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Feeling a little under the weather. Whatever Ebola-like virus Little Rotten Week was carrying around, well she shipped it in my direction. When this ends up being the contagion that takes down the planet, we can consider her patient zero. See you all when the chaos subsides. While we wait for the end of the world let’s talk pirates and machetes.
Just remember, I'm not reviewing these movies, but rather predicting where they'll end up on the Tomatometer. Let's take a look at what This Rotten Week has to offer.
I’m not going to offer any new ideas on Tom Hanks here; at this point we can consider him one of the greats. Though I find it interesting that it’s not necessarily correct to think of him as iconic; a testament to his fame (or at least his particular brand of acting) is that it has always been grounded in the ordinary. His stardom stemmed from the ability to bring a reserved magnetism to roles in which he embodied every part of a character and took up the whole screen without ever overwhelming anything in the process. (Basically, he’s the opposite of say, Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio). When those two other giants of the industry take roles, the characters they play seem to become secondary to the actors playing them. That’s not a knock against those dudes, they’re great actors, just in a completely different way than Hanks.
Maybe it’s that Hanks just looks like a regular dude. Maybe his fame is an extension of his acting style rather than on screen magnetism. Maybe his agents are the best ever. Whatever it is, few actors in the history of film have had a career quite like Hanks. He starts in a comedic vein, basically hitting big (SplashBig-97%) or doing just fine (Money Pit-47%, Turner and Hooch-62%, Joe Versus the Volcano-58%). Then he takes the role as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia (77%), walks away with the Oscar and begins a mid-career peak unlike really anything that’s been done before. Basically, from 1992-2004, Hanks resume ranges from “really good” to “transcendent”. Every single movie he’s associated with, in any way, during that stretch is certified fresh with some of those roles being among the lasting movie images of a generation including Forrest Gump (71%)**, Apollo 13 (95%), Saving Private Ryan (92%), and Cast Away (90%). To put it another way, his acting awards have their own, lengthy Wikipedia page.
*Sidenote: I was shocked by this Tomatometer score. Not like I thought it was the best movie of all time, but man this score just seemed super low.
It isn’t news to suggest Hanks has had a phenomenal career. And though of late it hasn’t been perfect (Cloud Atlas-66%, Larry Crowne-35%, anything as Robert Langdon) it might be easy to forget that Hanks ranks, as possibly, the greatest ever. In his latest he storms back on to the screen, taking a role that may very well add to that above-mentioned list. Telling the story of Captain Richard Phillips and the Somali pirates who stormed the MV Maersk Alabama in a hostage attempt, this film has Hanks back in the type of role that defined his mid-career peak: Reluctant hero, victim of circumstance, possible award winner.
Directed by Paul Greengrass (Green Zone-53%, The Bourne Ultimatum-94%, United 93-91%), Captain Phillips has critics excited in the early reviews as it sits at 86% through twenty-two reviews. There’s reason to suspect it will stay in this range over the long haul as critics who liked it, really liked it. In the recent vein of history-as-suspense-driven-drama (Zero Dark Thirty, Argo) this film reinforces that the most drama is still derived from real life. Those are Hanks’ best roles. The Rotten Watch for Captain Phillips is
See there’s homage to the cheesy elements of the B movie, and then there’s making an actual B movie. Robert Rodriguez likes to toe this line. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. Much like how the spoof comedy genre doesn’t have much margin for error (it needs to be completely firing on all cylinders or else it will suck) so goes Rodriguez’s style of filmmaking. When he’s working elements of the exploitation film, having a go at the style without sacrificing the content, his movies hit. When he goes all-in, poking fun at every piece of the genre without much filter, well you get a movie that looks like this one. Basically, it looks horrible and not in a “ha ha horrible” kind of way.
The first Machete (72%) movie worked because the flick knew what it wanted it to be and honed that message to a fine point. It employed the “stars” who probably knew their image had turned and “exploited” that situation to make the movie a “Who’s the joke really on?”-affair. It worked the overly bloody angle, much like Rodriguez’s friend Tarantino, to point out the absurdity of the gore without making it an paralyzing focal point. Basically, it walked the line between what it wanted to be and who (or what) it was poking fun at.
But this latest appears to go overboard in every conceivable way, from the players to the outfits to the dialogue to the action. Even from the trailer, it appears Rodriguez looked to throw every piece of B movie history against the wall, didn’t bother to see what would stick and just sent the thing out to theaters. The actors (Charlie Sheen as President, Mel Gibson as evil villain, to name just a couple) seem so overdone that they don’t seem complementary (or funny) but just miscast and awkward. Even Danny Trejo, so perfect in the original, looks out-of-place and in over his head as the franchise gets away from him. What a shame.
Critics back up this sentiment as the flick sits at 22% through about ten reviews. And these were folks who understood the conceit, liked the first film and wanted to see the sequel continue the critique of the genre. They hated it. Like I said before, this is a fine line and Rodriguez isn’t straddling it here. He just went out and made an actual B movie. The Rotten Watch for Machete Kills is
Which Rotten movie will have the highest final Tomatometer score?
Recapping last week:
Well I can’t really take credit for Gravity (Predicted: 94% Actual: 98%) because enough reviews were already in here. There was no way I’d finish outside of the ten percent. That being said, I didn’t think it could maintain that 98% throughout the week. But the buzz coming from this flick is just off the charts. By many accounts, it’s a masterpiece. Between Kristy pleading for you to see it in the theater on a mammoth screen and Katey calling the movie, among other things, ”transcendent”. This is one we’ll be talking about for awhile. Five critics out of 207 disliked the film, so it’s a safe bet you’ll love it. See it in the theaters.
On the opposite side of the film universe Runner Runner (Predicted: 27% Actual: 8%) was an abomination. This might prove a couple of things. One: Ben Affleck should just basically stick to movies that he directs. Also, Justin Timberlake probably shouldn’t be starring in movies. Eight percent is bottom of the barrel time. This is a score one would expect from a B film, not something with these two guys in it.
Next time around we go to prom, make an escape and leak some government info. It’s going to be a Rotten Week!