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Friday movie roundup: Survival at sea and on the mountain
Two true-life tales of survival lead this weekend's best films.
"Captain Phillips" is a riveting thriller, with geopolitical overtones. Tom Hanks plays the title character, Capt. Richard Phillips, who was at the helm of his cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, when it was overtaken by Somali pirates in 2009. Director Paul Greengrass ("United 93") employs an intense documentary-style focus on the events aboard the ship, and on the Somalis in their desperation to bring in a big score. Hanks is outstanding in an understated, everyman performance.
The documentary "The Summit" chronicles a tragedy on the slopes of K2 in 2008, when 11 climbers died descending from the summit of the Himalayan peak. Director Nick Ryan combines insightful interviews with realistic re-enactments to tell the multi-faceted story of small errors compounding to fatal consequences — and the attempted heroism of one climber, Irishman Ger McDonnell, that likely led to his own death.
The other big Hollywood entry this week is "Machete Kills," the second in Robert Rodriguez' Mexploitation franchise starring Danny Trejo as the butt-kicking ex-Federale. This time, Machete is called in by the President (Charlie Sheen, billed as "Carlos Estevez") to bring down a Mexican revolutionary (Demian Bichir), but finding the real enemy is an industrialist (Mel Gibson) out to rule the world. The action is over-the-top violent, the star power plentiful (there's also Sofia Vergara, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Hudgens and Lady Gaga) and the plausibility non-existent. (Read The Cricket's interview with Rodriguez here.)
"Romeo & Juliet" is the latest adaptation of Shakespeare's classic romance, but even the collaboration of "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes on the screenplay doesn't help this watered-down rendition. Hailie Steinfeld ("True Grit") is a sweetly innocent Juliet, but Douglas Booth is a waxwork Romeo who's all too fitting for this young-adult version of the story.
"Blue Caprice" is a terrifying psychological profile of the man and the teen responsible for the D.C. Beltway sniper shootings in 2002. Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond give riveting performances in this low-key drama, capturing the self-delusion and desperate longing that created the mindset that could kill without compunction.
Lastly, the documentary "Inequality for All" gives former Labor secretary Robert Reich a necessary platform to talk about how wage disparities are bad for the economy and for democracy. Reich is an engaging expert, and makes abstract economic data accessible.