The Week in Film: Oscar winners vs. pirates edition

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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In Theaters

Captain Phillips (Sony Pictures)

Captain Phillips
(Sony Pictures)

Prisoners was kind of a bust and Gravity was nearly everything but an acting showcase, so the awards hype shifts to Captain Phillips.  Based on a true story, Tom Hanks (apparently resurrecting his Catch Me If You Can accent) plays Richard Phillips, head of a US-flagged cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.  Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum) has expertly dealt with real-life trauma before in 2006’s United 93 and looks to rebound from his 2010 motion-sickness trashterpiece otherwise known as Green Zone.  Reviews from the film’s recent New York Film Festival screening marked Hanks’ best since…well, if you don’t count Toy Story 3, probably the aforementioned Spielberg collaboration.  I hope to agree with them.

I'm So Excited! (Sony Pictures Classics)

I’m So Excited!
(Sony Pictures Classics)

Two years after the excellent but creepy The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar returns with I’m So Excited!  Yes, the title does come from The Pointer Sisters’ song, which the flight attendants and chief steward of a potentially doomed plane dance to while attempting to keep their passengers’ spirits up.  Almodóvar mainstays Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas are listed in the cast, and though star power isn’t a necessity for his films, that’s about it for the important-to-some name recognition.  The film has been out in the U.S. since late June and admittedly hasn’t received the best reviews, but Almodóvar is always worth a look.

Machete Kills (Open Road Films)

Machete Kills
(Open Road Films)

Born from the first allegedly fake Grindhouse trailerMachete Kills marks Robert Rodriguez’s second feature-length film about the titular assassin.  Three years after the purposefully schlocky fun of Machete, the quintessential Danny Trejo character is recruited by the U.S. President (somebody named Carlos Estevez) to take down arms dealer Voz (Mel Gibson) in Mexico before the villain can launch a weapon into space.  Michelle Rodriguez reprises her role as fellow fighter Luz while threats come in the form of The Chameleon (Lady Gaga, occasionally “wearing” Antonio Banderas and Cuba Gooding Jr. masks) and Desdemona (Sofia Vergara, sporting a “Double D” machine gun bra), among others.  Sounds like another good time from the Troublemaker Studios gang.

Escape From Tomorrow (Abramorama)

Escape From Tomorrow

As you may have heard, the new horror film Escape From Tomorrow was shot guerilla-style at Disney World without the park’s permission.  After premiering at this year’s Sundance, Randy Moore’s movie makes its way to theaters untouched by The House of Mouse because it falls under “parody.”  Interesting as the production backstory sounds, only the film’s first half, which follows a family of four on a day of attractions that goes horribly wrong, takes advantage of the “How’d they do that?” mystique.  The second is one of the laziest, most repulsive stretches of film this year and does all it can to eat away at its better half.

Romeo and Juliet (Relativity Media)

Romeo and Juliet
(Relativity Media)

I know what you’re thinking: didn’t Baz Luhrmann set the gold standard for Romeo and Juliet adaptations 17 years ago?  Yes, yes he did.  But as suggested by the current modern-day Broadway production starring Orlando Bloom and Condola “Daughter of Phylicia” Rashad and now Carlo Carlei’s new film, the play is vogue once more.  The big draw about the latter traditional version is that it’s adapted by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.  Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Douglas Booth (LOL) play the star-crossed lovers with Stellan Skarsgård as the Prince of Verona and Paul Giamatti as Friar Laurence.  Still, three big warning signs have already presented themselves: the film hasn’t been screened for critics; the Carolina is only offering three shows a day; and the first line in the trailer botches the rhyme scheme of the play’s closing line.  This could be ugly.

Fleeing the Scene

Blue Jasmine, still one of the year’s best films (maybe #4 at this point?), says “so long” and “farewell” and all the other things the Von Trapp children say.

Since no one besides fellow film critics and spouses were at my screenings of Populaire and Haute Cuisine, there’s little surprise that they’re both gone, as is fellow One Week Wonder Grace Unplugged.  Joining them are the dregs that some people call The Family and Baggage Claim.


Joss Whedon’s homemade (literally) Much Ado About Nothing and the surprisingly tense The Purge are the best disc-o bets.  The Smithtastic After Earth and the One Laugh Wonder The Hangover Part III are the worst.

Elsewhere is the latest Chucky installment, Curse of Chucky; all six Star Wars films get the Blu-ray/DVD combo pack treatment; and my favorite Billy Wilder film, Stalag 17, makes its Blu-ray debut.

On Netflix Instant

Most intriguing is the French comedy Starbuck, whose Vince Vaughn remake Delivery Man hits theaters in late November.  I can also recommend The Rabbi’s Cat, a nice animated film with a Tin Tin feel that also makes fun of Tin Tin, and the live-action Disney soccer flick The Big Green, though merely for nostalgic purposes.

Unknowns include Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie; the Raleigh-filmed Colin Firth/Emily Blunt romance Arthur Newman; and the only major animated film from 2013 I skipped, Escape From Planet Earth.

And lastly, certifying its status as a mammoth dud, Salinger hits the subscription streaming world two weeks after its theatrical premiere.  Again, I urge you to read the book instead.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. rose wimsatt January 24, 2014

    Where can I read your reviews of nominated films?

    1. Edwin Arnaudin January 24, 2014

      There’s no single spot at the moment, but you’re welcome to click through my chronological author’s page ( or Google “Ashvegas” and the name of each film.

      I plan to have a nominee roundup the week before the Oscars with lists of Who Will Win, Who Should Win, and Who Shoulda Been a Contender. I’ll probably link to my past reviews in that post.


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