, whose ship, the Maersk Alabama, was hijacked in 2009 by Somali pirates. (The screenplay was adapted from Phillips’ book on the event.) According to Sony the film is seen “through director Paul Greengrass’ distinctive lens.” I’m assuming that means lots a shaky hand-held camera work. (Greengrass’ 2006 United 93 is the only film where I have ever had to take a queasy break.) So far, most of the reviews have been positive, but damned if I can get excited about this.

Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited! has not gotten the kind of reviews one expects for the filmmaker’s work. Almodovar seems to have made it as a kind of reaction to the pitch black The Skin I Live In (2011). It’s a deliberate return to his early campy outrages against “good taste.” Taking place on a airliner that may well be about to crash, it’s a comedic take on sex, death, and possible class. (The tourist class passengers are sedated so the crew doesn’t have to deal with them.) The results have split the critical response right down the middle. But even many of the film’s supporter find the film to be lesser Almodovar. Maybe so, but then lesser Almodovar is better than the best a lot of filmmakers can manage.

And then there’s Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills. What else do you need to know? Danny Trejo is back as the ultimate badass in another film from the one man band of cinema (writing, directing, composing, producing, editing). If you were onboard with the first one (I certainly was), you already know you want to see this. It’s going to be more of the same — except there’s apparently less of a “message” this time. The real downer is that Rodriguez killed off Cheech in the first movie. Once again, the film is stuffed with both the famous and the infamous (Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen) — and, of course, Rodriguez’s movie star buddies. Near as I can tell Antonio Banderas, Walt Goggins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Lady Gaga all play the same character. If you can resist that, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Finally, there’s the 947th (that’s an approximation) film version of Mr. Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (I don’t think old Will used an ampersand, though). What is there to say about this? I suppose you can question the casting and the presence of a director known mostly for Italian TV movies you never heard of. The biggest point in its favor is that Julian Fellowes did the screenplay. I assume this means that he adapted it, not wrote it in the sense of writing it. (Could we possibly see another “by William Shakespeare with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor” type of credit? That hasn’t happened since 1929.) I’m amused that people are complaining that Hailee Steinfeld doesn’t have an English accent. (Do they not realize the characters are Italians?) Really, the most troubling thing about this — apart from it being another Romeo & Juliet — is that the studio flat-out refused to let this be screened by critics. When has that ever been a good sign?

So what are we losing? Well, Blue Jasmine is taking its leave, as are those two French pictures — Haute Cuisine and Populaire. The former is apparently no great loss, but Poulaire deserved better.

Special Screenings

This week the Thursday Horror Picture Show has Bela Lugosi in William Cameron Menzies and Marcel Varnel’s Chandu the Magician (1932) on Thu., Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina. World Cinema is screening The Violin (2005) at 8 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 11 in the Railroad Library in the Phil Mechanic Building. The Hendersonville Film Society is showing John Guillerman’s WWI epic The Blue Max (1966) on Sun., Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing in Hendersonville. The Asheville Film Society is running Mark Sandrich’s Astaire-Rogers film Follow the Fleet (1936) at 8 p.m. on Tue., Oct. 15 in Theater Six at The Carolina. More on all films in this week’s Xpress, with full reviews in the online edition.

On DVD

Before getting to the theatrical releases this week, I’m going to talk for a moment about Don Mancini’s Curse of Chucky which comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray. Since I got mine (I have connections — in other words, thanks, Don!) yesterday and watched it, I’m going to spotlight it briefly here. OK, it can be said that I’m biased, since I’ve known Don since he wrote me right after my review of Seed of Chucky in 2004. (He also served as a judge at the Asheville Film Festival several times.) Regardless, this is an extremely good and very stylish horror film — good enough that it really deserved a theatrical release — that effectively (and shrewdly) returns Chucky (still voiced by Brad Dourif, of course) to his more horrific self (but not without humor). In other words, if you’re a horror fan, see this film. I hope to have more to say about this later.

Also out this week we have Much Ado About Nothing, After Earth, The Hangover Part III, and The Purge.

Notable TV Screenings

A light week on TCM. The only thing I see to note is next Monday’s (Oct. 14) episode of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey: 1957-1964 — Shock of the New, Modern Filmmaking in Western Europe — at 10 p.m.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

10 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Weekly Reeler October 9-15: Escape from Romeo and Captain Phillips’ Excited Machete

  1. Dionysis

    Both IMDB reviewers and Rotten Tomatoes (so far) are not warming up to Machete Kills. One (to paraphrase) said something like “it’s brain dead anyway.” Then again, another said “fuck the critics, I wanna see it.” Oh well, looks like goofy fun to me.

  2. Ken Hanke

    It’s not the kind of movie where I expect good reviews. Most of the negative reviews I’ve seen seem to miss the point. As for the IMDb “reviews,” well…

  3. Me

    TCM played Where’s Poppa, I missed it but im wondering how black it is, compared to the trailer. Its got the famous toosh scene, and the unpronounceable “Trish Vandergeldenvere”.

  4. Me

    “You want truly black American comedy from that era, keep an eye out for Alan Arkin’s Little Murders.”

    Seen it. One of my favorites from the 70′s.

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