The film to see this weekend is Paul Greengrass' breathless, beyond-intense thriller "Captain Phillips," anchored by knockout performances by veteran Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi. Based on the real-life saga of a cargo ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates, the film is cruising into awards season with strong reviews off its NYFF world premiere, along with some controversy.
Also receiving excellent reviews is Peter Miller's doc on the Doc, "A.K.A. Doc Pomus," focusing on the legendary New York songwriter who churned out more than 1,000 songs over the years, including classics like "Save the Last Dance For Me" and "This Magic Moment," to name only a very few. The film reveals Pomus' struggles with polio since childhood, among other aspects of his personal life, even as he collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley.
Otherwise, it's eclectic pickings. Randy Moore's Sundance hit "Escape from Tomorrow" has made a name for itself by daringly shooting guerrilla-style at Disneyland, and somehow avoiding a massive lawsuit in the process. The horror film, which shows the literally monstrous underbelly of the famous theme park, is sitting with modestly positive reviews from critics.
James Franco's Faulkner adaptation "As I Lay Dying" is sitting with middling reviews, as it did upon its Cannes premiere. (His most recent directorial effort, adapting Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," is getting better reception following its Venice and NYFF screenings.)
Battling it out for last place are the latest iteration of "Romeo and Juliet" which, despite strong stars like Hailee Steinfeld, Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti, can't reverse its critical fate; RADiUS acquisition "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane," an Amber Heard horror title resuscitated from 2006; and Robert Rodriguez's "Machete Kills," which isn't slaying any reviewers, despite its humorously over-the-top cast and promise of cartoonish sex and violence.
Captain Phillips Dir. Paul Greengrass, USA | Sony Pictures | Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Addirahman, Catherine Keener | 93% Fresh | The Dissolve: "Captain Phillips could have stopped at simply depicting what happened; it’s the steps it takes to examining why it happened that make it extraordinary." | Our TOH! review
A.K.A. Doc Pomus Dir. Peter Miller, USA | Cast: | Willi Burke, Lou Reed, Shawn Colvin, Dion DiMucci, Marshall Chapman | 100% Fresh | LA Times: "Expertly put together by editor Amy Linton, AKA Doc Pomus uses its wealth of material to create the sense of a man with a genius for putting undistilled emotion into his songs." | Exclusive clip
Escape from Tomorrow Dir. Randy Moore, USA | Abramorama | Cast: Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, Elena Schuber, Jack Dalton, Katelynn Rodriguez, Roy Abramsohn | 67% Fresh | Variety: "Escape From Tomorrow is a sneakily subversive exercise in low-budget surrealism and anti-corporate satire."
As I Lay Dying Dir. James Franco, USA | Millennium Entertainment | Cast: James Franco, Danny McBride, Logan Marshall Green, Beth Grant, Tim Blake Nelson | 39% Rotten | A.V. Club: "Like Franco’s other directorial efforts, it ends up coming across as an academic art object, somewhere halfway between a graduate thesis and a video installation—interesting, but only in context." | Our TOH! review
Machete Kills Dir. Robert Rodriguez, USA | Open Road Films | Cast: Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, Mel Gibson, Danny Trejo, Demian Bichir, Cuba Gooding Jr. | 37% Rotten | The Wrap: "The sequel “Machete Kills” opens with a fake trailer for a not-yet-produced third installment, then spends the next 100-plus minutes making a case for plunging a knife into the franchise’s heart. This 'Mex-ploitation' action series was hilarious as a trailer in “Grindhouse” and outrageous enough to float one feature film, but the series has gone dull around the edges." | Women Kick Ass at Comic-Con
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane Dir. Jonathan Levine, USA | RADiUS-TWC | Cast: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Michael Welch, Whitney Able | 38% Rotten | Guardian: "Mandy Lane feels bogus and compromised: an unreconstructed horror romp in the guise of a nerdish intellectual."
Romeo and Juliet Dir. Carlo Carlei, USA | Relativity Media | Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Damian Lewis, Paul Giamatti, Ed Westwick | 31% Rotten | Village Voice: "It’s all rote, dashed through, and somewhat detestable."