Director Paul Greengrass is an acknowledged master of the action thriller, with two of the greatest films of that genre, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum to his credit. With Captain Phillips he takes a story based on an actual incident in which Captain Richard Phillips and his ship, the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, were boarded by Somali pirates. He was subsequently rescued in a daring operation by Navy Seals. Anchoring the movie are two fine performances by Tom Hanks as the captain of the title, and Barkhad Abdi as the head of the Somali pirates, who face off through a number of tense days as the pirates try to escape with their prize. Hanks and Abdi develop a complex human drama even as Greengrass pushes the action into overdrive. There are many edge-of-seat action sequences, handled with Greengrass’ usual finesse, which are given emotional traction both by the characters and the complex context of piracy in the modern age.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman
A crime romance starring Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood and Mads Mikkelsen looks promising at the beginning, and even LaBeouf looks like he might be tolerable as a young traveler who finds himself thrown together with a woman (Wood) who is claimed by a violent criminal (Mikkelssen). The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman shows plenty of enthusiasm by director Fredrik Bond, and LaBeouf, who remains indelibly associated with the appalling Transformer franchise, throws himself into his role with a degree of emotional recklessness that is disarming, disconcerting, and which may have been effective if the script gave him any kind of help at all. It doesn’t, and once again LaBeouf comes across as a hopeless dweeb who it is impossible to sympathize with. Mikkelssen does the kind of cold evil that is one of his specialties, but it is a dialed-in performance, and all Bond’s cinematographic whizz-bang used to create the seedy criminal world in which Charlie Countryman finds himself fails to make the film interesting.
A foodie film that is light on drama but is tantalizing enough to have foodies salivating at the delicious food brought to the table. Directed by Christian Vincent, Haute Cuisine tells the story of Hortense Laborie, a celebrated chef living in the Perigord region who is appointed as private chef to the French president. For a while, she manages to impose herself on the presidential kitchen despite the jealousies she arouses among the other chefs in the presidential kitchen, She insists on stylish and authentic cuisine, and Vincent clearly has an eye for presenting culinary art on screen. But while the food might excite, the drama between Laborie and her male-dominated kitchen is pretty lightweight. Foodies will have their eyes on the glories of French culinary art, and the insubstantial content will probably be forgiven.
Baby Blues (詭嬰)
A 3D horror movie from director Leung Po-chi (梁普智) and starring singer Raymond Lam (林峰). The main selling point of Baby Blues is the big-budget 3D effects that publicists boast brings Asian 3D filming a major step up toward the best Hollywood product. The story itself does not break any new ground. A young couple moves into a new house. A doll is found there and kept. Lam plays a successful musician who just after moving to the house composes an eerie song; bad things happen to people who listen to it, though; and as can be expected, the doll comes to life and gets up to all kinds of mischief. Have we seen these things before? Of course, but the project has a number of big names from the Hong Kong music industry involved, and the visual effects and score are likely to prove a major draw.
Animated fantasy by local director Chang Yung-chang (張永昌) has big ambitions to tell a story about the power of dreams. The story is about a high-school girl who has particularly vivid dreams of terrible events to come. She meets with a dream therapist Mida who has the power to enter her dreams and even link the dreams of different people. Mida’s work attracts the attention of government authorities who want to harness her power for their own ends. Mida finds herself in terrible danger, but also meets a kindred spirit, and the two must fight to preserve their freedom. The quality of the animation and visual design is rather crude, as is the storytelling, never achieving either a science-fiction slickness of something like Akira or the dreamlike whimsy of the works of Hayao Miyazaki.